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Unbreakable (part 1)

Stina the trouble-maker is back. Mwhahahahaha! I hope your holidays were excellent and that you're all rested up and ready to take on 2013 full force. Me? I had a wonderful time. Got some gaming done. (I finally made significant progress in BioShock for one thing.[1] And saw a lot of folks I missed for another.) And now, it's time to get back to work because it's January. And stuff. This first post for 2013 will be a two parter, by the way. I've to much to say to squeeze it into one post, and I'd like to think and discuss along the way.

"The first and final thing you have to do in this world is to last it and not be smashed by it." ― Ernest Hemingway

For the record, I'm not a big fan of Hemingway. There's something about all that self-obsessed macho bluster that totally turns me off. Although, I do think he did get a number of things right--not the least of which is the above quote. Strength has multiple definitions, but speaking as a daughter of a mechanical engineer and as someone who studied architecture, strength has always meant resilience to me. However, somewhere along the way, (in American culture at least) it appears to have sloughed off all definitions but one: imperviousness.

I like crime fiction and action movies. It's entirely possible I like them more than my husband does--judging by our film collection this is certainly true. However, it came to my attention sometime during the Arnold Schwarzenegger era that the Action Hero™ was evolving into something I no longer liked. That is, a crass bastard who didn't give a shit about anything but vengeance and sex. By the time Hudson Hawk came out in 1991, action heros were so impervious that the laws of physics had ceased to factor against them. Gunshot wounds that would send a normal person into stupefying shock were laughed off. Most actors don't even flinch any more. Leaps from three story buildings, car crashes, all result in carrying on as if nothing happened. Hell, they're even known to out run, even out walk explosions.[2] And then there's the psychological aspect: emotionally, your average action hero might as well be dead. The only emotion that remains to signify life is anger. I had a hunch back then that this culture of vengeance wouldn't lead in good directions. It's one thing when such stories are but part of what one consumes--it's quite another when they are the ONLY thing one consumes. Stories are important, you see. What we strongly identify with says a great deal about who we are, or who we want to be. They can influence our outlook too.[3] To quote Madge from those dish soap commercials, "You're soaking in it."

And somewhere along the way emotions (particularly emotions like empathy, kindness, and love) got a reputation for weakness. That's something that I simply don't understand. It takes far more strength and courage to risk being hurt through emotional availability than it does to be closed off--particularly when you've been hurt before. 

So I find it interesting when people claim that my characters aren't strong because they do get damaged. To me, that's only realistic. Strength is getting hurt, getting back up again, limping forward, and reeling with the blows. Strength isn't about not getting hit in the first place. That's something else. That's luck, maybe even privilege. Strength is feeling and hurting and crying and continuing to do what needs doing anyway. Ask any mechanical engineer or architect about strength, and they'll tell you that any substance that can't react to outside forces is brittle and more likely to fail. Bridges and buildings in earthquake zones are designed to bend with the flow of forces around them. The tallest buildings are designed to give way to the wind. Those are the buildings that remain standing. Those are the ones that last.

And you know what? When I think upon Hemingway... as much of a reputation as he had for manliness and strength--he shattered in the end.

----------------------------------------

[1] I may even finish a game for the first time ever. When we have a new game in the house, Dane plays it to death. By the time I get to it, everyone has moved on to five or six other big games. I've read that in a mixed gender household with one computer, the male gets the computer access. I hadn't considered it before. However, it's very true. Luckily, we're not a one computer household. Nonetheless, if I start to play a game I almost instantly feel I'm intruding on Dane's space--even if he's playing a game on his computer, and I'm on the XBox. We both react like that, only he's merrily telling me it's okay for me to play, and I'm apologising for being on the system so long. (Note to self: get out of that habit.) He works in the gaming industry. I don't--not any longer. So, I feel it's more important for him (like reading is for me.) In addition, I feel bad for taking so much time away from writing. Dane wants me to play because he knows I enjoy it, and it's one of the things we have in common.

[2] The worst of this lot was Hollow Man in which Elizabeth Shue and one of the male characters slowly climb up a ladder and yet somehow avoid being hit by an explosion.

[3] Before anyone goes off on a tear about violence in entertainment please take into consideration that while the effects of sustained exposure to violence are inarguably real, they are also short term in most people. This is why I believe awareness is key, not denial or absolute avoidance.

245 Comments

1:

Nice one! Reminds me of that joke where two women talk about movies:
"Have you been to the movies lately?"
"No. See, I have this rule: I only watch movies that a) have at least two female characters, b) where the two females talk to each other and c) not about men."
"Oh?"
"Last movie I saw was Aliens - the women talk about the monster."

2:

What really pissed me off in American movies is/was the hero trope where he shoots his way though a load of the henchmen of the Totally Unequivocally Evil Boss (TUEB) and then when he has the latter cornered fails to follow through. UNTIL, the TUEB treacherously goes for his gun as our hero lows his own weapon. Because, as the TUEB taunted him, "It would make you just as bad as me to kill me like this".

This is after our hero has just killed any number of non-evil guys who were just doing their job, often with a smart quip as he does so.

The messages being sent are seriously bad eg mercy equals weakness and stupidity, strength is the same as casual viciousness, and the TUEB is far more deserving of life than his employees. Not to mention the idea that violence against the perpetrators of evil is as bad as that against innocent people ie pacifism is a crock of shit.

3:

Ha! I love Aliens. It's the only feminist SF property that I know of, frankly. (Which is why I hated Alien 3 so much. It ruined the only popular deeply feminist SF film series I knew.) Alien and Aliens were ground-breakers on all sorts of levels. The fact that Aliens came out in 1986 and we haven't seen a hell of a lot since is just pathetic.

4:

Even RL follows that pattern: Saddam Hussein was captured alive and got a fair trial, Osama bin Laden had a weapon and needed to be shot in self defense.

5:

Not to mention the idea that violence against the perpetrators of evil is as bad as that against innocent people ie pacifism is a crock of shit.

Pacifism is not a 'crock of shit.' It's every bit a legitimate response to violence as any other response. In fact, an entire religion has been based upon it. Whether or not its followers actually walk the talk is a whole other subject I've no need to get into. Nonetheless, pacifism has established validity regardless of whether or not you agree with it.

6:

One of the things I liked about the Indiana Jones movies was that Indy was vulnerable. He did, in fact, get the crap kicked out of him on a regular basis. He lost fights, he had to surrender in the face of overwhelming firepower... you knew he'd win in the end, but you never knew if he'd come out on top in any given situation. And he's still one of the strongest action heroes in cinematic history.

7:

Invulnerable characters are dull.

Characters that take the licking, have some self doubts but keep on coming--that's the character you want.

Example: Truman in the Truman Show.

"Is that the best you can do? You're going to have to kill me!"

8:

I think that's kind of Dirk's point. That pacifism has validity. Dirk seems to be critical of the fact that movies heavily imply otherwise.

9:

#3 - Absol-fvcking-lutely!! I don't know how many levels Alien Cubed (look, the 3 is superscripted) FAILs on, because it manages so many FAIL modes that I've never made it past 0:40:00 play time. It's very rare that I actually can't watch a film right through once.

10:

Exactly.

11:

Since many people in my family are in variations of the emergency response business, I'd say that there may be a genetic component to that shutting down of emotions in an emergency. Note that recovering the emotions afterwards is much more difficult. This actually makes a good character trait, something that can be quite useful at one point and quite deleterious not long thereafter.

The opposite (going to pieces emotionally during an emergency, but recovering rapidly thereafter) is also common.

Are either of these good, or are they bad? I'd say that it depends entirely on the situation. People who go to pieces during emergencies can be enormous liabilities during real emergencies (trust me, I know). They demand emotional responses from people who are trying to channel that emotional energy into problem solving. However, most of life isn't an emergency, and these people can do far better than the women of steel when things are calm and normal social relations reign. Being strong outside emergencies is another type of strength, isn't it?

The problem, if there is any, is that stories with lots of flashy conflict are perceived to sell better, and that tends to favor those who clamp down and carry on. As I say, perceive, because romances (among others) can accommodate both types.

I don't have an answer, but perhaps a good balance is to have enough different settings that people have to pass through environments where they are inherently weak is the best? After all, for a man of action, a long, formal tea with the cute chick and all her fluttery friends can be as terrifying as battling a dragon would be for said chick (feel free to flip the genders at will in this, I'm stereotyping). Or if you don't like that, think of Indiana Jones in a faculty cocktail party, with a bevy of adoring grad students (of all genders) following him around.

12:

So, you are saying these "emotions" and "sensitivity" can be useful? Hmmm...
I've always blindly rushed into traps and gotten depressed because I didn't understand myself or recognize my limitations. Maybe you're right.

Also, is the post title related to the movie?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unbreakable_(film)

13:

Sentence the last - Didn't Spielberg do a variation on that in one film (I think Temple of Doom), where Indy concluded a lecture, then escaped his undergrads by climbing out his office window?

14:

Excellent post! Only today whilst watching the new spiderman film with friends I commented on how boring superhero films are. Not that individualally they aren't fun but they're all the same, a lone man's journey versus another lone man's journey (the latter being "evil") with a few women along the way to play the role of love Internet, damsel and maybe female version of a tough guy who will invariably become one or both of the former two.

15:

Stina wrote:

It's every bit a legitimate response to violence as any other response. In fact, an entire religion has been based upon it.

Some religions based on it are less based on it than people assume.

The Quaker story of "Thou art standing where my shotgun is pointed" may be an urban legend, for example, but I don't know any country Quakers who weren't armed. And one side of my family are country Quakers. Gentle and non-aggressively-confrontational yes, pushover, no.

Actual total pacifist sects have a short half-life. The first nutcase or barbarian who shows up, and they're all dead.

16:

I recall it as Raiders of the Lost Ark but you could be right. It's been a while since I've seen either one.

Another example is Pratchett's Sam Vimes, who goes from a drunk to a hero (no personal life outside being a copper) to married, and onward then through a political awakening and then fatherhood. During that growth, he hasn't become a more badass fighter, but his emotional growth has increasingly driven the stories.

17:

Off topic, sorry, but why is your books not available in kindle version?

18:

I can't remember for sure either; the point was that we already had Indy dealing with the "real World discomfort" scenario as well as the "high adventure" ones.

19:

I don't think any of the Abrahamic religions could be called founded on pacifism. While parts of the sermon on the mount can be interpreted as mandating pacifism, Christianity as a whole (and historically the RC church in particular) is probably the most murderous religion on this planet.

20:

This is pretty much of an on-going argument, but I agree with you.

21:

I think that's kind of Dirk's point. That pacifism has validity. Dirk seems to be critical of the fact that movies heavily imply otherwise.

Ha! Okay. Now that I re-read the comment (again) I see you are correct. Sorry about that, Dirk.

At the same time that's actually pretty damned brilliant as it illustrates how expectations can color a situation almost perfectly.

22:

They call that the Bechdel test on tumblr. FWIW the
recent Judge Dredd movie starring Karl Urban passes it (It bears no relation to the horrid 90s Stallone one but it apparently suffered by association with it.)

... I'll shut up about Dredd now :)

23:

I think part of the problem with the action hero becoming, well Superman practically, is the studio system. They obviously want their expensive movie to make money (well usually, John Carter seems to be an exception where they didn't make any real effort to advertise it for some reason). If movie X was a success because the hero jumped from a 3rd floor window, then in ours he'll jump from fourth floor window, that will be better. Movie Y had a car chase scene that lasted 10 minutes, wrecked 40 cars and blah, blah, blah so ours will last 11 minutes, wreck 50 cars and... (Sometimes it can still work, that set of road stunts in the second Matrix movie are still spectacular, even if some element of setting it up like that was a pissing contest.) Hero Z got shot 3 times and kept going, so our hero will get 4 times and keep going.

And so heroes become indestructible. And people that like story, plot, character and so on get bored and stay away. But the next year or two's supply of kids get older, flock in and watch anyway. Most young adult males like seeing breasts, so the hero gets to see and touch some if the rating is old enough. I would say most young adults (male and female) don't really know much about building relationships (it may be worse for males, insufficient empirical data - but stereotypes have it as true) so they don't really do much about relationships because it's not the thing for their core audience.

Ask them what they remember - boobs and big bangs comes the answer. So next time we give them more of the same and we'll have another success.

Every now and again someone comes along who tries to buck the trend. Indiana Jones is one such. I would say Stephen Sommers in The Mummy, The Mummy Returns was another - Rick was clearly a hero, but he cried, he showed his love, he kissed the woman he loved and he got cut and the like. He also got explicitly rescued by his wife in second one and although at first look in the first he is rescuing the poor damsel in distress, she helps him several times too.

But then Sommers seemed to forget it all and drift off into the special effects wilderness.

And the studios go back to what they know, what they think of as safe. And they're shocked when The Hurt Locker comes along (although I'd say that largely portrays the type of hero you describe, without the sex, it portrays him as pretty much mad), Best Exotic Marigold Hotel does well - because enough old people go to see it - action movies suddenly flop (Dredd in the US for example), get satirised (Seven Psychopaths anyone?) and just perhaps the pendulum will swing a bit. The latest Bond movie just might be the start of that - he gets injured, takes time out, comes back not fit for service (even though M sends him out), does a stiff upper lip that survives a lot, but not the final twist. I will be optimistic that someone might just have noticed films with a story do better in total market sales.

