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Tomb Raider Review: A Moderate Leap, But Major Progress

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Earlier this year, I expressed a sincere hope that the new “Tomb Raider” movie would finally do something that no other video game movie had managed to do. I hoped that it would be to video game movies what the original “X-men” was to modern superhero movies. I’d even hoped that Lara Croft could be to video game characters what “Wonder Woman” was to female superheroes.

That last one might have been hoping for too much, but I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to see Hollywood get at least one movie based on a video game really right. Between the lackluster “Resident Evil” movies and the god-awful “Super Mario Bros,” the genre is overdue for a hit.

I get that there are challenges associated with making a movie out of a video game. However, Lara Croft and “Tomb Raider” is in a better position than most. It’s a franchise that has an iconic character who has built a strong fanbase over the course of two decades. The fact that she’s a strong, sexy female character at a time when the appetite for such characters is greater than ever works even more to her benefit.

While Lara Croft’s sex appeal has been controversial in recent years, she’s still a great character whose games already have a very cinematic feel. Having played her 2013 game multiple times, I can attest to the strength of that narrative. It has all the necessary elements that translate well to a movie.

This movie, being a franchise that has already attempted twice with Angelina Jolie in the early 2000s to mixed success, seems to make a better effort than most to succeed where so many have fail. This version of “Tomb Raider” works hard to tell a real, serious story on par with that of any other successful action franchise. It tries to do this while still incorporating elements of the game into the narrative.

It’s ambitious and sincere. It also helps that it cast Alicia Vikander, an Oscar-winning actress whose brilliance and sex appeal in “Ex Machina” made her well-suited to the role. Criticisms of her having the necessary boobs for the role aside, Ms. Vikander can act and be sexy in her own right. It’s only a matter of whether she can channel that talent into making “Tomb Raider” succeed where so many others have failed.

Well, having seen the movie on its opening weekend, I’d like to offer my assessment on this matter. While I’ll always be haunted, to some extent, by terrible video game movies like “Super Mario Bros,” I went in feel genuinely hopeful for this movie. I was also bracing myself, knowing as well as anyone the history of video game movies.

With that mentality going into the theater, I eagerly gave “Tomb Raider” and Alicia Vikander the benefit of the doubt. By the time I came out of the theater, I was able to come to a simple conclusion, albeit one with a few caveats.

Yes, this is a good movie, but it’s not a game-changer.

It’s true. “Tomb Raider” is an genuinely good video game movie. I honestly didn’t think I would ever be able to say that with a straight face in my lifetime, but I can and it’s worth saying again. This is a good movie.

By that, I mean the movie has a concise, well-crafted story from start to finish. The movie establishes who Lara Croft is, what she’s dealing with, and what kind of person she is. The plot isn’t too messy. The effects aren’t too cheesy. The acting is actually good and not just from Ms. Vikander. Everyone in this movie seems to make a real, honest effort.

Like the 2013 video game, the movie follows a young, inexperienced Lara Croft who has yet to become the sexy badass that went onto inspire so much lurid fan art. However, by the end of the movie, you can already see traces of that sexy badass growing within her. As a character, she grows and evolves over the course of the movie. Watching her grow and seeing her struggle at times is genuinely compelling.

The story and the details surrounding it are tight and well-organized. At no point in the movie is there a scene that feels random, contrived, or forced. The events that unfold happen organically, from Lara getting arrested early in the movie to unlocking the secrets to an ancient tomb on the hidden island of Yamatai. Nothing ever just happens. There’s a rhyme and rhythm to the story.

It’s a story that is not bland or predictable, even to those who played the 2013 game multiple times, like I did. The movie downplays some of the more mystical elements of Lara Croft’s mythos, but still incorporates plenty of the over-the-top machinations that Tomb Raider and “Indiana Jones” fans alike can appreciate.

However, it’s that effort to make the movie feel less fanciful that, in my opinion, keeps it from being the kind of game-changing movie that “X-men” and “Wonder Woman” were. While “Tomb Raider” qualifies as a good movie, it doesn’t do enough to be a truly great movie.

This movie, in many respects, plays it safe. While it puts Lara through plenty of tough situations, things never get too dire for her. She’s allowed to suffer and endure wounds, but only to a point. Others, including her father as played by Dominic West, arguably endure a whole lot more.

Safe or not, it’s understandable that the movie wouldn’t try to do too much all at once. Movies that do that tend to get messy, as many recent Michael Bay films can attest. I think “Tomb Raider” did the right thing, playing it safe and keeping things simple. It left some of its potential on the table, but did plenty to leave much of that potential available for future sequels.

That’s somewhat of a gamble, though. Too many movies, these days, are made solely with sequels in mind and sometimes that assumes too much. Anyone who saw “Green Lantern” or “The Mummy” can attest to that. At least with “Tomb Raider,” the ending and the revelations it offers actually leave you feeling excited for a sequel.

That’s a gamble that may or may not pay off. I’m aware that this movie did not exactly set the box office on fire, especially in a market still dominated by “Black Panther.” However, it did manage to pull in some decent numbers overseas and that might give this movie the fuel it needs to become a full-fledged franchise.

