Although Barbara Gordon will always be known as the iconic Batgirl, she never got a solo series named after her in the mainstream DC Universe until Gail Simone’s run in the New 52 reboot. (Although her animated series incarnation did get a series called Batgirl Adventures in the late 90s).

No, the first Batgirl to get a solo series named after her is the now little known Cassandra Cain.

Cassandra Cain has the distinction of being the only POC in Batman’s Bat Family (unless you count Dick Grayson with his Romani heritage- although that gets brushed aside), and one of the deadliest hand to hand fighters in the DC Universe. Not only that, but her immense skills meant that she garnered more respect amongst Batman and the Robins than any other Batgirl has recieved before or after her.

So, what was Batgirl’s first solo title like (excluding Batgirl Adventures)? Well, lets have a look at this 2000s series and see if it’s worth checking out.


To say the artwork is hit and miss wouldn’t be entirely accurate. It’s highly stylised, and everything’s bold, blocky and fluid.

It has big, exaggerated, ugly faces, chaotic panel placement, deeply shadowed faces and often backgrounds and even whole panels are washed in a single color (usually blue green or red) in order to give it a moody, or ominous or more atmospheric feel, while all the civillian life scenes are more colourful and bright. There’s also a lot of line work and sparce dialogue, which gives it a really streamlined feel and made the action scenes a treat to read.

Props really have to be given to the colorists John Costanza and Albert T Guzman for giving it this really dark, almost film noir feel here

All this works phenomenally for action sequences. Cassandra Cain is an all action no talk (literally- she’s a mute who they taught to read body language). So this art style makes sense… mostly. 

The only downside is that this exaggerated art doesn’t work as well for the more low key moments. In fact, some of the character designs can look hideous- Cassandra is the worst offender. Seriously, she looks a lot like the neanderthalls from Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur in some panels:

When you’re dealing with a tragic child warrior story similar to Dark Angel, Hitgirl, or Leon The Professional, you really need emotional subtlety. And it doesn’t help when Batman’s pulling an expression like this.

This is a major emotional milestone, yet how am I meant to take this seriously?

Oh God, how can you take that face seriously? Just compare that to the subtlety of  Stephanie Brown’s expression in another Batgirl series:


So much emotion in that one look, and its so subtle as well. This is a HUGE problem because when we have a character who’s mute – or only tals in broken sentences at best- and has no life outside being a warrior, you really need to rely on low key character moments, subtle gestures and facial expressions to draw us in and help us connect with her. The art doesn’t do that.

This isn’t helped by the double edged sword that is her costume. Don’t get me wrong, her Bat costume looks incredible, Black, sleek, and a monstrous mask that looks like something of nightmares. I really like this costume… and yet. A big problem is the fact that Cass was not originally a villain (not until an editorial mandate happened anyway). Cassandra is a tragic figure- raised as the ultimate assassin and forced to kill when she was too young to know what she was doing, let alone say no. She cannot talk, so she relies on expressions to get her mood across- and this mask that obscures her face robs her of a lot of character.

They say that the reason that Roman Gladiators wore masks was because it was easier to kill a man when they didn’t have to look them in the eye and acknowledge them as human. The same principle goes for Cass, as I reckon that the mask makes it harder to relate to her as a character. It doesn’t help that what with the stitching, it looks like a nightmare mask she’s trapped in.


But still, she’s made to look like an actual badass warrior rather than cheesecake who contorts her spine to get her ass and boobs in full display every other panel. In that respect, no matter what I think of her costume’s flaws she’s still head and shoulders above 90% of other superheroines out there.

Ironically, as Batgirl loses skill and gains language, the artwork balances out and though is less dynamic and fluid, everything looks better. The characters are no longer an eyesore, though I can’t help but think the biggest thing this improvement achieved is making Cass look pretty, and made the civillian life scenes less of an eye sore.




It’s an interesting story. Basically, Cassandra Cain is a half Asian girl who was trained from childhood to be an assassin by a killer called David Cain. The central gimmic is that instead of teaching her how to speak, she learned to read fighting moves as a sort of ‘language’, and thus she is mute. Honestly, I am not sure if this is one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard of, or the coolest.

But then I remembered the Silver Age and Bat-girl’s plan to escape her enemy’s prison by cutting out paper bats and throwing them out of the window, and now it all of a sudden seems completely reasonable.

Yes, this was completely normal in the Silver Age, which brought us time travelling Wonder tot, Rainbow Batman, Zebra Batman, Batgirl’s ‘Crime Compact’, as well as the demented Bat-baby

Anyway, this is an interesting concept, and creates a certain dilemna in terms of story telling. Since not only. It further shoots itself in the foot by choosing a costume that does not show her face, and an artstyle that does not lend itself to subtle expression.

The workaround was by making Batgirl more of a subject than narrator. Most of the first few issues are narrated by Oracle (Barbara Gordon, who was the previous Batgirl) and Batman. 

Now, a mute protagonist could present a challenge – it could involve Cass slowly learning how to talk, bonding with Oracle, maybe even remembering what her father taught her… but instead they went for an ass pull and had a psychic magically healing her. Seriously. 


They tried to make it seem like less of an asspull by presenting it as Batgirl having to choose between being the ultimate warrior and mute, or a less skilled, average fighter but able to talk. However, this was clearly done because the writers wrote themselves in a corner by being mute, and didn’t know how to keep this up and keep her interesting. 

It’s a shame, because it was a genuinely interesting problem and there could have been a lot of character development involving bonding with Oracle as she slowly learned language and how to hit in- especially if learning language helped her remember what Cain said as he was training her. Instead we got what we got, with her language skills resulting in her fighting skills becoming more inconsistent, which was a shame, but still made for interesting reading.

It also had another disadvantage of constantly pitting Cass against Mooks. Interestingly, in spite of being by far the deadliest Batgirl and one of the best hand to hand fighters in the DC Universe, her debut fights and achievements are less impressive than Stephanie Brown’s. Even though Stephanie was in part defined by failure and weakness. Still, Stephanie went up against Scarecrow, the calculator, and even a brainwashed Huntress and Catwoman, as well rescuing both Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon.

Both Barbara Gordon and even ditzy Bette Kane got to debut against masked crooks. Here, most of the time Cassandra went against nameless, maskless goons and her biggest threat wasn’t any foes- but rather whenever the writing team needed to give her a random nerfing. This nerfing is explained by the fact that when she gained the ability to talk she lost the ability to read movements, and yet she appears to get her skill back after a training session with Lady Shiva and it still turns on and off.

Speaking of Lady Shiva, the biggest bright spot was their fight. Lady Shiva is one of the strongest martial artists in the DC Universe, whom Bruce trusted to train Tim Drake (the third Robin) and whom managed to knock Jason Todd (the second Robin) flat on his ass in A Death In The Family. This moment made for one of the strongest conflicts in the opening issue. Often, when I see a superheroine pitted against another female I raise my eyebrows slightly, because it just so often feels like ‘hmmm… this should be girly and this foe has a vagina- lets put them up against each other!’ I still remember when Babsy in Gail Simone’s run called half the DC Universe’s female superheroines in to help her and I was wondering ‘what? No Nightwing? Why ignore the male superheroes when the city’s at stake?’ But no, Lady Shiva and Cass Cain make sense. She is also an ultimate fighter who is dedicated to attaining the peek of skill.


It’s been said that Batman is the least interesting character in his universe, and it’s his contrast with his Rogues gallery  as well as Superman and his allies that makes him interesting. I suspect the same is true for Cass, as her rivalry with Lady Shiva was great fun. Lady Shiva’s ideals and approach was the complete opposite to Batman’s. Plus, having two of the most badass Asian superheroines in the same comic was pretty awesome.

Another high point was that we saw a more softer and melancholy side to Batman. Far from being the immoving stoic, he genuinely cared for Cass, and was the perfect foil to Cass’ father who only viewed her as a killing machine.

Cain was another great villain, as his obsession with creating the ultimate killer was highly reminiscent of Lydecker from dark angel. I’m looking forward to seeing him in future issues.

But a big flaw was to include an annual in this. It involved a completely different creative team and it feels out of place. It basically involves Batman and Batgirl pursuing this cheesecake Indian shapeshifter whom once they catch up with proceeds to infodump her whole life on them. It’s more focused on the plight of the untouchables and how they have few rights in India, and honestly, since this character has no relevance to anything I can’t bring myself to care about the conflict.


Overall, it may be flawed but with its brilliantly fast pace action, fluid artwork and an excellent standoff against DC heavyweight Lady Shiva, this series was a good start for Batgirl. In all honestly, a big part of the reason I love this is because as an unstoppable trained from birth, Cassandra Cain makes for an excellent power fantasy.

