Recasting the Fictional Beauties of My Childhood

Written by Michael Cole

I want to start off, by saying, this post has been written, and rewritten more than a half dozen times in my brain.  I talked to Paul about it at the beginning of the summer, and for several weeks, it seemed as though every time I was ready to write it, something new would happen in the news that would make me take pause, and wait to see how things were going to settle in the end.  As of this past week, I think they’re all settled—at least for long enough that I can comfortably write this post and publish it before it’s out-of-date.  That being said, let’s dive in.

I have maintained, for a long time now, that Mary Jane Watson and Ariel from The Little Mermaid, are the reason why myself, and many men of my generation have a special place in our hearts (I’m going with hearts, since I had crushes on both characters pre-puberty) for redheaded women.  As I grew up, most of the time I saw redheaded women, I found them more attractive on average, than a similar looking woman with any other hair color.  As I grew up, the characters that caught my attention on shows, became the women with red hair, i.e. Joan on Mad Men, and Ygritte on Game of Thrones.

Ok, one of two possible scenarios are at play here: 1. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man suit has some kind of built in plastic cup or shield around his crotch to keep his erections from bulging out of the skin tight spandex. 2. He DOES have an erection bulging out, but Zendaya’s leg is obstructing the view in this photo. Either way, you gotta respect the confidence to be filming in THAT position, in that suit, on an open set, and be willing to roll the dice.

When I learned that Zendaya’s character in the MCU/Sony Spider-Man films, was supposed to be MJ (although not Mary Jane) it didn’t bother me, but it did make me think. At first I started thinking about the impact that comic book MJ had on me, and I wondered if this may have the same effect on a younger generation toward black women.  Of course, at some point in the past few months, Disney announced that they were casting Halle Bailey as Ariel in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, and the question repeated itself in my mind.

Now, at first I thought, “that would be great if these characters helped another generation to find the beauty in a group of people that they may other-wise have not thought about in that way,” but I don’t think I was right on that.  First off, I think that so far with Zendaya’s MJ as opposed to comic book MJ, there is a significant amount less sexualization, and that’s probably a good thing.  I don’t remember much about MJ as a character, other than her calling Peter ‘Tiger,’ and I remember pictures of her more than anything.  Ariel is the same thing, I remember her character, and while it was problematic I always liked it, but at least half of my fascination was with the seashell bra.  This year’s Aladdin, live-action remake, did a lot of work desexualizing Princess Jasmine, and I think Disney is likely to do the same with Ariel.

Peter would have asked if he could take MJ’s coat for her, but all the blood in his brain had just plunged into his dick.

The second reason, that I think my initial thought that perhaps this idea was a good one, is that while there was something innocent about it, I do think there ultimately ends up being a fetishization of these characters, and their physical characteristics within the original material.  There are demographics, based on race and gender combinations that are more or less statistically attractive, and unfortunately, black women (along with asian men) tend to be statistically disadvantaged in this way.  I had heard and read that enough times that it supported my original idea that maybe lifting black women up in this was a good thing, and I will say this, if Ariel is bad-ass, and inspires black girls to be bad-ass, or if MJ challenges the stereotypes of women, that’s great, and so far I do think Disney is doing a great job with that.  They’re doing better than I would have, based on my own warped logic going into this.  I had to realize that there is a huge difference between fetishizing, and raising up.  Disney is raising up, and I was thinking indirectly, “hey wouldn’t it be cool if a bunch of kids ended up with a black woman fetish.”  It wasn’t my intention, but it was essentially what I was thinking.  Hell, it was initially what I was pitching to Paul.

So, now that I have that out of the way, now that I’ve talked about the two characters who really shaped much of my physical attraction, I want to shift gears slightly, and talk about a bit of news that came out the day that I was first ‘ready’ to write this.  In the next James Bond film, 007 will be played by a black woman.  There has been speculation for years about who would be Daniel Craig’s replacement in the James Bond cufflinks, with a lot of speculation going to Idris Elba (who I think would be awesome if he’s still young enough when the mantel gets passed).  Trying, I think to do two thing, test the waters, but also stir up some hype in the form of controversy, it was announced that there would be a new 007, and that it would be Lashana Lynch.

I think they were testing the waters, because they announced that she would be the new 007, and waited until speculation and feedback came in, before announcing, that in the plot of the new film, Bond has retired, and is replaced in his title of 007, and then he is pulled back in while in retirement.  It was a soft way of testing things out, to see if perhaps we’re more into 007 or James Bond.  It’s similar to what Mission Impossible did with Jeremy Renner a few years ago.  It’s not a bad plan, and we will see how it plays out in that way, but it also kind of plays into my general topic.

