Regarding safe spaces and trigger warnings, continued

I cannot reply to all the readings I have done on safe spaces and trigger warnings this week, so I wanted to cite a few before continuing from my earlier post:

I disagree with some points raised by Franke,[1] and with some points in the readings linked in their post (although I recommend reading just about anything by Sara Ahmed). But as with any debate, I appreciate getting to read counter-arguments to points I was raising about why safe spaces and trigger warnings are valuable teaching tools.

Some of Franke’s links include:

Chancey also had an additional question for me:

“How do you think safe spaces/trigger warnings can/should help prep students for [the] ‘real world’?”

My lengthy response is below.


Regarding “The Killing Joke” film spoilers

This story does not need to make Batman and Batgirl a couple, and potentially making Batgirl an object to be defended, as a cliche “fridged” motivation for Batman to get off his bat-butt and go stop the Joker.

I don’t write this as condemnation of a film before seeing it; I do write this to identify potential problems that seem to contradict how the film was marketed.

Spoilers below.


Contrasting Teaching Practices: All Might and Eraserhead in My Hero Academia

It’s apparent that I can write about My Hero Academia for years to come. And one reason is because I’m trying to figure out what kind of a teacher All Might is.

I wrote a bit last week how helpful My Hero Academia has been in showing different teaching approaches, especially in educating students with various personalities and skill sets. That is important with Izuku, who only recently gained a phenomenal superpower but whose body, mind, and emotions are not yet adapted to such abilities. With All Might and Shouta as foils to each other, with different lessons to impart to Izuku, it’s important to me that My Hero Academia continue to emphasize that education really is about learning through multiple teaching strategies rather than only one.

In college, there were semesters where I had a Monday through Thursday class schedule, which meant a lot of Thursdays nights went very late watching anime. When I started graduate school, the last anime I watched was the start of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which was only then being broadcast in Japan–and then I had to stop after the first season because coursework and teaching demanded more time. When I got back to watching anime towards the end of graduate school, I had a shift in with whom I identified in anime. Before, it would have been the students: Edward Elric, Naruto Uzumaki, Maka Albarn. After teaching classes as a graduate assistant and an instructor, now it is the teachers: Izumi Curtis, Kakashi Hatake…not so much Franken Stein because good God no

And the last two episodes I reviewed of My Hero Academia has me looking closely at the contrasts between the educational practices of two teachers.


Steve Rogers is not a Trump voter: On Marvel Comics and the dangers of neo-fascism in America

At a time when My Hero Academia brings such optimism to the superhero narrative, it is disappointing that today brings news that Marvel Comics will have Captain America Steve Rogers be revealed to have been a Hydra spy. Not only does this storyline borrow from the Winter Soldier film adaptation–years too late–only with Cap rather than SHIELD as having always been Hydra, but the article suggests Cap’s work within Hydra will be repeating the xenophobic talking points of Donald Trump.

While my colleague Keith Friedlander points out very well that Marvel actually could be using Rogers as representative of a divided America, with he and fellow Captain America Sam Wilson identifying two approaches to United States identity, I cannot stomach such a portrayal. I cannot accept a story that, rather than immediately and without equivocation condemn Donald Trump and his voters, instead gives them a voice.

Since he announced his presidential run–no, earlier, when he, solely out of the racism and xenophobia that is at his core, dared to doubt the citizenship of the first black president–Donald Trump’s xenophobia and fascism has deserved no voice. And yet this madman, thanks to a feckless cable news media thriving on sound bytes, fake controversy, and reducing politics into a goddamn horse race, already dominates television screens 24/7, as if interviewing an incoherent, ignorant buffoon will yield new understanding of his madness, hatred, and bigotry. And this madman will be the nominee for a Republican Party that has thrived on feeding such prejudice for decades, culminating with bigotry against our fellow human beings on the basis of their gender, not to mention unfettered misogyny. Such violence deserves no respect, and anyone who votes for Trump deserves to be mocked for their vote.

Regardless whatever sound goals Marvel’s team of creators had to make Rogers into a Hydra agent, and I see hardly any that are worthwhile at this time, the words of Donald Trump deserve no platform: his ideas must be knocked down as a part of dangerous movement and should be mocked as unrealistic, unpragmatic, and un-American. To have Steve Rogers speak for Trump, rather than speak against Trump, is a disservice to that character, to that comic’s legacy, and to all of us who do not want to see our nation further collapse into rightwing nonsense.

Shame on Marvel, shame on its Trump-fundraising CEO Ike Perlmutter–and God help this world should any of us vote for a fascist like Trump.

And if My Hero Academia reveals All Might to be a fellow Hydra sleeper agent, I’m snapping my Kindle in two.

I’m probably skipping Beauty and the Beast; I’m going to see Ghostbusters

Today the trailer for Disney’s remake of Beauty and the Beast came out. And men on YouTube (Exhibit A, Exhibit B) continue to say they won’t see the upcoming remake of Ghostbusters. I think I can identify why a Beauty and the Beast remake seems less necessary than a Ghostbusters remake with leading female protagonists, while also addressing when a remake actually is necessary–and why I am going to see Ghostbusters when it comes out in theaters.