However, the issue is held back by the fact that Kelley Puckett clearly hadn’t quite thought through how he was going to handle Cass’s muteness and the central concept behind her fighting skills, and so the random psychic ‘quick fix’ solution made it feel so cheap. Even so, its definately worth checking out, if for no other reason than its an interesting part of the Batgirl legacy.


3.5/ 5


Oh God. I’ve actually found it the worst  comic on the internet. This is literally the personification of everything that is wrong with the overzealous left on Tumblr. A comic worse than Sonichu. Less articulate than My Immortal.

A comic is so polarizing, so ranty, it even isolates other trans people and feminists. A comic that is so far left, that when right wing trolls do edits of it,half the time I have difficulty telling which ones are real and which ones are parodies. The only key difference is that the parodies are at least funny. Which is a problem.

Attempts to help like this, done horrendously, to talk about important issues just give trolls ammunition and undermine attempts at improving representation. Honestly, if someone was a centrist, naive and heard endless stories about how bad ‘SJWs’ were and then saw a few of these strips, I can see them easily siding with them. Hell, I actually cheered on the bigot strawmen in half these comics.



What is the purpose of this strip?

This strip takes the form of a ‘gag a day’ strip, except without a gag, or humour. Because who needs humour? Instead, we get a heavy handed ham fisted gender studies lecture which usually involves Stephie commiserating with her echo chamber   I mean, band of sycophants friends about some issue, or else berating some unwitting passer by who accidentally stepped on a land mine.

I mean, we read comics to be entertained. No one ever liked PSAs. Even as kids, no one wanted to watch this:

Even when there is a legitimate punchline, it’s often muddied by a bizarre set up:

I don’t understand what she’s parodying

Wait, so you DON’T want people to research trans issues and be a good ally? What’s your point?? Normally, when this is done, it’s done to parody the weird questions that LGBT people are asked, in attempt to show how demeaning/ ridiculous they are. For example:

‘When did you decide to be straight?’

‘Straight clubs have the BEEESSSST music. Oooooh, I have a straight friend- nothing in common except their straight- you wanna go out?’

But trans issues are more complex than being cis. And they definately need support in this climate.  So it doesn’t work. And her mum asked her a completely innocuous question- what are you spending your money on? Why the sarcasm? Is it because If Stephie said ‘the latest Ms Marvel comic’, Stephie might actually have had an interest and conversation that doesn’t center around gender?

As for It sometimes has mini arcs, but there isn’t much in the way of continuity. No characters really develop, and I still have no idea what personality Stephie’s supposed to have… I know she’s angry, irrational, judgmental and self absorbed, but  I don’t know what personality the creator intended her to have.

Which brings me onto the biggest problem:


Even if this comic is called ‘Assigned Male- the incredible adventures of Stephie who just happens to be transgendered’, don’t be fooled. There is nothing ‘just happens’ about it. Stephie is trans.  I don’t really know anything about her goals, hobbies, or much about her except that she speaks like a gender studies student. Seriously. The author even admits Stephie has no other interests.

oh my god
I genuinely had to debate whether to put this in because i wasn’t sure if this was an edit or not.

Lampshading your failure to write an actual character does not fix the problem. Also, there are so many great female lead comics like Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Rat Queens and Ms Marvel… and you’re just going to dismiss the whole medium? When there’s a huge push at the moment to make the medium more inclusive? Hell, we saw another character reading a lumberjanes comic at one point- so the author must know this. And as for videogames, what about Child of Light or Undertale- or freaking Tetris or Candy crush?Or Indie games? Also, football loses value if cis men get anything from it? WTF?

There is one or two token examples of Stephie having a hobby or two– but they were done in a ham fisted ‘tell’ way, is never organically incorporated in the story telling such as say, Lisa Simpson and her sax, or the blokes from Friends and their love of football.

For another example of Sophie’s lack of irony, see this:


What’s wrong with this panel? This is a reasonable point for every day trans people to make. But in the context of this comic there are  three things:

a) Trans and gender issues are the ONLY thing Stephie can talk about.

b) She’s in a webcomic about a transperson’s life- ie. A PIECE OF MEDIA ABOUT TRANS LIVES FOR PUBLIC CONSUMPTION



One thing to note, Stephie is supposed to be 11. She is 11 and she talks like This . Here’s more examples of Dick Grayson, age 12 speaks Stephie and her flunkies talk like:

11 years old – ‘Yes. Because of course I am a heterosexual cis male

11 years old- ‘so you want to compensate for your insecurity regarding your masculinity  and parenting skills by denying my identity‘ – NOT EVEN 20 YEAR OLDS TALK LIKE THIS

11 years old– ‘And spend the summer not getting any sleep because I’ll be so anxious performing a gender I don’t have.’

I understand that some kids are precocious, and the comic even tried to imply this in an earlier comic. But the reason  Lisa worked in the Simpsons was because she was the only character like this, and it contrasted with the straight man ie. the rest of Springfield. She even suffered iscolation from her peers due to her intellect.

This doesn’t work here because half the characters talk like this- even the strawmen. she’s literally like the raging feminists you find on campus that even the other feminists run a mile whenever they see them on the horizon.

Speaking of angry feminists, Oh God, the overwhelming problem with this story is how reprehensible the characters are and how aggressively they spout their views. Lets begin with the first ever comic.

Stephie is sick and Stephie’s mum takes her to the hospital. The receptionist notices that inspite of seeing a little girl, there’s a boys name on the card and she asks Stephie’s militant butch lesbian stereotype mum if there’s a mistake. Her mum, being a responsible adult, explains that Stephie identifies as female in a calm and rational manner…


Her mum rages at the poor unsuspecting person trying to do their job.

Then, it’s Stephie’s turn. Stephie is angry with her mum. Is it because her mum’s being an irrational rage-aholic? No, it’s because she isn’t doing militant trans activism right. Even though her mum is sticking up for her and using language that mainstream activists use to describe being transgender, she is the real monster for getting it wrong. she throws a complete fit about it. Because apparently Stephie doesn’t think she wasn’t born in the wrong body- she doesn’t have gender dysphoria in spite of having it in other panels when convenient to the plot. No. This is a girl’s body. This is her girl’s penis! Even though she takes hormones and shows signs of dysphoria in some comics and then claims not to have it in others.



Does her mum punish her for being a little shit? Of course not, Stephie can do no wrong and her mum bends and apologises. But the worst thing is her kid is sick and she leaves to hospital. She is literally going to let her kid be dangerously ill because some medical professional didn’t understand the situation at the counter and she couldn’t control her own kid. What a child abuser great parent.


Wow. That passive aggressive bullshit definitely won’t isolate people who are reading your comic  to educate themselves and leave only the most militant of trans activists reading

Stephie  and her crew are absolutely horrendous to everyone around them. Even though trans people suffer from discrimination, homelessness and violence at alarming rates, you know what kind of issues this comic decides the tackle? Getting the wrong happy meal!

fuck me
Haha, I abused that minimum wage worker for no reason! 

Ah, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen non binary gender bending characters gain superpowers. But remember when Sailor Uranus used her powers to protect innocent people rather than assaulting overworked fast food employee? Yeah, that was terrible motivation. It would have been better if Sailor Uranus used it to attack people who got her the wrong toy on Child’s day or something. That would make her more engaging.sailor uranus.gif

No one even cares if you want a different toy. I used to ask for the boys toy all the time. I worked at a fast food place, we were used to switching them. The bronies already fought that civil right for you.  Let the internet fix this for you:


This is how she treats the people around her. Attack them for the smallest slights! Most of her friends are trans/ non binary/ gay in some way or the other, but those who aren’t exist for two purposes: to be stawman and commit a slight for Stephie to yell at them about, or b) to worship the ground she walks on and only talk about her issues.


Well, it’s not about characters, and it’s not funny, and gives us lectures, it must be educational for newcomers, right? Lets look at how she handles arguments:

cray cray


la (2)



And fun fact! The author trans Yuno Sophie Labelle got kicked out of a local trans group for going off on an angry tirade  ‘questioning their beliefs.’ I wonder how she could have approached them that would have provoked that response?



And aww, ‘truscum’?  Isn’t that cute. She’s invented a new hate term for transgender people who don’t agree with her! It’s lovely how she keeps those spaces safe for other trans women where they can go and not be verbally attacked.

But that is assigned male in a nutshell.

It doesn’t want to educate the audience. It doesn’t want to make logical arguments. It wants the audience to blindly agree with her points otherwise they’re a PRIVELEDGED CISSEXIST TOOL OF THE PATRIARCHY!

Yet asking questions about those points for clarification- even none invasive none personal questions? SEE ABOVE. And accidentally making a mistake?  … BTW, whatever happened to that kid who said transwomen were women trapped in a male’s body?

