Mystique and the Problem of Gaze

Or, the insufficiency of binary feminist criticism in mutant discourse.

Richard Siken wrote the line history is a little man in a brown suit/trying to define a room he is outside of. A lot of the time, that’s how I feel about gender.

Growing up assigned-female, I was drawn to the idea of being ‘not like other girls.’ I spent most of my time with boys, but reveled in not being one of them. I tested out binding and packing for years before my best friend bought me my first binder. I talked to trans men about drag, about whether it was okay for someone like me — then thinking I was a girl — to participate.

When I started wandering around the queerer parts of the internet — you know, the places where kids try out new names and pronouns and try to explain themselves with a language none of us were ever taught and half of us only halfway understand. Tumblr’s a big part of that, especially for me. While I still thought I was cis, someone said, anonymously, that they’d thought I was nonbinary.

For some reason — wink, nudge — that mattered to me. So I started to consider things. What did I do with the characters I liked? I made them trans. Usually, I made them nonbinary.

And I looked back, too, on the single most consequential figure in my queer youth: Mystique, as played by Rebecca Romijn. Mystique in her nakedness, her refusal to conform. Cis feminists, I’ve since learned, see her as a concession to the male gaze, using the subtly insidious “empowered naked lady” trope. It’s the trope people associate with any character with breasts who maybe, sometimes, shows them.

(more…)

Can We Talk About MacGyver For a Second?

Okay, I know that MacGyver isn’t the genre this blog is nominally about, but MacGyver does something right that I’m not sure any of the current superhero shows are doing: using the episodic form to deliver fun, uplifting escapism.

Yes, I love long-form storytelling.  Yes, I love character development and arcs and whatnot.  And I love me some solid thematic resonance and dystopia.  These are all important to have, and to see them done right is important.  But man, the special thing about TV, the thing that for me pulls TV and comics into parallel as mediums, is the concept of the episodic story.

Go back and open up a comic from the Golden or Silver Age — I’m talking like, Lee/Kirby X-Men or Siegel/Shuster Action Comics, here, go straight to the beginning — and you’ll find that each individual issue tells a self-contained story that, frankly, is reminiscent of episodic storytelling that would later become a staple of television.  The overarching stories don’t really exist yet — it’s just the plot of the moment, the characters you love, and the understanding that the good guys are going to win.

Lucas Till as Angus MacGyver

See this nerd? I started this show because of him, so it’s his fault you have to listen to me yell about this.

MacGyver on CBS has mastered this.  Yes, there are overarching plotlines: Murdoc escaping prison, Nikki’s position as a double agent, Bozer learning to handle his crush on Riley without resorting to terminology like the ‘friend zone.’  But fundamentally, the show excels when it tells a good, tight A-story for most of the hour, and gives us a reason to care about the characters.  Tonight on the show, Riley has to take on her first solo mission, and Jack, her father figure, is super uncomfortable and overprotective about it.  That’s it, that’s the whole point of the episode.

And yeah, you know that Riley’s going to be fine, and that the team is going to save the day, but the show invests you so deeply in the characters themselves that you still feel the suspense when she’s in danger, you still get upset when Jack fights with everyone and anyone, taking out his worry on his teammates.

Personally, I think the superhero genre could do with a show like this — a show with a fairly light tone, that’s high on octane and low on longterm plotting, and where you tune in every week not because you have to know what happens next, but because you love the characters and want to hear another story about them.  It’s why people tuned in for Star Trek: The Original Series, too, and why early comic books worked as well as they did.

There’s something to be said for telling a multi-issue or multi-episode story arc, I agree.  But I feel like those stories are dominating the genre right now, and we could do with an episodic story or two in all the chaos.

I tune in to MacGyver every week, I get invested, I freak out a little and flail (the most obviously neurodivergent/potentially autistic behavior I exhibit), because I love the characters so much, and I’m so happy to be there with them and to watch their story.  I’m not worried, because I trust the showrunners to tell me a story I will enjoy, so I’m free to sink into the fun of Mac and Jack’s old-marrieds-type bickering, into Matty’s mama-bear instincts over her team, into MacGyver building a pacemaker out of paperclips and a car speaker — the stuff about the show that is fun.

I can’t name a single currently running superhero show — not one! — that makes me feel the way MacGyver does, and I think the genre could use it.

Throwback Thursday: Trip to Six Flags Recap!

So I went to Six Flags with my parents and brother.  Now, the last time I was there, I wasn’t yet a DC fan.  I also chickened out of Superman: Ultimate Flight, so, in accordance with my personal code of honor re: roller coasters, I obviously needed to ride it this time, and hopefully, I’d be in a better place to appreciate it.

Now, I’m sort of a huge weenie, and that means this was going to be my first roller coaster with a loop in it.  I was terrified while on the line, but I kept telling myself, “Lois Lane does this all the time,” and that definitely helped.  

(For those not familiar with the coaster, it restrains you in such a way that when it starts, you wind up on your stomach, as though you’re flying like Superman.)

Now, I may have been terrified on line, but once things got going, it was honest to God one of the most incredible sensory experiences of my life.  It felt as close to unassisted flight as I’ll probably ever get, and I was so filled with joy that I couldn’t stop laughing basically for the whole ride.
I’ve always chased that feeling of flying, my whole life, I think, and this was almost perfect — it just isn’t long enough!

After that, we went on the Green Lantern coaster, which was terrible.  It was so jerky, and I’m short enough that my head kept slamming into the shoulder restraints.  I got terribly nauseous and the worst headache.  Never doing that again.

