I COULD TELL YOU WHY GHOST IN THE SHELL ISN’T DOING SO WELL, AND ITS NOT JUST WHITE WASHING

1. THE NUDE SUIT MAKES WOMEN GO ‘NO THANKS’

gitsff002r.0

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.

2. IT FORGOT TO TELL A COMPELLING STORY

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.

3. IT KICKED FANS OF THE ORIGINAL IN THE FACE

kusanagi

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.

4. IT MARKED A CYBERPUNK FILM IN 2016

naveen-tiana-princess-and-the-frog-wallpaper
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.

5. DID YOU NOT SEE THE #OSCARSSOWHITE?

hq720.jpg

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.

6. PEOPLE ARE GETTING EXHAUSTED WITH ENDLESS SEQUELS AND REBOOTS

MV5BMjQ2NzYxMDQ2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDk2MzczOTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,640,1000_AL_.jpg
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.

FIRST LOOK: Full Metal Alchemist The Movie (2017)

It’s a great year for anime adaptions. Ghost in the Shell is getting a movie, there’s another Death Note film being made in the USA, where hopefully the monsters will look less like they came from a low budget PS2 game. Now, Full Metal Alchemist– the series that spawned two of the most beloved shounen anime of all time- is getting a live action film.

I like the look of Edward Elric, who has hair of a true anime hero which must take hours each day to do; however, I am suspicious why we didn’t see him use his Alchemy and just got a load of cutting from Edward to the alchemy symbol. The huge cast of fleshed out characters and the nuanced portrayal of conflict where even the big bads seemed somewhat humanized, can’t make a mark in just an hour- but they could at least make with the cool battles we loved to watch? This better not be like ATLA where it was just a bunch of guys fusing their mind powers to fling rocks around which made you wonder why they didn’t just throw the things. Hopefully its budget will be better than this trailer suggests, so I shall move forward sceptical but not without hope

Also, is it somewhat weird that Attack On Titan and Full Metal Alchemist were set in Europe (or vague European land) and its made by and filled with a load of Japanese people (though this is accurate for Mikasa), while Ghost In The Shell and Death Note  are Japanese but filled with white people?

 

FIRST LOOK: Ghost In The Shell Full Trailer

 

Another trailer and we’ve got a clearer idea of what the film is going to try and do. Rather than going for say, The Laughing Man storyline from the anime, or looking into the original manga for some good storylines, it seems like a straight up remake of the amazing original film.  That could be a problem- because its setting itself against an impossibly high bar. The film was groundbraking in its use of animation, and it was a film that was subtley harrowing, a film you felt rather than saw. I think that this version is going to be very Hollywood and lose its depth.

First off, the Americanism really, really shows. We’ve got a clearly Japanese setting, full of Japanese cyberpunk visuals (more reminiscent of Western works like Bladerunner or Neuromancer than anything from Japan), and yet we have a white woman running around speaking in an American accent, a bunch of white and black people with Japanese names blasting things in the most Hollywood style possible. The Japanese visuals they do show- the Geisha and the Carp- seem pulled out of Japanese culture rather haphazardly with little thought to their meaning or context aside from ‘ooh, this looks cool and Asian’. While the original Anime subtly emanated Japanese culture through its world (or Hong Kong in the case of the original movie), this feels more like a Tourist Shop vision of Japan. Beautiful, but ultimately lacking meaning behind the Geishas and kimonos.

Second, it looks like we’re getting a more emotional- and very human, very feminine-Major. Part of the conflict of Ghost In The Shell was that with all that remained of her human biology being a few brain cells, was she even still human or had she become more machine. A very cold, detached Major was more profound because it really made her question of whether her humanity was lost in all the wires, all the shells, all the more real. As for gender, Major Kusanagi, a female in the highly male dominated Japanese police force, was the most powerful and the most traditionally masculine one there; it asked questions like ‘was Major always a woman, or did she have the brain of a man?’ ‘Without hormones or a male and female body, which you could chose at whim, what did gender even mean anymore?’

A more emotional, vulnerable Major is perhaps more human and easier to emphasise with and more accessible to a mainstream audience, but it loses so much of the point and the conflict of The Major’s character.

All in all, it is still just a trailer and I will reserve judgement on the film, but so far it looks like it will be a very cool Hollywood film that copies the look of the original, but doesn’t quite capture what made it more than just another sci fi action.

