Do the Writers of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Think We’re Stupid?

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Last night I watched an episode from season one of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow that defied all logic. I’m not talking about the fact that the main story arc focuses on a band of lesser-known “heroes” on a mission to defeat an immortal villain with the help of a spaceship that functions as a time machine. No. I’m talking about the fact that the writers of episode 8, “Night of the Hawk,” expected us to suspend our disbelief enough to accept that the characters were completely uninformed about the history of gender, racial, and sexual orientation politics, and therefore, woefully unprepared for the sexism, racism and homophobia lurking in 1958 small town America.

Really DC?

Here’s Netflix’s synopsis of the episode:

In 1950s Oregon, Professor Stein and Sara go undercover at a hospital where Savage is working, suspecting that he’s behind a recent string of murders.

As you might guess, the synopsis does little to prepare anyone for what ACTUALLY happens in the episode. So, here’s my synopsis. And, um, as usual, spoilers, Sweetie.

Michelle’s more realistic synopsis of the episode:

True, Professor Stein and Sara do go undercover at a hospital to track down Vandal Savage. What the synopsis fails to mention is that Sara is shocked and openly annoyed by the fact that a doctor in 1950s Oregon makes sexual advances toward her while dressed as a nurse. Has she never seen an episode of Mad Men?

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Later, Sara flirts with another nurse who magically turns out to be a closeted lesbian. Sara tries to convince her to come out of the closet and again is shocked that the other woman has reservations about being out.

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Do you expect us to believe that a young, attractive white woman, regardless of the fact that she’s a former member of Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Assassins, has never had unwanted sexual advances from men? She’s never been discriminated against for being a lesbian? She has no knowledge of the Stonewall Riots that are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year? She’s never encountered a discussion of Queer Politics, gender identity, or the history of the LGBTQ+ movement?

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While Sara is attempting to seduce Nurse Betty, Professor Stein, who was in college in the 1970s, somehow fails to realize that bringing Firestorm along to investigate the disappearances/murders of locals in the small mainly white town in Oregon might cause some problems.

But, what really confused me was the fact that Firestorm takes it upon himself to sit at the counter of a white-owned restaurant and begin a conversation with a white girl he’s never met before. Equally confusing, is her almost immediate acceptance of the situation as if strange young Negroes talk to her every day.

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Do you really expect us to believe that a young black man living in 2016 America has never encountered racism? Never? And, that as a person of color living in the United States, he’s never heard of the history of oppression and racism that stems from slavery, Jim Crow Laws, and the deaths of people seeking freedom during the Civil Rights Movement? He’s never heard or seen people’s disapproval of black men talking to white women in social situations? Horseshit. It is dangerous to be a person of color in America and not be tuned in to your history. I find it highly improbable that his mother, a widowed single parent, never had The Talk with him.

While we’re on the subject of segregation (which was omitted from the episode), let’s take a look at the burgeoning romance between Atom and Hawkgirl. In 2016 interracial relationships are common. But, in 1958 they were illegal. So, when this gorgeous couple shows up to purchase a house together as husband and wife, you can imagine the realtor’s confusion. At least, you should understand it if you have a clue about America’s history of segregation and Jim Crow Laws.

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Not only was interracial marriage banned in all 50 states (Anti-Miscegenation Laws), but people of color were not encouraged (that’s an understatement by the way) to move into white neighborhoods. Oddly enough, this didn’t occur to either character. Now, to be fair, this may be Atom’s first interracial relationship. Still, he’s supposed to be an incredibly smart dude. He’s never read a book or seen a film about 1950s America with black characters? I mean, it’s possible, but unlikely.

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And, while we’re one the subject, DC also wants us to believe that a woman of color who I assume has dated, or at the very least found herself attracted to other white males, has never experienced racism because of her choice in lovers. DC also wants us to believe she isn’t aware of the fact that interracial marriage was illegal until 1967 when the Supreme Court struck down all state laws banning interracial marriage as violations of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment in the landmark case Loving v. Virginia.

