Iron Fist Thoughts

I am not the first person, the last person, and I won’t be the best person to talk about how Iron Fist was mismanaged in terms of casting and production. It was. I watched it (so you might not have to) and I’ll confirm that reports of its use of racist tropes and uninspiring fight choreography and cinematography have not been exaggerated.

But like I said, I’m not the best person to talk at length about some of these issues. Let me direct you to the work of people who’ve expressed some of this better than I ever could here and here. If you want to do your own leg work, any semi-vague google search will lead you to tons of articles to parse through at your leisure.

What I can talk about with some degree of confidence is my experience watching it just as a Marvel fan, so that’s what I’m going to focus on.

The first season of Daredevil was critiqued pretty heavily for being slow-paced. While I didn’t necessarily feel that way about it, it seemed as if the Marvel team took that to heart and the subsequent Daredevil season as well as Jessica Jones and Luke Cage all started off with a bit more speed to the narrative. Iron Fist made the first few episodes of Daredevil season one look balls to the wall, NASCAR pit stop frantic.

It picked up, eventually, maybe around episode 8 or 9? (Of a 13 episode season!!) But it didn’t feel like a natural progression or like the pay off of a tense build up until that point (which season one Daredevil did). This felt like they were writing a different show.

I don’t know how some of the things I saw weren’t scrapped in like the first draft of the script (I am very curious to see the first drafts, though.) I mean this very literally — there are lines of dialogue that fit in with my first creative writing assignment from 7th grade on top of structural inconsitencies and bizarre characterization shifts that seem to change with whatever direction the wind blows. I’m sure part of this, in Danny’s case, anyway, was them trying to show the dichotomy of a man who was stunted in many ways as a ten year old while also being “wise” or whatever from his years of training to become the Iron Fist. But there was so little nuance and consistency in how this was dealt with it just felt more like they couldn’t make up their minds about if Danny was a wizened guru who preached “respect in the dojo” (not that he could be assed to show any himself) and “detachment as strength” and chi alignment (which he conveniently forgot towards the end…funny how that happens…) or if he was a naive boy in a (strong?) man’s body.  (Question mark intended, because even though you have to suffer through Iron Fist‘s lackluster fight scenes, you don’t ever really see Danny “show out.” I don’t know how strong that Iron Fist of his is, in real people terms, because I don’t think their writing team ever came to a decision about that themselves. He can use it sometimes? Except when he can’t? It’s strong but not that strong? It changes every episode, sometimes several times throughout an episode.)

If we can detour slightly for a moment: the only character who had anything resembling a character arc or growth was Ward Meachum, and I can’t tell you how irritated I was to be even sort of rooting for his Patrick Bateman impersonating ass by the end of it (the very end of the last episode aside, but maybe not for the reason you’d guess). I am especially irritated but not surprised at how the fandom seems to be running with this at lightspeed and woobifying him to a degree that boggles even my jaded ass. (Going in the tumblr tag was a mistake.) The MCU seems to be very good at creating lanky haired semi-villians (it seems too generous to call some of them “anti-heroes”) for folks to latch onto, but somehow they can’t manage to avoid Claire Temple’s character assassination after building her up to be so amazing in 3 series so far.

Yes, that’s another thing to be mad about. Claire Temple stopped being a person of her own accord and started being some string along puppet conveiently there to fix dumbass-induced boo-boos. Actually, Iron Fist treated women badly generally. (Here’s a good article about “Slapping The Joker” with regards to Joy Meachum. It might be the only article of substance you see on Joy, considering she could have been very easily replaced by a reasonably attractive lamp in a wig and not made much difference to the plot.) Marvel and the MCU have been far from perfect in this regard, but the Netflix series they’ve produced have in many ways been better than, say, Joss Whedon’s Avengers films. 🙂 Iron Fist is a huge step backwards in this regard — Colleen is a cardboard approximation of a stiff-upper lip when first introduced, and falls into a strangely irrational puddle of goo with regards to Danny with no build up or explanation. She’s a hard-ass, then she’s a lovesick fool. That’s the pattern most of the characters follow.

The main problem, I think, is they are trying to arrange these characters around a (weak) plot instead of trying to engage these characters with the plot or even, dare I say, have their actions and decisions shape it in a decisive way. This among other things leaves you wholly uninvested in either the plot or characters because there’s a feeling that it doesn’t really matter either way.

