The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Young Justice

Well, what do you know? This is my one hundredth entry. Appropriate that it is about Greg Weisman's newest TV series.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of Greg Weisman's work. "Gargoyles" is my all time favorite TV series; I adored "The Spectacular Spider-Man;" I was quite fond of the second season of "W.I.T.C.H.;" and the freelance scripts he wrote for shows like "Men In Black" and "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command" were always fun.

Okay, I really hated "Max Steel" and couldn't watch more than one episode, but that show had all sorts of behind the scenes problems that were not his fault. And sadly, "Roughnecks: Star Ship Troopers Chronicles" never aired in my area, so I've never really seen it. But, overall, Greg Weisman is responsible for high quality television. So, I was greatly anticipating his newest series, "Young Justice."

"Young Justice" is loosely based on a DC Comics title by the same name, but draws from many other sources. It focuses on a group of sidekicks (but don't call them that) who band together to become a covert ops team connected to the Justice League. The stars of the show are Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Superboy, Miss Martian, and Artemis. Although, we have yet to meet Artemis and only briefly met Miss Martian.

The theme of the first season is "secrets and lies" and this is very apparent within the pilot already. The Justice League is keeping secrets from the members of Young Justice... which was enough to piss off Speedy, and get him to storm off. And Project Cadmus was keeping secrets from the rest of the world.

I love a good mystery, and we've got one set up with a shadowy organization called The Light, who were behind Project Cadmus. Although, I am somewhat reminded of the Illuminati from "Gargoyles" (Hmm... Light - illuminated - Illuminati) and the Council of Thirteen of the Guild of Calamitous Intent in "The Venture Bros." although, I highly doubt Davie Bowie is L-1.

The writing and dialogue are very sharp, and considering the pilot was penned by Mr. Weisman himself, that was to be expected. The animation is very strong, and I kept wondering what their budget was, because it looks great. The voice acting was also phenomenal, which is to be expected from any series voice directed by Jamie Thomason.

This series has just about everything going for it, and already, in my mind, blew the competition out of the water. Yes, I enjoy "The Avengers - Earth's Mightiest Heroes" quite a bit, but the quality of that show just doesn't compare to the quality of "Young Justice." The funny thing about that is that outside of Batman, and some Vertigo comics, I have no attachment to DC Comics at all. I've always been a Marvel reader. But Marvel has never had animated series as good as DC's, with the exception of "The Spectacular Spider-Man" which was just as great as "Batman the Animated Series." But then, look at who the mastermind behind Spidey was.

I give the pilot of "Young Justice" a solid five stars. It also left me intrigued enough to come back for more when the series really gets going in January.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nancy Botwin

Weird timing after my last post, what with my discussing misogynistic comic book readers. Now I am going to discuss the utter hatred I've been seeing for Nancy Botwin, the flawed protagonist of "Weeds."

Nancy Botwin is the widow of Judah Botwin, and a single mother struggling to raise her children and maintain their upper-middle-class lifestyle. To do this she becomes a marijuana dealer. That's the premise of "Weeds" in a nutshell.

Nancy, herself, is something you don't often see on television and something that is practically unheard of on network television. She is a flawed mother. A very flawed mother. She is definitely a loving mother, but she makes mistakes. A lot of mistakes, and being a drug dealer is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the course of the series, her actions put her family in mortal danger on several occasions. Silas starts helping her deal and gets beaten up by bikers; Shane gets shot in the arm because of a hit put out on Nancy; and in the sixth season, they are on the run from both the F.B.I. and a powerful Mexican drug cartel.

Season six is also about Nancy doing everything in her power to protect her family. Sure, if she had handled things better and didn't panic, the events of season six would never have unfolded, but this is still a woman who loves her kids. And, at the climax of the season, we see her make a huge sacrifice for the sake of her family.

On top of all of this, I have never seen such hate thrown at a fictional TV character. Some of the comments are staggering. She is often called selfish; and yes, she can be. They say she dresses like a whore; no, not really, but she definitely doesn't dress conservatively. She is accused of not giving a damn about her family; she does, she does, she just makes poor choices. She's even been called evil; no, not by any definition of the word.

