Friday, June 24, 2011

Why Question Geek Girl Cred?

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following was left in our mailbox, written on a mole-skin notebook wrapped in plain brown paper. There were no stamps on the package, nor was an address written anywhere on it. It is published without comment, though an examination of the supplemental materials has led us to conclude that if this is a forgery, it is a damn good one.


Journal. Final Entry. 6.23.11

I write this knowing full well that it may be the last thing I ever write. And yet, the truth must come out. Questions have been asked. Answers have been sought. And still the truth must come out.

It all began months ago, but the battle is as old as humanity itself. It all began when a kerfuffle arose over the idea that certain kinds of women cannot be proper geeks. Or that no woman at all may lay claim to the title of geek This train of thought went on to state that any attractive, well-spoken woman who claimed to be a geek was “faking it” for some commercial purpose.

The truth, as always, is far more sinister. Like the true purpose of aglets.

I began seeking answers earlier in the week after the oldest battle began again. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth regarding how the newly crowned Miss USA referred to herself as a history geek and spoke of her alleged love of studying history and the Game Of Thrones book series. Unlikely? Most would say yes. Conventional wisdom dictates that beauty pageants and modern fantasy literature go together like bikini models and doctoral studies. Yet the world of geeks is hardly conventional or wise...

Days passed. Trail continued as I read the response to the scandal. One of the geek-girls - the so-called Nerdy Bird Jill Pantozzi – asked several questions of her own...

“Why not take a person at face value until you have serious reason to think otherwise? Why does being a beauty pageant contestant mean you can't also like Star Wars (which Campanella also mentioned at another point in the competition)? What is at the base of this denial of identity?”

Ultimately all these questions came down to one question: who profits? How does a woman ultimately profit from pretending to be a geek?

I studied the Hot Women Pandering To Nerds video for hours yet gleaned few answers. Surely geek males are a minority, not worth pandering to? How does it profit Rosario Dawson to speak a few sentences of Klingon? How does it benefit Megan Fox to pretend that she reads comics and likes drawing? Will pretending to like Star Wars help Jamie Alexander to find acting work?

The most frequent answer when one questions the existence of geek girls is that most of them are ugly and desperate. So great is their desire for the affections of a man that they will weather any indignity - commit any act – all to win the smallest smidgeon of male approval. And while many of these “hot” geek girls may be filled to the brim with daddy issues… still one wonders how it benefits them to pursue the approval of those who are – traditionally – the least desirable companions.

And yet, are geek males really that undesirable to a calculating female mind? Today geek males rule much of the world. A small cabal of computer geeks control our technology. Many of the nerds who played games of power in the Student Council grew to become political leaders. And many of the creative powers in Hollywood are geeks. Such men, while physically diminutive, could be stable providers and would likely be happy for any female attention. Still, powerful though they are, their numbers are small.

Additionally, the rich and powerful would easily have the means to make their secret shames accepted - place comic books on the racks of every news stand in the nation and finance Dungeons and Dragons tournaments in place of football in every high school. So subtle seduction with silky slatterns cloaked and costumed as that most mythical of maidens - the gorgeous geek girl? Improbable. Too much work for too little gain.

After much serious study, it would prove to be a joke that led me to the answer. Ironic.

It was a comment repeated by many a geek girl over the last day – apparently a mocking reference to an early story which likened geek girls to unicorns in that they did not exist. Several opined that there were other, more powerful mythical creatures that they would rather be.

Geek Girls as creatures of myth? Thesis. The pieces were beginning to come together.

The final piece came with a fiery editorial by one Devin Faraci, whose mocking words not only called into question the geek credentials of Miss USA but the very validity of the geek girl blogsophere! Within hours, that very same blogosphere was torn between those who wishes to see him raked over the coals and those who thought that he had a point, tactless though he was in presenting it.

It was then that the pattern hit me.

