Monday, July 25, 2016

Captain Fanboy on Wonder Woman, Justice League, and Dr. Strange trailers, plus Iron Man 2


When I heard DC was going to set Wonder Woman's origin in World War I, I thought it was a silly change done just to make it different from the Captain America movie.

But after seeing the trailer, I realized the change is brilliant for two reasons:

1. Wonder Woman's purpose is to end war—she should be there for the first world war.

2. Wonder Woman's role is to be a hero for women and men who love women—she should be there during the first wave of feminism.

Also, I love the look of the period.

Their take on Steve Trevor and Etta Candy appears to be damn fine. I'm not crazy about the current interpretation of Wonder Woman as a warrior—I prefer the classic Wonder Woman who relies on her wits, physical perfection, and the advanced science of Paradise Island—but my expectations for this movie have soared dangerously high.


I've seen very few of the DC superhero movies because the movie people seem to think we want grim, and while grim superheroes were an interesting thing to do when Alan Moore and Frank Miller experimented with them, ultimately, grim superheroes are stupid because superheroes call for more suspension of disbelief than any other genre, including funny animals.

Why, you ask? Because funny animals have their own universes where they make sense in that universe's terms, but most superheroes are supposed to exist in our real world. Most fantasy and science fiction set in the real world has one change—time travel is possible, vampires are real, etc. But superhero movies have to rationalize things like why Batman dresses up in a suit and beats up petty criminals instead of promoting something like Basic Income to make a world where no one turns to crime out of desperation. Mind you, I'm not knocking superhero stories—I just think any attempt to make them "realistic" is misguided. This doesn't mean I think they should be silly. It means I think that in general, Marvel found the approach I want for superhero movies and DC has not, so far.

Like the Wonder Woman trailer, the Justice League trailer suggests DC finally figured it out. Part of me is sorry they're not connecting their movie and TV universes, but I completely understand the commercial needs at work, and this version of the Flash looks like fun. This Aquaman seems more like Marvel's Submariner, but I forgive that, and I feel a bit prescient for having said a few years back that a rebooted Aquaman should look vaguely like a Pacific Islander. There isn't much Cyborg in this, but he appears solid. I find myself really liking Affleck's Batman. I'm kind of hoping Superman doesn't show up in the first Justice League movie, but I'm sure he will.


I didn't want Benedict Cumberbatch to be Dr. Strange, not because I don't love his Sherlock (I do), but because there are so many fine actors who would do great jobs. Casting him seemed like blatant fan service. But once he was cast, I knew he would do a damn fine job, and the trailer confirms that.

Ideological antiracists are desperately seeking a reason to hate this movie. I would've cast Michelle Yeoh as the Ancient One, but there's nothing wrong with the choice of the androgynous Tilda Swinton as the head of an international mystic order. The silliest complaint I've seen so far was by someone who claimed that the movie calls Tibetans savages, even though anyone with half a brain should be able to see the line is a joke at the expense of the white guy.


I heard the second Iron Man movie was mediocre, so I never got around to seeing it until last night. When it started, I saw its running time was 2 hours and 4 minutes, so I turned to Emma and said, "It's fifteen minutes too long." I was right; simply trimming fifteen minutes would've made it a better forgettable movie. But it wouldn't fix how incompetent the storytelling is. The industrialist villain is painful to watch, and the reveal of the Black Widow is boring—we shouldn't have found out who she was until she went into action. It felt like Agent Coulson was stuck in to promote Marvel's next movie, and Nick Fury's only job is to tell Stark about his daddy. The script needed one more pass before shooting began. The only virtues are amusing bits by Downey and a short fight scene with the Black Widow.

The trailer and this Black Widow action clip are all you need to see if you like Marvel superhero movies but aren't obsessive about seeing every single one:


Captain Fanboy's ratings:

Iron Man movie: C-. The grade is harsher because the first Iron Man was solid work—without that, I might've given this a C+—but there's no excuse for getting it right, then falling so far.

Dr. Strange trailer: A-. I'm not convinced the movie is going to be great, but I'm convinced it might be.

Justice League: A. The movie may not live up to the trailer, but all the things in the trailer make me want to see more.

Wonder Woman trailer: All the As in the world. Please, DC, don't stumble.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

How does privilege theory explain what I just saw?

About ten minutes ago:

I'm waiting on my bicycle at the corner of Hiawatha and 35th. In the middle of the street is a young white man with a cardboard sign—I can't read it from where I am, but it's undoubtedly a variation on "Homeless. Please help." Maybe he's a vet—many homeless men and women served in the military before the US's leaders abandoned them.