Again, the movie does have flaws. If you go into “Tomb Raider” looking for reasons to hate it, you’ll find them. If you think Ms. Vikander wasn’t sexy enough, you’ll find points in the movie to vindicate that. Conversely, if you think Ms. Vikander was too sexy and her portrayal in this movie is contributing to sexism and the objectification of women, you’ll find instances of that too.

If, however, you go in hoping for a good, coherent movie that tells a compelling, dramatic story, you’ll find that “Tomb Raider” delivers. In fact, I would argue that it delivers in ways no video game movie has ever managed before. It doesn’t do quite enough to be a new “Wonder Woman,” but it achieves far more than any previous video game movie has ever dared.

If I were to score this movie, I would give it a solid 8 out of 10 or a 7.5 out of 10 at the lowest. “Tomb Raider” has an opportunity to redefine a maligned movie genre and it succeeds. With other movies like “Rampage” coming out this year, the situation is ripe for a new generation of video game movies that aren’t terrible.

Whether your a fan of the games, a fan of action movies, or just looking for a great female character played by someone other than Gal Gadot and Scarlett Johansson, “Tomb Raider” will give you plenty to enjoy. It may still be a while before we can relegate movies like “Super Mario Bros” to the same dusty bin as “Batman and Robin,” but “Tomb Raider” offers a critical first step.

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A Better Way To Promote Diversity

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How do you encourage meaningful change in media, culture, and social attitudes? That’s a reasonable and relevant question to ask these days. It seems everyone is either trying to push for greater diversity or whining about the lack thereof. More often than not, however, those efforts aren’t mutually exclusive.

Even if nobody has a definitive answer to the question of how, that hasn’t stopped many from trying. There have been major diversity pushes in every form of media from video games to comics to movies to TV shows. Not all of them have been successful. In some cases, they backfired horribly and cost people money.

I don’t want to belabor the specifics of those failures, but I do think it’s worth pointing out that they also have the effect of angering and/or insulting the audience. For franchises that have a huge fan base, that can be pretty detrimental. Some franchises never recover.

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It certainly doesn’t help that there are those who push for diversity for all the wrong reasons. There’s a very vocal contingent of critics/professional trolls who go out of their way to bemoan the lack of diversity in a certain piece of media. Whether it’s a video game having too many people of the same race or a lack of strong female characters, these people will whine about it as loud as the internet will allow.

For the most part, I don’t think anyone should give much attention to such whining. We’ve all dealt with whiny children at some point in our lives. Most people learn, often the hard way, that arguing with them rarely works out. Most people just give up to stop the whining. I’ve pointed out before why this can lead to bigger problems down the line.

It quickly becomes a brutal cycle. The more attention you give to these whiny children, the more incentive they have to whine so they can get what they want. The same applies to these “critics” who keep whining about diversity. It’s not enough for them that “Black Panther” is doing so well with a diverse cast. Some will still whine that it had no LGBT characters.

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It’s inescapable. You simply cannot win against a whiny child. No matter how much you go out of your way for them, they’ll find another reason to whine and so long as they keep getting their way, they’ll keep doing it. In the long run, though, that’s still a terrible way to promote diversity.

Ideally, producers of media will pursue diversity because they want to appeal to a broader audience. They want to make money and money doesn’t care about race, religion, or genital configuration. However, when critics/trolls rely on whining to get their way, then those efforts become less about diversity and more about stopping the whining.

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I believe there is a better way to promote diversity and it does not involve any whining. It doesn’t require some radical rethinking of how we go about producing, consume, or discussing media. It doesn’t even require some major protest, a new law, or diversity quotas. It’s just a simple change in approach that anyone can do for free and without that much effort.

That change can be summed up in two words: positive reinforcement. If you’ve taken a basic psychology class at any point in your education, you already know what this means. Even if you haven’t taken any classes and just deal with a lot of annoying people/children/whiners, you probably know the idea.

Rather than complaining about what is so bad about something, positive reinforcements involve focusing on the good. Rather than whine about what isn’t there, you celebrate what is there. Most importantly, though, you turn that outrage once reserved for those bad things into apathy. Most forms of media can survive outrage. They cannot survive apathy.

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To illustrate this approach, consider the following scenario that tends to play out whenever someone criticizes a movie, TV show, video game, etc. for a lack of diversity.

“Just look at this terrible affront to women, minorities, and LGBTQ people! It’s so racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic! It sends a terrible message and appeals to an audience that wants to cling to their regressive attitudes. It’s perpetuating a destructive, unhealthy mindset that directly impacts our culture. This affront should be censored, changed, or condemned endlessly until the world changes!”

Chances are, you’ve heard something like this over the past few years. Sometimes it involves a female character that doesn’t check the right boxes. Sometimes it involves a story that tries to check too many boxes. In any case, the whiners I mentioned earlier will find a reason to get upset about it. Moreover, they’ll demand some sort of change, coupled with condemnation over anyone who disagrees.

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That’s not going to promote diversity. If anything, that’s going to give people one too many reasons to resent pushes for diversity. Some media companies are already learning that the hard way, with Marvel being the most recent example. Ideally, you want someone to promote diversity because they want to and not because they’re afraid of a backlash.

With that in mind, here’s a second scenario that shows how positive reinforcement can further that effort.

