Hot Take! Man Of Steel Was Terrible.

It’s been six years. Why am I talking about Man Of Steel, of all movies?

Because Aquaman just came out. And if you ask me, the creators of Aquaman corrected all the mistakes that Man Of Steel made.

**Spoilers ahead.**

The main problem with Man Of Steel is the Man of Steel himself. Superman is completely out of character–since when does Superman kill people??? Or let people die recklessly as he destroys their city?

I remember when the Man Of Steel Honest Trailer came out, and they actually made a valid point: Superman developing his own code of ethics through experience over time is actually a more compelling character arc than him already having a perfect moral compass. In Smallville, we see Clark come into his own over the course of ten years, guided by his parents Martha (why did I say Martha) and Jonathan Kent. Ma and Pa Kent have always been attributed with raising Clark as the caring and morally steadfast person he is.

But Man Of Steel‘s Ma and Pa are a far cry from Annette O’ Toole and John Schneider. Kevin Costner!Pa Kent tells a young Clark after he saves a bus full of drowning schoolchildren that maybe he shouldn’t have risked exposing his powers and let his schoolmates die. And Ma Kent tells Clark that he doesn’t have to be the Earth’s savior–which is certainly true, except for the fact that Clark is the reason Zod and his followers are here and threatening Earth. It would be a truly selfish and amoral act not to give himself up to Zod and try to fight them off. Luckily the random priest was there to put him on the right path.

And judging from some of the film’s imagery, it seems to realize that Superman is supposed to be a Christ figure: sent from the heavens by his father to save humanity and be a beacon of hope and good. So why go the route it did? Why resort to pushing Superman to kill? Sure, Zod isn’t human, but he is a person. In Superman II (with Christopher Reeve), Superman actually defeats Zod by outwitting him.

Well, the movie isn’t just telling a Jesus story–it’s also telling a story about 9-11, in which Metropolis is New York and Zod and his ilk are terrorists. And Zach Snyder and David S. Goyer seems to be saying that the only way to deal with terrorists is to take them out, full stop, and if innocent people get hurt in the process, if an entire city gets leveled, then that’s just the price of war.

Going back to the Honest Trailers point about Superman perhaps needing an impetus to examine himself and realize the price of a life, maybe that’s true. Maybe the DCEU believes that good old-fashioned farm livin’ with strong parental units isn’t enough to truly make purely moral. But then…nothing happens. Superman doesn’t suffer any consequences for killing Zod (except for making possibly the stupidest “NOOOOOOOOO” in film history). After a moment of regret, he’s completely fine. He kisses Lois, gets a job at the Planet, and everything’s fine. And there’s no hint of moral repercussion in future films either. Clark gets into a super dick measuring contest with Batman, then he dies, then he’s brought back, he fights Steppenwolf with the gang, and everyone goes out for nachos. The battle with Zod has been long forgotten. Which tells me that there was no greater plan with the killing of Zod, it was just for edge.

You know what’s probably the stupidest decision you can make for Superman? Getting rid of his red tightie-whities. The second stupidest decision? Going “lol what if Superman killed somebody” and turning it into a big budget blockbuster.

Aquaman didn’t do that. When Arthur leaves Black Manta’s father to die (which, hey, totally understandable–he’s a pirate), there are actual repercussions for his less-than-heroic act. And Arthur is forced to reevaluate his own decisions and decides to change himself for the better. A complete character arc. If they really wanted to make a Superman movie where he has an existential crisis and pushes the boundaries of his own moral code, then they should have come full circle with it. I haven’t been able to recognize Superman until well into Justice League, when he says that he likes truth, “but I’m also a big fan of justice.” Now there’s the idealistic, cheesy, dorky, self-aware Boy Scout I know and love.

