Ruby Nation

Ruby Nation
Ruby Nation: The Webcomic

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse: Lolita of Steel

Stanley Kubrick was one of the most accomplished and innovative directors in the history of film. One of his most interesting feats was the fact that he made a film of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, and under the MPAA's totalitarian Hayes Code no less. While Kubrick wasn't satisfied with the way the thoroughly censored adaptation turned out, he did manage to create a film riddled with sexual suggestion. If he couldn't do a film that explicitly told the pedophile's story, then he'd find plenty of ways to hint at Humbert Humbert's lust for a 14-year-old girl*, using careful direction to show the character's gravitation towards Lolita (and her reciprocation) without actually stating it.

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, the animated adaptation of Jeph Loeb and the late Michael Turner's Supergirl reboot, works the same way, except the disturbing implications AREN'T intentional. And that's why it went from just being a lame movie to an outright disturbing one.

The story centers around Kara Zor-El, Superman's teenaged cousin from Krypton. Its plot, typical of a Jeph Loeb story, is a frenetic jump between various action sequences without much plot connecting them. All of the instances follow Kara trying to find a place to fit in, given the destruction of her homeworld. She arrives on Earth completely naked, witnessed by some construction workers who try to rape her (big mistake, given her super-powers). From there we see her trying different identities influenced by the adults guiding her. It's worth noting that she meets few if any other teenagers, and is the sole icon of youth and inexperience amidst a cast of grown-ups. It's also worth noting that each time she tries out an identity, Kara gets a new set of clothes that invariably fails to adequately clothe her. For example...

-- When Clark Kent takes Kara in, he takes her shopping. As Kara becomes assimilated in an improbably quick fashion (because apparently teenaged girls across all cultures take to conspicuous consumption like a duck to water), she tries on a bunch of trashy outfits, while Clark looks on with a raised eyebrow and a stern expression at his younger cousin's choices.

-- When Wonder Woman decides that Kara would best grow up on Paradise Island with other super-powered women, she takes to the Amazon wardrobe of leather body armor (and not much of it). Though Kara bonds with the Amazonians, she's still clearly the youngest there, taken in with a firm, trusting, and blatantly homoerotic hand from Lilah (a.k.a. Harbringer).

-- After being kidnapped and brainwashed by Darkseid, Kara wears a really trashy black leather ensemble, using the time-honored tradition of using leather fetish gear to evoke eeevil.

-- Finally, once she and Clark defeat Darkseid and return, Kara's "independent choice" is to become Supergirl, with a bared madriff and improbably short skirt.

The last one is the nail in the coffin; even Kara's final decision has her dressed in her paternal figure's colors, but skewed to emphasize her youth and sexuality. Worst of all, the character design clearly imitates Michael Turner's version. While I hate to speak ill of the dead and don't think Turner was a bad human being at all, his version of Supergirl was especially troubling. She had no body fat, a very thin bone structure, and an elongated torso to show off her belly button. Turner's Kara was an anorexic with big breasts attached.

To be fair, the scenes on Paradise Island keep Apocalypse from failing the Blechdel Test, because Kara and Lilah talk about things other then men. However, Kara is still the lone teenager in a cast of adults, and every wardrobe change has her re-interpreted through the lens of an adult's sublimated fantasies. Be they the outfits Clark outwardly disapproves of, the dominatrix getup Darkseid assigns, or the miniskirt outfit with branding borrowed from Superman, Kara is only given an identity in the context of others. And this wouldn't be so troubling if Kara actually looked and acted like a real girl, instead of a middle aged man's sexualized interpretation.

Needless to say, I didn't like this movie and thought it a waste of the talent of Summer Glau. I hope she gets a voice-over role soon that is closer to the complex characters she's known for playing, as opposed to an emaciated underage superloli.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

BOTTOM 10 'Favorite' Tropes: Blog-a-Day, Pt 3

The final entry for my own TVTropes answers, featuring tropes that I usually (or never) can stand...

Misaimed Fandom: When what a fan wants becomes so important to them that they'll ignore or dismiss anything contrary, they've closed off their mind to everything. It's not just a failure of individual thought, but it holds back personal growth and development. Pretty much any fandom trope can fall under here, so I'll leave it at that instead of filling the list with Draco in Leather Pants, Opinion Myopia, Ruined FOREVER, etc.

Status Quo Is God: Particularly damning in franchise superhero comics, where the notion that everything will reset makes every new development seem like a temporary diversion. But if you're going to have a dramatic series that continues to be interesting, you need some forward motion, even if it's a risk.

