Tagged: tv

Understanding The Uncanny Valley

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Modern pop culture is filled with terms that try to describe the media we consume. With new phrases and new definitions emerging all the time, it can be difficult to know what the new terminology actually means, even when you hear it frequently. We Ladies like to provide some clarity by defining some of these commonly heard terms that people may not fully understand. We did it with “Mary Sue” and now we’re tackling the “uncanny valley.”

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Fandom-fueled Fiend Fighting: Supergirl Season 1

Welcome our friend and reader, Carolyn Frantz, making a great case for watching Supergirl. Want more? You can find her on Twitter as @cosmic_carolyn. – Ed.
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Since this is my very first guest post with the Ladies of Comicazi blog, I’ll begin with a confession: I’m not a hardcore comic fan, and I’m certainly not a purist when it comes to comic universes. Most of my favorite comic books aren’t published by DC or Marvel, so I’m new to both. But I love a good story and good art, and I have a soft spot for heroines that are intelligent, strong, and independent, like Agatha Heterodyne: Girl Genius.

Even so, I’ve fallen in love with the new CBS show Supergirl, and I’m here to tell you why! A friend of mine, Danielle, wrote a feminist ode to Supergirl recently. She made some great points as to what Supergirl is doing right:

  1. The two most powerful people in National City are women.
  2. Women can be villains too!
  3. Women aren’t helpless victims.
  4. “Girl” is reclaimed as an empowering term.
  5. Young girls need a female superhero to look up to.

All of these are excellent reasons to watch Supergirl, and I encourage you to check out her article here. But I have a couple of my own feminist* reasons why Supergirl is not to be missed:
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Supergirl’s costume is awesome without being overly revealing or sexual. It may seem superficial and counterproductive to focus on our heroine’s outward appearance. But in Hollywood, there’s just no way to escape the male gaze, and its use in advertising (“sex sells”). As a result, what women are wearing/not wearing in Hollywood will always be important. Supergirl needs a kick-butt costume to go with her butt-kicking moves, so dressing her in a tiny leotard isn’t believable. Even fierce female powerhouses like Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas tug at their leotards, and Gabby isn’t even punching villains. Mad props to Supergirl’s wardrobe department for coming up with a cool-looking costume that actually works for Supergirl’s extra-active lifestyle.

Supergirl goes by her real name. In all the Superman universes, including Smallville, Superman goes by Clark in his regular life. Pretty much no one is allowed to call him Kal-El. And let’s face it, Kal-El doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Kara, on the other hand, is a real name on our planet, so Supergirl goes by her real name, both in regular life and when she’s fighting crime at the DEO. A central tenet of feminism is that the way we use language matters, and there is power in naming important people and experiences. Feminist textual analysis often notices when women are named in texts— and when they’re not. Calling a woman by her name is powerful, and Kara claims her given (Kryptonian) name. Which leads into…

Supergirl struggles with her identity, which is something all real women do. By virtue of her frozen-time backstory, Kara has vivid memories of her family and life on Krypton. She lives into her dual citizenship on Krypton and Earth, which is a cultural balancing act. In our (supposedly alien-free) society, people of color experience something similar every day, having to be proficient in white culture as well as the culture from which they come. Women experience this also, living in a man’s world. We have to work to maintain our feminine identities while operating in work spaces and sometimes religions that are male-dominated, and therefore oriented toward the way “old boys’ clubs” work. Hence the glass ceiling. Fortunately, Kara has a supportive boss, Cat, who broke the glass ceiling herself and is willing to help Kara face the same hurdles.   Kara also struggles with being adopted. Adopted children struggle with questions of identity all their lives, as illustrated in this poignant letter to the stars of Supergirl from an adoptive mom. Carrie, the author, explains how the media usually portrays adoptive parents inaccurately. Her story illustrates how powerful it is for her daughters to watch a story focusing on an adoptive family that’s more true to life.   Even without the adoption dynamic, Kara’s struggles in her family relationships mirror real life. Unlike many shows, which either gloss over the reality of complex family relationships or parody them in the extreme (I’m looking at you, Modern Family!), Supergirl portrays relationships as they often are: complicated, but full of love. Any woman knows that relationships with sisters and mothers can be tumultuous. Supergirl portrays the tensions in these relationships well, while still showing the intense love and loyalty that family brings, adoptive or not.   Finally, last but not least…

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Supergirl loves to eat!