24:

It's generally called The Bechdel Test, not just on Tumblr. You can read more about it at Wikipedia among other places. One of the more interesting is Film School Rejects talking about films you might expect to pass that fail.

25:

Loads.
Stress
Strain
Deformation under load
Young's modulus
Stiffness as well as duability.

Perhaps, not only engineers & those who would underatnd it would do well to read a classic text-book, which also contains "moral" lessons, about structiural, engineering & perhaps personal integrity ....

"Structures - or why things don't fall down"
By Prof J. E Gordon.
READ IT, damn you!

26:

Interesting! I just paraphrased the original strip from my "Dykes to watch out for" copy, didn't know it got famous! :-)

27:

My books are available on Kindle--in the United States. My books have been published in the U.S., but not anywhere else. Sorry, but there's nothing I can do about that.

28:

I second Greg's recommendation of Structures- or what things don't fall down

29:

Since many people in my family are in variations of the emergency response business, I'd say that there may be a genetic component to that shutting down of emotions in an emergency. Note that recovering the emotions afterwards is much more difficult. This actually makes a good character trait, something that can be quite useful at one point and quite deleterious not long thereafter.

And that's why I like to explore the psychological aspects of character--like PTSD.

The opposite (going to pieces emotionally during an emergency, but recovering rapidly thereafter) is also common.

Speaking from personal experience, it's most common to respond by freezing up and doing nothing.

Are either of these good, or are they bad? I'd say that it depends entirely on the situation.

I would agree with you.

Being strong outside emergencies is another type of strength, isn't it?

Definitely.

The problem, if there is any, is that stories with lots of flashy conflict are perceived to sell better, and that tends to favor those who clamp down and carry on.

There's a distinction, however, between temporarily shutting down emotionally and dealing with a situation, and making jokes while shooting down your enemies--or if you're Arnie, slapping them in the face with their severed arm. I feel this portrayal has been taken to an extreme to the exclusion of most other responses. Variety is important, and we don't have it--not really.

As I say, perceive, because romances (among others) can accommodate both types.

Okay. I'm going to bring something up because this hit one of my buttons. I really hope that you're not bringing up romances because I'm female. That said, romance is the best selling genre of all. Nonetheless, with very few exceptions... I can't stand it.

I don't have an answer, but perhaps a good balance is to have enough different settings that people have to pass through environments where they are inherently weak is the best?

That's a solution, certainly. Largely, I think it's important to demonstrate that there are consequences to certain forms of psychological make-up. And again, I think variety is important.

After all, for a man of action, a long, formal tea with the cute chick and all her fluttery friends can be as terrifying as battling a dragon would be for said chick (feel free to flip the genders at will in this, I'm stereotyping). Or if you don't like that, think of Indiana Jones in a faculty cocktail party, with a bevy of adoring grad students (of all genders) following him around.

30:

So, you are saying these "emotions" and "sensitivity" can be useful? Hmmm...
I've always blindly rushed into traps and gotten depressed because I didn't understand myself or recognize my limitations. Maybe you're right.

I'm unclear what you're implying here. Care to explain?

Also, is the post title related to the movie?

Yes. It is a reference.

31:

I'm from Denmark, so that's probably the answer. I thought my Kindle was linked to the American market, though. They forced me to switch my account from amazon.co.uk to amazon.com when I bought it.

Anyway, your books sounds interesting. I'll read them one day. Amazon can't stop me forever... :-)

33:

"Structures - or why things don't fall down" by Prof J. E Gordon.

Until I checked my bookshelf I thought you meant "Why Buildings Stand Up: The Strength of Architecture" by Mario Salvadori, ISBN 0-393-3067603. The same author has a companion volume titled "Why Buildings Fall Down," the content of which should be obvious.

34:

Gentle and non-aggressively-confrontational yes, pushover, no.

And I admire that quality in people. My husband is a lot like that.

35:

Re: structural engineering terminology

Toughness is another of those terms that aren't always used compatibly with their precise meaning in engineering: of two materials with the same strength and not-too-dissimilar shape of the response curve, it is the more compliant of the two that is tougher. So when Stina says "Strength is getting hurt, ... and reeling with the blows.", I'd definitely call that toughness rather than strength. Not that there's anything wrong with using words expressively instead of precisely, especially when jargon overlaps with commonly used words.

36:

Another example is Pratchett's Sam Vimes, who goes from a drunk to a hero (no personal life outside being a copper) to married, and onward then through a political awakening and then fatherhood. During that growth, he hasn't become a more badass fighter, but his emotional growth has increasingly driven the stories.

Vimes is my favorite character in the Disc World--well, Vimes and Granny Weatherwax. You described his arc perfectly.

37:

I think part of the problem with the action hero becoming, well Superman practically, is the studio system. [snipped for length] Hero Z got shot 3 times and kept going, so our hero will get 4 times and keep going.

Ah, the 'turn the knob to eleven and rip it off' mode of making things better. There are multiple problems with this--among them is the assumption that young white straight male is where all the money is. (Not your assumption, mind. Their assumption.) Statistics show that women spend more money in the theater than men do. And when a straight couple goes to see a film it's the female that decides what will be seen.

And then we have Alien/Aliens which at its base was a feminist series, with feminist themes, and a female main character. I don't know the exact stats, but I"m pretty damned sure they're pretty freaking high.

I would say most young adults (male and female) don't really know much about building relationships (it may be worse for males, insufficient empirical data - but stereotypes have it as true) so they don't really do much about relationships because it's not the thing for their core audience.

I don't know where you're getting 'stories about relationships' out of what I posted.

I would say Stephen Sommers in The Mummy, The Mummy Returns was another - Rick was clearly a hero, but he cried, he showed his love, he kissed the woman he loved and he got cut and the like. He also got explicitly rescued by his wife in second one and although at first look in the first he is rescuing the poor damsel in distress, she helps him several times too.

I actually really liked The Mummy--The Mummy Returns much less so. I really hate it when they throw in the kid and suddenly everything is about the cute kid. But yes, I liked that she rescued him from time to time.

I've not seen The Hurt Locker but it's on my list of films to see. I think the main shock there wasn't that it was an action film. The big damned deal was that it was a successful action film written by a female. Because we all know that women only ever write about relationships. [bangs head on desk]

I totally want to see Seven Psychopaths.

38:

Thanks, El, for explaining The Bechdel Test to folks.

39:

By Prof J. E Gordon.

Ooooh, that looks like fun.

40:

Perhaps one of the things you are missing is that many "action movies" are really fantasy, with the magic made to look realistic. When the hero falls 10 metres and then manages to grab onto something to break his fall it is no different than if he had levitated.

41:

I'm pretty sure you can obtain them in paper form outside the U.S. fairly easily. :) I buy U.K. only books via amazon.uk. [shrug] Everything doesn't have to be electronic, does it?

42:

Perhaps one of the things you are missing is that many "action movies" are really fantasy, with the magic made to look realistic. When the hero falls 10 metres and then manages to grab onto something to break his fall it is no different than if he had levitated.

I don't think I'm missing that point at all--no more than people who complain about how starships make sounds in a vacuum are missing that SF--even hard SF--is a fantasy. There are certain things that make a story more convincing, and therefore, fun. Everyone has different levels where their suspension of disbelief snaps.

43:

I watched a bit of Transporter 2 (Or 3?) and Jason Statham was bouncing around and taking damage just like a videogame character, which is, come to think of it, exactly what these films are competing against nowadays - big budget video games with heroes who do perform all these amazing feats.

BTW the Dredd movie was a lot more realistic in that respect. Dredd gets shot once near the end and it practically puts him out of commission. He needs saving by his sidekick Cassandra Anderson, who is incidentally not a love interest since Judges are celibate.

I guess he does qualify as a modern action hero in the emotionally stunted deparment... :)

44:

If you want a video game character try "Crank".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crank_(film)

45:

I did watch a Japanese martial arts movie years ago where the techniques were "real" ie not flashy crap like Van Damme, and the injuries realistically portrayed. It was one of the most violent and gruesome movies I have ever seen.

46:

Dirk:

Perhaps one of the things you are missing is that many "action movies" are really fantasy, with the magic made to look realistic. When the hero falls 10 metres and then manages to grab onto something to break his fall it is no different than if he had levitated.

Hah. Yes.

I unfortunately can tell you from experience that while some fall distances can be caught, there are significant limits and damage from the experience.

For some years when I lived at the base of some local hills I would regularly hike up a ravine-bottom hiking trail nearby. For years, one section skirting around an erosion scar from the creek below seemed a bit precarious. For years, I joked with myself everytime I walked by "If I should by some chance fall, I could almost catch myself on those roots there, and not fall the full 20 feet down to the creek."

About 3 years in, part of the trail (a solid-looking rock) collapsed as I put my foot on it, dumping me down the side of the ravine right there. The roots I'd often joked with myself were right in front of me as I headed down, I grabbed, I ended up swinging off them about five feet below the trail level (so a fall of 10-11 feet total height) and was able to climb back up in a little while. Damage was sprained shoulder and hand that caught the roots, two sprained knees and one sprained ankle, and somewhat more than a square foot of skin removed by rock as I fell and swung. I was this! close to calling 911 and having the Fire Department come take me down off the trail, and had called my wife and told her to call them if I wasn't home by the time the sun went down (made it with about a minute to spare, limping very slowly and deliberately).

When I got to the emergency room they promptly x-rayed me for broken things, established there were none, made me sit for a couple of hours for the rest (stabbing and gunshot victims ahead of my in priority at that point), and then told me I was the most damaged person they'd ever seen arrive on their own and not in an ambulance and to please call 911 if it happened again. And then debrided all the wonderful rock debris and dirt out of the missing skin wounds. That was fun, let me tell you.

10 meter falls? Yeah, right. Acrobat and proper rope, or properly padded landing airbag, etc, maybe. Skier on a ramp or down a slope with soft snow, etc, ok, I can buy that. Most anything else in the field? ... Pull the other one.

47:

Toughness is absolutely the right word for shock resistance. Women are emotionally tougher than men.


(Please, please, someone shoot* Nassim Taleb's editor for allowing him to print the dreadful neologism "antifragility". It's toughness, damn it! Hardiness if you really must.)

------
* I suppose that these days I have to put in a disclaimer that I don't mean this literally. Consider this it.

48:

General comment on characters and fiction, vs real life.

It is very hard to reflect a lot of "realistic damage" to characters in writing or film that does not ruin their dramatic utility for a little while.

Physically, people who are shot vary in reaction (from "who's bleeding? am I bleeding?" to "OHMYGODI'MGOINGTODIE"). If they need real hospitalization or trauma treatment they aren't going to tell the doctor "Hey, let me up now, I have to catch the bad guy" once they're bandaged up. ER docs won't let them go even if they try to get up, police departments won't let officers go back to work until doctors clear them, most people will not even vaguely think about doing that until the pain goes down, etc.

Psychologically, trauma is often disabling. PTSD leads to panic attacks, sleep disturbance, freezing up, depression, etc. These are not hero things or engaging character things.

When you see heroes "push through these things" they're acting like supermen. Under battlefield conditions immediate fear is often able to temporarily suppress some of the effects, but in other real life people tend to become ineffective.

There are various superhero (vampire, werewolf, mutant, super, wizard, etc) series that beat up main characters a lot and whose characters have some variation on physical fast-heal. Very few of them play the psychological aspects right, and when they do the characters tend to get uninteresting for a while.

I am torn between wanting more realism and characters I enjoy reading. As long as I accept that it's fiction, the interesting usually wins over realistic. Some modern contemporary stuff not meant to involve superheros bugs me though.

49:

As I say, perceive, because romances (among others) can accommodate both types.

Okay. I'm going to bring something up because this hit one of my buttons. I really hope that you're not bringing up romances because I'm female. That said, romance is the best selling genre of all. Nonetheless, with very few exceptions... I can't stand it.

The only button I'm pushing is the one that says that cartoonish violence sells books and/or movies. I suspect a few romance writers might disagree?

I'd put this self-limiting myth in with the idea that you've got to have a good looking blond (often female, often unclothed) on a cover to sell the book. There's no evidence for this, just a lot of prejudice.

50:

This reminds me of when I saw the second Bond film starring Daniel Craig, the one that had him falling through the structure of some sort of building in the opening scenes. After a few minutes of that he turned into a toon in my brain ("You can't hurt a toon!"), and he never turned back. That totally destroyed any sense of emotional involvement I might have felt.

51:

Re re sensitivity can be useful
"I'm unclear what you're implying here. Care to explain?"

Sure. It was an utterance semi in character as it were, as of someone who evaluates everything in terms of utility. If such a person were exposed to the idea that he or she were missing something thereby, that person would amusingly adopt humanness on speculation that it might have productive value. Tangentially through that I mean to question my idea that the moral of every tale is gleaned from the special characteristic that allows the character to prevail. Perhaps tales can be about something other than prevailing and things that are good for it.

