July 22nd, 2011

This Makes Me Moist

Sex Ed Redefined

I'm not sure what the right answer for this is.  I don't even have a conclusion, just a variety of thoughts and points of view dashing around my head, and I'm not sure how to sort them out or even what the right answer is.  Anyone expecting me to offer nuggets of wisdom on this, you might as well move on.

In my lifetime of convention going experiences, I witnessed the following:

*  a professional model dressed as Vampirella at the Harris Comics booth at the Chicago Comic Convention accidentally popping out of her top as legions of fanboys took pictures.

*  a woman dressed as Mai Shianui, whose character wears a thong back and nothing to obscure it, gamely posing for pictures where roughly only 1 in 4 took pictures from the front

*  a guy who got a picture of two girls cosplaying (I think one might have been Black Cat) in a sexual embrace who said as he walked away, "I'm gonna masterbate so hard to this."

With the increase in women at conventions, there's an increase in female cosplayers.  And this runs up against the male dominated culture of comic fanboys.  As I've said before, male heroes inspire, female heroes seduce (we're leaving my creations out of this.  I'm talking about general comics, not some small pressing sarcastic jackass).  The women in comics are intended to be sexy.  Mary Jane is most definitely NOT the girl next door (if she was, I might have actually gone to prom).  Publishers can deny all they want that they are not creating sexploitation books, but they are, and there are no limits.  Characters can be underage, pure as the driven snow, whatever.  They're all fap material.  You ocassionally get one that breaks this rule (Spider-Girl was known for her heroism and adventures rather than for being sexy, Kitty Pryde has relatively little Rule 34), but for the most part?  Rogue?  Storm?  Supergirl?  Catwoman?  They are all there to get guys to pop boners.  And some women, like the ones from Cosplay Deviants, not only know this, but use this knowledge to make money, selling calendars, photos, and web site subscriptions to guys who think they look hot.

As a result, trying to urge guys to act like grown-ups is a waste of effort.  There is a sort of social contract.  It was early in my con experiences that I first observed the phenomena of the "group chick".  The group chick is the one girl among a group of guys who is there to show the world that they are not gay.  Hardwired somewhere in the human brain, our sense of identity and worth is not tied to power, but to sexuality.  Insults and putdowns use sexual imagery, and there is a definite male domination angle to it all.  Guys frequently tell each other to suck their dicks, and you never hear a woman tell someone to eat her twat.  Doing something for the first time is compared to popping your cherry.  Never having sex is considered a fate worse than death.  Men get all kinds of nicknames that suggest a position of sexual dominance (player, The Man, etc.) while women are described in positions of sexual submission (bitch, hoe, skank, etc.).  This gets magnified in pop culture, where the heightened reality presented makes such shorthand necessary.  Rap music, buddy movies, all feature women as an inconvenience at best and a threat to masculinity at worst.

And, of course, comic books.

There is only one time I can think of where I saw a woman cosplayer NOT want to be photographed, and it was something like ten years ago.  Once again, there is a sort of social contract, and it is assumed that, if you dress up like a $5,000 a night hooker anime character or superheroine, you are inviting people to look and take pictures.  You are surrounded by nerds, you are asking for attention.  I don't like endorsing that logic, however, because it seems to me like attacking the victim -- hey, when you dress like that, you're asking for it.  It's a basic rule of human consideration -- no matter how you dress and where you are, you are NOT giving up your right to be left alone.  If a woman at the bus stop is dressed in a tight white tank and cut-offs, you do not have the right to oogle her or make her feel uncomfortable.  She is not there for your amusement.  (I will remind you of the woman at C2E2 who was dressed as a comic character and some guy grabbed her tits as she was walking by.  Yes, she was sexy.  No, that doesn't give you the right to do anything to her.)

The result is a tug of war between human consideration and seeing something that you don't see everyday.  Combine this with it being, ostensibly, a public place, and you get the comic convention equivalent of arguing if the runner steals on the pitcher or the catcher.  You are on display, and you don't control other people.  And that includes people taking pictures from inappropriate angles or angles you don't intend.

Sex is naughty.  And everyone gets immature about it.  Recently, a statue of Marilyn Monroe was unveiled in Chicago, and it was noted that lots of people were taking pictures up the statue's skirt.  At Madam Toussand's Wax Museum, they have said their wax sculpture of Kylie Minogue is constantly being groped.

