The Lesbian Queen

Frozen, a franchise that generated enough money for the creators to buy a country mansion on the moon and is responsible for planting the lyrics to “Let It Go” so firmly in our collective psyche I’m pretty sure I could lose all memory of my own family to dementia one day and yet still remember what line follows “A kingdom of isolation…”, is getting a sequel. This news shocked absolutely no-one, a deaf blind idiot buried under the ocean could tell you this but recently Twitter has lit up with a campaign about a suggested plot development in that everyone’s favourite metaphor for homosexuality, Elsa, should come out of her closet as an out-and-out lesbian and get herself a girlfriend in Frozen 2. Frozen has been widely regarded as a very pro-LGBT film, the songs have strong themes of self-acceptance and that guy running the sauna seems to have a family consisting of himself, children and another man, no mother to be seen. Now, being a LGBT ally and unashamed fan of the Frozen franchise (Not in so far as the hype train has escalated it to but I can certainly relate to Elsa), I wanted to give my opinion here so let’s not leave this idea out in the cold, shall we?

The obvious merit here is representation, which despite what you think isn’t as abundant as offended Christian mothers like to make out. Gay characters are starting to appear more and more in fiction, slowly, but usually in the form of the magical advice guru for the straight members of the cast or token representation. I know we’ve heard things such as Luke Skywalker’s sexuality being open to interpretation or Dumbledore apparently having a taste for wizards over witches but such characters are a blog post in themselves about their ‘representation’. Truth is, characters that are written as gay characters are hard to come across in the mainstream media and Elsa seems one of the few characters of her popularity that could easily be seen as a gay icon. Zero interest in the men around her, struggling to accept her true identity, spends years trying to pass for ‘normal’, Elsa starred as the focus of a film that was in no small way a parable about being outed and having to accept the truth of who you are. With Frozen 2 starting with a happier liberated Elsa, it only makes sense to see this parable continue logically, that she should meet another elemental princess This would tie up the theme neatly and convey the message that you should be true to who you are, someone will love you for it and homophobes/Dukes of Wesselton, will get their comeuppance in time.

Now I know that one thing we all appreciated about Elsa was her being a strong single female character who was saved by the true love of a sibling, not a prince. I’d be all for Elsa remaining a single pringle, which makes it sound like I have my own designs on her and that is weird and moving on, if she’s going to remain single, that’s fine, but let’s not have her be just another pretty white blonde girl who falls for a pretty white boy otherwise what you’ve got is Cinderella and Jack Frost thrown into a creativity blender. This is a film the LGBT community has clung to and adored and it would be a strange move to disenfranchise that entire swathe of people for the sake of making a run-of-the-mill Disney sequel. You might dissuade a few staunch religious types but in this day and age, we need films to be more progressive, there is a whole back catalogue of heteronormative films for the old-fashioned types to enjoy. The Disney Princess collection has covered the globe for different princesses to depict, be they black, Asian, semi-human or semi-conscious (Sleeping Beauty), would it be so terrible a thing to add one lesbian into that mixture?

I guess that’s that, a short one, there’s not a lot to say beyond this just being a good idea. Why should I have to justify it in great length? What is added to the character of Elsa by making her fall for a man? Nothing. A woman? We get the full story of what it means to be gay told through a Disney character – to be isolated, ashamed, exiled only to then find truth, acceptance and one day, love. Maybe we could grit our teeth and endure more endlessly repetitive anthems if it means we get the Elsa we know we all secretly want – a badass lesbian ice queen. POINT OUT ANY WORD IN THERE THAT IS NOT COOL!