52:

Excellent.
Since I agree with the post I don't have much to add. Maybe for pt.2.

I've always been pretty allergic to MachoBS™, so not a fan of Hemingway. Though, that's probably not fair to him, there are plenty of writers that are rather more full of it, though I haven't read them either. As for action movies, well, it's hard to take them too seriously to begin with.

So here's a song by Scottish Punks, Uniforms: The Fear, that kinda sums some things up for me.

53:

One of the other unique things about Indiana Jones is that he not only gets the crap kicked out of him, he usually looses, and yet we love him anyway!

54:

@53
"He usually loses and yet we love him anyway"
It seems stories don't have to be just about how to prevail (except in that endurance is victory) but also can be about what to prevail for, what makes life worth living for its own sake.

55:

Well, the newest Bond film (Skyfall) certainly has Bond as slightly damaged :)

I enjoyed the George Clooney film "The Peacemaker", because it tried to catch some of the post-action stuff; and Michael Mann's "Heat" precisely because of the lack of invulnerability (quite apart from the brilliant gunfight choreography; I'd like to thank Mr A. McNab for putting the action-on-contact drills on the big screen).

The one I've most enjoyed lately hasn't been a film, though - it's been a TV series. Forbrydelsen (The Killing); Anna Lund is most definitely the damaged action hero, but very believable. Note to y'all - you're watching a remake, we get to watch it subtitled, and I've never felt quite as happy hearing about a BAFTA as when they gave "best actress" to someone who wasn't speaking in English...

56:

I don't think the characters I write about are mindless action heroes. But they're in the pause between the two World Wars, and they're maybe only around because they can handle the violence. Been there, done that.

The two world wars put huge numbers of people through the experience of combat and similar trauma. And they also put out some of the "proper" images of how to behave, in propaganda and in war movies.

London Can Take It is an example of the propaganda, and you could hear echoes of it in the reactions to the 7/7 bombings in London; the old people who remembered being "bombed by professionals", rather than the politicians.

And, a decade after the war, the ending of the movie The Dam Busters, when Guy Gibson tells Barnes Wallis he has a few letters to write. Invented scene? Maybe, but it's expressing a truth: officers did write letters to families, and often lied about the details because they were too horrific. (The real Guy Gibson, just like the real Douglas Bader, was also reckoned a bit of a bastard.)

And Richard Todd was one of the paratroopers on D-Day, in 7 Para, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Pine-Coffin. You couldn't get away with that name in a book.

Some of the wartime movies also showed a bit of a different image. In A WalkIn The Sun, released in late 1945, a character does crack up under the strain, and the other characters treat him sympathetically. It was directed by Lewis Milestone, who had earlier directed All Quiet on the Western Front.

There was a change between the wartime productions and those of the 1950s, a shift away from the idea that we're all in it together, and maybe the shift from war movies to flashy action-adventure can be marked by Where Eagles Dare. But I think the standard for the film hero does come from that mass experience, and how it was depicted.

I suspect that there is a slightly different pattern in the American movies—how do you handle She Wore A Yellow Ribbon and where does The Green Berets fit in—but I think the lineage of the Action Hero still hold up.

And that is partly why there are so few women as action heroes in the movies. There were real heroes, and they did get movies made about them (Odette Sansom Hallowes and Violette Szabo come to mind), but they didn't get the more fictional depictions. The films were stories of real people, not stories about people in war.

The Russian Night Witches were real. It still took nearly sixty years before there was a movie about them.


57:

Oh, and I forgot to mention Reservoir Dogs. If anything, that film plays on the results of violence, rather than the event; the "action hero" spends most of the film slowly bleeding out. There are IIRC only a couple of few-seconds-long scenes with gunfire (and one with a knife), and an awful lot of aftermath.

58:

I think I just might be one of those people who doesn't go into blind panic mode.

I've also noticed that I don't seem to react to blood-splattered movies in the politically-expected way. I've seen clips shown as examples of "OMG why do they allow this", and found myself noticing the special effects tricks. Besides the blood flow should be pulsating, not constant pressure.

I'm weird.

59:

"And people that like story, plot, character and so on get bored and stay away. But the next year or two's supply of kids get older, flock in and watch anyway. Most young adult males like seeing breasts, so the hero gets to see and touch some if the rating is old enough. I would say most young adults (male and female) don't really know much about building relationships (it may be worse for males, insufficient empirical data - but stereotypes have it as true) so they don't really do much about relationships because it's not the thing for their core audience."

I hear this sort of sentiment a lot, that the declining quality of films is the fault of today's youth, but I'm not buying it. There was a time when most regular movie-goers were teenagers (in the US, because we're talking Hollywood), but that demographic trend has long since played out and mostly the people making and watching these big dumb action films are white, middle-aged men. Young people don't drive ticket sales, they don't have creative input in films, and blaming it on them is as disingenuous as when a tabloid justifies their shitty product as "serving the public interest".

60:

Stina, I really like the topic of this post, and I especially like your bolded conclusions. I have something similar I call "feeling the feels" - when something sad happens to me, I allow myself to experience that sadness and work through it healthily. Likewise for when I'm happy or angry or scared. It sometimes makes people uncomfortable, though, and they try to invalidate your emotions. Like on Christmas Day, I was told to be "calm" when I finally interrupted a family member's long, slur-punctuated homophobic rant. Calm? Calm went away twenty minutes ago. Calm is no longer here. Calm is beyond the possibility of ever being found.

61:

I'm not saying the young people are responsible - responsibility for the product lies largely with the people with money. The director, script writer, actors and the like carry some too but they're often pushed by the money according to how I understand the process.

And I'm surprised to hear it's the middle aged male in the US. When the two middle-aged women turn up to see the odd action movie that we watch here in the UK, the audience is predominantly under 25.

62:

s-s @ 33
Yes. Gordon spoke of buildings, but also bridges & ships & aircraft & commercial pressure-vessels & sausages & classic failures.
Including engineering failures, where the real collapse was one of management (dis)organisation.
Reading almost the final part of his book, "A chapter of Accidents" really ought to be compulsory for anyone to call temselves educated - it is that good & that fundamental.

Ah, found my copy ...
He was writing about a famous disaster, & it should be obvious which, but it reminds me of another, more recent one - I'll tell you which after the quote:
[Nevil Shute's] account of the events leading up to the accident correspond extraordinary closely in character with my own experience under rather comparable circumstances. One can recognise a certain atmosphere of Gadarene inevitability about the whole procedure. Under the pressure of pride & jealousy & ambition & political rivalry, attention is concentrated on the day-to-day details. The broad judgements, the generalship of engineering, end by being impossible. The whole thing becomes unstoppable & slides to disater before one's eyes. Thus are the purposes of Zeus accomplished. People do not become immune from the classical or theological human weknesses merely because they are operating in a technical situation, & several of these catastrophes have the much of the drama & inevitability of Greek tragedy. It may be that some of out textbooks ought to be written by people like Aeschylus or Sopocles - these people were not humanists.

Rmind any of you of the description & enquiry afterwords & the testimony of R Feynman after the Columbia explosion?

[ Note: by "humanist" Gordon meant a specific type of christian/theological viewpoint ]


Stina @ 37
Ah, the 'turn the knob to eleven and rip it off' mode of making things better.
Been done to great effect by Pterry (who else?) in "Pyramids" - he said so himself, IIRC!

George Herbert @ 46
Yeah
Done that ... more years ago than I care to remember (1966/7 winter?) I was walking on the Derbyshire black peak, when frozen/snowed over & we came to a solid waterfall - I climbed up it - only to lose my grip, coming over the lip & it was about 3-4 metres straight down! VERY fortunately, a lot of snow had drifted into the base of the 'fall, so instead of hitting rocks & ice, I landed in said drift. My companions were really worried, until they heard the vigorous swearing emanating from the drift - after which it was (literally) hysterical for about 3-4 minutes. I'd had a very narrow escape - & we all knew it.

Also @ 48
In the same way, no-one ever speaks or writes (IIRC) of what happens if you do "overcome" normal constraints in an extreme situation. I've mentioned this before: If one is really badly threatened, under some circumstances, sometimes, some people go "Bare-Sark" - o.k. it ususally knocks out the bad guys (literally - if not using an edged weapon, they will certainly be rendered unconscious) but *afterwards* ...
The "down" from the endorphin-high that hits the berserker is not one you want inside you head, let me tell you. Can leave you suprisingly weak & shaky for hours-to-days afterwards.
Don't see that in books or films, do you? Nah.

63:

I believe you may be able to buy Stina's books as ebooks outside the USA if you buy them from webscription.net instead of Amazon.

Webscription, Baen's ebook store, resell books from Night Shade Books (Stina's publisher), and everything in the Webscription store is DRM-free. They take UK credit cards and Paypal; not sure about Danish cards, but I'd be surprised if they didn't. As a publisher outlet, the First Sale doctrine applies -- so they don't need to block overseas sales for the legal reasons that apply to Amazon (who are buying wholesale and re-selling retail). Also: small business (about ten employees) rather than ruthless corporate goliath. (You may take this as a recommendation.)

Once you've paid for the books, you need to download them in Mobi/Palm/Kindle format. Then either email the Mobipocket file to your free Kindle email address, or sync it with your Kindle over USB (for example, by using Calibre).

64:

No one has yet mentioned ROMANCING THE STONE as a great example of subverting action hero tropes? For shame! (Also honourable mention to BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, including the classic "Aren't you even going to kiss her?"/"Nope" exchange in the closing scenes.)

I wonder if the "invincible hero" trope is a subconscious by-product of the cut-throat industry that produces modern blockbusters? Observation and anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that Hollywood is a money-driven shark tank, where the slightest sign of vulnerability is taken as weakness and pounced upon -- I'm thinking here of primarily producer/studio exec level environment. Are these people sub-consciously more eager to greenlight a project that plays to how they see the world: Be invincible or be eaten?

I just wanted to add a couple of thoughts on ALIEN too. I re-watched it recently, and while I still enjoyed it, and appreciate the character arc of Ripley, I realised that I had some problems with the movie and couldn't keep it on the pedestal where I'd once placed it. The two basic issues to me are: All of the characters aside from Ripley are pretty one-dimensional (watchable one-dimensions, but still cardboard-flat); and the Colonial Marines are the dumbest military unit ever assembled. I re-watched THE TERMINATOR recently too, and I would hold it up as a much better movie than ALIENS, and also one with a strong central female character (and I think TERMINATOR 2 does a great job of showing what happens to that strength when it becomes inflexible and obsessive).

65:

Forgot to add, in answer to the "Which Indiana Jones movie does he climb out the window to avoid the hoards of students?" question: THE LAST CRUSADE.

66:

"The Sandbaggers" is a good place to look for breakable heroes.

I particularly remember one episode in which a character who is supposedly the best secret agent in the world takes a car from the local embassy & gets into a firefight. He wins handily enough, but when he returns the car he tells the embassy contact that he will have to get it cleaned because he has just thrown up all over it.

Another episode has an agent apparently survive a bullet in the back and escape only to end up paralysed and die a few hours later.

They aren't immune to going down with toothache or looking the wrong way before crossing the road either.

67:

I should mention that the action bits were fairly incidental to the plot.

68:

@Stina
"'Also, is the post title related to the movie?'
Yes. It is a reference."

In that case Bruce Willis' character is not invulnerable in the sense you are talking about with action heros. Like Superman he is vulnerable through those he cares about(and water, ie kryptonite). The thing that sets the movie apart from any other superhero story is that the hero and villain are a little more detailed and psychologically realistic than Superman and Lex Luthor. And they don't take themselves for granted so much. And the movie emphasizes that the hero may be good because he is strong, rather than strong because he is good, while the villain may be evil because he is weak, rather than weak because he is evil. I think generalizing that causality either way might be wrong, though. Sometimes people are evil because they are strong and good because they are weak, as well as weak because they are good and strong becaues they are evil. In reality there are no guarantees, its all how story comes out and the particular trump card gets played. But then you can't draw a moral from that, other than "sometimes this characteristic can be advantageous if you use it right."

69:

One of the reasons I quite liked Last Action Hero with Arnold Schwarzenegger is that it directly takes on the whole unbreakableness of the action hero in film, and contrasts it with how fragile someone is in real life. (It also really fucks around with the nature of reality too, which is much more introspective than your normal action film.)

Apart from being totally overshadowed by Jurassic Park, it may have been a tad too thoughtful for Arnie's usual audience.

70:

Charlie, Stina's books can indeed be purchased in the UK (and I believe worldwide) from the Baen ebook store at :

http://www.baenebooks.com/s-232-stina-leicht.aspx

71:

For what it's worth, Hemingway did leave behind a great definition of strength (he called it "guts")--grace under pressure. I can go with that.

72:

Sorry, meant to add that in addition to the Baen store, Baen ebooks are now available on the various Amazon Kindle stores worldwide as a result of a recent agreement between the 2. And I believe Baen are negotiating with the Nook and Kobo people to try and get them into those stores.

73:

@37:
And then we have Alien/Aliens which at its base was a feminist series, with feminist themes, and a female main character.
---
I was an adult when those came out, and I don't remember it that way. I specifically remember reviewers denigrating Ripley as "a guy with tits" and a "cardboard character" obviously cast as female for the cheesecake factor. My impression was that if Ripley didn't break down crying or start looking for some man to defend her, her character was so unrealistic it simply Did Not Compute.

