entertainment

Canonically non-canonical same-sex pairings in “Star Wars,” ranked

The Last Jedi is testing the patience of some Stormpilot uberfans, who are debating if this new chapter in the new Star Wars saga advances or hinders the fandom-supported Stormpilot romance. I’ve got my opinions on it, which I’ll divulge later on once we’re out of spoiler fever.

But discussing Stormpilot brings up the very insurmountable fact that Star Wars has yet to truly bring LGBT representation to the forefront in a meaningful way. Rian Johnson, who co-wrote and directed The Last Jedi, has been intensely aware of Stormpilot, so much so that he’s actually retweeted fanart and fandom conversation about Finn and Poe’s speculated relationship. He’s also made sure to say he’s in support of LGBT characters in Star Wars. In fact, both Johnson and J.J. Abrams, the producer behind the new Star Wars films as well as the directors of both The Force Awakens and the upcoming Episode 9, have championed introducing LGBT characters into the films. But will that happen in the current Star Wars storyline or will it be more apparent in the next trilogy Johnson’s supposed to helm?

Until we know the absolute answer, one thing’s for sure–same-sex pairings and fandom-made representation have been a huge part of Star Wars since the beginning. With fans getting more and more restless, it’s only a matter of time before pairings move out of the realm of fandom and into the realm of canon. In fact, the pairings featured below are so well known by many that they might as well have their own movies devoted to them.

Here’s how I’m ranking them in terms of how canonical they are in the Star Wars franchise (with their rank affected by cast and crew interviews, actors’ intentions behind the characters, and fandom acceptance). Some issues to discuss first–it would have been fun to be able to include some female same-sex pairings in this list, but Star Wars is still a male-dominated story, unfortunately. There still isn’t enough focus on women, even though that’s growing thanks to this new crop of movies. Second, this list is only focusing on pairings that are in the movies. I’ve heard about Vice-Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) possibility being a queer character in the Star Wars books. But we don’t see that in The Last Jedi. I’m only going by what I’ve seen in the films.

4. Han Solo and Lando Calrissian

I haven’t seen much chatter about this slash pairing ever, but I know it exists. How can it not? Han and Lando are frenemies who go way back, have had tons of adventures together, and definitely have a past we don’t know about at all. Also, as this Dreamwidth user wrote in 2003, Lando trusts Han enough to give him his Millennium Falcon.

Personally, I don’t see it, but that doesn’t mean others can’t. And it also doesn’t mean I can’t be swayed–with Solo: A Star Wars Story coming out next year, I’m sure there’s going to be enough slashable content for those who love this pairing. In any event, the film will allow Lando’s characterization to get fleshed out beyond “that cool black guy who sold Han and Leia out to Darth Vader.” He can still be cool, but I hope he gets more of a solid backstory this go-round.

3. Finn and Poe Dameron

It might seem ludicrous that I’m ranking Stormpilot at number three, when big chunks of both this website and my Twitter account have been devoted to Finn and Poe’s relationship. Here’s my reasoning; it’s not that I don’t think Stormpilot can’t happen. It’s also not even that I think the cast doesn’t support it; with the way Oscar Isaac is always talking up Stormpilot in interviews, I think he’d be down. Even John Boyega, who hasn’t really drunken the Stormpilot Kool-Aid, seems to have at least partially come around to the idea of anything being possible, conceding to Radio Times in 2016 “you never know what they [the writers] are going to pull.” The reason I’m ranking Stormpilot so low is that it’s tough to see which way the wind is blowing on Stormpilot in relation to what the Lucasfilm brass think.

Regardless of what writers and directors might want to do with Stormpilot’s potential, the buck stops with Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy. As of last year, Kennedy gave a longwinded answer to Ecartelera that simply amounts to “I’m undecided.”

We’ve talked about it, but I think you’re not going to see it in The Last Jedi,” she said. “In the next six or eight months we will have some meetings about the stories that we will develop next… After 40 years of adventures, people have a lot of information and a lot of theories about the path these stories can take, and sometimes those theories that come up are new ideas for us to listen to, read and pay attention to.

What can be gleaned is that right now, folks at Lucasfilm and Disney are hashing out whether they want to invest in the Stormpilot idea. With fan pressure mounting, plus directors already giving their blessing to LGBT characters and, in a way, forcing Disney’s hand on the matter of LGBT representation, the answer as to whether to include queer characters in Star Wars has already been decided for the joint company; it’s just a matter of deciding if Finn and Poe are who they want to spearhead that initiative.