Magical Negro: Because even though we live in a world of countless cultures and creeds, they all exist to prop up the white, straight, able-bodied, male lead. Sadly, this is what defines Morgan Freeman's career, despite his prodigious talents.

Stuffed In The Fridge: Because women don't exist except to prop up men, and can be easily sacrificed to the altar of drama. Though to be fair, Ron Marz (who wrote the scene with Green Lantern's girlfriend stuffed in said fridge) is far from the only culprit, has written plenty of instances of strong female characters who aren't disposable, and should be able to live down what so many other authors do on a regular basis.

Hollywood Psych: A lot of these representation tropes are asinine to the NTH degree, but this especially pushes my buttons. Especially when a character on the autism spectrum is portrayed, because it almost always makes them a burden on their lived ones (an indirect Magical Negro variant) and/or a sociopath.

Rule of Funny: Too often used in lieu of good writing, as Family Guy continually proves.

Moral Guardians: Even though I have a lot of problems with representation, I think it would be better to try and inform people, rather than brainwash them by removing alternative thoughts.

Shallow Female Love Interest:Not just because it makes the female character a prize for the male, but because it makes the male seem like a shallow sex hound for being interested in just a pretty face.

I'm A Man I Can't Help It: And yeah, it's confirmed a LOT in real life, but it doesn't mean a dick is a dickhead license.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Top 10 Favorite Tropes: Blog-A-Day, Part 2

In no particular order, the TVTropes that I love to read and write most;

Tear Jerker. I love a good tragedy, and this page helps me find plenty of reading material. Admittedly it's subjective, as some of the Tear Jerkers listed came across as gratuitous and over-the-top to me (see: Identity Crisis), but those of us who aren't afraid of a sad story can get a good idea of what they'll like.

Deconstruction: Tropes can be interpreted as rules, and when it comes to art, rules were meant to be broken. In a post-modern world, everything we know is driven by narrative, and if you're not actively taking it apart, you should ask yourself what you're doing.

Deconstructor Fleet: Most of my favorite stories of all time fall here.

Growing the Beard: The fact that series can do this is why I'm so drawn to serial fiction. While plenty of series run on longer than they should, and terrible sequels are practically the norm for many mediums, this is the strongest advantage of continuity.

Dysfunction Junction: Characters are more interesting when they're a complex mess, and the notion that ensemble casts need a token stable and happy character to balance out the more interesting characters is misguided. Everyone's some kind of mess, but that doesn't mean they can't be different kinds of screwed up.

Earn Your Happy Ending: To show that I'm not all about misery and ennui, I like it when all the character suffering and trauma actually results in something. If there's no ultimate gain to the protagonist's struggles, even if it doesn't occur within the protagonist's lifetime, then you run the risk of just being immature cynicism.

So Bad It's Horrible: You can learn just as much from complete failures as you can from a medium's canon, or even from its uneven but interesting entries. That, and they're fucking hilarious (albeit unintentionally).

Nakama: The one form of sentimentality that never fails for me is the kind that's earned through comraderie and shared experience. Religion, nationality, and ideology mean nothing without actual human relationships to back them up. Many of my favorite series run on this trope, and Ruby's World uses a similar structure.

ViewersAreGeniuses: Rare, and not always done well, but far better than the alternative.

Child Soldiers: In the real world, one of the worst examples of humanity's failings. In fiction, it appears a lot, and is often romanticized (see: most young adult fantasy stories). When played believably, mixing the horrors of war with the innocence of youth offers insight into the human condition, and how it can (and SHOULD) be bettered.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My TVTropes Responses; Blog-A-Day Week, Pt 1

From my previous TVTropes survey;

1.) Yes, daily.

2.) Online, regularly. Offline, depending on my company, and their own familiarity with the site.

3.) Constantly. TVTropes has infected my brain patterns.

4.) Sometimes, like observing the behavior of one Christian Weston Chandler, who acts like he's "Adorkable" even though he's really "Psychopathic Manchild".

5.) Yes I do, though it's in order to deconstruct tropes I don't like. For example, Ruby is a largely intentional deconstruction of the Purity Sue; her beauty is skewed by her hulking stature, her kindness often leads to co-dependent relationships with others, her incorruptible morals are just as often the result of a childish and immature perspective as they are of her heroic nature, and she's prone to depression over her moral conflicts. I didn't know the trope at the time, but I was designing her to be a more believable version that sickeningly sweet persona seen in characters like Jean Grey(sans Phoenix), Gwen Stacy (original version), and Nunally from Code Geass.