Maybe people see it differently at this end of a 30-year telescope, but then, I didn't see any "feminist" about the movie or the character.

74:

Not wanting to derail this into a movie debate, but I always thought that LAST ACTION HERO had a very interesting premise at its core, that was buried under a slew of bad ideas (animated cat character? tasteless fart jokes?). One of the movie mags (Empire, I think) did a piece on it a few months ago, which delved into the script problems, multiple re-writes (still ongoing during shooting) and general hellish production that resulted in the mess of a movie that we got in the end. Rather than it being too thoughtful for the regular "Ahnuld" audience, I think it managed to be thoughtful in places and incredibly dumb in others, and therefore failed to appeal to any one particular audience segment sufficiently and consistently.

75:

@53:
he not only gets the crap kicked out of him, he usually looses, and yet we love him anyway!
---
That's why one of the few TV shows I like is "The Rockford Files" from the 1970s. Garner's character prevailed more by guile than fisticuffs. And it's hard to be a macho poseur when you have to bum money from your Dad to take a girl out on a date...

76:

A possible explanation for heroics and a glimpse of the future:
http://chronicle.com/article/The-Psychopath-Makeover/135160/

77:

I think you may well be right there, that a lot of people still think "tough and action oriented character" = "male" and "compassionate and passive character" = "female". They then think that when you mess with those formulas, clearly you're creating a "man with tits" or "a poof" (apologies for the derogatory usage), rather than a real character who's not a gender-stereotype.

78:

Violence is a very useful tool, when applied appropriately. However, it's such a useful tool, it has the problem of, "when your only solution is a hammer, all your problems look like nails."

Some of my favorite novels are from Dick Francis, who made a habit of setting his characters up in situations where the normal (fictional, anyway) response to a situation would involve hitting or shooting someone, but having them solve the problem some other way. Once I finally caught on to the common thread in his novels, I began calling it "situational judo."

Writing something like that is probably more difficult than it looks...

79:

Filming real explosions in real time would look just like a simple hard cut.

I guess there's a special-effects-creators union in hollywood that forces certain quotas of explosions and car crashes on production firms, so that their members always have enough work.

80:

Intelligence, dialogue and creativity are also useful tools, if they were used at all. I'm convinced the reason so many people use violence is not that it's so useful but because it's the only tool in their shed.

81:

Real explosions are immensely dangerous. A real car bomb, rather than the fluffy Hollywood version, could throw bits of steel up to a mile. Here's a real truck bomb going off:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1toGqbxTfM

82:

Hit the nail on the head there: Real explosions are designed to be deadly (all the energy goes into throwing dangerous sh*t around), movie explosions are designed to look pretty (all the energy goes into making lots of smoke and sparks and flame that looks good in slow motion from 30 different camera angles).

83:

Ok, not strictly an "action film", but how about "Brave"; at worst, the main character is a female who does not need a man to define her.

84:

I thoroughly enjoyed that one! But I think it sails close to the Celtic-warrior-princess trope that touches a nerve with some folks (I think Stina mentioned it in one of her early posts here).

85:

If you want a tough female lead in an action movie, try "Angel of Death" with Zoe Bell.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6fw-FfeSwc

86:

I can't remember either way, but I know other feminists who've enjoyed it too.

87:

Thanks. I'll do it that way, then. Had Calibre installed once, so it should all be easy enough. And I completely agree about the corporate giant stuff. But buying from Amazon with their "buy now with 1-click"-button, is just so dammed convenient. It gives a lazy dude like me little motivation to look elsewhere.

88:

"Leaps from three story buildings,"

FYI - Omar's leap from the 6 story window in "The Wire" is based on a real event.

89:

That looks spectacular, but try Peter May's "The Black House" to understand what both protagonists did wrong (basically hitting each other bone to bone and wrestling rather than trying to punch or kick soft tissue and use throws) (The Lewis trilogy parts 1 and 2 are some of the best fiction I've read recently. Stina, your book that I bought hadn't been delivered before I went on extended Christmas leave).

90:

Celtic warrior princess trope?
*boak*

91:

Well, punching people's heads in a real fight is a quick way to get your knuckles broken. Open hand strikes are preferred.

92:

Translation for non-Scots (sense 1 is the primary meaning of the term).

93:

davetheproc@77

So the only difference between male and female characters should be the description of them, the treatment of them by other characters, and the character trait consequences of that appearance and treatment? Which have to be there or you have a breated male? Can you have a variety of female characters, some of whom are just girlie cause they like to be? Others who are really trying to be like men? Others who don't like being confined by expectations and just want to be themselves? Are those stereotypes? Do they have to be "Stand aside, I'm better at man stuff because it could use a woman's touch." Am I being bad?

94:

I see this is turning into a "females in action movies" and "how to kill people" thread

95:

Assuming that you're specifically asking me these questions and not just airing them to the whole readership, I think that you may have missed the point of my statement, which was solely to highlight that a lot of people have pre-programmed gender stereotypes and can't process characters with traits outside of those narrow margins -- which is why they cannot see "Ripley" as a fully formed female character, just a "man with breasts".

96:

Dave the Proc @ 82
But ... a lot of explosions are not meant to hurt anyone,
There's a huge amount of commercial explosive use - mining, tunneling, excavating. Again, something I learnt form my Father, who knew about making things go bang - when & only when you wanted them to.

Action characters ...
Let's go back - almost a hundred years.
Richard Hannay is thought of as your typical Imperialist-Brit action-man.
Except - he makes mistakes - he is rescued by others, he himself in "his" narration specifies that he his good at some things & useless at others (I remember that he specifically says in "Mr Standfast" that he is useless with a pistol) He always regards himself as part of a team effort, as well.
Very different from what we've been discussing?

97:

'Hollow Man' - awful film (with some good SFX) where the producers confused the word 'invisible' with 'invincible'.

I much prefer films which have a more realistic portrayal of the consequences of violence. Take 'Saving Private Ryan' for example. There was a story early in its release about some veterans finding the opening sequence disturbing because of its realism (indeed, I believe PTSD was mentioned in connection with it).
For me, this sequence served two purposes. Firstly it displayed for those that couldn't imagine it just what those soldiers went through and why they are all considered heroes; but it also showed that violence is not something to be glorified.

All of that said, as Tarantino said in numerous interviews when questioned about the level of violence in his early films, "it's something fun and interesting to do in film". I tend to agree with that, up to a point. When I watched 'The Raid', which has some jaw dropping fights in it, I found myself tutting at the final fight, which seemed to go on forever, the protagonists repeatedly getting up from what should have been fight ending blows.

In relation to one of your earlier posts regarding subsistuting male/female characters, I find it interesting that the character of Ripley in 'Alien' was originally intended to be male. However, had that been the case, 'Aliens' (if it would ever have been filmed without Sigourney Weaver) would have a very different tone and subtext.

98:

Para 1 - You do get "a cloud" from a typical "industrial high explosion"; most of said cloud is made of airborne dust.

The cloud in a black powder deflagration is typically mostly unburnt carbon.

"Flames" do also occur, but if the explosion site is confined, say in a gun tube or a shot bore, you tend to get a short-lived jet of flame from the muzzle (or open end).

"Hollywood flames" are mostly volatile liquid, and triggered by a small charge of industrial HE.

Like you Greg, I have family connections in this area.

99:

So you're not complaiing about presentation but about perception? Since you ware talking about that topic I thought maybe you could give me some insight on it, because I'm trying to understand how characters can be authentically and convincingly female without the risk of becoming some kind of stereotypes. There's got to be a way to do it right. I was trying to be provocative a bit because I wanted to examine this and learn. I thought you might be handy for that purpose, since I interpreted your complaint about interpretation of characters as stereotypes as a complaint about presentation of characters as stereotypes, perhaps foolishly assuming presentation is responsible for interpretation.

Re Alien et al. Ripley is a female character because she is treated as a woman by the other characters, looks like a woman, and likes to take care of children. But that's OK because she can kill monsters and cuss. I think the Alien represents dinosaur behaviors, sometimes surprisingly coming out of people unexpectedly, always rearing their ugly heads, and she's killing them and despised corporation that tolerates them. So the hidden theme is what makes her an acceptable female character? Also because Sigourney Weaver is so great in the role. If you just read a transcription of it all the character might seem a little flatter. No pun intended.

100:

Also worth doing: watch "Mythbusters".

When doing so, bear in mind that the crew are special effects guys. What they tell you about physics may or may not be correct. What they tell you about how they film explosions in movies is almost certainly correct!

Also, try to go for the earlier seasons, before they discovered that what their audience wanted most in the world was explosions and guns, especially big explosions and a redhead in a mini-dress firing a minigun. Ahem. Because those later episodes may be fun but they're less informative ...

101:

Fair and interesting questions in that case, and I have some thoughts (general as well as the specific gender-dynamics in ALIEN). But unfortunately I don't have the time to reply in full -- I will try to reply to you later though.

For those folks who pointed out my limited definition of explosions, I was deliberately trying to be pithy and concise. Perhaps my statement would have been better as: Real life explosions have to *do* something, movie explosions just need to look pretty.

102:

I much prefer films which have a more realistic portrayal of the consequences of violence. Take 'Saving Private Ryan' for example.

A lot of US Christians had trouble with SPR and Gladiator. I kept asking why?

You celebrate the events but don't want your kids to understand them? (SPR)

And you in theory base your life on the teachings of a group of people who lived in these conditions but don't want to know or see about them? (G)

103:

Men and women are different. In general. In specific you may bet both who might act like the other but as a group, they have different tendencies.

This after spending about 1/2 of my adult life reporting to women. At various levels. Much of it as an independent contractor working with multiple small offices at the same time. So on one day I might get direction from 2 women and a man as I'm at 3 different locations.

Anyway, my point is that women are not inferior to men. Just, IN GENERAL, different. Some of it cultural, some of it wired into the brains.

Put a woman in the role of an action hero and I don't want to see Arnold with a bra. I likely will not like Arnold as himself but that's another matter.

And I did like Alien, Aliens. Second was about 1/2 comedy but that was just me. I also liked the Closer for those US TV fans.

And if Charlie thinks I've crossed the line, let me know and I'll go back on the other side and be quiet.

104:

As to reviews of movies and such, I have a hard time figuring out if I'm going to like a movie. So much of the review "industry" in the US is modeled after hip reviewers writing for the Village Voice. Which puts them into a very narrow segment of US society and thought. I really don't care what 3rd order effects the director was trying to achieve by having the 3rd man in a movie insult his boss in scene 5.

For me movies are mostly about entertainment. And no I'm not a fan of movies like Hangover.

105:

Yeah, any article that starts with saying how we're getting more psychopathic is going to have to go a long way to convince me.

That's golden age bullshit that ignores how awful we used to be to each other. That's not saying we're great now, but the level of casual cruelty has significantly declined. If there's a golden age, which I don't really dig as a concept, we're living in it.

106:

I suppose one of the reasons I've done my very amateur writing in the universe of the Spontoon Islands is that there is a lot of action-adventure with female protagonists. Maybe not well-written, and certainly riddled with cliches, but there it is.

And, yes it's one of those furry websites, with a lot of seaplanes.

Boarding-school adventures with cute girls and seaplanes: that's Songmark Academy.

Wild air-races: just how do you get a male deer under canopy of a 'plane?

Crazy mash-ups of old-time comedy: well, what would you think would happen when the "Mission: Impossible" team tangle with a hotel run by the Marx Brothers?

Most of the time, we're just having fun. And subverting a great many of the tropes of adventure fiction.

Q: How do you find the best pilot in the room?

A: You just have to wait. She will tell you soon enough.

I suppose two women running through the take-off checklist for a flying boat does pass the Bechdel Test, but I think it's a bit of a stretch. I wouldn't call it a conversation.

And beware the gratuitous Kipling;
Walk wide of the pun and the rhyme;
For that Wolf is a bear, not a sibling,
And he packs heat that fits with the time.

107:

Most definitely, but this still underscores my point: Indie is unique among action heroes in that his stories are about self discovery dressed up as treasure hunting quests. Very few action movies have subtext, as the hero is out to get the girl/bad guy/money and if there's any subtext at all, it's secondary to the literal quest. Which from a writing POV is boring. You're just mixing and matching plot legos at this point.

108:

I was impressed enough to bookmark for later.

109:

*Big Trouble in Little China* is my favorite subverted action movie, because it turns out Jack Burton is the sidekick but thinks he's the hero (which means the actual hero is a Chinese American, which is damn near radical for a movie made in the 80s).

110:

Although I'm not sure whether it passes the Bechdel test, my favorite subverted action movie is The Gods Must Be Crazy.

111:

Dave the Proc writes:

Hit the nail on the head there: Real explosions are designed to be deadly (all the energy goes into throwing dangerous sh*t around), movie explosions are designed to look pretty (all the energy goes into making lots of smoke and sparks and flame that looks good in slow motion from 30 different camera angles).