Worse still, aside from the strawmen, the biggest target of her ire are the perfectly


Actually, that’s a pretty good argument- it makes their issues a mater of human rights, and people often dehumanise trans people by referring to them as ‘it’, so it’s something people need reminding. It should be done because they’re smart, funny and talented? Okay, fine. But what about Caitlin Jenner or trans people we despise? Do we get to respect them? What about trans women who are violent criminals? If we respected trans women based on merit, wouldn’t that mean that misgendering women who are terrible people is okay?

This comic doesn’t just rely on blind aggression to argue its points! We also have logical fallacies:

‘I am a Duck! And my body is MINE. So it can only be a duck’s body. Ducks have all types of bodies ‘ LOGIC

Strawman, strawman everywhere:

Yes, because transphobes typically have a problem using crass terms for genitalia in regards to transwomen.

Giving the enemy swirly eyes:


Yeah, twitter wasn’t convinced.


See what you did there, but no, people not being attracted to trans people is a VERY different debate to people not being attracted to different races. The ‘you are transphobic for not wanting to date me’ directly plays into the TERF fear mongering that they do to lesbians that transwomen are gonna bully and manipulate them into having sex with them.

And the admission that the presence of any logical scrutiny will destroy her:


Stephie makes an Illogical arguement, is called out on it, then she pivots.

That does not counter his point

You should try and be more like the perfect ally like Stephie… speaking of allyship


hypocrisy lol

Hmmm, learning and mostly listening….

hypocrisy (2)

Don’t tell other people how to advocate for their rights? Well, that’s good advice. Lets see how long Stephie can keep that up before she starts telling a gay anti bullying campaigner how to do it and making it all about Stephie:


She couldn’t even listen for a fucking panel. And of course, gay activist couldn’t be allowed to be right or have validity talking about his own his own issues! No, we’re going to turn him into a strawman so her Sueiness can be right!

Oh, gee! Thanks for transplaining to a gay man what homophobia is and making him the REAL homophobe, asshole! Why couldn’t he be as well versed on gay issues as an 11 year old trans girl?

I’m sure a homophobia educator who selflessly devotes his time to travelling around schools to promote equality would TOTALLY start calling femme gays ‘fags’ in the middle of class. It’s not like he would have recieved letters from or spoken to boys who go bullied for being effeminate or anything.

And also- maybe they aren’t tired of the effeminate stereotype because they’re monsters. Maybe it’s because the swishy stereotype is the only representation they get in media, and they’re sick of basically being belittled and reduced to this:


And lets not forget that she’s only started living as a female for five minutes, and yet she’s the only one enlightened enough to stand up to those sexists and realise objectification is wrong.

She’s also so self absorbed she can’t put her own issues aside to help a kid with his homework:


This wouldn’t be so bad, but we never see her do anything or care for anyone else’s issues unless its gender related.

This comic isn’t the only one she spent berating the gays for not being good enough cis allies . She never attacks lesbians or Muslims funny enough, even though both groups tend to have far more issue with transwomen in their communities than gay men.

I personally have a theory as to why: morality isn’t based on your actions, but how marginalized you are. You’re only allowed to be sympathetic in this series if you have at least two marginalizations. Gay men are scum because even though they’re cis men and being gay doesn’t cancel that out. Cis women are dickheads because they’re still straight and cis. Lesbians- in spite of being typically more anti trans than gay men- don’t get criticised because they’re still both women AND gay and can’t be evil. Myrick gets forgiven for being traditionally masculine because he’s trans and POC. Her best friend is good because she’s black and female, in spite of being cis.


Ugh! The worst thing is that this is anti science and anti reason.

But Stephie, You  ARE female, so any experiences you have will be a girls experience! It doesn’t matter how you’re percieved. Unless you’re saying that you need other people to validate your identity.

‘Saying there are male and female brains is neurosexist’. First, wha? Second. BUUULLLLLSSSSHIIIIIITTTTTT! It’s not neurosexist, it’s scientifically demonstratable. Scientists have actually done research and found that there are male and female brains.  In fact, it’s those big mean neurosexist scientists that are actually proving that transgenderism has a biological basis and that trans women really do have a feminized brain– thus not men pretending to be women.

But Stephie aint having nothing to do with biology.


Actually, Mr Scientific Research provides us with DNA testing which can determine how many chromosomes you have. Why don’t you take one if you think they got that wrong, Stephie? Because you KNOW what chromosomes you have; this is a red herring and you know that. And it’s the MALE Y chromosome which triggers the processes in the womb that cause the development of a penis, except in exceptionally rare cases where something goes wrong, so yeah, if everything is working correctly Y chromosomes = boy parts = biological sex.

This isn’t even an arguement that trans activists even use anyway.

Most trans activists  have a perception of reality and can make reasonable arguments see a difference between ‘gender’ and ‘sex’.

Here’s a fucking diagram:


But for all those gender studies books she reads, Stephie uses the words interchangeably (unless its in a talking point to bash teh gayz), which leads me to believe she doesn’t grasp even the basic gender theory.

But I’ll bite. So… if saying that sex difference isn’t in the brain, has nothing to do with genitals, biology, then it must be to do with clothes and gender roles? What did you say about that again?



So… the question remains… if gender has nothing to do with genitals, nothing to do with the brain, nothing to do with stereotypes and gender roles don’t mean anything and everyone gets to define gender for themselves… why do you need to identify as a girl? What is your motivation to transition? If girl and boy have no meaning besides what you want it to mean, why can’t you wear dresses and say you’re defining boy as someone who wears dresses? Afterall, you say men are privileged and being a girl sucks, so why do you want to experience life as a girl?

Also, why don’t you have dysphoria in the earlier part of the series and then get dysphoria in the later issues.


You know, there is so much more I wanted to talk about but don’t have enough energy to. This comic has ended me. Do you know what the worst part is? This book is being sold and marketed to small kids.

what a fun person

There are hardly any books dealing with trans characters, so this book about an angry, hateful, irrational person who has no personality is the role model trans children are getting- and what other kids will think being trans means.

If her comics are anything to go by, what riveting reads in age appropriate language we’re gonna get:

riveting stuff

They’re also getting to see a mother genuinely struggle to come to terms with their trans kid’s transition and see them painted as a monstrous harpy.

How DARE she have difficult letting go of the child she gave birth to and the mother/ daughter bond she thought she was going to be able to treasure the rest of her life. Also, why would she burn clothes that SHE WOULD HAVE PAID FOR?

Why was Sophie so intent on not letting Stephie be a character? Instead of the lectures, why couldn’t she create a role model like Sailor Moon provided 20 years ago? Sailor Uranus was a wonderful role model and a fun character.

Sailor Uranus is brave, strong, cocky, loyal, a race driver, a loving girlfriend and superhero who fights evil with her friends. She doesn’t identify with either gender and takes the male role, pronouns, dress and identity in civilian life . We see her live as none binary without endless soapboxing. We see her fight evil with her friends, bicker with her girlfriend and raise a child, not lecture people endlessly on privilige and cissexism.

A race car driver AND superhero? It’s almost like she has other things to worry about rather than who gave her the right happy meal

Or even Alyssa from the tween friendly Batgirl comics. She’s not a pivotal character, but she is a character

alyssaalyssa 2

OMG Alyssa can be trans AND have a life as well.

Why couldn’t have Sophie given the world one of these women? A girl that trans women could look up to and cis children could recognise as loveable? Why did she have to let her pet peeves- mostly against allies and well meaning people who say the wrong thing- overthrow her story.

She created a platform, and yet she created a work which is more famous for its anti SJW (and much funnier) memes than its content.

But did this always have to be the case? How could Sophie have created a comic that teaches people about important social issues while still being fun and entertaining? Well, next time I’m going to look at some well handled trans/ female etc characters in other mediums, and the odd couple of panels the author sort of got right, to explore how it could be done right.


It feels like the whole internet has become obsessed with this overnight- spawning dozens of pieces of fanart, as well as lets plays, conspiracy theories and an inevitable toxic fandom– and why wouldn’t it? With the developer Game Grumps’ huge female following and its rare inclusion of gay men (including MOC and transmen) as datable romantic leads, it was bound to become a hit. Add to boot a mysterious secret ending hidden in the data files, its got everything needed to gain a huge cult following.

But is this game actually live up to its hype?

Well, after watching the strong opening on youtube (courtesy of Rantasmo) and seeing the positive response from gay and trans people, my curiosity was peaked in spite of my general disinterest in dating sims. So without further ado, lets have a look at the game.


maxresdefault (5)
DISCLAIMER: Closest I’ve ever played to a dating game sim 


Probably its biggest claim to fame is the amount of diversity this game has, including well rounded characters who are gay, POC, and trans (plus it even has interesting female characters in the forms of Amanda and Mary).

