Comic Review: The Start of Superior Spider-Man and Implications of Body-Swaps

If you do not read Amazing or Superior Spider-Man comics, then you are likely unaware of Peter Parker’s death and his body’s continuation. Here is a quick summary!  Doctor Octopus (Doc Ock) was dying and he switched bodies with Parker.   Full on Freaky Friday, except for Do. Ock knowing exactly what is happening. And, you know, Parker figuring it out and trying to reverse it with science. To make it short and not so sweet, Doc Ock becomes Superior Spider-Man and makes a lot of changes to Spider-Man’s methods.

So, what do I have to say about this change. First, I am enjoying it. Second, I hope it is over soon. Doc Ock is a terrible Spider-Man. Many of the things that made Peter Parker so great are just gone. The quips fail, assuming they are attempted at all. He is a dick and far too confident. He is also quickly falling back into his villainous patterns.

Other than my interest in this story-line and how it relates to Parker, Spider-Man, Doc Ock and the relationship between these characters, the change can lead to some interesting questions.  Mainly, how closely linked is the physical body to the mind?

Doc Ock fully takes over Parker’s body, although he has to eventually expunge Parker’s memories or risk the personality reasserting itself.  Doc Ock’s personality is only minimally affected by Parker’s memories and his actions are still very clearly those of Doctor Octopus.  He tries to be a hero, but the megalomania and selfishness that made him a villain starts to slowly assert itself.  The ease of this change and how intact Doc Ock’s personality remains indicates a ranking of the personality (or soul, maybe) as more important than the physical form.

This swap is from a male body to a male body.  How might it differ, then, if it were between a male body and a female body?  Would the personalities have the same smooth transition or would there be personality hiccups blamed on biology/hormones/etc.?  Would the implication be more cultural or physical?

I think that the answer in terms of what would likely happen in the story line is pretty straightforward.  There would be a lot of gender mismatch jokes, although whether or not it would take a cultural or biological angle is really going to depend on the creative team.

What I find more interesting, however, is what this might mean in a real world swap.  Of course, this is a massively complicated question that is really a lot of other questions stuck together.  What portion of our personalities and actions are based on nature or nurture?  How would this swap even work and how would the new brain adjust to the transplanted personality?  How quickly would someone adjust to these new social expectations?

In the end, though, I think that the smoothness of this transition indicates that we consider the personality separate from the body.  I see this idea as positive. If people can see that a personality is not indicated by the body (its appearance, genitalia, attractiveness, etc.), then people will have an easier time accepting others, for example various members of the queer community, for what they actually are and not what they appear to be.

These questions may have been in the writers’ minds, but I doubt it.  They are, I will admit, a bit of a stretch from the story.  However, I think that a lack of considering them makes the resulting implications all the stronger.  The structures which make up cultures are rarely ever built consciously.  Many of the results of these structures are often not the goals.  Therefore, if an unconscious gap or positive is present, then all the better.  Having structures change unconsciously, likely means more effective and solid structures.

Seriously, though, they need to bring Peter back, because I am sick of Doc Ock’s B.S.

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Review: The Real Tooth Fairy

The Real Tooth Fairies Site

A few weeks ago on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me, they had a story about a website and matching toys called the Real Tooth Fairy.  Their description piqued my interest, since they described it as basically over-sexualizing the tooth fairy then selling it to young girls.  I decided to go check it out.  I am writing much of this post as I go through the process of meeting my real tooth fairy.

The website starts out with just a blinding amount of color.  Pink is just everywhere.  It is astounding.  It also has some of the most annoying music I have ever heard.  To be fair, it is currently playing on loop while I type this post.  (I just found the button to turn it off.  It was very obviously placed.  Good for them).

After going to the home page, you get to make your “ME DOLL.”  It is all fine, I suppose.  The clothes seem pretty normal.  The issue start on the last stage, skin color.  They have four tones, very light tan to what looks like a dark tan, but is probably meant to cover Black.  Seems like they should have at least one more skin tone for the young girls with darker skin.  They have a couple of hair styles that will probably cover the race issue, but the skin tones fall far short.