Real military explosions have a rather bad problem which is that the fragmentation tends to be irregular and inconsistent. So do improvised explosions.

Was told the story by a military friend of an accident at the US Army new recruits grenade training course. The whole thing has a bunch of little foxholes set up so that if something goes wrong, the number of people in line of sight is minimized. Recruit D'oh goes up, pulls the pin out clumsily and pulled the grenade out of his throwing hand as the pin came loose. The sergeant reaches out to pull him over the wall to the next cubby, out of grenade effects range; kid does the right thing and hops over the wall as fast as sarge grabs for him. Everyone else ducks, though it rolled so that 4-5 people about 25 feet away were slightly exposed. Kaboom, everyone starts dusting off and looking for the damage. Kid and Sarge are fine. 3 of the people 25 feet away were nicked by fragments, none seriously. 120 feet away, technically outside the danger zone, the grenade's fuze hit the range safety officer in the shoulder and he's down and cursing and in need of medical attention.

Then there was the Mengele experiment (useful to know, but horrific enough that nobody would ever perform it...) where an Arab terrorist stole a new hand grenade from the Austrian army and tossed it onto the dance floor at a local disco. Kaboom. Bunch of minor flesh wounds, nobody spent longer than overnight in a hospital as I recall. That model of grenade used a then-hot-new-idea of a whole huge cloud of tiny little (3mm?) ball bearing fragments in a plastic casing, to get more even dispersal and coverage in the fragmentation pattern. Turns out that fragments that small don't effectively wound people. That model of grenade was then quietly retired... Some weapons effects people and I had spent the previous couple of years arguing back and forth on the available data on effectiveness of that technique. The terrorist answered the question for us, fortunately without killing anyone.

I also have some personal experience, I was inside the fireball of a fuel-air detonation once. Not an experience to be repeated, but I didn't need hospitalization.

112:

I thought the overpressure was huge inside the fireball?

113:

Dirk:

I thought the overpressure was huge inside the fireball?

That depends.

(detonation wonk hat on)

There's a detonation wave pressure spike - the von Neumann spike - which is transient and a fraction of the reaction zone thick (theoretically zero, but realistically thin compared to the reaction zone). For the particular (gasoline vapor / air) reaction, a few mm thick at most and very high pressure relative to the rest. It's the supersonic compression ramp into the reaction zone.

Apparently thin enough to not do serious damage, but pressure was probably on the order of a thousand plus PSI for my oops.

Then there's the actual detonation reaction zone, which is at the Chapman-Jouget pressure (Pcj) of the detonation, which is approximately constant in the exothermic reaction zone, then slowly expanding behind it. Though some fuel-air explosions can reach Pcj of 200 PSI or more with concentrated oxygen and stoichiometric fuels, air+most low-detonation-range concentrations of fuels is probably more like 10-20 PSI.

20 PSI is likely to blow out eardrums but not guaranteed; is not likely to collapse lungs or break ribs. I don't have the complete library of pressure / biological effects documentation in front of me (or even Cooper's "Explosives Engineering") at the moment, but from http://www.nuclearweaponarchive.org/Nwfaq/Nfaq5.html#nfaq5.6 40 PSI or above is required to have likely lethal effects, and people have been known to survive much more than that.

In my case, no blown out eardrums, nor collapsed lungs nor broken ribs.

Buildings are much more sensitive, however. 5 PSI will collapse most wood-frame structures. 20 PSI will collapse most concrete structures. After all, 1 PSI is 144 pounds force per square foot; a 10-foot square room with 8 foot tall walls and a 20 PSI contained FAE detonation inside would have about 230,000 lb force PER WALL pushing the building apart.

For nuclear effects, in general, people are killed by the building they are in collapsing on them (not the blast pressure), or the wind / wind-borne debris impacts if they're outside (not the blast pressure). In FAEs, similarly, if you're indoors the likely collapse will get you, if you're outdoors and no debris are scooped up and thrown at you then you might be fine.

114:

They missed a trick with the Alien franchise - in Alien 1 the setting is a long thin spaceship. Alien 2, the surface of a world. Clearly Alien 3 should have had flying aliens, and 4 should crossover into Terminator territory.

I seem to recall writing an essay many years ago about the myths referenced in Aliens - especially the vagina dentata, and for some reason I drew a lot of comparison between Aliens and Catherine Bigelow's work (However I can't recall that part of my argument and couldn't defend it now).

re:Dredd - like most long-running characters from comics, he's been done by so many different writers and artists, reporting to so many different editors, that whatever you want Dredd to represent, you'll find evidence. Personally I think the strongest Dredd stories are the ones where it's set in a dream of America as imagined by a provincial British juvenile in the 1980's, rather than anything more realistic. That's where I think the movies fail - they take the setting too seriously. Sure it's a grim world with awful people fighting even worse ones, but hey, we've got knee-pads, and belly wheels. There's no sign of that fun and spirit of the grotesque in Dredd movies.

115:

That model of grenade used a then-hot-new-idea of a whole huge cloud of tiny little (3mm?) ball bearing fragments in a plastic casing, to get more even dispersal and coverage in the fragmentation pattern. Turns out that fragments that small don't effectively wound people.

You'd think there would have been a few bird hunters who could have told them that.

Dick Cheney could also tell them that.

Small shot ruins your day and ends your modeling career but usually isn't lethal unless extremely close range. Biggest issues are things like loosing your eyesight.

116:

So the modern action hero has evolved into a crass lout who's emotionally dead inside and cares only for the lizard pleasures of sex and vengeance?

Put this one down as yet another consequence of people becoming increasingly isolated and depersonalized in society. When you're unceasingly barraged with the message that you have to man up as an individual and you can't rely on anyone but yourself, that no one is going to give you a hand, that if you fail, it's all on you, what sort of fantasy are people going to find appealing?

Right. The lone warrior, unjustly accused and now out for some payback (and winning, of course, against impossible odds. Unlike reality, where he regularly loses when faced with impossible odds.) And he's been so abused so many times by people he trusted that he no longer gives much of a damn what happens to them.

117:

My favorite unbreakable action hero is Buster Keaton.

118:

That first Rambo movie, the one based on the book, isn't such a dreadful warping of the situation. He's a Vietnam vet, with some of the rather common psychological problems, he gets abused by small-torn law enforcement, and things go downhill from there.

I first saw the movie on British TV, linked to a documentary on Vietnam vets, and that could well have altered my perception. Maybe you need a reminder of the contest to see a good film there, even after some of the Hollywood warping.

The later films? Hollywood totally missed the point.

119:

Hope you enjoy it.

Is it wrong of me to think I'm one up on the cheap Kindle crowd because somebody else decided my stuff was worth the hassle of putting on the web?

120:

antoniatiger @118
"I first saw the movie on British TV, linked to a documentary "
That links to Stina's footnote
"awareness is key, not denial or absolute avoidance"
It seems that for normal people, violent media are less detrimental when tempered with wisdom. Life experience, in which you learn that in reality violence is seldom the most effective behavioral option for any goal (if you are even aware of and honest with yourself about your goals) can be one source of that wisdom. From your reaction to Rambo, airing a violent movie with commentary or a contextualizing documentary is another source of such wisdom. Also the whole old idea of having a "moral"*, a la Aesop, is a great way to put some wisdom into the presentation itself. Do you think mandatory "popular culture" classes in public education would be an effective solution?

*I remember finding some old pornographic novels in a trash can when I was a teenager throwing my paper route. At the time they were (had been)** written there was some kind of law or custom that you could publish porn, but it had to have some kind of moral point to it. Characters would have all these sexual adventures, then at the end they would get a disease or something and the book would conclude with something like "see what happens?" thus making it all OK.

**Common usage is losing the past perfect and replacing it with the simple past tense.

121:

Further to this; there have been a few cases where someone was within 5 feet of an exploding "Mills bomb" (USian "pineapple" AIUI) grenade, and being uninjured once the ringing in their ears stopped. By great $something (choose your own term) they were directly in line with the join in the case, and were only exposed to overpressure rather than the shrapnel.

122:

@118:
He's a Vietnam vet, with some of the rather common psychological problems, he gets abused by small-torn law enforcement,
---
I present: "The Born Losers", from 1967, long before Rambo. There were a number of increasingly-bad sequels as Tom Laughlin basically lost his mind, but for some reason they're much more popular than the original movie.


@116:
The lone warrior, unjustly accused and now out for some payback
---
Or revenge.

I present: "The California Kid" from 1974, which is also a superb example of the situational judo thing I mentioned earlier.

123:

Para 1 - I'd read 3 chapters before deciding to bookmark the site, so I am thanks.

Para 2 - Very definitely, not least because you just post an occasional "you can find some of my stuff here" rather than indulging in illiterate schilling that translates as "please buy something that 50 years ago would have been written in crayon on the backs of cereal boxes". (Tr - You have the grace to point us to free stuff, and sufficient intelligence and writing ability to make the pointers readable. At worst, none of this is bad things and at best it's good things)

124:

Django Unchained. Discuss.
Because I do not even know where to start.

125:

"Real military explosions have a rather bad problem which is that the fragmentation tends to be irregular and inconsistent. So do improvised explosions."

I once met someone at a seminar in Birmingham who was sat in here

http://www.history.co.uk/shows/soldiers-stories/gallery/carouselGallery/0/assetPhotos/03/image/1974-pub-bombing-2.jpg

the Mulberry Bush bombing 1974

he was five feet away from a 20lb gelignite bomb in a duffel bag - he sustained cuts, bruises, and a ruptured left eardrum.

They didn't find all of the man sat two seats away from him.

Movies can never hope to accurately depict the impact of extreme violence/combat , either the immediate aftermath or the long term consequences, simply because they are entertainment

All action movies are comic book stories writ large. Films like the "Dark Night Rises" can pretend to have some intellectual merit, but they ultraviolent childrens stories.

126:

"Django Unchained. Discuss."
I haven't seen it. It's not on cable yet.
Care to discuss "The Quick and the Dead"?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Quick_and_the_Dead_(1995_film)

Revenge movie. Lots of killing. Theoretically vulnerable good guys in some ways. But they couldn't be that vulnarable because they toughed it out and proved the moral of the tale: if you're going to get involved with violence, be good at it.
Female protagonist too.

127:

My taste in action movies is a little more antiquated. Anyone know "Gloria" from 1980? Female protagonist but I don't remember if it passes the Bechdel test.

128:

it was remade in 1999 with Sharon Stone

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloria_%281999_film%29

but I've never seen the original...or even knew it existed

I wonder if "Sucker Punch", "Bitch Slap" or "Barb Wire" pass the Bechdel test...

129:

OGHs 2008 post on the Bechdel test can be found here

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2008/07/bechdels_law.html

130:

Sucker Punch certainly does. There are a lot of named female characters. They often talk to each other. Sometimes they talk about men, but they discuss escape plans, betrayal, their histories a bit and so on.

Sucker Punch is one of the modern movies hauled out as an example of how badly the Bechdel Test fails its avowed purpose by some - although there are others who say it's actually a very good movie and making people who don't normal consider portrayals of women stop and think and so it ought to get more respect for that.

I've never heard of the second and although I've heard of the third, I've never seen it. The main site doesn't list Barb Wire, but says Bitch Slap passes.

Barb Wire actually has quite a few named female characters according to IMDB so there's a chance it passes.

131:

After a bit of thought, I'd agree that Sucker Punch passes, and say that IMO anyone who accuses it of being "sexist fantasy" looked at the 4 leads' costumes and either didn't bother to watch the film, or pay any attention to the dialogue and plot if they did.

I'm less certain about Barb Wire, largely because it's effectively a low tech cyberpunky remake of Casablanca, with a woman in the Rick Blaine role. It probably passes on a pure checklist exercise, but should fail for some individual scenes (the initial stripper scene and the bubblebath one spring to mind).

132:

Of Blood and Honey passes the Bechtel test only because of two short female to female conversations: Kathleen talks to her child Moira briefly, and Mary Kate answers the phone and speaks to Kathleen briefly before passing it off to Liam. Pushing the envelope, it is. Stina should learn proper feminism from the makers of Sucker Punch

I'm not sure The Quick and the Dead passes either, since I believe Sharon Stone's character only talkes to un-named female characters or talks to them about men ("wash up after, hon"). But it definitely depicts characters as being able to die. It's an elimination tournament in which the losers definitely die and get their boots stolen immediately off their corpses. It even directly addresses the issue of invulnerability with the one character, the Native American who believes he cannot be killed by a bullet and has scars to prove it. And the tricks used to seemingly die to further the plot. Yeah, the makers of that movie were very aware of the trend and addressing it, somewhat mockingly while sketching in some great characters in relatively few strokes.

133:

What's not often realised is that there are two kinds of hand grenade; offensive (relies on blast as a primary effect) and defensive (relies on blast and fragmentation). The latter tend to be larger, and have a danger radius larger than you can throw, because the assumption is that the user in in a prepared position, or at least in cover. The former are smaller, because you assume that the thrower is not in a prepared position, or in minimal cover, and you don't want the thrower to join the casualty lists. I suspect that the Austrian incident was one of the latter.