“That thing some claim is racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic? I don’t really care for that. Let me tell you about this other thing that I just think is amazing! I love it. It’s so much fun and it sends such a good message to men, women, and minorities of all kinds. I want more of this. I’m willing to pay for more of this. Please make more of this!”

It may come off as some peppy kid who is way too excited about something. Then again, wouldn’t you rather be around that kid instead of the one that whines to get what they want? When someone is happy and excited about something, it’s kind of infectious. It makes us want to share in that feeling.

Throw money into the mix and suddenly, the same producers that make all the media that regressive types whine about actually have a good incentive to promote diversity beyond just placating whiners. Instead of just avoiding controversy, they actually want to do diversity and do it right.

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The key is focusing on instances where it is done right. They are there. There have been plenty of examples of the media actually getting diversity right. They just don’t make the news because outrage is louder and garners more attention. Even so, excitement and praise can be just as loud.

Instead of complaining about Rey being a Mary Sue in “Star Wars,” focus on how great Princess Leia was in the first trilogy or how great Ahsoka Tano is in “Star Wars: Clone Wars.”

Instead of complaining about Lara Croft being too sexy, focus on how great Samus Aran is in the Metriod games.

Instead of complaining about the lack of diversity on shows like “Seinfeld,” focus on how great the minority characters are in shows like “Fresh Off The Boat” or “House.”

It may not sound as vocal or satisfying as venting outrage about a flaw, but it sends the kind of message that others are more likely to want to get behind. Whereas positive feelings can have many benefits to yourself and those around you, venting outrage can be very unhealthy.

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In the long run, getting others to want to promote diversity is the best way to further it. Whining about it isn’t going to accomplish that. It’s just going to make others want to stop the whining. That may work for kids, but not functioning adults.

Movie producers, TV executives, comic book writers, and video game programmers alike are all still human at the end of the day. Human beings respond positively to positive feelings. Channel those feelings into promoting diversity and you won’t just get more of it. You’ll get people who are actually excited about producing it.

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The Mixed (And Misguided) Messages Of All-Female Movie Remakes

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There are some topics that I really want to comment on, but the rhetoric surrounding it are so hostile and so controversial that I feel like any comment I make will put way too big a target on my back. Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who has talked about issues like abortionreligious extremism, and Wonder Woman’s BDSM origins.

In general, if I want to contribute to the conversation, I try to wait until the heat dies down and the Twitter bans subside. Sometimes, that takes a long time, so much so that I’m tempted to just drop the issue altogether. For this one, though, I think there’s no use waiting because it’s a trend now and the controversies associated with it are here to stay.

It seems so long ago now, but when I first heard that there would be a new “Ghostbusters” movie with an all-female cast, I was genuinely intrigued. I was not among those who thought this was the worst idea ever and that this was somehow ruining my childhood, as some upset fans had claimed.

Maybe it’s because I’m not as big a Ghostbusters fan as I am an X-men fan, but I didn’t mind the novel/gimmicky approach that director Paul Feig attempted. The long-rumored Ghostbusters 3 wasn’t happening. The original cast couldn’t get it off the ground and Bill “Peter Venkman” Murray had made clear that he had no interest in reprising his role. Why not try something different to reinvigorate the franchise?

It could’ve been a bold new approach to Ghostbusters. A fresh take, a new cast, and an infusion of female-centered star power could’ve really kick-started a whole new trend, one that both elevated long-dormant franchises and expanded the role of female characters, a trend that had already begun.

Then, the trailer came out and those possibilities became much more remote. While I, personally, didn’t despise it, I was considerably less intrigued. The fact that the trailer went onto become the most disliked trailer in the history of YouTube speaks volumes for how poorly this otherwise-novel concept came off.

I had originally intended to see the movie when it came out. Then, as new clips came out and I got a sense of how the story would unfold, I decided not to. When it finally came out on cable, I tried watching it. I ended up changing the channel. It’s not that I hated the movie. It just had none of the appeal I’d hoped.

I know that’s somewhat petty considering the many controversies the movie generated, complete with sexism, racism, and everything else that sets the internet ablaze these days. As soon as professional trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos got involved, I saw that as a sign that this was one of those controversies that would transcend movies for all the wrong reasons.

I don’t know if enough time has passed for the animosity to settle, but in reflecting on the controversies of “Ghostbusters,” I feel the time is right to confront it. Regardless of whether it succeeded or failed, it effectively kick-started the idea of all-female remakes. That’s an idea that I think still has merit, but the approach and overall message of “Ghostbusters” make clear that the Hollywood still hasn’t figured it out.

In a sense, the problem with “Ghostbusters” is similar to the ongoing problems with strong female characters in general. From the parts I saw, the approach to that movie was shallow and crass in that it painted nearly every male supporting character a bumbling idiot in need of female guidance. This was especially true of Kevin, the dim-witted secretary played by Chris Hemsworth.

I get that some of that approach was an effort to inject the kind of humor that made the original Ghostbusters so funny and memorable, but it really fell flat, almost to an insulting degree. It reinforced the notion men somehow need to be denigrated or taken down a peg for female characters to be strong.

While it didn’t offend me, personally, it certainly undermined the story. A world full of idiot men isn’t that bad. That’s a huge part of the appeal for shows like “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” However, that kind of appeal doesn’t fit with that of Ghostbusters.