James Bond is perhaps one of the most sexualized male characters in cinematic history, and the way in which going about that has been drastically different from how they’ve sexualized women.  Is it possible, that we’re going to get a female version of that?  Will this change how female sexuality plays out on screen?  Also, we have a character who is very much the coolest person in the room, and definitely has shaped young men’s idea of what a man is, will a black female 007 do the same for young women?

I think he’d make an awesome Batman

In the past few years in cinema, there has been a lot of talk about representation, and for the most part I think that it has been a good thing, and honestly I’m not one of these people who get’s bent out of shape when they change a character I like, or even love.  I understand that most of these things are constantly evolving, and I don’t personally want to see the same old thing over and over.  But I really think that these three examples are interesting, because they’re a bit different than other roles.  Nick Fury, changing from a white man to a black man, had little impact as far as I can see, because the character was always one of authority, and I never associated with him, and I never felt an attraction to him, or to be like him.  I also have to consider what it means for other people, and I don’t know.  On the one hand, I think of all the black women I think are cool, or bad-ass, or beautiful, and it’s not a short list, and I wonder if that’s blinding me to a problem that’s real? Perhaps these casting decisions will help to solve that. I don’t know, but I think it’s important to ask some of these questions of ourselves.

Article by Michael Cole

Mike Cole is a published author, freelance writer, & filmmaker. He is a happily married father of one.

Editors Note: Photos and their subsequent captions were added by Paul Wright… So, you know, don’t blame Mike.

PODCAST: Spider-Man: Far From Home Review! (SPOILERS)

Hi Everyone,

Paul here…

On this episode of The World’s Best Podcast, we review one of my most anticipated movies of the summer and the latest film to feature everyone’s favorite wallcrawler: Spider-Man: Far From Home. As the final film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 3 of films, we go over the action sequences, the villains, the friends and foes in Peter Parker’s life, and all the twists and turns along the way.

This movie has some HUGE revelations and twists, so I recommend avoiding SPOILERS at all cost before seeing this film. But after you see the movie, come on back and listen to our awesome breakdown of this kick ass superhero flick! Listen here or subscribe on Spreaker, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, and ITunes:

https://www.spreaker.com/episode/18456482

iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-worlds-best-podcast/id1246038441?i=1000443580959

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/s?eid=62350346&autoplay=1

Thanks for listening and enjoy!

-Paul

P.S. This poster right here…

… is the ONLY official poster for the film I put up with this article. What a shitty, shitty poster. All the other art here is the work of some incredibly talented artists I found online. STEP UP YOU GAME, SONY!

PODCAST: Spider-Man: Far From Home Trailer Breakdown!

Hey Everyone,

Paul here…

  With Avengers: Endgame, a historic era in cinema has come to a close. Marvel’s Infinity Saga ended on an unprecedented high note. Avengers: Endgame opened to critical acclaim while shattering box office records. By the end of it’s theatrical run, it’s very likely Avengers: Endgame will be the biggest movie in film history. Perhaps most importantly, the film delivered an emotional and thrilling experience for MCU fans all over the world, who have come to love these characters. This movie delivered and then some. It lived up to the hype. It knocked it out of the park. Pick your euphemism.

Spidey’s Stealth Suit

  While The Infinity Saga may be finished and though we’ve said goodbye to some of our most beloved characters, The MCU will live on. The first Post-Endgame film, Spider-Man: Far From Home, opens in just a few months. With this new trailer, not only does the film look like a fantastic follow up to Homecoming, it also showcases how the cataclysmic events of Infinity War and Endgame have effected the world.

Quentin Beck AKA Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal)

On this episode of The World’s Best Podcast, I’ll be breaking down the new trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home. I’ll be talking about Easter Eggs, how the film looks to be taking inspiration from certain comic books, and speculate about where the story may go, as well as how this film may be interpreting some new characters in the franchise. I’ve posted the trailer below, if you haven’t had a chance to see it yet or you just want to watch it again:

  I had a pretty cool experience recently that I talk about in this episode as well. Though I didn’t get a chance to interview him, I did have the privilege to meet one of Marvel Comics’ classic artists: Bob Layton. Bob is probably most well known for the seminal Iron Man story “Demon In A Bottle”. This was a story that was often brought up as a reason for Robert Downey Jr. being a great choice to play Iron Man. The story follows Tony Stark’s descent into alcoholism, which parallels Downey Jr.’s own struggles with substance abuse a few decades ago (I’ve always been of the opinion that’s a very reductive view of addiction and is a little insulting to excellent work Robert Downey Jr. has done with the character, but that’s neither here nor there). Bob was a really nice, down to earth guy. When I met him he had been doing signings for fans for at least 4 or 5 hours, most people would be worn out after all that, but from what I could see, he genuinely enjoys meeting his fans. So, it was nice to have a relatively private conversation with him even for just a few minuets. I talk about my conversation with him in more detail at the end of the episode. He signed this fantastic print of one his Iron Man covers for me, which is probably one of Marvel’s more iconic comic book covers. It’s from the aforementioned “Demon In A Bottle” storyline and I have picture of the signed piece below.