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Seriously?

While this episode drove me nearly insane, I’m going to keep watching this ridiculous series. Why would I continue to watch a series that negates the realities of people living (and dead) in the United States who deal with racism, sexism, and homophobia? That’s a great question. And here’s my ridiculous answer.

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I absolutely adore John Constantine, and was heartbroken when NBC canceled the series starring Matt Ryan. So, when I discovered that one of my favorite DC Comic heroes (portrayed by an actor who is perfect for the role) returned to TV as a recurring character in this series, I signed on to watch.

Is it irresponsible of me to continue watching this absurd series given the unbridled whitewashing and heteronormalizing of the characters? Most likely. Am I going to stop watching the show because it is personally offensive and insults my intelligence? Probably not.

Honestly, if I stopped watching shows for those reasons, I’d have to stop watching A LOT of TV shows. I am almost ashamed to say that I will continue to watch this train wreck simply because John Constantine is back. Will I continue to examine the narratives and be completely aware of how flawed they are in recognizing the struggles of people of color, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ communities? Well, of course I will.

As a woman of color who has had a life-long love affair with speculative fiction, this isn’t the first time I’ve been offended by the absence or misrepresentation of specific identities, including my own. And to be perfectly honest, I doubt that experience will end anytime soon. Occupying certain identities while loving a particular genre can be complicated at times. Writers like the ones creating the narrative of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow aren’t the only voices telling tales about superheroes and other speculative fiction characters. Even if you continue to enjoy the stories that don’t include your lived experience, you can also seek out stories that do.

Fiction Fragments: J. L. Gribble

Last week, Girl Meets Monster talked to Jessica Barlow about LGBT superheroes, and this week I welcome speculative fiction author J. L. Gribble to talk about cats and time machines.

Gribble photo colorBy day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. Her current work focuses on the urban fantasy/alternate history Steel Empires series, in which her debut novel, STEEL VICTORY, was her thesis novel for Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate program in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Previously, she was one of the co-editors for FAR WORLDS, a speculative fiction anthology. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits). When not blogging for SpeculativeChic.com, she is currently working on more tales set in the world of Limani.

Three Questions

Girl Meets Monster: What inspires your work, and more specifically, what was the inspiration for your fragment?

JLG: For the past five years, and for at least two more into the foreseeable future, my writing life has revolved around my urban fantasy/alternate history series. Even while doing short writing exercises or attending writing workshops, all drabbles tend to involve that series, whether it’s the characters, the world, plot ideas, etc.

But sometimes that is literally impossible. Such as when your publisher hosts a writing retreat and horror author and writing professor Michael Arnzen is put in charge of the writing exercises…

Girl Meets Monster: That’s one hell of a start, why did you abandon this writing project?

JLG: It’s ridiculous. It’s overwrought. It has too much description and not enough plot. But it’s also a time machine/cat, so I’m not inclined to quibble.

Girl Meets Monster: Time machines seem like a natural theme/plot device for speculative fiction, but why cats? Why a cat that is a time machine?

JLG: Easy. During the time of this writing exercise, I was working on a time travel plot in the current Steel Empires novel. Pretty much EVERYTHING was a time machine at that point. Also, I was out of town and missed my cats.

Fiction Fragment, by J. L. Gribble

She fled up the gangway, snatching frantically at the handrails as it snapped and whipped in the frenzied storm. It screamed closed behind her, tumbling her to the deck. As the ship rumbled around her, she spit hair out of her mouth and crawled into the elevator. The small space curled around her, claustrophobic and comforting as it carried her into the bowels of the ship. Once she crashed into the engine room, the rumble smoothed as the diesel engines roared to life, marching the caking scent of ammonia to the back of her throat and causing her to retch and gag. Dueling alarms howled to life around her, shrieking through the ship on every wavelength. Horrible whiskers stretched from the engine room walls and then the protective barrier collapsed as the ship inverted in time and carried her into uncertainty.
SteelVictoryARC_cov.inddFor significantly fewer cats, but nearly as much ridiculousness, check out J.L. Gribble’s Steel Empires series, beginning with Steel Victory.