It’s unclear for now whether or not Henry Cavill will continue to play Superman. So it’s unsure whether or not Superman will still be a part of the DCEU. If he is, will he have an actual arc? Or, you know, will I just have to hold on to the few decent origin movies, Wonder Woman and Aquaman, the DCEU can produce? ~TRL

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Take It From An Ex-TJLCer, Destiel Will Never Be Canon

You think to yourself, “this is clearly a romance. There’s nothing else the writers could be building up to. They’re in love! This has been a slow-burn romance from the start! All the evidence can’t be a coincidence!”

I been there, Destiel fans. I’ve lived through exactly what you’re going through. Once upon a time, I watched a show and thought the two male leads were in love. Then I met others like me, who had all these reasons why it was secretly a gay romance all along, and I bought into it, hook, line, and sinker. But guess what? We were conned by the shitbag writers of BBC Sherlock who treated us like a fucking joke and crucified us in the fandom. I learned from that day forth that TV writers and their dumbass subtext can’t be trusted. And now, I’m watching history repeat itself with the Supernatural fandom.

First of all, I’d like to say that Dean and Cas are super gay and always have been and should’ve been getting it on the whole time. The writers (and certain actors) are the stupid ones for not realizing this, not you for taking notice of what is clearly happening in front of you.

Second of all, Supernatural is a show by straight white dudes for straight white dudes, and the fact that its audience is made up mainly of women and queer people makes them sick. They hate fangirls. They openly scoff at us, they mock us at conventions, they make fun of us in the goddamn show! They think we took their “manly” show about cars and killing monsters and turned it into Brokeback Mountain.

I suppose I should explain to all of you who were either blessed enough to never hear of TJLC or have just bleached the whole embarrassing affair from your brains what exactly TJLC means. TJLC stands for “The Johnlock Conspiracy.” It was basically a group of Sherlock fans on Tumblr who had a theory that the show was a slow burn romance between a modern day version of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. And when I say “conspiracy”, I mean conspiracy. As in literal tin foil hats. I’m not saying we were totally harmless; some of us could be quite toxic to Sherlock fans outside the conspiracy and some even harassed the actors and writers, but for the most part we were pretty nice people. People who had a deep belief in something, who were mercilessly queerbaited and then mocked by the very people we believed in, and ultimately let down.

Recently the CW released a video of some of the actors promoting diversity, inclusion, and tolerance. And that may be sincere. The CW’s programming isn’t bereft of LGBT+ representation: Riverdale, Jane The Virgin, Black Lightning, and even Supernatural itself have had significant LGBT+ characters and/or onscreen same-sex relationships. The broadcasting company isn’t the problem. But back in June (gay pride month) of 2016 (six months before series 4 of Sherlock was supposed to air), the BBC posted a rainbow banner on their website with Benedict Fucking Cumberbatch’s face (as Holmes) on it saying “Groundbreaking British Television.” TJLC took that to mean that the impending series of Sherlock would confirm that Holmes and Watson were in love and finally get them together after years of teasing a romantic relationship. Long story short, they didn’t.

There are a lot more parallels to TJLC and Destiel believers that I’ve noticed, but this most recent one made me feel that I finally needed to issue this warning. Like the fact that Misha Collins loves to make teasing remarks about Destiel, and that at a Sherlock panel in 2016, Benedict Cumberbatch made a purposely misleading statement that “love conquers all” (when asked what was in store for series 4), knowing full well that shippers would take it to mean Johnlock would become canon. Like the fact that Steven Moffat unabashedly rolls his eyes at the mention of Tumblr, and Jensen Ackles told a bi Destiel shipper during a Q&A session “not to ruin [the Q&A] for everyone else” when the crowd booed her…for mentioning her sexuality–not even Destiel. Just being bi. Like the fact that both Moffat and Gatiss, and Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner (writers and executive producers of Supernatual) are very dismissive of women and minorities in their writing.