Though there are great games  like Portal, Borderlands, Child of Light, Undertale and the Persona 3 and 4 with well written queer/ female/ POC etc characters, it’s no secret that the video game industry is lagging behind every other creative medium in terms of treating anyone not the presumed ‘default’  straight white/ Japanese etc as a human, in spite of an increased amount of female players and players  who are gay or of color.

Love you Sazh, but Japan, what were you thinking with the chocofro?

Anyone not part of that demographic is barely considered appealing to as a periphery demographic, let alone the main demographic. So the fact that Dream Daddy exists is huge.

First off, it lets you have a wider range of body types than normal. You can choose to be a gym bunny, skinny guy, a bear or even freaking Goku.  (It lets you have Goku hair and eyes. I loved the concept). I just went for the eye candy, but judging by the delighted twiiter response, a lot of gay players were delighted to be able to play as someone like themselves.

I created this handsome fella to be my protagonist

As for POC options, this one allows you to choose a range of skin tones, as well as hairstyles and features more typical of African Americans, including dreads ,cornrows, fuller lips and rounder noses.

And most notably of all, you can make your character cannonically trans. I  wouldn’t have noticed it if it wasn’t pointed out, but it does give you the option of wearing a binder, This is small, but such a wonderful acknowledgement which has really resignated well with trans players, who are typically relegated to being punchlines in games if included at all, although this improving at least in Western games.


Although you may be able to fully customise your sim, your dad’s personality is clearly defined. He’s a loveable goofy sitcom dad. Kind, laid back and socially awkward, he loves nothing more than spending time with his daughter, avoiding the gym and making bad dad jokes. No matter what dialogue option you chose, it could never make your character completely left field of his basic personality, and all the ‘bad’ dialogue choices came across as more of a case of MC putting his foot in his mouth than being cruel.

I think this was the right choice, because it made his relationships with the other characters (which I’ll move onto in a second)  more engaging and give or take. The only problem was the occasional disconnect between character and character model. There’s no way a character with 0% body fat and abs to die for would be that horrified by the thought of going to the gym and spend all day eating nachos.

Damnit Link. I don’t care what your ingame excuse is,HOW CAN YOU NOT EMOTE!?

Plus, if I chose to play as a trans dad and chose to date the trans character, wouldn’t MC have shown more of a reaction after the binder revelation? Just one extra line of dialogue just would have made it that much more immersive.




A great advantage of having a clear personality as your lead is the banter. What sold me on this game is the relationship between Amanda (your daughter) and MC. I LOVED Amanda. A world away from the bratty valley girl, she is a vivid, funny, quirky teenage girl who’s supportive of your relationships, but also brings her own teenaged troubles to the table which was really engaging and heart wrenching.

In effect, you’re working towards two endings for your dad. You’re working towards getting the good Amanda ending, as well as the good ending with whichever dad you’re hoping will be your one true love. When i first played this, I went for hunky married youth pastor Joseph because I knew he’d be a train wreck and I wanted to see what happens. I ended up getting up getting the Bad Ending with him (apparently the youth of today don’t appreciate my dance moves), but even though I ended up alone, it wasn’t a sad ending because I still had Amanda and it felt really real and bittersweet.

Of course, just don’t get both the Joseph and Amanda bad ending because it’s just that depressing.


Now, we’re onto what everyone’s really interested in: the smexy mancandy. Basically, the first part of the game sets the scene and deals with Amanda. After you’ve met all the dads, it allows you to go on ‘Dadbook’, where you make a profile, and choose which dad to date. You can date any dad up until you choose to go on the third date, which is when you will commit to a dad and get his ending for better or worse.

Here’s a quick intro to the dads, but if you’re not interested, skip to the paragraph below Joseph.


Helloooo, Murse!

Brian is the bearish rival dad. You spend your whole time competing with him while he shows you nothing but magnamity and kindness- so essentially his story involves our protagonist creating conflict where none is to be seen.



He’s essentially the ‘damaged bad boy with a heart of gold.’ He’s an interesting story because his story intersects Joseph’s, making for a more interesting story. The only downside is that half of his ‘rebellions’ and ‘bad boy actions’ feel excessively juvenile rather than a badass. To me he felt like that rebellious cousin you look up to when you’re 15, but doesn’t look so cool when they’re 39 and still exactly the same.



A very popular dad and your college best friend, he’s the typical sporty ‘jockish’ dad. You can tell he’s very manly because he uses bro every other sentence. He’s pretty cool because he’s a gay asian whose conventionally very macho, which is something very rare in the media.



The bizarre goth dad. Although they don’t have a clear handle on what goth is (referring to My Chemical Romance goth, even though its one of the defining bands of the Emo movement and generally despised by Goths), they use his OTT nature for some pretty entertaining scenerios. His is possibly the most entertaining route.



He’s the cute nerd who gets flustered and babbles on an awkard tangent. Although not as instantly sexy as Craig or some of the others, his and MC’s shared doofiness do make for some heartwarming moments and he’s a grower.



The sophisticated teacher who ironically has the gobby hellraiser of a son. I’d feel sorry for him, but he named his own son Ernest Hmingway. That just screams ‘Man Who Goes To Tate And Mistakes Dropped Crisp packet As Revolutionary Piece Of Art.”


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If you ever fantasised about gaining a virtual dick and sticking it in crazy, then Joseph is the route for you. He’s married to what seems to be an awful alcoholic and is very invested in being a role model to his church, so already we have more conflict than the other dads. He is the one dad who completely diverges from the traditional dating conventions, as his story possibly touches on the closet and also unhappy marriages and infidelity. Both his good and bad ending are bittersweet, and both are actually worth playing. PRO TIP: Complete the first two dates for Damian and Robert before going down Joseph’s route. It makes for a better story.

As you can see from the descriptions, it plays out like a typical dating game sim, and your success with your chosen dad depends on your  responses to certain questions and situations.

For the most part, I found Most of the dads are really, really likeable and the dialogue is on the sweet and uplifting side. There’s not much conflict (except when pertaining to the Joseph and Robert  routes), but the dialogue is engaging and funny enough to keep you hooked. I suppose the overall feel can be described as sort of Steven Universe without the aliens, where everyone is basically warm and engaging,

Because of the three dates rule, it’s significantly shorter than your average dating sim/ graphic novel (especially when compared to goliaths such as Fate Stay Night). Because aside from which dad you choose to interact with, the storytelling is mostly linear and so if you want to restart it can get a bit repetitive.

The best thing to do is create a character and go on two dates with each dad, and then complete the final date.



This was my biggest worry, considering the way male/male romance and yaoi tends to belittle and fetishize gay men.

As I played this I did not believe for one second that this game had a gay man as a lead writer for a variety of reasons I will go into in a different post. I guessed bisexual female based on the Teagan and Sara reference and the way Amanda was written, and judging by my research I was right. This is very much a gay relationship put into a  heteronormative dating framework.

However, it does not treat its male leads as yaoi bate and made them engaging well rounded characters and contains none of the belittling of gay men that I’ve come to expect from this type of genre.


Overall, yes. In terms of inclusion, it lives up for its reputation. As for the writing, although it is pretty short and linear, the writing is suprisingly good, with plenty of references to geek culture, humour, genuine character interactions and even moments tha can be heartbreaking and touching.

HOWEVER, due to its very linear path and short length, it somewhat lacks in replayability. Even though it’s popular at the moment, unless it spawns some sequels, it lacks the replayability to be an enduring classic like Fate Stay Night.


3 bad dad jokes out of 5



It has to be noted, as a bisexual woman, I am not the group that is represented in this.

For some thoughts on it from gay/ trans men who are represented in the game, I have a few links here:



The Plot: Richard Papen is a poor, detached young man with a poor relationship with his parents. When he finally gets the chance to escape his dull life by accepting a place at a liberal arts college to study English while claiming financial aid, he comes across a group of aloof and intriguing young classics student, taught by a mysterious classics teacher, professor Julian Morrow. When Richard gets the chance to join this elite group- under the condition that he takes class with no other teachers. Richard, iscolate and desperate for approval, assents and is allowed into the tantalizing world of the classics students. But, there’s more than what meets the eye, and soon things spin out of control and he enters a web of secrets that eventually lead to murder…

Review: I would like to begin this review by saying ‘buy this book.’ Seriously, it was 500 pages and raced along like a 200 page novel, with so much talk of the classics but not a wasted line or breath. This is one of those books that not only was I sad when it ended, but I couldn’t read another book because I wasn’t ready to let it go. This is a brilliant novel, and one that goes down as one of my favorites of all time. There’s no lagging, no slow points, no parts that bored me, and even parts that seem inconsequential are there to set up later moments. The whole thing is supurbly written and incorporates


As the novel is entirely character driven, the best way to discuss this book is by looking at some of its fantastic characters…

Richard Papen

This is the reason that this novel is given out as part of University studies: Richard’s unique narration. He is both the novel’s biggest strength and the biggest frustration. He is the text book example of the Peripherial Narrator, always just outside of the main group , desperate to become part of this mysterious, elusive clique that is scorned by the more well adapted members of the liberal arts college.