Beyond just making all the men seem like idiots, the way in which the all-female cast brought little nuance to their roles. They were just four women pasted into four roles previously played by men. That’s it. They brought nothing new to the table. I say that as someone who really likes Melissa McCarthy and Leslie Jones, but I know they’re capable of far more than they gave in this movie.

If the intent was to show that women could work these roles just as well as men, then that’s the wrong goal, especially for a franchise as beloved as Ghostbusters. That effort denigrates both men and women because it doesn’t send the message that they’re equals. It sends the message that they’re interchangeable, disposable, and not the least bit unique.

The original cast of Ghostbusters had unique, quirky personalities that were memorable and iconic. The all-female cast had some of that, especially Leslie Jones’ character, but not nearly enough. Too much of it was built around the persona these actresses had already established in other roles. They really didn’t do anything to set themselves apart other than fill a role once held by a man.

That can’t be the only thing an all-female cast brings to the table. Just being women cannot and should not be enough to carry a story or revitalize a franchise. It’s true that men and women have various character archetypes, some of which are more distinct than others, but there has to be room for innovation.

Great female characters like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Rey from “Star Wars,” or Sarah Conner from “The Terminator,” do a lot more than just do things men usually do while being women. They’re allowed to exercise their feminine traits every now and then. The all-female cast of Ghostbusters never got that chance. They tried too hard to be like the originals and it just didn’t work.

I won’t say that “Ghostbusters” utterly ruined the concept of remaking movies with an all-female casts. The movie wasn’t that bad. It just didn’t do nearly enough to make it really good. It didn’t kill a genre like “Batman and Robin” almost did with superhero movies. It does count as a setback, though.

It’s one I hope Hollywood learns from because, at the moment, there are similar movies in development. The latest, which I admit I’m also intrigued by, is “Ocean’s 8.” Unlike “Ghostbusters,” it’s not a complete remake and it doesn’t try to replace the entire cast of “Ocean’s Eleven.” It’s following a similar narrative, but using an all-female cast to tell the story.

While this franchise isn’t as iconic as “Ghostbusters,” it’s still bound to cause plenty of controversy and heated debates on sexism. However, based on the trailer, I’m intrigued once more. I know that burned me last time, but I’m still willing to give it a chance.

I still believe that all-female casts, even for non-remakes of major movie franchises, have great potential. Women do make up half the population, last I checked. They have plenty of stories to tell. If “Ocean’s 8” can succeed where “Ghostbusters” failed, then that can revitalize the concept. As Hollywood has shown before, it only needs to work once to start a trend.

I believe the concept will succeed once these movies stop trying to troll certain audiences and focus on building new perspectives within a story. The perspective of women is supposed to complement that of men, not subvert it. If a movie can succeed in that, then it can truly appeal to everyone.

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Filed under gender issues, Movie Reviews, sex in media, sexuality

Can “Tomb Raider” Succeed Like “Wonder Woman” (And Begin A Larger Trend)?

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It seems so long ago, but there was a time when movies based on superheroes were in the same sorry state as those based on video games. The fact I’m old enough to remember those days makes me feel way older than I want, but it’s still remarkable to consider at a time before big budget superhero movies like “The Avengers” and “Iron Man 3” grossed over a billion dollars.

That’s a huge shift from the mid to late 1990s, an era where such craptacular cinematic turds like “Batman and Robin” and “Super Mario Brothers” created the sentiment that those kinds of movies were box office poison. I’m sure some have yet to forgive Joel Shumacher and whoever thought casting Dennis Hopper as Bowser was a good idea.

That all changed, at least for superhero movies, when “X-men” hit theaters in 2000. Even with the stench of Shumacher’s failure lingering, that film proved that superhero movies can be both good and make a lot of money. As a result, the modern era of superhero movies was born.

While that has been great for the superhero movie genre, the video game genre didn’t fare as well. It’s not just because “Super Mario Brothers” was that bad, though. It’s more a matter of bad timing, bad execution, and movie studios just plain not knowing how to make a decent video game movie.

There have been attempts, including one “Doom” movie and fiveResident Evil” movies. None of them were the kind of hit that could kick-start an entire genre. Granted, Milla Jovovich made a respectable effort. Like the nipples on George Clooney’s Batman costume, though, it just didn’t take. As such, video game movies remain a punchline instead of a genre.

That may be about to change, though. Just this past week, a second trailer dropped for a movie that could do for video games what “X-men” did for superheroes. That movie is “Tomb Raider,” the same title of one of the most successful video game franchises of the past 20 years, which also happens to star one of the most famous, not to mention sexiest heroines of all time.

Unlike “Resident Evil” or “Super Mario Brothers,” Lara Croft is the kind of character who can work just as well in an action movie as she does a video game. Her being a digital sex symbol is just a nice bonus. The fact that Warner Brothers cast Alicia Vikander to play her role, an Oscar winning actress who did plenty to establish her sex appeal in “Ex Machina,” shows they’re really trying this time.

Just watch the trailer. Even for those who have never played a “Tomb Raider” game or cared much for Lara Croft can’t deny the potential. I still hesitate to say it, but this might just be a true video game movie that doesn’t suck.

