Has there ever been a more ridiculously badly written show than Glee? I swear, every time I find out what´s been happening on it I´m flabbergasted by how completely devoid of continuity and awful it is. I mean, even leaving aside its racism, transmisogyny, homophobia, ableism, etc, etc, the storylines look like something co-written by a still half-dreaming Rip Van Winkle and a sloth on amphetamines that has been stuck watching Jersey Shore for a week without pause.
Also, as long as we’re talking about genres and the cultures that shaped them, let’s discuss superheroes within the context of Jewish-American culture!
Basically: 20th century Jewish-American culture was a massive influence upon the superhero genre. Many, if not most of the prominent figures of the industry, especially between the 1930s and 1960s, were Jews, many of whom changed their names to something a little less Semitic: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Will Eisner, Joe Simon, Flo Steinberg, Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Gil Kane, and a million others. That list right there encompasses the creators of Batman, Superman, The Spirit, the modern Green Lantern, the Atom, The Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Hulk, The New Gods, Spider-Man, Captain America and Iron Man. I don’t know if I’d say understanding the impact of Jewish-American culture is absolutely essential to being a well-rounded comics fan, but I think it’s important and encourage anyone who cares about the genre to study this aspect a little more deeply.
Here are some great books in that regard:
- Superman is Jewish? How Comic Books Came to Serve Truth, Justice, and the Jewish-American Way by Harry Brod
- Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by Brad Ricca
- Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero by Danny Fingeroth
- Jewish Images in the Comics by Fredrik Stromberg
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, which is fiction, but very well-researched and fairly indicative of the time.
EDIT: Ivysaurr has pointed out that I left out Joe Kubert and I am ashamed because Joe Kubert is amazing. So: Also Joe Kubert.
ok but when people say “that character isn’t canonically gay” when they’re talking about a character whose sexuality is never actually mentioned in the books/show/whatever. no. no actually u chose to infer that the character is canonically straight because u think straight is the automatic sexuality of all beings unless the word “gay” is in bolded size 60 font and that’s shitty
In an ideal dream world where Ellen Page and I are married and living next door to Beyoncé, no queer person would feel the need to come out. Of course, in an ideal world, nobody’s sexuality would be assumed to be heterosexual at all times.
As a heterosexual person, you might not care that [Ellen Page] is a lesbian. You might think it’s a shame she feels like she has to tell the world. But here’s the thing.
She wasn’t doing it for you.
If you are straight and white, your entire life has existed in a bubble of heterosexual representation everywhere your heterosexual eyes have looked.
Almost every character on almost every television show or movie is a representation of you. Almost every beautiful successful person in movies and television is a (much more beautiful) representation of you, or at least pretends to be.
Ellen Page telling the world she is gay means that there are now kids (and Rebecca Shaw’s) in small towns or big towns or homophobic families everywhere who can see themselves in one more cool, young, successful, seemingly-happy queer person.
Read the whole thing it is very excellent.
Rei is strange. She has mysterious powers, devotes herself to “weird prayers,” and is usually seen in the company of Phobos and Deimos, her guardian crows. She is blunt, aloof, and at times a little superior. She has no interest in romance, and actively dislikes men. Above all, she maintains a steadfast refusal to apologize for any of this—the last chapter of Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon finds Rei just as strange and serious as the first, still devoted to her duties as a miko, still uninterested in men.
A different story would have put Rei through the meat-grinder of Female Characterization in half a hundred ways: humbling her ambitions, humiliating her for her pride, pairing her with either the Nice Boy that was under her nose all along or a cocky romcom type to banter away her icy exterior. She would have been softened, stripped, and ultimately, cheapened. Instead, Rei learns to rely on her sisters-in-arms for love and support, and…is completely and utterly justified in being the strange, proud girl she dares to be. Rei doesn’t want to apologize for who she is—and neither does the story.
There’s her devotion to the Hikawa Shrine. Rei’s piety never lessens over the course of the story: she is devout, she stays devout, and her plans for the future revolve around the shrine. Rei’s devotion sets her a little apart as a character—she’s connected to something solemn and old and perhaps a little forbidding. Serious, religious female characters are a rarity because, well, they’re women—they’re too frivolous, too shallow, too silly for such passion, even if they aren’t teenage girls. But Rei is never humiliated or stymied in her faith, and her friends never see her as cocky or strange because of it. Rei is serious, she is devout, and her duties do mean the world to her. The discomfort this sows in the public is noted, but not validated. She’s never the butt of a joke, never depicted as acting above her station or needing to lighten up. Rei’s beliefs are her own, and to be respected.