 

Ghost In The Shell- Should We Still Support It In Spite Of It’s Race Controversy

 

Ghost in The Shell- one of the most enduring franchises in Anime history, spawning the superb movie (which everyone should watch) and the great anime series (and its even bettwe sequel 2nd GIG). Now finally, a new generation will have a chance to become aquainted with an excellent franchise.

Well, it’s hard to tell so far but it does seem to have the cool, melancholy tone of the original film (although no CGI could match up to its beauty of course), and it definately has a Japanese cyberpunk thing going on. Motoko displays far more emotion than any of her other counterparts- including the hard to read film version and the seasoned, in control leader of the anime- but that not be a bad thing. Although I love the Major, a criticism is that she is a bit too perfect and can seem flat because she never really goes through any character arcs (for the record I love the Major). Maybe a Major with more of an emotional arc will make her more compelling as a lead.

I’m not sure how I feel about its white washing. On the one hand, it is great that we’re getting another female lead action franchise and that Ghost In The Shell- an absolutely amazing series- is being brought to a new generation. This could help the franchise assert itself in popular culture once more AND it will help increase the sales of the original series and maybe even increase interest in Asian media. But now anime (with a few exceptions like Madoka and Stein’s Gate) seems to have devolved into Harem wish fulfillment fantasy,Moe, ginormaboobs and yaoi bait, I’m not sure that’s entirely a good thing. But I digress.

However, looking at the cast it’s still pretty white. I understand the argument that Hollywood needs a big name it feels safe with to headline the movie and that’s why it chose Johansson. I don’t agree, but understand. But this shouldn’t mean that the supporting cast shouldn’t be predominatly Asian- yet Batou and almost all of the support are white. The only character who is currently named that is played by an Asian actor is Daisuke, the leader who is never really part of the action. He could risk falling into the role of promoted to obscurity (when they have a POC who’s really high up, but is so high up that they have little characterization and are not involved with any of the important action.) Or being the calm, magical Asian.

This is frustrating because even after the last Oscar fiasco, and with so few roles for Asians to prove themselves in, we have a film set in Japan which is yet again devoid of any Asians. There’s an arguement for Scarlett Johansson as the lead (being the sole female lead of one of the biggest action franchises), but not on this scale. Besides, when I see an Asian film with a bunch of white people, it really does kind of give me a bit of a weeaboo feel.

One thing that should be noted though, is that a lot of people in Japan don’t actually care that much about it being played by a white person. They seem just as bemused about the idea of a Chinese American (Lucy Liu) playing a Japanese character and appear to roll their eyes at how Hollywood it looks. This is probably to do with the fact that they grow up in Japan with their own thriving tv shows and media featuring Japanese people, so of course representation and the problem of Japanese actors being denied work is alien to them.

All in all, it’s hard to tell whether it’ll be good or bad, but I’ll see it to support the franchise, and to prove again that a female lead action franchise is not a risk at all (but bad writing a la Catwoman is). And maybe if this becomes a hit, we’ll get more like it. In the mean time, I’d like to leave us with the greatest animated sequence ever put to film, so we can remember why this franchise is so beloved:

However, I’m not Asian so it’s not my thoughts which count. If anyone else has anything to say about this please feel free to post in the comments.

WHY PEOPLE HATE FEMALE MARY SUES MORE THAN GARY STUS

‘Such a Mary Sue’- we see that insult hurled all the time at female characters. Sometimes it’s due to mysogyny/ internalised mysogyny, but often there’s another reason. There’s something fundamentally different about the way a lot of female protagonists in an action/ fantasy setting are written when compared with male characters.

