uuuhshiny replied to your post “DAy one of the conference. Daughter #1 crushed her panel! I’m so…”
Why there was no one??? Tell us what it was about. We’ll be your audience :)
Okay, here goes …
My argument is that many creators/writers/producers believe that the form (the plot and the words used) is the primary driving force behind meaning. Follow me on this … think of how the writers responed to Charlie Bradbury’s death on Supernatural. “The plot led us there,” they said. “It’s what the plot demanded.” As if they, as writers, can’t change things.
In literary studies, we call this idea formalism, i.e. the form is where meaning is passed from person to person. The author doesn’t matter. The way readers/viewers respond doesn’t matter. A formalist believes there are literal formulas for creating emotional responses. A dog in a cage with big eyes = sadness, for example. This is called the objective correlation. the right objects correlate to a reader reaction.
Now, flashforward to 2017. I argue that millienial readers are way past formalism and into what I’d call transtructuralism. It’s not the form or the structure of a story that’s the end all be all. It’s also not just the ability to take that form or structure apart and see the formulas (that’s postmodernism/poststructuralism). It’s TRANStructural. We’re in the age to transformation, where we not only take it apart, we change it. We see plots and characters as fluid and flexible.
What matters for a transtructural reading is that the basic core of the character or canon remains – everything else can be renegotiated. In chemistry, “trans” describes an isomer that has two atoms at the center with other atoms circling, connected by bonds that can change. Transtructural readers shift and move those bonds around the two atoms – the parts that hold everything together.
Okay, if you’re still with me. Here’s some examples:
Jughead in the comics becomes asexual and no one blinks because he’s (a) always been more interested in food than anything else and (b) has never been in a relationship. So the change doesn’t affect the core of the character. Jughead stil equals goofy sidekick.
Riri Williams, the new Iron Man, doesn’t work as well because the MCU has so closely linked Tony Stark/Robert Downey Jr to Iron Man that he has become one of the central atoms around which the mantle of Iron Man revolves. So she becomes Ironheart, a diminutive named young version. (see Hulkling, Iron Lad, etc.)
The new Ghostbusters movie shifted gender of the main characters, but otherwise everything else remained the same in terms of characters and plot.
Making Le Fou gay in Beauty in the Beast live action didn’t work for either millienials or formalists. For formalists, it violated the original form (He’s not gay!). For transtructuralists, Le Fou’s center is a bumbling fool sidekick == and thus the change only serves to reinforce a negative stereotype that already existed.
And then there’s making Cap and Magneto HYDRA. At his center, Cap was created to fight Nazis and HYDRA. You can make Cap evil, I argue … we have seen glimpses into his dark side – but making him HYDRA breaks apart the atoms that hold Cap together. No matter the rationale – mind bending/brainwashing – a Cap that works with HYDRA isn’t Captain America. We can change the person wearing the uniform, put him in the Old West, make him a her without shattering the bonds. But he can’t be HYDRA. Neithr can Magneto, a Holocaust survivor.
So, in the end, Marvel is taking the wrong lesson away from falling sales. It’s not that readers what read comics with women. Ms. Marvel and Jane Foster as Thor put that to rest; those runs sold well. It’s when they are more interested in plot, in creating “events” that fit the old formulas of shock and awe that people get frustrated and walk away. It’s when they make a character female and then give her sexist plots from writers who don’t understand female behavior. That’s the problem.