Leaves on the Wind

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Zack Whedon’s Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #1 is out in comic book stores right now! I tried to buy it but my local comic book shop was all out. I special-ordered it so I could report on it here (otherwise, I’d wait for the whole collection in one volume) but that will take a few days, so in the meantime, here’s someone else’s review.

Oh, and to get you up to date, here is a recap of every Serenity comic so far. But Leaves on the Wind will be the first to move the storyline along, starting after the events in the movie Serenity.

Support your local comic book shop!

The Anti-Joss Uproar Continues…

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Once again, there is uproar in the blogosphere over Joss Whedon and his occasional word-blunders. What’s he done now? Well he answered someone’s tweet, asking him how to write strong women for a comic.
josscistweet
What did he do wrong this time? He defined women as “not hav[ing] peeny/balls”. He completely forgot that all the rules of gender as we’ve known them for millenia have changed over the past couple years, as “Trans” has become a gender of its own. Ann Mardoll, in “An Open Letter To Joss Whedon” writes: “Some women have a penis and testicles. Implying otherwise, even as a joke, is cissexism.”

Irea Nicole explains: “Whedon’s joke is cissexist in being based on the joke that ‘of course women have vaginas duh’ which is transmisogynistic since there are many women who do not. His ‘joke’ insults trans women and intentionally or not promotes misgendering us which leads to discrimination and high levels of violence.”

Pardon me for being ignorant, cissexist, and transmisogynistic myself here, but I am totally confused. What on earth is a woman, if not a grown person with female plumbing? That some men choose to live as women (and some women as men) does not change the fact that women have vaginas (unless they had them removed.) Men have penises, both big and small. How on earth else can we figure out if we’re male or female?

The roles carved out for men and women in our society do not fit a good many of us, and that is one reason why some people may choose to live as a different gender. I’m sure there are gobs of reasons for changing one’s gender. If I’d been offered the opportunity to change my own gender before I was, say, 20 years old, I would have jumped on it. But I didn’t necessarily feel like a man. (How would I know how that feels?) I only knew that women had a lowly place in society, and seemed weak to me, and I wanted none of it. I wished I was a man because men had all the power.

I surely didn’t want to be a woman as defined by society. But thankfully I went to college and took some Women’s Studies courses and learned that women weren’t quite the pathetic weaklings I’d been taught they were. I gradually grew more comfortable with my womanhood. And I am glad that I never had a choice in the matter, because it would have been incredibly hard to figure out what gender I wanted to be (Buffy would have helped, but it was a pre-Buffy era.)

But if I can’t define myself based on the fact that I have a(n awesome) vagina, then what? How do I know I’m a woman? Because I feel like one? What if I don’t? Does that make me a man all of a sudden? What does it feel like to be a woman anyway? I feel like I should ask a trans woman that question, because only she will have known it both ways and can tell me. They didn’t teach me these things in college, because I am old, and there were no Trans Studies departments when I was in school. I learned all I know about Trans people on the street, as it were (and some from working on the magazine, “Anything That Moves” which was a favorite project in my 20’s.)

A commenter on Irae Nicole’s blog says: ”Cis people can just have that sticking point where they can’t wrap their head around the fact that physical anatomy can have nothing to do with someone’s gender.” I feel like I’m being pointed at specifically. I feel attacked. I don’t like being called “cis”.  It’s an insult and it’s meant that way. So please tell me: if physical anatomy can have nothing to do with someone’s gender, then what does? If you know the answer to this, please comment and educate me, because I want to know!

I think that all these labels do nothing so much as drive wedges between us all. People from oppressed groups use labels to insult others just as much as non-oppressed people. I think of the number of times I’ve insultingly been called “straight” by lesbians, and it really pisses me off. For one thing I’m not “straight” and for another, would it be so wrong if I were? The wrongness of being straight, or white, or cis, seems to come from the lack of oppression. But I feel oppressed by oppressed groups. I feel like they judge me as white, cis and straight when they don’t even know me.

