As you might imagine, I walked into Captain America 2 ready to get my Soviet Russia on. The Winter Soldier run is one of my favorites in—well, in any comic, really, and from what I’d seen in the trailers and whatnot, it looked like we were going to get a heaping dose of what makes that series so special and so sobering: the bloodstained underbelly of Soviet international politics, a glimpse at the way men and women were fed into the meat grinder of the State, pulped for the greater glory of their nation. In Bucky we’d see a drafted soldier kidnapped, brainwashed, and streamlined into the perfect machine. Not an ideal Soviet man, far from it; but a tool, utilitarian and dispassionate, with the five-pointed martial star on his shoulder; the awful triumph of the State over so-called human frailty.
And we did, we got all of that—insofar that you can’t have a Winter Soldier without those things. But as I watched, it became increasingly clear that this movie wasn’t looking to talk about the Soviet Union. There is a reason Bucky only speaks Russian once in the entire film. There’s a reason he’s never addressed in it. There’s a reason his code name is drawn from an investigation into one of the ugliest chapters of American history. And there is a reason that the movie takes this snarling, mechanized, indiscriminate killing machine and explicitly sets him up as Captain America’s other half.
I’ve seen some reviews going after the film for pulling its punches, of holding up the Greatest Generation as America’s past, and a polluted security branch as its future, absolving it of responsibility for its actions in both cases. It’s HYDRA now and “sacrifices for freedom” then; why aren’t we interrogating ourselves a little harder?
My answer to that is: we did, and the movie is named after what we found.
The Winter Soldier is concerned with security and international supremacy, and the moral compromises America has made (and continues to make) in pursuit of both. It draws a straight line from WWII America to the modern day, where “we did some things we weren’t proud of” becomes drone warfare and Big Brother. Steve is at one end of this timeline, Nick Fury at the other. There’s a chasm of about fifty years between the two points. That’s where the Winter Soldier steps in.
This film is haunted by an American war, yes. But not the one Steve fought in. The Cold War was “a battle for the soul of mankind”, waged across millions of hearts and minds, and it’s a patched-over burn in the American psyche, barely healed and still tender to the touch. We emerged on the other side of forty-four years as the world’s one and only superpower. And it fucking cost us.
McCarthyism saw Americans turning on one another, fueled by snarling, indiscriminate paranoia. Operation Paperclip recruited Nazi scientists to keep German technology out of Soviet hands. Vietnam, with its thousands dead, was fought to keep the dominoes of Communism from falling across Asia. America, augmented by an unimaginable weapon and ruthlessly militarized, spied, ordered assassinations, irradiated its own children, and dragged the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust. All for the sake of security.
The Winter Soldier is that America.
Inhuman, bionic, unfeeling, unthinking, the perfect weapon: a creature of progress, powered by pure ideology. The mind wipes? Decades of propaganda in its purest, most undiluted form, administered directly to the brain. The arm? I know a nuclear metaphor when I see one.
If Cap is the potential of America, what we should never stop striving for, the Winter Soldier is what became of us when we fell desperately short. He is what we did to ourselves.
In many ways this film is a ghost story, and like all good ghost stories, it holds up the tragedy of our mistakes and begs us not to repeat them. What SHIELD proposes—Project Insight—is assured destruction, a level of control over a population not exercised since we were staring Russia down over a launch pad. And so the Winter Soldier appears, the long cold shadow of America’s past, and crashes into the hope for its future with the ring of a metal fist against a shield.
Cap can’t destroy him, what’s done is done. Bucky can’t be unwounded, or given back his stolen time; the blood on his hands won’t be scrubbed out. But they can walk slowly together, one helping the other stand.
Steve can’t progress without Bucky, just as, the film seems to say, America itself is doomed to fester unless it looks to its past and acknowledges what it has done; the things it has ground into dust in the name of a higher cause. In the MCU, the only way Captain America’s country will move forward is if it swears to never, ever go back.
After "Don't rape" and "Don't threaten rape" what's the best way for men to improve the lives of women and girls in geekdom?
Okay, look: “Don’t rape” and “don’t threaten rape” are pinpoint-specific parts of social compact, also known as “the bare minimum expectations for getting to be part of society.”
These are things that should be taken as a given. Don’t hold up ”don’t rape” and “don’t threaten rape” like they are gifts.
I mean, don’t do those things, and deter others from doing them, and talk about all of this, but, fuck, man.
The best way men can improve the lives of women and girls in geekdom is to do their damnedest to shift the balance of power. Geek dudes—especially white geek dudes—you have something the ladies do not: you have a platform from which to speak about issues of justice with relative impunity. Use it. Better yet, share it with or give it to someone who does not have that privilege.