Ok, I made my ME DOLL and I signed up.  It is time for the quiz!  I picked the least pink present I could see.  It was a rather lovely blue and purple.  They ask for a favorite activity, and have a nice variety (video games, dance, drawing/design, shopping, sports, gymnastics).  I picked video games, since reading was strangely not an option.  Then the question of the “favorite furry.”  Which for some readers, will sound a lot creepier than it is meant.  They are all pretty cute, to be honest.  Super, ridiculously “girly”, but I will admit they are adorable.  I am a bit stuck between the rainbow rabbit, and the blinged out mouse.  I think I’ll go with mouse (Toofie).  Then they just have you pick a fairy!  That doesn’t even make sense, but I am a 24-year-old woman, and clearly not their target demographic.

All the fairies kind of creeped me out, since they have a weird stepford-wife/super-model vibe going.  They all have a little bio, though.  They did have a nod to Hispanic/Latina girls, with one fairy saying “Hola” at the beginning of her bio.  I went with Triana, because she was the vet and creeped me out the least.  And I got some sparkle dollars!!!!  Everything is so damn pastel.  It isn’t even all that pink.  It just seems to overwhelm the other colors.

My first thought is that it is solely focused on girls.  Most of the time when I have seen toys meant for girls, they leave it open for boys.  They just flat out call the person playing a girl.  It appears that you might be able to interact with other people.  I will not be attempting to do that, because that is creepy.

O.K., that satisfied my curiosity for now.  There is a lot of stuff that weirds me out, but that is probably more about my personal preferences.  The way the fairies dress does not really seem to be a problem.  It is very similar to the way Disney Princesses often dress.  The main two issues I see are the skin tone issue, which is very common in toys, and the gender segregation.  They are coming out with a boy version, something to do with time traveling elves.

It is just such a stereotypically girly-girl type of thing.  It even has the new girl-power changes.  In the end, it does not seem as bad as I thought it would be.  If anyone wants to know what the actual game-play is like, I will do that.  As it stand now, though, the pink is melting my brain.

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Movie Review: R.I.P.D.

R.I.P.D.

Movie review time!  We went to see R.I.P.D. last night.  Now, if you want absolutely no spoilers, I would skip this one for now.  If you don’t mind the basic spoilers that were in the trailers, then you should be OK until the end.  Part of the review will spoil the ending, but that bit will be marked off with a giant warning.

In general, I really enjoyed the movie.  It was well-paced, and the quips between Ryan Reynolds, and Jeff Bridges were great.  Jeff Bridges sometimes being an extremely attractive super model made for some really good jokes.

(Now the smooth transition into my feminist critique)  Not only were those jokes good, but they tended to be lady friendly!  Yes, there was quite a bit of ogling of this woman, but it was clearly a failure on the part of the oglers.  Their distraction was a weakness in them, and did not seem to reflect negatively on the woman at all.  Of course, the dramatic irony that Jeff Bridges is actually that woman may influence  that perception.  Either way, there is one brilliant part (spoiler for a joke), where Jeff Bridges is approached by “music video producer.”  Bridges tears him a new one, about how he is not a piece of meat put on this earth for him to objectify.  Of course, a bit of wind is taken out of that particular sail, when Bridges spends a lot of the movie commenting on women (but he is from the 1800s or some such, so he’s pretty enlightened for his time?).

SPOILER FOR THE ENDING

Either way, the movie features very little violence against women, other than the climactic fight.  She at least tries to fight back a bit, but she is fighting a dead cop.  What’s she going to do?

FINISHED THAT SPOILER

The movie was a bit lacking in female characters, but Proctor was pretty great.  She runs the Boston R.I.P.D.  It was nice to see an attractive woman in power, who could be in a sexual relationship that did not bring that power into question.  It was clearly a bit of an abnormal relationship, since they regularly “billy goat” apparently, but it clearly works for them. Reynolds’ character’s wife is not exactly a wilting flower.  She does not bow under the pressure of her grief, but she does not really have a chance to shine, either.  I cannot complain too much about that, though, since focusing too much on that would have caused some problems with pacing in the story.

Now for the really big issue.  There appears to be all of two Black characters in the film.  One is an evidence woman for the R.I.P.D., the other is Proctor’s alternate appearance.  So, really, there is only one Black character.  It is possible that there were other R.I.P.D. officers who were Black, but they were so far in the background that they are clearly easily forgotten.  It was explained to me, that a “joke” (a.k.a. uncomfortable/possibly racist fact/situation) about the Boston P.D. is that there are not really any Black officers.  However, Bridges character is clearly not a former Boston police officer, as his body was eaten by coyotes, and he says he was from the old west.  Even if it was a deliberate joke on the Boston P.D., it was not made clear.  It just looks like they failed to cast almost any Black actors at all.

