Episode Number: 78
Episode Title: Politics and Morality (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
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Renay: Hello friends, I’m Renay.
Ana: And I’m Ana.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.
[Music: B-3 by BoxCat Games]
Renay: Today we have a special announcement and then we’re going to discuss some culture topics: Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, and Ms Marvel Volume Six. We have two comics this time around so this episode may be shorter than usual.
Ana: Mmmm. I’m dubious about that.
Renay: I just didn’t want people to be disappointed.
Ana: But Black Panther has a lot of meat to it.
Renay: That’s true.
Ana: Okay, well, let’s get started.
[Music: B-3 by BoxCat Games]
Renay: As everyone knows, we’re very big on self-care around here. We lecture you about it every time we drop a newsletter and then we remind you at the end of each episode. We’re always harping on it anywhere we can slip in a hint. And I say all of that so you’ll go easy on us when I announce that Ana is going on hiatus for April.
Ana: It’s time for my annual pilgrimage to Brazil. Have to go visit the family, guys.
Renay: A whole month with no Ana. I’m so sad.
Ana: Well, there is going to be the Hugo Awards episode.
Renay: Except for the Hugo Award announcements, which I assume you’ll take a tiny tiny break from your break, to come and celebrate with me, because I’m finally starting to get excited about it.
Ana: Always. There will always be time for the Hugo Awards. Especially if we have to rage and cry again this year.
Renay: Well, let’s hope not, let’s hope that some of the fixes that we passed last year will now prevent some of the shenanigans by racist white guys.
Ana: We can only hope.
Renay: I, of course, will still be here. I will have some guests, but prepare your trombones. It does mean that there won’t be Question Tuesday episodes in April. But we’re still planning to release a Vault episode at the end of the month, made possible by our Patrons, so thank you guys very much. We’re going to be watching the 1994 Stargate, i.e. one of baby Renay’s favorite movies. So you can all watch that in preparation.
Ana: How long has it been since you rewatched this movie, Renay?
Renay: A year.
Ana: All right.
Renay: You are so dubious!
Ana: [laughter] I’ve already watched it.
Renay: Yeah, well, I’m gonna rewatch it soon and then we’re gonna talk about it.
Ana: That’s gonna be a great episode.
Renay: So, don’t be too sad, guys! Ana will be back in May for a triumphant return episode.
[Music: Fall by Chuki Beats]
Renay: It’s time to travel outside our echo chamber and talk about some culture. Ana, what do you have for us this week?
Ana: For some reason I can’t explain exactly, I have been visiting Facebook a lot lately. And one of the things that I like the most about it is to follow those cooking channels that play videos automatically as you scroll through them. I find it very soothing to just watch hands chopping things and preparing beautiful meals. And I thought I should recommend one of those channels for recipes that I have found to be both visually pleasing and actually delicious because I cooked them. It’s Forkly Food on Facebook. You don’t—you don’t follow those cooking channels?
Renay: I do not follow cooking channels on Facebook, no. I read food blogs, like cooking bloggers.
Ana: It’s just that because when you follow them or like them on Facebook, then sometimes when you’re scrolling through your timeline, there are just like these little videos that appear and it’s just like hands. I just like that so much.
Renay: You like disembodied hands just appearing on your timeline?
Ana: It appears so, yes.
Renay: What kind of cooking channels are they?
Ana: Everything. This Forkly: they have a lot of vegan and vegetarian recipes, but also like meat stuff.
Renay: So there is recipes with bacon.
Renay: I need to have recipes with bacon in them.
Ana: I used to cook everything with bacon before becoming a vegetarian/vegan.
Renay: Wait, you’ve upgraded?!
Ana: I’m trying to.
Renay: Oh my god. You can never visit me. What will I feed you?
Ana: [laughter] Vegetables.
Renay: I will have to go buy my mother a vegan cookbook and be like, “You can only cook out of this book, good luck.”
Renay: God, I love bacon. That’s the only thought in my head right now: I love bacon. Well okay, I was browsing around and I found this Buzzfeed article from 2013 about Hocus Pocus star Doug Jones, who played Billy Butcherson, the zombie: Winifred’s old boyfriend. This article introduced me to some facts that I did not know. Billy was supposed to be a quote-unquote “hot zombie”. Uh, success, baby Renay was A+ hot for the zombie and very confused. But it worked out because she was always confused by everything sexuality-wise back in that time period. Apparently he had a dance scene that was cut and I’m gutted because this is great. Somebody find me this footage of Billy Butcherson the zombie breakdancing in Hocus Pocus.
Ana: I cannot believe this.