Ha. Cool. Cause she’s an ice queen

Really need a sign off phrase…

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So Bad It’s Good vs So Bad It’s Awful

So on the topic of horror movies, one thing we love is the awful horror flick that is only shown on TV at three in the morning and has a title like “The Bloodthirsty Beast From The Black Lagoon” and other such titles. As much as we appreciate actual core films of the genre, universally recognised as pioneers or just good films, like say The Shining or Alien, what we also enjoy are films so terrible you can’t help laughing – I’m going to be putting what I hope to be a review of a similar film on here this Saturday but basically as fun as genuine scares and psychological thrillers are, there is something enjoyable about watching horror films about mutant rabbits gone amok (Night of the Lepus, look it up) or low budget indie projects about exploding birds causing widespread chaos (Birdemic). However, what’s the difference between enjoyably bad films and just… shit films, by all accounts, unredeemable tripe? Here’s my attempt to clarify, using some examples of my own film history.

Around this time last year I uploaded a review of the film Dog Soldiers, heartily suggesting you all get a copy and watch it – if you have done, well done to you for doing your homework for today but if not, the film in brief is about a military training exercise gone awry when it turns out there is an honest to god family of lycanthropes running loose in the forest the soldiers are training in. Our protagonist and his comrades hole themselves up in a farm cottage and we get to watch some proper British ‘lads’ face off against giant hairy monsters. The film is a masterpiece for many different reasons but if you honestly think it scary, you’re about as well-acquainted with horror films as a slug is with particle physics. Whilst the film plays itself up for laughs at some points, what is important to note is the film was pitched in marketing as a horror film – not a comedy, not a parody – an actual horror film and it plays the part of one for a good while, there are genuine horror tropes worked into the film, albeit mixed in with some comedy and war film iconography. The film is made on a low budget and is an earnest effort by an established director making the best of what resources he had to hand, it’s charming and quaint and enjoyable. A bad horror film though, not scary to anyone except borderline bedwetters. Watchable? Yes, very much so, with good reason.

You see, ‘bad’ horror films like Birdemic, Dog Soldiers and Trolls 2 are awful yes, you perhaps laugh more than you jump and scream and there is so much to poke fun at – usually low budget lack-lustre effects and acting so wooden Keanu Reeves should feel bad for them but what redeems the films is their honesty, their earnest attempts to be good. If you haven’t seen a film called The Room by Tommy Wiseau, go watch it. If you have, you’ll know it’s awful, it’s not a horror film, it’s not trying to be but it’s relevant to this point. Tommy Wiseau didn’t gather a bunch of actors and tell them “Ok, I want your worst performances, I want a plot written by a twelve year old and I want the most awkward sex and romance scenes in cinematic history”, no, he genuinely looked at the awful shlop he had produced and went “Yup, masterpiece”. As cruel as we are for thinking that, THAT’s the funny bit, something so bad you can only ask who ever thought it good enough to deserve funding and selling to other people? Who thought it could honestly generate an audience? There is something heartwarming in these funny failures, film studies students can relate here, chances are their early films look like shit to them and they’ll laugh and cringe but back then? You thought you had conceived your magnum opus, you thought that was what would get you your grade and perhaps it did but it’s seeing a professional film that puts you in mind of a shakily edited student project that makes you chuckle and love a bad film.

However, what doesn’t make a lovable bad film, in my opinion, is a film that sets out with the deliberate intention of being a bad film. Think Sharknado sequels, the first was terrible yeah but it took itself seriously, it genuinely treated itself like a horror film but the others are sold on silly pun-based tag lines and dialogue such as “I know you’re scared. I’m scared too. Sharks are scary”. Nobody wrote that with a straight face thinking it golden, the Sharknado sequels were parody cash-ins in the marginal acclaim of the original, which found a bizarre niche and was widely spread due to it being on TV rather than a cinematic event – you wouldn’t pay money to go see Birdemic would you? But if it came up on Syfy or something, you’d tune in just to see it. Other films like this are the infamously atrocious film Tusk by Kevin Smith, a shameless act of self-appreciation by a hapless comedian turning a conversation he had into a film. No joke, the film premise (A man being abducted and rebuilt bit by bit into a walrus by a mad scientist) just came from a podcast joke that stuck and then Kevin Smith said fuck it, let’s make a comedy horror out of this and make it so bad it is good by the grace of irony. It isn’t by the way, it’s not earnest or charming or excusably low-budget, it’s just Smith stroking himself off onto the screen.

