Faithful Blue, Strong Pink (Peggy Orenstein)

I work in marketing. And as of this July I will have worked in marketing for a decade.

That’s longer than I’ve committed to pretty much anything in my life. To this point, my longest romantic relationship was eight years, and the most physical hours I’ve put into being an artist is definitely less than a decade, maybe six years if I’m being generous. And interestingly enough, I’ve worked in marketing longer than many of my active friendships. Yes, I have a few friendships that have stood the test of time, but the point is, I’ve put a lot of time into this way of life.

Secret Secret, I’ve Got A Secret

I’m gonna let you in on a secret too. I originally planned on pursuing a marketing job so that I could learn the ins and outs of the industry, and then go back to school for a masters degree in either sociology, anthropology or fine arts. Because I wanted to research, write, and lecture for a living. Spoiler: I still do.

Somewhere along the line, I got comfortable with what I was doing, and so I stuck it out. My life became automated, like a robot, for about five years. Then I decided to change gears, and really commit to this marketing thing as a career… and I’ve had different marketing related jobs every year since I made that commitment, slowly climbing the corporate ladder.

And this year I finally found something that I enjoyed enough to really want to do it for years, but I’m not going to do this forever either.

Dear readers, I’ve realized that this is a phase, one that I need to grow out of.

But that’s one of the most terrifying and fascinating things about marketing. It’s ability to convert your intentions ever-so-subtly towards something which you don’t really needs, making you believe that the desires are innate and that possession will satisfy.

These Are Not The Toys You’re Looking For

I want you to consider the idea that blue is for boys and pink is for girls is not inherent, for instance.

We are told early on (by pretty much everyone) that boys gravitate to blue and pink is what girls love. But I read an article a while back that stated that it wasn’t until the late 19th century or early 20th century that pastel colours were introduced by manufacturers for babies, and many retailers had actually decided that pink was more suitable for boys because it was a variation of red, and red conveys strength. Blue was long associated with faithfulness, purity, and the Virgin Mary, a symbol of femininity. By the 1940s many manufacturers had flipped the script and settled on pink for girls and blue for boys.

And then I read this month’s 5 L’s Of Language book – Cinderella Ate My Daughter. My girlfriend recommended it to me, and I read it on a whim, not realizing what I was getting back into.

In the book, author Peggy Orenstein takes us down a road about gender norms for girls and identifies the phenomenon of princess culture, dominated by Disney merchandise, and how it has permeated through our girls lives, in television, film, at school, in pageantry, and especially online. One section in particular focuses on the development of the colour pink into everything, and how many marketers emphasis the point of pink and blue to assure parents buy two of everything.

Something Like A Phenomenon

Orenstein has authored several books on women’s identities, sexuality, and how to function in a world conflicted with feminism and femininity. She has also written bestsellers Girls & Sex and Waiting for Daisy. She writes for the New York Times and has been honoured by The Colombia Journalism Review as one of its “40 women who changed the media business in the past 40 years.”

One of my favourite moments of the book came towards the end. I’ll share the quote with you for simplicity.

That said, pointing out inaccurate or unrealistic portrayals of women to younger grade school children-ages five to eight-does seem to be effective, when done judiciously:taking to little girls about body image and dieting, for example, can actually introduce them to disordered behavior rather than inoculating them against it. I may be taking a bit of a leap here, but to me all this indicated that if you are creeped out about the characters from Monster High, it is fine to keep them out of your house.”

Small children are tied in strongly to external signs of identity – clothing, colour, haircut, toys. But as they reach puberty, they’re drawn more strongly by internal factors, that of being accepted by their peers and are also more willing to reject traditional authority from their parents. In other words, when children are small, it’s okay for them to be tied into simple notions of gender, but you shouldn’t mask how you feel for them, and as they age, they should be given opportunities to explore boundaries, especially ones they grew up with.

It’s a rare thing for me to read a book cover to cover in less than 24 hours, but I was able to do that for Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

It contains more than enough meaningful content to sift through, and frankly Orenstein has an ability to break down complex concepts into digestible pieces and do so with a self-reflexive analysis of the minutiae, questioning herself and gaining insights along the way.

I’ve decided this book fits rather neatly into the LABEL category of The 5 L’s Of Language, and at just over 200 pages it’s something you could burn through in a week or two. Or one day if you are insane and want to read for several hours straight.

This books opens with a question about the princess phase, and then rightly closes with a demonstration of the end of the phase delivered via Orenstein’s daughter Daisy.  You see creative cuties, Daisy loves Mulan, and one day Daisy questioned the world that Mulan inhabits as featured in the Mulan sequel, Mulan II. Daisy asked her mom why the princesses in the film would sing about freedom, not realizing that it isn’t always easy to be a princess.

And that’s also why it’s called the princess phase, because kids grow out of it, as they develop critical thinking and healthy skepticism. But I guess that could just be a theory?

Tim!