From my perspective, there’s one moment in The Last Jedi that shows that Johnson did give a small nod to Stormpilot, despite romance not featuring heavily in this installment. Will other fans pick up on that moment? I don’t know. But regardless, Stormpilot is still firmly in fanon territory right now.

2. Han Solo and Luke Skywalker

The fandom for the Han Solo and Luke Skywalker pairing is only comparable to the other OG slash pairing in the stars, Star Trek‘s Spock and Kirk.

Fanlore is a great resource for learning about the history of the Han/Luke (or “Skysolo”) pairing, but just to quickly sum it up, Skysolo has been around since the 1970s and 1980s, even though the majority of the fan projects were published in the 1990s (due to Lucasfilm classifying slash pairing fanworks as “adult” and prohibited the adult content in their official fanzines). Whether passed around privately or published publicly, the allure of Skysolo has been a part of the Star Wars culture, and, like the Kirk/Spock slash pairing, it’s also been a part of fan skirmishes.

One fan in the 1980s complained about Skysolo slash fiction being “a sub-genre without a home.”

“Is the influence of the infamous Lucasfilm brouhaha still so widespread? It certainly suppressed “straight” sexually-explicit SW fanfic; only now are we beginning to see that come out of the closet (“‘groan! ‘” bad pun!). I’m not saying I want to see SW fandom go through the kind of schism and upheaval that K/S [Kirk/Spock fanfiction] wrought on ST fandom; but I’m curious why SW slash, even though it’s being written–and written by some extremely good writers–isn’t finding a publisher. Are we still looking over our shoulder for The Men From Lucasfilm? Or do we think no one out there will buy and read it…heh – heh- heh- you know they they’ll buy and read it!”

Nowadays, it’s found its place in the open world of slash fandom, and speculation over Luke’s sexuality prompted Hamill himself to speak out in favor of Luke being gay or bisexual.

“…[F]ans are writing and ask all these questions, ‘I’m bullied in school… I’m afraid to come out’. They say to me, ‘Could Luke be gay?'” said Hamill to The Sun in 2016, according to Vanity Fair. I’d say it is meant to be interpreted by the viewer… If you think Luke is gay, of course he is. You should not be ashamed of it. Judge Luke by his character, not by who he loves.”

So, in one way, Luke’s queerness could be considered canon. But frustratingly, it still keeps characters in a gray area; they are whatever the fans want them to be. This strategy has been employed with Poe as well, with Oscar Isaac saying how he’s happy Poe can act as representation to so many different people and different sexual spectrums. Even so, Hamill allowing Luke to be representative of LGBT fans gives more credence to the theory that Luke developed a crush on Han during their time together. Han might be a scoundrel, but who wouldn’t develop a crush on him?

1. Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus

Chirrut and Baze get the top spot because their relationship is, to me, the one that was the most apparently “married” in the canon of Rogue One. Yes, if you’re so inclined, you can choose to see their relationship as that of brothers, but from where I’m sitting, their level of comfort with each other was that of two people who are friends and also happen to be more than friends. I mean, a good romantic relationship does start from friendship, does it not?

Their comfort with each other has been supported by fans, who deem them the old married couple of Star Wars. And once again, the people behind the characters chimed in to say that the fans’ theories aren’t necessarily wrong.

As Rogue One director Gareth Edwards told Buzzfeed, while the Chirrut and Baze being a couple wasn’t the original intention, if fans want to see that as canon, they’re more than welcome to. Much of Edwards’ opinion comes from Donnie Yen’s own perception of Chirrut and Baze’s relationship.

Yen, who portrayed Chirrut in Rogue One, reportedly felt like there was more to his and Baze’s relationship than the script initially let on. As Edwards said:

“After a while, it was something that became interesting. Donnie asked, ‘What do you think these guys are? What do you think their relationship really is?’ And he asked if that was the case. I felt like, ‘You know what? If these were real people and I was filming them, I wouldn’t know. It’s not something we would see; they would keep it to themselves.’ For all I know, a little bit of that might be going on under the surface…Genuinely, if the audience wants to take that away from it, I’m very happy. I’d be very proud to have brought something like that to Star Wars.”

For me, this makes Chirrut and Baze the most canonical same-sex pairing Star Wars has right now. Their relationship is one that wasn’t solely defended after the film’s release; it was also one that was developed as the actors were fleshing out their characters. That means that much of their interactions were–or at least Yen’s–were calculated to read as “married.” That’s what makes Chirrut and Baze one of the most compelling parts of Rogue One. 