“Why does this even matter?” you might inquire. I’m glad you asked! Women in this culture are always being told we should diet. Female bodies that aren’t basically twigs are unacceptable in the media, which is why plus-size models are so extraordinary. Women are more likely than men to develop an eating disorder, and young women are especially vulnerable: 86% of those with eating disorders report they began before age 20, and 41% of all 1st-3rd graders want to be thinner. Controlling what women eat, psychologically or otherwise, is a means of controlling and devaluing women’s bodies.

Many TV shows portray women eating salads, discussing diets, and not-eating at dinner tables. Not Supergirl! Kara usually eats very healthy meals, but she’s also shown feasting on favorites like hamburgers, pizza, ice cream, curry, and donuts. Her chow-and-chat sessions on the couch with Alex at the end of a long day are one of the best parts of the show. They’re a chance for the sisters to process all that’s happened, support one another, and be women actually enjoying food on camera. When you think about it, that’s actually pretty rare. While some comedies make women who love food the butt of the joke, Supergirl seizes the opportunity to break that stigma. Kara needs super fuel, and feeding her super-fast metabolism sends a message to young girls that there’s no guilt or shame in calorically supporting their bodies.

By now, hopefully you’ve been convinced to give Supergirl a try if you haven’t watched it yet. The end of the season is especially exciting, particularly with the Flash crossover. If you already love the show, share it with a young girl— or boy!— in your life and plant seeds of empowerment in their hearts.
*Before any men’s rights activists jump on my use of the term “feminist”, my definition of feminism is “the radical notion that women are people”. Any true feminist, in my opinion, believes in the basic equality of all people regardless of sex, gender, race, creed, orientation, etc.

The Best Show You are Probably Not Watching: Crazy Ex Girlfriend

Do you remember about 5-ish years ago when everyone was sending around that music video about a woman who wanted to have carnal relations with Ray Bradbury?  For about two weeks, it continued to show up on blogs, twitter feeds and facebook pages. People were wondering who the sassy lady in the video was and those who were particularly enamored of her humor found themselves looking up her other music video and stand-up performances. Well, the name of that sassy lady is Rachel Bloom, and it turns out that someone gave her a TV show. And that makes me happy.

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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Mon, 8pm, on The CW) tells the story of Rebecca Bunch, a lawyer in NYC who spends all her time working. When faced with a major opportunity for promotion, rather than feeling happy, her anxiety gets the best of her and she flees the office only to have a chance run in with an ex-boyfriend she dated in summer camp when she was a teenager. She has a short conversation with him and then is inspired by the message on an advertisement for butter to leave her life in NY to follow her ex to West Covina, California (only 2 hours aways from the beach!). The show then follows her as she starts a job at a quirky new law firm filled with weirdos (some more lovable than others), makes new friends, and find herself torn between chasing after her ex,  Josh or exploring a relationship with handsome bartender Greg (played by Santino Fontana, the voice of Prince Hans in Frozen). Continue reading

Three Christmas Cartoons for Animation Nerds

The holiday season is here and it’s a great time for animation. Any TV channel with any kind of children’s or family program has a seemingly endless supply of animated specials old and new for viewers to enjoy. Animated specials often become part of our holiday traditions. We wrap presents, eat whatever traditional foods we enjoy, and watch the same specials we’ve been watching since we were kids.

But maybe you’re looking for a change of pace? Maybe you could use some fresh viewing material to accompany Rudolph and Charlie Brown? Perhaps something with a distinctive animation style? I’ve got you covered. Here are three Christmas specials that will delight you with new animated visuals and fresh (and familiar) tales of the season. Continue reading

The Red Menace Finally Watches “The Flash” Season One

Anyone who’s read these pages knows that I am a big fan of The Flash, both in comics and the DC Animated universe. This has led to several folks asking me what I thought of the CW’s live action Flash tv show, and to me awkwardly explaining that I hadn’t actually watched it yet. There’s nothing we keep up with on a weekly basis in our household, and we don’t have a DVR, so I can really only watch shows that come to Amazon or Netflix.