I say that not just because of the trailer. Modern audience have learned since “Snakes on a Plane” that an awesome trailer rarely makes for an awesome movie. I’m daring to have confidence in this movie because it looks like it’s trying to capture the theme and spirit of the game without sacrificing the quality of the movie. For video game movies, that’s unprecedented.

Beyond the apparent effort, though, there’s something else “Tomb Raider” has going for it. Thanks to the success of “Wonder Woman” last year, which I so happily documented, this movie is coming along at the best possible time.

It’s not just generic male heroes or John McClane rip-offs that appeal to audiences anymore. “Wonder Woman” proved that there is a market for female heroes. Not only was that movie critically praised. It made a lot of money, more than all five “Resident Evil” movies combined. Nobody can argue that female heroes don’t sell anymore. Wonder Woman proved they do and “Tomb Raider” can take it a step further.

I believe this because the Lara Croft that’s set to show up in this movie is not the same Lara Croft that once drew so much ire from whiny pop culture critics who think every attractive female character is just fodder for horny male gamers. This a different, more complex Lara Croft than the one that Angelina Jolie tried to bring to life in two previous “Tomb Raider” movies.

Now, I don’t want to dwell too much on those movies or the associated flaws with them. I’ll just say that, while I don’t consider those movies bad, they really were just generic action movies slapped with a “Tomb Raider” logo. Angelina Jolie certainly had the sex appeal, but it did little to make Lara Croft that interesting, which showed in the critical response and the box office for both movies.

The Lara Croft that Alicia Vikander is playing in this movie has more complexity and nuance to her. That version of Lara came to life in the 2013 “Tomb Raider” video game that rebooted her story. Having played that game multiple times and joined the chorus of its many critical praises, I can say with confidence that this trailer captured those critical elements from that game.

In the 2013 game, Lara doesn’t start out as the sexy, sassy archaeology enthusiast who loves to shoot guns and run around in hot pants. She’s an ambitious, but inexperienced young woman who is still growing into that persona and over the course of the game, she eventually develops into that character that so many video game fans know and love.

As other successful movies have shown, establishing growth in a character and making them someone we can root for goes a long way towards making a movie compelling. Part of what made “Wonder Woman” so great was that we got to see her grow into the beautiful female icon that so many cherish. The previous “Tomb Raider” movies, and most video game movies in general, barely tried.

Instead, most video game movies make the mistake of assuming the audience already knows the characters and just plops them into an action-heavy story with no purpose, heart, or major drama. If there is any drama, it’s usually forced or contrived. This version of “Tomb Raider” looks like it will take those same dramatic elements that made the 2013 game so compelling and translate them into the movie.

This version of “Tomb Raider” also has the benefit of coming out at a time when there’s a legitimate push for female-led movies. It’s very different from the Angelina Jolie era, whose movies came out a time when legendary flops like “Elektra” and “Catwoman” were setting back female heroes for a decade. Studios can’t get away with being that reckless with female characters anymore.

It’s for that reason that I have genuinely high hopes for this movie. It’s also because of the success of “Wonder Woman” that I believe there’s already an audience that’s eager to help “Tomb Raider” succeed.

Hollywood is already trying to capture that audience with movies like “Atomic Blond” and “Red Sparrow.” The recent announcement of a “Black Widow” movie being in development by Marvel Studios is only adding more momentum to the future of female heroes in movie.

Tomb Raider” succeeding will do even more than just build upon that momentum. It will establish that the success of “Wonder Woman” was not a fluke. It is possible to build a successful, lucrative franchise around more than one powerful woman. Lara Croft may not be an amazon warrior, but she has the potential to carve a place for herself in an increasingly competitive market.

Now, I don’t discount the potential that this movie could also fail. Like I said, video game movies have an abysmal track record, to say the least. That legacy is going to be difficult to overcome, but as “X-men” showed in 2000, it only takes one hit to start a trend. It’s a trend that I believe needs to happen for the good of the entire movie industry.

Even if you’re among the crowd who thinks the media is trying way too hard to push diversity in movies, video games, comics, and whatever other form of media is trying to turn a quick buck, it’s better for everyone that we have heroes who actually vary from time to time. There shouldn’t be that many similarities between John McClane, Luke Skywalker, and James Bond and every major movie icon of the past 50 years.

There is room for female heroes. There’s also room for movies based on video games. It’s not good for the industry, as a whole, if the only successful franchises come from Disney, Marvel, and the collective minds of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. By succeeding, “Tomb Raider” will open the door for a broader array of movies and female character.

That added variety need not come at the expense of the established male characters that we all know and love. “Wonder Woman” didn’t have to knock Superman or Batman down a peg in order to succeed. She found a way to succeed on her own and the superhero movie genre is better because of it. Lara Croft is fully capable of succeeding as well and the video game movie genre will be better too.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on this movie. Like “Wonder Woman,” it’s success will have far-reaching implications beyond the movie itself. It has everything it needs to succeed, from quality source material to an Oscar-winning actress to a market that’s recently demonstrated that iconic female characters can make millions at the box office. It just needs to follow through.