A pristine SUV stops beside him. The driver appears to be a Somali woman—she's dark-skinned and wearing a scarf, and this neighborhood has many Somali-Americans. She hands him what looks like a cup of coffee or juice, then gives him a folded bill that's clearly US currency—whether it's $1 or $20, I can't tell—then drives away.

How does privilege theory explain this?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A short timeline of socialism and feminism


Charles Fourier, a utopian socialist, coined the word "féminisme".


Friedrich Engels, discussing female factory workers who supported their husbands in The Condition of the Working Class in England, wrote,
If the rule of the wife over her husband—a natural consequence of the factory system—is unnatural, then the former rule of the husband over the wife must also have been unnatural.

Friedrich Engels wrote in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State,
In an old unpublished manuscript, written by Marx and myself in 1846, I find the words: “The first division of labor is that between man and woman for the propagation of children.” And today I can add: The first class opposition that appears in history coincides with the development of the antagonism between man and woman in monogamous marriage, and the first class oppression coincides with that of the female sex by the male.

Eleanor Marx wrote,
There is no doubt that there is a women’s question. But for us – who gain the right to be counted among the working class either by birth or by working for the workers’ cause – this issue belongs to the general working-class movement. We can understand, sympathise, and also help if need be, when women of the upper or middle class fight for rights that are well-founded and whose achievement will benefit working-women also. I say, we can even help: has not the Communist Manifesto taught us that it is our duty to support any progressive movement that benefits the workers’ cause, even if this movement is not our own?

Voltairine de Cleyre wrote that marriage laws make "every married woman what she is, a bonded slave, who takes her master's name, her master's bread, her master's commands, and serves her master's passions."


Emma Goldman, wrote,
I demand the independence of woman, her right to support herself; to live for herself; to love whomever she pleases, or as many as she pleases. I demand freedom for both sexes, freedom of action, freedom in love and freedom in motherhood.

Eugene V. Debs, the presidential candidate of the Socialist Party of America, supported the right of women to vote—a right that American women would not win for another 20 years. (In 1905, Debs met Susan B. Anthony, who told him, “Give us suffrage, and we’ll give you socialism.” Debs replied, “Give us socialism and we’ll give you the vote.”)


Dora Montefiore wrote in "A Bundle of Fallacies",
I cannot help regretting that the word “feminism” has crept into the debate. It is a word of which we have no need in England, and which we might very well have left in its native land, France, where it was coined by men to express the contemptuous lack of understanding of the Boulevard for a phase of strenuous belief on the part of some French men and women, that woman possessed other functions and aspirations outside those of sex; in a word, was a human being as well as a female. It is a lop-sided expression, and leads to lop-sided thinking, just as the term “masculinism” might do, if used in a similar connection. Where education, professions, political rights and public duties are concerned, there is no necessity to emphasise sex; we all meet on the common ground of human beings, having common human interests. In 1897, when speaking at the Women’s Congress in Brussels, I made a similar protest against the word “feminism,” suggesting that we should substitute for it “humanism,” as the advancement of humanity, and not of one sex over another, was the aim and object of the women at that time assembled in conference. The late Madame Potonié Pierre, one of the most large-minded among the French workers in the cause of equal rights for women, felt the justice of my plea, and wrote several articles in the same spirit; but the word “feminism” proved too attractive to the esprit gaulois, and it still reigns supreme in French bourgeois circles, and threatens to invade England.

Valentina Tereshkova of the USSR became the first woman in space. (The second was another communist, Svetlana Savitskaya, who later became was the first woman to walk in space.)


Barbara Ehrenreich wrote in What is Socialist Feminism?
The social system which industrial capitalism replaced was in fact a patriarchal one, and I am using that term now in its original sense, to mean a system in which production is centered in the household and is presided over by the oldest male. The fact is that industrial capitalism came along and tore the rug out from under patriarchy. Production went into the factories and individuals broke off from the family to become “free” wage earners. To say that capitalism disrupted the patriarchal organization of production and family life is not, of course, to say that capitalism abolished male supremacy! But it is to say that the particular forms of sex oppression we experience today are, to a significant degree, recent developments. A huge historical discontinuity lies between us and true patriarchy. If we are to understand our experience as women today, we must move to a consideration of capitalism as a system.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A short timeline of socialism and anti-racism

Note: "Anti-racism" in the title is used in its general sense of "opposing racism". The word was rarely used until academics at Ivy League schools began promoting it in the 1980s as a synonym for Critical Race Theory, but now it's also used by people who oppose racism and reject Critical Race Theory.