Mary Sue is a term that has been really hard to pin down- in part because it’s supposed to be a criticism of original fanfic characters not characters in original works(though with the likes of Fifty Shades Of Grey and The Mortal Instruments). I think when people say ‘Mary Sue’, what they really mean is really a fanfic term, ‘author insert fantasy’- where we’re not really seeing a real, believable character with flaws, talents and a believable reason to be the hero, but a

Yet, pretty much the majority of fiction can be described as this in some way, especially the ‘geeky guy who nobody likes saves the day’ stories (which I now am beginning to loathe), so why is it that

Some of it is due to sexism- no doubt about that (see Men’s Rights Activists throwing tantrums who spend all their time whining about increased female representation rather than doing something about important issues that they claim to care about like the male suicide rate). Some of it is internalised sexism- you hear this criticism from girls with depressing regularity when all a heroine did was be really competent. But some of it is to do with a legitimate reason- female protagonists are more likely to be  granted special status without actually doing anything to do it.

download-3
Is a ditzy school girl, has a whole host of more competent friends, and yet is the Moon Princess, chosen one and has an eternally devoted boyfriend. Yet Usagi never seems to draw the Mary Sue criticism

Although that criticism is sometimes directed at heroines like Rey, who’s a strong,capable action heroine who DOES a lot of stuff, not as many people criticize characters like Hermione, Katniss, Arya , Toph Bei Fong, Daenerys, Buffy, or Wonder Woman. Hell, a lot of people think Hermione’s so much cooler than Harry and I’ve heard the Gary Stu criticism being leveled at Harry far more than Hermione. The characters who receive the criticism are people like Bella Swann from Twilight or Clary from Mortal Instruments or Kairi from Kingdom Hearts.

And what do they all have in common? What is different about them compared to James Bond or Batman or Sora (apart from quality of writing?) Well, all those Male characters are special BECAUSE of their skill and prowess, while these women are deemed special IRRESPECTIVE (and often IN SPITE OF) of any actual skill or prowess shown. And that does not a compelling character make.

Everyone follows Clary in spite of her poor decision making skills, everyone loves Bella Swann for REASONS (special blood I guess) and while Sora had to earn his special status, Kairi is special in spite of getting kidnapped relentlessly and achieving nothing,  because she is pretty, nice and has special pure princess powers . People follow Rick from Walking Dead because he’s a good leader, like Luke Skywalker because he becomes a powerful Jedi, admire Superman because he’s saved Metropolis on many occasions. And Batman? Well, why do we like you , Bruce?

35599773.jpg

I understand why the Princess characters like Kairi ended up that way (male writers, archetypical princess fantasy, plus she’s nothing more than a pretty plot device to motivate Sora), but a lot of these female wish fulfillment fantasies are written by women too, so why do we end up with these type of author inserts?

Well, a lot of these wish fulfillment involve fantasizing about fulfilling (and surpassing) societies expectations of what makes the ultimate Successful Person. And society has very different standards for success in men and women. This can be summed up as ‘Men Do, Women Are.’ And this is how these standards shape male and female heroes:

THE HERO’S JOURNEY

Kung-Fu-Panda-3-Furious-Five-Po.jpg
As funny as Po is, he is the most rage inducing Gary Stu and audience wish fulfillment character I’ve ever seen

For men, a man is judged in society for what he DOES. He has to compete with other men and PROVE he’s top dog if he’s to be of any value. Is he rich, successful, a great fighter, able to attract that hot girlfriend that all his friends want to bang? If he isn’t any of these things- if he doesn’t have a job, can’t fight, isn’t a provider, not tough, then he isn’t a ‘real man’. This is pretty harsh and  a double edged sword; on the one hand this can lead to depression and resentment in those who can’t reach those sky high standards of masculinity, but on the other hand pushes them on to achieve things.

So a male character has to prove his worth to the story to be vital. A male author insert/ wish fulfillment has to EARN his esteem to be valuable, and the typical hero’s journey reflects that. With the nerdy guy who starts out a zero but becomes a hero (think Luke Sky Walker, Shia LaBouf in transformers, that kid from How To Train Your Dragon ), he has to grow and save the world or do something worthwhile before he gains esteem.

The already successful Asshole Hero (your House, your Tony Starks, to a lesser degree Wallander),  is already the Alpha Male, and he proves his worth by all of the cool shit he does and his brilliant plans. The flaws he has to overcome are usually personal, and involve Dark Tragic Backstory or an alcohol problem etc.

THE PRINCESS’… UM, SPECIALNESS

edward-cullen-bella-swan.jpg

Now, success is a very different matter for women. Time and time again, we see that in spite of her achievements, a woman’s reduced to who her boyfriend is and what she looks like.  Her most important attributes are (1) beauty- which although make up and gym help, either you’re born with beauty or you’re not, and are fairly passive traits and (2) being desired by a good man, which is mainly about looks, and (3) being nice and accommodating, and definitely not ‘a bitch’.