To make myself feel better while my brother smoked the basketball carnival game, I played one of those “everyone wins” type games.  You pick a box, then pick a token out of the box with your eyes closed, and that determines the nature of your prize.  I picked a box with Bizarro’s name on it and picked a blue token, which meant I could pick any prize in the pavilion.  

This is Clark, and he is my son now.  He made me feel a lot better after Green Lantern, and I love him so much.  

My brother won a giant raccoon for my mom, but he was so big that we had to check him and Clark in a sort of prize coat check until the end of the day.  

After that, we went on the log flume, but then I got hit pretty hard by the heat, my empty stomach, dehydration, and the Green Lantern headache, and I wound up sitting on a bench toward the middle of the park in the shade for a couple of hours, had lunch, and drank water.  Once I felt better, I met up with my family, and decided I still wasn’t super up for rides, still being hot and headachey.

I checked out the gift shops, though, and wound up buying a dress to change out of my long pants & t-shirt into.  

Yeah, I might’ve gone a little overboard on Superman, but he’s one of my faves, so I’m not mad about it.

When my parents met back up with me, me and Dad headed off to the Hall of Justice to ride the Justice League: Battle for Metropolis — a ride I wanted to go on solely because Lex Luthor featured in it, and I love basically every iteration of Lex.

In order to get there, though, you have to pass Gotham, where most of the Batman rides reside, and cross the Metro-Narrows Bridge.  Once you cross the bridge, you’re met with the Metro Grill and Munchopolis, which I took pictures of, but the biggest, most exciting part of this was definitely the Hall of Justice itself.

I think I understand, now, why Cinderella fans get so worked up over the castle at Disney World.

Anyway, the Hall was almost mind-blowingly gorgeous on the outside, and inside, we used our Flash Passes to get to the front of the line, which was pretty awesome.  The ride starts with this little video game cutscene of Lex and the Joker laying out their Evil Plan, and lets you know that in this ride, you’ll be helping the League defeat them and save Metropolis.

You do this using 3D glasses and arcade laser guns, riding the coaster and trying to shoot the bad guys — mostly escaped convicts and Lexbots — along the way.

Of course, you and the Justice League win, after Superman neutralizes Lex and someone — I don’t know who — deals with Joker.  At the end of the ride, the League thanks you and tells you who on the ride had the highest score.  I didn’t do so great, but it is what it is, you know?  And it was so fun to see Lex brought to his literal knees before Superman, because, well, y’know…

I got that pic later, on my second ride of the coaster, but just.  Look at that.  Enjoy that, for a second.  He’s on his knees for Superman, and I’ve always been into that super-nemeses ball game — I came from the X-Men Fandom, after all.

Anyway, after that, I got to hang out by the Batmobile for a while, and then my family went on the Congo Rapids ride three times in a row.  After that, Dad joined me for another ride on the Justice League ride.  This time, I realized that the building includes a nod to Lena Luthor:

It’s so cool to be at a theme park that aligns so closely with my interests, you know?

Anyway, after that we picked up our prizes and went back to the car.  It took a bit of doing to get the raccoon into the trunk — for a while, before we left, he was just chilling in my seat.  I made some jokes about them leaving me behind, but eventually we managed to all for in the car.

Over all, I have to say, Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey is like a heaven for weird DC nerds like me, and I can’t wait to go back and ride the Superman coaster again.  

There’s Nazis in Virginia…

…and in response, Gail Simone started the #ComicsHatesNazis hashtag.

IMG_2061.JPG

I wrote up a post focused on response to the hashtag, and you can read it over at CapelessCrusader.org.

Not sure what my first major post is going to be, but I should have something substantial for here on Monday!  Stay safe this weekend, and remember: as important as it is to make Nazis afraid again, it’s just as important to look after the people that Nazis want to obliterate.

Take care of your Jewish friends, your friends of color, your queer friends, your Muslim friends, and your disabled friends this weekend.  If you can, support people financially.  If you have the energy, offer physical and emotional support even if you’re not sure they’ll accept it.

Make sure that you’re doing everything you can, because no matter who you are, there is something you can do.  There’s a great list in this tweet thread:

 

Welcome!

Hi everyone!  Welcome to the new blog!  If you came from any of my social media, this is the exciting new blog where I’ll be writing longform analysis on stuff that maybe isn’t immediately newsworthy, as well as talking about my endeavors as a journalist, aspiring supervillain, and screenwriter/filmmaker.

The name of the blog, No More Metaphors, is a reference to the infamous House of M storyline in Marvel comics, and particularly these panels:

Wanda Maximoff's No More Mutants

Wanda Maximoff during the House of M storyline, weeping as she declares, “No more mutants.”

I wanted to reference this because the X-Men have always served as a sort of allegory for all manner of minority groups, but often the stories have been focused around straight, able-bodied white people.  Very rarely are things like gender, sexuality, disability, and race dealt with explicitly in X-books.

And I’m tired of that.  I’m tired of only being able to see myself as a metaphor as opposed to a real person.  I want mutants, sure, but I want them to be like me, not just using my stories as a queer disabled person as fodder for their allegory.

I want more books like Iceman.  Over at DC, I want more books like Midnighter, Batwoman, and DC Bombshells.  Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime looks promising, but still, one line and an occasional solo miniseries isn’t enough.

So, this blog was conceived, and named.  I used to host it on Tumblr, and all of my old posts can still be found there.  Everything new, however, will be posted here and only linked over there.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you follow along as I work to analyze existing texts through queer and disabled lenses, call for more and better representation, and just talk about my life as a queer, disabled superhero fan and comics press reporter.  I’m looking forward to sharing more than ever here!