Next week, Lana Ayers will join Girl Meets Monster to talk about her new novel, Time Flash: Another Me, and share a fiction fragment. See you next week!

Fuckable Fictional Characters: Doctor Who

On Monday I wrote about my fondness for Mr. Spock while I was growing up, and mentioned that I was still waiting for a dark-haired stranger from far away to whisk me off on an adventure through outer space. Well, Mr. Spock isn’t the only alien welcome to share my heart and bed. The emotionally complicated Vulcan will always remind me to be proud of who I am and never allow anyone to tell me I’m less of a person simply because of my mixed ethnicity. Difference makes us interesting. Being different teaches us to be strong. Embracing our differences gives us the power to do anything we set our minds to. So, once again, thank you Mr. Spock for making me want to be a better human.

While I was watching Star Trek and daydreaming about joining Star Fleet Academy and smooching Mr. Spock, I was also watching public television and developing a life-long love of the BBC. I think I mentioned in one of my previous posts that I would sometimes pretend to be sick so I could get home early from school to catch a glimpse of another of my favorite aliens. An alien with a space ship that functions as a time machine. Or is it the other way around? Either way, it’s bigger on the inside and despite the fact that its chameleon circuit is broken, the TARDIS can still take you just about anywhere you wish to go in space and time.

February 24: Doctor Who

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The Doctor cosplaying the Doctor.

I have a confession to make. I’ve been putting off writing this post because I’m worried that I’ll never be able to say all the things I want to say about this fan-fucking-tastic fictional character who has been a part of my life since I was a girl. When I was younger the only people who talked about Doctor Who were nerds and weirdos, and since they were usually male, they didn’t think I had anything to say on the subject of regenerating Time Lords with an unusual dress sense. So, for most of my life I was a closeted Doctor Who fan.

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Guess what? I’m out of the closet. Fuck you, misogynistic losers. I’m here to talk about the Doctor!

Which Doctor? Well, you never forget your first Doctor, and mine was the fourth. Tom Baker traveled the universe from 1974 – 81. I loved him so much that I never really got attached to the actors who came after him, and pretty much ignored the sixth through eighth regenerations. Does that make me less of a Whovian? You can think whatever you like, but most fans of the show have their favorite(s) and don’t need to apologize about liking one over another. Until 2005, I loved only one Doctor.

Look at that face. Handsome, yet a bit goofy. Gorgeous curly hair. A big toothy grin. And those clothes are simultaneously scholarly and hedonistic. He kind of looks like an over-educated hobo.

As a kid he reminded me of a live-action cartoon character. He’s an adult with a unique skill-set and an unwillingness to grow up. And he wears many hats. He’s an astronaut. A time traveler. A scientist. A detective. A gentleman of education and leisure. An advocate for people’s rights, no matter what planet they live on. An anarchist. A trouble-maker. A charmer. A hero. A friend. And with each regeneration, his personality becomes a bit more complex and interesting.

In 2005, something wonderful happened. The BBC brought Doctor Who back to our living rooms, gave it a bigger budget, and made the character much darker than I ever remembered.

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This Doctor is scary.

And his companions are pretty damn hot.

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Hi. I’m Jack. Who’s up for a threesome?

Should the companion be sexier than the Doctor?

Rose is an interesting young woman in need of adventure. She’s bored with her daily routine. Even though she loves her mum and best friend Mickey, something is missing from her life. When she meets the Doctor it doesn’t take long to convince her to go traveling through space and time. Shortly after her adventures with the Doctor begin, she meets one of the most fuckable fictional characters of all time, Captain Jack Harkness.

