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Wednesday, December 30, 2020 

More on the disturbing politics and double-standards prevalent in WW 1984

There's still more news outlets now talking about what's made Wonder Woman 1984 into surely the most troubling movie of 2020 (and as of now, into the IMDB's lowest rated entry in their DC adaptation rankings). Forbes went into discussion of how Steve Trevor is reincarnated in takes over the body of a man (Kristoffer Polaha) who's not even named in the credits (he's only credited as "handsome man"), the ditching of morale when it comes to a scenario where a woman exploits a man for sex, and also brings up something annoying about the handling of Cheetah versus a rapist, though it also makes a very questionable statement about Batman:
There’s a second questionable scenario, also involving sexual assault, in which Diana’s friend, soon-to-be-enemy Barbara, almost gets raped while walking home through the park. Thankfully, Diana swoops in to save Barbara, knocking the attempted rapist away like a straw doll.

Later, after Barbara has developed superpowers of her own, she encounters the attempted rapist, again, and he attempts the same thing! This time, Barbara (understandably) beats the absolute snot out of him.

But Barbara’s scene isn’t presented the way Diana’s violence is - the tone is unquestionably menacing, as though Barbara’s actions are meant to be condemned by the viewer. But why? Why is the scene framed as an act of villainy?

Is wanting revenge against a man who tried to rape you (twice!) meant to be a sign of an unpleasant personality? Perhaps the difference stems from Barbara enjoying her act of violence, or at least, appearing to. If so, what does that say about a character like Batman, who would gleefully beat the brain-juice out of a teenager with a gram of weed in his pocket?

More importantly, what does this say about Diana, who doesn’t have any issue wielding her super-strength against lesser mortals? Is violence against violent men justified, or not?

According to Wonder Woman 1984, the answer is yes - but only if you’re the titular hero of the story. Because Diana’s careless acts of destruction never seem to result in civilian casualties, or even death to her enemies, seemingly because she doesn’t intend to - but really, because of sheer luck. In fact, Diana eventually drowns and electrocutes Barbara, simultaneously (but she doesn’t die, for some reason).
A question crossing my mind as I read this was: did WW see to it the rapist would be handed over to police custody in the film? If not, that furthers the alarmingly careless result of the screenplay. Serious issues are something where it isn't so simple to depict in surreal terms, and if the criminal wasn't arrested, that actually makes things worse. As does the notion Cheetah is wrong to punish a violent offender, and why must a woman who's a target or victim of sex offenders be the one to enter the role of a criminal? Doesn't that undermine the message they want to send? In fact, doesn't this plot point clash with any sense of humor the story may build on?

But undercutting the impact of this argument is when the Forbes columnist says Batman would "gleefully" smash up a teenage junkie. Excuse me? There's all sorts of writers out there who've had different takes on the character, so I have no idea where this comes from or if it's recent, assuming such a story was ever written at all, but it would hardly be in character for Bruce Wayne to assault a mere drug addict for possession of cannabis and hashish. Under the best writers who depicted Batman through a serious lens, he was far from characterized as assaulting criminals for genuine self-amusement, which would conflict with his mission to fight crime via dedication. The article also says:
The nastiest element of this story, however, is the fact that Barbara’s “sin” is wishing for a better life for herself; she’s overlooked and underappreciated, and simply wanted to soak in some of Diana’s confidence. But the story warps her character into a monster, suggesting that she just doesn't have the self-restraint to be a superhero, and that wanting to change herself was a problem. This warped sense of morality isn’t limited to Wonder Woman - it’s embedded into the very concept of superheroism.

Superheroes tend to maintain the status quo, however unjust, and villains who desire change tend to be depicted as unhinged radicals
. Even if villains have a sympathetic grievance, or a strong point (Black Panther’s Killmonger, Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Vulture), they are always written to be violent, unhinged psychopaths - because they have to be.

Superheroes, however admirable their character, are rarely agents of change. They tend to be comfortable with the status quo, and look down upon characters who express unhappiness with their lot in life, especially those who dare to do something about it.