As long as “cis” is used as an insult, to imply that someone is an oppressor, I don’t think that Joss should really have to go out of his way to please the Trans Blogger population. They’re judging him and jumping on anything he says, with disgust. Do we really want to live in a society where it’s not safe to even perform a word blunder, lest the PC police come and take us away to a re-education camp? I don’t. I say shit’s complicated for everyone; don’t have a cow.

The lesson here is obviously “Twitter sucks, don’t tweet.” and also “They’re coming for you, watch out.”

Much Ado About One Thing

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I have been suffering from an epic case of writer’s block recently, and so my whole big essay on The Year 2013 As Brought To Us By Joss Whedon has by necessity been shelved. I wish some personal hero would just swoop into town and give me an impromptu seminar on overcoming writers block!  But alas, my block continues apace, leaving me with few words with which to work and little inspiration. And so, in the interest of brevity and to-the-pointiness, I’m just picking my one most favorite Joss Whedon thing of the year 2013 to write about. And my one most favorite thing is  Much Ado About Nothing, Joss Whedon’s film adaptation of the play by William Shakespeare.

I remember being so excited when I heard that right after wrapping The Avengers, Joss had taken twelve days and shot a film in secret. That it was Much Ado About Nothing seemed the perfect antidote to the over-the-top mainstreaminess of Marvel. That it was shot on a micro-budget right after the box office smashing of The Avengers was also beautiful. I had not lost Joss to the world of big money and 3-D as I had often feared. Here he was, right at home.

Much Ado was actually shot in Joss’ home (except for one scene, shot in his office bungalow.) It is a large, beautiful, inviting house that seems to have been designed specifically for this movie. In fact, Kai Cole (Joss’ wife, an architect) had Shakespeare on the brain when designing and building it. For years, Joss had been hosting weekly Shakespeare readings, where he and his friends would gather at his home to perform the Bard and enjoy cheese. Shakespeare was as much a consideration in the design as the people who would live and gather in the house. As a result, their home features a living room stage, a beautiful outdoor balcony and a backyard amphitheater, in addition to functional necessities such as recording and dance studios.

Much Ado was produced by Bellwether Pictures, a company that Joss and Kai created in order to make micro-budget films such as Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. They wanted to create things without commercial backers so that their art would be pure, they could say what they wanted to say, and they’d not be beholden to commercial interests. This ethic really came through in Dr. Horrible, which was a labor of love on the part of all involved. It also comes through in Much Ado.

The cast is made up of the usual suspects: Whedon alums Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Reed Diamond, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher, Clark Gregg, Nathian Fillion, Tom Lenk, and Ashley Johnson (who appeared in The Avengers and Dollhouse) as well as some newbies including Jillian Morgese, Riki Lindhome, Spencer Treat Clark, Emma Bates and Romy Rosemont.

As for the score, Joss Whedon wrote it himself, getting some help with orchestration. He created all the themes and added music to the song “Sigh No More” (sung by Balthazar in the original Shakespeare, sung by Maurissa Tancharoen in this film.) The music is really beautiful and fits the movie perfectly. I am continually impressed by the musicality of Joss.

I have watched Much Ado at least five times now. (Hot tip: it really helps to watch with the English subtitles on. The funny thing is that the Shakespeare sounds a lot like the demons and other villains from Buffy and Angel. Now I can’t watch the villains in those shows without thinking of the Bard.) I appreciate it more with each viewing, which I can’t say for all of Joss’ works (The Avengers, for example, does not hold up to that fifth viewing, especially without the 3-D.) The only thing that took a while to grow on me was the fade-to-whites between scenes. Joss chose fade-to-white in order to avoid the hated fade-to-black, but I’m not entirely sure that it works, as I am very conscious of it. But maybe it’s just me.

In any case, the film is a frolicky romp with dark undertones. It was the perfect film for Joss to make and he made it perfectly. I hope it will win plenty of awards when the time rolls around. But the best thing of all is that Fred and Wesley finally got their day. Their love was cut tragically short on Angel. Here, Fred and Wesley are reincarnated as Beatrice and Benedick, and after a whole lot of denying their love for one another, they finally give in and have their happy ending. Yay!