Okay, I have to stop talking about Jack. For now.

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The ninth Doctor had only one season before he regenerated. But in that short amount of time a lot happened, and some of my favorite episodes were created. The first Christmas episode of the 2005 reboot, “The Unquiet Dead”, features Charles Dickens and some very scary aliens. Nothing says Christmas like a good ghost story. It  is one of my all time favorite episodes, because it amplified the element of horror in an already well-established science fiction landscape. And I’ve always believed that science fiction and fantasy need a good dose of horror to make them even more compelling.

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Number 9. Number 9. Number 9.

I really enjoyed watching the episodes with the ninth Doctor, but the fourth Doctor was still my favorite. And then came the tenth Doctor.

I already mentioned how I feel about David Tennant. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch the episodes he appears in, my heart always flutters when he appears on screen. He quickly became my favorite Doctor.

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Rockabilly Doctor Who

Much like the fourth Doctor, he’s handsome and little goofy. His dress sense is a bit more respectable since he’s essentially wearing a skin-tight pinstripe suit that is reminiscent of something between Rockabilly and 1940’s Hollywood gangster. He’s funny, irreverent, intelligent in a way that makes you realize that he’s irritated if you aren’t keeping up, but also weirdly forgetful and scatter-brained. As always, he’s a hero, and he inherited the scariness of the ninth Doctor and takes it up a few notches.

And those glasses. I often make passes at Doctors who wear glasses. Instant sex appeal. What can I say, I like geeky science-obsessed types. You have to admit, he really is adorable. He sticks his tongue out when he’s concentrating really hard, and from time to time, he licks things to figure out what they are. Oh, and kissing. He likes kissing. A lot. It’s one of the few things that distracts him to the point of confusion.

When he isn’t making out with Earth women, he’s usually saving the universe.

Or flirting with famous playwrights.

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Or possibly having a nerdgasm over a new kind of technology he’s never seen before.

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When things get crazy, the best place to be is at his side.

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But whatever you do, don’t piss him off.

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Of course, if you’re a sassy bad-ass lady you can push his buttons to your heart’s delight.

The tenth Doctor has his fair share of companions. All of which are wonderful characters who compliment his eccentricities with just the right amount of love, friendship, and a willingness to trust a madman in a blue box.

And then there’s Donna Knoble.

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Get in the box!

Speaking of gingers…

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David Tennant manned the TARDIS from 2005-10, and when it was his turn to regenerate (um, the second time) I mourned the loss for nearly a year. I was so upset that I refused to watch any of the new episodes with his replacement.

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But then one day a friend convinced me to give the new Doctor a chance.

The eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, made me laugh and helped dry my tears. He was funny, but in different ways from David Tennant. The tenth Doctor was cool and sexy, but Matt Smith somehow managed to make geekiness sexy in a way that I never thought possible.

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Befuddled, easily embarrassed, a bit narcissistic, and deeply loyal to the people he cares about, he makes all things uncool seem super cool.

Remember what I said about glasses? Yep. Men become instantly more attractive when they put on a pair of specs. Weird hats are cool too.

You know what else is cool? Just about everything this Doctor does. Like helping his artistic friends who suffer from crippling depression see the value of their creations.

But seriously, though.

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I will never not cry while watching this scene.

Or the intimate relationship he has with his time machine that places us somewhere in the Uncanny Valley.

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Anthropomorphic time machines create unsettling sexual tension for Time Lords.

Or the fact that he falls in love with and marries a psychotic archaeologist who happens to be the daughter of his companions in a weird wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey plot twist. SPOILERS, SWEETIE!

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Fuck Nazis!

Best. Companion. EVAH!

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Okay, these companions are pretty freaking fantastic, too.

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Oh, alright. These companions aren’t too shabby either.

And don’t even get me started about Mark Sheppard.