Is there definite queer subtext to Supernatural? Absolutely. Are the actors lovely people who are proud allies to the LGBT+ community? Of course. Would the show make so much more goddamn sense and be a far more enjoyable watch if the two best friends who are clearly in love just get together already? Obviously! But the same was true of Sherlock too (except for the actors being lovely people), and look where TJLC ended up. Humiliated and crushed. I don’t want to see it happen to you too, Destiel fans. So please. Write your fics, draw your pictures, make your headcanons. But don’t believe for a second that these people want you to be happy. ~TRL

A Verified Finale Dissection

Hello. My name is the Red Lady, and it is my sad duty to report that Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is now finally finished. Due to the nature of this blog post, I must warn you about impending spoilers, a word that here means “information that may give away unknown elements of the plot of a story”. If you haven’t yet seen the third and last season of the story of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire, it’s not too late for you to turn back.

I’m sorry, I just had to do that.

Any, the short of it is…I loved it!

A while back, I said that Netflix’s ASouE was more for book fans than newcomers, but this season feels like the in-jokes finally caught up to the original material. We finally got to see what happened with La Forza Del Destino and the poison darts. We finally got to find out why the sugar bowl was so significant! And it wasn’t totally ludicrous. At least in my opinion. I’m sure other people will hate the explanation, but I think Daniel Handler that originally wrote the books with no explanation in mind for it. (I always thought “the sugar bowl” was a code name for something else, to be honest.) So when he had to write an answer, he came up with something plausible enough, that tied in with the featured elements of the story, the Medusoid Mycellium and the hybrid apples. I thought it was totally fine. I’m glad it wasn’t some outrageous magic thing.

I am a little mad that they SHOWED the Great Unknown. That was one thing I wanted kept mysterious. Like, it was implied in the books that it was a sea monster, but it could’ve been something else. But in the series? Neh. Kraken. *sigh*

And if I’m being honest, I’m disappointed how rushed the last episode was. Why would you cut the longest book of the series down into one short episode? I really wanted to get into Ish and the islanders and the concept of “utopia.” (Because the island is basically a metaphor for the garden of Eden, and Ish is supposed to be a God analog.)

(Also, I thought Ish was going to end up being the taxi driver from “The Wide Window” since he told the kids to “call him Ishmael”, but, no. It was just a Moby Dick reference. No greater plan there. They went with Peter MacNicol instead. Well hey, I can always use more Peter MacNicol in my life.)

Ish being the creator of VFD and having recruited Olaf and the Snickets and the Baudelaires and everyone made the whole concept of VFD seem…smaller. What was thrilling about VFD in the books was that it was so shadowy that you had no idea how big it was and how deep it went. Finding out that nearly everyone in the kids’ lives (Count Olaf, Uncle Monty, Aunt Josephine, etc.) were part of this huge conspiracy was fun. Unfortunately, there’s no mystery because we know the whole time because the show gives it away right from the beginning. Everything in the show feels more contained and less mysterious.

But divorcing the show from the books, Netflix’s ASouE is great as a stand-alone. It feels complete, and for people who hate ambiguous endings, maybe that’s better.  So while I had my beefs with it as a fan of the books, I loved for what it was on its own.

Plus there are so many fan service moments! Beatrice stealing the sugar bowl from Esme. When Kit and Olaf were dating, and Olaf and Lemony actually being friends. Seeing how much Kit and Dewey were in love. Jacqueline becoming the Duchess of Winnipeg. CHARLES GETTING AWAY FROM SIR AND FALLING IN LOVE WITH JEROME!!!! Jerome and Babs being mlm and wlw solidarity goals. Seeing Lemony with Kit. Seeing how much Lemony and Beatrice (the first) were in love. Seeing Lemony meet Beatrice (the second)!!! I need more Lemony Snicket in my life. Actually putting Lemony onscreen and making him more than a narrator was the best decision this show made.

My name is the Red Lady, and now my review is done.

-C

In remembrance of Larry Your-Waiter, who was boiled alive in curry.

Dear BBC Sherlock

Dear BBC Sherlock,

I miss you.