Every time it looked like the geek girl community was making progress in stopping the pointless sniping over what constitutes a geek and who is or isn’t a shill for a corporate master, some mainstream media blogger would emerge to raise the scandal anew or urge the geek girls into a frothing blood lust against one another. Like clockwork. As if a whole society of men were watching over the geek girl population... as if waiting for something…

After several days of investigation, I had found the truth in a book belonging to a group known only as The Codicil. The geek girls ARE creatures of myth. But they are not unicorns. Or dragons. Or nymphs. They are Immortals. Immortals born at random, blessed with the gift of long life and magical skill and yet cursed at the same time. For The Codicil’s text – which I was able to glance through for just a few moments before being discovered – talks of a time of turmoil which is fast approaching.

Indeed, I fear it has already begun.

Consider once more the conventional wisdom – that no attractive woman would ever be considered a geek or identify herself as such. Yet in the past five years the number of attractive geek girls in the public eye has risen sharply. The Codicil text notes this and explains that while each geek girl is blessed with long life, she may still die if another of her kind severs her head from her neck. And for each of her kind that she vanquishes, the victor geek girl absorbs the knowledge, youth and beauty of her fallen sister. Thus each geek girl is forced to fight eternally against her own kind - conflict after conflict - until only one of them is left.

Such is the way it has always been and such, so The Codicil believe, must it always be.

What we saw when Miss USA outed herself as a geek was a calling out to others of her kind. A subconscious signal - for most geek girls are ignorant of the truth or the power they wield and The Codicil prefer to keep it that way - that the final battle... the time of The Gathering... is about to begin.

The Codicil text is conflicted upon when and where The Gathering will take place. Some say it will happen in San Diego. Others say it will happen in Atlanta at the place of The Great Dragon. Regardless, all agree that The Gathering shall be a great and bloody display and that many innocents will die along with the Immortals.

Of course these battles have been going on in the shadows for years. It is a matter of record that Gail Simone claimed the head of Devin Grayson several years ago, thus cementing her position as Queen of DC Comics. And even now rumors have spoken of heated battles between Olivia Munn and Blair Butler on the rooftops of Los Angeles…

I post this now, knowing that The Codicil – who desire secrecy above all else – will likely kill me for having exposed them and their plans to continue to reduce the numbers of geek girls by encouraging them to turn against one another.

Know this – if I die, I die content, secure in the hope that this knowledge might encourage peace between the geek girls that still remain.

I hope to prevent a dark future where Action Chick Katrina Hill and Jessica Mills die on one another’s blades in the aisles at ComicCon. I hope that Felicia Day and Kristen Bell can throw aside their weapons and exchange hugs, not deathblows. But above all else, I hope for a world where the most outrageous nonsense regarding this issue is written by comic book parodists and not serious journalists.

The Answer

Sunday, June 19, 2011

More Thoughts On Green Lantern: The Movie

Don't read this unless you've already seen the movie. There's some fairly heavy duty spoilers here.

One thing I totally forgot in trying to articulate just how random Hal's personality changes in during the movie is how Sinestro suffers just as badly.

For the brief amount of screen-time he has, Mark Strong is picture-perfect as Sinestro. The problem is that the script fails him completely when it comes time for Hal to prove himself and save the Earth from Parallax. At this point, The Guardians are so desperate for a means to fight Parallax that they have forged a ring powered by the power of Fear and are about to hand it to Sinestro when Hal shows up, says they can't give in to fear or use an evil power against itself. Hal then asks for a chance to prove himself and fight Parallax.

Suddenly, the arrogant but skillful leader, who has been expressing his doubts about Hal's ability from Day One suddenly is all "whatever" about the untested, incompetent rookie facing down a monster that killed most of The Corps best.

At this point in his life, there is no way Sinestro would stand idly by while innocents were in danger. Even if they were stupid, smelly Earthlings. Sinestro could have insisted that he stand with Hal in the fight to come, if only to honor his old friend Abin Sur. He could even have grabbed the yellow ring and flown off, decrying the Guardians' unwillingness to do what must be done.