Well, that dream is finally realized and Mr. Menace and I watched the entire first season of “The Flash” in the matter of a few weeks. So how does it hold up? Do I still love the fastest man alive, or has my enthusiasm been dampened? Let’s break it down into a few key points. (NB: Generally spoiler-free, but I allude to the overall plot points, because let’s face it – I am actually the LAST PERSON IN AMERICA watching this show. You all know what happened.)

Barry strikes a dramatic pose.

Barry strikes a dramatic pose.

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Mary Sue FAQ

Twilight Bella Swan Mary Sue

Bella Swan from Twilight, a character often labeled as a Mary Sue

The term “Mary Sue” gets thrown around a lot, in fanfiction circles, in criticism of books, TV shows, and films, and as the name of a well known lady-centric pop culture website. Like many terms born in recent decades, it seems ubiquitous, but not everyone is 100% clear on what it actually means. Who is “Mary Sue”? Where did she come from? Why is calling a character a “Mary Sue” a putdown? Today’s LoC will answer your questions about the nature of the Mary Sue.

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Three Things – Sci-Fi Edition

By now you know that we like to do our reviews and recommendations in threes around here – besides being a nice, neat number, it gives you a few choices – you might not love one comic, but another might be right up your alley. Today I’m reviewing three totally different media with sci-fi themes, so if you’d rather listen to or watch your stories than read ’em, I’ve got you covered! If you don’t like science fiction, I don’t think I can help you.  Continue reading

Cartoon Sara Watches Three Muppet Christmas Specials

December is upon us, which means – like it or not – the winter holidays have arrived. It’s once again time for walking through winter wonderlands, roasting chestnuts on an open fire, and desperately trying to ensure that all three gifts for your fellow Ladies arrive in time. (Maybe that last one is just me.) It’s also an excellent time to get your Muppet fix. The Muppets have been making Christmas appearances on TV shows since the 1960s and started their own catalog of Christmas specials in 1970 with The Great Santa Claus Switch. Over forty years later, Muppet fans have a lot of holiday themed Muppet material to choose from. These are my three picks for the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, and Muppetational Muppet Christmas specials.

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True Lady Confessions: I Like Elementary More Than Sherlock

NB: Some pretty minor spoilers here. I kept the really good stuff out. But if you care about a super minor character in Elementary, you’ve been warned.

 

My first exposure to the Sherlock Holmes tales came when I I was thirteen or fourteen years old. My Nana was a Reader’s Digest subscriber and would regularly purchase the big anthology collections they sold under the World’s Best Reading imprint. You know the ones, the big hardcovers with the embossed covers? I loved those things – so many stories in one convenient package! If memory serves, theSherlock Holmes volume came into my hands during sometime away from school- either a sick day or summer vacation – and so I read every single story in rather rapid succession.

So ol’ Sherlock and I have a history together, so I was excited when the BBC’s Sherlock first aired.  Here was a character who seems like such a product of his Victorian roots, dusted off and updated for our shiny modern times. The stories were flashy and fun, and while I don’t entirely get the crush everyone has on Benedict Cumberbatch, I will admit that he’s charming and urbane and enjoyable to watch dashing around solving mysteries. So when I heard that CBS also had an updated Holmes story, set in New York and with Lucy Liu rather improbably playing Watson, I was dismissive. How could regular old American network television compete with the stylish offerings of Masterpiece Mystery and the BBC?

So classy. So British.

So classy. So British.

And yet…I kept hearing things. Things that implied that CBS’s Elementary was quite good. And well, I do like Jonny Lee Miller, who plays their Holmes, and we had just finished up with a season of Deadwood and had a hole in the schedule, and it was still winter…I mentioned to Mr. Menace (who’d seen it) that I wanted to give it a shot. The fates smiled and boxed set of season one came into our possession, and we were off to the races.

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Cartoon Sara’s Top Ten Christmas Specials

The holiday season is upon us once again and along with snowstorms, visiting relatives, and frantic last minute gift shopping, that means holiday specials on TV. Seasonal specials have become part of our holiday traditions, something we come back to every year along with the old decorations to remind us of and connect us to holidays past. We all have our old favorites, but there’s always room for a few new ones to add to the yearly rotation. Here, in no particular order, are ten of my favorite Christmas specials. Some are well known classics, while others are a little less well known. So get your hot chocolate ready and prepare to revisit some of the old greats and discover some new ones.

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