Ironically, their responsibility to save people is often depicted as some kind of burden - Diana complains bitterly about this during Wonder Woman 1984. Does she ever consider the lives of paramedics, nurses, or firefighters? At least Diana makes a decent income.
This struck me as rather confusing. Just what do they mean by "change"? Surely change for the better would be a concept lending itself well to the view of do-gooders? And does this approach they speak of actually exist in any superhero comics, or is the magazine just pulling our leg? Yet this did get me to thinking: what if the columnist is implying the villains desiring change are metaphors for right-wingers? If I can guess their thoughts correctly, I doubt they'd consider leftists' visions what the crooks in these Hollywood flicks can represent. For now, I find it offensive to imply a superhero's responsibility to save innocent lives is truly a "burden", even if there are stories where the heroes risk shunning those duties, mainly because under the best scripts, they were depicted snapping back and realizing what a mistake they'd be making otherwise. Think, for example, of the time Peter Parker almost gave up his Spider-Man costume in 1967, before realizing his error, and making an effort to get it back from J. Jonah Jameson's office so he could next go to combat the Kingpin's unleashed crime wave, at the time Wilson Fisk was introduced. Even some DC heroes occasionally had similar plotlines during the Silver Age where they pondered abandoning their role before waking up and smelling the coffee. I won't be shocked if WW84 doesn't even come close to following Stan Lee's superior blueprint, and just makes a lot of slapdash negative comments without learning lessons properly. Forbes' failure to clarify what they mean sends a hint they're not well versed in history of serial fiction.

What really makes these revelations about the film's approach to the subject matter of sexual assault galling is that it conflicts with critical statements Gadot made a few months back in an interview with Vanity Fair following a horrific gang rape that occurred in Eilat:
She talks about the need for education; she tells me about “a horrible thing that happened to a 16-year-old girl that got raped by multiple men in Israel,” in the Red Sea resort city of Eilat in August. “How come there were multiple men in the room, and no one was like, Hey guys, this is wrong, stop, somebody call the police?” she asks. “We have to role-model ourselves to our children and we have to educate them for equality. There is still a long way to go because there’s no true equality yet. If we focus our resources on this type of thing, then real change would happen.”
Maybe she should look at herself in the mirror when she talks about "equality", because she sure hasn't applied it correctly to menfolk. There are males who end up victimized by sexual assault too, and her failure to recognize or question the double-standard the sequel film goes by suggests she lacks a certain education as well. Mainly because she's most unfortunately a liberal herself who won't step out of line with what the most extreme believe.

On the political metaphors the film contains, I also checked this review of the film on The Mary Sue, which is actually negative, but maybe not for the right reasons. What raised my eyebrows in this take on the movie was a potential allusion to anti-Israeli propaganda that may turn up in the Egyptian segments, and the reviewer certainly seems to take that route:
For some reason, they decide to have Pedro Pascal’s Max Lord go to Cairo in order to seize the oil rights from a powerful man, Emir Said Bin Abydos, whose magical wish is to regain his ancestral lands and cast out the heathens. Wait, there’s more. Diana and Steve go to stop him, but not before Lord causes a giant wall to rise through Cairo and cut off the poorest people from their water supply, sparking sectarian violence. Then, there’s a huge, drawn-out, stunningly unexciting road chase scene where Diana and Steve fight a private Egyptian security force that’s defending Lord.

This means that Diana messes up a bunch of Egyptians while vehicles marked with Arabic blaze by and/or explode. She also saves a couple of kids, speaking Arabic to them, who gaze upon her worshipfully before being returned to their mother, who is clothed head to toe in black in contrast to Diana’s skin-baring red, blue, and gold ensemble. Whatever they’re trying to say here is nothing good.

My jaw was dropped for however many head-scratching, mind-boggling minutes this mess took, and it was a lot. To have Gadot, an Israeli actress who is already subject to online trolling, debate, and scrutiny for that fact, beating up a bunch of faceless but clearly Arab men in a film that’s meant to take place two years after Israel invaded Lebanon (where Wonder Woman was banned because of Gadot’s nationality) is just astounding to me. Quite frankly, it shocked me so much that it’s going to be my major takeaway from this film.