Are you a pro on a panel that’s all white dudes? Give up your seat to a woman of color. Encourage other panelists to do the same. Straight-up refuse to be part of panels that do not work toward equal representation. Hold speaker and guest lists at cons to the same standard. And talk about what you are doing, and why.
If you are in a position that gives you hiring power, hire women—especially into positions where they will have power, not just low-level editorial and work-for-hire gigs. Actively seek and use the input of women, and go out of your way to make really damn sure they’re credited for those contributions.
Seek and vocally advocate for works by and about women, for female-friendly and generally diversity-friendly publishers, retailers, and fan communities. When someone does shit right, vote with your dollars and spread the word. When someone fucks up, call them out, and—if there’s any real potential for it and you’ve got the capacity—offer them impetus for and tools to change.
Buy girl books. Buy books with pink covers, and read them in public. Break down the box of geek masculinity, and live the geek culture you want to see and be part of. Subvert everything.
And respect the anger of those of us who have been consistently marginalized. If you want to be an ally in this fight, recognize that the fight is not about you: sometimes solidarity means giving other people space to be frustrated and angry at a system from which you directly benefit, and sometimes that means that they will, by extension, be angry at you—and that this, along with everything else, means *that system* is your common enemy.
Speaking of systems: Educate yourself. Read How to Suppress Women’s Writing and call that shit out. Understand that in this fight, your voice is generally considered to mean more than mine. Fight that inequality as hard as you can—but meanwhile, while you’ve got that platform, use it.
“People don’t like her because it’s the making of her, right now. When she, sometime soon in the future, becomes this person that she’s been kind of building up to, for the past three seasons, now four, then people will really begin to root for her. I think even the audience doesn’t realize she’s such a dark horse. If she acted badass and tried to kill everyone there, she would be dead by now! She’s so intelligent, and I can’t stress that enough. Courtesy is a lady’s armor. She’s using her courtesy to deceive people, and she’s using her former self as a facade, and it works so much to her advantage, because people still think she’s this naive, vulnerable, little girl, and she’s really not. She knows exactly what she’s doing. She knows what game she’s playing! And no one else does. And she’s learned from the best — Cersei, Margaery, Tyrion, Littlefinger, even Joffrey. She’s learned so much from these people, and they don’t even realize it. They’re unwittingly feeding her to become this great kind of manipulator. King’s Landing can either make or break a person, and in Sansa’s case, it’s making her.”—Sophie Turner, in response to Sansa hate (x)
“Generally speaking, media fandom operates on a labor theory of value—not necessarily in the Marxist sense of the phrase, but in the sense that value derives from work. Fandom’s gift economy assigns special worth to “gifts of time and skill” (Hellekson 2009, 115), gifts made by fans for fans. The worth of these gifts lies not simply in the content of the gift, nor in the social gesture of giving, but in the labor that went into their creation. Commercially purchased gifts, such as the virtual cupcakes and balloons that can be purchased in the LiveJournal shop, may be given and appreciated, but will generally be worth less, in the context of fandom, than gifts made by the giver (note 2). This labor theory of value is often invisible or unarticulated until something goes wrong: a site skin doesn’t work as anticipated, a vid is plagiarized, a story in progress—or an entire archive—is abandoned. These events remind us that our experience of fandom depends on the labor of others: “A gift is a thing we do not get by our own efforts. We cannot buy it; we cannot acquire it through an act of will. It is bestowed upon us” (Hyde 1979, xi).”—Tisha Turk, Fan work: Labor, worth, and participation in fandom’s gift economy (via fanhackers)
“The first two books are adventure stories, about getting people jazzed for revolution. But the third one changes genres and switches into misery porn. It’s about the consequences and the reality of that revolution.
You wanted a war, dear reader? Here is war, up close and personal. Here is the boredom and the fear and the being locked in a “safe” place with no control. Here is Prim dying pointlessly. Here is PTSD. Here is a brainwashed, weaponized version of your beautiful lover who went off to battle and came back a killer. Here are people, fatuous people but people who cared about you and who just happened to be on the wrong side at the wrong time, people who are beaten and kept in chains by your allies. Here are your friends and peers dying screaming in the stinking dark, literally torn to pieces and devoured alive. Here is the man you thought would be your confidante for life and maybe something more, the blood of your fucking family all over his hands. Here is beaten down exhaustion and despair and confusion. Here is everything you wanted, dear reader. Eat it up. Choke it down. Does any of it seem so necessary now?
And for all that price paid, what changes? The old man is dying anyway, he chokes to death on his own blood laughing at you. The old lady just brings the games back. Everything you fought for, perverted by power-hungry politicians. All that changed was the color of the boot and the neck it pressed down on.