But he doesn't. He only shows up once the battle is over, along with Tomar Re and Killowog, to save Hal after he nearly gets killed luring Parallax into Earth's sun. And at the end he says he was wrong about Hal and that they were fortunate the ring found someone so much like his old friend.

Which makes the bit after the credits where Sinestro takes the yellow ring from where The Guardians left it COMPLETELY nonsensical! Seriously. The only reason Sinestro was going to take the ring in the first place was because there was no other way to defeat Parallax - or so he thought at the time. Of course this begs the question of why The Guardians didn't get rid of the damn thing in the first place...

Getting back to Hal and the origin-story angle...

One of the biggest complaints I've seen in the reviews of this movie is that most of the movie is a standard origin story with nothing we haven't seen before in every other superhero movie. On the one hand, The Hero's Journey is a standard archetype for a reason, as anyone who has read some Joseph Campbell can tell you. On the other hand, it's a fair complaint... because Hal Jordan is probably the last hero who should get a standard Hero's Journey film.

Hal should already be a bad-ass man with a variety of heroic qualities when the movie opens. In fact, he is. It's only after being given access to power that he begins to doubt himself. Why? Because the Hero's Journey says he should doubt himself at the mid-point of his quest.

And I think that is part of what killed this movie for a lot of the fans - Hal is not a good fit for that story. Kyle Rayner would be. Guy Gardner, who had a lot of issues with his family that inspired him to heroism would be. And depending on which of his backgrounds you used, John Stewart could fit the bill too. But Hal? If you have to have a crisis for Hal, it should have been the same one as Tony Stark - the man-child learns responsibility.

Maybe that's why Hal was written so different in the middle part of the movie? Maybe the writer was trying to avoid accusations of "Oh, well this is just like Iron Man with the jerk learning to be less selfish." Just a thought...

And yet, the great irony was that in trying to make this movie more generic to the masses, I think it mitigated everything that would have made the movie stand out. Indeed, the biggest problem with the movie is I don't think it went far enough with the central concept: a group of alien space cops. The scenes on Oa are far too brief and the alien Lanterns far too underutilized.

Maybe this will be improved in the sequel... when there is one.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Green Lantern The Movie: A Review

To sum the movie up in one word, disappointing.

With all of the talent involved this should have been a home-run. Instead they took one of the most basic superhero origin stories there is and managed to make it more complicated even while dumbing it down.

Suffice it to say, if you're a Green Lantern purist, you'll likely be pissed off by the liberties taken. Even more liberal fanboys like me, who understand that sometimes these changes have to be made, will wonder exactly WHY certain changes were made when the changes don't make much more sense than what was in the original books.

Still, the movie has much to recommend it. The biggest problem is that the excellent cast is poorly utilized with nobody getting much in the way of screen time or development, except for Hal who is earnestly played by Ryan Reynolds, though the script - penned by four actors - leaves Hal Jordan seeming more schizophrenic than conflicted.

And yet - despite all this - I liked it. I didn't love it. And it's nowhere near as good as I'd hoped. But I'd say it's worth seeing on the big screen because the effects ARE amazing. The movie isn't anywhere as bad as it's being made out to be by some critics but I can't really say it's that great. It's a popcorn movie. Nothing more.

For massive spoilers, read on.

I know several Green Lantern purists will be offended by some key elements of the mythos that have been changed. In this version, for instance, Parallax is a rogue Guardian consumed by the power of Fear. In this version, rather than being wary of any emotional energy but Will, The Guardians refined the power of Fear but decided against using it after what happened to Parallax. And the idea that any single Green Lantern like Abin Sur could contain a rogue Guardian... preposterous!

Really, these changes are inconsequential. It matters not just how Parallax came into being so long as he is a monster made of pure fear, who feeds on the fears of others. It matters not just how the Yellow Energy gets created, so long as it is there for Sinestro to claim one day after his fall from grace. Do you really think we can easily explain way the Anti-Matter Universe, The Planet Qward and the Weaponeers without becoming as bogged down in continuity as the David Lynch version of Dune?