So there’s a grey area here of what is so bad it is good and what is so bad it is just bad. Sharknado, for example, isn’t low budget and earnest but I just put it in a class with films like Birdemic and Night of the Lepus, films that aren’t close to it in production value. Basically, in my opinion, a film is in the former category when it shows as a cheaply made film that tried its best with limited resources (Dog Soldiers) or when it is so balls-to-the-walls bonkers you can’t understand who would make it in the first place (Night of the Lepus). However, when a film is so self-aware it looks to the audience as if to say “Isn’t this whimsical and weird?” (Snakes On A Plane) or you can indeed see who was responsible and how they aren’t honest film-makers trying to be the best they can but are in fact just out to make easy money (Pretty much anything by Uwe Boll) or jump on a bandwagon (Tusk) then you can’t find it all that redeemable. Essentially then, using Birdemic and Tusk as examples – Birdemic is a cheap tea room that doesn’t sell very good food but they make a decent cuppa and the staff are delightful, Tusk is a corporation trying to do the exact same thing but they did so by cutting costs and overdoing it on the quirky angle so all you see is a cut-rate hipster trap that is desperate to catch your attention

Silenced Cinema

Trigger Warnings – Death, terror, strong language

Sony has decided to scrap their comedy ‘The Interview’ starring Seth Rogen and James Franco on a trip to North Korea and their humorous adventures with crazed tyrant Kim Jong-Un after the hackers responsible for the Sony leaks have declared that they will carry out “9/11 style” attacks on any theatre showing the film in and so as a result pretty much every cinema chain in the US has thrown their hands up and refused to show the film, the actors have sworn off publicising it and aside from the discussions of terrorism, people are doing their best to bury the film before it even hits the screens. So, let’s discuss this shall we, is this the right move to make?

Personally, I can understand where the cinema chains are coming from, they don’t want to run the risk of being the ones who laughed at a terror threat and got their customers killed in an explosion. However, the US Secretary of Defence has said these threats could not be realistically acted upon and there is no genuine concern of a terror conspiracy on American soil and we are unsure who is behind this and their capacity to deliver on their promises, it could possibly be the work of North Korea, it could be radicals, it could be pretty much anyone at this point. Frankly, if the stakes were lower, we’d be pointing the finger at Sony and calling it a stunt but considering Sony has been telling cinema chains they’re free to opt out of showing the film, it seems unlikely they would be the culprits. Opinions on this matter are pretty divided and whilst I live in the UK, was never that interested in the film and have no connection to Sony, I want to express my own opinion and I think I will raise some points worth considering hopefully.

By making this decision to allow cinemas not to show the film and these cinema chains then acting on it and choosing not to, America has lost the war on terrorism tonight, it has shown that it can buckle, it can bow down and it can be scared. I understand, of course, this is a scary set of circumstances and whilst it is tempting to flip these hackers the bird and show the film anyway, if you’re the only company doing that whilst your peers hide in the safety of the shadows, you will be the target for these attacks and you will be the one the public chases with flaming torches should just one life be lost. Hollywood is the realm of the safe bet, it is a business based upon security, not risk, and this film will likely be brushed under the carpet as another bad move we should all forget about like The Lone Ranger movie. Sony is no stranger to bad decisions, they can just throw this film away and say “Well we are the same people that refused to team up with Marvel so…” but in this instance people would sympathise, no film is worth showing if the audience could be killed for watching it. However, my point is this, terrorism is not just about mass shootings and blowing up buildings, those are the tactics, not the goal – the goal is fear, the goal is to create a nation living in a state of panic and anxiety, afraid of what will happen next. Sound familiar?