There are her views on interpersonal relationships. Rei isn’t really big on people—a pre-senshi flashback finds her saying “I don’t have any friends. I don’t even want to make any. I can’t trust people.” Later in the chapter, she goes on to say she doesn’t want to get married, and that she isn’t interested in men. Her first assertion is recanted—she ends the flashback chapter smiling at Usagi, Ami, and Makoto, saying, “I don’t need love right now. I have friends with the same purpose as me. I have all of you.” So, yes, Rei finds that friendship—and implicitly, sisterhood—is wonderful, supportive, and complete unto itself. Note that she has not changed in personality: Rei ends the chapter as aloof, reticent, serious as she began it. The difference is, she has found friends that love her not in spite of these traits, but because of them.
But let’s talk about the fact that her opposition to marriage, and men in general, remains intact. Beyond her general distaste for men, Rei knows herself enough to understand that “if I ever fell in love…I’d make them all mine, but I might ruin them in the process.” She doesn’t put her friends down for daydreaming, but she’s firm in her disinterest—it isn’t for her. If this was all I knew of Sailor Moon, I’d assume that these opinions were eroded over time, that they were emotional walls she had to learn to let down, that she went on to meet the Right Guy. But Rei never meets the Right Guy. Rei’s feelings about men, romance and marriage, are, in fact, completely and totally respected throughout the series.
How often does fiction validate a woman’s sense of self—especially when that includes an opposition to romance? Rei’s understanding of herself as someone who doesn’t want to, and probably shouldn’t marry is never questioned. A teenage girl’s understanding of herself is respected and treated as insightful and correct. Rei is never painted as the frosty bitch queen who just needed to let someone in. Rei never learns an important lesson in Not All Guys Are Like That. Rei’s distaste is never laughed off as “daddy issues.” Rei’s reasons are her own, as is her happy ending: surrounded by friends, committed to the life of a senshi, and full of plans for the shrine. Without a man. And that’s okay.
So, in summation: Sailor Moon celebrates Rei as someone who’s a little weird, resolutely serious, perhaps a little aloof, uninterested in men, and devoted to her faith, duty, and friends. Her most significant character change is learning to let the other senshi in, and she finds that their presence enriches her life. But they, and the story, never force her to change. So she doesn’t. She’s weird, serious, standoffish Rei to the end—and neither we the readers, nor the story itself would have it any other way.
(Part five in a series on the senshi.)
Painfully aware that big Western animation houses weren’t going to give me the queer lady fairy tales I wanted… I wrote my own, and it got accepted and published. And a sequel, due out July 2014. And I’m 2/3 of the way into a first draft of number three.
This is Queen Shulamit. She’s the lesbian Jewish
princessqueen I knew I’d never see animated; the closest I’ve come to representation for my ethnic group is a working-class mouse (Tanya from An American Tail), and I guess I can shoehorn myself into Michiru from Sailor Moon if we’re talking about femme queer ladies, but… it meant a lot to me to be able to write about my own experiences and feelings, except coloring them with dragons and warrior women and magic potions and flying around having adventures.
Shulamit took the throne at twenty, when her father the king died in an accident. She was comfortable with being gay but it took her a while to find true love, given that she didn’t know any other queer women at first. Love enters her life in book one; in book two, she and her partner and the rest of her family-of-choice help the bisexual prince from next door get his labor activist boyfriend out of trouble; by book three, she and her partner have a six-month-old baby, who she carries around in a wrap while solving mysteries in her capital city.
I am having way too much fun with this.
(Artwork above by the talented-beyond-words Rebecca, who is available for commission.)
Lego Just Got Told Off By A 7-Year-Old Girl
Dear Lego company:
My name is Charlotte. I am 7 years old and I love legos but I don’t like that there are more Lego boy people and barely any Lego girls.
Today I went to a store and saw legos in two sections the girls pink and the boys blue. All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks.
I want you to make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun ok!?!