The sex drive is powerful.  I will admit, in the interest of not seeming holy than thou, that I have taken a couple of pictures from angles not intended.  I like curves, and a few times, those curves looked really really great.  However, I'm subtle about it.  I have my technique for snapping a picture without seeming like a pervert down pretty well (I've only done it a few times, it's not like I'm taking pictures of Power Girl's ass every time I see a cosplayer of her at a con).  On the one hand, I feel guilty, because maybe that isn't intended, and I know I wouldn't feel comfortable if I knew it was being done to me.  Then again, given that the costumes are created and tailored to show off such details, they HAVE to know such pics are being taken, and usually by guys that have far more squicky motives on their minds.

So, with all that rambling bullshit said, I would like to show you this picture taken from the floor of the San Diego Comic Con, and see if you can guess where I'm going with this.

What I want to point out is NOT Power Girl's ass.  It's the guy on the left side taking a picture of it while she is unaware.  How did I get a hold of this picture?

There is a guy on Twitter and Tumbler calling him or herself "comic con pervs".  The goal is, if you are caught taking an inappropriate picture of a cosplayer (not sure if this includes men, but let's face it, women are the most likely targets for this sort of bullshit), your picture will be put online on Twitter or Tumbler.

Is it legal?  Well, it IS a public place.  Of course, since things on the Internet never go away, you run the risk of someone who doesn't like you showing the world what a dick you are.  Legal character assassination.  Now, it isn't ethical, but then again, maybe taking pictures of a woman's ass while she is distracted isn't ethical, either.

So, who's right?  Who's wrong?  Do women expect this to happen?  Should men feel guilty?  Does a person have the right to sort of dox people for a fleeting moment of stupity?

I don't know.  And I don't know where to start looking for the answer.
Peter G

Confidential To One Of My Online Friends

You might want to talk your mother out of filing for bankruptcy.  She may think she's being cute, since she doesn't have many years left.  But with the changes in bankruptcy law, the companies will get their money.  If she dies before what she owes is paid off, then it is up to her heirs to make good.

That's you.

And, in addition to, on top of that, it resets each time.  Which means, if YOU don't pay off the debt before you kick, YOUR heirs have to pay it off.
Peter G

And, In Conclusion -- Captain America

When I talk with people about the Captain America movie, I explain one simple fact -- Captain America is not about America.  He's about the American Dream.  He's about courage.  He's about standing up for others.  It's about giving your all so other people can be free.  In the Marvel Comics, Hercules once said, "We measure speed against Hermes.  We measure wisdom against Athena.  We measure courage against Captain America."  As long as they got that aspect of the character right, I said, I know I'll enjoy the movie.

They did it.

Captain America -- The First Avenger is so far the best movie of the summer movie season.  It truly is about courage and giving your all.  I know some people complain about jingoism in movies (only in American films, productions from other countries that show national pride NEVER get that criticism), but this doesn't really have any of that.  It is an epic story that works because of the dichotomy of the hero -- his powers are limited, but his heart is limitless.

The movie not only follows the traditional origin of Captain America, but also incorporates real world facts about the character.  Set in the early 1940's, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, who was in The Losers, TMNT, Scott Pilgrim, and the Fox Fantastic Four movies.  Is there some sort of competition between him, Sam Jackson,and  Michael Clark Duncan to see who can be in the most comic book movies?!?) was a 98 pound weakling from New Jersey Brooklyn who wants to fight in World War II.  It's not that he loves war.  He wants to protect others.  He wants to stop bullies and defeat evil.  But he can't.  He's rejected 4F each of the five times he's tried to enlist.  He gets a chance to become a super soldier by an escaped German scientist.  But not everyone is on board with this, and Rogers has to prove his worth to allies as well as another version of the doc's experiments, the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving.  Has this guy EVER turned in a bad performance?).

Evans does a hell of a job acting.  Little movements and subtly keep the character grounded, a little fixing of his hair here, setting his jaw when he's about to undergo the super soldier process there.  Cap would be a very easy character to camp up, but the script and Evans make him determined, as opposed to the cocky swagger of Thor or Tony Stark.  It is up to him to sell Cap as a man who refuses to fail instead of some superdude who just can't be stopped, more like Jackie Chan and less like Arnold Shwartzenegger, and he does it with aplomb.  Part of this ties into Cap himself.  Cap is a super soldier, but he's not Superman.  He's just an enhanced human, and can be taken out if you do it right.  He's very vulnerable for a superhero.  This makes him closer to the viewer, and easier to identify with.