Honorable mention: C3PO and R2D2

R2D2 and C3PO are here as honorable mention because…they’re robots. But if you even have a passing knowledge of Star Wars, then you’ll know the running joke is that C3PO and R2D2 are the “first gay characters” in Star Wars. Or, at least, C3PO is the “first gay character” in Star Wars. But with the advent of actual queer humans in Star Wars, this running joke can be put to rest, since 1) I don’t know if R2D2 really likes C3PO like that anyways (seems like he merely tolerates him and is merely comfortable with C3PO’s nagging) and 2) robots in Star Wars don’t exhibit the capability of having romantic love anyways. If we cross the streams and invoke Philip K. Dick’s Voight-Kampff test, the robots of Star Wars recognize that they are in service of their human masters and are comfortable with that reality. Even though exhibit have wit, sarcasm, fear, pride, happiness, and even anger, Star Wars robots never go beyond their programming to advocate for robot rights and free will.

What do you think about this ranking? What pairings would you add to this list? Give your opinions below!

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When will other women of color have their Rose Tico moment in “Star Wars”?

I’ve seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and like the majority (save for a handful of fans, who I’ll have words about later on once spoiler fever has died down), I absolutely loved the film. The storyline and its more cerebral themes were amazing and refreshing–as SyFy Fangrrls/SyFyWire contributing editor Carly Lane wrote on Twitter, this is the most cerebral Star Wars film yet–and the introductions of new characters such as Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) and DJ (Benecio Del Toro) were organic and fun. It’s as if these characters have been around since the beginning.

Rose is also one of the characters that reminded me how little women of color are shown in Star Wars and how I wish I, as a black woman, could have had the same kind of representational experience in this fictional galaxy.

Watching Rose

Lucasfilm/Disney

I was excited to see not Rose and her sister Paige, to see representation long overdue. It was gratifying to watch Rose challenge Finn on his planned desertion and to inspire hope in him and the rest of the Resistance. She’s a tremendous force in this film, and I think the film–and the franchise–is better for it.

I’m extremely happy that finally, after an entire two years of back-to-back whitewashing of Asian characters and stories, a big blockbuster film has put an Asian character at the center of its story. I’ve covered so many films that negate Asian characters or recast them as white actors, and there are even some projects I haven’t covered just because I couldn’t bring myself to write about yet another property that just didn’t get what it was doing. But seeing Rose was seeing what films can do when they are created by someone conscientious enough to tackle proper representation.

There was one thing that held me back a bit during my viewing of The Last JediStar Wars has yet to give an African-American female character the same treatment as Rose. To be fair, Star Wars has yet to give a character who looks like me more than five seconds on screen.

Watching Rose kick the film into high gear reminded me of a coping mechanism I’d developed as a child on the chance I was watching a TV show that had no black women as a part of its cast. As a kid, I’d gravitate towards the character who was a minority like me and live vicariously through that character. The first time I remember doing this was as a 5-year-old watching Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. There was a black man as part of the cast, but no black women. But, there was Thuy Trang’s character Trini Kwan, the Yellow Power Ranger. Trini was my way into Power Rangers, and during recess, when my friends and I would pretend to be the Power Rangers, I would always make sure I got the Yellow Ranger. She may not have been my same race, but to me, she represented me and other girls of color who weren’t represented on the show. As a child, seeing Trini kick butt and be cool helped me formulate my personal voice and worldview. Through Trini, I felt like I could have a place on a show that apparently wasn’t designed for me.

I felt the same way with Rose. Through her, I felt happiness because women of color were finally getting their overdue shot at being heroes. Young girls, Asian girls especially, will be able to see themselves included in a fantastical place like the Star Wars universe. That kind of feeling is one that is unmatched–I felt it somewhat when The Force Awakens introduced Finn (John Boyega) as one of our new Star Wars heroes.

But the black woman is still left out. Despite my love for Rose, what I can’t ignore is a deep, personal longing to see black girls (and grown women like me) represented on screen in a hero they can be proud of. The longing doesn’t stop at just my own race, though; when will all women of color get equal representation in Star Wars? Now that Rose is here, will the Star Wars powers that be realize they owe the members of Star Wars‘ WOC fanbase the heroes they deserve?

Star Wars’ WOC track record

Lucasfilm

Star Wars having a rough time with representing women of color is nothing new. In fact, I wrote about it last year during the Rogue One hype. As I wrote then, women of color are largely absent from the films despite having a larger presence in the books. One character, Imperial Naval Officer Rae Sloane and Han Solo’s former wife, Sana Starros, have important roles in the Star Wars saga. But not only is it unclear if Sana will be portrayed in the upcoming Han Solo prequel Solo: A Star Wars Story, but Rae has yet to make a film appearance in any of the new Star Wars films.