Because of his outsider status, he’s never really the central player (that would be Henry) and reading this always feels like you’re reading the story through the crack in the door. This can be frustrating, because all the ‘secrets’-especially the triggering secret- are extremely fascinating. Not to mention Richard is extremely passive, cold, detached and hard to sympathise or empathise with.

Yet his narration is narration is the novel’s brilliance. So often when you read a novel from the first person POV, the main character’s point of view is clearly the authors and is presented as the objective, unquestioned truth. But not here.Richard misses what’s right in front of him, clouds both Julian and Henry in the fog of his own awe, Camilla in the fog of his infatuation, and his judgement is often clouded in the fog of copious amounts of drugs and alcohol (of which there is a lot of , since this is set in the 80s). That is, until eventually its broken through and the cold light of reality sets in.

Henry Winter

Arguably, Henry is the real central character of this novel: he is the one with the most emotional investment with Bunny, the one Camilla is closest to, Julian’s favourite, the group leader. He is everything that the narrator wants to be (although this is never explicitly stated, but can be gleaned from the fact that Richard focuses on him more than any other character.

But like with Camilla, for most of the novel we can only see him through the rose tinted lense of Richard’s admiration. It’s only after his character is interrogated that we can truly see his flaws… that were there to see throughout the novel, but thanks to Richard’s awe he was never able to see it… and neither were we.

Edward ‘Bunny’ Corcoran

Bunny, for all his appearance of amiable, callous stability, was actually a wildly erratic character. There were any number of reasons for this, but primary among them was his complete inability to think about anything before he did it.

Edmund ‘Bunny Corcoran, our central murder victim (as revealed by the prologue) and one of the two major driving forces of the story. Because we’re told right from the start that he’s going to die, the suspense lies not whether he’ll die , but how, when and why and whether our leads will get away with it, and what

Much of the first half of the book can be described as a character study of Bunny and his rapidly deteriorating psyche. And he is a big, unique character. Brash and irritating, everything about him is well sketched from his affable ‘old boy’ way of talking, his privilidged delusions of grandeur, his way of ‘slapping people on the back, eating twinkies and Hohos in the reading room of the library and dropping crumbs all down in the bindings of his Greek books.’

Camilla and Charles Macaulay

“Things would have been terribly strange and unbalanced without her. She was the Queen who finished out the suit of dark Jacks, dark King, and Joker.”

Camilla represents an excellent use of the unreliable narrator: she flits in and out of the novel like a beautiful mirage, shrouded so heavily in the fog of the male gaze that it’s impossible to ascertain her true personality, except she’s somewhat too tired and broken to be the princess that Richard wants to make her. Every time she’s introduced the narrator will fall into accolades, and muse about her unknowability in a very self aware, unreliable narrator that only a woman could write.

Charles is a loose cannon. He’s seemingly the more affable, relatable one (though unlike with the others, I get this mainly from what I’m told about him rather than what is seen).

Francis Abernathy:

Francis is the closeted gay guy, everyone’s college experiment, and like Camilla, is not as central as Henry or Bunny, but has a definite presence. Towards the second half he serves as Richard’s sort of confidant and side kick. He has secrets of his own, which like this novel is kind of sad. I raise my eyebrows at the fact it’s the token gay who’s the neurotic weak one who is there to make Richard of all people

The whole story does play out like a massive Greek tragedy. Because we are told right from the beginning that there’s going to


So here it is. The first Fantastic Beasts was a good effort for a first screenplay and a crowning achievement for the CGI team, but as a film it was… fine. It went on too long and wasn’t bad, but lets face it if it didn’t have the Potterverse brand it would be pretty much nothing. And yet we’re getting a load more of those films. So, what could help bring them up to scratch? Well here’s my top 7 things I’d like to see in the upcoming films. Warning, spoilers for Fantastic Beasts ahead.


Yeah, JK Rowling knows how to created a brilliantly set up mystery and well executed mystery, but cinema is a very different beast and though FBAWTFT was pretty good for a first screenplay, her lack of experience really shows. The aid of a more polished screenwriter would have gone a long way.



The biggest problem with Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them was that it didn’t focus on its main plot. It had one of the darkest moments in the entire franchise- the cruel death of an abused kid with learning difficulties- yet I felt nothing for him because the movie didn’t build that moment up. The main plot was relegated to the sidelines and seemed superfluous until the end of act three where we learnt it was the main plot.

Instead we got endless hijinks with magical creatures which went on for far longer than it needed to. Seriously, the film was less focused on the main quest less than I am when I’m playinjg The Legend Of Zelda. In fact, that’s what this film felt like! It was basically Scamander pissing around trying to round up all the Cucco’s and then thinking ‘oh yeah, Ganondorf Grindewald is trying to take over, better actually do something! Dubious deus ex machina away!’ At the last minute. I bet she could have made that work as a novel, but in the tighter confines of a screenplay it felt unfocused.


Yeah, at least 10 minutes could have been cut from the gotta catch em all magical creature league. A really harsh editor would help. Maybe the lady who edited Fury Road? She did an excellent job and it sounds like she had her work cut out for.


Poor ol’ Hermione. She really was the only female in class worth our attention.

Females often get sidelined in mainstream media (although this is greatly improving), so when you see female writers like Meyers , Rowling and Cassandra Claire create such lackluster female characters, you can’t help but think ‘why’?

Don’t get me wrong, Hermione was great (though mainly because the movies toughened up her character and transformed her from the nag who puts a damper on the boy’s fun to a badass whose friendship is valued equally to Ron’s). But she was the only central female until Luna came along. In the Harry Potter series, if you named the 10 most plot central characters (Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Voldemort, Snape, Sirius, Hagrid, , Draco, Neville), the only female you would get would be Hermione… okay and maybe Professor McGonagal, though all her importance comes from being Dumbledore’s 2IC. In Fantastic Beasts our two female leads included basically Scamander’s sidekick and another beauty who gets paired with an unattractive guy (because you shouldn’t judge on looks… if you’re a woman. Men get to choose mates based on looks all the time, but if women hold men to the same standard, they’re vain).

To be fair, all of the leads felt a bit one note throughout the film- except the muggle. But in future films I hope we have more active and complex female leads who are on par with the complexity of characters like Snape and Sirius Black.



The only thing even more abysmal than her track record for female characters is her track record for POC characters. While if you named the top 10 most plot vital characters you would get one female, you would not find a single POC on there. In fact, I’m not convinced that you’d find one on the top 20 most plot vital characters- as although Shacklebolt became Minister of Magic, lets face it, he was the least prominent Auror and didn’t make too much of an impact by himself. In FBAWTF we have a euthanist and an incompetent Black Boss, as well as some random background characters, and you really can’t pretend to say your series that tackles prejudice if your cast list is whiter than Trump’s cabinet picks. It sounds harsh, but true; allowing the audience to sympathise with the victims of prejudice only when its happening to someone like you does not challenge a damn thing.

Rowling, you are such a good ally on Twitter. Lets see that reflected in your films. Be the change you advocate. Give your POC fans the chance to finally see themselves in your universe, and give POC actors the chance to prove shine alongside their white counterparts. Who knows… perhaps we could have a daring Indian/ middle Eastern guy who could be a jerk with a heart of gold who one day could be future Aladdin.



Yoda once wisely said ‘do, or do not. There is no try.’

Either make Dumbledore’s sexuality a vital, represented part of his character the same way sexuality is important to every straight character in the Harry Potter and FBAWTFT series- or just say flat out it’s not going to happen.

If she doesn’t want to do that, then fine, stop giving LGBT fans false hope and stop with vague statements and taking credit for something that was scribbled on the character notes which failed to make it into the main story (which is what Word of God is).



With everything centred around North America and having to listen to the words ‘white picket fence’ over and over again (most boring fantasy ever), Hogwarts always was a breath of change and fresh air. It was just so British, and even if we’re with the North American wizarding world, a parallel world where the Americans are the grounded, level headed ones (come on, Americans, you know you deserve a bit of ribbing after voting in your new Commander In Tweet!) I hope it remains so.


