We’ve all seen the new Ghostbusters trailer, haven’t we? We’ve all seen this film being made with one goal in mind – girl power. That’s it. It isn’t about making a good movie. It isn’t about making good characters. The entire goal is about making a movie that will inspire the females. And it looks like shit. It looks like complete shit. The jokes aren’t funny. The characters are cardboard cut-outs. It all looks terrible. All because the film decided that they are going to start with a political ideology first, and a good movie second.
The new expansion that was released for Baldur’s Gate had some similar ideas. They had a character who they introduced who is trans. But rather than that being part of a larger tapestry of this character, the problem was that it was done for a political reason. The conversation with this character about their orientation is as awkward and preachy as can be. It was so bad that the people who did the expansion were able to see the errors in their ways and changed things. They also got rid of a stupid GamerGate meme that was shoe-horned in there too, but that’s just an amusing thing. Point is – we didn’t hate the character because they were trans. We hated them because that was it. It’s just “I’m trans!” We wanted an actual character. The expansion suffered in a profound way because of this. It’s image is forever tainted because of it.
Point of all this – politicization of characters is always for the worse. Always. Because when you start with a goal that isn’t to make good characters, but instead make ones that fit into an ideological agenda, it always comes back to bite you in the ass. Because if you want a character to fit into an archetype, then they can never go outside of that. At no point can they be anything but that ideological point of view that you have put them into. This is what is happening right now with Disney and Star Wars. And this is by their own admission.
In an interview done with one of the people involved in Disney (linked here), they talked about the new Star Wars films, and the female leads. It seems that their “empowerment” was no accident. This was designed. Intentionally so. And naturally, I take umbrage with this. For all kinds of reasons.
I didn’t like the new Star Wars film. I thought that Rey was boring as fuck. How is she empowered? Because she wielded a lightsaber? And won a battle that there is NO reason to believe she should have? Seriously, she had never used that weapon once in her life, and she then uses it and wins against someone who has been trained extensively. That’s retarded. She had no character, outside of being a strong, virtuous female. It was boring. The only character I really liked in that film was Finn. His character was the only one whose motivation I understood. He was part of a massacre, and wanted to get away from that environment. That makes sense to me. Rey? She’s just super awesome and the Force wills her to be part of the plot. That’s it.
The new film, Rogue One, has another female protagonist. This one looks to have some more personality than Rey, but now I am finding out that this wasn’t done to make a good character. It was done to fill an ideological base that Disney wants to pander to. This tells me that future films are going to be done with this in mind. This tells me that they are going to sacrifice any potential major flaws in characters because that isn’t “empowered.” After all, if we’ve learned anything from the bitching of Anita Sarkeesian, it’s that any female character that isn’t a complete Mary Sue is bad. And make no mistake – their films are going to suffer for them.
I made an entire Critical Examination post about how I see an empowered female character. Truly empowered characters aren’t ones where you have to be told that they are empowered. They just are. They are just good characters. But what’s more, they are also characters who have to overcome personal weakness. They have to grow. Strength isn’t just something you are born with. It’s something you gain through hardships. I talked about a bunch of characters in that other post, but let’s bring up a few other examples here.
Maybe you remember that fantastic cartoon Recess from the 90’s. Back when kids shows were good. Or existent. Now cartoons have died. It’s a bummer, really. But my second-favorite character after TJ was Spinelli. Her first name is Ashley, but if you call her that, she’ll beat your ass. She was a tough in every sense of the word. She was a girl who took shit from no one, and wasn’t afraid to throw down with whoever got in her way. But she wasn’t perfect. Her war with her own femininity was the central drive behind how she grew over time. There were several episodes that forced her to confront that part of herself, and the answers she got weren’t always the ones she wanted. I like that. Not all answers in a series need to be cathartic. Sometimes it can just be something to think about as you move forward.
Next up, let’s look at Kallen, from Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. She’s the ace pilot of the Black Knights. This girl is Zero’s right hand in battle. She has proven herself an incredible soldier, able to face down insurmountable odds by not faltering. However, she has a personal flaw that is pretty glaring, and often shined in her face in very harsh way. Kallen has very little will of her own. She is a soldier in every sense. If she doesn’t have someone to give her orders, she has no direction. When Zero gives her an ability to prove herself in battle, she becomes totally dependent on him. Through Zero and the Black Knights, her life has meaning. There is a literal point where she tells Lelouch that to serve Zero, she would have become his slave. There are multiple points in the series where her dedication to Lelouch is shown to be unhealthy. But she is still a strong character despite this.
A series with good character needs to have good characters first, ideological bias second. Disney has outright said that they have their bias first. This is a problem for me. Mundane Matt disagrees. He says that as long as the film is good, then it’s fine. But quality is suffering. We’ve seen it already, and we’ll see it again. And now I have to constantly question how good their upcoming films will be because they have an ax to grind.
Here’s my thought – can we have good movies? Can we please have a good movie without the need to pander? If they could do that in the 90’s, how come we can’t do that now?
Until next time, a quote,
“The relationship between the public and the artist is complex and difficult to explain. There is a fine line between using this critical energy creatively and pandering to it.” – Andy Goldsworthy