Renay: I looked and my DVD does not have any extra footage at all.
Ana: Where is it? Someone must have it.
Renay: Somebody’s gonna have that footage. Somebody get ahold of the director. Jones played the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth and was terrifying. And he also played Abe Sapien in Hellboy, which we’re never getting a third movie for, ever. Nobody can see me but I’m making like eight thousand sad faces right now.
Renay: Then—anyway, this was my nostalgia attack for the week. It was a really great article that I still don’t understand how I found, but what luck! So relevant to my interests! Thank you, Buzzfeed.
Ana: Well, relevant to my interests was International Women’s Day which has come and gone and there was a lot of cool stuff online. There was also some pretty bad stuff, like the Brazilian president saying women are great at economy, but just look at how they can tell supermarket prices when they go shopping. and that was not so great but…
Renay: What a winner.
Ana: Just remember that he staged—he was the Vice President, that staged a coup to get rid of the female president, the first female President of Brazil on the grounds that she was too corrupt. Newsflash: he is more corrupt than her. If we start talking about Brazilian politics we will never—
Ana: —leave this podcast.
Renay: Well Charles will get his wish, six hour podcast, unedited, for Brazilian politics.
Ana: Oh my god. I dunno where we would even start or end. There would be no end. But one of the cool things that I saw was the Guardian’s list of podcasts by women. They call it Women Challenging The Patriarchy One Podcast At A Time. There was science podcasts, bookish podcasts, politics podcasts. And I haven’t listened to all of them yet, but I thought I should bring this to your attention because that sounds like something that our space bees would like. They did not include Fangirl Happy Hour, and the person responsible for it must have been reprimanded about it, I just know.
Renay: You’ve gotta include us when you make these lists because we’re super cool.
Ana: Yes, of course. So, the Guardian was wrong.
Renay: But I’m sure the rest of them are great.
Ana: Yes, I’m sure they are.
Renay: Okay, my last thing. In one of my newsletter that I get delivered to my inbox because it is the nineties again: it’s called No Complaints by Caroline Crampton, and she linked to this political article about the national anxiety about the health of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. For people outside of America who aren’t sure which fire this is, she is a supreme court justice and she’s eighty-three years old. Given that the GOP stole Obama’s last Supreme Court appointment, we’re all a little stressed about how the health of liberal judges. But Neil Gorsuch, the GOP nominee, he doesn’t even seem like Scalia-lite to me. He seems like a full, “I’m coming to be Scalia’s voice from beyond the grave.” It’s real scary. So if 45 gets to appoint another justice, that means the court will be weighted towards conservatives and that means not great things, like I hope you enjoyed the last two decades of everyone gaining more equality because that’s gonna come to a sudden and abrupt end with a majority conservative court. People who didn’t vote and let this foul-mouthed tangerine into the presidency because it didn’t matter, because they were same nothing matters, politics is corrupt, blah blah blah didn’t vote: congrats, you just fucked up about thirty to forty years of making the Supreme Court less of a shitshow. I get really upset about the Supreme Court. That’s why I and people like are concerned about all the liberal justices over seventy because we’ve got like 200 and something weeks left of GrabbyHands McFakeGate and they need to survive. They need to live.
So this journalist went and found Ginsberg’s personal trainer and went through the whole thing with him, like the whole routine that she does. And he was like, “Okay, that wasn’t easy”. And there’s a video, and he is winded, so you know I’m feeling a little better about Ginsberg now, which I assume was his endgame, so, uh, thanks Ben for that tiny, tiny peace of mind. Ginsberg can do more push-ups than I can.
Ana: [laughter] That’s amazing.
Renay: My only complaint about this article, they quoted a woman who called push-ups off your knees “girl push-ups” and that’s sexist garbage. If you ever hear someone say that to you or anyone around you, shut that down. They’re modified push-ups, and they’re for anyone who isn’t strong enough for full core or toe push-ups. Labelling them quote-unquote “girl push-ups” is a super sexist way to make sure people skip from fitness level 0 to, “Oops, now I’m in the ER because I’ve hurt myself trying to do toe push-ups.” And if you’re wondering if I emailed the article’s writer and expressed my opinion about this, yes I did. Yes I did. I sure did.
Ana: Well done.
Renay: Stop being sexist about fitness because it makes people hurt themselves.
Ana: And it’s stupid.
Renay: I agree. You know who uses modified push-ups? People who are new to fitness, i.e. men, too!
[Music: Slow Down by Chuki Beats]
Renay: Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty is a 2017 science fiction novel where six clones wake up in space, and their previous clones are in front of them: murdered! It is a locked-room mystery in space. On a generation ship. I like one of these things. Ana, did you like this novel?