Even after righting THAT final wrong, the only happy ending Katniss gets is that she can tell her kids why mommy wakes up screaming at night.
Yeah, the prose isn’t the best. But damn do I love where Collins took the series. It’s not an adventure series about justified vengeance. It’s about the consequences of violence, and the personal and social toll it takes on everybody. She fashioned an intense anti-war story and suckered the audience into it with her thrilling dystopia tales. What a great trick.”—
He—the “mr” makes me assume it’s a he—got it. That’s why I think this trilogy is so brilliant, and this guy got it, though I wouldn’t have in-your-face’d the review so bad. Collins shows the aftermath of revolution so beautifully.
YEAH SO STRAP IN MOTHERFUCKERS I’M ABOUT TO TELL YOU ABOUT MARGARET “MAD MADGE” CAVENDISH
she wrote the first science-fiction novel, a century and a half before Frankenstein. It has bear-men and spider-men and ZOMBIE ARMIES and FISH-MEN WITH BOMBS.
she was the first woman to publish her autobiography
she was all into science and hung out with the Royal Society and was bros with Hobbes and Descartes
she was super-shy but at the same time wanted to be super-famous (“though I cannot be Henry the Fifth, or Charles the Second; yet, I will endeavour to be, Margaret the First: and, though I have neither Power, Time nor Occasion, to be a great Conqueror, like Alexander, or Cesar; yet, rather than not be Mistress of a World, since Fortune and the Fates would give me none, I have made One of my own”) and she wore CRAZY OUTFITS and Samuel Pepys was all like “I SAW THE DUCHESS OF NEWCASTLE TODAY YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE THE CRAZY SHIT SHE WAS WEARING SHE’S REALLY HOT THO”
she wrote a TON of stuff, poetry and drama and natural philosophy and a lot of it wasn’t that good because she wasn’t educated and some people thought she was a nutcase for being a WOMAN who WROTE THINGS but she just COULD NOT STOP WRITING
this passage: “but of the second rank are for the most part those we call Insects, whose production proceds from such causes as have no conformity or likeness with their produced Effects; as for example, Maggots bred out of Cheese, and several others generated out of Earth, Water, and the like. But said the Empress, there is some likeness between Maggots and Cheese; for Cheese has no blood, nor Maggots neither; besides, they have almost the same taste which Cheese has. This proves nothing, answered they; for Maggots have a visible, local, progressive motion, which Cheese hath not. The Empress replied, That when all the Cheese was turned into Maggots, it might be said to have local, progressive motion. They answered, That when the Cheese by its own figurative motions was changed into Maggots, it was no more Cheese”
I know I’m forgetting more awesome stuff about her but tl;dr SHE WAS AWESOME
This post got better.
*e* Also jesus christ dear dude who said Issac Asimov: Asimov wasn’t even the first MALE science fiction writer, you ever fucking heard of HG Wells and Jules Verne? Edgar Allan Poe? And these two ladies predated them all and inspired them all. Chriiiist. If you’re going to attempt to mansplain at least fucking know your genre. Fucking fake geek boys, get off my motherfucking lawn.
(chuckle) Madge was a trip. I can just see her off in a corner of Heaven somewhere with Hypatia and all the FRS science bros, blowing things up.
“Given the poor track record of representation in modern films, it’s perhaps of great significance that Captain America’s support team consists of two women and two black men. Quietly, and with blessedly little fanfare, CA:TWS continues the tradition of Cap’s stories reflecting his time, in this case in the roster of good guys. Race and gender remain present, but they are subsumed by across-the-board badassery. Mr. America may still be as blonde and white as they come, another hurdle yet to be jumped, and one higher than any of us in our hopeful forum conversations can know. It doesn’t mean we aren’t getting closer, though, or that CA:TWS isn’t a marker of possible (good) things to come.”—Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (via themarysue)
History is not a long series of centuries in which men did all the interesting/important things and women stayed home and twiddled their thumbs in between pushing out babies, making soup and dying in childbirth.
History is actually a long series of centuries of men writing down what they thought was important and interesting, and FORGETTING TO WRITE ABOUT WOMEN. It’s also a long series of centuries of women’s work and women’s writing being actively denigrated by men. Writings were destroyed, contributions were downplayed, and women were actively oppressed against, absolutely.
But the forgetting part is vitally important. Most historians and other writers of what we now consider “primary sources” simply didn’t think about women and their contribution to society. They took it for granted, except when that contribution or its lack directly affected men.
This does not in any way mean that the female contribution to society was in fact less interesting or important, or complicated, simply that history—the process of writing down and preserving of the facts, not the facts/events themselves—was looking the other way.