Combine that with the fact that there is a highly sought-after actress that is a part of the films, but is currently stuck playing behind CG and motion-capture. Lupita Nyong’o was a big get for the franchise–The Force Awakens was one of her first acting roles after winning the Oscar for her role in 12 Years A Slave. But she has been tasked with portraying Maz Kanata, a character who is lively and fun, but is fully computer-generated. All we hear of Nyong’o is her voice.

Before Rose, the most prominent Asian female character in Star Wars was Janina Gavankar’s Iden Versio in the video game Star Wars: Battlefront II. But, like Rae and Sana, it’s unclear if Iden will ever show up in any film or TV Star Wars properties. Ditto for Shara Bey, Poe Dameron’s mother, who does appear in the comic book series Star Wars: Shattered Empire. Women of other racial and ethnic groups, such as Native American women, have no representation at all.

Adding insult to injury is how Star Wars has typically used women of color as WOC-coded sex aliens. As I wrote back in 2016:

Another strike against Lucasfilm and the Star Wars universe is how often black women and other women of color are often cast as Twi’leks, whose women are often enslaved as sex objects. To quote Wookipedia:

“Since female Twi’leks were regarded as graceful and beautiful beings, many of them were forced into a life of slavery at the hands of the galaxy’s wealthy and powerful.”

It’s more than a little disturbing that while women of color are all but absent in the Star Wars universe, they are readily cast as women who are sold into a sexual slavery.

It’s even more disturbing that Oola, the only sex slave coded as a black woman due to the actress, gets killed moments after we see her on screen in Return of the Jedi. There could have been a better outcome for her instead of just being used as disposable eye-candy.

To The Last Jedi co-writer/director Rian Johnson’s credit, he did make it a point to showcase more women of color, particularly African-American women, in scenes. One of the biggest cameos of the film is Chewing Gum‘s Michaela Coel as a Resistance tech. We see another black woman as a Resistance fighter pilot, and a South Asian woman is also featured as part of General Leia’s (Carrie Fisher) ragtag team. Black women and other women of color also feature heavily in the luxurious Canto Bight scenes.

But the scenes that do feature women of color, black women especially, only feature them either in the background or in non-speaking cameos. We never get to intimately know other women are who are Latina, Native American, African-American or South Asian, etc. Much like the lone black woman in Rogue One, we know women of color do exist in this far away galaxy, but we never know them outside of being set dressing.

That’s what makes Tran as Rose even more powerful. Johnson said he cast regardless of ethnicity for Rose, and that opportunity–unencumbered by preconceived notions of what a “Rose Tico” should look like–led Johnson to finding the perfect person for the part.

“We saw a lot of talented actresses of a very broad range–but honestly, it was more about finding Kelly,” said Johnson to The Los Angeles Times‘ Jen Yamato. “There was something about Kelly that had that kind of genuine oddball nature and a real sweetness to her. She has the most open heart of anyone I’ve ever met and I knew that this was going to shine through onscreen. I knew that I was going to be rooting for her in the movie.”

As Yamato wrote, Johnson’s decision to create Rose as a main character and casting inclusively “led to the biggest leap forward for Asian representation Hollywood has ever dared to make on such a large scale.”

Watching Rose on screen provided me with both pride at seeing a woman of color finally take the reins of a Star Wars film, but it also made me a bit wistful that we have yet to see other women of color get the same opportunity.

But where Rose has paved the way, surely others will follow, right?

First Rose, now others

Let’s go back to Solo. This movie is the closest on the horizon, and it’s also the Star Wars can finally break the color barrier. Even though it’s unclear who Emilia Clarke is playing (reportedly, it was a role actresses like Tessa Thompson, Zoe Kravitz, and Adria Arjona tried for as well), Thandie Newton is also rumored to be part of the cast. We have virtually no substantial casting news on this front, so we have to wait until we get closer to the film’s 2018 release date. But, if Newton is a big part of the Solo cast, then she could very well be part of a new wave of diverse Star Wars leading ladies.

Regardless, Star Wars should come to grips with their startling avoidance of women of color. Now that inroads are being made thanks to Rose, writers and directors should continue to make giving women of color a voice in Star Wars a priority. Not as sex slaves and not as CG characters but as the heroes. Hopefully, Rose is the first of many more like her.

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Tiffany Haddish’s golden year continues with starring & executive producing roles in “The Oath” with John Cho

Regardless of what the Golden Globes think, Tiffany Haddish is having a banner year, and that year continues with her new title–executive producer.