BIG OLD SPOILER FOR THE END – DO NOT READ FURTHER TO AVOID SPOILERS

I loved the ending.  In this type of movie, I expect that the main character will be allowed to return from the dead to his lady-love.  That did not happen and it was great.  He tells his wife to move on, love again, and all of that.  Then he continues with his 100 year turn with the R.I.P.D.  It was great!  The acceptance of death as extremely unfortunate at times, but a natural part of life. Something that cannot, and should not be reversed.  It also had the benefit of being terribly romantic.

Ryan Reynolds also pulls off a shoulder holster very well.  As if anyone is surprise

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Animals as Tools

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My buddy the vulture!

Another post inspired by my sister’s b-day trip to the National Zoo! 

In one part of the ape complex, they have activities, the types of things with which they test the intelligence of the apes.  It is a really interesting set up, but there was one part in particular that grabbed my interest.  The topic of the display is whether or not animals can be considered tools.  I will admit that, since the focus of the trip was, in fact, my sister’s birthday, and not finding fodder for my internet ramblings, I did not write down anything except for the topic.  This means that I will not be arguing for or against the zoo’s point, just trying to answer the question “Can/should animals be considered tools?”

My gut reaction is basically hell no, but I cannot just leave it without more thought. The obvious place to start is definitions of the words “animal”, and “tool.”  For these terms, we turn to our handy, easily accessible, web dictionary, Merriam-Webster online. 

An animal is defined as “any of a kingdom (Animalia) of living things including many-celled organisms and often many of the single-celled ones (as protozoans) that typically differ from plants in having cells without cellulose walls, in lacking chlorophyll and the capacity for photosynthesis, in requiring more complex food materials (as proteins), in being organized to a greater degree of complexity, and in having the capacity for spontaneous movement and rapid motor responses to stimulation”, or “one of the lower animals as distinguished from human beings.”  For this discussion, it really does not matter much which definition I follow.  The definition the zoo display was clearly following was the one excluding humans.  I make an effort to always consider humans as animals when I use the term, but we can just consider non-human animals for this discussion.

According to Merriam-Webster, a tool is “a handheld device that aids in accomplishing a task”, “something (as an instrument or apparatus) used in performing an operation or necessary in the practice of a vocation or profession”, or “one that is used or manipulated by another.”  This term is a bit more confusing, but basically a tool is something used to complete a task.

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Just me having fun at the zoo! I thought I would add it before I got to preachy.

The answer to the simple question “Can an animal be considered a tool?” is, therefore, obviously “Yes.”  Non-human animals (and human animals, let’s be honest) are used to complete tasks all of the time.  Dogs are used to sniff out bombs, rescue people, or guide people.  Bees are used to create honey, and pollinate.  They are even carted around the country by beekeepers.  Cats are used to keep rodents away from the places humans have claimed.  Animals are clearly used as tools by humans everyday. 

The question of whether they should be thought of as tools, or even used in this way, is much more complicated.  I will not deny that many things for which animals are used do not cause the animals any harm.  In fact, the few service dogs, and mousing cats I have encountered seem very content in their lives.  This impression does not hold for all animals, of course. 

For now, I will leave aside the argument over the use of animals for specific cases in the future.  The issue at question here is how we think of animals, and the result of that thinking.  Many people consider animals to be less than human.  They cannot stop us from using them, or protest, so we will continue on as we have.  Thinking of animals as “tools” or any similar terms falls into a similar category as calling women “chicks”, or any number of animal related slurs for Black men, and women.  These terms reduce their humanity, and allow for their mistreatment.  Calling/thinking of animals as “tools” allows for their mistreatment, as well. 

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Would you want to harm this face?!

Animals can be more easily cast aside, because we do not always ascribe emotions to them.  Think about, for example, how offended people get in America when they hear about someone eating a dog, a cat, or a horse.  Why is that any different than eating a cow, a chicken, or a pig?  Dogs, cats, and horses are pets to us.  We love them, and they become part of the family.  Almost human, if not equal to us.

In the end, this disconnect is not just a problem with our treatment of animals, but is relevant to our treatment of other people.  It takes work, but it is necessary to consider these other beings as actual, feeling creatures. 

 

 

 

A separate issue entirely:  I recently came down with Bell’s Palsy.  It is not really a big deal, but I decided to do some documenting of my recovery.  Mostly to make myself feel better.  You can find it here, if you are interested in some pics of my poor face.

