Tagged: Amy Schumer

Martha Thomases: King Arthur, Lois Lane and Gefilte Fish, Oh My!

Diversity is in the news!

Warner Bros. spent an estimated $145 million on a movie about King Arthur, directed by Guy Ritchie, hoping to have a new tentpole hit like his Sherlock Holmes films. Instead, the movie opened in third place, far behind Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which had already been out for two weeks, and Snatched, starring Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn.

In other words, a movie based on a male hero of white culture (albeit one with a random but beautiful black man) flopped behind a movie about a multi-racial multi-species space gang and a movie about two women, one of them old enough to have grown children and one of them not conventionally movie-star beautiful.

I’m not here to say that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, failed because it is not a good movie, or that the two other movies I mentioned here are of higher quality. I like Guy Ritchie, or I did when he made movies like this. Instead, I want to talk about how the modern American audience, the people who pay for our popular entertainment who buy movie tickets, books, comics, music and television subscriptions, is more accepting of diversity than the people who sell them.

That’s the facet of the discussion about the Marvel story that I think gets neglected. Marvel Vice-President David Gabriel did not say that the inclusion of more non-white, non-male characters was the reason for Marvel’s sales slump. He said that a few retailers told him that was the reason.

By itself, this does not mean that books with diverse characters don’t sell. This means that they don’t sell in those retailers’ stores.

There are all sorts of reasons this could be true. I don’t know where these stores are, or what their surrounding communities are like. I don’t know what the capacities of these retailers might be in regard to advertising, promotion, and outreach. Are they located near colleges or other kinds of schools? Are they rural or urban? Do they see themselves as a community asset for everyone, or a safe haven for their loyal Band of Bros? Any of these factors can have an impact on the kinds of books a store sells best.

It is this very variety in the kinds of markets comic book stores serve that should encourage publishers to produce more diverse kinds of books, not only in terms of the characters but in the genres and packaging of the stories. Saying that books about people of color, or books about women won’t sell is just as stupid as saying the same things about movies.

I can understand that many readers of superhero comics are tired stories where an established character is suddenly replaced by someone of another race, gender or sexual orientation. It was daring and interesting when it first happened 40 years ago, but today it’s neither new nor newsworthy. Anyone who tells stories like these today should have some different insights than we’ve seen before.

It’s much more interesting, to me anyway, to create entirely new characters. That’s what Milestone Media did back in the day, and it’s what Catalyst Prime from Lion Forge Comics seems to be doing now. I haven’t seen them at my local store yet, but I have faith in any comic book company that does this.

My real reason for encouraging diversity is entirely selfish: I want more, and I want different. I want to have the time and resources to sample as many different things as I can in this life. Whether that means strange foods or different kinds of stories, I want the opportunity to try the new and exotic.

By the way, the article in that last link (about the growing Jewish community in Berlin) has one of the funniest things I’ve ever read in The New York Times. I don’t know if the Gray Lady meant to be so snarky, but it’s hilarious. See for yourself:

“Jewish culture here is a bit superficial,” said Elad Jacobowitz, a 39-year-old real estate broker from Tel Aviv who moved to Berlin 13 years ago. “It doesn’t fit,” he said, sipping horseradish-infused vodka while listening to a klezmer band at the gefilte fish party during the Nosh Berlin festival.

Martha Thomases: Too Much! Too Much!

By the time you read this, I will be even more behind.

The Iron Fist series starts on Netflix today. I still have not seen Stranger Things or most of Black Mirror, or A Series of Unfortunate Events. I haven’t finished the most recent seasons of Orange is the New Black or Love. I haven’t seen the new Amy Schumer special, or Trevor Noah’s.

On my DVR is the entire last season of American Horror Story, which is one of my favorite shows. There’s more than half a season of Taboo, which I really like but it’s very dense. The Americans started up again, and I haven’t watched yet. I also have episodes of Ripper Street from, like, two years ago.

Part of the reason I’m so behind in my television is the huge pile of graphic novels I have to read, along with my weekly fix of floppies.

Sometimes I even read books that don’t have pictures or conversations. They don’t pile up as much as they used to now that I read so much on my Kindle, but, I assure you, the virtual stack is quite tall. As is the physical stack of the books I want to read that aren’t available digitally.

I’m behind on movies, too. When I think about going, I realize I could stay home and catch up on last year’s films with pay-per-view for less money. And then I realize I could watch some of the stuff on the DVR for free.