This is to say nothing of the fact that some of these characters are just portrayed poorly. Like, the acting is noticeably bad, espeically with Finn Jones (our Danny Rand), and that’s not even something I usually notice. In fact, one of the only characters who was notably handled well was Ward; Tom Pelphrey is one of the few problems I don’t have with this show. But like I said before, that in and of itself pisses me off 🙂

I’m concerned doubly about all of this when I think of the upcoming Defenders series: I don’t know how what they’ve built in this series is gonna gel with the others. The Mary Sue pointed out, for example, that Danny’s whiny, white male entitlement is something Jessica Jones actively despises, and with good reason. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t enjoy seeing that dynamic played out and explored; it might be an opportunity to give Danny space in the narrative to gain some self-awareness — I just doubt it will get airtime. I’m concerned they’re going to sweep all of these shortcomings and inconsistencies and weaknesses under the rug instead of addressing them which has historically never worked out in the Cinematic Universe they’ve created.

I explained Iron Fist to my coworker like this: “everything you would think would happen in Iron Fist comes to pass in Iron Fist.” I think it might be the one series you could skip on before starting Defenders in August. Re-watch Luke Cage instead, listen to that bomb soundtrack, and forget that Marvel ever spent millions of dollars on this show.

In sum: I am disappointed, but not surprised.

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Cheeky Valentine’s Recommendations for Real Life

Something to hold you over until you get your hands on the discount chocolates tomorrow.

I know a lot of people in the book-o-sphere are making or have made “romance”-centered recommendations in the holiday spirit, and I thought of making the same. But I don’t read a lot of books where romance is the primary focus, and none of which I could recommend. It’s my own fault, really. I have my Venus in Libra in my 6th house, and my tastes are very picky and particular. In fact, I honestly think two of the most romantic things I’ve ever read are actually on AO3. (As an aside: I know fandom and fandom culture has had a weird culture shift recently into like, the public eye. But I came to age on the internet and in fandom during a time where this stuff was kept on the down low. [Post on that coming eventually]. The fact I just linked to AO3 on my public blog feels strange still).

But I figured I could still throw a few ideas out there for folks of the cinematic persuasion. (And use this as an open call to hear about your favorite romances across books, TV, etc.!)

For the Single and…

  • Thirsty: Boys Over Flowers (Netflix), Luke Cage (Netflix)
    • Boys Over Flowers was one of the OG “reverse-harem” series I was introduced to. It’s very, very sweet, but also focuses, as a main plot point, on a group of handsome, wealthy men. I feel contractually obligated to mention it here for that reason. Enjoy.
    • Simone. Missick. Rosario. Dawson. Alfre. Woodard. Round that out with Mahershala Ali, Mike Colter, and Theo Rossi and you have the best looking cast of any MCU production. (The fact that it is, in fact, the single best thing [with the single best soundtrack!] Marvel has produced to date is really only the cherry on top).
  • Jaded: Whipped (YouTube), Unreal (Hulu)
    • A pilot for a series I desperately hope gets picked up by some platform so I can have more of it. A straight-laced man walks in on his girlfriend engaged in a BDSM scene with another man. In an effort to win her back, he winds up in a sex shop. Foolery ensues. Obviously 18+ and NSFW but worth a watch, as are all the “product infomercials” they’ve also uploaded.
    • Love isn’t real and the proof is in this show, which you should have already been watching before now, to be honest. Beautifully written and complex characters in an unflinching look at reality television and reality TV romance, this one is particularly binge-able.
  • Uninterested: Luther (Netflix)
    • Alright. Okay. Let me explain. In addition to just being fresh on my mind as the most recent series I’ve wrapped up, I want to say now that I think Luther could also serve as fodder for the Thirsty. And the Jaded. Luther is for everyone. My real reason for including this is Idris Elba who deserves all the awards known to man because I think Luther explores, among other things, love as a verb. Love in the things you do (or don’t do) for others, and love beyond romantic love. Platonic and familial love, in fact, are shown more often in this way than romantic love. I don’t view that as the main theme, like the way they stress questions of morality v. legality and such, but I saw it enough I figured I could make the stretch to recommend it here.
    • (Honorable mention: Flashpoint Paradox, also on Netflix. I promise you need no DC comics knowledge to enjoy it, but I’m recommending it here for similar reasons as I did Luther above; this is a very good movie that focuses, among other things, on relationships between our friends and family and the lengths we could or should go for their well-being).