Let me be clear, I don’t want you back. I don’t miss who you are–I miss who you were. In the beginning, you were a quirky show about an awkward sadboy and his grumpy hobbit boyfriend. You had compelling mysteries, beautiful cinematography, and characters I loved as if I knew them personally. All my friends told me how great you were, and they weren’t wrong. You were wonderful, and I fell in love with you.

And I miss who I was when I was your fan. You gave me something to be excited about–to believe in. You made me feel smart for liking you. You made me feel represented. I thought you understood me. I thought you were going to show everyone that people like me can have love and acceptance and success. I could imagine the happy ending you were going to give me.

Then you changed.

I don’t know. Maybe you were like this all along. Maybe I was just excusing all your many, MANY flaws. Maybe I couldn’t see the trees for the forest. But somewhere along the way…something broke between us.

You weren’t happy anymore. You were focusing on all the negative things. And anything that was happy, you felt you had to make negative. You weren’t content to just solve mysteries anymore. Everything had to be part of a big over-arcing plot that just came crashing down on itself. You fixated on all the wrong things. It was never about the drama, the intrigue, the plot twists. You just stopped caring. You just got bored. So you gave up.

I don’t miss that show. I don’t miss the arrogance, the cynicism, the way you mocked your fans like you thought they’d stay with you, no matter how you mistreated them. Well I didn’t, did I? I don’t write fic for you anymore, I don’t make art, I don’t reblog pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch’s stupid face to my Tumblr. I got you out of my life for a good reason. You weren’t good for me. You weren’t good to me. You were as abusive to me as all your characters are to each other.

I miss you, Sherlock. But I would never, ever watch another series of you, even if you were the last show on Netflix. ~TRL

“You Are Not Alone” DVD Commentary Pt. 1

(Crossposted from my LiveJournal)

I can’t believe it’s been five years since I began this odyssey of a fan fiction. I was so young. I was still in high school, I was a junior, and I was playing Paulette Bonafonte in our production of Legally Blonde: The Musical​ at the time. But “You Are Not Alone” has been the project nearest and dearest to my heart, and I’m glad I decided to write it, and I’m glad so many others have enjoyed it too.

Sam Tyler became a concept after I watched the first episode of Life On Mars, the UK version, starring John Simm. His name, as a lot of people pointed out, was a possible anagram for “masterly”, and since Rose Tyler was the first companion on Doctor Who, a seed of an idea was planted in my mind: what if the Master appeared earlier on? What if instead of running for Prime Minister, he was a shop clerk? What if instead of being found as a little old man at the end of the universe, he was found as a charming young man just perfect for the Doctor to adopt and fall in love with?

And “You Are Not Alone” was born.

I knew I wanted Sam to start out just like Rose: uncomplicated, unassuming, but immediately heroic and likable. Eventually, he would grow more and more similar to his true identity, revealing deeper layers of brilliance as the story went on and Sam was exposed to more of the Doctor’s life. But in this first story, Sam is nearly identical to Rose Tyler. A lot of people complained about this, but most were patient, and rewarded with Sam’s character arc.

So YANA is not a crossover with Life On Mars, I would like to say off the bat, but I did borrow characters and names from the show when starting the story. Sam Tyler, obviously, and his girlfriend, Annie Cartwright. Plus the name of the shop Rose worked in was changed from “Heinrik’s” to “Hunt’s”, for Gene Hunt, Sam’s boss.

The beginning of “Rose” is so memorable. Mannequins, especially the faceless ones like the ones in that department store, are so creepy. Russell T. Davies is the king of writing one-offs, if you ask me.

So we begin with Sam getting locked inside the basement. The Autons are stalking after him. And then-!

“Run!”

Enter the Doctor, the dashing hero!

I love the Ninth Doctor so much. I weep that there was only one season of Christopher Eccleston, but I do respect his stance on the treatment of crew members and I applaud him for standing up. I can’t help but wish that he would return for a multi-Doctor episode. Can’t you just see how f**king amazing his Doctor would have fit in with Ten and Eleven in “The Day of the Doctor” special?!