I was lucky enough to get to work with my colleague Emily Lauer on a conference session on failed adaptations from page to screen. And I keep talking about adaptations, largely from comics to TV and film, in ongoing reviews from DC Comics TV shows or My Hero Academia.

And I still have not talked about adapting content, not from page to screen, but from, well, screen to screen: remaking older films.

Two upcoming films that are remakes, Beauty and the Beast and Ghostbusters, have had their trailers come out. I’m not at all interested in seeing the former, and I realize far too late I have to see the latter.


Addendum to Civil War review: Introducing Black Panther and Spider-Man


A benefit that this film has over even the first Avengers film is that it does not make a big deal with introductions. Black Panther shows up to attack Barnes; aside from Wilson and Rogers both saying they have no idea who he is, they acknowledge their ignorance and get back to the action–because we the audience already know he is T’Challa, and we already know who Black Panther is.

The benefit to this introduction to Parker is he himself explains to Stark that he fights because he did not save his uncle Ben and because with great power comes great responsibility–and not once does Parker ever say “Uncle Ben” and “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Civil War knows its audience: it is not bothering to catch them up on their comic book know-how. And that is one major change that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made to storytelling. As Mary Ellen Iatropoulos and I were trying to tease out from our earlier roundtable on this film franchise, the narrative structure of the films (although I would say far less in the ABC television series like Agents of SHIELD) has shifted away from having to introduce characters in a direct manner.

The film is confident that viewers already know Spider-Man because of the comics, the films, the multiple animated television series, the breakfast cereal.

But the film is also confident we know who Black Panther is–which is a bolt of confidence in giving that character his much-need acclaim, not only because of the critical success so far of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s recent run, but the overall history of the character.

That detail owes largely because the MCU has changed how narratives work. Rather than introduce T’Challa and Parker in the film, they actually were introduced in the trailers, in the commercials, in the behind-the-scenes featurettes by Marvel Studios and entertainment news interviews. It is a form of storytelling that has altered how major motion pictures in the United States work: instead of giving a proper introduction to a character, the viewers are forced to know who they are almost immediately just by seeing the costume:

“That’s Black Panther, he’s from Wakanda, he’s a badass, he has vibranium–let’s do this!”

“Oh, and that’s Spider-Man Peter Parker, he’s been in enough things you’ve watched, we’re not going to go too much into this–just watch him quip for a few minutes.”

“Daddy Don’t Get Scared!” Gender Problems in Ant-Man

The film presents its two fathers, Scott Lang and Hank Pym, as acting on behalf of their daughters. But their actions are also on behalf of themselves—to the detriment of developing one female character. And the word I repeat too often below is “frustrating.”

Ant-Man (2015, directed by Peyton Reed) is a bizarre film to watch, not only because of its complicated production history, its momentary immersion into the Microverse, or the fact that freaking Ant-Man is getting a film before Black Panther, Runaways, Captain Marvel, or Ms. Marvel. 

No, the film is also bizarre given its approach to representing men and women. 


“This looks bad”: Reading comics on tablets can compromise layout

In which I kinda disagree with Noel Murray, and whine about how Amazon and Marvel format their e-comics. 

Hawkeye #6

Hawkeye #6

At The AV Club, Noel Murray writes about opportunities provided by appreciating the layout of comics when they are removed from the page and to digital e-readers, such as mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. Murray’s experiment centers largely around only Issue #6 (the Christmas issue) of Hawkeye (December 2012 / February 2013), published by Marvel Comics, written by Matt Fraction, illustrated David Aja, colors by Matt Hollingsworth, letters by Chris Eliopoulos. Murray reads the comic on his iPhone to demonstrate how the dimensions of a smartphone screen enhance some parts of the comic, sticking to only a few panels of one page as they appear on his phone—that’s it, that’s the only visual example given. His iPhone has technology called Guided View, which as he reads intuitively crops portions of the original comic book page (which tends to be a little bit less than the usual 8.5 by 11-inch page—more like 7 by 10.5) to just a few panels at the time to take up the full space of his phone’s screen. 

Murray writes:

“I’d never contend that Guided View is superior to reading a print comic. There are aspects of the experience that are annoying, such as how different panel shapes and alignments leads to a lot of flipping the phone 90 degrees to get the best perspective. And a lot of the best comics art doesn’t really work in this format. I’ve already mentioned Adams; but it’s also impossible to do a two-page Jack Kirby splash justice on a phone (or a tablet, for that matter).

“But sometimes changing the frame for a piece of art can change the way we look at it. I’ve sat in film classes and seminars where the professors or moderators pushed students to pay attention to sound design by switching the soundtracks for two movies; or where they’ve cut the volume entirely to get us to notice the visual storytelling. Sometimes when I fast-forward to a favorite scene in a movie I’ve watched a bunch, I spot camera moves that had never really registered before, because I’d been too distracted by the dialogue or performances.”

I don’t write the following to disagree with Murray’s thesis: indeed, mobile devices, including smartphones, have provided contexts for reading sequential art to uncover new facets to their formal elements. However, I am bothered by how much praise Murray gives to the mobile device technology that I think is still lacking, especially with major publishers. I think Murray does very well at identifying the potential of e-reader technology for comics, but Murray also oversells such technology when major distributors like Amazon and Marvel have designed unintuitive platforms that get in the way of reading comics that come in a variety of shapes and sizes.