It’s doubtful that “Tomb Raider” will succeed at the same level as “Wonder Woman,” but it doesn’t have to. It just needs to turn a profit and capture all the elements that make Lara Croft great. If it can achieve that, then the future for both video game movies and female heroes is brighter than ever. It may not make us forget “Super Mario Brothers,” but it’ll help us move forward.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, gender issues, Movie Reviews, sex in media, Wonder Woman

Jack Fisher’s Top 5 Female Characters That Make Men Hate Women

Let’s face it. There are some fictional characters that are so detestable, so irredeemable, and so shamelessly mean that even a devout nun would want to punch them in the jaw. From King Joffrey to half the cast of “Friends,” there are plenty of characters we just love to hate and hate to hate.

Within that long list of depraved individuals, there are plenty of female characters. Women are just as capable of being that infuriatingly detestable. That’s one of the few things that both radical feminists and men’s rights activities can agree on. Some of these women don’t just give their gender a bad name. They act as a legitimate reason to roll back gender equality.

There are a lot of utterly detestable women in the real world and not just Lena Dunham and Ann Coulter types either. There are plenty more in the world of fiction and they do plenty to channel the inner Archie Bunker in all of us. It doesn’t matter how politically correct or how many gender studies courses you’ve taken. These characters inspire a special kind of hate.

When I compiled my list of great underrated female characters, I knew I would be contrasting them with women like this. The spectrum for female characters is pretty broad, despite what those behind the Bechtel Test may claim. On one end you have Furiosa from “Mad Max: Fury Road.” On the other, you have Regina George from “Mean Girls.

In the spirit of balance on this blog, I’m going to explore the other end of that spectrum. That means I’ll be tapping into some of the sinister sentiments I’ve explored before, namely those of misogynistic men. As always, I feel compelled to disclose that I do not support such sentiments. I am not here to start a gender war. I want this blog to remain funny and entertaining.

That said, I’m going to turn off my politically correct filter and dig into this den of detestable female characters. Just as before, I’ll stick to fictional characters with this list. Feminists, radical or otherwise, may want to brace themselves here. These are Jack Fisher’s top 5 female characters that make men hate women.


5. Lucy  Van Pelt (Peanuts Comics)

There are so many lovable characters in Charles Shultz’s iconic Peanuts comic strip. Seriously, how can you not love someone like Charlie Brown, Linus Van Pelt, or Pig Pen? Unless you’re a sociopath, it’s a challenge at best.

Then, there’s Lucy Van Pelt. If lovability has to be balanced with frothing hate, then it’s safe to say that Lucy does plenty to tip the scales. It’s not just that she never lets Charlie Brown kick that damn football. She’s coarse. She’s greedy. She’s manipulative. She’s constantly belittling others and telling them what to do, often with her firsts.

She may be a kid, but she embodies traits that kids and adults adults despise. She embodies the kind of callous cruelty that men often find in women who betray them. Lucy Van Pelt is very much a proto-Regina George, but she’s willing to punch people. That’s a dangerous and abhorrent combination.


4. Black Cat (Spider-Man)

When it comes to female comic book characters, I have a soft spot for self-proclaimed vixens. Throughout the history of comics, there have been many. From Emma Frost to Starfire, they embody the raw sex appeal that puts a smile on my face and a boner in my pants.

Now I understand there are certain uptight, overly PC folks who see vixens as an overt objectification of women. Most of the time, I just roll my eyes at these remarks. These are the same humorless asshats who claimed Wonder Woman was too sexy to be a UN ambassador for women. These people deserve no credibility.

That said, some characters do way too good a job of making those humorless asshats seem logical. Most female superhero vixens at least try to develop some sense of personality and depth. Even Jessica Rabbit had some moments of growth. For Felicia Hardy, also known as the Black Cat from the Spider-Man comics, there are no such moments.

She’s sexy. She’s cunning. She’s coy. Those are all basic traits of a vixen. However, Black Cat rarely uses her sex appeal for good. She’s a thief, a con-artist, and a liar. Unlike Catwoman, who will at least try to balance out her deviant habits, the Black Cat makes no effort.

She eagerly takes advantage of Spider-Man’s gullibility. She often uses her sexiness to manipulate others. She never makes any effort to grow or improve herself. She is a walking worst-case-scenario for a female vixen. She uses all her sex appeal for selfish indulgence and never for the greater good. She’s the epitome of irresponsibility and yet Spider-Man still wants to bone her. That says just as much about her as it does about Spider-Man.


3. Lois (Malcolm In The Middle)

There are any number of overplayed archetypes for male heroes. There’s the ladies man, the nerd, the jock, the rebel, and the token black guy. In every movie or TV show, you can usually find a couple of these characters.

For women, there are plenty of archetypes as well, but they’re not always as easy to identify. Most female characters tend to avoid the extremes of a given archetype. It’s not always balanced, but it’s rarely overt.

That’s what makes Lois, the temperamental mother from “Malcolm In The Middle,” such a frustrating character. She doesn’t try to avoid the extremes. She embraces them. She is, by every measure, the ultimate ball buster. She’s bossy, if not downright tyrannical. She’s callous, going out of her way to crush spirits and make everyone as miserable as her.

She embodies the kind of woman who takes over a home and runs it with an iron fist. Lois’ husband, Hal, is exceedingly submissive to her and not in a fun way. On top of that, nothing she does makes her deranged kids any less deviant. So not only is she a ball-busting tyrant, but she fails to realize that her methods don’t work, have never worked, and never will work. She’s the kind of woman that give men nightmares.