So the Doctor rescues Sam and they make their escape. Nine is so damn handsome, to be honest. Everyone always drools over David Tennant and Matt Smith, but everyone looks over Christopher Eccleston. It’s really not fair.

The Doctor tells Sam to get out, and he does, and the shop blows up. Sam goes home and goes to bed. I added in a sidenote about Sam being “allergic” to aspirin because aspirin is toxic to Time Lords–foreshadowing, heh heh! Then Sam falls asleep and has a romantic dream about the Doctor and the Master’s young selves, Theta Sigma and Koschei.

A lot of people commented at this, asking if I somehow knew the Doctor’s real name. I and a few other seasoned Whovians kindly explained to them that Theta Sigma had been the Doctor’s nickname at the Time Lord Academy.

I also got several comments saying this was the best Doctor/Master fan fic they’d ever read…apart from this other one. Guys, don’t ever tell a writer something like that, it’s a big hit to the ego to hear that you’re the second best. Just say the story is good and leave it at that.

The next chapter we’re introduced to Mickey, I mean Annie. I actually really love Annie and I wish I could’ve given her a bigger role in the story. But, since this is about the Doctor and the Master, her part is small. If anyone hates Annie, I think it’s undeserved. It’s not her fault I underwrote her. She does become somewhat of a hero in the end. Anyway, Annie has been worrying about Sam all night, since Sam is a dingus who forgot about their date. Her worry isn’t unfounded. She cares about Sam, after all.

The Doctor then appears, and here we have one of the funniest scenes in DW, with the Doctor rifling through items in Sam’s living room, reading a book at high speed, commenting on a celebrity couple in a magazine (that the man is gay and the woman’s an alien), scattering playing cards all over the room, and commenting on his satellite dish ears in the mirror. Then there’s some sexy falling on top of each other when one of the Auton’s arms attacks them both, and Sam has another flashback. This will become common as he spends more time with the Doctor. Sam really is thick for not figuring out that he’s really the Master. But then again, he doesn’t learn of fob watches until later, so maybe it’s not so absurd after all.

I have to comment on the Drums™ here. I really hated this plot point when I watched DW the first time, especially when I got into Classic Who. There’s no evidence of the Drums™ haranguing previous Masters, so why is this suddenly an issue now? The Classic Masters did evil shit because they enjoyed it. This whole “poor Master, he was just tortured his whole life” concept is woobie-ifying and undignified for an antagonist of the Master’s caliber. Sure, Anthony Ainley and Eric Roberts’ Masters were pretty insane, but that was more a product of being trapped in non-Time Lord bodies, their life forces being strained beyond their limit. Roger Delgado’s Master certainly wasn’t a victim of the Drums™.  This retcon is really annoying. I had to work out early on how I would justify this dumb McGuffin in my version of the story.

Oh yes. I planned much of the story out when I first began writing it. After I realized people really were interested and I was garnering a lot of readers, I knew I would have to give them a well thought-out epic, with plenty of foreshadowing and connections throughtout. I didn’t expect a lot of people would like my story because at the time, I believed I was an oddity for seeing erotic subtext between the Doctor and the Master. Turns out, there were plenty of people like me out there.

The Doctor leaves again, Sam decides to investigate him in depth, Annie is abducted and copied as a rubber girl, attacks Sam and the Doctor, and Sam comes inside the TARDIS for the first time. It’s a magical moment. Sam gets upset about the supposed death of his girlfriend and the Doctor’s callous reaction to it. Again, even though Sam really does fling her aside for a life of traveling with the Doctor, he honestly does care for her. He’s just preoccupied. They’re much better as friends than as partners.

