Manufactured Heroes: The Case of the Power Rangers

The Power Rangers, suited up.

As I wrote yesterday, male/female interchangeability is the default form of characterization in modern fantastical fiction, especially action adventures. It doesn’t matter whether it’s live-action film, video games, or anime and manga — wherever you have action adventure, you must have guys and girls that act largely the same except for a few superficial gendered trappings like skirts, heels, or swimsuits, as well as a kiss or a sex scene.

The most recent Power Rangers continues this trend in full force, presenting us with three mopey guys and two mopey girls who could be exchanged for two more mopey guys with few rewrites to the script. In doing this, the creators seek to demonstrate correct attitudes for the audience.

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Meditations on Male/Female Interchangeability

NOTE: I spoil Power Rangers 2017 a little bit.

So I was at the movies earlier today to watch the new Power Rangers movie. I heard it was an okay movie, and I liked Power Rangers as a kid, so I was like “why not?” Superhero flicks have been getting good recently, and I wanted to see something outside the Marvel/DC axis for once.

But as I sat in the theater, popcorn in hand, I thought about the concept of male/female interchangeability so common in modern fantastic fiction. The trailers I saw certainly gave me much food for thought.

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Star Realms: Role Reversal Run

STAR REALMS: ROLE REVERSAL RUN

IMPORTANT: I spoil the book under discussion here. Also, I bear absolutely no ill will towards Jon del Arroz at all and fully respect him as an author and a fellow human being.

From the moment I saw the cover of Jon del Arroz’s novel Star Realms: Rescue Run, I knew that it would hew closely to the Action Girl Mandate, which even my work adheres to. When I started reading, I was proven right immediately when I was introduced to the military-trained smuggler Joan Shengtu, who was no slouch in physical combat and covert action. I read on, enjoying the story — after all, Action Girls didn’t automatically make a story bad. Each scrape, each near-miss, and each bit of drama held my attention as I read this space opera that didn’t let up.

But then two-thirds of the way through the book, it hit me. This book had completely reversed the roles of male and female in the traditional heroic story.

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Castalia House Post: Rescue Run

At the Castalia House blog, I review Star Realms: Rescue Run, a novel by Jon del Arroz, a Twitter buddy of mine. Read the review here.

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A Good Game Master Must Read

Better than any supplement.

This morning, I read a post by Alex Kimball over at the Castalia House blog. In it, he describes how he ran a tabletop RPG campaign off of a short story from the 1940s and along the way developed a set of rules that he could use to play WWII-style campaigns. He explains that the supplementary material that often comes along with tabletop RPG rulebooks is useless because that material includes too many details irrelevant to the action. As an alternative, he suggested using short stories as a basis for a campaign, since only relevant characters and settings are included, and the story itself could act as a rough outline for an adventure (keep in mind that players will deviate, though.)

Kimball’s experience underlines something important that every Game Master should do: read.

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Support Robert Kroese’s Newest, Most Epic Project

Robert Kroese

Author Robert Kroese has a new Kickstarter out to fund the writing of his new trilogy, the Saga of the Iron Dragon. In this trilogy, time travelers from the future fleeing an alien aggressor land in the time of the Vikings. Now the time travelers have to build a spacecraft to get back into space and through time to help their allies and give humanity a fighting chance.

But first they must build a spaceship. In the Viking era.

Robert Kroese has written and published a good number of novels, as well as run several successful Kickstarters in the past, so I know for sure he’ll deliver on this one. I’ve already backed it, and I have full confidence that it will turn out to be an amazing. Independent authors need all the support they can get, and Robert Kroese is as deserving of support as any. Let’s help this man out.

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The Appeal of the Anime Witch

As I’ve watched many a piece of media, I found out something rather interesting: I like witch characters quite a bit (though I’m not really a Harry Potter fan.) Most of this, of course, is due to the influence of anime, and it’s the ones there and in related media that strike me as the most appealing. Something about how they look and act just draws me to them, and I’ll try to explain it as best as I can.

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[REPOST] Why I Like Damsels in Distress

Some bad guys make off with a lady. It’s up to the (male) hero to stop them.

NOTE: This is a repost of an article I did for The Ralph Retort.

The damsel in distress is one of the most criticized tropes in the modern era. It is considered the ultimate misogyny, and creators often apologize for using it by claiming that the damsel is “strong” and “not a helpless woman,” or by making the damsel match or outclass the male hero in some skill. Creators often avoid this trope to establish their modern, 21st-century street cred.

Well, I’m here to say that I’m a great fan of this supposedly evil trope, no matter how it is done. It pains me to watch creators squirm whenever they’re attacked for writing damsels; they should stand by their work.

But why would a modern, 21st-century man like me admit to liking damsels in fiction? Clearly I need to be re-educated in proper ideology! Such tastes are unacceptable; after all, it’s the current year! Well I’ll explain why, and if you can’t stand it, that’s on you.

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Spotlight: Tales of the Otori

I first encountered the Tales of the Otori series in college way back in the 2000s; I would often wander the college bookstore looking for reading material, and there it would be. As I was (and still am) an anime fan, I took a look at the books since Japanese-looking stuff usually caught my eye (though the author, Lian Hearn, is the pen name of a white Englishwoman.) Between classes, I would read the novels, always interested as to where it would go next.

I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I had purchased the third book from the campus store in the morning and finished all 300 or so pages that night!

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Fire Emblem’s Demographic Catastrophe

Hector takes Lyn away. Lyn is a gifted swordfighter, and Hector is great with an axe.

I’ve been a fan of the Fire Emblem series of video games by Nintendo ever since my high school days, when I saw Marth and Roy kick ass in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Set in medieval-style worlds beset by evil conquerors and terrible dragons, the Fire Emblem series provides immense amounts of escapist fun for all who play it. It is a strategic game where you move your swordfighters, cavaliers, mages, and other fighters around on a grid like an elaborate game of chess and try to defeat the enemy force.

Right away, I noticed two things about it — a strong tendency to use human enemies as opposed to monsters, and a large prevalence of female fighters right from the very first game in the series.

Then I thought about it for a bit — and realized that if we looked at FE’s setting (doesn’t matter which game) realistically, it would suffer a serious demographic collapse due to lack of women.

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