renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
I love space adventure. I love found families. When the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy dropped, it wasn't the fact it was a Marvel property that drew me in (like Iron Man and Captain America before it, I didn't even realize it was a thing), but the temptation of a story about a ragtag group of complicated individuals forming a team in space. Some of my favorite science fiction heavily features this trope: Stargate Atlantis (although I like the team dynamic better in SG-1), Firefly, The Expanse, hell, if we count one shots then there's a reason that Event Horizon, The Core, and Armageddon feature so high at the top of my list of SF films, and it isn't the rigorous science. When I found out that the script was written by Nicole Perlman, going into Guardians of the Galaxy I had high expectations for both the space adventure and the found families part. Those two elements delivered, even if space adventure and misogyhumor took precedence over found families in the end.



Plenty of other people have tackled the more sexist and nonsensical elements of the film that tossed them directly out the narrative airlock. It feels a little useless to add my voice to the pile, because the film is doing well (I'm glad it's doing well! please no more Transformers films! adapt something else!) and because it's doing well we could likely talk about these issues until we're blue in the face to unbothered shrugs from Marvel Studios. It's not that different from their constant shrugging over what the first female-led superhero film is going to be, maybe with an eye roll (none, ever, they're never doing one, not one, it's never going to happen, I am cynical and jaded and have no hope left). Whatever, it's my space adventure party, I'll cry if I want to.

my fav part of gotg was when peter quill told that alien girl "i honestly forgot you were even here."

it’s like james gunn was talking directly to me, a girl in the audience who was trying to enjoy the media he clearly created for only the boys in the audience. — killerville




I went in with my rose-colored Marvel glasses on expecting a fun, mostly offenseless romp. Instead, it was a fun romp peppered with face punches of both casual and outright sexism, a hero who I would've enjoyed being able to fully root for except for his casual habit of treating women like objects, and the tease of a sisters-at-war storyline pasted on the edge of an otherwise male-dominated adventure story featuring a magical object and troubled, broken heroes.

I've been spoiled by the other excellent women elsewhere in the MCU, including Natasha Romanoff, Pepper Potts, and Jane Foster (I don't even like the Thor films much, but I love Jane Foster), with narratives and men that support them, and will often note when they're being mistreated or devalued. The film started with Dead Mom Syndrome (at least she's named, good job, one step above multiple Final Fantasy games), played the Forgettable Fucktoy card ten minutes in, leveled up when a character who takes everything literally by calling a teammate he supposedly values a whore, and ended its floor routine with the hero calling the central villain a bitch, because the worst thing men can call other men is a bitch. Slow clap that out, James Gunn. Great job.

I view so much of my media in a compartmentalized way in order to get some enjoyment out of the stories pop culture wants to sell me. If I avoided everything that was stained with casual sexism, thoughtless misogyny, and the undercurrent of disdain toward female characters, I'd get to enjoy very little science fiction and fantasy. Since those are my favorite genres, I'd be screwed. With the MCU I've been able to open myself up a little without worrying I'm going to get sideswiped out of nowhere. If Captain America: The Winter Soldier was one solid step forward in how superhero action films can portray and use their female talent, Guardians of the Galaxy took two steps backwards and into a time machine to make sure women in the audience knew we were the butt of the jokes. As Gavia Baker-Whitelaw said in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' passes the Bechdel Test—but it fails women, "This may sound like an odd thing to say about a franchise that is already dominated by male heroes, but GotG is the first Marvel movie that feels like it’s aimed at dudes."



Don't even get me started on the racial/gender diversity in the Nova Corps and Ravagers, because I am pretty sure I ranted [twitter.com profile] echthroi to death over it in the car on the way home, once we got home, and then several times the next day after I saw it again. Because this is very basic stuff, the very basic kind of representation you can do in a film that creates a more complicated, diverse world, and that's add in some nods that people who are not white dudes or white people in paint exist. If you can do a close up of pink and blue people flying a spaceship or dirty thieves laughing over Peter's misfortune, you can do a close up of anyone else doing those things, too.

I wanted to love this movie wholeheartedly, and I really, really can't.