The Doctor and Sam trace the Autons back to an underground boiler room, where the Nestene Consciousness is camped out. I thought it was incredibly poignant that the first villains the Doctor and Sam face together are the Autons, since the Master used the Autons to invade England in his introductory story. How poetic that the Master would unwittingly help the Doctor defeat them in their first adventure together as traveling companions rather than friendly foes. Sam discovers he can hear the Nestene Consciousness on a psychic level, giving us more hints that he is not all that he seems. The audience already knows who Sam really is, but the real attraction is watching Sam’s slow discovery. Another flashback shows us the Master and the Doctor in their first (televised) battle of wits, again, showing us the irony of the Doctor and the Master now facing the Autons together.

The Doctor gets in trouble and is incapacitated by the Autons, but Sam officially takes up his role as the Doctor’s right hand man, rather than just some guy along for the ride, and leaps in action, saving the Doctor. The Nestene Consciousness is accidentally dissolved and the Autons fall back into inanimation. The day is saved.

Sam and the Doctor make their goodbyes, but then, the Doctor has second thoughts and returns, offering to take Sam on as his companion. Sam eagerly agrees and runs into the TARDIS, ready for adventure. One last flashback shows us that Koschei was seemingly abandoned by Theta in their youth, which spawned the beginnings of the Master’s hatred for the Doctor. His anger stemmed from heartbreak, and his grief spiraled into mania over the hundred years that Theta was missing. But more of that later on.

And that’s the first adventure. The Master is in the TARDIS, and the seeds of a romance are planted.

The Man In The Backseat: Why The Urban Legend Still Gives Us The Jitters

Halloween is my favorite holiday because I love candy and costumes, but weirdly enough, I don’t like being scared. The only horror movie I’ve ever liked is Get Out, but since I’m a white person, that movie wasn’t meant to scare me. Among its many valid interpretations, Get Out is a parable about cultural appropriation (analogized as the white people literally taking over the identities of black people). In most movies, I, a young white woman, would be the victim. In Get Out, I am the villain.

Movie monsters are an interesting study because they’re usually a commentary on society’s fears and prejudices at that time. For example, in 1954, Japan created a movie about a terrifying, giant radioactive beast stomping through the streets of Tokyo. Godzilla came out just nine years after the United States dropped atomic bombs on two major Japanese cities. And nearly two decades before that, RKO Pictures produced a film about an uncontrollable animal from Africa falling in love with a white woman and trying to steal her away. King Kong represents Anglo-Saxon fears of black men “despoiling” helpless, innocent white women, and really betrays how black men were thought of at the time–uncivilized, animalistic, and destructive. Movies like The Thing From Another World or Invasion Of The Body Snatchers are metaphors for the American people’s fear in the 1950s of Communists hiding among them, et cetera, et cetera.

But nobody is afraid of King Kong or Godzilla anymore. In these more tolerant times, we’ve come to empathize with the monster and see its human qualities–in some cases, such as vampires, we’ve even come to romanticize the monster. Which brings us to the other type of horror story–the urban legend.

One of the very first urban legends was a real, flesh-and-blood man: Jack The Ripper. Even though he only killed five women (that we know of), he is history’s most remembered serial killer for his mystique and brutality. Over the years, Jack The Ripper has become a cautionary symbol to women everywhere: be chaste and virtuous, and don’t go out at night alone.

Every serial killer-based urban legend owes something to Jack. Nearly every one starts the same: a special bulletin on the radio or TV warns locals of a dangerous man who’s just broken out of prison or an insane asylum and is rumored to be in the area. The next thing you know, he’s hiding under your bed or outside your car parked on Lover’s Leap, his hook gleaming in the moonlight.

And when you really break down these legends, they usually stand for something. Take the famous “Man In The Backseat” story. A woman is driving home at night on the highway. There’s an 18-wheeler tailgating her, flashing his high beams. The woman gets annoyed or panicked, but finally makes it home, only to discover the trucker behind her was trying to warn her of the danger behind her. Or she stops at a gas station, gives the attendant her credit card, only for the creepy looking attendant to tell her that her card didn’t work and that she’ll have to come in the store. Once she’s out of the car, the attendant informs her that there’s a man with a knife hiding in her backseat.