Ana: I did! I thought it was a lot of fun.
Renay: Yeah, I did too. I read it really fast. I read it in two days. It went really quickly.
Ana: It’s a super fast read. You said that there was one thing that you like about that summary; I like everything about it. I love locked-room mysteries, I love generation ships, it also has a broken artificial intelligence, it has clones, it has an unreliable narrative because the characters wake up and they don’t have their memories. What you didn’t say in that little summary was that when they wake up they realize that twenty-five years have gone and they don’t know what happened and how they ended up with their previous clones killed. That was my favorite part of it.
Renay: Well, I’m very sorry for leaving that important detail out of my summary.
Ana: So important.
Renay: I do not like locked room mysteries.
Ana: Oh! Why not?
Renay: I don’t know whatever it is about them. I just don’t like them that much, they don’t intrigue me, I guess?
Ana: But it’s a locked room! One of them must be the murderer!
Renay: Well in case people are curious, locked-room in this case means like a three-mile long spaceship so…
Ana: Well, they are still in space.
Renay: Yes, they are on a generation ship in space.
Ana: There is so much to it, though, right? Because there is the whole history of cloning and how it came to be and the laws around cloning and the wars that happened before and the fact that all of them were criminals that were then given this job to crew this ship and take care of the thousands of humans sleeping on this trip to a new planet to colonize. And when they get there they will then be forgiven for the crimes that they committed back on Earth so that’s another element on top of everything else.
Renay: There is a future narrative and then there are flashbacks and we get to see where all the different characters came from and what they were doing before they accepted a place in the ship. It uses this little flashback technique really well, and I guess if you read a lot of mysteries I guess maybe you’ll figure it out. I did not figure it out until the very end, until the book explained it to me.
Ana: I didn’t, either.
Renay: Yeah, I thought the mystery was really well put together.
Ana: It was. There were a lot of twists and unexpected revelations. It was basically a game of Clue, right, so you had the Maria the Maintenance Lady, Joanna the Doctor, Wolfgang the law enforcer, Paul the IT guy, Katrina the Captain, Hiro the navigation pilot, and then you had IAN the AI.
Renay: None of these people liked each other because they don’t remember the last twenty-five years, but they wake up not liking each other and so you’re kinda like, “Well, I can see how everything falls apart,” but it’s not really as simple as them not liking each other. Although the tension of between them kinda raises the stakes a little bit: “Are you guys ever gonna figure this out, or are you gonna kill each other before you can solve the mystery of why in the world twenty-five years went by and then you guys killed each other. Like everybody died.”
Oh, oh, we left out the fact that Katrina the Captain, her clone, her previous clone, was actually still alive when they woke up.
Ana: Oh yeah, she was in a coma! And one of the—one of the rules of this world is that one clone can not be alive at the same time as its own clone. So one of them would have to be killed. So there is an extra tension there.
Renay: I forget the rule. I mean is it like the most recent clone has the right to the identity, is that how it goes?
Renay: So the new Katrina who finds herself in a coma in the med-bay is like, “We’re gonna kill her.”
Ana: And they were like, “No, don’t kill her, because she might know what happened to us!”
Renay: Yeah, so, it becomes this really complicated moral choice, like, what do you do in this situation? Who was your favorite character?
Ana: I quite liked Maria and Hiro. There was so much to it though, there’s so many—so many threads and elements and surprises and things that build up from what happened to them in the past.
It’s complicated because the thing with the clones is that every time that—the clone lives a whole life, it dies and then a new body’s ready for them that it can download their consciousness into their younger bodies and continue doing that for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years. So basically these people are immortals and some of these people are over over 200 years old. And they don’t even remember anything about their lives anyway, because they keep forgetting and it’s a long time to live. And there are a lot of plots and mysteries.
Renay: Isn’t one of the mysteries that part of the download process for clones, like you download memories into the new clone. People who are hackers, I guess, can go in and mess with—they call them mindmaps, so that becomes another element of this tangle of people. They don’t have their memories because their mindmaps weren’t uploaded before their previous clones were killed.
Ana: So obviously amongst them there is a hacker but they don’t know who it is. So they is not only a murderer but also a hacker.
Renay: My favorite character was Joanna because she seemed to be the one who was like keeping it together the best which I guess makes sense because she was a medical doctor. I really liked how she approached conflict and how she dealt with just shitty situations. And I also liked her best in her backstory, because you find out how integral she is to the actual laws that govern cloning, so I thought her backstory was the most interesting.