What matters, as always, is character. Sadly, Green Lantern is lacking in that regard.

The biggest problem with Green Lantern: The Movie is that it is the very definition of a plot driven story, where characters motivations and actions will change on the spin of a dime because that's what the story says happens.

Hal Jordan is portrayed as being a brave - if foolish and reckless - young man... right up until the point the plot requires him to have a crisis of faith in his own abilities.

Sinestro is portrayed as a cold but courageous leader who insists on handling everything personally... right up until the point the script requires him to start doubting The Guardians and their power and for him to refuse to help a rookie Lantern whose ability he doubts.

Carol Ferris is a confident, all-business professional... right up until the script calls for her to start cooing like a schoolgirl. Well, I think that was the intent. With Blake Lively, it's kind of hard to tell as she spends most of the movie looking like a school girl playing at being a tough business woman.

Apart from her, the cast is excellent - though wasted. Michael Clarke Duncan is perfectly cast as the Green Lantern drill sergeant Killowog... for all of the two minutes he is on screen. Ditto Tomar-Re and Mark Strong as Sinestro. Perhaps strangest of all is Angela Bassett as Amanda Waller - a name which has a lot of significance to long-time DC Comics fans... though you'd never know the importance of the name from the way her character is treated here.

Ryan Reynolds is a great Hal Jordan, with his portrayal being reminiscent of Mark Waid's take on the character in Justice League Of America: Year One - a confident hotshot who romances, drives and flies without fear. He is Maverick from Top Gun on speed. At least for the first 20 minutes of the movie...

As I said, the script leaves a lot of the characters in a very schizophrenic state. Hal is a man-child who never grew up, has one night stands, drives recklessly and endangers his livelihood and his life at work. He seems completely fearless... until the point when he is supposed to have a crisis of faith and have long talks with his semi-girlfriend about how he can overcome his fears.

The script tries to throw fanboys various bones, with scenes where we see Hal's troubled family life, his close relationship with a nephew who worships him and a flashback where we see Hal's greatest defining moment - the death of his father in a plane crash. But as nice as these touches are and as good as they are at humanizing Hal past being a typical cocky jerk protagonist, nothing is done with these characters or these concepts save to show that Hal is a decent guy under all his attitude.

Another weakness of the script is how very little of it makes sense. In the opening scenes, Ferris Aircraft is trying to sell drone planes to the US Military, claiming that they can do anything a human pilot can do and do it better. Given that, why are they pitting their own pilots against the drones? Wouldn't the USAF insist on putting their own pilots against the drones, if for no other reason than - oh, I don't know - the pilots working for the company selling the drones might not be objective in the field?

And honestly - there is no good reason for Hector Hammond to be in this movie. None whatsoever. He's not an A-List Green Lantern villain, even if Geoff Johns DID include in him the latest retelling of Secret Origin. The make-up for the character looked ridiculous and inspired laughter in the crowd of teenagers I saw the movie with, who were otherwise silent for the rest of the film, shockingly enough. And really, his acting as a beacon for Parallax adds nothing to the movie. You could have just as easily had Parallax key in on the ring that imprisoned him - i.e. The one Hal is wearing now - and have him decide to attack Earth that way.

And if I may allow myself one fanboy nitpick? The idea that he somehow develops telepathy and telekinesis from touching a bit of Parallax that was in Abin Sur's body is far more ridiculous than his origin in the comics, where he developed superpowers after being exposed to the radioactive core of an alien spaceship.

That beind said, is there anything about the movie I did like? Well, yes...

Ryan Reynolds does a good job with Hal, despite the weaknesses in the script and he totally sells the funny parts as well as the sheer joy as he learns the powers of the ring. The bit where he first flies under his own power is magical.

Most of the cast is good, for what little time they are on screen.

The effects are top-notch and raise the bar for CGI in superhero movies.

And I've had a few people text me already asking which Green Lantern stories I'd recommend since - after seeing the movie - they want to read some of the books. Any comic adaptation that encourages people to seek out the source material can't be that bad.