A Non-Comical Book, Err Film (Batman: The Killing Joke, review)

Sexuality is a complicated thing, dear readers. People of all sexual orientations exist in this world – heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, polysexual, pansexual, and transexual. And those are just the baseline, it gets more intricate then that. Which is a difficult thing to address because we have so much cultural material out there that mostly address heterosexuals, and to a lesser extent, homosexuals.

Every other persuasion gets considerably less attention.

Now, I’m writing about this challenge as a straight white male, so I realize my opinion is pretty limited, and that I am quite privileged in my perspective, but I will mention this, I have no idea how the actual percentages shake out on this sexuality matter.

Regardless, when we are reduced to our sexual motivations, that sucks. And not in a good way. Especially when it comes to art.

 

 

 

Batman: The Killing Joke (2014)

Cast: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Tara Strong, Ray Wise
released on blu-ray August 2, 2016
***** 5/10

batman_250x375_r5

IMDB: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 48%, Audience Score 56%
The Guardian: N/A

Sam Liu is a Chinese American animation director, artist, and designer. He has directed several animated superhero films at both Marvel Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. I could list the heavy CV of films he has had a hand in, but it’s rather exhausting to look at, so let’s just take my word for it, okay?

As Bob Dylan once sang, the times, they are a changin’.

And this story probably didn’t need to be retold, especially the way it did, but before I tell you about the story, I’ll give you a bit of background first.

Batman: The Killing Joke is an adaptation of a rather slim graphic novel of the same name, which was originally created by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland in 1988, and which was itself also an adaptation of another story from the 1950s called The Man Behind the Red Hood which originally served as an origin story for Batman’s greatest foe, The Joker.

It has been widely lauded as one of the greatest Batman stories of all time, and has been critically reviewed as the definitive Joker story. It is a story describing both how The Joker came to be and for him to prove that anyone can sink into madness.

The flashbacks show a failed comedian and his very pregnant wife, and the comedian eventually decides to work with criminals to steal from a playing card company. It’s adjacent to his former work, which is a chemical plant. But his wife dies in a household accident, and he is forced to help the criminals anyway. The criminals dress him up as The Red Hood to implicate him if cops arrive. Cops do arrive, and then Batman. The comedian escapes from Batman, but is flushed out the chemical was pound lock – this turns his skin white, his lips red, and his hair green. He loses his sanity.

In the current timeline, The Joker invades the Gordon’s home, shoots Barbara (Batgirl), and kidnaps Commissioner Gordon. He then subjects him to sexualized images of his naked and bloody daughter, ridiculing him, and parading him through an abandoned amusement park. His hope is that Gordon will go insane just as he did, but this does not happen. Then Batman arrives, fights The Joker and proves to The Joker that he is the only insane one. The comic closes with Batman attempting to rehabilitate his foe, and The Joker responding with a joke that insights laughter from both parties, then the comic ends with an empty panel. Leaving the question of what happened to the reader.

It was a powerful story for the time, and still an interesting read, but Alan Moore has admitted that it lead superheroes down a dark road, and that while he wanted to show that comic books could be anything, all it did was darken the industry, and it hasn’t really recovered since. He regrets having written the story.

Now, let’s get to the update. Without diving too much into it, the new animated movie adds a prologue to help introduce us to Batgirl, even showcasing her challenges with a villain of her own, and a strained relationship with her mentor. The villain is sexually attracted to her, and of course gets in her head, which has Batman take Batgirl off the case. The story eventually shifts to a sexual tryst between Batman and Batgirl. Then Batgirl intervenes in the case anyway, and she ultimately resigns from crimefighting. Thus setting up the rest of the movie, which is a beat for beat repeat of the original story.

And so the story shifts the motivations of Batman and Batgirl, while removeing the weight of both The Joker and Gordon’s role in it’s outcome.

Pros: When the story sticks to the source material, it is engaging and an interesting account of both The Joker and his role with Batman.

Cons: We didn’t need to see a sexualized Batgirl. And we definitely didn’t need to see a 30 minute prologue story, when Batgirl should have gotten her own feature length animated film. Also, the animation is quite bad in many places.

Runtime1 hour 16 minutes

Points of Interest: Mark Hamill had retired from voicing The Joker, and would only come back if this story was adapted for film. The movie received a limited theatre release a week before it dropped in stores and online; the last time this happened was with the 1993 Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

The fact that Alan Moore didn’t want his name on this adaptation might have been considered a sign that DC shouldn’t have green-lit this story, but that’s the perpetual struggle with comic book publishers, it’s a constantly dying industry, and they have to do something to inject life back into their business. And so an adaptation of an almost 30 year old Batman story was made into a movie. You can watch it, but I’m not sure that it’s worth it.

 

 

 

I really wish this movie didn’t turn out the way it did. I mean, the original story is interesting and noteworthy for a morality tale and cross-examination of Batman and The Joker as they relate to each other. And yes, Batgirl does plays a victim role in the original story, so it’s not like it’s the most brilliant piece of writing ever, but man did they screw up the adaptation with that prologue. It went from being an interesting story to something completely different. It just doesn’t mean the same thing with those changes. A story reduced to sexual motivations, and unnecessary sexualization of a female character.

Tim!