Ana: Ah, you did. I thought it was Maria’s as well.
Renay: Hers was fascinating. I don’t know if I would call it the most interesting. Hers was the most violent and morally ambiguous.
Ana: I know. I think this is why I love it so much. Was there anything that you didn’t like about it?
Renay: I had some issues with the writing.
Renay: So it was very sporadically good. And it’s hard to put my finger on what about the writing caused me so many problems, but in some places of the novel it was like the quality dropped, super fast, and it was just be bad for a while and then it would go back to being okay. So I was just like, “What is happening?” Like I would have actual trouble with sentences, there’d be like weird punctuation, and they were put together strangely, and I would to have to re-read multiple times just to figure out what was going on in sections. Although it reads really fast—it’s a very quick read—the writing is very energetic and immersive? I still would run into those spots where I would just get completely derailed.
Ana: I agree. I thought the dialogue was especially bad.
Renay: Wow, especially bad?
Ana: I mean, in terms of the bits that I found that I—that I had most problems with were in the dialogues. It just sounded very fake, very…
Ana: Yes. Let me just put it like this. This is a book where you would not come away after reading it saying, “Oh, this has such wonderful prose.” No, it’s a book where you have a lot of fun, because the premise is fantastic, the twists are awesome, the mystery’s really well done, but you wouldn’t say, “Oh, I love the prose in this novel.”
Renay: I probably could not listen to an audiobook. I couldn’t do it. Like I would be like, “Uh, embarrassment squick. I’m leaving.” Reading it’s okay, but I agree with you; some of it was really really awkward.
Ana: But this would make a fantastic movie.
Renay: Wow, yes. I want somebody to buy this right now actually.
Renay: Somebody call Mur Lafferty’s agent and be like, listen I need to turn this into a movie. I would totally watch a movie of this.
Ana: It’s very diverse?
Renay: Yeah it is. It has a lot of different characters in it. Diverse not even racially but also like Joanna is disabled, she requires a wheelchair or she has prosthetic legs? I couldn’t figure out what was happening in the narrative with that. I think that’s what it meant.
Ana: It’s super futuristic stuff that helps you walk, basically. That’s what they were.
Renay: They have food printers! Because in the book they have this scientifically invented material called Lyfe and it’s this thing that can be combined with technology to print proteins. It can make a bunch of different foods. It talks about how the machine struggles with like fruits and vegetables, which I thought was a neat piece of world building and there is a lot of worldbuilding in this novel.
Ana: There is, incredibly so.
Renay: Because it talks about religion and cloning, and crime related to cloning, and the moral position on cloning, and the different positions you can take and how those positions interact with each other. So this is not just a neat science fiction novel, it’s also—could be great for like a discussion, like a book club because there is a lot of like the philosophical stuff about cloning to talk about here. And I think one of our characters even—which I’m not going to say—embodies that in a very interesting way.
Renay: I screamed, Ana, when I figured it out. I screamed.
Ana: I know.
Renay: I say I figured it out. I mean I read it. I didn’t figure it out. The book told me, but I was like I had, I had suspicions and then it happened and I was, “Oh my god!” I think this takes all the tropes that are used and mixes them in a really fascinating way.
Ana: I agree! To the point where then the bad patches of writing did not completely detract my enjoyment from the book.
Renay: No, I think the writing could use some improvement just because I was confused. I don’t think I’m a dumb reader.
Ana: You are definitely not a dumb reader.
Renay: The quality drop-off in some of these sections would just be so confusing that I would have to reread, like that seems like an editing problem, like there were portions of the novel that just didn’t get as close attention during the editing process. Orbit, what are you doing? What’s going on? So yeah, this was a really, really fun revenge narrative.
Ana: Yes, because at the end of it, it was a revenge story, right?
Renay: Mm-hm, and you know how we feel about revenge stories!
Ana: Oh yeah, baby!
Renay: And all the characters had fascinating pasts that were like worthy of their own novels. Because I mean these people are clones, they’ve lived forever, they’ve done tons of stuff. You could’ve written a novel about any one of these people and had it be like, its own thing and it would be great.
Ana: It’s true.
Renay: Also the villain of the piece: wow. What a great villain.
Renay: So, how many space bees would you give this?
Ana: I would give it four.
Renay: I’m also gonna give four. This was a really great book. I was really pleasantly surprised.
Ana: I’m so glad.
[Music: Feel by Chuki Beats]
Renay: Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, and Laura Martin is the first volume in the rebooted Black Panther. This is actually my first Black Panther novel. I have never read any of the previous Black Panther novels so this was an interesting experiment. Have you read any other Black Panther stuff?