Regarding FAE, they can be quite spectacular; the thermobaric weapons developed in the USSR were used by both sides in the Chechen war, and AIUI were even effective against the crews of unsealed BMPs. Google "RPO-A" if you want scary; "TOS-1" if you want the frankly terrifying.

As for "Aliens", it opens with an obviously-breakable Ripley suffering from her experience (not to mention the discovery that her daughter has grown old and died during her travels), and using the return journey as catharsis - including the "adoption" of Newt (least saccharine child actor of her era), and the risk of everything to rescue her "daughter" - you could even consider the conversations between Ripley and the Queen. So; IMHO it just wouldn't work with a male in the role; contrast this with the female machine-gunner and female pilot roles in the same film.

As for women in action roles, compare films about female SOE operators. "Carve Her Name With Pride" for unbreakable female; "Plenty" for the very very breakable one.

134:

Para 3 - It's so long since I saw the cinematic release that I'm not sure how much of the "Ripley's daughter" coda? was in it and how much is re-instated "director's cut" footage".
Also Vasquez was deliberately made a very tough character; compare and contrast with Private "I'm a dangerous guy; when I'm in a tight corner I come apart so fast people get hit by shrapnel" Hudson!

Para 4 - From old (about 30) memory, the film of CHNWP is a pretty faithful adaption of the book.

135:

I think you comment is fair enough. But I was thinking about the 'terrorists' in Die Hard. They're all male. Well, they're fake terrorists. But even at the time: "I am Baader-Meinhof."

So if you were hear those words, spoken with a germanic acccent and with the press of cold steel at your head behind the ear, I suggest you do what she tells you.

Unless she says to get down on your knees, because then she's going to execute you.

136:

If you haven't seen "The Baader-Meinhof Complex" I suggest you do - the actress who plays Gudrun Ennslin is terrifying

the German GSG-9 counter-terrorist unit were given instructions that later became the title of a book about female paramilitaries and terrorists

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shoot-Women-First-Eileen-MacDonald/dp/0099138719

"Shoot the Women First" :o

137:

‘Shoot the women first. Any female terrorist operative has had to work ten times as hard as her male counterparts to be accepted in their organization. She will be more able, will react quicker, and will generally be more dangerous. Kill her first.’

Garth Ennis put those words on the lips of the main antagonist of his comic series "Preacher", Herr Starr, a GSG 9 instructor at that point. Interesting to find out the original source of the quote.

138:

I agree that anyone who thinks Sucker Punch is sexist fantasy didn't actually watch and think about the film.

But I think perhaps that's much more common than it ought to be. Seven Psychopaths is a much more recent example of this. A number of reviewers, employed reviewers for major news services not random bloggers, have included in their reviews things that make it clear they either didn't watch or didn't get it if they did. Since it beats you over the head several times with its 'clever twist' do I assume they're really stupid or that they bunked out in the middle of the movie? Neither are very flattering to them.

Back, briefly, to Sucker Punch - I don't think the various levels on which it worked were complex to be honest, nor was a lot of the allegory hard to work out. But it was thought provoking nevertheless. But if people don't want to think... you can't make them. If people think the film must bellow its message in your face, Sergeant Major style, then Sucker Punch wouldn't work for them I suspect.

139:

Can't comment on "7 Psychos", not having seen it.

140:

In response to the original post:

This. Absolutely. Especially the engineering analogies.

One of my problems with a good number of SF novels is characters who are supposed to be decent people, but don't show an emotional response to violence. They see someone getting killed, or kill someone themselves, and it's like another day's work; even if they've never been exposed to real violence before. This really rubs me the wrong way.

141:

RE Suckerpunch
Actually did watch it on cable a few months ago. There was so much sound and thunder that maybe the message gets drowned out. Here's my take on it from memory.

There's what any work SAYS or seems to be trying to convey as message, and what it DOES or actually has a lot of. What it actually DOES is more telling of what it IS. Suckerpunch may not be sexist fantasy but in effect it is definitely a glorification of fantasizing, even if the multiple climaxes repeatedly iterate the moral. Women who actually have some real power and try to use it to further the lots of other women without a deeper understanding of the male landscape are defeated. Women who give themselves up for the cause and get help from men are successful. Sort of the brittleness thing in a way.

Also, women's fantasies of empowerment are no different from men's infantile power fantasies.
Empowerment comes from sacrificing fantasy. So while SHOWING how cool fantasy is, the movie SAYS fantasizing is really a loser strategy. Some must dream that others may prevail. The mixed signal made of stark contrasts is a much less effective carrier of message than anything with more human characters.

"The permanent temptation of life is to confuse dreams with reality. The permanent defeat of life comes when dreams are surrendered to reality."
--James Michener, The Drifters

142:

"It seems that for normal people, violent media are less detrimental when tempered with wisdom. "

Maybe. First time I saw Mad Max aka Road Warrior I just wanted to get on my Honda 900 and go for a high speed blast along the London Westway.

143:

Suckerpunch.
Watched it, enjoyed all the action and fireworks, but did not bother to look for any deep messages. It was just a collection of fun fantasy cliches.

144:

Never saw Sucker Punch. However, re fantasy, I think it's important to recognize that it can have a useful role if you keep it in a straight-jacket.

Case in point, science fiction. You could IMO make the point that science fiction itself, as a concept, is fundamentally infantile; simply because it asks, "Hey, what if we [i]could[/i] do this?" when the reality is that we can't and never will. The counterpoint is that SF authors can point out interesting things about how people work, which might be difficult to cover if they limited themselves strictly to the possible.

(Science can also work this way. Remember Einstein's question about what would happen if you could ride a beam of light? Sometimes you have to think about the impossible in order to find the limits of the possible.)

But don't get me wrong, I don't think James Bond has much cultural worth, other than as a negative example.

145:

I unfortunately can tell you from experience that while some fall distances can be caught, there are significant limits and damage from the experience.

THAT. Yes. My nephew fell while climbing the outside of my brother's apartment building. (He was fifteen at the time, I think.) Three floors. Onto cement. I suspect the only reason he is alive is that he did manage to slow the fall by catching himself. He was in the hospital for a week with multiple broken bones and a concussion. He was very lucky to be alive. And while he did get up and walk/crawl to the front door he wasn't dancing around like fred astaire.

146:

Toughness is absolutely the right word for shock resistance. Women are emotionally tougher than men.

Be very careful with statements like that. Women, like men, are people. I've known women who were less emotionally available than any man I knew. Women aren't perfect, nor are they less-than. They are people.

147:

I am torn between wanting more realism and characters I enjoy reading.

I see it as a balancing act, frankly, and one that isn't going to work for everyone.

148:

The only button I'm pushing is the one that says that cartoonish violence sells books and/or movies. I suspect a few romance writers might disagree?

Gotcha. And you're right.

149:

Emotional resilience has a genetic component:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19152387

"These findings suggest that variation in 5HTTLPR is associated with individual differences in emotional resilience, defined as an individual's ability to withstand and bounce back from stress. "

150:

Perhaps tales can be about something other than prevailing and things that are good for it.

Yes, they can. See this: The significance of plot without conflict http://stilleatingoranges.tumblr.com/post/25153960313/the-significance-of-plot-without-conflict

I'll be bringing that one up in the next section.

151:

I hate SF plots with conflict. I far prefer a mystery to be solved.

152:

So here's a song by Scottish Punks, Uniforms: The Fear, that kinda sums some things up for me.

I love that. Great song.

153:

The Russian Night Witches were real. It still took nearly sixty years before there was a movie about them.

OMG that is really cool! I've never heard of them! Thanks so much for that. Really.

154:

I hear this sort of sentiment a lot, that the declining quality of films is the fault of today's youth, but I'm not buying it.

i'm with you.

155:

More to do with monopoly of distribution, and a conservative risk averse Hollywood obsessed with avoiding failure. So they go for "winning formulas", sequels, prequels and mining existing popular culture.

156:

I have something similar I call "feeling the feels" - when something sad happens to me, I allow myself to experience that sadness and work through it healthily. Likewise for when I'm happy or angry or scared. It sometimes makes people uncomfortable, though, and they try to invalidate your emotions.

Good on you. That's hard to do. I've five years of therapy behind me, and I don't always do that so well.

157:

Something you might like to try:
http://lesswrong.com/lw/aa1/link_shutting_down_the_destructive_internal/

Quite a number of us in Zero State are into DIY biohack

158:

I believe you may be able to buy Stina's books as ebooks outside the USA if you buy them from webscription.net instead of Amazon.

Thanks for that, Charlie! I assumed that everyone knew about that. I don't have an eReader so I've no idea how any of that works.

159:

No one has yet mentioned ROMANCING THE STONE as a great example of subverting action hero tropes? For shame! (Also honourable mention to BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA...

First, both films have certain... problems regarding minorities and that should be acknowledged. Nonetheless, my favorite thing about Big Trouble is that Jack Burton is not the hero of the story. He's the comic-relief side-kick. The hero is Wang Chi. People rarely notice it.

160:

"The Sandbaggers" is a good place to look for breakable heroes.

Nice. I'll have to check that out.

161:

dirk @ 151
Well, how do you deal with erm, "Undecidable Propositions" then?
You will have to, you know.
I think the description "stupid" might be appropriate here ... not "ignorant" because I assume you are aware of Gödel?
Sometimes there is NO "right" answer, sometimes there isn't an aswer at all - which is one of the resones many gullible & vulnerable people latch on to relgion (any religion) because ti GIVES them "answers" - better a fals lying answer than none ... needless to say I disagree with said viewpoint!

@ 1576
Ah. self-brainwashing your religious troops for the take-over?
The more I hear of zero state & some of your opinings [ESPECIALLY that victims ask for it(!)] the less & less I like it.
Question to other readers - am I alone in this?

162:

And the movie emphasizes that the hero may be good because he is strong, rather than strong because he is good, while the villain may be evil because he is weak, rather than weak because he is evil. I think generalizing that causality either way might be wrong, though.

And that is specifically why I selected the film as a reference. It works on a lot of levels--not just the obvious one. I like that film a lot.

163:

"dirk @ 151
Well, how do you deal with erm, "Undecidable Propositions" then?"

I say I prefer SF that involves solving problems rather than conflict and you respond with that? You sound like you are taking the wrong drugs...

164:

There are a lot of things I liked about that film and that was one of them.

165:

And thanks for that too. :)

166:

Maybe people see it differently at this end of a 30-year telescope, but then, I didn't see any "feminist" about the movie or the character.

The themes in the first two films are about motherhood. Think about the alien and how it reproduces. Aliens in particular paired off Ripley + Newt vs. Alien Queen + eggs. Do I need to go on?

167:

Writing something like that is probably more difficult than it looks...

Yes. Exactly. I need to read those books. Thanks for bringing them up.

168:

Glad you like it. A couple of their songs would've been appropriate, your post brought that one to mind. They're good guys, I met them last spring when a friend's band was touring with them. That song is sort of unexpected coming from a guy with a voice like a box of rocks and a heavy Perthshire accent.

I got your first novel, and looking forward to it. Unfortunately I'm a slow reader with a couple other books in the queue ahead, so it'll be a couple months. Is that a Wolfhound on the cover? With a Human shadow? No, no spoilers please! It looked like a horse online--glad it's not (not that I have anything against them.) Also Joe Strummer/Clash quotes!

169:

At ApolloCon one year the convention asked in a couple of explosives experts to chat on a panel. That was one of the best convention panels I've ever seen. So much informaiton! I regretted not being gutsy enough to ask them for their business cards. I think this was just before I'd gotten an agent and well... they were military. I wasn't sure about the reaction I'd get. They knew they were talking to writer-hopefuls, but.. still. I spent my first few years being extra-twitchy. My husband thought it was really funny.

170:

@138:
A number of reviewers, employed reviewers for major news services not random bloggers, have included in their reviews things that make it clear they either didn't watch or didn't get it if they did.
---
I noticed that about "Gran Torino." I was wondering if some of the reviews were leaking across from some alternate universe.

A great number of people evidently thought they were going to see a geriatric Dirty Harry cleaning out the 'hood, and were greatly confused when they saw an intensely Catholic movie about faith and redemption...

171:

I really liked Brave for how it didn't use the standard Hero's Journey Format for storytelling. It was about a girl and her relationship with her mother.

172:

I thoroughly enjoyed that one! But I think it sails close to the Celtic-warrior-princess trope that touches a nerve with some folks (I think Stina mentioned it in one of her early posts here).

That was my dear friend Kari Sperring, Dave. Not me. She's amazing. I'm flattered that you should confuse us. :)

173:

Stina, your book that I bought hadn't been delivered before I went on extended Christmas leave.

Has it arrived yet? Now I'm all worried.

174:

Thanks for the translation. I hadn't heard that one before.

175:

I see this is turning into a "females in action movies" and "how to kill people" thread.

Which is just strange to me since neither was the subject of the post.

176:

Assuming that you're specifically asking me these questions and not just airing them to the whole readership, I think that you may have missed the point of my statement, which was solely to highlight that a lot of people have pre-programmed gender stereotypes and can't process characters with traits outside of those narrow margins -- which is why they cannot see "Ripley" as a fully formed female character, just a "man with breasts".

