Thursday, 20 July 2017

Gender Politics Amongst Time Lords

Peter Capaldi well and truly set the wheels of fan speculation into motion when he announced that he would be hanging up his sonic screwdriver and leaving his role as the twelfth incarnation of Doctor Who. The names of usual favourites who are deemed desirable by fans such as Richard Ayoade, Stephen Merchant, Kris Marshall and Ben Whishaw were thrown around. However, there was an overwhelming number of fans who were putting names of female actors into the mix too. So, would audiences be on board with a female doctor?

On July 16th the BBC announced that Capaldi would be passing the Time Lord torch to Jodie Whittaker, best known for her roles in the ITV drama Broadchurch and the film Attack the Block (2011). Most people will politely state that the casting of a female lead 'divided fans', but I will bluntly say that it shone a bright light on the misogynistic attitudes of a proportion of fans of the show. According to this group within the Doctor Who fandom, 'the show was over' and many planned to boycott it as there was no physical way that the Doctor could be female. Was their disdain over the biology of the Gallifreyans, or was there something more deep rooted? On paper it seems as though there would be no problem that an alien being with the ability to time travel and take on a human form would be able to appear as either male or female. And, if they explained why Christopher Eccleston's Doctor had a Mancunian accent, then it's highly likely that the writers will provide an explanation as to why the Doctor's thirteenth form is female. It also seems likely that certain, disgruntled fans are hiding their misogyny behind this "it's just genetically impossible" excuse.  However, it doesn't seem as though all of these angry fans are hiding their displeasure behind the veil of genetic impossibility. There was a high number of to-the-point people that took to Twitter to slam the show simply for casting a female. Yes, you read that correctly, in 2017 people got angry just because a female actor was given a role.

Hours after the BBC announced that Whittaker would be playing the Doctor, The Daily Mail posted an article that showcased twelve sexually explicit stills of her, taken from the 2014 drama The Smoke. Whilst most media outlets were reporting on, and some even celebrating, her casting, The Daily Mail thought it more appropriate to delve into her filmography and remind the world that the thirteenth Doctor once bared her body and sexuality in front on the camera. Well, how dare a woman choose to bare her body for her work! It's a good job that everyone's favourite news source shamed her through an article that was veiled as an informative piece of writing about her career. Without particularly mentioning any of her roles in which she wore clothing. Presumably after some backlash, the article was later edited to feature nude stills of previous Doctor Who actors to give it a 'look, she's just like her predecessors' twist.

Despite the mass reports of Doctor Who fans displaying a sexist attitude, it still seemed as if the majority of people were completely in support of a female Doctor. It simply seemed as if there were hordes of misogynists because a decent amount of people decided to give a damn and call the few anti-Whittaker fans out on what they were saying and managed to blow up social media in doing so. Alas, the questions still lingers. Why do these groups of people feel this way about women? The Doctor Who demographic won't necessarily be full of people who were raised in a time when gender roles were enforced, so why can't they accept a woman as their Doctor? Is it because women are still very much 'Othered', they don't rule the hegemony so we should disregard them, right? Wrong. We may not be able to pinpoint the exact reason why people reacted badly to this particular news, but no one need lose an sleep over the matter, as every misogynistic fan that turns their back on the show will be replaced by a young girl with a sonic screwdriver.


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) will mark the third attempt at a Spider-Man franchise within the past fifteen years. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, starring Tobey Maguire as the titular character, spanned between 2002 and 2007 and, despite not being masterpieces, put the character and his story on the map for the millennial generation. Then, only five years later, Marc Webb rebooted the franchise with the rather promising The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and its sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), both starring Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Sony planned to build an entire franchise based on Garfield's Spider-Man, one that would compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But, after poor reception to the second film and the script laying in developmental hell, their plans were killed when the MCU announced that they would be incorporating their own Spider-Man (Tom Holland) into Captain America: Civil War (2016). So, in the hands of the MCU, will Spider-Man: Homecoming be a success or another film for the spidery scrap heap?

Fresh from his superhero debut in Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker is having a difficult time living the life of a normal teenager and is desperate for Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) to contact him with details of his next Avengers-style mission. However, Stark has other plans for his protégée and isn't quite ready for the 'training wheels' to come off. But, when Peter discovers a new threat to New York in the shape of Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton), he finds himself reaching for his spider suit within his mentor's go ahead.