Ana: I have not, this was my—this was not my first experience with Black Panther because I did watch Captain America: Civil War, that was my first experience with Black Panther. [laughter] And that was great.
Renay: Do I need to give you alone —a minute alone with Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther?
Ana: Yes. Maybe. [laughter] Oh my god. Okay. For me it was the first experience reading the comics as well. From what I understand there hasn’t been a lot of individual appearances of Black Panther, per se. It was more up until now or very recently his appearances had been as part of an ongoing thread in other major character’s comics.
Renay: When this was acquired, there was a huge celebration because of the writer/artist team, which is Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze, they’re both Black men so this was like a definite #ownvoices celebration. And Ta-Nehisi Coates is a wonderful writer, he does a lot of journalism and he’s written a few books. If you haven’t read his writing definitely you should check it out. So this comic was being awaited with—it had a lot of expectations placed on it. And I always worried a little, I’m like, “Well, if it’s not like knock-us-outta-the-park amazing, what’s gonna happen?” I was really concerned. I mean even looking back at the first issues of comics that I love, like Squirrel Girl or Ms Marvel, like they didn’t have like explosive beginnings. They were just really competently written with really interesting and emotional stories that built up over time. They had time to get better. And so I worried that with this one we would see all this expectation put on the very beginning and we wouldn’t give Coates and Stelfreeze time to build the world.
Ana: I have very conflicted feelings about this volume. With what you’re saying, for example, with giving time for people to develop stories, but this first volume that has four issues, it feels very, very incomplete. Much more than any trade I have read before. It’s very clear that this story is not yet told in any shape or form. It’s just at it’s very beginning. And to me, what was more surprising: it was the fact that it felt less of a superhero story and more of a politics story.
Renay: Before the story starts there was some fighting and T’Challa lost his sister, Shuri, even though she’s not quite gone?
Ana: She’s suspended in stasis, kind of.
Renay: Because she was the previous queen and the Black Panther. So he’s struggling without her support. A because there’s so much revolution and upheaval, there’s a lot of corruption, abuse of power. So the first volume starts out with Ramonda, who is T’Challa’s stepmother, and she is sentencing the Dora Milaje, which are the protectors of the Black Panther heritage. People who are only familiar with the movies will remember the scene in Civil War when Natasha is waiting on T’Challa and this woman walks up to her and says, “Move or you will be moved.” Those are the Dora Milaje. And one of these Dora Milaje has killed somebody for oppressing women and basically being a corrupt asshole. Now she’s being sentenced to death for doing that. And one of her sisters in the Dora Milaje has come to plead her case, and she fails, so you get the launch of this sidestory because the one who did the killing, Aneka, is rescued by the one who did the pleading, Ayo, and they basically go off as—
Ana: Vigilantes, basically.
Renay: And they steal some armor from Wakanda and they start, you know, taking over the countryside by getting rid of the corrupt folks. So not only is T’Challa having to deal with a revolution he’s also seeing previous allies turn against him because there’s just so much going on. There was a scene where Aneka and Ayo rescue some women and they set a field on field and it says, “No one man” because Wakanda’s a monarchy. So now we have this little revolution happening within Wakanda—within Wakanda itself, with the Wakandan people. But then you have Naganda and its politics coming into play as well.
Ana: This is not so much about Black Panther as it is about Wakanda and its people. One of the things that we learn or that I didn’t know, for example, is that for a long, long time, this country has been invaded multiple times by enemies of the Black Panthers. Not necessarily of T’Challa, but of the lineage. And because it’s such a rich country and has a lot of technology and of course then they have vibranium mines as well, which just makes it ripe for exploitation. And it has happened that big villains of the Marvel universe have tried to invade Wakanda and when that happens of course who suffers is the people.
There’s also the fact that T’Challa has spent so much time outside Wakanda, fighting with the Avengers, or doing other stuff, that he’s not known to his own people. It’s really an utterly complex, complicated look at a country in the throes of revolution, with a king that doesn’t really understand the intricacies of what’s happening in his country, at least not at this stage yet. And with all the local politics and corruption that can occur when there are no efficacy in the oversight of local politicians.
Wakanda’s a country that is super advanced but still has a lot of oppression and how you consider that? How do you get a king that is such a hero, but at the same time he’s still a king to a people that he thinks he needs to be more father of than an actual equal.
