My thoughts on about GL:TAS, “In Love and War”…

I want to make my own commentary on the episode, and a lot of it is going to comment on some of the much discussed sexism and what I personally like and dislike about how certain things have been handled. Spoilers and personal opinions abounds under the cut.

This is getting split into two parts, because I have a lot of thoughts on it. Egads, it’s a novel.

This is going to be a bit out of continuity order as I discuss these by subject matter rather than the order in which they occurred in plot.

Star Sapphires (brief mention of the dichotomy with Red Lanterns)

The costumes are kind of inherently terrible (see the break down of the comics version), made worse by the presumption that only women can feel love strongly enough to become Star Sapphires. It’s a problematic portrayal of love, and when you don’t point out that there’s something wrong with that attitude, you are perpetuating bad stereotypes.

So having said that, I want to thank the Green Lantern: The Animated Series staff for toning down the SS costumes. In particular, Carol’s harkens back to one of the oldest versions of the suit which ditches the tiara and shows no more skin (except maybe the plunging neckline) than a standard super-heroine. Thankfully, only Queen Apa’go retains the tiara-like headpiece and the only similar item on dozen or so the nameless guards has been reconfigured to give the impression of being more helmet-inspired than Disney princess. They’re much more reasonable than the latest comics interpretation, and don’t suffer from the issue rampant in comics of the constant sexual posing of women that men are not subjected to in the same fashion. When not actively attempting to seduce another character, the SSs we see are portrayed standing tall with military postures and weapons. For all their words and costume choice to the contrary, their stances and movements give the impression of soldiers. On the other hand, the new recruits’ costumes seem to come with automatic hair extensions (Galia’s ponytail and Carol’s hair doubling it’s length), and that seems really odd. Nothing we saw in “Fear Itself” indicated that any of Galia’s people (the Zor) have hair, and Carol’s suddenly flowing locks seem impractical and make one wonder why they were added at all.

Also, there’s still the issue of the way they SSs use love being portrayed as a corrupt and extremist abuse of the emotion. Women under the effect of the Violet Lantern rings become jealous and clingy or manipulative and domination-centric. This is problematic… when writers treat it as acceptable or an “of course all women in love are like this”. It’s the man-child scared of cooties and commitment view of romantic love. Which brings me to why I’m really glad they presented both the Red Lanterns and the Star Sapphires in a single series together.

The rainbow. ROY G BIV.
The emotional spectrum.
Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Indigo. Violet.
Rage. Greed. Fear. Will. Hope. Compassion. Love.

You’ll note that Red and Violet are the opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. When Johns set up the emotional spectrum of the lantern corps he pointed out that the further you got from the center (Green/Will), the more prone to being extreme of out of balance the rings were likely to make you. Rage and Love in the lantern corps are the two extreme ends and are the most difficult to harness without giving in to a corrupted interpretation of the emotion. Rage and anger can be (as discussed with others) a source of strength and turned to positive ends, but due to the way the Red Lantern rings work, it tends to bring out the least controlled and most harmful variation of the emotion. Rather than channeling rage as a strength to do good things or to start a new path, it bends the mind to revenge and senseless violence. The Violet Lantern rings do the same thing, bringing out the most corrupt interpretation of love. Manipulation and control, all in the belief it’s in the best interest of those loved.

And that is a point made by the end of the episode that keeps the use of the Star Sapphire Corp from being terrible. It gets pointed out that the way they are interpreting love is flawed. Carol realizes that the initial power surge of the ring is manipulating her emotions to unreasonable extremes, and chooses to reject it (because Carol is a BAMF). Carol in simple and reasonable terms expresses her sentiment to the young Ghiata. Rather than forcing everyone who comes to that realization to simply drop their power ring and lose that super-power, instead we see Ghiata come to a new understanding, keep her ring, and turn around with the intention of altering the Corp for the better. I’m hoping we see them again later with a more balanced interpretation of their Corp’s emotion.

The lack of men was actually explained with the fact that Violet Lantern Rings don’t just choose the next worthy person, but that Queen Apa’go is hand picking each Star Sapphire using her currently corrupt interpretation of love, and a prior break with the Oa Guardians caused her to decide that all men were too violent for the Love Corp. That means that the “women-only” aspect of the corp is artificially manufactured as a choice of the Queen, and there could potentially be male Corp members if that attitude changes. I’ll keep my fingers crossed on that, but I’m not really expecting it.

Of course, I think you could still make the entire SS point without the stomach-bearing lingerie-esque costumes, but it’s tricky drawing the line between punishing women for dressing “sexy” because they want to and calling out if the characters are dressed that way just to cater to “male gaze”.