At the same time, Nancy Botwin's critics will turn around and reap mountains of praise on Mafia figure and crime boss, Tony Soprano. Tony was a neglectful father at best. A lousy husband; constantly cheating on his wife, Carmella, with any woman he ever looked at. He was involved in serious crimes, including ordering deaths like you or I would order a Big Mac, as well as committing murders himself.

Nancy Botwin put herself at risk to rat out a tunnel the Mexican cartel was using for human trafficking. Tony Soprano was once given a chance to turn state's witness to protect his family and didn't... he became Boss of the DiMeo Family instead. Nancy never murdered anybody.

Nancy Botwin is a lot of things, several of them horrible, but she is not Tony Soprano. So why is Nancy reviled while Tony is beloved? Because society in all of its double standards holds women to different standards than men, and places mothers on a pedestal that fathers are not on. Take your Homer Simpsons, your Peter Griffins, your Archie Bunkers, and look at their better parent, voice of reason wives. How many bad television mothers can you name? Peggy Bundy is one of the very few that comes to mind.

No question that Nancy is flawed and yes, deserving of some of the scorn she receives. But Tony Soprano and his ilk should not be celebrated in the same breath.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Misogynous Comic Book Readers...

Some times I shouldn't read the internet.

Sadly, I have noticed a lot of hate directed at female comic book characters. No, not all of them. But just the ones that are sexually active and not in committed relationships.

Most recently, I've seen a lot of hatred for the character of Jessica Jones. For those who don't know, Jessica Jones was one of Brian Michael Bendis' better additions to the Marvel Universe. She was the protagonist of a Marvel MAX series called "Alias," a series for the seventeen and older crowd. And in that series, she was sexually active with both Luke Cage and Scott Lang. In the first issue she has anal sex with Luke Cage, and we learn later on that she becomes pregnant with his child. But after that one night stand, she dates Scott Lang for a little while. Eventually Jessica and Luke get together, and their child is born. They get married after the child's birth. The baby is born out of wedlock.

And apparently too many comic book fans still live in the 19th century. Guess what people who don't care for the character focus on? That's right, the anal sex, the one night stand, and they call her a "Baby Mama."

If they don't like the character, that's fine. But their comments about her expose a bitter hatred for women. I don't see male characters in comic books held to these standards. Hell, I don't see Luke Cage getting any hate for being sexually active and having one night stands.

Jessica Jones is not the only example. Let's take a look back at Gwen Stacy. A few years ago we learned that she had a one night stand with Norman Osborn, and then became pregnant via that one night stand. And the reaction that got... you would think the Virgin Mary was desecrated.

Never mind that when the tryst happened, Peter and Gwen were broken up; never mind that Norman Osborn had just saved her life from the Kingpin; never mind that Norman Osborn had amnesia at the time and didn't remember being the Green Goblin; never mind that both were in a very vulnerable state at the encounter; and never mind Gwen's daddy issues. All of a sudden Gwen became a slut, a whore, a terrible person. Why? Because she had sex.

Did I mention nobody hates Peter Parker for having a one night stand with Betty Brant when Betty was still married to Ned Leeds?

There is also Emma Frost, who has easily slept with half the Marvel Universe (okay, that's an exaggeration), and is currently in a committed relationship with Scott Summers of the X-Men. The two had an affair while Jean Grey was still alive, and then hooked up for good after Jean died. Okay, I will admit, that is pretty damn tasteless. But no one hates Scott Summers for it.

Scott was in love with Jean Grey for years. Then she died, and he married and had a child with a woman who looked just like her, and then when Jean returned from the grave, he ran out on his wife and child to be with her. Nobody hates Scott Summers for this. Why not? I suspect it's because he has a penis.

And, I'll never forget all the hate Shayera got in "Justice League Unlimited" after she had sex with Hawkman on their first date. Why? What is so offensive to people?

The thing of it is, there is nothing wrong with being sexually active. There is nothing wrong with being promiscuous. I would like to see more comic book characters who have open relationships, or are even swingers and not be treated as deviants. We don't live in the 19th century anymore, and there is nothing wrong with these lifestyles. There are great people in them.

But, more than that, I am sick of this poorly disguised hatred for women in the halls of comic book fandom. Is this because the stereotype is true and most comic book fans can't get laid? Well, I don't think the fact that they read comics is the problem.

Nobody hates James Bond for being sexually active.