You got to hand it to them, whatever you think of Disney, they are freaking evil geniuses when it comes to marketing. These live action remakes are the perfect way to keep their aging films relevant, and because those films have our childhood nostalgia by the balls, we will keep on going to see them over and over again. After the dizzying success of Beauty and The Beast, the next one on the horizon is The Lion King.

With the director who handled The Jungle Book pretty well on the case, the live action version of The Lion King has a pretty good shot of being actually good. Here are a few things I’d like to see from a remake that would really help it to up its game.


From tragic death to Hasa Diga Eebowai Hakuna Matata in five minutes, this is the most break neck tonal shift since Bambi.

I mean, he’s watched his dad die, he’s been told it’s all his fault, he’s been seperated from everyone he loves but hey! Don’t get too upset kids-  Fart jokes! Goddamnit, If I wasn’t ready to move on, then sure as hell Simba wasn’t.So movie, try and ease us into the lighter scenes a little less haphazardly.


If you were even half the President Obama was!

Sarabi is a strong lioness who’s balsy enough to go up to an evil tyrant and tell him to his face what a crap king he is. Imagine what she would be like in congress! But seriously, the problem is that she really gets brushed aside a bit. I mean, she’s barely an afterthought when Nala brings her up, and Simba spends a long time mourning for his dad but doesn’t spend even a second missing his mother. Hell, she was cut out of the sequel while Mufasa had a prominent role… and Mufasa was dead!

Don’t get me wrong, the focus of this film is (and needs to be) Simba and his father, but this lioness lost her husband and her son on the same day- and that’s so much worse than the death of a parent! She is an underated character who needs more love. I think maybe a scene or two between Simba and Sarabi, reconnecting and acknowledging their shared grief- and her pain at thinking her son was dead- is an angle that would really add a lot.

And speaking of leading ladies…



The directors of the stage musical made a good point that there wasn’t really a prominent female character in the film besides Nala. And she was just the love interest. Even in female lead films Disney did love the smurfette principle in their Renaissance era. As much as I adored the original portrayal and thought he had the perfect balance of humour and wisdom, the Rafiki of the stage musical was really, really good. If you can’t get the original actor to come back, then lets get a female Rafiki.



It may not be Batman vs Superman, but watching two lions brawl is freaking badass, and so is a lioness army cutting through a gang of angry Hyenas!

The Lion King has one of the most rewarding climaxes. Everything- from Simba appearing in lightning as Scar shrieks ‘I’m ten times the King Mufasa was’, to the fight between him and Scar, to Scar’s confession- it sends shivers down my spine and so should the live action.

This director stepped up with the action in The Jungle Book, and I hope he does here as well!



The Nostalgia Critic may have been wrong about the merits of the film, but he made an interesting point about the central conflict in his Disneycember review. That it was all about facing up to your mistakes, and yet as soon as Simba went to Pride Rock, it doesn’t matter because it turns out he didn’t make any in the first place. Good thing because his childhood friend and his freaking mother would have watched Scar throw him off the cliff if Scar didn’t confess.

Even as a kid, the conflict made no sense to me; Mufasa’s death clearly wasn’t his fault. I understand why as a kid he felt guilty. But as an adult? The guilt angle didn’t quite clinch. This would have worked a lot better if Mufasa’s death was Simba’s fault.

Imagine if the reason Mufasa died isn’t just that Scar tricked him… but he went somewhere else that Mufasa told him not to go. That Mufasa died to save him because of Simba’s actions… actions that he was too young to understand but whose consequences he has to live with for the rest of his life. That would make a strong conflict absolutely devastating.



Casting Queen B is another marketing move so clever, you almost have to stand up and applaud; Emma Watson may not have been the best actress, but having Hermione play the brunette bookworm princess was such a smart move. Meanwhile, Beyonce is royalty in the eyes of many African Americans (especially Black women), so making her the film’s future Queen is perfect- especially since this in effect makes Beyonce a Disney royal. Think of all the memes we’ll have when her twins are born. Sure, we don’t really know how well she can act, but Nala was more of a plot device and ploy to market toy lion cubs to girls than a complex character anyway, so she won’t make or break this movie.

I’m still not sure whether music would work with talking lions, but if they do, they need to put their Beyonce to good use! Shadowland was a beautiful and haunting addition to the stage musical, and I would love to see this sung by a woman who doesn’t need to rely on autotune.


Granted, it was more generic Africa than any specific culture, but still! It added quite a lot to the musical. I’m glad that they got James Earl Jones and his big manly booming voice for Mufasa, and a few other talented Black or African actors in the voice cast (as well as Queen B) wouldn’t go amiss.

The stronger feel for the time period worked well for Beauty and The Beast, so a stronger connection with the African landscape will serve this well too.



Scar is one of Disney’s most memorable villains, thanks to Jeremy Iron’s performance, the fact that he killed a major character and, aside from Frollo, he has the coolest villain song.

Scar did follow some unfortunate Disney villain tropes in being slightly, well…



Okay, I know you thought I was going to say fey, but seriously. Look at the sarcasm that drips from those gestures. You can practically see that he wants to flip his paw around and give Musasa the finger, but he won’t because he has too much class. This worked well in the original, but I’m not convinced it will translate well to live action and I think Disney could lay off the fops for a bit. I want this to be a really, powerful warlike Scar, one that carries underlying menace, even if he is not stupid enough to say anything treasonous outright.

Maybe he could have got that Scar from fighting Mufasa flat out, Mufasa could have scarred him in the battle and Mufasa could have made him keep that name as a reminder of his shame. In short, I want to see both the soft, silver tongued manipulator and the big, murderous tyrant who inspires fear in his followers and shows us why Sarabi and Nala were too frightened to gang up on him and take him.


‘Those are manly tears! I swear!’ This film is brilliant because its heart breaking and really gets through the sense of loss at losing a parent. If this film fails to do that, then nothing else the film could possibly do matters.




It used to be common wisdom that marketing to women was financial suicide, and that if you had two women passing the Betchdel then the testes of all the men in the audience would shrivel and die as they wept in the corner, disgusted and horrified by the revelation that women might be people.

But who knew? Apparently men (well the majority, anyway) aren’t crazed mysogynists,  and appealing to the other 50% of the population is profitable. Look at the explosive success of both Frozen and Beauty and The Beast. It should have been obvious that if you’ve got a female lead film with a popular actress, then female audiences should be part of your target demographic. But they alienated them with that stupid naked, fetishistic suit which made no sense whatsoever.

The original Ghost In The Shell movies is a classic, but that naked suit was ridiculous then and the one thing that SHOULD have been thrown to the wayside.


I’ve read a lot of reviews for this film.While there are plenty of fans upset by the arse f@cking alterisations this classic recieved, and plenty of others upset by the white washing, there are lots of new viewers who care about neither issue that were just bored.

If you a film’s got an inheritely crowd pleasing idea like sexy vampires or superheroes pummeling each other, then it can get away with lackluster storytelling with the right marketing. GITS didn’t have that luxury, so bottom line is that  it needed to be a good movie to make an impression, and this just didn’t cut it.



This was a big problem. It transformed a thoughtful, philosophical sci fi film which asked a lot of deep questions about identity, what makes a person ‘them’, or even ‘male’ or ‘female’ if the physical form is easily discarded- into a generic revenge flick against a Big Mean corporation. It bears more in common with Neuromancer and its heroine Molly Millions than it did to GITS and the goddamned Major.

The only things thing they did to make it connect to the franchise is to include a few cyberpunk elements, recreate a few scenes devoid of the meaning or context of the original, and kept the stupid naked suit. It bore so little resemblence to the spirit of the original, that there was no reason to even make it part of the franchise in the first place.


This would have done well during Disney’s Renaissance, but the audience has moved on

Yeah, timeliness and marketing are everything. Look at Princess and The Frog for instance. Although it had a good story (albeit not an excellent one), it didn’t do as well because it was released at a time when computer animation was in and handrawn animation was being relegated to the small screen. Sure, it cashed in on nostalgia for older viewers, but a nostalgic Disney film isn’t going to appeal to the kids.

This film makes the same error; it looks and feels like Blade Runner. But cyberpunk is a very 90s genre, when we still had no clue what cyberspace was or what the internet were going to turn out like. Giving a film an aesthetic that had its heydey decades ago while bringing nothing new to the table is not a good marketing move.



Look, whitewashing has been an extremely contentious issue recently. While most audiences genuinely don’t care that much about whitewashing, the fact is that it is a big hot button issue. So of course, when media outlets that would usually provide free publicity ask questions, they’re all going to centre around that issue . As a result, the only thing people were hearing about the film was its white washing, and that certainly isn’t endearing.