2. Peg Bundy (Married With Children)

Lois from “Malcolm In The Middle” isn’t the only sitcom that takes female archetypes to an infuriating extreme. Before there was Lois, there was another female character who inspired a special kind of dread in all heterosexual men. Her name still evokes fear in those who are thinking about getting married and for once, it’s not the name of a divorce lawyer.

Her name is Peggy Bundy from the classic Fox show, “Married With Children.” She embodies a different archetype than Lois, but one that’s every bit as detestable. She’s not the angry, ball-busting tyrant as much as she is the parasitic, soul-crushing, self-absorbed bitch who opts to bust balls indirectly. Given the many pathetic moments Al Bundy endures throughout the show, her methods work ominously well.

At least with Lois, she tries to better her family’s situation. Peggy makes no effort whatsoever. She doesn’t cook. She doesn’t clean. She doesn’t support her husband or family in any way. However, she still expects her husband to earn enough money to support her heavy shopping habits and her love of snack food.

She’s less a spouse and more a leech. The only reason Al married her is because she got him drunk. She represents the ultimate fear of men everywhere, a woman who exists solely to leech off their hard work and contribute nothing to the relationship or the family. As a female character, she is the ultimate cautionary tale for men seeking marriage.


1. Quinn Morgendorrfer (Daria)

This is just too fitting. When I made my list of the top five underrated characters, I made it a point to highlight Daria Morgendorrfer from the classic MTV show, “Daria,” as a likable, compelling, well-developed female character from an era that was just starting to develop those kinds of characters. On top of that, Daria didn’t even have to look good in a bikini to pull this off.

In that same show, however, there was another character who highlighted all the reasons Daria was so likable by being the complete opposite. Her name was Quinn Morgendorrfer. She’s Daria’s sister, although she spent nearly four-and-a-half seasons denying it.

Quinn, despite her bubbly persona, is the worst of the worst with respect to female characters men love to hate. At least with every other woman on this list, they’ll acknowledge their ego and narcissism to some extent. They’ll even joke about it. With Quinn, however, there’s no humility whatsoever.

For men, Quinn is one of those characters that just makes you want to grit your teeth and punch brick wall. She’s shallow, boring, self-centered, manipulative, uptight, whiny, and crass. It’s not just that she’s everything Daria isn’t. More than any other character on the show, she goes out of her way to avoid being likable or respectable in any capacity.

Quinn rarely, if ever, sees anyone as anything other than obstacles or opportunities. She doesn’t date men for any kind of emotional appeal. She just uses them for social status. The same goes for her female friends. She’ll ingratiate herself to them, but only because it helps her popularity. That’s what it’s all about for her, being popular and looking cute.

Quinn is the ultimate manifestation of what men don’t like about certain women. She uses and manipulates their emotions for her own personal gain. Even when she tries to do good, it’s often only because she wants to better herself and no one else. She doesn’t care if she breaks hearts or annoys others. She just wants to be cute and popular.


I hope this list and the one I posted before offers some insight into what makes quality female characters. I also hope it serves as a guide for men and women alike. Guys, if you’re looking for an ideal woman, stay away form the Quinns and Peggy Bundys of the world. Ladies, if you want men to be more understanding of women’s issues, then don’t be like Quinn or Peggy Bundy. We’ll all get along better as a result.

 

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Jack Fisher’s Top 5 Most Underrated Female Characters

When it comes to great female characters in pop culture, there are plenty of obvious choices. Contrary to what radical feminists believe about massive patriarchal conspiracies, our culture has created some pretty amazing women, real and fictional alike. So if there is a patriarchal conspiracy, they’re doing a piss poor job.

The best of the best, when it comes to female characters, are difficult to dispute. In the world of fiction, there’s Wonder Woman, Storm of the X-men, Captain Marvel from the Avengers, Supergirl, Sarah Conner from Terminator, Ripley from the Alien movies, Leslie Knope from “Parks and Recreation,” and Furiosa from “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

In the real world, we have just as many amazing women that raise the bar for both genders. We have Senator Elizabeth Warren, Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, Emma Stone, Maralyn Munroe, Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson, Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama, Taylor Swift, and whoever manages Taylor Swift’s public image. In either case, men and women alike have a great many choices in admirable female icons.

As great as these female characters are, however, there are still some characters that get overlooked and under-utilized. They’re still great characters in their own right. They just tend to get lost in the vast, chaotic, and constantly-shifting landscape of popular culture.

The same thing happens to male characters, but for better reasons. While they’re are plenty of great men in pop culture, there are a few too many that are blatant rip-offs of Superman, John McClane, and Batman.

So with that in mind, I’d like to acknowledge some of the overlooked, under-appreciated female characters that help make our culture great in their own unique way. For the sake of keeping this post brief and concise, I’ll focus on fictional characters. I find it’s a lot harder to ignore a real person these days when the media landscape is so vast, broad, and prone to strange memes and piss poor fact checking.

Since fictional characters can’t raise their voice, create a hashtag, or get thrown in jail for violating their probation, I figure they need this acknowledgement more than most. So without further adieu, here are Jack Fisher’s top 5 most underrated female characters.


5. Elaine Benes (Seinfeld)

This one may be a bit controversial because Seinfeld is a sitcom from a very different era. It’s also a show that gets constantly criticized by the politically correct crowd, but these humorless assholes only serve to undermine a female character who is balanced, compelling, and every bit as broken as the men.