According to Shadow and Act, The Girls Trip breakout star and The Last Black Unicorn author will executive produce and star in politically-based satire/thriller The Oath. If you think the film might be a spiritual cousin to Get Out, you’re more than likely right–one of the financiers of Get Out, CQ Entertainment, are funding and producing the film.

The site quotes The Hollywood Reporter in saying that the film will be a dark look at a starkly divided America.

“The timely script, set in a politically divided America where citizens have to take an oath of loyalty, focuses on a man [who] has to make it through the Thanksgiving holiday without destroying his family.”

The film also stars John Cho, along with Carrie Brownstein, Meredith Hagner, Jon Barinholtz, Chris Ellis, Billy Magnussen, and Nora Dunn.

It’s unclear who Haddish will be; her role is being kept a secret. It’s also kinda unclear as to who Cho will be, since—if we’re looking at the cast, it’s entirely white. Odds are the white actors are playing the family at the center of this plot. But could Cho’s and/or Haddish’s characters be adopted? Are Cho and Haddish playing the family’s neighbors? Are Cho and Haddish’s characters a couple? These are all questions without answers at this point. But if Haddish has a hand in producing, then odds are there’s going to be some touches in the film that could only come from the point of view of an astute black woman.

What do you think of this film? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

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Birmingham brewer brings Japanese influence to home brews in “Beerland” episode (Plus meet and greet info!)

I’m not a beer drinker. Actually, I don’t drink any alcohol. But if I did want to get in touch with my beer connoisseur side, it’s good to know there’s someone in my neck of the woods I can trust—Miki Jinno. She’s not only a Birmingham local, but she’s also got her own episode of Viceland’s travel/competition show, Beerland.

If you happen to be in Birmingham TONIGHT (Dec. 14), go to the Tin Roof (2709 7th Ave. S, Birmingham, AL) for the BEERLAND episode screening featuring Jinno. You can also meet Jinno at the meet-and-greet after the screening. The event lasts from 6 p.m. CT to 10 p.m. CT.

A native of Osaka, Japan, Jinno is one of the best local beer experts. Jinno is trained in traditional Japanese Princess Tea ceremonies he fuses Japanese culture and traditions into contemporary brews, such as beer infused with matcha.

For Jinno, the world of beer and brewing allows for people to connect in a different, and less divisive way. “When we’re discussing beer, we’re not discussing politics or religion,” she said.

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In each episode, host and Golden Road Brewing founder Meg Gill visits a new city and learns about the biggest local home brewers in the area. She only invites just one brewer back to Los Angeles with her to participate in a final taste-off, a national distribution deal hanging in the balance. Will Jinno be the chosen one to represent the Magic City? We’ll see.

What do you think about Jinno and her multicultural beers? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

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Why is Storm wearing a raincoat and holding an umbrella in “Dark Phoenix”? Plus other first look thoughts

I recently received the cover to the latest Entertainment Weekly issue, which features tons of first look images. The cover features Dark Phoenix, a film I’m not looking forward to at all.

I have a big gripe with the all of the X-Men films, especially the new crop of X-Men films, which go through the trouble of painstakingly replicating certain time periods, but neglect the background that influences the X-Men comic books–the Civil Rights Movement. Granted, X-Men has always shown racial and cultural animus in the country through the gaze of white characters, but the X-Men comics have seemed to have a much more political, and sometimes radical, bent that doesn’t ever come through in the movies. It’s frustrating. Dark Phoenix seems to sum up all of my aggravations with the X-Men franchise by deciding that it’s Jean Grey‘s story we need to hear about. Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) has never been that compelling as a character, and to base an entire film around her (especially with bad special effects, as shown in the first look images) is mind-boggling to me.

Also mind-boggling is that young Storm (Alexandra Shipp)–the goddess of weather– is not acting like Storm at all in this film.

As Kid Fury wrote so poignantly on Twitter:

Why? Why has Storm been disrespected so hardcore in this franchise? Why have all of the black characters been so disrespected in these reboots? The main reason I’ve never seen it for the X-Men: First Class reboot series is because in First Class, Darwin–a character who can adapt to anything–uncharacteristically dies. He dies as the first and only black man in the entire film. I immediately checked out and never sought to seek out the series again (except when I went to a party and saw X-Men: Apocalypse, but not on my own dime).

The only image I like from this set of Dark Phoenix images is Jessica Chastain in an icy blonde look. I don’t know who she is, but I think she looks really cool. I just wished she looked really cool like this in another movie.

In short, boo to you, Dark Phoenix. I am not watching you.