Writers, if you REALLY believed that a non white actress doesn’t hold ‘mass market appeal’, then you could have avoided all this by just creating your own robot film– or derived it from a Western franchise like The Bionic Woman or Terminator.If you did that you could even pretend to be progressive without putting in any work. You’d already get points for having a female action lead.

All you’d need to do from there is include a token Asian and have someone like your now Not!Batou  make a very ambiguous statement about his sexuality and voila! You’re now progressive! (actually, he’s tool masculine, that tends to upset people because there has never been a manly gay man ever. Make that Not!Togusa)

But speaking of existing franchises, we also have this problem.


Creativity, creativity, why have you forsaken thee

Disney are getting away with it (for now) because their reboots are a visually interesting and manage to at least be passable. But overall, the audience is getting tired of reboots. So releasing a film that is (a) mediocre in terms of storytelling (b) unfaithful to the spirit of the source material (c) manages to repel women in spite of being female lead and (d) has a controversy that dominates the talk of the film… you’ve got a box office bomb on your hands.

And that, my friends, is why GITS tanked.


As much as I love Disney, I have mixed feelings when it comes to the Live Action remakes. On the one hand,  The Jungle Book really benefitted from an update, while on the other, I thought Beauty And The Beast was too perfect to be updated, and the live action proved me right.

However, when I heard of Mulan’s live action update, I felt like it made perfect sense. It’s based on a story that is very maleable and rich for creating new and astonishing interpretations. Plus, while the origin has its charm, it’s far from a perfect movie and there are some updates that this film would really benefit. What updates you ask? Well, here are my top 7 things I would like to see from the Disney Live Action.



Oh Shan Yu, what high hopes we had of thee. He SHOULD have been one of the greatest Disney Villains ever created, but he was so utterly forgettable. While Lady Tremaine had to make to do with turning a teenage girl into a domestic servant, and Shir Khan was defeated by a ten year old, this villain threatened all of China and I barely remember anything about him. He’s a general who’s slaughtered children, and yet the most memorable thing about him was his eyes. This needs to be fixed in the live action.

It’s time to give us the kind of Disney villain we crave, the kind we still haven’t had since Hades. Make him big, powerful, menacing, larger than life… a man who inspires fear the minute he enters the room. A man who’s built up even before he appears on screen. Disney, give the swishy villains a break and make Shan Yu a dark, macho badass: a warlord who’s always calm and calculating, never needing to raise his voice, even as he sharpens his sword while dropping implied threats to his minions if they should fail him.



This is the most perfect choice of films to make a live action. Unlike with BATB, the original was far from perfect and Disney has not told the definitive version. There’s plenty of scope for change and for the writers/ directors to bring something new to the table.

This film lends itself perfectly to a good old fashioned adventure. I would love to see Mulan do some real martial arts and engage in some blood pumping stunts. I mean, Mushuu killed the villain in the original while Mulan mainly flails around wildly. I want to see a big epic climax.


Love the songs, but this film is no The Little Mermaid. Songs aren’t necessary to make this film work and could serve to destroy the tension.

As much as I enjoyed the songs, Mulan is a film that really doesn’t call for it. It is better suited as an action adventure.

Remember when back in the 90s, a live action version of 101 dalmations was made and there was a controversy because the dalmations didn’t talk? Well, in hindsight, it was a good choice. Talking dogs would have been more jarring because it didn’t have the animation to soften the surrealness of it all, and it gave us all we wanted from the original: cute puppies and a GLORIOUS performance from Cruella DeVille.

In this case we don’t really need them. It’s an epic martial arts, swashbuckling, sword fighting adventure filled with girl power! It has a more serious conflict, and the musical element could diminish that.


Forget Mushuu, I always wanted to see THIS dragon in the film.

Comic relief characters like Mushuu are often wildcards. Sometimes they work really, really well (Aladdin, Despicable Me), but sometimes they can turn into a complete nightmare (The Magic Sword, The Hunchback of Notre Dame). I enjoyed Muushu’s performance… most of the time. But he did jarr with the film’s tone and I doubt him translating well to a live action with a slightly less campy tone.

I can see him looking good, but none of the designs which would make him awesome would make him look funny. The last thing I want is another CGI monstrosity on our hands ala Beauty and The Beast. And I don’t want him completely breaking the tension or destroying the Chinese atmosphere.

Disney, if Li Shang is not essential, than neither is Mushu.


Gotta give them credit, Disney does seem to be sorting themselves out on this front.

To be fair, I think Disney has enough sense to do this with at LEAST the leading heroine and most of the cast. I mean, it really did everything right with Moana and Lilo and Stitch, and took a risk and cast an unknown Indian kid in The Jungle Book remake. Plus, criticise it all you will for its treatment of Tiana, Disney  sadly is more inclusive than Pixar or Dreamworks, and has made some of the most genuine efforts to self reflect on what it can do better. With their dependence on marketing Mulan as their one and only Asian Princess, I doubt they would cast a white person to play her.

But yeah, while I’ll doubt it’ll do an all Chinese cast, an all Asian cast would be terrific.



Yeah, Mulan was brave and all, but in terms of personality, she is the typical goofball missfit who sings to their own tune and saves the day. She is Flick, Hercules, Quasimodo in that respect and not too interesting in and of herself.

Even if she starts out unsure of herself (although the heroine from the Chinese poem was pretty damn confident), I wasnt to see some real steel in her performance. I want a complete ferocious badass, a true action hero. I’d also totally want her to full on defeat the badguy without Mushuu’s help, making her the second Disney Princess who full on killed their opponent! The first, of course, being our beloved Tiana.


Pictured here the very beautiful Japanese actor, Jin Akanishi

I get Li Shang won’t be in the movie, and that’s fine as not all stories need a romance. But I think it would be good to include a handsome, macho male lead. Firstly, we all need more handsome Asian guys on our screen.

But more importantly, studies into sexual attractiveness and race have shown that South East Asian men are deemed the least desirable in part due to unfair perceptions that they are less manly than other races. You know, those delicate flowers whose various cultures spawned such feeble warriors such as the Gurkas, Samurai, and the Shaolin monks.

Having a strong, masculine and desirable Asian male lead shown to a wide audience won’t solve the problem, but it would help.


Disney have improved a lot since the Renaissance when it comes to writing race. They incorporated Polynesian culture pretty well into Lilo and Stitch and Moana. Hell, even the European films had a bit more of an identity than just ‘generic fairytale land’, with Brave feeling distinctly Scottish, and BATB at least incorportating more of the 1700s French aesthetic into their live action.

I’m hoping they will include the Chinese culture into Mulan in a more meaningful way, because while the original was good it felt like a Western film with pretty watercolor aesthetics. Maybe they could bring more Buddhist philosophy and martial arts teachings into it, as well as perhaps taking the ancestral spirits a little more seriously.



After the whole mess of an April’s fools joke from Pink News surrounding a Gay Simba, it proves that people are still. But LaFou did not stop Beauty and The Beast’s box office success.


But the problem with LaFou is that he is a walking stereotype and camp joke. What message does it say to gay kids… hey kids, you’ll never be the hero, but you get to be the obsequious mincing side kick who servilely drools over the big manly straight man! Progress!

Mulan is a perfect film to include a proper gay character when you think about it. Mulan already subverts expectations of gender and masculinity by ending with our heroes in drag; I’ll Make A Man Out Of You is a camp classic; there’s some theories that Li Shang was having a big gay crisis thanks to Mulan’s cross dressing and most importantly, people have already seen a gay interpretation of the character of Mulan. The stage is set. And there’s so many possibilities.

If they were uncomfortable with having a gay romance, they could easily do a Persona 4 style ass pull and have a gay male soldier find himself attracted to Mulan, and after he learns the truth he realises that it’s definately only men he’s attracted to. There could be a sad and poignant talk under a cherry blossom tree in spring about how they both knew they were different, but perhaps in different ways and come on! This writes itself!

Representation matters, and after all the work gay staff, musicians and writers have put into making their films the classics they are, I think its time to show that gay men and women are people worth including in their works!

That’s what I want to see from a live action Mulan, and I’m interested to hear your thoughts


It’s been a long time since I did a Princess of The Week; a series where I look beyond Snow White and Beauty, to the Awesome heroines who are just as strong and adventurous as their male counterparts Last time, we looked at a dragonslayer and a woman who used her wits to become the Sultan.

This week- as part of the prompt of the day challenge (inspired by the theme of magic)- we’re going to look at The Crystal Ship, a story where a young girl travels to the ends of the kingdom to rescue her Prince.


BLURB: I don’t remember the first time I changed into a wolf. One night I passed out, and awoke to find my body covered in yellow fur. My brain was beyond reacting. It took this in its stride, as it had everything else in my new life. I got to my feet and went in search of food.