This is a tale that is meant to get people to not judge a book by its cover. In most horror stories, the creepy guy–like the trucker or the gas station attendant–would be the killer preying on the helpless woman. In this tale, however, the creepy guy is the one who tries to help the damsel. We don’t even see the killer until the very end. From a young age, we’re taught not to trust strangers, but we’re generally more likely to trust them if we find them attractive, or if they have an “honest” face. In a way, it’s a story shaming society for judging others unjustly based on their appearance or mien. The woman dies because she was unwilling to heed the words of someone trying to help her–she dies due to her own fallibility as a human. And fallibility is inescapable for humans.

Urban legends are so deviously ingenious in their creation, because while everyone logically knows that they aren’t true, they’re just plausible enough that they could happen. We share them with each other, giving them validity by saying they happened to a friend, or a friend of a friend. We know there’s not an axe-wielding murderer hiding in our backseat…but what if? ~TRL

How Blazing Saddles Satirizes Gender

So since my lovely girlfriend Ali and I are adora-gays, we enjoy looking at media with a queer filter. I recently got her to watch Mel Brooks’ 1974 masterpiece Blazing Saddles, a satirical take on not only the Western genre, but also racism. If you know anything about Mel Brooks, it’s that he loves pushing the envelope on political correctness and utilizing satire to battle social prejudice, particularly in Blazing Saddles and The Producers.

But enough has been written about how Mel Brooks portrays racism and anti-Semitism. I ain’t here to talk about that. Today I wanna talk about Blazing Saddles‘s portrayal of gender…and maybe sexuality too.

About halfway through the movie, Ali turned to me and said, “I ship them.”–“them” being Bart and Jim, Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder’s characters, respectively. As I knew she would. And it’s not an unfounded interpretation. Bart and Jim’s friendship is really sweet. Jim legitimately worries for Bart’s well being, he’s always willing to jump to his defense, and he seems to be the only person in Rock Ridge who isn’t a racist dick. Plus Bart sort of tries to life coach Jim out of his alcoholism and wants him to take better care of himself. It’s not the kind of male/male friendship you see all the time in movies or television. It’s really nice.

And it got me to thinking about how this movie is actually pretty subversive when it comes to portrayals of gender. Yes, there is only really one female character in the movie, who’s really just there to be a sex object–even her last name basically means “of fuck”. But I think there’s more than meets the eye even to the seemingly one dimensional Lily Von Shtupp. But I’ll get to her.

Let’s first look at the film’s hero, Bart. It’s clear that Blazing Saddles is mainly inspired by old, classic spaghetti westerns. The most archetypal star of these films is John Wayne. Wayne used conventional hypermasculinity–violence, mainly–to portray his characters as the big strapping hero in his movies. But Bart is not John Wayne. He solves conflict using his brain and his sense of humor. The one time he uses violence to solve a problem is when he loses his temper at Taggart in the beginning of the movie and wallomps him on the head with a shovel–a mistake that nearly gets him hanged. He uses his wits to get out of the townsfolk of Rock Ridge nearly lynching him by holding himself hostage, he defeats Mongo in a Bugs Bunny-esque trick with a bomb in a candy box, and he defeats Hedley Lamarr’s hoard of criminals by building a fake town and a fake tollbooth. He rarely uses a gun, except when shooting Lamarr right in the very symbol of masculinity–his dong. Race aside, he is not a conventional Western hero.