The director, Joe Johnston (Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, The Rocketeer, Jurassic Park III), keeps things moving.  The set pieces have frequent long takes enabling you to follow the action and be thrilled by it instead of the fast cuts that disguise and confuse (anyone who's seen the Borne trilogy knows what I'm talking about).  But the real star behind the scenes is his frequent cinematographer, Shelly Johnson.  Thanks to sepia-toned scenery and great angles, Johnson creates a truly immersive environment for the movie.  You feel you are watching events unfold instead of a series of chapter stops on the DVD.  Also, props to Robert Dalva and Jeffrey Ford for their editing.  They keep the timing and pacing brisk, and the comic moments like the capture the flag bit from basic training, even if you know what's coming, feel natural and not overlong.  Even as the set pieces escalate and become more comic booky, they never lose their grounding.  At first, I was having occasional flashbacks to Metal Gear Awesome ("Oh, gee whiz, I hope a giant tank doesn't totally come out of nowhere and own me!"), but they got left behind by the time the second act started.

The supporting cast is awesome.  There's a bit of a war going on to see who can steal the most scenes, Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Phillips or Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark.  Cooper in particular had me thinking, Like father, like son.  Hayley Atwell plays Peggy Carter, a woman who is actually a woman -- she doesn't take shit from the boys, but she isn't just a man with tits, either.  Although whenever Stan Lee wants to stop whoring himself out for cameo appearances, fine by me.  Really.  It's starting to get distracting because people notice you and it takes them out of the movie.  Stop that shit.

Speaking of "stop that shit," please, for the love of God, no more motorcycles with guns mounted on the handlebars!  That means you can only shoot at things you are driving towards and they will be impossible to aim.  It was stupid in Megaforce, it was stupid in Delta Force, and it's stupid during the third act of Captain America.  I know the Nazis had some whacked out ideas for weapons, but they weren't THAT fucking dumb.

The script incorporates pieces of Captain America's actual history, like how he was created for an ad campaign to sell war bonds and balances it against what the characters find themselves in, such as Phillips slowly but surely coming around to admiring Steve Rogers instead of just dismissing him.  You can see the change happening, it really is amazing to watch.

After losing ground over the years to John Powell as my favorite movie score composer, Alan Silvestri is back with a vengeance.  Using military music and period pieces as his launching point, Silvestri's score is amazing to listen to, particularly during the truly amazing train raid.  I'm grabbing this one first chance I get.

Incidentally, the stinger on this one?  It's shit.  All you see is Rogers working out when Fury approaches him, then a preview of a few bits from next year's Avengers movie.  Despite the footage on YouTube of Agent Caulson giving Rogers his shield in Times Square, that doesn't appear anywhere in the film, so I'm guessing it will be a flashback in Avengers.  Whatever.  It just ends the movie to abruptly, and the stinger is just a promo, not a hint of what's to come.  But that's pretty much my only real bitch about the movie.

Captain America -- The First Avenger would be an awesome movie during any summer, but with the competition this year, it stands out proudly.  It's the first time in a long time I actually felt a movie was worth the time AND money I spent on it.
Peter G

If Jesus Died To Forgive Our Sins, Why Is Stuff Like This Still Hounding Us?

One of the problems with being 40 years old is explaining to people half a generation or more younger than me what it was like in the 80's and the 90's.  If only there was a way to actually show them the era instead of just telling them about it.

Well, there's an option.  Among the movies Netflix is offering is Cool As Ice, the movie vehicle (as in "car on blocks") for Vanilla Ice, a white "rapper" from the "tough parts of Florida" and "professional motorcross champion" who was popular for approximately fifteen minutes.  In other words, this movie was green lit during his rise to pop culture fame and came out long after people pretty much forgot about him.

This movie sums up the 90's perfectly, when image and pop conformity and vapid disregard were still mutating from the previous decade.  Not only will you learn about attitudes and trends of the time, you will also learn you can use a drop light as a microphone (those of you who've seen the movie know what I'm talking about).  Unless you have VHS, you probably will never see it, because it's never been released on DVD.  That's right -- Netflix is streaming a movie no one wants to release on DVD.  They released An Alan Smithee Film -- Burn Hollywood Burn on DVD, and that didn't even make $100,000 at the box office!  This made five times that and no one wants to waste the plastic!  Not even burn on demand!

So, if you can handle an assault of egotism that makes Paris Hilton look modest, give it a whirl.  You won't know whether to laugh or be afraid of the generation that was exposed to this movie.