In a show that has so many memorable characters, including Soup Nazis, Elaine still stands out as a great female character that brought out the best in actress, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Elaine was an ex-girlfriend of Jerry Seinfeld, but that was never the primary emphasis for her character.

Elaine is smart. She has a distinct personality beyond just being the only woman in the main cast. She’s also every bit as quirky. In a show that has someone like Cosmo Kramer, that’s an accomplishment. On top of that, she can dance like no one else.


4. Berta (Two And A Half Men)

I’m not going to deny it. “Two and a Half Men” is as dirty a show as they come. It’s crude. It’s vulgar. It contains some of the least likable characters this side of South Park. I can totally understand why the same politically correct assholes that whined about “Seinfeld” would whine about this show.

Despite all the crude vulgarity, this show still had Berta. Played by Conchata Ferrell, she was one of the best parts of this show. Even though she played the role of a housekeeper, she was one of the few who really stood up to Charlie and Alan Harper throughout the series. Those two can disrespect and denigrate all the women they want. However, they never dared to disrespect Berta.

Given the nature of the show and the very public meltdown that accompanied it, Berta definitely deserves credit for standing out. In a world with personalities like Charlie Sheen, that’s also an accomplishment.


3. Maria Hill (Marvel Comics)

In the world of Marvel Comics, there are dozens upon dozens of powerful female characters. From heavy hitters like She-Hulk to lovable underdogs like Jubilee, there are so many iconic characters who have a strong place in comic book lore.

Then, there’s Maria Hill. She’s not a super spy martial artist like Black Widow. She’s not a sexy assassin like Elektra. She’s not even a side-kick like Batgirl. She’s the director of SHIELD and often the right hand of its one-eyed visionary, Nick Fury. The fact she doesn’t have superpowers and is in such a high position of authority in the same comic book universe that has She-Hulk says a lot about her.

She’s not just a hardass authority figure, although she can be at time. She’s not just someone who’s every bit as determined and capable as Nick Fury either. She commands respect in her own way. She has a personality that’s distinct and tough. She could easily be a CEO or a drill sergeant. Whatever she is, she’s someone others eagerly follow. For any character, male or female, that’s pretty awesome.


2. Samus Aran (Metroid)

Video games tend to be a hot-button issue when it comes to women, thanks largely to some whiny, asshole critics who go out of their way to piss people off. I won’t get into all the inane bullshit surrounding that issue, but I will concede that in the early days, women were basically the same as Disney princesses. If they weren’t being rescued, they were often in the process of being kidnapped by some giant lizard monster.

Then, Samus Aran came along. In the early 8-bit days of gaming, she set herself apart by being a badass female bounty hunter at a time when other characters were either elves, plumbers, or GI Joe knock-offs. Her ability to kick ass in games was so surprising that some gamers didn’t realize that she was a woman until the very end.

Samus was, and still is, a breakthrough character who tends to get overlooked in an era where more emphasis is on outrage over female characters rather than whether the character is actually awesome. She fought, kicked ass, and looked damn sexy while doing it. What more could you want out of a female character that doesn’t involve a bottle of lube?


1. Daria Morgendorffer

Some concepts are just too ahead of their time to have the kind of impact they deserve. The same goes for certain characters. Sometimes, a character comes along in a certain era that embodies something that doesn’t become truly meaningful until years later.

For Daria Morgendorffer of the classic 90s MTV show aptly titled, “Daria,” she’s one of those characters who would’ve been a much bigger deal if her show was on today. Daria is not your typical female protagonist. She’s not overly sexual. She’s not overly charismatic either. However, what she lacks in overt femininity, she more than makes up for with a distinct, memorable persona.

She’s dry and sarcastic. She’s coarse and brutally honest. She’s also caring and understanding when she needs to be. She’ll say what others are afraid to say and not give a damn who gets upset in the process. She never comes off as an overplayed trope or cliche. She’s very much her own person.

She’s also got an emotional side. Her feminine side isn’t completely subverted. Throughout the show, she has multiple love interests, including one that becomes a steady boyfriend. As a character, she feels both unique and real. She’s someone that men and women alike want as a friend and a companion. Few characters, female or otherwise, can make that same claim in modern TV show.

For me, personally, Daria has a special place in my heart. She was, and still is, one of my favorite TV characters in the 90s. I feel like TV has been missing something since her show ended. While she may have been ahead of her time, her words of wisdom ring true in any era. With that in mind, I’ll leave everyone with this:

Um, thank you. I’m not much for public speaking. Or much for speaking. Or, come to think of it, much for the public. And I’m not very good at lying. So let me just say that, in my experience, high school sucks. If I had to do it all over again, I’d have started advanced placement classes in preschool so I could go from eighth grade straight to college. However, given the unalterable fact that high school sucks, I’d like to add that if you’re lucky enough to have a good friend and a family that cares it doesn’t have to suck quite as much. Otherwise my advice is; Stand firm for what you believe in, until and unless experience proves you wrong. Remember, when the emperor looks naked, the emperor is naked. The truth and a lie are not sort of the same thing. And there is no aspect, no facet, no moment of life that can’t be improved with pizza. Thank you.

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