Now let’s look at Jim, aka “The Waco Kid”. (By the by, I used to actually live in Waco, Texas.) He is the “washed up gunslinger” stereotype. A lot of Westerns have them, but the most significant example I can think of is “Mr. Denton on Doomsday”, a season 1 episode of The Twilight Zone (the original). Jim is soft spoken, as Gene Wilder characters tend to be, he enjoys the gentlemanly sport of chess, and he’s not overtly violent either. Also…he’s coded a bit gay. He takes on a Southern Belle accent when he calls out to the KKK members, and a Minnie Mouse like voice when he takes a puff from Bart’s…was it weed? I feel like it was weed. Plus he and Bart have a date together at the movies and literally ride off into the sunset together–first on horseback, then in a car. He even pats Bart on the cheek apologetically after accidentally punching him during the big fight scene. It’s…it’s just the cutest thing.

Ironically, the part of Jim was initially offered to none other than John Wayne himself. Thank god Wayne turned the part down and Mel Brooks had the good sense to hire Gene Wilder. That right there is the stars of heaven aligning perfectly.

The bottom line is, Bart and Jim’s friendship is one of supportiveness and understanding. As I said before, it’s very healthy, and sweet. In fact, most of the male friendships in the movie–like the one between Bart and his friend from the railroad work crew, Charlie–are healthy and supportive. Even Mongo, who is set up to be a hulking brute, turns out to be a sweetie pie who loves Bart like a puppy. It’s adorable.

Really, the only toxically masculine figures in the movie are the villains: Hedley Lamarr, Taggart, Lyle, and the governor. They are mean-spirited, violent, misogynistic, and openly selfish. Fittingly, Lamarr and Taggart’s dynamic is not one of friendship. In fact it’s identical to that of Pinky and the Brain. And in a piece about gender, it’s also worthy to note that Hedley Lamarr’s name is similar to that of actress Hedy Lamarr, which is a running joke in the movie.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the Busby Berkeley number that gives one of Supernatural‘s most famous episodes its name: “The French Mistake”, which is full of effeminate men in tuxes being directed by an incredibly flamboyant Dom Deluise. Not only do the “pansies” eagerly jump into the fourth wall breaking (okay, actually third wall) brawl, one of them seems to actually hook up with one of the grungy cowboys, and another cries in the arms of a surprisingly sympathetic and gentle desperado.

…also the song “The French Mistake” is all about butt sex. As if Supernatural couldn’t get any gayer.

And then…there was Lily. Lily, Lily, Lily, legs, Lily. Lily von Shtupp was originally based on Marlene Dietrich. You know…that famously feminine and heterosexual actress. It’s fitting then that we see Lily dressed in a snappy pinstripe suit toward the end of the film. She is the archetypal false ingenue. She’s bawdy, she’s worldly wise, and she is anything but innocent. In fact, Lily’s song in the saloon is about how she’s fed up with sex and romance. Nevertheless, when she seduces Bart, she ends up falling for him. We get the sense that it’s not just because he’s good in the sack (in an outtake, after Lily asks whether or not the stereotype that black men have larger penises is true and then excitedly screams that is, Bart tells her politely that she is actually sucking on his arm), but because he is kind, considerate, and worldly wise himself. Bart knows German almost as well as she does, and he brings her a flower she actually likes. We later see Lily in the big brawl, subduing the Nazi recruits with a song in German. Lily never actually loses any of her femininity–I would argue that she becomes more feminine over the course of the movie after meeting Bart. It’s telling that upon meeting him, she changes from black lingerie to pink. And through this transformation, she actually becomes a stronger character, rather than a passive, disillusioned sex object. Now that she’s on Bart’s side, she has a cause to believe in.

So what does this all have to say about gender and sexuality? I don’t know that Mel Brooks had it in his mind to say anything about it, per se. It could just be me reading a little too deeply into a satirical Western comedy. But I think it’s fitting that John Wayne turned down the chance to be in this film–there’s no room for a symbol for old world toxic masculinity like him in a movie like Blazing Saddles. The fact is, you don’t have to be a certain kind of man or woman. There are different valid ways to define your masculinity or femininity, as long as you’re defining them by your own rules, and not the ones made up by society. And as we all know, challenging societal norms is what Mel Brooks does best. ~TRL