My dissatisfaction with the sections of the film that don't live up to what I think Marvel can truly do extends to the characters themselves, barring Peter, who gets the lion's share of development through lazy stereotypes about rogue thieves in space and dead mom feelings. I love the characters — my problem is I don't feel like there were enough moments for them to shine. It leaves the bombastic choices they make and fights they have responsible for picking up the slack in characterization, and it only truly comes together at the very end in the final showdown with Generic Screamy Anger Villain #9625193 whose name I couldn't remember at all throughout the whole of the film the first time through (it's Ronan and he's Kree, in case, like me, you forgot, because it's pretty easy to do). So much of all their backstories are only implied or hinted at, and so much of their characterization wrapped up in their fighting styles when everything around them is dire and exploding that it's hard to connect with them. In Gamora and Nebula's case, their backstory ties directly into the big bad Marvel has been waving around for years, Thanos, who at this point is so built up I have no clue how they're going to make him at all alarming as a villain, because here he's a nonentity. The biggest emotional notes from me came from a tree that only says a handful of words and an angry, disillusioned, ableist raccoon.

Most of my pleasure really came from the visuals and the huge scope of the world, the perfect way they deployed all the songs throughout the story to hit really solid emotional notes, and the teamwork when the disparate personalities of our heroes finally came together. It's such a shame that so many of those moments came before really ignorant humor that served to undermine the resonance of what they were trying to achieve.



The message I wish I could send to Marvel Studios is similar to the message given to SF fandom when Ann Leckie wrote an essay last year titled It’s not a real heart, it’s a real artificial heart.:

Every now and then, you go through a meal without the waiter punching you in the face—they just give you a small slap, or come over and sort of make a feint and then tell you they could have messed you up bad. Which, you know, that’s better, right? Kind of?

Now. Somebody gets the idea to open a restaurant where everything is exactly as delicious as the other places—but the waiters won’t punch you in the face. Not even once, not even a little bit. Women and POC and LGBT and various combinations thereof flock to this place, and praise it to the skies.


Guardians of the Galaxy was entertaining and fun, a lot of that fun playing on nostalgia, but it was also flawed and leaning heavily on stereotypes in a boring, non-creative way, which left me feeling empty and let down. Even so, in my circles, we've enjoyed it greatly, celebrated Groot, cried over Rocket and Groot's epic friendship, and I'm finally seeing sister assassin adventure musings on my tumblr dash (not-a-spoiler: I would watch an entire film about Gamora and Nebula). But I think about what the conversation would have looked like if the film had really sought to avoid those micro-aggressions; would the film be doing even better? Would word of mouth come more easily, without warnings? I know I've provided warnings to several people along the lines of, "It's great, but it's stupidly sexist." and see the same passed on around me. Were those elements worth it?

Marvel Studios can do anything they want to do at this point. I'd like to see them recognize they don't have to punch a majority of their audience in the face for cheap laughs using sexist humor. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is on the way in 2017, with James Gunn at the helm of the script this time.

My hopes are not high.

Other reviews:
The Literary Omnivore, yours?

Date: 2014-08-15 04:27 pm (UTC)
goodbyebird: Batman returns: Catwoman seen through a glass window. (TW bored)
From: [personal profile] goodbyebird
Someone needs to rein in Gunn and have him handle visuals only. He's so skeevy when it comes to gender, ugh.

Date: 2014-08-15 04:42 pm (UTC)
pollinia: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pollinia
This was the first of the Marvel's movies where I felt really uncomfortable as a female viewer. It was a definite letdown after Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Date: 2014-08-17 02:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theliteraryomnivore.wordpress.com
Exactly. There are parts about this movie that are so great—and then I get punched in the face by the fact that James Gunn seems to think that comics fandom is entirely a boy's club.

(And I also hate this notion that, in order to create media specifically aimed at men, you have to crap on women to make sure no icky girls are invited.)

Date: 2014-08-25 11:06 pm (UTC)

Yep

Date: 2014-08-22 07:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gnureads.wordpress.com
Exactly. I expect a bit of sexism in my media, but this was impossible to ignore, aggressively sexist, as if Gunn wanted to say THIS IS NOT FOR YOU. I think he has some things to work out in himself. I can't imagine a sequel. If I was on Twitter, I'd start a campaign. Co-writer! or some serious supervision.

Date: 2014-08-30 10:37 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
First between 'I don't even like the Thor films much' and the way I can't get into Iron Man we have to accept that we are sadly on opposite ends of some kind of Marvel scale. But I totally agree with your thoughts about this film. Beyond the sexism (which was there a lot and was crappy) I found it so uneven; sometimes really funny and sometimes just bizarrely off base in terms of pacing and emotions. The most confusing bit was Rocket having drunk emotions because they come out of nowhere, and OK drunk emotions DO in life but in film it doesn't really work. Also, wow, yes, of course Drax takes everything literally and that makes what he says at the end so weird...

Feeling pretty cheered I haven't been watching those after the credits bits if they're all about Rohan though :P Most boring villian since that guy from Fantastic Four.

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