For the Hopelessly Romantic, Single or Otherwise

  • Practical Magic (Netflix)
    • The aesthetic, though. Also believing in love and magic etc., etc. Put the lime in the coconut and do yourself a favor and just watch it and be happy.
  • Pride and Prejudice (2005!)
    • I mean…I don’t know if I’m even legally allowed to post this without listing this movie.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier

For the Folks Who Just Want Something CUTE, dammit

  • Lovely Muuuuuuuco! (Crunchyroll)
    • Is there anything more pure and good than the love between dog and owner?
  • Fruits Basket (Funimation)
    • If you just want to cry. Like, laugh first, maybe. And coo a bit. But then to cry about your own life choices and how no love in your life could compare to —

Everyone Who’s a Bit “All of the Above”

  • Beating Again. Beating Again. BEATING AGAIN!!!!! (Netflix). This show…this show. Everything you could possibly want. Everything! This was enough to melt my own icy heart and bring me to tears several times. This was also clever and funny enough to keep me belly-laughing when my tear ducts weren’t otherwise occupied. This is, to date, the only series I have ever gone back to re-watch. Just…watch it, and then come back and let’s talk about it.

As for me on V-Day, I’m going to finally sit down and watch Big Eden on Hulu, and maybe finish Yuri! On Ice.

(Also, I struggled thinking of readily available, happy [or at least happy-ending] series or movies involving sapphic women, especially as main characters. If anyone has any recommendations I would be much obliged).

Before you leave, might I also recommend: my favorite bath soak, face maskwine, or tea with any of these selections?

Jessica Jones

TW: Discussions of rape

jessica-jones-netflix-poster

Do you have a moment to talk about our Angel of Liquor and Light, Jessica Jones?

I can’t believe I haven’t written about this show yet. I spent my entire birthday when it first came out binge-watching the whole season into the wee hours of the morning, then went to work and bullied some of my co-workers to get their shit together and watch it too.

But y’all. This show. This show. If Marvel has the capacity to produce things like this, why are we being forced to sit through things like Age of Ultron? Antman? Another fucking Spiderman movie?

Ultimately, for me, watching this was personally vindicating and cathartic. It wasn’t perfect, but I’m going to go ahead and say I think people were tough on this show, as they are with most media that promises a female/PoC/queer/etc. protagonist, or a story centered around the experience of the aforementioned, because it has to be more than entertaining, it has to be a political statement.

And it’s not all bad, to have a political message or a social agenda, and art is a traditional medium for these types of messages and discussions. But Daredevil wasn’t a perfect show either, and it isn’t getting the same type of discourse as JJ.

So let’s get this out of the way: Jessica Jones has some inconsistencies, both if you are already familiar with the comics, and if you aren’t familiar with them. Her powers aren’t fully explored in a timely manner, and the final few episodes it feels a little inconsistent with what little they gave us earlier. Jessica Jones does not address issues of race in the same way it addresses issues of gender (white womanhood, anyway), much like Agent Carter also fails to address issues of race.

But still, when I first delved into the JJ tumblr tag after finishing the show, I was miffed indeed when I heard complaints about JJ failing compared to Daredevil because there wasn’t enough “on-screen” grit/gore/violence.

????

Really? Really?

Jessica Jones doesn’t rely on shock value depictions of rape and abuse because it makes the conscious choice 1) to center the discourse of that type of abuse on survivors and surviving, and 2) isn’t about to use depictions of that type of violence as a form of entertainment. And if to empathize with Jessica you need to see a pay-by-play of her abuse, I think that’s less a problem with the show and more a problem with you.

That aside, I do think this is actually a great show if you are new to or don’t usually enjoy “superhero” movies because, trust me, Jessica is just as worn out with that type bullshit as you are. It’s a beautiful show to watch, and I think the relationships it shows between Jess and the support system she kind of collects as the show goes on are visceral and heartbreaking and wonderful, too. This type of characterization is probably where the show shines most, and its unapologetic taking on of toxic “romantic” relationships (I won’t go into too many spoilers, but there is a wonderful scene where Kilgrave discusses his feelings and motivations for his actions straight up mirroring them to “the TV,” and one of my favorite scenes where Jessica pulls no punches talking around Kilgrave’s abuse and not accepting his “justification”).

Overall, I’ve been impressed with Marvel’s forays into Netflix, Jessica Jones holding a special, personal place in my heart. I’m super excited now to see Luke Cage’s show after seeing Mike Colter in JJ (and boy, was it nice to see Mike Colter, IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN 😉 ).