There are some films and TV series I would love to see though. Entertainment Weekly has first looks of lavish costume drama Mary, Queen of Scots, starring Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan, and of Antonio Banderas as Pablo Picasso in the second season of National Geographic’s Genius. 

Let’s not forget that Aquaman is coming; this first look of Jason Momoa gives us a very good look at a serious Arthur Curry.

Also, The Incredibles 2 was featured in this issue. This might be an unpopular opinion, but I’ve grown tired of Pixar sequels, so much so that I can’t muster the hype to get excited about this, and I was one of the people who yelled at Pixar for years to make a sequel. At this point, I’d rather Pixar just stick to making original films like Coco, which have the potential to make a much bigger impact culturally and socio-politically. But at the same time, I do want to know what Pixar’s First Family are going to do this go-round.

Also, I have to address the elephant in the room–Altered Carbon. I’ve talked about so many projects that feature white people as Asian people in the past two years, that I’m frankly surprised Altered Carbon didn’t decide to go against the grain and, I don’t know, be respectful. Takeshi Kovacs is a biracial Japanese-Eastern European character; it could have been cool to actually hire a biracial actor for this role instead of Joel Kinnaman. Also, how many times are we going to see neon and big cities in a glossy sci-fi film? ENOUGH.

There’s a ton more first look images at Entertainment Weeklycheck them out!

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Who decided that giving “Alita: Battle Angel” real anime eyes was a good idea? (Plus other gripes)

I already knew Alita: Battle Angel was going to be a contentious film. It’s a live-action version of a cult anime classic. That alone was going to open it up to criticism. Also: Robert Rodriguez cast Rosa Salazar in the title role (more on this later). But the movie decided not to help itself by giving us possibly the worst version of an on-screen android I’ve seen in some time.

WHY, ROBERT RODRIGUEZ!? WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS? WHY THE BIG ANIME EYES?

Certainly, people had opinions. Very funny opinions.

The only good things to come from this trailer is 1) seeing Mahershala Ali stunt in bada$$ shades-and-suit combo:

And 2) learning that Haikus for Hotties model and Pretty Dudes star Yoshi Sudarso has a part in this movie.

I must agree with Sudarso, these are some bold choices. And when you make bold choices, you’re bound to divide people. However, I’m definitely on the side that does not get these eyes.

Now, one argument that can be made, I suppose, is that the film is really trying to impress upon you how fake Alita is. To put it another way, other films have people playing androids; in this film, the actor is just a body for the special effects to play on so the film can loudly exclaim how androids exist in an uncanny valley. I get it. But do I like it? No.

The main reason is because anime eyes are strange when they’re taken literally. I get Rodriguez wants to be different with his film and make a more creative mark (maybe to separate himself from the many bad American live-action anime films there are), but he might just have shot himself in the foot with this stylistic choice.

Anime eyes are the Japanese interpretation of American cartoons, which of course feature big eyes. As Carli Velocci wrote for Waypoint:

[T]he distinct anime style as we know it today can be traced back largely to one person. Osamu Tezuka, widely considered to be the “godfather of manga,” was heavily influenced by Walt Disney and Max Fleischer, the creator of Betty Boop. He was said to have been particularly obsessed with Bambi, which he watched over 80 times. If you even just glance at Betty or early Disney characters like Bambi, you can see the resemblance with anime. Both feature characters with oversized heads and large, expressive eyes.

Tezuka went on to create the precursor for modern-day anime: Astro Boy, the story of an android that fights crime. The main character is the epitome of this art style, with large, expressive eyes that carried over to his multiple incarnations. It debuted in 1963 in Japan and has been recreated multiple times since.

I feel like Rodriguez understands this and that influenced his decision to have Alita’s remain huge–he wants to remain true to the character. But is this the way to do it? When anime eyes mesh with the real world, the result is what we’ve got here–something that looks really off-putting and, strangely enough, more cartoonish than the original intention. Like, looking at Alita interact with her human counterparts, it’s only too easy to see where the computer ends and the physical begins.

Also, if Rodriguez really wants to be true to the character, wouldn’t it have made more sense to cast a Japanese actress instead of a Latina one?

Hear me–I am all for Rodriguez’s M.O. of casting Latinx actors and making their stories front and center. That aspect of Rodriguez’s filmmaking has been why I’ve seen it for his films as a whole. I also respect that he’s bringing Latinx acting talent to Alita: Battle Angel. But this also seems like another case in which good intentions miss the point. Similar to how The Martian had black and white actors playing Asian characters, Alita: Battle Angel has the main character–a Japanese android–played by a non-Asian actor. Granted, this remake is more of a “retelling” as it were, since multiple minorities are represented in various roles and minorities are still the driving forces of this film, both in front and behind the screen. However, this could have been an opportunity to truly pay homage to the film’s Japanese roots and cast an actress of Japanese descent in the role. Just my feeling about it.