The optics of causing an actual wall to arise through a country engaged in conflict in the Middle East, cutting off supplies, SPECIFICALLY WATER, to already disenfranchised people, and only our Israeli action star is here to save the day as a savior to the children? How could hundreds of people be involved in this filmmaking decision and still approve it?

Is this meant to call attention to Israel’s wall-building apartheid state and their cutting off of Palestinian water supplies? If not, what are they doing? If so, what does it mean to also have an Israeli star as the hero here? Is Diana meant to be symbolically healing the divide? If this was the intent, it’s done so sloppily as to be insulting. Just as I felt like I was slowly becoming unhinged watching this last night and yelling at my TV screen, I feel unhinged typing out the circumstances of the Egypt Detour here.

Gadot’s involvement and those staggering optics aside, the sequences are just completely unnecessary, the sort of stereotypical BS depictions of “Arabs” that we saw a lot of in the post-9/11 film world. Adding nothing to the plot while serving to be seriously jarring, it’s just baffling that any of this made it to the final cut. They couldn’t have shifted this to something concerning a Soviet oil baron like every other ’80s film, and avoided any kind of controversy? What was returning director Patty Jenkins, who wrote the script with Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham, possibly thinking?
Reading these disgusting paragraphs, I realized it's possible the screenwriters were concocting a far-left metaphor hostile to Israel and sympathetic to "palestinians", making use of the kind of propaganda a far-left paper like Haaretz perpetuates on their part to further their goals (the way an Arab woman is depicted wearing a niqab is annoying too, though I have no idea if the reviewer thinks the same). Predictably, the reviewer obscures terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians that forced construction of security fences and walls. That Gadot's production outfit may be willing to adapt a book that was banned from mandatory reading in Israeli schools for emphasizing propaganda that could be hurtful to the country (and even to Jewish women) proves she has no issues with what political metaphors take place in this film. Yet the reprehensible reviewer who penned the above has no thanks to Gadot, if she implies that, based on her nationality, Gadot shouldn't have been depicted going to Egypt to deal with the mess Lord makes in his role of the US bigwig who causes more trouble than worth over gasoline greed. Speaking of which, besides being an allusion to security walls and fences in Israel, the wall turning up around Egypt could also be an allusion to the border walls Trump authorized for building at the US-Mexican border, making this one of the worst metaphors for depicting American figures as warmongers. (Oh, by the way, if this is an emir of Arabic background we're talking about, does this mean the filmmakers don't believe the Coptic Egyptians are the rightful heirs to the land by the Nile river?) And how intriguing Lord's even got a "private security team" of locals working for him. Another propaganda tactic, presumably?

The reviewer's wrong about "stereotypical" depictions of Arabs (or, more specifically, Islamists) in a post-911 film world, because since that era, there's been far less coming from Hollywood, and for about a decade afterwards, there were even films and TV shows depicting Islam in a positive light, to say nothing of stories where anybody worried about terrorism is nothing more than a hysterical alarmist. A leading example I know of is an episode on the Simpsons from 2008, which took that propaganda route. And lest we forget, Johns contributed to this social justice pandering while he was writing Green Lantern, and it's unlikely the film speaks negatively of the Religion Of Peace. Not sure why these Mary Sue propagandists want to keep insisting everything's not as they want us to believe it is. But very sad it had to happen, and Hollywood went militantly PC in many ways, all in hopes it'd make the problem evaporate, which it didn't. All they did was cause more damage by refusing to confront serious issues like terrorism and other such violent ideologies. And the reviewer's ignorance makes it all the more atrocious. This review doesn't dwell on the double-standard towards men, although Pajiba, a site employing writers who'd worked for sites like Mary Sue, does tackle the issue, along with a film called Bridgerton, which seems to suffer a similar problem.