Renay: This comic poses a few different questions like, “who has a right to rule?” and, “What type of leadership sustains a people?” and, “Is it always right to act in the face of injustice, even with violence?” Especially when the state fails to protect people. I don’t think that the comic necessarily comes down on one side or the other to these questions yet. I think it’s still exploring how to answer them. I mean, to the last one, I would say yes, especially when it concerns Aneka and how she killed an official because he was oppressing women. When you run out of options and the only option left to you is violence, is it okay to take that option? And I would say obviously yes. If you have no other recourse, what do you do?
Renay: So this was a very, very dense comic and I think I agree with you about it not being a superhero comic right now. We are seeing a very conflicted, lost, T’Challa. He is the Black Panther but he is a little misdirected at this point in time because he’s still struggling to understand what’s going on. So we haven’t seen superhero Black Panther yet.
Renay: This is a very political story.
Ana: And it shows all sides of the equation. It has from philosophers to kings, from warriors to workers, from small town politicians to religious leaders. It’s very wide in scope, very intricate in terms of storytelling and I have no idea how this will all be resolved. I have no clue how Coates is going—or where he’s going to take this story. At the moment I don’t even think I like T’Challa that much, and that I was not expecting that to happen.
I like a lot of the other characters. I absolutely Aneka and Ayo who are also lovers, but I was not expecting to dislike him. Because even though you said that you think there are no sides yet I think he’s the worst so far. Well not, no, not the worst because at least he’s not a rapist. But I don’t know how—how can they possibly keep a monarchy after everything that we have seen in this graphic novel so far?
Renay: It’s a good question, but I think that’s what Coates is going for. I don’t think he would write a comic critical of the failures of a monarchy without providing context for readers to make their own judgment. But like I said this is only four issues so we’ll have to wait and see.
Ana: I almost feel like you should wait to read when this is completed. I think it will probably be a better experience.
Renay: Unless you like cliffhangers in which case then you should read this. How many space bees would you give this?
Ana: I really like the politics of it. I was expecting more of the actual Black Panther. I thought the art was very beautiful. I wanted it to be a five, but I think it’s more of a four.
Renay: Yeah, I think I’m at four, too. Mostly because I don’t feel like this is a good entry point to this character.
Ana: Well, it’s better than the one that they included in the end; the original appearance from him.
Renay: Which I did not read.
Ana: I know, don’t. Fantastic Four, I read the first few panels and I was like “Holy shit, I cannot—I cannot continue reading this.”
Renay: Like, if you like politics, if you like queer ladies fighting bad guys, this is totally gonna be your jam.
Ana: Completely agree.
[Music: Joy by Chuki Beats]
Renay: Ms Marvel Volume Six by G. Willow Wilson and… a buttload of other artists! is the Civil War II tie-in and tells the story of what happens when Kamala is asked to profile people to prevent crime. Oh boy, Ana. This volume.
Ana: [laughter] It’s heartbreaking in many ways.
Renay: I was going to try to read the Civil War II event and then I realized what they were doing to Carol, and I was out. And then I realised what they were gonna do to Rhodey and I was double out. I was like, “Fuck you, Marvel.” I was so mad. This is just a cash-grab and it makes me so upset that they’re doing this again. Because number one, they kill off a character—sorry for spoilers for Civil War, guys—but they kill off a black character to fuel the pain of a white woman and a white man and I was done.
I haven’t been following the Civil War event and this is pretty much the first long-form story I’ve read within that context. It was just as bad as I thought it was gonna be. Like I don’t know what they were thinking. I’m like, “Why would you tell a story like this about Captain Marvel, the year before you’re gonna start filming her movie? Why would you do this?”
Ana: That is true.
Renay: Why would you make her an abusive asshole?
Ana: Because she’s suffering.
Renay: Yeah, because a black man died so she’s suffering. There’s no part of this where the optics looks good.
Ana: And then she makes another non-white character suffer, because even though it’s not—she’s not directly involved with Civil War, Kamala’s still very much a part of it because she wants so much to do what Carol has asked her to.
Renay: Kamala is in charge of a team for predictive crime and she takes that team because Carol asked her to. And as she’s doing this work people in her life are like, “What? This is awful, why would you do this?” And it has really explosive consequences to Kamala’s life. I really liked that they explained what profiling is really explicitly and they explained the consequences of what profiling does to societies, communities, and friendships.
Ana: It hurts so much. It’s very different from the previous one that had a little bit of an optimistic ,uplifting, hopeful side to it, and this one was so dark. And Kamala has always struggled to do her work as a sixteen year old that has so much pressure to do what’s right, to be a hero, and then in here she has to struggle with so much more because it’s for someone she admired so much. And she has to decide for herself—which I thought was great—what was right and what was wrong. What was ethical and what wasn’t, but not before grave consequences for one of her best friends and one of the main characters in this series.