Women In Refrigerators

If you are not familiar with this term, take a quick skim over the wiki article. The term was born from a Green Lantern comic (although that certainly wasn’t the first occurrence), so it’s oddly appropriate that I use it in relation to the newest incarnation of Green Lantern.

Ilana probably has it the absolute worst here. She is fridged for the sake of Razer’s narrative. I held some initial hope that it was not just her being killed and we would either be given (or left without enough) information that I could assume she wasn’t killed just to provide “man pain” for Razer. The episode “Reckoning” destroyed any last chance of that, firmly placing her death in the frozen food aisle. Atrocitus killed her purely to fuel Razer’s angst and rage to turn him to the Red Lantern Corps.

In the same episode as this reveal, Aya was beaten literally to pieces to bring home the danger of Atrocitus and to upset the men. On the other hand, this choice makes sense, as Aya is the only primary character who can actually fully recover from this level of damage, would feel no pain, and is the character closest to Razer and thusly able to snap him back to the escape plan.

We have to remember killing characters to add to a tragic back story is not inherently bad in and of itself, but there is a problem when it is a plot point visited disproportionately on female characters and worse when they have no other source of character development than being the source of pain for someone else.

Lets do a dead folk in GLTAS for comparison — Males: M’Ten(assumed), Shyir Rev (noble sacrifice for wife/daughter/colony), Dulok (specifically for Iolande’s narrative), Grood(assumed). (4) Women: Ilana, Kilowog’s wife (and children). (2~4?) Mass Murders: Shard (for the Red Lantern Corp Narrative), Bolovax Vik (Kilowog’s narrative).

What gets kind of concerning is the Star Sapphire episode where two strong ladies (Galia and Carol) are more or less kidnapped and brainwashed just to manipulate Hal and Kilowog. Carol basically beat the ring through her own force of personality and her words may have forever changed the Star Sapphires for the better. Galia, however, remains a figurative prisoner against Kilowog. What is interesting about the way this was done though, is while the men are clearly being manipulated and their love for these women being used as an attempt to control and capture them, the same tactic was used on the ladies. They were drawn into accepting the rings for the same reasons that the men were weak against them once they had the rings — a desire to save and protect the one they love. The animated version of the Star Sapphires at least (I can’t speak for the comics as well) can be viewed as a blade that cut both ways rather than just one direction. It’s worth thinking on.

As a female fan, it certainly concerns me that a strong lady like Galia was left a “prisoner” at the end of this episode, and I am hoping when we see her again that she is either a powerful Violet Lantern without brainwashing or that she, like most of the ladies in the show, ultimately shakes the shackles off herself.

Ultimately, I’d like to see more ladies kicking it on the primary cast, but as it is, I do like that women are doing at least half of the rescues.

Women as Damsels in Distress

Is actually one thing I actually want to congratulate this series on. Because they’re regularly NOT. Nine episodes in, and the ladies are confident, kicking ass, and saving themselves and/or others in (arguably) seven of them.

Episode 1, “Beware My Power Part 1”: Carol Ferris, head of Ferris Industries, Hal’s boss. She didn’t need a rescue. She didn’t panic, but ordered Hal to take care of her plane, and then performed normal, intelligent earthquake safety practices. Once the quake was over and Hal MIA, she was on the phone ordering underlings and search parties to find her pilot. She wasn’t presented as some cold asshole who only cared for property; she pointed out that her staff, a person, was higher priority than the equipment. When Hal showed up with not so much as a scratch, then she started berating him for not calling to let her know he was okay, and demanded to know what happened to the plane.

Episode 2, “Beware My Power Part 2”: Biara Rev, Shyir Rev’s wife. A brilliant scientist in her own right who had conceived how to use the geothermal vents on a new planet to provide power to her entire colony, and learned basic medical skills to patch up the one she loved when he came home from a Green Lantern duties. When those same duties prompted him to sacrifice himself, rather than let him just march to death, she proposed a plan using the volcano that gave them the opportunity to win. She was allowed to be a strong character without ever having to enter a physical fight.

Worth noting, her husband Shyir doesn’t doubt, nor let anyone else doubt, her strength or intelligence for a second. When Hal says it must be convenient that his wife’s a doctor he is quick to point out that she only picked up first aid to help him, but that she was first and foremost the brilliant scientific mind behind making their colony successful. When Kilowog voices reservations about Biara’s plan of traveling through the volcano, Shyir responds faithfully, “She’s always right.”

Episode 3, “Razer’s Edge”: This episode isn’t a great example because it is primarily a focus episode for one of the male cast members, Razer. We see the fridging of Razer’s love, Ilana. On the other side though, Aya, who doesn’t even have a body yet, is the one to decide to rescue her crew and when she cannot get to the Green Lanterns to help them, she literally forces Razer to wake up and do what needs doing.