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Another Cheerios Commercial

Most people are probably aware of the interracial family Cheerios commercial, and the controversy people dug up around it.  Their latest commercial is unlikely to cause the same sort of uproar, but I found it kind of upsetting.

It just seems terribly inappropriate.  Cheerios’ usual marketing scheme of touting their cereal as heart healthy has always pulled on the heartstrings a bit.  They like to have a parent and their kids, and basically guilt a consumer into their food. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like to eat Cheerios, and pointing out that it is heart healthy is great.  It just seems underhanded to do it like that.  Their commercials just showing people jogging, and being active seem like a better choice.

Bringing some cute kid’s dead grandmother, and his choked up mom into the mix just seems a bit much.  It is not a huge deal, and I am not terribly offended by it.  However, it has stuck in my craw since I saw it a few days ago.  It is hard for me to explain exactly why it is upsetting to me. 

Let me know your reactions.  How well does it work as advertising?  Are your running out to let a single tear fall gently down your cheek over breakfast?

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My Discomfort with Museums and Zoos

photo(1)My discomforts with zoos and museums are closely related. The cognitive dissonance between my academic curiosity, my desire to see every aspect of the world I can, and my activist/feminist/anthropological desire not to take bits and pieces of people’s cultures or animal’s lives.

I will start with museums. For some things, such as Van Gogh’s paintings, in have no qualms about museums. Many artists would be ecstatic to have their pieces in the Smithsonian or some other show case. I am sure there are some who would not like it, but I am willing to bet that there are few. My real issue starts with the every day items: people’s bowls, jewelry, and tools. A culture cannot be truly understood via these random artifacts so totally out of context. For most of these items, what is the point of even seeing them? Look at that fork…it is almost the same as the fork I have in my lunch for my fruit cup. People may think they learn something about the culture, but they are far more likely to learn something worthwhile from an actual ethnography. Museums can, however, raise the awareness of the similarities and differences between people worldwide, which can be invaluable.

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Me playing with my sea lion buddy!

And then there are the religious items. Or, even more disturbing in my opinion, the items meant for the afterlife. I am extremely uncomfortable with things like mummies and canopic jars. How would you feel if you extremely elaborate and meaningful eternal rest was disturbed so you and your coffin could be put on display? What would these individuals have thought of this treatment? I am not of the opinion that my anthropological duty to observe and participate without attempting to influence my subjects ends at death. Also ghosts. Just saying.

My feelings with zoos are similar. I love animals. I love being able to see them up close and I got to play with a sea lion through the glass yesterday. That was like a dream one true! I also realize that animals’ lives outside of captivity are not exactly happy. There is a lot of fear, hunger, and sickness. But they are not stuck in tiny boxes. I live a privileged, so I may not have the right perspective to know, but I am not so sure that this is a deal I would make. To paraphrase my boyfriend, zoos are prisons with plants and waterfalls.

As always, let me know what you think! This is an issue I would really like to discuss.

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All Female X-Men

My dad recently sent me this article about the newest X-men series.  The restart of numbering for X-Men.  This team is the first all female x-men team or any Marvel team in an ongoing series.  There have been all female short term teams, though, so it is not an entirely new idea.

I read almost all of the currently printed X-Men comics and I am a bit embarrassed to admit that when I read X-Men #1 it did not even occur to me that they were all women.  They are some of the great female X-Men, too.  The current team consists of Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat and a number of other names), Storm, Rogue, Rachel Grey (Jean Grey and Scott Summer’s daughter from the future), Psylocke, and Jubilee.  The characters alone are probably exciting to anyone who likes the X-Men, but the fact that they are all women is pretty exciting.

Now comes some possible spoilers.  Beware.  It may be interesting to note that the first all women team’s first story centers around a baby.  The team forms in this book in response to a child in trouble.  Admittedly the story quickly develops to consider other issues, such as a technology virus (also identified as female, by the way) threatening Earth.

I wish this team had not formed around a baby.  I will admit that.  However, the story seems like it will really use these character’s strengths.  Rogue has already dropped Kitty to phase into a moving train and Psylocke, as always, has threatened somebody. I am still getting used to Storm after her divorce and AvX, but it seems pretty good.

So, what might this mean beyond a comic full of women (which may have a male character added at any moment)?  Female characters have had their own comics, both continuous and a short series.  Captain Marvel has one going at the moment, for example.  Perhaps this new team indicates the popularity of strong female characters.  Perhaps it is just an indicator of the popularity of these specific characters.  It is hard to tell with just one issue.

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