The whole thing with Bruno was heartbreaking because not only what happened to him but what happens to his friendship with Kamala which up until this moment had been so important. And he basically he breaks away from her.
Renay: On one hand I understand why he does this and then on the other hand I’m just like…
Ana: This feels very forced.
Renay: A little bit, because the narrative kind of places the blame on Bruno’s accident on Kamala, which I don’t think is fair because Bruno has his own agency. Kamala was making incorrect choices and she eventually made the right one, but how he blames her for his accident and how his life is going to change, I thought was a really… I guess realistic for a younger person who has watched a lot of his dreams just disappear. But the cold shouldering felt really, really strange. I could see him being mad, but the way that it was written just really felt like, “Well, we need Kamala to experience some really bad consequences so what’s the worst consequence that could happen?” and that’s what they came up with so that’s what they went with regardless of whether it made sense overall.
Ana: For the characters.
Renay: I mean, I understand why they did it but I think they went a little bit too far.
Ana: But that’s the whole problem with this whole event. That the characters don’t behave like the characters that we know. And there were really things too. For example after Bruno goes into hospital and the whole thing happens and he’s there Mike disappears from the narrative.
Renay: Until we get to see her crying over his choices later.
Ana: Yeah. I mean, are you kidding me? I don’t understand what happened here, this doesn’t feel like a Kamala—well. That’s not true either. It feels very much like a Kamala story because Kamala is still here. It’s the universe around her.
Renay: The reason why I don’t like these tie-in events is because they force the writers into this outside narrative and then they have to—it’s like a paint-by-numbers.
Ana: Make it fit.
Renay: And when you do that, the characters don’t act like themselves, the characters can vanish and I was just—I’m just really disappointed that they did this event. Because this volume, of a comic that I really really love, changed everything about the universe that I loved in a way that I don’t think works, characterization-wise.
Ana: And will there even be a comeback from that?
Renay: I mean, Kamala lost her mentor because Carol—who knows how long it’s gonna be until Carol forgives her, even though Carol was in the wrong. She’s lost Bruno. They wanted to have some consequences…why in the world is having Carol and Kamala at odds not a bad consequence? Why do we have to add like insult on injury. I mean I understand why they did it, because it makes for really great drama, but I don’t feel like it’s true to Bruno’s character. Not that he was mad at Kamala, per se, but that he left his family, left his girlfriend, and just abruptly went.
Ana: To Wakanda.
Ana: And then he’s gonna get there and it’s all shitty too. [laughter] As we know, the revolution happened. [laughter]
Renay: Bruno, you might wanna rethink that move.
Renay: And then part of the reason is like, his only choice was to go to Wakanda? Really?! That’s his only—okay. I don’t know. I mean I liked it because I like all Kamala stories, I especially liked the very last story where she goes to—
Ana: To Pakistan, to Karachi to visit her family, and discovers that there is a local superhero and she tries to help things there but gets immersed in local politics and just fucks it up because she doesn’t understand what’s going on. And I thought this was a really cool mirror to what we talked about in our discussion of Black Panther, too. Politics is much more complex and complicated than we think.
Renay: So how many space bees?
Ana: Ahhh, I’m so torn because I love Kamala so much and there were so much things that I loved about this. The story of her grandparents and her—her bracelets. That was such a beautiful touch, too. I think I would give it a four with the caveat that fuck Civil War.
Renay: Yeah, I would give it three and also fuck Civil War. Clearly we’re not Civil War fans.
Renay: I’m not really a fan of events in general. I’ve only been reading comics a few years, but I already know that I hate crossover events and I don’t understand why they keep doing them. It’s not accessible for people who don’t have a zillion dollars a month. On the plus side, soon there will be a new volume of Ms Marvel and we’ll read it and hopefully be happier.
Renay: Fingers crossed.
[Music: Memories by Chuki Beats]
Renay: It’s time for recommendations! Ana, what have you got for us today?
Ana: I have a new obsession.
Ana: It’s a TV show. I watched seasons one and two over the weekend, devoured it, cannot stop thinking about it, cannot stop thinking about how it’s only two days until Friday when I can finally resume watching season three. It’s Vikings.
Renay: Oh no.
Ana: I can’t. It’s just—it’s so good. It’s extremely violent, but it has three of my favorite things in the whole world. Hot dudes, history, and amazing female characters. I love it to bits. And it has Norse mythology. Everything’s based on the Norse sagas, about Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons. I don’t know if I told you this but I used to be so into Norse mythology. I did a course when I was nineteen. I learned to read runes so that I could communicate with the gods but let’s not dwell too much on that side of my past.