All of this is on top of the things that all of us have to do — meal preparation, sleep, work — and things we might not need to do, but should, like exercise and bill paying and laundry. Toss in as well my responsibilities as a citizen, like calling my representatives regularly to vote against the latest GOP rollback of civil rights, or sorting my recycling.

This would be okay if I was a normal person. I would accept that there are only 24 hours in a day, and only seven days in a week, and that there are only so many things a person can do within that amount of time. There is such a thing as speed reading, but I don’t enjoy it. I like to bathe in a story, let myself soak it all in. For the same reason, I don’t want to watch my television sped up.

Instead, I choose to feel guilty. We are living in a Golden Age, at least as far as media choices are concerned. I have a responsibility to keep up. I am supposed to enjoy it all and talk about it so that I can contribute to an environment in which there are so many choices. By doing so, I’ll help writers and artists (including actors and directors and film crews) get paid.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to spend an hour playing fetch with my cat.

The Point Radio: DARK MATTER Explodes Tonight

The new SyFy (and former Dark Horse) project, DARK MATTER premieres tonight on SyFy, and we begin our coverage with actor Roger Cross who tells us why this might be his biggest genre roll yet. DARK MATTER premiere tonight on SyFy, Then Dania Ramirez from HEROES and X-MEN LAST STAND takes us into the third season of Lifetime’s DEVIOUS MAIDS plus her new indy film project.

 We’re back in a couple of days with more on DARK MATTER.

Martha Thomases: Betty and Veronica and Adam Hughes and Sex

Betty & Veronica Adam HughesThis week, Archie Comics announced a Kickstarter campaign to launch a bunch of new titles. If you read the comments at the link (which normally, I would never recommend), you’ll see people who object to Adam Hughes drawing Betty and Veronica because it objectifies the characters, seeing them through the male gaze.

First, let me say that I like Adam Hughes’ work. I think the women he draws, while beautiful, also look physically possible, more like movie stars with trainers than broomsticks with hair and boobs.  If that gets me booted out of Feminism Camp, so be it.

But mostly, when has Betty and Veronica been about anything but the male gaze? Two beautiful teenage girls, interchangeable except for the color of their hair, wear the most revealing clothes the Comics Code would allow, mooning over a boy who is average at best. The fact that these have been described as “comics for girls” is an example of gender-role indoctrination at its most insidious.

And, yes, I kind of like them, too. I contain multitudes.

Anyway, this story, which might not be important in and of itself, seems to me to be part of a larger issue. We are in (I hope) a period of transition, as women and other groups who don’t look like studio heads and venture capitalists (i.e. by and large mostly straight white men) are trying to tell their own stories or, at least, see stories about characters who look like them.

This happens most felicitously when a variety of people get to tell their own stories in their own ways. It can also happen when talented straight white men who actually know a variety of people tell a story honestly.

It doesn’t happen when they take a straight white male hero and slap tits/black skin/brown skin/queer impulses on him. Unfortunately, that last option happens a lot. And when the hero is made female, she is too often cast because she looks beautiful, not heroic.

This was satirized brilliantly on a recent episode of Inside Amy Schumer. A jury of 12 angry men sat in judgment as to whether or not Amy Schumer was hot enough to star in a cable television show. They didn’t talk about whether or not she was funny, or a talented actor. They talked about whether or not her appearance gave them a “chubbie.”

Lots of women in show business have complained about this type of behavior, and for the most part, men – even sympathetic men — haven’t fully believed them. In fact, the show was inspired by a real event  and a real idiot, a man with access to entertainment executives, a man to whom the industry listens.

It’s tempting, at this point, to sigh and make a (stereotyped and bigoted) joke about nerds who live in their mothers’ basements and don’t know any real women. Those jokes might even have a bit of truth to them. However, we live in a time when women who express opinions and demonstrate autonomy get death threats. Their jobs are threatened. The men responsible complain about the tyranny of feminism (in which case, where is my scepter?) and lament that women get to control their own bodies when deciding with whom they want to have sex.

(Note: I read that somewhere online in a comments section, and can’t find the link anymore. It might be the opinion of only one guy. I hope so.)

There will be nothing on television in the upcoming season that extreme because television exists on advertising aimed at the mass market. Instead, we’ll get a bunch of shows that pat women on the head for being so gosh-darned resourceful as to manage both a career and a vagina . All the women starring in these shows will be as beautiful as Betty and Veronica. and they will have gorgeous wardrobes. Some will be able to chase criminals while wearing high heels.

It is up to us, as the audience, to see to it that this condescending, patronizing kind of show falls flat on its face.