Backing down has shown that the once indomitable giant that is the US can now be brought to its knees by vague threats from glorified cyber bullies, imagine if this continues? How many companies and businesses would crash and burn in a world ruled by the whims of those that are crafty with a keyboard? Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Fox, Michael Bay – all subjects of ire by the public for various reasons, be it tax evasion, bias media or ruining childhoods, any anonymous threat that gets the public spotlight could now potentially bring the American society to a total brick-shitting pause. Famous American actor Rob Lowe likened Sony to Neville Chamberlain. If you don’t get this reference, Neville Chamberlain watched passively as Hitler amassed power and when Hitler became a threat, Neville decided to visit him and talk to him and ask him politely to stop doing naughty things to which Hitler said he’d behave, fingers crossed behind his back. Of course, Hitler didn’t behave and war broke out, much to Chamberlain’s surprise and the British people regretted not having a leader who had the stones to step in earlier and tell Hitler to get stuffed, which is around the time Churchill stepped in and said the Nazis are bastards, let’s show them how the British rumble. Britain became a huge target for carpet bombing by the Nazi forces and Churchill never once begged for mercy for his people or pursued peace with Hitler’s regime, he had faith in the strength of the nation to endure every single blast with that British resilience and in the end, the plucky Brits gave Hitler what for. Sony, not so much, the terrorists won.

Ok, but I respect Sony is a business trying to protect itself and the cinemas are trying to protect the public, however we can’t just not ever show this film for fear of angering the thugs of the internet or else we basically have a censorship regime being enforced by a faceless entity that we have no idea as to what motivates them to such acts. So, what do we do? Simple – Sony, make that film available to stream online, hand it over to Netflix who have money to spend on anything that can appear on a TV screen and get them to make it available to as many people as possible across the fucking globe. Imagine if every household in the US streamed that film, that threat of bombing just became impossible to pull off. We cannot let terrorists win, you Americans love to big up your freedom and badassery so live up to it, show these cyber bitches that you don’t take shit from cowards and play that film on every screen that will show it. Sony, you could be the vanguard in the battle on terror or you could cry in the corner and beg for mercy, you hold a trump card and you could play it to watch these terrorists crumple.

Terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation to enforce your belief system or your desires as a ruling force, it is about making your targets fear your name, your appearance, even flinch at the words you write and speak – so far, that is a tactic that is succeeding. People rise to violence and get nervous around anyone in a burka, we judge people by religion and race and the moment someone mentions the word ‘bomb’, we scurry around in a mad panic. I’m not trying to underestimate or play down the horror of what terror plots can do but if their objective is to create fear and promote chaos, we have to draw a line in the sand and stop taking shit, we need to say “Enough is enough, you won’t scare us like this any more, fuck you, we’re fighting back!”

Sony, the ball is in your court.

A Marvellous Plan Backfires

Trigger Warnings – None, except some strong language and crude humour

Spoilers for anyone who doesn’t know about the Marvel Cinematic Universe/Civil War/Ragnarok storylines

Hey, so did you see the big Marvel schedule that came out showing we’re going to have spandex spangled superheroes coming out of our asses until the next ice age? Who am I kidding? Of course you did, you’re human, you have the internet, how could you not? Marvel dropped the bomb and we were all blown away as they announced many many more films, including more Thor, more Iron Man, more Captain America, more Avengers, a Black Panther, more Guardians of the Galaxy and so on and so on and this made a lot of people very happy and very excited and then it made a few people like me just sigh. Yes, I sighed, I tutted, I looked at this list with a tint of sadness, which I shall now explain

Nobody can argue that Marvel has really brought the hero genre on leaps and bounds from when it was the slapdash efforts of Tim Burton half-heartedly making a gimmicky mess about Batman, hero movies are the biggest box office successes going at the moment, so much so you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking Robert Downey Jr. must just shit gold. An expansive universe of interconnected films that all allude to a mega film in the future and several nerdgasms across the globe, wonderful, but doesn’t dumping every single idea they have for the next six years in our lap in one go seem a bit much? For one, it assumes each of those films will be a success and whilst Warner Brothers can bounce back from bad films by making something else, Marvel exists purely to make these kind of movies so one slip up and they are dead in the water. If the next Avengers film is a flop, which it probably won’t be but if, then what? Gloss over it and roll out the third? A great big buffet at a party is great but if you serve sloppy turd in a bowl and then tell people “Oh, don’t worry, you don’t have to eat that”, it somehow doesn’t make the prawn cocktails better and everyone still goes home thinking “Why did they serve that at the party?”.