Anyway, you can listen to the episode here or subscribe on Stitcher, Spotify, and ITunes: https://www.spreaker.com/episode/17857074

iTunes:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-worlds-best-podcast/id1246038441?i=1000437401581

Stitcher:

Thanks for listening!

-Paul 

Why Spider-Man Is NOT A Hero or (Why Spider-Man Only Works When He’s A Teenager)

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Spider-Man reached a historic milestone this week with the publication of Amazing Spider-Man #800. This was also the penultimate chapter of writer Dan Slott’s celebrated run on the series. For the finale, Slott pulled out all the stops and gave Peter Parker a truly monumental threat to face for his last story arc on the book. Slott’s story has been building to an epic confrontation with Norman Osborn, unquestionably Peter’s greatest adversary.

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I mean, the guy looks so fucking creepy, why cover it up with this shitty mask?

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Christ…. Just awful. He looks better without the stupid costume.

Though memorably played by Willem Dafoe in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film series, I always hated Dafoe’s campy and cartoonish performance as one of comics’ best villains. But that’s an article for another day. In the above mentioned comic book story arc, Osborn has returned to once again torment Peter Parker and everyone around him, but this time not only has he regained his abilities that made him so dangerous as The Green Goblin, he’s also bonded with the alien symbiote worn by Carnage, creating the seemingly unstoppable: RED GOBLIN!

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This is an excellent character design by the artist on the book Stuart Immonen. It’s Norman Osborn juiced up on his Goblin Formula while bonded with the Carnage Symbiote. Bad. Fucking. News. Immune to normal symbiote weaknesses like fire and sound.

Osborn has never been so deadly and his new persona as THE RED GOBLIN  is a terrifying, unstoppable monster. To use a cliché: All the strengths of The Green Goblin and Carnage, but none of their weaknesses. It takes everything Peter has, including the aid of everyone from all the other Spider themed heroes like Miles Morales to semi-reformed villains Venom and Otto Octavius, to bring down The Red Goblin. Hell, even MJ and Aunt May get some licks in. Ultimately, Flash Thompson, Peter’s former high school bully, turned good friend, turns the tide of the battle. Now the military war vet/super hero Anti-Venom; Flash sacrifices himself to give Peter the chance to defeat Osborn.

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Flash Thompson as Anti-Venom. Giving Peter the edge he needs to win the fight.

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Tragically, Osborn has just enough left in him to deal a brutal killing blow to Flash.

With Osborn beaten, Peter takes a moment to appreciate his victory and take in the destruction caused by their fight. When J. Jonah Jameson walks out of the smoke with a gun, intending to finally put an end to the death and misery caused by Osborn. It was far too close this time, Peter didn’t even come close to beating Osborn on his own. It took unprecedented amounts of help and a whole lot of luck to just barely defeat this monster.

Jameson knows Norman will be back like he has so many times before to bring death and horror into their lives. Osborn has killed thousands of innocents, used a U.S. Intelligence agency as his personal kill squad when he became head of SHIELD, started a war with Asgard, and finally he was responsible for one of comic books’ most iconic and heartbreaking deaths: the love of Peter’s life Gwen Stacy.

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Well, he didn’t die. YOU didn’t kill him. He went on to kill hundreds more. How do you think Gwen would feel that you could have avenged her death, but didn’t because you’re a fucking hypocritical coward?

Not to mention the countless other innocent victims that have been caught in the crossfire between Osborn and Spider-Man over the years. He knows Peter can’t and wont do what needs to be done: kill Osborn. But this is a burden Jonah is willing to bear for the young man he once saw as a menace. So, doing what needs to be done, what he believes is right, he pulls the trigger to kill Norman Osborn….

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…. And Peter dives in front of the bullet to save Osborn. Taking a slug in the shoulder for the man who juts killed one of his best friends.    …..Wait…  …Um..  …Hold on a second… ….Ummmm… WHAT?!…. WHAT THE FUCK?!!!!….. WHY?!!!!!!