Now again on how menfolk come off in the movie, there was even this review posted on Women Write About Comics, which, left-leaning as it is, confirms the screenplay's jaw-dropping depictions of busloads of men as scumbags. But first, here's a strange perception the reviewer has of the 1st movie:
Another grievance with the first film was that it felt directed towards a white and male audience. While Wonder Woman 1984 doesn’t completely rectify that issue, there are more people of colour in the supporting cast for the scenes set in the United States. However, there is a section in Egypt that is being called out by viewers for its “tone deaf” and stereotypical portrayal of MENA culture.
This is honestly laughable, but no shock coming from somebody who obviously wrote this to perpetuate identity politics. Now, here's where, despite the above propaganda, the writer states:
I was also surprised by how many gross male characters were in this film. It’s disturbing the number of times Diana and Barbara have to avoid men hitting on them or trying to touch them without permission. There were times when these were plot-related, but not always. Yes, both the characters are incredibly attractive women, and the reactions to them serve a purpose for character development, but there was too much of it here.
Even if there's supposed character development, that doesn't mean it's carried out successfully in the finished product when it's so heavy handed. What's really disturbing is how massively unbalanced its portrayals of men could be, coming close to ranking right down there with the Captain Marvel movie in terms of male-bashing. Indeed, what are the chances this film will serve as a wakeup call to how Hollywood's gone too far in pushing this anti-male agenda that's becoming common now? With the most hilarious part being that men are usually the ones bankrolling it (Harvey Weinstein's 2002 production of Chicago looks like quite an example). But, the review has its problems, as a reader comment notes:
I’m honestly shocked that this site of all places published a review that glosses over how Diana and Steve victimized the poor schmuck whose body Steve inhabited. It’s super gross, took me out of the movie and made me feel contempt for characters who I really liked after the first movie.
Given that this is another left-wing feminist site, it's probably no surprise they'd obscure what surprisingly did turn out to be a topic of discussion in some circles.

And then, look at this, CBR weighed in, which is amazing, given what a dumpster they are today, and said at the end:
Wonder Woman has long been a feminist icon. She was created by William Moulton Marston for the sake of spreading feminist messages to young readers, and the 2017 movie was widely celebrated for being the first high-quality big-budget female superhero blockbusters. It's a shame, then, that Wonder Woman 1984 completely fails in regards to one of the basic principles of feminism: consent.
But today's "feminism", if not yesterday's, has a double-standard: women must receive all the respect, yet men get none, if at all. And their claim WW was created for spreading feminist messaging is a little exaggerated too, if we take into account how Marston told the publishers how to appeal to a male audience as well, setting a blueprint for various other heroines later, even if superhuman strength wasn't a component. It's not like WW was ever exclusively aimed at a female audience, nor were men demonized wholesale in what saw print up to the turn of the century.

As much as it decidedly deserves the drubbing it's getting from those who've noticed the film talks out of both ends of its mouth, one has to wonder if the backlash from liberal sources is based more on the star's background, and if a non-Jewish actress acquired the role, would things be different? Well that's definitely a strange reason to suddenly bring this double-standard on sexual assault into discussion, and even now that any leftists do, some try to carefully avoid acknowledging far-left feminists have a double-standard, to say nothing of anti-Israel leanings. Hardly altruistic motivations, that's for sure. So far, it does not appear the film's star and producers have answered any questions regarding the dismal portrayal of men in the movie, nor how it portrays Reagan, let alone whether there's tasteless allegories for modern politics and Israel in the script, and no telling if they ever will. But it's probably not surprising the filmmakers failed to duplicate the success of the previous film on an artistic level, when the director is quite the ideologue herself, and Hollywood must believe the best way to capitalize on prior successes is through political correctness. Look where it's getting them now.

Update: and in case I forgot, it looks like, in a noticeable case of rewarding failure, the studio's greenlighted a third installment for WW movies. Assuming they want to avoid causing unnecessary controversies next time, they'll have to work very hard to prove they want to make an artistically better film. But I get the feeling that still won't be the case, nor will they approve of a film where WW combats metaphors for Islamic terrorism, let alone a story built on sci-fi metaphors for the same. Hollywood's been going down the drain these days, and the whole notion you could count on them to tackle challenging issues has long evaporated.

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Have you actually read any of Max Lord's pre-Countdown to Infinite Crisis appearances anyway?

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  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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