Karl Marx, congratulating President Lincoln on his re-election, wrote,
While the workingmen, the true political powers of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war.

The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes.

Karl Marx wrote in Capital, 
In the United States of America, every independent workers' movement was paralyzed as long as slavery disfigured part of the republic. Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the Black it is branded.

Lucy Parsons' husband was executed after the Haymarket affair, but she continued organizing and writing for decades. In the 1920s, the Chicago Police Department said she was "more dangerous than a thousand rioters". Her explanation of why the black man was persecuted in the US:
It is because he is poor. It is because he is dependent. Because he is poorer as a class than his white wage-slave brother of the North.

Eugene V. Debs, a founder of the Industrial Workers of the World and five times the Socialist Party of America's candidate for president, wrote in The Negro In The Class Struggle,
The history of the Negro in the United States is a history of crime without a parallel.

…As a social party we receive the Negro and all other races upon absolutely equal terms. We are the party of the working class, the whole working class, and we will not suffer ourselves to be divided by any specious appeal to race prejudice; and if we should be coaxed or driven from the straight road we will be lost in the wilderness and ought to perish there, for we shall no longer be a Socialist party.

W. E. B. Du Bois, author of The Souls of Black Folks, joined the Socialist Party.


Hubert Harrison wrote in The Negro and the Nation
...they tell us that we are free. But are we? If you will think for a moment you will see that we are not free at all. We have simply changed one form of slavery for another. Then it was chattel-slavery, now it is wage-slavery. For that which was the essence of chattel-slavery is the essence of wage slavery. It is only a difference in form. The chattel-slave was compelled to work by physical force; the wage-slave is compelled to work by starvation. The product of the chattel-slave's labor was taken by his master; the product of the wage-slave's labor is taken by the employer.
A. Phillip Randolph, who would go on to head the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Martin Luther King gave his "Dream" speech, co-founded The Messenger. From Wikipedia:
...Randolph and Chandler Owen founded the Messenger[7] with the help of the Socialist Party of America. It was a radical monthly magazine, which campaigned against lynching, opposed U.S. participation in World War I, urged African Americans to resist being drafted, to fight for an integrated society, and urged them to join radical unions. The Department of Justice called theMessenger "the most able and the most dangerous of all the Negro publications." When the Messenger began publishing the work of black poets and authors, a critic called it "one of the most brilliantly edited magazines in the history of Negro journalism." [4]

John Reed, a founding member of the Communist Labor Party, said in his address to the Second Congress of the Communist International,
Communists must not stand aloof from the Negro movement which demands their social and political equality.

The Communist Party USA paid for the defense of the Scottsboro Boys, nine black teenagers accused of raping two young white women.


James W. Ford, a black man, was the Communist Party USA's candidate for Vice President.


Leon Trotsky wrote in "What Is National Socialism?":
To investigate retrospectively the genealogy of ideas, even those most reactionary and muddleheaded, is to leave not a trace of racism standing.

Albert Einstein (who made his politics clear in "Why Socialism?") wrote in "The Negro Question":
Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man's quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition. 
The ancient Greeks also had slaves. They were not Negroes but white men who had been taken captive in war. There could be no talk of racial differences. And yet Aristotle, one of the great Greek philosophers, declared slaves inferior beings who were justly subdued and deprived of their liberty. It is clear that he was enmeshed in a traditional prejudice from which, despite his extraordinary intellect, he could not free himself.

Martin Luther King wrote in a letter to Coretta Scott, capitalism has outlived its usefulness. It has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.

 In the preface to the new edition of The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois wrote,
I still think today as yesterday that the color line is a great problem of this century. But today I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen; that to maintain this privilege men have waged war until today war tends to become universal and continuous, and the excuse for this war continues largely to be color and race.

Bayard Rustin, a gay man who had been a member of the Communist Party, was one of the leading organizers of the civil rights movement. Rustin went on to become the National Chairman of the Democratic Socialists, USA.


W. E. B. Du Bois joined the Communist Party at the age of 93.


Malcolm X said,
“It’s impossible for a white person to believe in capitalism and not believe in racism. You can’t have capitalism without racism. And if you find one and you happen to get that person into conversation and they have a philosophy that makes you sure they don’t have this racism in their outlook, usually they’re socialists or their political philosophy is socialism.”

Martin Luther King said,
Call it what you may, call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.