Because Peter Parker isn’t a hero, he’s a coward. With great power comes great responsibility. Flash Thompson understood that and gave his life for it. Jameson understood by the making the choice to take on the burden Peter didn’t have the strength to. When Peter took that bullet he spat on Flash’s sacrifice. Every death caused by Osborn from this moment on is Peter’s responsibility. Trust me, this is Comics. Osborn WILL be back to kill and maim again, in some form or another.

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Police and their use of firearms is a very touchy subject in this country right now, so I’m speaking hypothetically here. I understand that police using their firearms inappropriately is a serious problem in this county at the moment and I take that very seriously. But stay with me here for a second while I make a quick point, hypothetically in a world where police officers use their weapon in the line of duty only in the situations where it’s absolutely necessary or if  a psychopath is killing people, isn’t it their responsibility to save lives? Even if it means killing the perpetrator? Or what if an officer were defending themselves from an armed and dangerous individual? How is this different than the many times Norman Osborn has murdered people, put lives in danger, and terrorized people over and over again. If the police had encountered Osborn in almost ANY of the senario’s that Peter has, they would have killed him (if they could of course, Osborn is probably impossible for a normal human cop to take down). Peter should have put Osborn down for good a long time ago. If he really believed in dedicating his life to being a hero, he’d have realized that so many of the lives Osborn has taken are on him.

D2CE0547-9214-4780-AAED-2E8E0A4F2E36 I think this is a good time to point out that Peter Parker is a superpowered, masked vigilante whose identity isn’t known to the general public. You and I cant go around taking the law into our hands, but he can. In fact, he does it all the time. That’s what being Spider-Man is. He just doesnt have the guts to kill Osborn and because of his abilities and persona as Spider-Man, this is a crime he could very likely get away with, in a way normal people couldn’t.

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This isn’t the first time Peter has pulled something like this. A few years ago through a convoluted set of circumstances, Norman Osborn became head of SHILED and the Avengers instantly became outlaws. Hawkeye argues that Osborn is insane, homicidal, and cannot under any circumstances be allowed to keep control of SHIELD. Hawkeye thinks the only thing to do, the thing they need to do, have a responsibility to do is kill Osborn. The public doesn’t know that he’s a madman and potentially millions of lives are in danger with Osborn controlling the weapons at SHIELD’s disposal.

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At which point Spider-Man argues that HAWKEYE is the one who’s crazy for even suggesting they kill Osborn and tells the rest of the Avengers that Osborn will inevitably shoot himself in the foot and the public will see him for the monster he really is. Well, how many people will die while you just sit around waiting for this to happen, Peter? In a world where individuals can be classified as a “Person Of Mass Destruction” isn’t it dangerously negligent for Spider-Man to have this attitude? Isn’t this the very definition of “With great power, comes great responsibility”?

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Teenage Peter Parker from Ultimate Spider-Man

This is why I think Spider-Man only works as a character when he’s a teenager. I only read Amazing Spider-Man #800 because it was a milestone issue. The only Spider-Man book I currently read on a monthly basis is Spider-Man which stars the other younger Spider-Man, high schooler Miles Morales. When a teenager sees the world in such morally black and white terms… well, they’re teenagers. What the fuck do they know? I remember when I was 16 I thought good and evil were clear lines and I’d never see the world as a place where thing like “necessary evils” must exist. But of course as I grew up, I changed and so did my view of the world. It almost seems like Peter Parker never grew up. It seems as if he never matured past his childish and naive sense of morality. So when you read a Spider-Man book or see a Spider-Man movie, they tend to be at their best when Peter is a teenager. It’s no coincidence that my personal favorite Spider-Man stories ever told were part of Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man run, which chronicled Peter as he navigated the dangers of super villains and his New York City high school.

Tony Stark and Steve Rogers debate morality all the time, but they’ve never debated the morality of killing murderous, super-powered lunatics. Spider-Man is always talking about how “with great power, comes great responsibility”. But I say Peter Parker is a coward who doesn’t have the courage of his own convictions. Heroes do what needs to be done, they don’t hide behind some bullshit code. SPIDER-MAN IS NOT A HERO. SPIDER-MAN IS A COWARD. Let online onslaught of hate begin…

In all honesty, I’d love to hear your opinions on the points I bring up in this article. Please write you comments below or on our Facebook Page and maybe we’ll read your question or comment on an upcoming episode of The World’s Best Podcast.

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Fuck you, Peter. You deserve everything coming to you.

As always, thanks for reading!

-Paul