Renay: Whoa whoa whoa. No. Go back.
Ana: Oh I had a—an esoteric phase, Renay, what can I—I fancied myself kind of like a witch and I wanted to read runes that I could throw stones to communicate with gods, okay. Now you know. Let’s move on and not talk about this again.
Renay: Let’s type this into Twitter.
Ana: NO! WHAT?! [laughter] I was nineteen! A child!
Anyway, so this show reminds a lot of those times and I still like really enjoy Norse mythology a whole lot, and the show is incredibly well-written. And it’s about vikings invading England so it has a lot of Anglo-Saxon history too. It’s fantastic. I love it. Very violent.
Renay: Okay, so not my kind of show. Got it.
Ana: Possibly not.
Renay: I’m glad you found something that speaks to your inner nineteen year old.
Ana: Yes. What about you? What’s your recommendation?
Renay: I finished a book called The Monopolists and it’s a book about the history of Monopoly. I am really into Monopoly. I grew up playing it and I feel brutally misled because the book talks about this little insert that was included in Monopoly games in the past about how Charles Darrow invented the game and saved his family from financial ruin. So I’ve read that insert and I totally bought it, because my Monopoly set was old, old, old. It belonged to my mom. It was very, very old. All the information I ever had about this Monopoly game was that it was invented by a dude. Well, guess what: that was a lie. It was not invented by a dude. He stole it. From a woman.
Ana: [gasp] I was gonna say twist, but not really.
Renay: Everything you love was created by women and then repackaged and sold to you by men and capitalism. And the women got no credit.
Renay: Anyway, the story is fascinating. It talked about how Monopoly was a public domain game, because the woman who created it originally conceived of it as the Landlord’s Game, and it was basically anti-capitalism. It travelled around New England over the course of twenty years and people picked up the rules and they passed it on to their friends, and when one couple taught it to Charles Darrow and he just decided to steal it.
Renay: And sell it to Parker Brothers. And then Parker Brothers went around suing or acquiring the rights to any game that looked similar to Monopoly. And it tells the whole story. It’s super interesting but infuriating.
Renay: So next time you play Monopoly, just know that it was created by a lady. And also the art was done by somebody who wasn’t compensated. The board design by somebody who wasn’t really compensated.
Renay: The book is by Mary Pilon and it’s very short. The only problem I had with it is that she sort of slips into some hagiography at the end and I’m not into that. But otherwise it’s just really good and I highly recommend this book. If you wanna learn more about Monopoly and why in the world its anti-capitalist roots got gouged out and now it’s being marketed to you as, “Capitalism is great!” PS capitalism’s not great.
Okay Ana, tell everybody what we’re going to discuss next time.
Ana: On our next Friday episode, we’ll be discussing The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley, Squirrel Girl Volume Three by Erica Henderson and Ryan North, and the first season of The Expanse.
[Music: Happy Summer Love by Chuki Beats]
Renay: You have completed episode 78 of Fangirl Happy Hour. Congrats!
Ana: Next on your adventure, you can choose to go back to episode 1 and listen to all of it again, or sit and wait until next Tuesday for a new episode. You decide.
Renay: Susan creates our transcripts, which you can read on our website. Ira made our show art. Our music this week is by Boxcat Games and Chuki Beats. You can find links to their work in our show notes, plus information about the media we discussed this episode.
Ana: You can follow us on Twitter at @fangirlpodcast, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re not subscribed to the show you can find us on iTunes, Soundcloud, or wherever quality podcasts are acquired. And don’t forget that we’re now on Patreon.
Renay: Have you had a glass of water recently? Maybe go drink some before you contact your reps to earn your citizenship points for the day.
Ana: Take a break and a deep breath. Go look for some grasshoppers, but don’t eat them. Crush them for me.
Renay: Thanks for listening, space bees.
Ana: See you next episode.
[Music: Happy Summer Love by Chuki Beats]
Renay: [random noises] Oookay. Oh god. I almost fell out of my chair. It’s fine.
Renay: I hate daylight savings time, I hate it, I HATE it, I hate it.
Renay: I hate it, I hate it I hate. Can we just choose one and stick with it?
Renay: But I like talking about your problems! I mean, not that you have problems. That’s not what I meant! Goddammit.
Renay: Errrrrr I already fucked it up—every—why can’t I just speak, like a normal person.
Renay: Thanks, no, you’re right, I’m the one that’s wrong.
Renay: Can’t believe I invoked my mother. That’s amazing. She wasn’t even home.
Ana: Wow! What?!
Renay: When we started she wasn’t even here.