Dave, I'm with you. There are characters I'd deem 'male with breasts' and Ripley isn't one of them. I could list my reasons why but that isn't the topic for discussion. :)

177:

I much prefer films which have a more realistic portrayal of the consequences of violence. Take 'Saving Private Ryan' for example.

Oh, wow. That opening sequence. Exactly. I liked that movie a lot.

All of that said, as Tarantino said in numerous interviews when questioned about the level of violence in his early films, "it's something fun and interesting to do in film".

To be honest, Tarantino doesn't do it for me. I enjoyed one, maybe two of his films. I never could sit through Kill Bill and I didn't like Inglourious Basterds--although, I really wanted to. His love affair with violence is just... creepy and off-putting to me. YMMV.

I find it interesting that the character of Ripley in 'Alien' was originally intended to be male.

I had not heard that. That really is interesting.

178:

That reminds me of something.
(No, not just the disadvantages of being shy. I am no longer that shy, but I used to be.)

Rather that it might be handy to have a gigantic database or network of people who know stuff that authors might want to know. I know a lot of authors have useful friends. Some can employ researchers. Others just have lots of questions for whomever can answer them.

179:

Put this one down as yet another consequence of people becoming increasingly isolated and depersonalized in society. When you're unceasingly barraged with the message that you have to man up as an individual and you can't rely on anyone but yourself, that no one is going to give you a hand, that if you fail, it's all on you, what sort of fantasy are people going to find appealing?

Exactly. It does make me wonder.

180:

Django Unchained. Discuss. Because I do not even know where to start.

I can't because I'm so not going to see it. I am not Tarantino's target audience and you know what? I'm okay with that. [shrug] Other people are. I'm okay with that too.

181:

Anyone know "Gloria" from 1980?

I do! Unfortunately, it was so long ago that I don't remember most of it. I do remember there was a female protagonist, but that's about all I remember.

182:

Sucker Punch is one of the modern movies hauled out as an example of how badly the Bechdel Test fails its avowed purpose by some - although there are others who say it's actually a very good movie and making people who don't normal consider portrayals of women stop and think and so it ought to get more respect for that.

I hate Sucker Punch with a passion.

The reasons why have nothing to do with the fact that it's an exploitation film/straight male fantasy. The reason I hate it is because so many people try so hard to pass it off as a female empowerment film. It's really easy, guys. Let's step back. Let's look at the symbology. What is her super power? It's a magical strip tease. Now. Let's trade out the main character "Babydoll"[1] for a male with the same super power, outfit, and name. Does he look all powerful?

Do I really need to continue?

Barb Wire is also a straight male fantasy. I've never seen Bitch Slap, but I'm guessing by the poster. Again, nothing wrong with them in and of themselves. I have no problem with making mistakes as a writer, either. I just have issues with such things being strongly misrepresented as female empowerment. Because. NO.

Heh. Sorry, guys. Hot Button.
----
[1] Who are we kidding?

183:

I don't like Tarantino either, but I'll make an exception for Pulp Fiction. It was so cleverly done.

184:

Of Blood and Honey passes the Bechtel test only because of two short female to female conversations: Kathleen talks to her child Moira briefly, and Mary Kate answers the phone and speaks to Kathleen briefly before passing it off to Liam.

You are correct. Actually, I'm surprised that it passes at all. There are reasons why I wrote it that way--not the least of which is that I do in fact have an internal misogynist that I struggle with. I admit that it's there, and I continue to work it out. I am a work in progress. I never told you I was perfect. I only told you I'm a feminist.

Pushing the envelope, it is. Stina should learn proper feminism from the makers of Sucker Punch.

Just... Stop.

185:

I've watched "Inglourious Basterds". I don't have an aversion to violence, but that movie has all sorts of problems for me. I can, for instance, ignore some distortions of history: war movies that use American tanks for the Wehrmacht for instance. It doesn't mess up the story. But it jars me more when there's something in the script which could have been corrected by changing a couple of words. As for the AH aspects of the plot, they're pretty blatant, but maybe only if you know the history.

186:

‘Shoot the women first. Any female terrorist operative has had to work ten times as hard as her male counterparts to be accepted in their organization. She will be more able, will react quicker, and will generally be more dangerous. Kill her first.’

I'm familiar with it.

Interesting. How did we get from "male action hero is flawed" to this?

187:

I agree that anyone who thinks Sucker Punch is sexist fantasy didn't actually watch and think about the film.

I did. Twice. I've spent hours thinking it over too. So, I disagree. Profoundly.

188:

One of my problems with a good number of SF novels is characters who are supposed to be decent people, but don't show an emotional response to violence. They see someone getting killed, or kill someone themselves, and it's like another day's work; even if they've never been exposed to real violence before. This really rubs me the wrong way.

It rubs me the wrong way too.

189:

Question to other readers - am I alone in this?

No. You are not.

190:

Glad you like it.

I'll have to look into their other songs, then.

I got your first novel, and looking forward to it. Unfortunately I'm a slow reader with a couple other books in the queue ahead, so it'll be a couple months.

No worries. I'm a slow reader too.

Is that a Wolfhound on the cover? With a Human shadow? No, no spoilers please!

Yes. It is. Although, I was worried people would take it for an Irish Setter and not an Irish Wolfhound. The legs aren't leggy enough, but authors don't get that kind of control over covers. :) Nonetheless, it's a lovely cover, it doesn't suck, it captures the mood, and I like it. It's a little upsetting that it looks like a horse online, but hey... whatever. ;)

Also Joe Strummer/Clash quotes!

Liam is a Clash fan because Charles de Lint is a Clash fan. And Charles de Lint is the main mentor that encouraged me to write the book. (I had two mentors at that stage. Sharon Shinn was the second.) Also? My husband and my agent are Clash fans. And I became a Clash fan while writing the books.

191:

Rather that it might be handy to have a gigantic database or network of people who know stuff that authors might want to know.

yes. THAT. :)

192:

I don't like Tarantino either, but I'll make an exception for Pulp Fiction. It was so cleverly done.

Oh, I do too.

193:

stina @ 189
Thank You
I was starting to worry that it was "just me".

195:

So what worries you Greg - the fact that some of us have given up talking about Transhumanism and are actually starting to do things?

196:
What is her super power? It's a magical strip tease.

It wasn't even that -- that whole thing was a fantasy. The only thing we know she did in reality was to start a fire.

I disliked the movie for a whole bunch of reasons, primarily that it was incoherent. (Now, there have been plenty of man-starring movies that existed for the sole purpose of showing off how good the filmmakers' CGI was, so having one with a woman lead helps even that out, I guess. But that doesn't make it a good movie.)

197:

It wasn't even that -- that whole thing was a fantasy. The only thing we know she did in reality was to start a fire.

No. I'm pretty sure there are a couple of scenes wherein Babydoll dances. I've seen it twice. I did go over this pretty thoroughly. She may not be shown stripping on screen, but the implication is there.

It's a fantasy, all right. It's just not a "straight female who has been sexually abused, physically abused, and otherwise subjugated" fantasy. I'm just guessing here, but stripping for a man would probably be the very last thing she'd fantasize about.

198:

No, very little of the movie actually takes place in the asylum. It turns into fantasy almost immediately.

One of the things I'll give it is related to that: She's never shown dancing: she just starts to dance, and then the camera cuts to everyone being mesmerized, and cuts back after she's done. Either the actress just couldn't dance, or they were explicitly pointing out that the only tool she thought she had was her body, even when it was unrealistic.

I'll admit I could be wrong; I hated the movie when I saw it, and have never seen any need to rewatch it. But it sticks in my memory, very strongly, how it used fantasy-within-fantasy, making nearly everything that happened false. (Thus my surprise when it turns out that the fire was real.)

199:

"I like crime fiction and action movies."

Have you ever seen a 1974 movie called "The Supercops"?

Just look at the original poster:

http://www.moviepostermem.com/The-Super-Cops-Poster/56578

This goes way past impervious.

200:

Stina @159: Agreed regarding the problems, they're not great movies, but I still give them props for subverting action-hero tropes (and they're entertaining, so long as one remembers not to take the stereotypes as representing real people in any way).

I was thinking further about the "invicible action hero", and in particular the aspect of being able to shrug off any injury and carry on. It occurred to me that part of the problem may be that many of us don't truly realise that we're watching fantasy when this happens. The majority of audiences in Western Europe and the US (and perhaps most developed nations) are unlikely to have any real experience of gunshot injuries, or the aftermath of being punched hard in the face, or hit round the head with something heavy and solid. By "real experience" I mean either having it happen to us (and even then, we have to take account of the tendancy to water down the memory of pain), or watching it happen in real time to the person standing next to us -- even dealing with the aftermath of violence is not the same as actually seeing it happen to another living breathing person. Also, we have less experience of the effects of violence on the perpetrator, as well as the victim -- most of us are (thankfully) never going to know what it feels like to kill another human being, or beat one to a bloody pulp. We can know intellectually what the the effects of violence on victim and perpetrator are, but it takes constant conscious effort to hold that at the front of your mind all the time -- especially when indulging in the escapist world of the movies.

I dont think that this is the only reason for this type of hero (and I'm not saying that the audience is the reason these characters exist), but I think it helps to explain why they are tolerated by the majority in modern movie audiences.

201:

Er, I thought the theme in "Alien" and "Aliens" (didn't bother with subsequent series exploitation films) was male rape? Which was pretty much a taboo topic back in the 80's ...

202:

There are some legitimate reasons for failing the Bechdel Test.

I will note, in particular, that any work of fiction told in the first person by a male narrator automatically fails by default insofar as a male person is present in every scene -- unless the author deliberately tries to fly through the eye of a needle. (For example: a contrived situation in which $VIEWPOINT_PROTAG is watching a CCTV camera pointed at ...)

203:

Wow, I missed a lot spending all day driving back to work!

Stina, thanks for the concern about "Of Blood and Honey"; it was here, as expected, when I got back. I only mentioned it up-thread as a "this is why I've not read it". It's now next up after I finish "Moon Over Soho".

I was never claiming that "Sucker Punch" is some master(mistress?)piece of feminist cinema. What I was saying is that there's more going on than just exploitative fantasy (and anyone who misses the subtexts didn't watch the film). Similarly, I'm accusing Barb Wire of being exploitative despite the fact that you could drop a man into Pamela Anderson's role (if you want to do that, Casablanca's a better film).
The whole point is that the Bechtel Test does not seem to me to be "fit for purpose".

204:

The Bechdel test is not a final objective test: it's a short rule of thumb. As with all such, you can find exceptions, but that does not mean it's not fit for purpose, it just means that not everything fits within its simple rubric.

205:

I think ALIEN uses body invasion (whether rape or otherwise) as part of the horror component to the movie, but I don't think that it really explores the characters' reactions to that particular aspect of the alien life-cycle enough to call it a fully-developed them in the movie. (In ALIENS, I would say that the underlying themes are much more about corporate greed and corruption, with a side order of don't trust authority figures).

206:

Sucker Punch - Zack Snyder previously made '300' and 'Watchmen' so he is equal opportunity when it comes to semi-naked people in fetishistic costumes engaging in slo-mo hyper-violence. It just happens to be the case that the protagonists of Sucker Punch are all female.

And it has at least two levels of fantasy nested inside 'reality'. There's the asylum which may be 'real', nested inside which is the burlesque/brothel fantasy in which the same actors all play different characters related to their 'real' counterparts and inside that are the segments of different genre fantasy adventure (sword and sorcery, steampunk) that occur when Babydoll dances.

It reminded me of Tarsem Singh's 'The Fall', another film in which diverse fantasies are nested inside a 'reality' (a young girl in hospital imagines the strange adventures of characters based on the people around her) and which is gloriously pretty (filmed over several years on spectacular locations around the world) and which also appears to make very little sense outside of the private symbolism in the director's mind.

207:

I was amused to note today while reading my daily webcomics that the highly immature, nsfw Raven's Dojo passes the Bechdel test easily. So does Blade bunny, which is about a female ninja traipsing around wearing bunny ears.

The test is a little better fit for Zebra Girl, which if I'm not mistaken is going in a very interesting direction retelling a very fundamental mythological character's story from her point of view probably for the first time.

Freefall also passes, as does virus comix unsuprisingly as Winston Rowntree self identifies as a feminist.

With longer narratives it may be interesting to consider some kind of inverse test where female characters never ever talk about men at all.

208:

Balls, always use preview not submit. :(

[[ I've done the obvious fixes to your html. Any further link failures are your problem ]]

209:

Praise the mods! I'm too used to the auto html formatting extension I used to have on firefox, my bad

210:

Re Django Unchained

If it annoys Drudge and Spike Lee it has to be worth seeing.

211:

Just had a look at it - formulaic revenge fantasy with distracting music. "Deathwish" for 2013

212:

201:

"Er, I thought the theme in "Alien" and "Aliens" (didn't bother with subsequent series exploitation films) was male rape? "

For me the theme was total idiocy. Spacemen behaving like teen age idiots. Getting close to an opening "egg"? Bending over it? And so on.

In my brains this smothered out any other thme that the director might have put in there or that other viewers have honestly perceived.

213:

"Spacemen behaving like teen age idiots."