As a curious and independent six-year-old, Clayton didn’t resist the bite – he asked for it. But as a lone child werewolf his life is under constant threat. So when enigmatic Pack member Jeremy Danvers saves him, Clayton is determined to protect his adoptive father, no matter what the cost.

So begins this gripping collection of four tales chronicling the bloody feuds of the American Pack, and the coming of age of Clay Danvers, a very powerful – and very singular – werewolf.

REVIEW: In spite of my gripes with paranormal romance, I love Kelley Armstrong’s writing; she’s funny, descriptive, her action sequences are great and I love her sense of snark. Out of all the different supernaturals that occupy her Women Of The Otherworld series, the werewolves are my favorite creatures. So when I found out this book was all about the werewolves with (almost) no other supernatural creatures, and minimal romance, I was in. Men Of The Other World was everything I’d hoped it’d be. Or at least, the Clay novellas were. The stories surrounding Jeremy’s heritage were a disaster zone, but I’ll get to that.

The two longest, Savage and Ascension,  cover Clay’s upbringing and Jeremy’s rise to Alphadom.

Savage mainly covers Clay’s meeting with Jeremy and his attempts to fit in with the pack, while Ascension covers the pack politics surrounding the power struggle that emerged over who will succeed an aging Dominic as Alpha.

Even though I hated Clay’s relationship with Elena, as a character he was interesting. A man who was turned a wolf as a child ( a sort of modern Mowgli), his story was fascinating and one that begged to be told. And Savage does an excellent job of this.

His meeting with Jeremy is very emotional and shows the patience of the man. Although this story is being told retrospectively from the POV of adult Clay,its still done in a way which employs the thought processes of child Clay. As someone who became a wolf when he was four and left human society until he reached the age of seven, Clay had initially forgotten how to understand human speech and has become a feral, slowly starving in the world.

Even though there’s no dialogue (Clay had forgotten how to speak at this point), and Clay doesn’t understand what’s going on, the emotion is all there. Clay’s mindset is that of well, a cross between a frightened child and scared animal, whose mentality is purely fight or flight, not fully comprehending what’s going on and only coming to Jeremy for food. He sees Jeremy’s attempts to try and dress him as a ‘game’, and it takes a long time to build trust. Armstrong doesn’t rush this, and we have repeated incidents of Clay running away, causing trouble and making Jeremy’s life extremely difficult.

This really demonstrates the compassion of the character, and his patience. Another wonderful thing about this story is that we finally see the werewolves (other than our Italian businessmen) hold down a job. In Women Of The Otherworld, it always felt vague how they were managing to afford this huge property as neither Clay, Elena nor Jeremy’s jobs were shown having much impact on their lives. Here, we see Jeremy having to deal with managing accounts and the inheritance of Stonehaven on his own, and having to deal with translating work to keep the place afloat. This added a lot of authenticity to the book, and it was so wonderful seeing him having to deal with financial issues rather than living in the almost Disney Princess fantasy land where he can just get loads of money selling the odd painting because he’s just that super talented.

It was also great seeing a young Nick growing up with Clay, and their friendship and how his easy going nature clashed with Nick’s loner personality.The power struggle within the pack was fascinating and it was interesting seeing how the different power struggles clashed, although I don’t understand how Malcolm could have ever been a viable contender. Malcolm himself, was just a big, mean ball of macho bile; he doesn’t have a job, is continuously antagonistic to everyone. I honestly didn’t understand why a sensible Alpha like Dominic tolerated him, because he’s such a pantomime villain and a loose cannon. Sure, he’s a great fighter, but he’s nothing that couldn’t be replaced by a good shot gun. What did save him from cartoon villaindoom, however, was his fascination with Clay. I liked how they were both sort of different sides of the same coin, and Malcolm uses his wolf ideology to justify his cruelty, while Clay, allegedly more wolf than human, cannot understand this senseless cruelty.

One thing I did really hate was how quickly Clay went from being behind his peers due to being in the wild so long, to suddenly being extremely gifted and talented and ahead of everyone else. This happened in the space of a year or two. I’m sorry, but this is complete nonsense. There’s no way Clay could have caught up so quickly, and the only reason he does is because he’s meant to be this super special love interest. Clay is impulsive, irrational and lacks judgement and is extremely primal. He has shown absolutely no sign of having a brain for the entire series, there’s no way I buy him as this super special genius.

But all in all, I absolutely loved these novellas and enjoyed them more than a lot of Elena’s books in the main series.

Infusion and Kitsunegari

Now, with a heavy sigh I have to get to the disaster that is Jeremy’s Asian heritage. Oh my, why did she have to do this? You see, in this Jeremy is half kitsune on his mother’s side (which isn’t a spoiler- if a Japanese supernatural turns up in urban fantasy, it’s always a kitsune). So basically, a kitsune comes along, breeds with Malcolm in order to give Jeremy cool Asian mind powers and is killed conveniently when she’s completed her utility. Yeah, that sounds a bit cold but that’s basically all she is- an exotic baby maker that gives her son superpowers.

The problem is that this is the poster boy for badly used mixed race protagonists in urban fantasy, which is excellently deconstructed in this article here. The only reason that she’s Asian is so that Jeremy gets cool exotic powers, and of course after she’s done that, she’s of no further use so she’s done away with. Nothing of her heritage is passed on to Jeremy, she’s never treated as a person, and none of Jeremy’s heritage affects his life or him as a person- you’d think that growing up getting racially abused by his father and being the only mixed race Asian amongst a bunch of white men would have some affect on him. But no, it’s brought up so little in the series this feels like a bizarre ret con. This is even lazier Mixed Race writing than Zoey Redbird was in HoN, who at least acknowledged the existance of her heritage (even if it’s only to justify her super special spirit Pocohontus powers)- and if I’m saying an element is worse than anything in HoN, that’s the most damning criticism I can heap on something.

Worse still, in Infusion, the reason that the kitsune grandmother uses for choosing to throw her grandaughter at Malcolm is because their race is dying and they need ‘strong blood’. Yeah, POC wanting the ‘strong bloodline’ of white people is a racist trope that’s been around for centuries, and though I’m sure Armstrong didn’t purposefully write it that way because she’s not a white supremicist, it sounds so much like this it’s impossible to ignore. Also, having a Japanese woman throwing herself at a white man in the 40s… when the Americans were throwing Japanese Americans into internment camps? Man, that’s pretty bad.

It appears they do at least acknowledge the racism and the mother does say that she was playing on Jeremy’s Racist attitudes… but because she’s given no character it all feels played straight.

It gets even worse in Kitsunegari, as a gang of Kitsune attempt to seduce Jeremy away from Jaime in mangled English saying ‘I for you.’ So basically:

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Yes, we went there: we went full ‘me love you long time’, and it doesn’t even have the excuse Full Metal Jacket did of being written in the 80s. Or Southpark for being Southpark. These creatures are literal submissive sex objects, and apart from being desperate for Jeremy’s superior white- um, werewolf – semen, they’re given no agency, no will of their own compared with the other supernaturals of Armstrong’s world. They are literal sex objects throwing themselves to be used by the white male protagonists, and that is one of the most pernicious, nastiest racial stereotypes surrounding Asian women. This wouldn’t be so bad if there were more Asian characters, but Women Of The Otherworld is whiter than Donald Trump’s porch after a snowstorm. Hope Adams is the only non white narrator in the series, while Zoe Takano is the only asian character in the series… and she wasn’t exactly very competent in Broken.

I mean, why are the Kitsune dying out when the werewolves are doing just fine? Surely there were plenty of other supernatural creatures nearer home they could breed with? Why travel to a country they were on bad terms with for their supernatural sperm doner. Plus, kitsune and shape shifters in Japanese mythology typically try and breed with nobility, so the Danvers would be of low blood and beneath them.

It’s a shame we had to do this, to walk into so many unfortunate racial tropes for no other reason than to give Jeremy a bit of extra magic- which could have been done another way, as to my knowledge mind powers aren’t amongst the typical kitsune skill set anyway ; it was interesting delving into Malcolm’s twisted psyche, and Jaime was her usual awesome sassy self. Plus, it was nice seeing Jaime and Jeremy interacting as a normal couple, having to make time to see each other, working around each others schedules and responsibilities. Damnit, why did we have go there book? You were so brilliant otherwise!

VERDICT: Ignoring the tropey racial disaster zone that were Infusion and Kitsunegari, Men Of The Otherworld was an excellent collection that did everything a set of short stories about a main series should do: they told a story in their own right, and added a lot of depth to the series main characters.

RATING: 4 wolves out of a pack of 5

And on a final note, the English cover looks so much, and so much better than the alternative version. It’s good to know that at least Women Of The Other World is going equal ops on terrible torso pictures: