Death Proof

The Tarantino debate has been doing the rounds again on social media with several of his films maligned (this one included) by ‘experts’ and divisive views reverberating around the echo chamber. Have you ever noticed that when Scorsese references other films it’s art but when Tarantino does it, he’s a rip-off artist? Anyhoo, it seems like as good a time as any to dust this off again…

Love him or loathe him, everybody seems to have an opinion about Quentin Tarantino and his body of work. Whether you admire, abhor, or are apathetic towards the Tennessee native most appear to have their favourites (Django Unchained and Reservoir Dogs), one that they just cannot stomach (Kill Bill Vol.2) or one that they unequivocally love. For me, that is Death Proof (2007). 

As appears to be the norm with Tarantino he channels all manner of homaging forces in his texts. For this one, exploitation meets Ozploitation, via a nudge of French new wave and an open-handed slap of the slasher to give a really enjoyable ride. Revenge is a dish best served hot rod (at 130 mph). 

Released alongside Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror as a Grindhouse double feature, the premise is a slasher road movie in which a group of women are stalked by an ex-stuntman, a lone wolf, who has little to do but force them off the road for shits and giggles. The first half of the film follows Jungle Julia (Sydney Poitier) and her friends Arlene a.k.a Butterfly (Vanessa Ferlito) and Shanna (Jordan Ladd) on a night out. They stop off at a bar – of which Warren (Tarantino) is the proprietor – and drink cocktails, down shots and generally bust the balls of the three men in their company – Eli Roth, Omar Doom and Michael Bacall (all three would later become Inglourious Basterds). 

Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), it would appear, has been on their tail for some time, cut to a wonderful in-car-moment which does for Hold Tight – and the erroneously misnamed Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mitch (it’s Mick) and Tich – what Bohemian Rhapsody did for Wayne’s World. There is an interlude and a flash forward following a crossover sequence involving the PT hospital and Dr Dakota Block (Marley Shelton). This time, Abernathy (Rosario Dawson), Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Kim (Tracie Thoms) and Zoë (Zoë Bell) are in town taking a break from filming – they all work in the film industry – when Mike strikes again. Subsequent to the masochistic fender-bender of the first half, these ladies are ready for him. 

This film has all the markings of the 70s and early 80s; retro titles, an amazing soundtrack, jumbo cuts, fast zooms and scratches on the print adds authenticity and while these elements are in keeping with Rodriguez’s Terror it manages so much more even randomly switching to black and white. This is, I believe, Tarantino’s most feminist movie. These are sexually confident, voracious women who love men but also each other’s company (they even manage conversations where men are not even mentioned, although not quite as many as one would like) and best of all they kick arse. 

These savvy women are only as good as their aggressor and this is one of Kurt Russell’s best characters in years. As Stuntman Mike, he is fetishised with a facial scar, the first time we see him, fully, onscreen is in close-up shovelling greasy nachos into his mouth. He is Snake Plissken by way of John Wayne, his baby blues and dimples still visible beneath the aged, craggy demeanour – the fantastic facial hair would come much later in The Hateful Eight. Russell is beguiling and repugnant in equal measure with a beautiful maniacal laugh to boot. As Mike, he revels in inflicting pain and yet is not a fan of it himself and watching him writhe, scream and cry in agony is a very pleasurable experience, especially following the heinous, violent misogynistic code he appears to live by. 

There are, as expected, several nods to Tarantino’s earlier work including Reservoir DogsPulp FictionKill Bill, (as well as the subtle reference to DP in his 2019’s Once Upon in Hollywood), and even his collaboration with Rodriguez From Dusk Till Dawn. As well as several allusions to the films of the genre(s) he is paying homage to: Fair Game (1986), Dead End Drive-in (1986), Mad Max (1979), Road Games (1981), Vanishing Point (1971), and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) to name but a few. Tracie Thoms is the female equivalent to Samuel L. Jackson, delivering Tarantino’s lines with the same expletive motherfucking aplomb. The last action sequence is fantastic, reminiscent of the greatest set-pieces recorded onscreen, in the likes of Bullitt (1968), The French Connection (1971) and, hell, even The Bourne Supremacy (2004). 

New Zealand stuntwoman Zoë Bell plays a version of herself and the sight of her grappling on the bonnet of a white Dodge Challenger is exhilarating to watch and, lets face it, while Refn’s Drive (2011) may have had stylish neon cinematography, a funky score and the stoic masculinity of fanboy favourite Ryan Gosling, Death Proof is far more exciting and entertaining to watch – also, better soundtrack. The viewer needs to be part of a car chase and Tarantino keeps the camera on top and up close to the action, credit also has to go to the director’s editor, the late great Sally Menke who keeps up the frenetic pace. 

Yes, by no means is it perfect, it is a dialogue heavy screenplay and QT does flounder somewhat with the womanly repartee but it truly is an enlivened and gratifying female fantasy. So, <blows raspberry> to the naysayers.


The Original Vamp: Theda Bara


Theodosia Goodman was the eldest of three children born to a Polish father and Swiss mother in Cincinnati. The Goodmans lived in the leafy suburb of Avondale until 1905 when their daughter left for New York to become Theda Bara. The name an anagram of “Arab Death”[1], made Bara the epitome of exotic temptress known as the Vamp. She, at the time, allegedly used her sex appeal to manipulate and embodied voluptuous transgression – the exact attributes that Post-Code Hollywood attempted to make commodity and control. In total, Theda Bara made over forty films between 1914-1919 including Carmen[2], Cleopatra[3] and Salome[4], yet it was her first leading role which cemented her as The Vampire. I propose that it was this dichotomous ambivalence and marginalisation in both characters portrayed and persona[5] which started a promising film career but essentially the ideology could not last and ended it too soon. Taking inspiration from a Philip Burne-Jones painting and Rudyard Kipling poem in 1897, A Fool There Was[6] intercuts verses of Kipling’s poem with scenes which are, it would seem, an introduction to the lead characters. An iris reveals a male, who is later revealed to be Mr John Schuyler (Edward José), shot, sat behind a desk gazing at long stem roses, he looks directly into the camera before picking up the flowers and smelling them. After the second verse of the poem, The Vampire (Bara) stands haughtily next to a vase holding similar flowers and picks one out, smells it and then pulls the bud from its stem crushing the delicate petals between her palm. She is dressed in heavy, dark materials and fur, jewellery adorns every other finger perhaps symbolising living beyond her means, or as Molly Haskell describes them “emblems of her wickedness”.[7] The silent film is set within the melodramatic mode consisting of two dominant styles, as identified, by Roberta Pearson, “the histrionic and the verisimilar”[8]


John Schuyler and his family are white, in not only skin tone but within the mise-en-scène. His wife, Kate (Mabel Fremyear), daughter (Runa Hodges) and sister-in-law (May Allison) are nearly always shot outdoors in natural light and dressed head-to-toe in white costumes. The Schuyler’s daughter, who later is referred to as ‘innocence’, is fair-haired, her blonde ringlets bouncing as she runs. She is, physically, a Mary Pickford/Lillian Gish in miniature, perhaps an indicator of the next generation which will resemble America’s Sweethearts[9] and not the dark, mysterious threat of the Vamp. A dialogue intertitle introduces The Vampire (Bara) so called because she has the sexual prowess and potential occult ability to drain their life source and wealth. The uncanny is aligned with this predator to enhance her otherness in relation to the ‘norm’ – the white, faithful wife and as Sumiko Higashi writes, “implied that her powers were supernatural or that she was, at the very least, inhuman”[10] She is dressed almost exclusively in black, hypnotically so, with an occasional white accessory, as if she were trying to assimilate into “decent” society. The Vampire reads of Schuyler’s trip and Statesman honour while resting at home. She has a black housemaid and an Asian male in attendance and this simultaneously whitens her against their ethnic variations but in the same token reminds the audience that she herself is ‘othered’ when considered alongside the Schuyler family.

As she boards the ship two previous victims (as they are described in the intertitle text) attempt to get her attention; one is a tramp who gets lead away by a police officer, the other, Mr Benoit, pulls out a gun and threatens to shoot her. The Vampire merely laughs and knocks it away with a flower and coaxes Benoit to commit suicide offering him one last kiss; “kiss me, my fool” before he pulls the trigger at his temple. His death fails to move her and she is reported, by the ship’s porter, to have stood over his body “laughing like a she-devil”. When Schuyler first sees this woman she is framed by a porthole powdering her nose which suggests a subtle hint at female consumerism. She has one eye on her own reflection and the other on her “prey”.

Visible through this porthole and clearly comfortable on deck, The Vampire can be read as a symbol of xenophobic (American) fears of immigration. Numbers of immigrants increased dramatically during the years 1899-1910 and while there is an attempt to Americanise The Vampire. Full assimilation fails as her ethnic femininity and,

[the] vamp persona [situates] her at the intersection of two established representative tropes: the predatory female vampire and the immigrant whose assimilation skills and potential for economic and cultural contribution were uncertain[11]

As an ethnic ambivalent, The Vampire may well have been the all-desiring temptress, however, to describe her as the representation of “the [unleashed] male sexual instinct”[12] as Higashi does seem a little extreme. She and, in this instance, his wife personify the polar opposites constructed through Patriarchy with the wife and child further representing social and moral order, and The Vampire revelling in the destruction and exploitative chaos her ability to emasculate exacerbates. In a Post-Code Hollywood future, as the femme fatale[13], she would be contained, however, Pre-Code, in these early films she was a player in the “fallen man genre”[14]

Even when society turns its back on Schuyler, his mistress brazens it out and walks with her head held high. She, much like the name she is given, sucks the wealth and life from her victim gaining more audacity and strength from his, increasingly, alcohol-induced catatonic state. Schuyler’s gait, once upright begins to stoop and his hair whitens: “The Fool was stripped to his foolish hide”. While this representation of woman displays a level of sexual freedom and independence, it can be limiting to female actors merely providing another stereotype to play in a male world. Theda Bara’s enigma was open to many an interpretation was described by James Card in the following way:

Endless lure of pomegranate lips…red enemy of man…the sombre brooding beauty of a thousand Egyptian nights…black-browed and starry-eyed…infinite mystery in their smouldering depths, never to be revealed…Mona Lisa…Cleopatra…child of the Russian countryside…daughter of the new world…peasant…goddess…eternal woman[15]

Her persona was created and cinematically, as The Vamp, was seen to promote a cultural threat; that of female immigrant sexuality and as Diane Negra writes “was an ideal figure to manage cultural anxiety” and reflected a real need to regulate female sexuality (and the growing birth rate).[16] Bara seemed to be at odds with the direction her film career was taking and tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to diversify the roles she signed up to, including Romeo and Juliet[17]. The virginal Juliet was an unlikely role for The Vamp archetype and some reviews were critical of her acting style. Like most of her contemporaries, Bara was a student of the Delsarte method. François Delsarte (1811-1871) was the founder of an applied aesthetics system which included rhythmic movement, kinesics and semiology.[18] This system would have given film audiences pause for thought as every emotion was rendered through an eye or bodily movement.

The real reasons why Theda Bara’s career failed at longevity are unanswerable. The Vamp and émigré artist still continued to make pictures, names like Naldi, Negri, Valentino, and eventually Garbo and Dietrich cemented their places as household names. Bara appeared to grow tired of the limitations that The Vamp construction placed on the film roles she was offered and often this would be evident in some of the newspaper and magazine interviews that she gave. She made a last short, comedic film in 1926 called Madame Mystery which was co-directed by Richard Wallace and Stan Laurel but then seemingly retired after marrying. Bara died on 7 April 1955, aged sixty-nine from abdominal cancer leaving behind a lasting cinematic legacy as the original screen Vamp.


Watch one the few surviving Bara films: A Fool There Was (1915, dir: Frank Powell)

[1] This anagram was alleged to have been the actresses’ own invention and the studio embraced it wholeheartedly creating a birth in the shadows of the Sphinx, a childhood in Egypt and exotic Parisian-Italian parentage. Tactics which enhanced the allure of the Cincinnati-born girl who wanted Hollywood to sit up and take notice.

[2] Carmen (1915, dir. Raoul, A. Walsh) Fox Film Corporation.

[3] Cleopatra (1917, dir. J. Gordon Edwards) Fox Film Corporation.

[4] Salome (1918, dir. J Gordon Edwards) Fox Film Corporation.

[5] Theda Bara functioned as a star persona serving as a ideological construct as detailed in Richard Dyer, Stars, (London:British Film Institute, 1998).

[6] A Fool There Was (1915, dir. Frank Powell) William Fox Vaudeville Company.

[7] Molly Haskell, From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies, (Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, [1974] 1987) p103.

[8] Roberta Pearson, “O’er Step Not the Modesty of Nature: A Semiotic Approach to Acting in the Griffith Biographs, in: Zucker, C (ed) Making Visible the Invisible: An Anthology of Original Essays on Film Acting (Metuchen: New Jersey, 1990) pp1-27.

[9] Richard Dyer, White, (London & New York: Routledge, 1997 ) p

[10] Sumiko Higashi, Virgins, Vamps, and Flappers: The American Silent Movie Heroine (Canada: Eden Press, 1978) p58.

[11] Diane Negra “The Fictionalized Ethnic Biography: Nita Naldi and the Crisis of Assimilation” in: Gregg Bachman and Thomas J. Slater (eds) American Silent Film: Discovering Marginalized Voices, (USA: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997) pp 176-200 (179).

[12] Higashi (1978) p59.

[13] Mary Ann Doane, Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis (London: Routledge, 1991) I.

[14] Janet Staiger, Bad Women: Regulating Sexuality in Early American (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995) p148.

[15] James Card, Seductive Cinema: The Art of the Silent Film (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota) p189.

[16] Diane Negra, “Immigrant Stardom in Imperial Stardom” in: Gregg Bachman and Thomas J. Slater (eds) American Silent Film: Discovering Marginalized Voices, (USA: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997)

[17] Romeo and Juliet (Dir: J. Gordon Edwards, 1916) Fox Film Corporation.

[18] E.T. Kirby, “The Delsarte Method: 3 Frontiers of Actor Training” in The Drama Review: TDR, Vol.16, No1, March 1972 pp55.69. [accessed 25 May 2012].

Article Retrospective TV

On Girls…

“If it hurts, you’ll always remember…”

After six seasons, sixty-two episodes, one thousand, eight hundred and sixty minutes (give or take), it’s over. Girls is no more. Hannah et al have moved on, to pastures new, not necessarily together but what joy, cynicism and dark, comedic delights they left behind. Also, it’s probably still in Sky box sets too if you just can’t say goodbye yet.

Following on from her success with semi-autobiographical Tiny Furniture (2010), Lena Dunham turned to television and created Girls. It never sat comfortably within a specific genre, part drama, part sitcom, like an anti-Sex and the City despite covering some occasional, similar ground. Realism wasn’t always its strongest suit but the writing always felt authentic even when certain situations seemed implausible. It dealt with the complications of women (those four with the alliterative names mostly) between the ages of 24-27 – that weird age where you never feel fully adult, have left girlhood behind but still need to navigate the choppy waters of self-discovery and finding your place in the world. These were young women who had all the self-confidence but little to no self-worth, they made each other’s problems about themselves and allowed their selfish anxiety to dictate their emotions. They attempted to be independent yet were reluctant to cut the apron strings entirely.

The series covered many topics including drug addiction, STIs, unwanted pregnancy, alcoholism, abortion, motherhood, infidelity, loneliness, death, and mental health. Whilst attempting to combat or even approach some of these issues, they all – Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham), Marnie Michaels (Allison Williams), Jessa Johansson (Jemima Kirke), and Shoshanna Shapiro (Zosia Mamet) – made mistakes. Sometimes horribly, a lot of the time irreparably but that just made us root for them all all the more. Or many of you bailed on them around season 2/3 and have yet to go back…

Much criticism stemmed from the characters’ likability. That’s women for you. We’re not all sunshine and light, not all of the time, there are multiple facets, complexities that not many shows manage to depict quite so vividly. The girls’ fallibility and often cringeworthy behaviour (sometimes age appropriate, mostly grossly immature) is what made me latch on. Men have been getting away with being unapologetically “men” onscreen since the dawn of time, apparently women pose a greater problem.

Let’s not pull punches; Hannah Horvath was an annoying character, the one based on Dunham, she who often spoke before thinking, she who, nine times out of ten needed that extra bit of attention. We’ve all had at least one friend like her, probably, we’re not even friends anymore. It happens. The others weren’t perfect, not by a long shot, hello Marnie?  but Hannah, for all her flaws and foibles was the heart of the show. She and her friends became a talking point between you and yours – the question of their friendship and why they were friends was never far from our minds, they never did seem completely compatible but something worked. Until they didn’t. Hey ho, that’s life.

Hannah lived outside of her sexual experiences, she saw her ‘job’ to fulfil certain things so she had something to write about; situations with which to glean as much experience from. Her sex scenes were nothing if not honest, hilarious and convincing. She was weird, surrounded by a cast of weirdos; characters we all empathised with time and again. All they ever wanted was to be happy; being loved was a bonus.

For its duration Girls never seemed far from censure – too privileged, too white, too much nudity (specifically Dunham). Most moans seemed to spend a little too much time on Hannah/Lena’s body. Unapologetic in her own skin, and why not, she doesn’t look like your typical TV star, certainly not the kind of woman to shed clothes so regularly and unabashedly. It was refreshing. Finally somebody onscreen who wobbled a bit having a convincing sex life. It made little difference that she was the creator, writer, producer, director and lead actress, she was there to be body-shamed by… well, it was scary how many. Somebody like Patrick Wilson (see, One Man’s Trash S2 E05) wouldn’t f*ck any woman who looked like that, yada yada yada.

It’s a white show. Written by a white woman about four (white) friends; its creator, co-producer, Jenni Konner and executive producer, Judd Apatow are Jewish too if this is something of interest (side note: must research criticism levelled at Knocked Up or latest show LOVE). One of the first things Dunham did, following comments about the lack of diversity on the show, was cast Donald Glover as Sandy in two episodes (It’s About Time S2 E01 and I Get Ideas S2 E02) which depicted Hannah’s ignorance surrounding the issue of race – they also made him a Republican too. While there have been numerous characters of colour albeit, one could argue, clumsily added, and mostly in supporting, non-recurring roles; still, attempts have been made to address the imbalance. Those same critics who describe the show as whitewashing would probably now accuse of tokenism or misrepresentation. The scrutiny with which Girls was subjected to over the last six years, one could surmise, is down to the gender of its creator. I’m sure there are some male-led shows that are held to account, just not quite in the same way as those by/for/with women.

If you’ve never bothered with it, fair enough, I would implore you to check out the bottle-neck episodes for a riveting taste of just how good the show can be, One Man’s Trash, Flo (S3 E09), The Panic in Central Park (S5 E06), American Bitch (S6 E03). Girls showed women in all their complexities, fallibility, humiliations and vulnerabilities. It was dark, cynical and sometimes depressing; not always a comforting watch but funny – I don’t think it’s given enough credit for its humour. Or for its ability to write men. Specifically Adam Sackler. To listen to Dunham, their show was a collaborative effort, replete with improvising so who knows the *true* author of Adam, regardless he remains amazingly written; the epitome of the sensitive, complicated, masculine male. A man in AA; his sobriety sometimes a battle. His dark, sexual, almost deviant behaviour and the temper… oh the temper. That which exploded usually to save him exposing his vulnerability. He was deep, complex and – just like the rest of the show’s characters – grew, evolved, shifted. It was a joy to watch, Adam Driver is a joy to watch. He (Sackler) was, is, for all intents and purposes, Dunham’s finest creation.

So, how to end it all? (Finale review over at TDF: Latching) 

I will miss Hannah and the gang immensely (even Marnie). The girls may have been maddening and mortifying but we loved them; through their imperfections it allowed us to disengage from reality for a bit and embrace our own flaws.

Adulting can be hard. Womaning is harder.

Article Review

Review: Ghostbusters (Dir. Paul Feig, 2016)


*minor spoilers

For my 4th birthday, I received – amongst many gifts – a beautiful Ghostbusterscake. It was huge, had red-frosting and the logo emblazoned across the front. My cousin, born six years before and ten days later got the same cake (only his icing was blue). Lol [his name not laughter] was responsible for my introduction to Ghostbusters and Star Wars, actually, if truth be told. At no point did he exclude me because I was younger or because I was a girl, and let’s face it, a four-year-old will test any ten-year-old’s patience regardless of gender.

I remember having the crap scared out of me watching the film on TV then suffering sleepless nights, that bloody ghost in the library. Six years later I had a David [brother] to pass the love of ghosts and busting onto; films  cartoons, and toys, oh-so-many-toys. Spengler (Harold Ramis), Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson)  and smart-ass Venkman (Bill Murray) held a special place in my (and his) childish heart. Now, Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and Tolan (Leslie Jones) will provide joy for a whole new generation. Seriously, why is that so terrible?


The expected happened. I grew up, the little girl repressed somewhat but still knocking around, and rewatching Ghostbusters (1984) as an adult is a whole different experience. Now you can laugh at the adult humour that sailed over your cherubic head, cringe at the effects which at times are pretty awful and the best part? Crawl under a duvet, hungover, and passively let each scene douse you in nostalgia like an ectoplasmic gloop. A sequel arrived in 1989 – largely disliked now – who knew? It was fine. I regularly rewatch.


The reboot was announced. Urgh! Originality is a concept lost on most Hollywood studios. This one was to be directed by Paul Feig. For the record, he seems like a very nice man, always impeccably dressed, and there’s no denying how he has boosted women-led films, but he directed Bridesmaids (deplore), The Heat (lukewarm) and Spy (I adored that one). Was it really a surprise that this Ghostbusters, his vision, would be all-woman? I was intrigued sure, can’t say I was overly fussed either way. The casting of Hemsworth piqued my interest, not least because he would be the male Janine (Annie Potts) – bravo!

Time passed as the darker pockets of the internet cried, screamed and generally threw a strop. Misogyny is never pretty and even that four-year-old girl (now a 35-year-old woman) was verbally abused for daring to say she liked the trailer. These men seemed to have forgotten their own mothers, sisters, grandmothers and aunts as they rendered women ill-equipped to play *fictional* paranormal scientists; their childhoods (long gone) destroyed forever. *Pause for dramatic effect*


The world lost a vital 1/4 of the original line-up in 2014, with the sudden passing of Harold Ramis. A Ghostbusters III without him would have been senseless. While unable to cameo in the new film, one of his sons makes an appearance and that gorgeous gold bust seen from Gilbert’s desk is a beautiful touch and definitely brought a lump to my throat. Okay, progression. Four more humans don the overalls, get slimed and save New York from paranormal activity, not such a far-fetched notion. Oh, and they have lady-parts…So, what’s it all about?

Following a very effective opening whereby Gertrude Aldridge’s ghost (Bess Rous) is terrorising her childhood home, physicist Erin Gilbert (Wiig) – up for tenure at the prestigious Columbia University – is approached by Ed Mulgrave (Ed Begley Jr). Clutching Gilbert’s co-authored book, a hardbacked thesis written by Dr. Gilbert and her ex-colleague/ estranged friend Abby Yates (McCarthy), he begs for her help. Unaware of the book’s existence, Erin visits Abby and her new colleague, engineer Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon) in a lab strewn with gadgets – think Egon’s place, only messier.With the help of human A-Z and New York history buff, Patty Tolan (Jones) and inept-but-we-gave-him-the-job-because-he-was-the-only-applicant receptionist, Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), the Ghostbusters (it’s easier for Kev to pronounce than the actual name, you see) are born; to capture paranormal entities and prove their existence to the world while a city of naysayers including the Mayor (Andy Garcia) attempt to discredit them.


Doesn’t sound so drastically different from the previous incarnation and you would be right in thinking the original has served as a blueprint much like The Force Awakens‘ (2015) similarities to A New Hope (1977). Each acknowledges what has gone before but stands alone in its own, inclusive, right. There are enough nods to the past for the girl with the cake to recollect fondly and yet enough meta commentary and gags for the adult to snigger at and mentally high-five all involved.

Girls 2016

It’s not “man-hating” which is how I saw it described this morning. The antagonist, Rowan North (played another SNL alum Neil Casey) is white, male, and a little fragile but so are most Bond villains, and after the scourge of hate heaped upon this film, why wouldn’t the filmmakers and writers respond not least in an entertaining way? And it is, you know, extremely so, and I’m sorry but a blast from a ray gun aimed at a marshmallowy nutsack is amusing. It has been a long time since a big studio offered a blockbuster that is as enjoyable and, more importantly, FUN as this one.

Boys 1984

The cameos (there are a fair few and perhaps one or two could have been saved for the inevitable sequel) but they would not have worked so well had those actors been playing the characters they made famous yonks ago. Thankfully, they’re a breath of fresh air and each one more joyful than the last. Hemsworth is perfect as pretty but dumb Kevin, his Norse God alter-ego is a saviour, however, it’s refreshing that four ladies get to rescue him, and I don’t necessarily mean just from peril – they become a family. The women themselves are hilarious, smart, loud, brash, uptight, and gloriously realistic albeit plonked in a disbelief suspended setting.  Abby and Erin are the heart of the narrative, it’s their friendship which drives the plot while Jillian and Patty are the funny. I’m unfamiliar with their Saturday Night Live work but Jones is hysterical and McKinnon, a revelation. It’s not perfect, nor was I expecting to be, it’s a Ghostbusters film and I don’t mean that in a derisive way – as long as there are creepy ghosts, gloop, busting of said see-through creeps and humour, I’m easily pleased.

It does exactly what it set out to do, which is bring the Ghostbusters into the 21st century, passing the proton pack to a whole new generation. That’s the beauty of it, there is no either/or, everyone will have a preference, sure but neither undermines the other – there are now eight Ghostbusters to identify with and choose as your favourite – I just had faceache and a warm, fuzzy feeling throughout watching this one. I’m still chuckling days later. If only that four year old girl could have seen it…


75 Years is a Really Long Time…


Footage has been released!

No, I’m not talking about the dreary looking Batman Vs. Superman, within which there is some nonsense about whether Supes bleeds, some fighting presumably instigated by a small bewigged Luthor, people getting angsty, etc. until they make nice and play with that woman with the shield, who, by the way isn’t “with” either of them. I am, of course, talking about said (wonder) woman and no, I’m not going to analyse the footage. At least not exhaustively because let’s face it, somebody will have done so already and either offered some salient points,  snark and anger or deluded optimism.


For the record, I sit somewhere in the middle. I think I’ve made my feelings on the character, casting, and the 75 year hiatus between comic inception to big screen heard. Following the release of footage, which is seconds long (by the way) and yet again released on the coat-tails or rather, I should say, flowing capes of the men in the DC universe. DC comic writer Geoff Johns, Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Patty Jenkins all offer up some spiel over the snippets. Good, bully for them but at the end of the day it is those few shots that I am most interested in. Yes, they’re dark and swift but I was (briefly) giddy and determined to show anybody who showed the remotest interest. Johns describes WW as an Amazon Warrior charged with protecting “man’s” world, a corner of the internet seethed – he shouldn’t have said man he should have said humanity. In the original comics, it was man’s world. Themyscira is an island housed solely by women (why do you think WW was made of clay? No sperm producers). Also, he then describes it as ‘our’ world.


All of the other titbits of information…feminist cultural icon (check)…stands for equality (check)… are followed by Patty who declares Wonder Woman to be “good and kind and loving, yet none of it negates her power”. Yeah, Ms. Jenkins gets it – another corner of the internet eye-rolled, female superheroes don’t have to be loving, good and kind. No, they don’t but Wonder Woman IS. That’s kind of the point; she was Marston’s utopian vision of a strong, good woman who is all for equality and love, ooh and also not a misandrist just because she can kick your arse.

Ah, her arse. That came up too apparently, she’s sexualised in those few short seconds, the camera held at butt-level. Having rewatched a good half a dozen times, I don’t see it. The camera angle is low, sure (I would suggest that is because she’s a Goddess, we’re mere mortals looking upon her/up at her) but her entire body is in frame and she’s active, ferociously so and I just don’t register a scopophilic gaze but then, my gaze tends to be female and I’m not objectifying her.

I love the fact that a few seconds of film can produce such disparagement but I’ll be damned if I let it ruin the experience for me.


Open Letter to DC

WW by Darwyn Cooke '08

In case anybody missed it, I adore Wonder Woman. I love what she stands for and let’s face it female superheroes are pretty rare not least because they tend not to get a shot at the big screen. Times be a’changing with the pencilled-in film releases of WW, Captain Marvel, and Supergirl on the small screen. I wrote to DC (in one of those attention-seeking, open letter type things) outlining why Wonder Woman is integral to DC but also, more importantly, why the film needs to be done right…

Dear DC,

It is only logical (and fair) that the third major player in the League and indeed the DC Universe gets their standalone origin film. I am, of course, referring to Wonder Woman and now, it appears I am getting my wish albeit in the most bizarre order imaginably. It has been 74 years without so much as an attempt and yet we have had a substantial tally of Superman (6) and Batman (7) films. So, forgive me for being somewhat pessimistic. A Wonder Woman genesis film has been expected nay deserved for a very long time but she gets described as “controversial” and “complicated”. And? Show me a woman who is not.

Created in 1941 (following appearances by Superman in ’38 and Batman in ’39) by William Moulton Marston; I know, I know A MAN but a progressive feminist who created the character as “psychological propaganda for the new type of woman”. A woman who he believed should rule the world. He saw a great deal of potential in the women’s movement, surrounded himself with strong, intelligent women, hell, he even believed that by 2037 the world would be governed by a Matriarchy. He reckoned that while the feminine archetype lacked “force, strength and power” girls wouldn’t want to be girls or submissive. “The obvious remedy [was] to create a feminine character with the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.” (WMM, 1943)

One can argue that the man was wrong, although it is 2015 and do we not have the same issues surrounding gender on film? I could argue that he had a slight preoccupation with bondage (he was also a huge fan of the truth too). This was an academic who shared his marital home and life with a MA graduate wife and PhD educated mistress, transgressive sexuality pervaded his personal life, why not his work? Patriarchy is the oppressor to which Wonder Woman is enslaved after leaving Themyscira and is often bound – sometimes figuratively – nearly always literally, forced into passivity by the ties/rope/chain that binds before breaking loose and reciprocating with her lasso. Yes, Moulton Marston’s idealistic feminism is problematic, he believed in domination and sexual enslavement but I digress, I’m sure you’re not even considering *that* type of storyline…

Word on the grapevine is that a big action film is not on the cards, you want a more character-driven piece and the search for a male lead/love interest is currently taking place. Rumours have it that you don’t want a strong feminist message…erm, an Amazonian woman-of-steel born from clay outside of the restrictive realms of patriarchy who lived, for most of her life, on a Utopian island devoid of men. You don’t see this as problematic? Hold on. Forgive me. I forget, you are using the New 52 storyline so her origins have been revised so she is now the daughter of Zeus (ugh). I remember that time when Superman and Batman’s origin story was revised and changed. Oh no wait…

I often get asked why. Why do I idolise her, why her above the others? For the record, I love all those other guys too but there will always be a special place in my heart for Wonder Woman. I like what she stands for: strength, intelligence, capability, kindness, wisdom, confidence, courage, sisterhood. Plus, her costume’s really cool; dressed in the red, white and blue standard of freedom and democracy. Batman isn’t the only one with an arsenal of goodies, she wears a tiara which is razor-sharp and can be hurled like a boomerang, the bracelets at the wrist can deflect bullets and serve as a reminder of the shackles once worn when the Amazons were the prisoners of Ares. She carries Hestia’s golden Lasso of Truth; tiny chain-links with limitless length, indestructibility and of course, anybody bound in it are compelled to tell the truth. The lady has the ability to fly (although not soar high), can spin at blurring speed – usually to shed her civvies – is able to communicate with most animals and beasts and has numerous vehicles at her disposal, all invisible.

Not to mention that fact that she is just as physically strong and special as Supes. Their similarities are actually hard to ignore. They are both on Earth separated from their familial roots both have an alias to protect and while they don’t fully comprehend the planet they inhabit they wish to shield and, wherever possible, protect the humans living on it. Yet still she has not been immortalised on the big screen but Superman’s genesis gets regurgitated every decade or so. Why am I telling you all of this when you gave her a home in 1941? Because I don’t want you to forget that there is more to her than just a pretty face.

She will, as it has been made very apparent, make an appearance in Dawn of Justice in the form of Fast and Furious alum Gal Gadot (I’m still in denial about that) before FINALLY getting her own film. The pre-production of which has been hmm, interesting to say the least; female director, no script, creative differences, new female director, six scripts…Why does it need a female director? Well, why not? And hey, DC, if you’re struggling with the script, why not ask Dr. George Miller, he could teach all of you a thing or two about writing a woman. Just don’t fall into the trap Marvel did with Elektra. Good grief that film sucked.

We all know female heroes (some super, some not) are not quite as scarce as they once were; however, they still get a raw-deal. The Age of Ultron / Black Widow storyline furore will attest to this or the severe lack of female-led merchandise which fails to adorn toyshop shelves and don’t get me started on the slut-shaming or name-calling on/offscreen. Supergirl’s even getting in on the (TV) action albeit in a seemingly cutesy way. I get it. I do. Too many females transgressing the boundaries of the norm have and will continue to cause issues for some. It will encourage women wanting to be women and expecting the world, just as Gloria Steinem said, to change for them.

Perhaps, a decent depiction of the Amazonian attesting to the strength and influence of the feminine archetype will be a huge commercial success? Or perhaps, in spite of Joss Whedon’s utter condemnation of the notion that (some) men aren’t interested in the exploits of female she-roes, there is actually some truth in it? No, that can’t be right, not given the popularity of the likes of BuffyAlien and Terminator franchises and HAVE YOU SEEN Max Mad: Fury Road? Furiosa (Charlize Theron) proves that she can fight toe-to-toe with any man and still be hard, vulnerable and feminine.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. As you will know Wonder Woman’s current filmic/televisual legacy is largely fan-made. There is that animated film from 2009 which is really rather good and the (now) kitsch and fabulously camp television series made in the 70s which ran for three seasons and saw former Miss USA, Lynda Carter, don the girdle and fight for our rights in satin tights. She was wonderful in it; strong, fearless, savvy, intelligent and beautiful, a Goddess on Earth instilling hope and convincing the world of compassion, humility and generosity – all the while kicking ass. Carter is 63 now and will forever be a wonder woman but it’s time for a change, the character needs to be brought into the twenty-first century while still retaining her roots. David E. Kelley did attempt it in 2011 with Adrianne Palicki in the titular role. Elizabeth Hurley was the villain along with a supporting cast that included Cary Elwes and Tracie Thoms. His pilot was never optioned probably due to the hideous SFX, tacky PVC-costume, or the fact that he portrayed the peace-loving princess as a sexually frustrated spinster who curls up in front of The Notebook and obsesses over her Facebook profile when she’s not ripping out people’s throats. As soon as Diana pulls out the merchandise and dolls at a board meeting, it all gets a little too meta.

I think the point I’m trying to make is I really love Wonder Woman. I have seen a billionaire playboy take to the sky dressed as a giant bat, I’ve witnessed a super alien male don a red cape and protect a city and now I want to see an Amazonian, wearing a tiara attempting to educate mankind. It is time for her to have a go at saving the world.

Please DC, don’t eff it up.


A Fan


(Wo)man of Steel


The much anticipated Superman reboot has opened in cinemas (last week for those of you holidaying on Krypton) and yes, for the most part, it is pretty good and yes, it is all the Twitterverse can tweet about or so it has seemed since opening weekend. It is now time to move on and consider DC’s next move. Man of Steel’s success, hot on the heels of The Dark Knight, has meant talks of a Justice League of America movie, for those of you not in the know The JLA is to DC what The Avengers are to Marvel. It is only logical (and fair) that the third major player in the League, and indeed the DC Universe, gets their stand alone origin film. I am, of course referring to Wonder Woman.


Created in 1941 – following Superman in ’38 and Batman in ’39 – by William Moulton Marston, in part, for the following reason:

“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power […] they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weaknesses. The obvious remedy [was] to create a feminine character with the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.” (WMM, 1943)

Erm, okay William…”tender, submissive, peace-loving [weak] as good women are…” . I will, however, on this occasion ignore the slight stench of misogyny and gross misrepresentation of women in this reasoning, on the basis that you created my favourite superhero (I idolise all the other guys too but there is a special place in my heart for WW) and I think the important sentence in this statement is “with the strength of Superman” because she is just as tough; the woman of steel.


We all know female superheroes are somewhat scarce, not necessarily on the comic-book page but certainly onscreen (and no, Jean Grey and a foul-mouthed eleven year old do not count, at least not for me), conceivably, a product of their time or maybe too many females transgressing the boundaries of the norm would encourage women wanting to be women – Gloria Steinem has written several essays on the Amazonian, attesting to the strength and influence of the feminine archetype. Perhaps, in spite of Joss Whedon’s utter condemnation of the notion that men aren’t interested in the exploits of female she-roes, there is actually some truth in it. Who wouldn’t want to see the strength and power of Gaea, the hunting skills of Artemis, the wisdom of Athena, the speed of Hermes and the beauty of Aphrodite personified in the intelligent, honest and disarming charm of Diana Prince?

doranww - Copy

Dressed in the red, white and blue standard of freedom and democracy – Batman isn’t the only one with an arsenal of goodies – she wears a tiara which is razor-sharp and can be hurled like a boomerang, her bracelets worn at the wrist can deflect bullets and serve as a reminder of the shackles once worn when the Amazons were the prisoners of Ares. She carries Hestia’s golden Lasso of Truth; tiny chain-links with limitless length, indestructibility and of course, anybody bound in it are compelled to tell the truth. Wonder Woman does have the ability to fly (although not soar high), can spin at blurring speed, usually to shed her civvies, is able to communicate with most animals and beasts and has numerous vehicles at her disposal, all invisible. Like I said, she’s just as physically strong and special as Supes. Their similarities are actually hard to ignore: they are both on Earth, separated from their familial roots, both have an alias to protect and while they don’t fully comprehend the planet they inhabit they wish to shield and, wherever possible, save the humans living on it, and still she has not been immortalised on the big screen, yet Superman’s genesis gets regurgitated every decade or so.

There is the (now) kitsch and fabulously camp television series made in the 70s which ran for three seasons and saw former Miss USA, Lynda Carter don the girdle and fight for our rights in satin tights. She was wonderful in it; strong, fearless, savvy, intelligent and beautiful, a Goddess on Earth instilling hope and convincing the world of compassion, humility and generosity – all the while kicking ass. Carter is 61 now and will forever be a Wonder Woman but it’s time for a change, the character needs to be brought into the twenty-first century. David E. Kelley did attempt it in 2011 with Adrianne Palicki in the titular role, Elizabeth Hurley as the villain, along with a supporting cast that included Cary Elwes and Tracie Thoms. His pilot was never optioned probably down to the horrible SFX and the fact that he portrayed the beautiful peace-loving princess as a sexually frustrated spinster who curls up in front of The Notebook, or obsesses over a Facebook page when she’s not ripping out people’s throats – as soon as Diana pulls out the merchandise and dolls, it all gets a little too meta.

Wonder Woman2

Wonder Woman is, in the words of Lynda Carter, “the beautiful, unafraid, tenacious and powerful woman we know resides within us [even you boys], the antithesis of victim […] a symbol of extraordinary possibilities that inhabits us, hidden though they may be.” Last year, I saw a billionaire playboy take to the sky dressed as a giant bat, last week I witnessed a super alien male don a red cape and protect a city. I don’t see how watching an Amazonian Warrior wearing a tiara, star-spangled shorts and attempting to educate mankind is any different. It is time for the Wonder Woman to have a go at saving the world.