Snoopy Jenkins

A critical interrogation of American popular culture. @snoopyjenkins

We Do Not Need a Wonder Woman Movie

Wonder Woman

We don’t need a Wonder Woman movie. Yeah, I said it.

I can scarcely imagine a worse waste of digital celluloid: flying spears thrown from thin, gangly limbs, a star-spangled miniskirt threatening wardrobe malfunctions for two and a quarter hours, unblemished ivory skin strained under gold and platinum body armor, practicality be damned. Wonder Woman the movie — fangirl nirvana, fanboy nightmare. Whenever people discuss the needless parade of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants who populate superhero movies’ starring roles, part of me appreciates their boredom with the obnoxious identity politics at play; what was The Avengers but a classic fraternity bro-down with human growth hormone, outdated mythology and colorful titanium tossed in for kicks?

The problem is that my stunted imagination cannot anticipate a Wonder Woman movie that would rise above such over-budgeted B-movie camp. For many, it shouldn’t — some progressives argue that corporate movie studios owe their female fans a film that highlights feminine superheroics, a movie that proves that women can helm action films and generate revenue with amoral vengeance as violent as any man’s. I find this argument wanting. Corporate movie studios are not public charities, and the thought of spending one-hundred-fifty million dollars to offer American little girls a superheroine to idolize appears to my mind an obnoxious misuse of movie funding. (That’s like nine Fruitvale Stations). Superhero comics involve White male power fantasies — when creators and fans support properties that challenge this monochrome status quo, we can applaud and demand more.

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Magneto Was Right

Quentin Quire“The X-Men are hated, feared and despised collectively by humanity for no other reason than that they are mutants. So what we have here, intended or not, is a book that is about racism, bigotry and prejudice.”
—Uncanny X-Men writer Chris Claremont, 1981

Call me Quentin Quire. Magneto was right.

A widely-held defense of Marvel Comics’ X-Men states that their stories chronicle the trials of an emergent minority who are hated and feared by the rest of humanity. Race presents the easiest and most popular application of this comic allegory, and casts Magneto’s mutant uplift through global terrorism perspective against the global harmony across cultural boundaries philosophy of Professor Charles Xavier. The parallel beckons: we are to understand Magneto as Malcolm X and respect Prof. Xavier as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Separation or integration, with superpowers. The African American political divide, replacing melanin with the mutant gene.

But when we examine this metaphor in the context of major X-Men storylines in comics, animation, and television, we observe an alternate reality where a human being can gain extra-normal abilities like flight and super speed through the caprice of the genetic lottery, a new world where those not blessed with pyrokinesis or healing factors vote for dogmatic politicians who shuttle public money into robotics programs designed to meet the clear and present danger posed by this modern American minority with lethal force. In the X-Men, Prof. Xavier promotes mutual cooperation and understanding between humans and mutants, while Magneto argues for violent uprising against human oppressors, and the creation of an independent mutant state. Of course, this is offensively sloppy thinking, a political reduction so dramatic it approaches bad comedy.

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The Sisko, Part One: Our Living Black Manhood

The Sisko.

The Sisko.

When I was a teenager, I liked to skip church.

My parents attended different Baptist churches in my hometown, vibrant, bright places of worship where suburban Blacks developed a respectful, life-affirming, joyous relationship with a living God. Each Sunday meant uptempo gospel music, dedicated Bible study, and hour-long sermons on the spiritual uplift offered through Christian precepts. This was the Black church: fine clothing, expensive hats, smiling children, gaunt deacons, relaxed tresses, choir robes, public praise, Negro spirituals, religious supplication, spiritual uplift. For my neighbors, for my mother, church was the emotional recharge, the soul cleansing needed before Monday morning’s journey into corporate White villainy. I don’t pretend the same of my father; I always found his belief an extension of his duty to family and country. Still personal, but reserved, stately, imperial.

My mother would sing in church. For years, she gave up her Sundays to care for an ancient grandmother and her elderly son; when the grandmother passed in a tragic hospital fire, my mother’s return to the church jumpstarted her perspective. She learned to smile again. Church meant community, friends, gossip for the jealous, and prayer for the troubled. For me, church was ostracism. I loved science fiction and comic books — Jean-Luc Picard and Jean-Paul Valley — and my irrepressible skepticism toward Biblical stories reaped disapproval from peers and adults alike. Church was high drama and high emotion; weighty secular concerns like systemic poverty and environmental racism did not, in my opinion, respond to the power of prayer. So I skipped, usually by taking so long to prepare myself on Sunday mornings that waiting for me risked tardiness, and watched new episodes of Star Trek.

That’s when I met Benjamin Sisko. On a Sunday.

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I Renounce My Elysian Citizenship

elysiumStrange. All I remember from Elysium is sand.

Sand without end. Sand that cakes upon people and things, children and toys, mothers and baby bottles. Sand on the productive and listless alike. Desert sand. Sand that obscures hope and defines poverty. The opening scenes of Elysium, director Neill Blomkamp’s recent sci-fi thriller, center the viewer in a ruined Los Angeles, circa 2154, populated by an undifferentiated brown stuff only George Orwell could appreciate. American Marrakech. Quickly, we learn that the only people who live in this God-awful Depression postscript are those without means; an undeveloped protagonist dreams of Elysium, where poverty, war, sickness, and even death have been vanquished by man. Heaven, not on Earth, but above.  The nun who listens with ancient grace cautions the roguish boy. “That place is not for us.”

We’ve heard this refrain before. Know your place.

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Why I Read Comics

Archie Betty VeronicaI despise origin stories.

The beginning is the worst best time in a comic – either the material lives up to its promise, and offers something interesting and lively, or the collaboration between words and art wastes trees with hackneyed prose and sloppy pencils, and you feel cheated out of four bucks. Here’s hoping I don’t leave you feeling played.

I read comics because I did not easily make friends in elementary school. I was not shy or awkward. I knew the answers. To everything. Every question in arithmetic or social studies posed by our teachers left my hand raised amid a sea of the darker nation’s bright shining apathy, children who despised both their ignorance and my knowledge. (Maybe they were just being young.) No matter – I wanted friends. Badly. I did not make them, so my mother introduced me to a world where friends were plentiful and perpetual. She purchased my first Archie comic.

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