When looking at a third Spider-Man franchise, the concept of dabbling with yet another origins story is a double edged sword. Will audiences be tired of hearing about how the costumed hero came to be, or will they disconnect if they don't know? Spider-Man: Homecoming could have easily fallen into the typical Spider-Man origins film formula, but it doesn't. And it doesn't matter, and this is down to Tom Holland. From the opening scenes of the film, in which Peter Parker is both narrating and filming the battle from Captain America: Civil War on his mobile phone in a truly millennial fashion, whilst simultaneously joining in the action, Holland gives his audience the truly playful Spider-Man that fans of the comic have been waiting for. He oozes likability, charm and comedy, yet at the same time he is still able to convey Parker's vulnerable side and that underneath the Spider-Man suit there is a wet-behind-the-ears 15 year old boy. As much as he emphasises the man in Spider-Man, Peter is still a teenager who is finding his feet as a superhero and this is what makes him so appealing, each time he is knocked down, he gets back up and tries again.

In his first MCU outing, Peter Parker is pitted against Adrian Toomes' alter ego, the super villain Vulture. As with a few of the other antagonists that have appeared within the MCU, Toomes is an individual who has been affected by the events of the previous films and is harbouring a grudge. Originally employed to salvage the site of the Stark Tower after the Battle of New York in The Avengers (2012), Toomes and his company are soon dismissed when Stark assembles his own committee for damage control and decide to steal what Alien matter they can from the site before they leave, in order to build and sell weapons. The fact that previous MCU films act as catalysts for future ones is a clever twist, as is Keaton's conflicted Toomes; who is trying to do what right for his family by doing wrong. The casting of Keaton shouldn't only be applauded due to his sinister performance, but also because it was a touch of genius as his performance of Vulture is something that completely juxtaposes one of his most famous roles; Batman. Other great performances come from Jacob Batalon as Peter's hilarious and kind hearted best friend Ned and the rather underused Zendaya as Michelle, an incredibly blunt, sharp talking classmate of Peter's.

Despite bravely forgoing an origins story and succeeding in doing so, the remainder of the script isn't exactly revolutionary and proceeds to carry on with the typical superhero film formula of the good force vs the evil one. The final battle wasn't anything that audiences wouldn't have seen before and it wasn't particularly the most thrilling piece of cinema, but it was justified for the film. Would it make sense for a new hero such as Spider-Man to take part in an Avengers style battle? No. But, despite these criticisms the film still has a leg to stand on.

Spider-Man: Homecoming, despite being part of a greater franchise, is definitely able stand up on its own two feet. It doesn't rely on the crutch of being part of the MCU to make it a great film, it just is. Granted, it doesn't break any new ground in terms of the superhero genre, but it's still a captivating watch and it goes without saying that Tom Holland is the reason that this film works as well as it does. Spider-Man will return in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), as well as an untitled sequel in 2019, and this film will leave you in absolute anticipation of his return.



Wednesday, 5 July 2017

NARS: Animal Ethics in Reverse

At the end of June 2017 the French cosmetics giant NARS Cosmetics announced that they would be giving up their title as a cruelty free brand in order to test on animals. Surely, in this day and age, cosmetic brands should be working in the opposite direction to this? Doesn't it make sense for cosmetic companies to invest in ways to ensure that their products are safe to use whilst simultaneously eliminating the need to punish animals to do so?

The reason for their venture into such an archaic practice, you ask? Why that's simple; money. In China it is a legal requirement that all cosmetics companies test their products on animals in order for them to be brought to market. Therefore, all of the American and European brands that are sold there, such as MAC Cosmetics, Benefit, and Estée Lauder, test their products on animals in order to sell their products. China will have appealed to NARS as it has a steadily growing cosmetic market. Between 2010 and 2015 sales of cosmetics grew from 88.9 billion RMB (£9.9 billion) to 204.9 billion RMB (£22.8 billion), practically guaranteeing a brand as well established as they are a profit from the get go.

In February of this year the American cosmetics company Stila withdrew from the Chinese market and regained their status as a cruelty free brand. They pulled their products from Sephora China and changed their website to state that they point blank do not test on animals. Stila never made a song and dance about why they left the Chinese beauty market, but it could be argued that the matter of ethics came into play. So, with the scientific advancements in toxicology testing that we have today, shouldn't more companies follow Stila in looking to go cruelty free? Or is the loss of the Chinese market too much to ask?

I went cruelty free around the beginning of 2013, I had been a vegetarian for years and never even thought about the animals that were suffering for my products as I was too busy worrying about the ones that were being used for food. Animals, primarily; rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and mice, are forced to eat or inhale substances everyday for 28-90 days to document the long term effects of products. They are then killed in order to see if any internal damage has been obtained. Despite that fact that I'm not a vegetarian anymore, when I do it meat I make sure it's well sourced, I still care a great deal for animals. I'm not going to guilt you with images of rabbits and mice that have been tortured in the name of beauty, I'm just going to leave my points here and let you consider your stance on animal testing.

However, I can safely say that I will be discarding each and every piece of NARS make up that I own. I am aware that my actions as an individual will have no impact on NARS Cosmetics and their ethics, or the fact that they will now profit on animal abuse. But, unlike NARS, I am willing to stand up for what is right.

Are you going to join the NARS boycott?

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