Marvel have made a commitment to us for six years and are now obliged to deliver, which they seem intent on doing, as does DC, who went so far as to pay the cast in advance as long as they promise to actually turn up and take part. However, with these contracts and commitments, everything has to run smoothly or the companies have lost a lot of money. That’s why RDJ has Marvel by the balls and can ask for pretty much anything, he is Iron Man, if he leaves then he punches a great big hole in the film franchises and the whole thing falls apart. I’m all for grand schemes and planning but thinking of the next six years and planning it in such detail so early? You’re assuming success, which you probably will achieve but still, one small mistake and you’ve committed to making films nobody is interested in any more and you’ve already agreed to pay for and make. Amazing Spider Man made this mistake, the second film was supposed to launch a cinematic universe but it was a flop compared to pretty much every other big hero movie ever but since Sony already said they’re making more, they can’t back out of it and now they have to make more movies they already know are going to fail, which is going to reflect in the quality of these films

On another point, this seems childish but doesn’t having a road map spoil it all for you? I mean, considering Marvel has announced the Civil War and Ragnarok storylines are coming, we know straight away that Iron Man will be a bad guy in later films, Captain America will hate him, Ultron doesn’t count for shit and eventually everyone has to beat up Thanos. I preferred the subtle approach of Nick Fury turning up at the end of the movie to hint at Avengers, it wasn’t as obvious as a prophet on the rooftops but an astute fan had an idea what to expect and could be smug about it but now everybody knows, where’s the fun? The hardcore Marvel fan will already know how each film ends so it detracts from the thrill of seeing them and whilst we’ll all still turn up, we’ll be a little less excited about it. Upshot, nobody will linger around cinemas for the end credit scene, why bother? Ooo it hints at a Doctor Strange movie? Wait, I knew that… Fuck… Why should I go watch that? Oh yeah, Benedict Cumberbatch is in it, ok

Marvel has assumed quite arrogantly we’re all going to worship them for presenting us this neverending of stream of comicbook crusaders, both beloved and obscure, from now until eternity just because we liked the last few and they’ve got celebrities involved so go figure. Films don’t just print money and trends change, in fact ticket sales are already declining but that’s not surprising as most Marvel film fans are actually women but the female representation in these films is “Look, this one has boobs and a catsuit, that’s a strong female character right? Please love us…”. Female lead hero movies have yet to come into their element, you need only refer to the Catwoman movie for that truth, but it would be nice to see one that is done with some dignity. There is a Spiderwoman movie coming though so we’ll see but I don’t hold onto much hope at present, given these films lack female talent and perspective in the writing room. Hollywood has this habit of trying to reduce all success to a formula, they see what films have in common and repeat until no more money comes out of the dead cow. Not a sound plan. If things keep up, we might see the Superhero genre follow the fate of the Western, done to death, very little differences between them, a few faces we keep seeing over and over until nobody can see them as anything else and then bing bang boom people get bored, the trend changes and a new genre sweeps in to kick ass at the box office.

I’m probably that guy with the sandwich board speaking of doom but does it not cry out as obvious to anyone here that this is probably being a little bit too arrogant. Films don’t just print money just because and any film maker that makes that assumption usually goes home broke, or the equivalent to such in their role. I’m all for a few more but frankly, if all I can expect to see in the cinema for the next six years is buff white guys in tight outfits beating stuff up, I’m going to stop visiting the cinema as often. Maybe it’s just me and all these films will make money and will keep being successes right up to 2042 and we’re all watching the holographic projection of Avengers 14 – The Entire Marvel Universe Implodes, with an after credits scene that alludes to Guardians of the Galaxy 10 – Rocket Raccoon’s Bad Fur Day