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Dr. River Song (Melody Pond) appears unexpectedly, but not randomly throughout the Doctor’s timeline, and is always full of surprises. Like when she meets the tenth Doctor.

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Would kissing the tenth Doctor count as adultery?

But the eleventh Doctor is her Doctor.

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On your wedding day, the greatest gift a bride can receive is the name of her groom.

And this. This. I can’t even. MORE SPOILERS, SWEETIE!

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It’s true. I totally have the hots for the twelfth Doctor.

But before I start talking about the twelfth Doctor, let’s talk a little bit about one of my favorite days ever. “The Day of the Doctor.” Not one, not two, but three Doctors in one story line, and a glimpse at the Time War on Gallifrey. Shut the front door! We meet the War Doctor and witness his actions the day he stole the TARDIS. And, the legend begins. Or ends?

Back to the fact that the War Doctor is joined by ten and eleven in this feature-length episode I got to see in a MOVIE THEATER! It was like a mini Doctor Who convention, and I will cherish that memory forever. This episode was a love letter to fans all over the globe to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.

I have a lot of favorite scenes in this episode, but the tenth Doctor’s reaction to the new interior of the TARDIS is priceless.

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His expression reminds me of something…

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Ten and eleven showed off a bit more to remind us just how cool they are.

Oh, and then there was this thing that made everyone get a little choked up.

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And even this guy showed up.

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Let’s talk about this guy.

A lot of people were skeptical about Peter Capaldi’s ability to man the TARDIS, but this wasn’t his first time at the Doctor Who Rodeo.

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I’m the fucking Doctor.

Some people were upset about the fact that he wasn’t as young as 10 and 11.

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The thing about older men is that they used to be young men. If you’re lucky, they mature into handsome devils like this one.

Okay, perhaps he did seem a bit senile after his regeneration.

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But all of the Doctors go through a period of confusion as they readjust to their new bodies and personality quirks.

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Some are just a bit funnier than others.

Seriously, this Doctor is totally whacked out. But, as funny and cranky as he is, he also has some good insight and wisdom that comes with age. As an older Doctor, he’s still energetic and fun and interesting, but he’s a little darker. A little more jaded. And seems hesitant to grow too attached to people. He makes it clear that he is not like the eleventh Doctor. A fact that makes Clara a bit unhappy. Unsettled.

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The twelfth Doctor is a bit more serious. He seems to be doing a lot of quiet reflection. At times he seems more alien than human as we’ve often come to perceive him.

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Maybe he is old enough to be her father, but still sexy.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he observes people a bit more closely. He’s watching. Gathering data.

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I love a man of science.

He’s more of an introvert.

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Socializing is overrated.

The point is, I love this Doctor just as much as I’ve loved the others. Sometimes a bit more, because I know how the other personalities and experiences have shaped him. It’s appropriate for him to be an older man. After all the things he’s seen and felt, perhaps we need to listen to his wisdom and think about where we’re going in our own lives. Besides, as I get older, older men seem even more attractive now than they did when I was having inappropriate thoughts about them when I was still jailbait. Now there’s no harm in having inappropriate thoughts about them.

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I’m speechless, too, River.

Loving a fictional character with many faces and personality quirks has been exciting and rewarding. I’ve learned that I don’t have one particular type when it comes to appearance, but no matter what face the Doctor is wearing (so far), I fall in love with him time and time again. It’s his values and beliefs and intelligence and heroism and dark sense of humor that make him so attractive. So positively fuckable. And while each of the five actors I’ve mentioned (six if you count the War Doctor) is uniquely attractive in his own way, it’s the character that makes me weak in the knees and giggle like a school girl and cry like a baby. Doctor Who has been setting the bar for me since I was in elementary school. If I’m lucky, some day, I’ll meet a man half as amazing as he is. He doesn’t even need to own a TARDIS. But it would help if he had a sonic screwdriver and maybe a nice suit.

Fetishism, Sweetie.