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My ThoughtsTV / Film

Why Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ Is So Important

Black Panther

Last night, Twitter went crazy. It could only mean one thing. The release of the first trailer for Marvel’s Black Panther.

Managing My Hype

I have been eagerly awaiting some clips from this movie for a while now. Ever since announcements for the director and various actors began rolling out, the hype grew to enormous levels. It scared me, actually. My thinking was, How could anything live up to this amount of hype? I’ve seen this before with videogames. People get hyped about a new entry in a game series that was highly popular long ago, but when it finally comes, it’s less than perfect and people are let down (just look at Doom). It even happens with brand new IPs that seem promising. That’s the lens through which I saw the excitement for this movie. And it was hard to jump on the bandwagon. After last night, however, it looks as though it may just be what everyone is looking for.

What Does Black Panther Represent?

In only two minutes I could see that the visuals were great, it had exciting scenes, and most importantly, a primarily Black cast. This is what I believe so many people find most exciting about this movie. It’s a chance to see themselves as heroes and compelling villains with the magic and money of Hollywood behind it. It’s part of what made people so excited to see Wonder Woman. It’s sad to say, but it’s 2017, and works like this with the quality, care, and attention to characters who are not white males is rare. But they are also welcome. If you are a white male reading this, please don’t misunderstand; we watch and enjoy movies and books centering characters like you all the time. But the fact that Black people and women get to be the central focus for a change gives us hope. Movies like this represent a hope that we’re turning the page on old ways and actually making progress towards accurate, inclusive stories with the appropriate writers and directors behind the scenes. There are no delusions that this will change overnight, but it’s definitely a start.

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My ThoughtsTV / Film

Why I Loved The New Power Rangers Movie

Power Rangers Review

Last weekend I finally saw the Power Rangers remake, and boy, did it exceed my expectations.

But first, a story…

I remember play fighting with my younger brother (we were around 6 and 7 years old) at a local high school where my older brother attended. We were under the care of his teenage friend and pretending we were the Power Rangers. I was always the Blue Ranger because blue is my favorite color. Anyway, I playfully threw my little brother head-first into a table. It was made of wood, but the corner of it had been broken leaving behind a jagged spike that pointed sideways. He wasn’t seriously injured, but the middle of his forehead did meet the spike right above his brow. It left behind a small scar that’s visible to this day. than a small scar. We slowed down our play fighting for a while, but with each episode of our favorite show that passed, we got right back into the swing of things.

If you’re a millennial in your late 20 / early 30s, it’s likely that you know all about how karate was one of our daily obsessions. How couldn’t it be with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Karate Kid, and more? The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers just took it to a whole new level. It was great because it was diverse, had great bad guys, and a story that kept our young minds engaged. However, it wasn’t without its problems.

The Glaring Problems of Old

To its credit, this series was always very diverse. However, the problem laid in its placement of certain diverse characters. The first season featured a black ranger who was Black, and a yellow ranger who was Asian. Even at my young age, I could see the issue there. Yet, it was something nobody talked about because they enjoyed the show so much. Nor did we have Twitter, where I’m pretty sure it would have been blasted.

Aside from that was the very weak story. Keep in mind that I loved this show as a kid, and I had no expectations of Emmy-worthy material, but a look on the wiki page shows just how juvenile and simple the original story was.

Lastly, the characters weren’t entirely deep to begin with. Once the popularity of the show grew, there were some deeper storylines, but nothing like what I saw with the latest movie.

Power Rangers Takes A Turn for the Better

**Spoilers Ahead**

In nearly all aspects, 2017’s Power Rangers takes it up a few notches. There was a shuffling of characters that got rid of the whole racial / color thing, but there was even more. We got a Black, highly intelligent kid on the Autism spectrum (a rarity), an Asian ranger with a big personality, and a LGBT / Latina ranger. Two thumbs up on the inclusion front! A new crop of kids are watching this and any who identify with these characters will get the message that they matter.

I also enjoyed the twists in the story from the original. Zordon and Rita Repulsa fighting on Earth millions of years ago, the reason for the form of the Zords, Rita being the original Green Ranger, and her whole revamped mission added some cohesiveness that was missing in the past. She used to want to conquer Earth, but in this movie, she goes after a crystal (one of many that are found on all planets) that will help her take control of the universe. It’s a grander scheme and it works.