6.) The endless wealth of information relevant to creative work. I often use it as supplemental research for both professional and creative writing, as it gives audience context to narratives in real life and fiction alike. For example, I've read through a lot of the weapon trope articles when designing action scenes, and have abolished several tropes like Dual Wielding thanks to the real-world descriptions.

7.) People who brutally misinterpret the tropes and attach them to their own agenda. For example, people who call Damian Wayne a Jerk Sue, having completely missed the fact that the Bat-Family barely puts up with him out of compassion, and the rest of Gotham just can't stand him.

8.) Metal Gear Solid, for which I am eternally grateful, and Sonichu, for which I am...somewhat less grateful.

9.) Hell yeah!

10.) and 11.) will receive seperate posts, tomorrow and the next day respectively.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

TV Tropes Reader Questionaire

Only recently have I realized the profound effect TVTropes has had upon me, both in the way I read stories, and the way I create them. For those who don't know, TVTropes is a website that chronicles storytelling devices, describing both the recurring themes and the works in which they appear. You can see an example of the tropes here, created with help from frequent commentator and friend Jared...

Anyway, I've been going to TVTropes for over three years now on a daily basis. When I'm looking for new stuff to read or watch, I look through their pages ( usually using Tear Jerker as a starting point). Whenever I finish a book, movie, game, or other series, I check out its entries on the page. I have even contributed to some of the pages. And I'm far from alone in my devotion to the site.

So here are my questions for those reading my blog...

1.) Do you visit TVTropes regularly?

2.) Do you use terms from TVTropes in discussions of fiction (both online and off)?

3.) Do you find yourself consciously recognizing examples of tropes when you read or watch fiction?

4.) Do you find yourself consciously recognizing examples of tropes in real life (personal interactions, professional life, news media, etc.)?

5.) If you are a writer, do you find yourself consciously thinking of tropes when you create and define your characters and their stories?

6.) What is your favorite thing about TVTropes?

7.) What is your least favorite thing about TVTropes?

8.) Have you come across any new stories thank to TVTropes?

9.) Do you think TVTropes is a good thing for fiction, or not?

10.) What are your personal favorite tropes?

11.) What are your personal least favorite tropes?

I'll have my own answers shortly.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sonichu Sub-Episode 8: I Got Through This, But It Just Gets Worse From Here

Thank God This Shit's Over, It Was Just Getting Tedious And Not Even Entertainingly Stupid

Bit by bit, Christian Weston Chandler is returning to the internet. He'd kept himself in exile for the past two months, going back to being a pathetic, isolated shut-in instead of a pathetic, publicized internet-famous shut-in. But LittleBigPlanet2 has debuted, and with it, another excuse for Chandler to spend taxpayer money on spamming user-generation games with his wretched creations. I'd been derelict in my responsibilities, but now I realize that I have to get through this series. Because even if Chandler actually succeeds in forgetting the Internet, the Internet must never forget Chandler.

Anyway, this Sub-Episode is the final Sub-Episode, because Chandler's mother insisted that he stop doing them. This was a move that was a good call in the short term, but completely useless in the bigger picture. Barbara Chandler, after all, has enabled Chris to become what he is, treating him like he's special (albeit in that patronizing way too often used on the developmentally disabled), not encouraging him to do something with his life, and bailing him out when he acts inappropriately. Even if she was worried that doing comics about his frustrations against real people would get back to him, it wouldn't ruin his life any worse than Barbara's already done.

Especially because Barbara herself appears in this comic-- albeit symbolically. Crystal Weston Chandler, the magical twin sister of Chris-Chan, serves as Barbara's surrogate. She is a familial figure to Chris-Chan, a woman he cannot fuck, but who insists that he is indeed attractive and is only single because others are conspiring against him. She helps him defeat his enemies, and even tells them why Chris' Love Quest is a noble pursuit (even his Attraction Sign methodology). Furthermore, she assures Chris that he is an attractive man, because she is related to him, and is presented attractively*.

Chandler probably didn't intend for his sister-character to resemble his mother-character, but then, he probably didn't intend for the fact that his 'children' Sonichu and Rosechu would be seen as having an incestuous relationship. But Chris had his entire childhood and adolescence to be shielded from consequences by his parents, and sadly, it's unlikely that he's ever going to admit he's done anything wrong now. And that goes for Chandler as an artist as well as Chandler as a human being.

Oh, and Spoiler Alert; Chandler may have stopped the sub-episodes, but he made the core Sonichu comic more about his personal problems than ever.

* Something that cannot be said for real-life Barbara, who is often compared to the Pokemon Snorlax.