Episode 4, “Into The Abyss”: While the boys are arguing and dealing with a fool of cargo pilot, Aya takes it upon herself to leave the ship and go to the rescue, building a body for herself in order to accomplish the task. Even when Hal and Razer initially attack the unknown “bugs”, she still accomplishes her mission. When Hal tries to reprimand her, she throws his own words back at him, and then argues that there is no reason she cannot be a Green Lantern as well.

Episode 5, “Heir Apparent”: In a reversal of the Women In Refrigerators trope, (male) Green Lantern Dulok is killed for the sake of (female) Queen Iolande’s narrative. Iolande is strong and fierce in the face of a draconian marriage tradition, standing up to Kothak, while planning to subvert the tradition with a marriage in name only. At the same time, she is allowed to doubt and worry without losing her claim to the Green Lantern ring as the strongest and bravest will on her planet. think about it, she’s under the stress of knowing that she and Dulok’s plan for subverting the marriage fell through, she is having to hide the fact that she knows Dulok is dead, and someone is attempting to murder Hal Jordan even as he tries to aid her as Dulok did. Then, she finds out her younger brother is the traitor and still has the strength to save herself, become her world’s ruler and Green Lantern, and make the hard choice of whether or not to help the crew of the Interceptor. Let me repeat that, fr all that Hal swooped in with the heroic gestures, a secret plan to out the murderer and a ton of bravado, Iolande ultimately saved herself.

Episode 6, “Lost Planet”: Not many females in this episode. Drusa is a strong but bad lady, and we see Aya as a victim of her trusting nature. This is the first time we see Aya needing to be rescued instead of her rescuing the rest of the crew though — that hardly makes her weak.

Episode 7, “Reckoning”: Another focus episode for Razer, we kill any hopes of Ilana’s death not being just a straight fridging, and then beat the hell out heroic, saved everyone’s butts multiple times, Aya. Another upside to be found here though, as Aya remains calm throughout everything and continues on with her plans as best she can despite a thorough physical trouncing by the biggest bad in the show.

Episode 8, “Fear Itself”: Galia of the Zor. From the moment she shows up, she’s a bad ass lady. She saves Kilowog, who was attempting to rescue her. She aces all of Kilowog’s military training, and plays a major role in the final battle against the Nadara. In the midst of all this, she also seems to enjoy cooking (“it’s my secret ingredient”), in a rare case of a female character being allowed to be both a good fighter and still enjoy something traditionally feminine and domestic. Just to ensure that no one thinks she’s just some delicate flower, Kilowog acknowledges, with zero embarrassment, that Galia saved him, that she’s his best student, and that he intends to come back to visit her, not to check up on her progress because she (and her people) can handle themselves. (Actually my only real peeve with this episode is the seeming unnecessary inclusion of Leph, and that Kilowog says “I’m trusting you to keep your people safe.” directly to him rather than to Galia. Leph could have been cut out of the episode, a generic character given his lines at the final battle, and not much of value would have been lost.)

Episode 9, “In Love and War”: Aya, Carol, and Ghiata. Aya kicks literal ass, all over everything. The only thing that let the Star Sapphires hit her or stopped her from acting was when Razer was endangered or his emotional state used against her. Carol shows some amazing willpower in overcoming one of the most extreme lantern rings and teaches a lesson without blinking or holding a grudge to super-powered aliens. Ghiata takes a lesson about love in stride (without being petty about her crush on Hal) and stands up to a small army of Star Sapphires for what she believes is right and helps save the crew of the Interceptor. (See: The rest of this post for further commentary.)

For Part 2: Carol Ferris and Ghiata, The Ilana/Aya Body Issue, Anything else I think of…

  1. fantastic-nonsense reblogged this from elfgrove and added:
  2. adorababble reblogged this from elfgrove
  3. naopao reblogged this from elfgrove and added:
    Very good analysis. Definitely gives me something to think about.
  4. rinmemesuoka reblogged this from elfgrove
  5. greenlantern-tas reblogged this from flikky and added:
    I thought I’d reblogged this here before, but evidently not.
  6. flikky reblogged this from elfgrove and added:
    Completely necessary required reading for why, even though the man cast is three guys and one femininely-inclined robot...
  7. scarletsunshine reblogged this from elfgrove and added:
    Took me a while to come back and read it, but UGH ALL YOUR COMMENTARY IS AMAZING. I want to poke you for part two...
  8. eastofthemoon reblogged this from elfgrove
  9. thepreciousthing reblogged this from elfgrove
  10. rainglazed said: Egad is the right word for it. Elf, this is lovely, and I will never understand how you find the time to type out all of this stuff =)
  11. elfgrove posted this