The characters’ stories were deepened from the get-go this time around. Jason and Kimberly’s stories were done the best, I believe. However, no one in the cast felt left behind. I imagine this is a hard thing to accomplish for an ensemble within a two-hour space, but everything was explained just enough to feel for the characters.

Make no mistake. This is still not an award contender, but all of this combined with the feeling of nostalgia made this one of the more enjoyable watches of the spring. I highly recommend you take a step into your past and witness the future of a beloved franchise.

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BooksTV / Film

Rounded Characters and Big Questions

eclectica-cafe

I was recently interviewed by Ecelctica Cafe, a podcast hosted by Dustin and Chance, where we discussed topics of diversity in media, some politics, and what you can expect from my upcoming book, Pangaea: Unsettled Land. We continued a discussion started after my writing of the LGBT Fiction article and I’m happy to have been a part! Take a listen below and tell me what you think. And subscribe to Eclectica Cafe’s podcasts here!

 

Link to the podcast on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GtJjMVC8ho

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BooksTV / Film

Comic Views

no thumb

Despite the turbulent news this past week, there were some exciting character announcements that made us all sit up. In comics, the mantle of Iron Man will soon be taken over by Riri Williams, a black teenage girl. In movies, we’ve heard that the popular Star Trek character, Sulu, will now be an openly gay role. If you know me, you know I was excited about both pieces of news. But as I dug further, I had to tamper down my hype. There are some things that could prove problematic if these characters are not handled correctly. Even after being brought down to reality, I still believe that these changes are a step in the right direction.

The Swap

It’s been reported that after the current Civil War 2 series ends, Tony Stark is retiring and giving a young protege the reins. My enthusiasm for a character like Riri was tempered after reading how some people responded. Some issues included the possibility of this fifteen-year-old being seen as an adult (Iron Woman) or misgendered and called a man throughout the series because of the title she’s taking over. There’s also concern about the handling of such a character from writer Brian Michael Bendis, and the issue of no black female writers at Marvel to handle a story like this. All of these issues are summed up quite nicely in a post by Son of Baldwin. However, the one topic that I found most interesting was the changing of a character just to appeal to a diverse audience. This is something that is going on in a certain spacey movie universe as well.

In the latest installment, Star Trek: Beyond, it was announced that character Hikaru Sulu was written to be openly gay. Apparently, this was done as a tribute to George Takei, but surprisingly he wasn’t so open to it. In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, he says, “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.” Simon Pegg, the writer for the new movie, is quoted in a TIME article mentioning the trouble about creating a completely new character. He reshaped the existing role to escape tokenism, believing a entirely new person may end up being “primarily defined by their sexuality.” Again, for diversity’s sake, we have the transformation of an established personality, but this begs the question, which way is right?

Old vs. New

The arguments against this method of character change are many and show up almost every time something like this happens. They’ve been put forward when Miles Morales was introduced as Spider-Man and when Michael B. Jordan played the Human Torch / Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four. Many fans feel like it’s a slap in the face because they’ve grown to love everything about a character and suddenly it all changes. There are also those who say that it seems like the writers are pandering to a community for a quick buck, only for the role to change back later. Lastly, there’s the idea that it doesn’t solve any long-term diversity problem the way the an original character would. There are some points on the opposite end, however.

The flipside is that an original character is hard to get excited about. So, it’s easier to just rewrite an existing person with tons of popularity and fill the diversity gap. It’s instant minority gratification (in theory). Again comes the question, which way is the best?

When I think about how I grew up without seeing or reading of  people like me in extraordinary fictional circumstances, I can’t help but side with the rewriting of a character. It’s a big boon to the children coming up today to see that they can be amazing, too. That sense of possibility that gets instilled outweighs any figurative slaps to the face that fans may feel. However, I do think that if more original diverse characters were created and properly pushed to audiences, we’d have less of a need to do this. While I’m pleased to see more diverse stand-ins / rewrites, I think the most energy should be spent on new ideas that solve the problem. We have yet to see how Riri and Sulu are going to be handled, but for now their presence is a good one in my book.

On which side of this argument do you fall? Write a comment below!

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