I'll not try to change your mind about ALIEN, that would be a fool's errand, but I will point out that the setup of the movie is very clear that these guys are little more than truckers in space; and also Kane's character is set up as the only one who is actually enthusiastic about exploring the signal and wreck they discover (perhaps to the point of incaution and naïveté). The characters in ALIEN do make lots of stupid decisions, but always within the parameters of their established roles and personalities.

214:

That excuse won't work with Prometheus.
Why is the crew and scientific elite of a trillion dollar mission all retards?

215:

Oh I agree. Prometheus is a gorgeous looking car crash of a movie. I've tried to blog a couple of times about what's so wrong with it, but there's just too much!

216:

I like the bit where the woman goes to medlab, gets a DIY abortion, staples herself together and leaves some monstrous thing thrashing around behind the door. Does she actually mention any of this to the crew? No.

217:

There is so much stupid going on in the movie: stupid characters, stupid story choices, stupid confused concepts, stupid direction. It's like some sort of critical mass of stupid.

218:

My theory to fix the prometheus script is that cold sleep causes brain damage. This explains every single retarded decision every character takes (David is just following orders)

This How It Should Have ended installment hits most of the duh moments

219:

"Unbreakablle" hmmm?
Θαλασσα! Θαλασσα!

[ Hint: Ξεοφον ]

220:

I like it!

Also check out the Prometheus Honest Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBaKqOMGPWc

221:

I think you've misspelt your hint - not that that'll make much difference.

222:

Bellighman
"Ξεοφον"
Xi / eta / omicron / phi / omicron / nu = Xenophon.
I think?

223:

You're missing a nu.

(Also the final 'o' should be an omega, not an omicron, but I'll grant that most English speakers pronounce it as a short vowel rather than a long one.)

224:

AH - yes how I missed the first Nu is the usual typo I expect.
Um.

225:

Prometheus is bad and the makers should feel bad. I'm not looking forward to the sequel and perhaps if we all ignore it it'll go away? I wish we were in the alternative universe where William Gibson (and perhaps later Jack Womack) wrote Alien movies now and then.

226:
No. I'm pretty sure there are a couple of scenes wherein Babydoll dances. I've seen it twice. I did go over this pretty thoroughly. She may not be shown stripping on screen, but the implication is there.

I've only seen it the once so I could be misremembering (congrats for having the fortitude to sit through it twice!) - but aren't those scenes in the "fantasy" asylum that we enter almost as soon as we get into the "real" asylum (which is shown not to be real by the final jump out to the post lobotomy Babydoll in the "real" asylum) - but before we have the meta-level adventures to obtain the various metaphoric escape tools?

There's also the "The protagonist is actually Sweet Pea" theory http://www.tor.com/blogs/2011/03/sucker-punch-part-1-the-story-that-no-one-is-talking-about (I don't buy it myself - I just think it's a side effect of the shoddy writing/editing).

Also, while I can't stand to watch it again to check this, a woman I know who saw it said there was *very* little "male gaze" in the picture. Lots of sexy women - but lack of the camera lingering over curves, etc. I find it hard to watch films with that sort of analytic eye so I can believe I missed that on a first viewing.

I personally didn't like the film much - for a whole stack of reasons. If you've not read it already pick up a copy of "Woman on the Edge of Time" by Marge Piercy. Same themes but done - y'know - very well ;-)

It's a fantasy, all right. It's just not a "straight female who has been sexually abused, physically abused, and otherwise subjugated" fantasy. I'm just guessing here, but stripping for a man would probably be the very last thing she'd fantasize about.

There's also figuring out whether the various alt-worlds in the film are "fantasy" as in "exercise in imagination for personal entertainment/escape" or as in "unreal environment created by somebody with a serious problem" or "alternate 'real' dreamtime type reality" or something else.

From the way it was presented in the film I don't think the following was in the head of the folk making the film.... that said...

I worked as a volunteer councillor for couple of years in my twenties. Fortunately for my piece of mind I didn't have to deal with much child abuse - but from my few experiences, and discussing it with folk who spent more time with abused kids, a "fantasy" like the stripping is not an entirely unusual reaction - in either sex - to long term abuse.

If it's long-term, and there's no possibility of "real" escape, then one coping mechanism the abused have is putting themselves in "control". That can take the form of a fantasy world where they actually control the situation, or a reinterpretation of abusive events so they are the ones who set things in motion. Sexual behaviour/thoughts in inappropriate contexts is a pretty common symptom during/after abuse - in boys and girls.

I recall a fellow volunteer quietly vomiting in the break room after coming back from the cop shop where he had a 10 year old make repeated sexual advances in an attempt to convince him that she could keep her father under control... coz, y'know, despite the fact he was raping her once or twice a week she could manage him with a handjob (remembering that "horror is about psychology" thread...)

Bringing it back to the topic of the thread... what's strength. Is that ten year old strong because they found a way to cope with a truly dreadful reality - or unbelievably damaged. Or both.

227:

If we're talking about multiple levels of reality, and about perceptions, how about eXistenZ?

228:

One of my favourite movies, and greatly underrated.
Another is Thirteenth Floor

229:

I'd not been mentioning it because I thought we were talking about whether or not Sucker Punch was a sexist fantasy that passes the Bechdel Test rather than about multiple layers of reality in films, but for my money eXistenZ is better done (and not just because it's impossible for even a film critic to miss the onion-shelled realities).

230:

These muliple layer settings, like eXistenZ (deserves a TV series), intrisnsically lend themselves to characters who can be kind of detached, and even provide a way for them to be invulnerable.

Whereas movies stuck in one setting (hate to be harping on the Quick and the Dead, but it's a good example here) can give a sense of the characters being trapped in one place and unable to get away. This is illustrated in Q&D in the part where The Lady is really having doubts about everything that is going on, where she goes out to the edge of town and almost leaves. There's no escape, there's just this one world, despite it disturbing and scaring you, you have to face it and deal with it. The toughtness comes from within.

Whereas the characters in eXistenZ only have to do sort of doubletakes when they see new layers added to what they already thought was just a game. It all just serves to toughen and innure them. The toughness is put in from outside.

231:

To some extent, eXistenZ is feeding off the violent video games fears of the time, but David Cronenberg is also a director who uses his wits rather than throwing money at a problem. He's made films I don't like, but they don't come across as dumb or bad.

232:

I can see what you're getting at.

I don't think it's always a clear-cut distinction. Do we ever see the real world eXistenZ is happening in? I can't tell. But does it matter? Think future shock: a world that keeps changing as you live in it. It's a different sort of test, but the characters question their assumptions. And I think the toughness the characters develop has to come from within. Its cause is different, and its structure may be different, but somewhere, maybe still behind the curtain, the real character is there.

Maybe I should compare eXistenZ to The Matrix. Yes, it is possible to wonder why we assume the mundane reality is real, but do we ever know that the world Neo starts in is real or unreal? We know he experiences an unreal version of that world, with all the stunts and special effects and bullet-time, but is it the world he started in? It would make about as much sense if he's goofing off at his desk, starting a web-game during a coffee break, and that game starts with escaping the bad guys.

Why does he never try to go back to the people he knew?

233:

I'd be surprised if thr Bechdel test is even relevant. Can you count a conversation with an NPC?

234:

I can happily agree all of that but Cronenberg made films that questioned the nature of perception and reality before the question of videogame violence ever crossed the Daily Wail's neurone!

235:

The Oracle does not fit into either world properly, suggesting at least one extra layer.

236:

I've always kind of felt that THE MATRIX, while cool and gorgeous to look at, doesn't really hold together in any coherent sense at all -- without applying the handwavium get-out-of-jail-free card of "it's all virtual reality" (a newer spin on the old "it was all a dream" excuse). I imagine the process of developing the movies as going something like this: Imagine a really cool visual (the first bullet-time sequence, for example), and then come up with some half-assed story to explain it (let's be honest, does anyone -- including the writer/directors -- really have any idea what's happening by the close of the third movie?).

Back to SUCKER PUNCH briefly: I think that the over-arcing problem with it is that the intent of the movie far outstrips the talent of the creators. It desparately wants to be something that it doesn't quite manage to become, and in failing, then presents a message that is substantially different to that intended. I don't necessarily think that it's sexist, but it also fails to be feminist too, and winds up as a typical male fantasy landscape presented as the ultimate escape for the female psyche (I'm fairly certain that most -- not all, I'll grant -- women *do not* fantasize about dressing in skimpy outfits and firing big fucking guns).

237:

Para 1 - See various comments of mine about Gnosticism over the last 3 or 4 months. I understood what they were doing ok (even if they didn't).

Pars 2, lines 8 and 9 - If anyone wishes to claim that some women do not enjoy running about in skimpy outfits and waving BFGs or BFSwords around could they please have a look on DeviantArt's Cosplay fora first?

238:

But that's my point about THE MATRIX -- I don't think that the film makers themselves understood what they were doing. They borrowed elements from wherever they could in order to justify what was going on the screen, but in the end the purpose of the exercise was to show cool-looking visuals. The ability to disect and endlessly discuss the movies is an accidental by-product.

In response to your para #2, I hope you noticed that I was carefuly to include a caveat to my generalisation, just to indicate that I'm well aware that it was a generalisation and therefore subject to exceptions.

239:

Para 1 - I didn't express myself clearly. I think they understood that they were making an SF film about Gnosticism well enough (witness the character names, and the whole being saved through knowledge bit), but they didn't understand how to make entertaining films very well.

Pata 2 - I was just adding a pointer to a location where there are photos of women indulging in those activities as evidence that some do, so any predudice that exists is on the part of people who do not accept that women do these things voluntarily.

240:

My gut feeling is still that the philosophical out-croppings and underlying themes in the movies are accidental rather than deliberate -- I've seen other essays that take quite varied messages from the trilogy, and make decent compelling cases for them. To me this indicates one of two things: The story is a masterpiece of subtlety and complexity, or it's such an accidental mish-mash of ideas that one can read anything you want into them; maybe I'm just cynical, but I'm inclined to the latter.

(Aargh! I've accidentally appropriated this aging thread into a movie discussion.)

241:

(Aargh! I've accidentally appropriated this aging thread into a movie discussion.)

And what underlying themes can we deduce from this I wonder :p

242:

Is this the movie thread? Well, it's still interesting.

"themes in the movies are accidental rather than deliberate "
"one can read anything you want into them"

Maybe the movie makers were aware that once something gets complicated and vague enough you can read multiple meanings into it. Pop lyrics are sort of like that, too. Most of the slangy monosyllables could be interpreted many ways. "Love" for example is basically a variable, "that person, place or thing I am extolling", that can be solved for as in an equation or riddle.

Between vague movies and cipher lyrics there seems to be an art to creating fertile ground for projection. It seems to be harder to do in print (though not impossible, judging by the Stoker analysis in the Vampire thread). Just the act of putting everything in words AND story may demand a certain amount of clarity that makes reading into verbal fiction more difficult, and thus makes it harder to give such fiction the quality of being creatively readable.

So movies can be intentionally vague pointed. But I think The Matrix does have one clear moral. This world may be an illusion, and if it is then what is important is to deal primarily with the hidden truth, even if the illusion is nicer.
Dangerous stuff.

The unreality of the context in which the violence occurs is intended to detoxify it, saying, "You only act like this under very unreal conditions." Unfortunately, some people are amazingly unable to detect a difference between real and unreal conditions.

In Alien, on the other hand, there is no real interplay of real and unreal. Once you enter the one fictional world you stay in that one and there is never any excuse to behave inhumanly. Violence is engaged in when the apparant reality unequivocally demands it.

I don't get any kind of implication about reality and unreality from Sucker Punch. It has three layers rather than the 2 in The Matrix. One of the unrealities is VERY unreal (the battle scenes) and one is so nearly real you think it IS the real world at first(the version of the asylum with the nasty dances). But it doesn't seem to do anything with any of it. This isn't fertile ground for many deep interpretations, its just kind of inexplicable.

243:

I had a big long rambling response to this typed up, and as interesting as I think the topic is, I feel that I'm hijacking the thread from what Stina originally posted about (plus the active discussion has moved on), and also getting lost in a maze of my own making as regards THE MATRIX and SUCKER PUNCH in particular (I quite enjoyed the former, flaws and all; felt that the latter was a waste of time and energy).

244:

> Thirteenth Floor

You might like the original novel, Daniel Galouye's "Simulacron-3" from 1964.

Galouye's description of what we now call "virtual reality" and what it might be commercially useful for was very good, decent story too. When I re-read it a few years ago, I was hard put to remember it had been written in 1964.

245:

I have discovered that I have the DVD of Cleopatra 2525, that TV series from the turn of the century which features three minimally-dressed young ladies fighting an alien invasion.

It passes the Bechdel test, but the DVD cover sort of hints at how significant that is.

Get your eye-candy here. (Yes, that is Gina Torres, and none of them are dreadfully top-heavy.)

(And for our more perverted readers: Tank Vixens!)

Filming a live-action version would depend on finding a blonde bimbo who can manage to say "socio-political ramifications" with a straight face and a sexy voice.

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This page contains a single entry by Stina Leicht published on January 3, 2013 3:46 PM.

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