As it stands, I’m still heavily interested to see where this film will go and how it’ll be treated the closer we get to its July 20, 2018 release date.

What do you think about this film? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

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Is “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” literally the most beautiful Marvel movie ever?

Marvel’s rehabilitation of Spider-Man took off like a rocket with the reintroduction of young Peter Parker into the MCU, followed by the astoundingly good Spider-Man: Homecoming. Now, the next phase of the rehabilitation is shooting into the stratosphere with the Sony Pictures Animation film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

I love animation, and frankly, I haven’t seen animation look this good in a long time. It’s an odd combination of 3D and traditional that makes Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) jump off the screen. The style really does make the character and the city of New York larger than life. Every scene is practically electric.

There’s also just the fact that we’re finally seeing more treatment given to Morales, who is the comic book canon Spider-Man nowadays. There’s been a bit of a turf war between fans over who should be the canonical film Spider-Man. Fans of Miles have also been concerned that Marvel’s only concerned about diversity in the back of the house, as it were, instead of the front–while Marvel consistently boasts about it’s diversity within its pages, it’s been hard to get that same type of diversity on screen. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse finally gives Marvel a way to showcase all facets of their canon and give all fans the Spider-Man they want to see, whether that’s Peter or Miles. The next step: getting Miles into the live-action movies.

Okay, now to the moodboards (and what beautiful moodboards they are).

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is coming to theaters Christmas 2018.

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Review: New webseries “Giving Me Life: In the Land of the Deadass” will give you proper “Living Single” feels (SPOILERS)

I love Living Single. I’ve watched every episode, and I know the characters inside out. Even though we might get a reboot soon, I’ve longed for another show to give me that same comfortable vibe of friends who have each other’s backs while calling each other out on their mistakes. If you’re like me, wishing and hoping for a show to follow Living Single‘s leave, give Dafina Roberts’ Giving Me Life a watch.

Giving Me Life, a Kickstarter Creator-in-Residence project and a 2017 New York Television Festival Official Selection, focuses on a core group of friends–Nala (Lori Liang), an artivist who has to reconcile her idealism with the stark realities of making money; Leah (Natalie Jacobs), a career-driven Type A investment banker whose studying for the GMATs and only dates up; Travis (Marshall star Mark St. Cyr), a highly spiritual, charismatic guy who thought he’d found the right spiritual partner; Cam (Sly Maldonado), a lovable party boy who is actually looking for the right woman to settle down with; Jess (Nathaly Lopez), a middle school counselor who uses her counseling skills to be the listening ear for all of her friends–even though she has problems making room for a girlfriend in her life; and Gil (Jarvis Tomdio), Nala’s crush, a people pleaser and “the epitome of geek-chic.”

These friends are trying their best to make it in New York and achieve their dreams while not losing their minds in the process. Thankfully, these guys have each other, and regardless of whatever problems they have, they all have each other’s back. The camaraderie is what makes the show so easy and enjoyable to watch. So far there are only four episodes, but once you finish, you’ll wish there were more.

Honestly, the show has left me wondering why this hasn’t been snapped up for TV pilot season. I think this show is good enough to rival series like InsecureDear White People and Master of None. It definitely gives viewers everything they’re asking for in these representation-focused times. We have tons of diversity, but more than that, we have inclusion; we’re told stories that reflect the lives of real people from the perspectives of people of color. The characters are never cookie-cutter; they are dynamic, fresh, well-rounded and behave like people we’ve come in contact with before (for some of us, we might be those characters). Their different socio-economic, ethnic, and sexual spaces these characters reside drive the storylines in an organic way, and there’s never an episode that feels like it’s a “very special episode.”

Natalie Jacobs as Leah. (Giving Me Life/Facebook)

What might be the most refreshing thing about Giving Me Life is that it gives its LGBT characters room to be imperfect people. I think one failing some shows on TV have when it comes to representing LGBT characters is that there’s a tendency to make the characters the poster children for the LGBT community. There’s a compulsion to try to make them perfect or edgy in some way. The characters in Giving Me Life, however, aren’t treated like stereotypes. Their needs and wants are just as fleshed out as their straight counterparts, and they are allowed to make mistakes.

For instance, Travis believes he’s found his soulmate with his boyfriend, but realizes that his boyfriend might want more than Travis can give him. After a bad experience with swinging (something the deeply religious Travis didn’t want to do in the first place), Travis breaks up with his boyfriend, but later wonders if he made a wrong choice. Leah, on the other hand, meets and falls in love with a man who also seems like the perfect match–they’re both climbing the ladder to financial success, they enjoy a certain level of luxury, they’re both bisexual, and they both feel the strain from stereotypes placed on bisexual people. But the catch is that Leah doesn’t even know her guy’s name. Not knowing his name makes her feel thotish, and one thing Leah won’t let herself be is a thot.

Travis (Mark St. Cyr, left), with his boyfriend Clarence (Mijon Zulu) before they break up. (Giving Me Life/Twitter)

Overall, Giving Me Lifwill, in fact, give you life. You’ll feel like you’ve found a new set of friends, and it’ll leave you with the hope that more episodes come very soon.

Follow Giving Me Life via its website as well as on social media–Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, and Instagram.

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What’s with Catherine Zeta-Jones playing Columbian drug lord Griselda Blanco?

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, you might have seen the high-budget trailer for Lifetime’s Griselda Blanco biopic, Cocaine Godmother. If not, here you go:

If you’re astute to representation issues, you probably know what I’m going to point out as the problem. Catherine Zeta-Jones, a Welsh woman, is playing Blanco, a Colombian woman. Why is she, though?

There are plenty Latina actresses who could have played this role, and in fact, there is one who has been lobbying for this role for a very long time–Jennifer Lopez. Lopez has been jonesing to play Blanco for years, and has created a deal with HBO to bring her TV movie to life (as to when that movie is coming remains to be seen).

Surprisingly, it’s also not the first time Zeta-Jones has been tapped to play Blanco; she was initially supposed to play the Queen of Cocaine in a biopic called The Godmother. According to W Magazine, Zeta-Jones won the role over…Jennifer Lopez. According to a source to The Sunday Times in 2016, despite Lopez’s hard lobbying for the role, she didn’t win out because “she doesn’t have the acting quality to pull it off.”

Today, neither woman are in the role–it now belongs to Oscar-nominated actress Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace). But both women are gunning to have the last word on Blanco’s life. Right now, we’re seeing Zeta-Jones’ vanity project in the lead.

This gets back to the main point of this article–why is a non-Latina actress playing a Latina figure? From where I’m sitting, it seems like another case of Hollywood (and maybe even Zeta-Jones herself) believing in casting white actors in non-white roles because they have an ethnic “look.” It’s another, subtler kind of whitewashing.

There’s a reason Zeta-Jones has been able to play Latina on more than one occasion–she played a Latina character in The Mask of Zorro opposite Antonio Banderas–and that’s because she’s a white woman who has ethnically-ambiguous looks. Casting-wise, Zeta-Jones fits the model Hollywood looks for when casting a stereotypical non-black “Latina” role; she’s, as Hollywood would describe her, “exotic” thanks to her olive skin and curvy features. But casting her also comes with the added bonus of whiteness, which adds “credibility,” and “name recognition” to the role. In this way, Zeta-Jones can play both sides, having her cake and eating it, too.

But in the stills and trailer for Cocaine Godmother, you can still see Zeta-Jones exaggerating her already ethnically-ambiguous features to the point where it starts becoming character makeup. Her naturally olive skin is bronzed even further to get it closer to Blanco’s, making her skin look like it has an unnatural tan. Her nose is somehow contoured and highlighted to look even more bulbous in an effort to match Blanco’s nose in real life. The overall look is meant to make her look less like a Welsh-English woman and more like a woman of color–the makeup treatment doesn’t want you to equate Zeta-Jones’ performance with brownface, but let’s face it; it’s brownface.

This is also not the first time a white actress has used ethnic ambiguity to their advantage. Shirley Maclaine, who has naturally hooded eyes, was able to do it in the 1962 film that’s basically posits a white woman stealing a role from a Japanese woman as a comedy, My Geisha, and in 1966’s Gambit, in which she plays opposite Michael Caine as “exotic Eurasian showgirl” Nicole Chang. Most recently, Floriana Lima, an Italian-American actress, was able to use her looks to play Latina Supergirl character Maggie Sawyer. Many more examples exist beyond these two.

Zeta-Jones is looking to have her cake and eat it too again with Cocaine Godmother. But this time, there’s a little bit of pushback.

The noise around this film is only going to grow the closer we get to the film’s 2018 TV premiere. We’ll see how the film handles the impending whitewashing discussion it’ll inevitably come up against.