Sure, these women are often expected to have some kind of attainments. A woman should get great grades at school or get a good job, but she’s not really expected to go on and DO anything incredible with that, unlike her male counterparts. She’s meant to be smart, but at the end of the day her most important job is being a wife and mother, and finding an impossible medium between being an EVIL FEMINAZI CAREER WOMEN WHO ABANDONS HER KIDS AND ARE SELFISH, and being JUST A HOME MAKER WHO IS PATHETIC AND TERRIBLE BECAUSE ALL SHE DOES IS COOK AND CLEAN AND SPEND HER MAN’S MONEY!

And how do these low and contradictory expectations reflect itself in fiction? It means a lot of these female wish fulfillments don’t go through these Hero’s Journeys or have to earn their worth. They are special because they’re just really, really pretty; they are special because they’re princesses; because they’ve got special blood; because they’re the only female X; they’re the chosen one; their specialness makes them the most popular girl in school. Their most important victory is being desired by the male lead, not saving the day. Her skill, talent, intelligence are a nice extra, sure, but not the main event.

WOULD YOU WANT TO RELATE TO THESE WOMEN?

And as such, these are REALLY frustrating characters for both men and women to read about. No man can relate to that, and lots of women don’t want to fantasize about these passive, uninspiring characters.This also makes for less compelling story telling, because it means she doesn’t go through a hero’s journey or earn her success. She doesn’t do anything great (and when she does it’s not the point).

SO WHAT?…

So what is the take away of all this? Well, I guess there’s nothing wrong with having these fantasies- on the same token as the host of male harem leads in anime. But these are not great characters, and we shouldn’t expect them to have the appeal to all people the same way that these male harem leads will not appeal to a female audience; but I think we need more engaging characters.

I think we need more Katnisses, who endures and deals with loss and PTSD in a realistic way; more Batgirls and Ms Marvels, who struggles to get stronger and who’s strong will, determination and kindness (as well as her intellect) get her through; more Granny Weatherwaxes, who are talented and who’s pragmatism is more helpful than her magic. Also, more Harley Quinn- just because she’s awesome and basically crazy clown female Deadpool.

We should have less Bellas, less Clarys, less characters who are special because she’s a princess or the only female x, and more characters who are valued for their skill, which they prove through the course of the action.

REVIEW: MANGA SHAKESPEARE, A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHTS DREAM- illustrated by Kate Brown

Shakespeare’s enduring characters are set adrift in present-day Athens, but a present with a massive difference – an alternative history. Rigid class systems and `god given’ monarchies of the past have not been lost. Modern technologies meet ancient tradition; and the citizens of Athens are frustrated by continuing restrictions and hierarchies. Only the forest, home to the fairies and fey spirits can offer the illicit lovers what they seek.

You would never think that ‘manga’ and ‘Shakespeare’ would go together hand in glove; however, Brown’s work on A Midsummer’s Night Dream demonstrates why manga is the the perfect medium for studying the work of the Immortal Bard. It allows you to read all the dialogue of the play and also gives it accompanying visual imagery. Unlike with the theatre of movie versions, the manga incarnation allows you to take it in at your own pace and to flip back to previous pages at your leisure. Continue reading REVIEW: MANGA SHAKESPEARE, A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHTS DREAM- illustrated by Kate Brown

BOOK REVIEW: Guardian Of The Spirit-

You’ve never read a fantasy novel like this one! The deep well of Japanese myth merges with the Western fantasy tradition for a novel that’s as rich in place and culture as it is hard to put down.

Balsa was a wanderer and warrior for hire. Then she rescued a boy flung into a raging river — and at that moment, her destiny changed. Now Balsa must protect the boy — the Prince Chagum — on his quest to deliver the great egg of the water spirit to its source in the sea. As they travel across the land of Yogo and discover the truth about the spirit, they find themselves hunted by two deadly enemies: the egg-eating monster Rarunga . . . and the prince’s own father.

Moribito: Guardian Of The Spirit is the first in a series of nine novels (and counting) that were extremely popular in Japan and adapted into an anime. The first two books were published and translated in the West, but unfortunately the series was cancelled after that. This is a shame, because Moribito is the most engaging YA series I’ve read since The Hunger Games. Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: Guardian Of The Spirit-