Written and Illustrated by Koriander Bullard
Have you ever noticed that every time we’re about to have an economic free fall or a brouhaha in the government, we have a new Batman movie?
Think about it, we had a stock market crash in the late 1980’s, and a Batman movie came out right after. The economy tanked in 2007 and we had another one. Did we invade a country or fight some terrorist group? We had a Batman movie at each time. July 7, 1966 we launched Operation Hastings adding around 11,500 troops to the already overblown and unpopular Vietnam War amid labor strikes on the US home front, just before Batman: The Movie launched in theaters July 30th the same month. Now we’re looking at a major intelligence snafu and OH LOOK Lego Batman.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Batman. But every time the country is about to turn on a billionaire fat cat or his Republican cronies, there’s a Batman film, to make you look up to a billionaire fat cat in spandex who purchases his superpowers. It’s a ploy to make you rethink vilifying the rich after an economic free fall or a Republican has added an extra hurdle for you to jump.
But another thing I notice is that every time there’s a Republican in the White House, we suddenly have demeaning shows aimed at our little girls.
For example, girls programming until the 1980’s was all but null and void, with the idea being that little girls didn’t like the new technology of television. So in the 1970’s, little girls only had two shows to choose from. Josie and the Pussycats, which was a slightly smarter but ultimately more tame clone of Scooby Doo based off of the popular Archie comic of the same name, and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, a yawn inducing chase series about a moderately intelligent blonde heiress, who needs a team of little people to protect her from her murderous uncle. While both shows did show the ladies “could” think for themselves, much of the focus would be on the villain of the day, or on the more cumbersome characters. In Josie’s case, Valerie’s attempts to save the day were often overshadowed by how cute Melody could be and how awful and rude Alexandra was, not to mention how pretty and talented Josie was just for bobbing her hair and singing well. Both shows would leave television before Nixon.
Fast forward to the 1980’s, Ronald Reagan was in office, and who was dominating the airwaves for little girls?
Jem was a television show about a businesswoman named Jerrica, who by day was all about fashion and the corporate world, but by night was Jem, a makeup crazed rock star who would encourage the girls in her pop band to openly trash rival group The Misfits simply because they were different. Jem was supposed to be the “good guy” in each episode, but if you re-watch the reruns on Netflix, you’ll see how materialistic she was and how unrelenting she was towards anybody who wasn’t preppy.
Following Jem, we had a two episode OVA of Barbie, who while much nicer, was still shown as being materialistic. She was followed by Maxie’s World, about a teenage girl who yes, went on adventures, but was also, very makeup heavy. Rainbow Brite was a little stronger for girls, but both she and rival program star Strawberry Shortcake had writing that was lacking, even by kid’s show standards. The original My Little Pony was all about being glamorous and like Jem, had characters that ere supposed to be nice, but ultimately shunned ponies who were different, and each show was nothing more than a cheap shill of the latest doll trends.
She-Ra was almost an action packed counterpart to her twin brother He-Man, but like the other girl shows, closed out her run with forgettable episodes about fake friendship, makeup and almost no action scenes whatsoever. In contrast to He-Man, She-Ra would look for reasons not to fight, while her brother’s shows featured a weekly slaughtering, telling little girls that it’s not their place to be strong.
After Reagan and Bush vacated the White House, we had Bill Clinton. And during his eight year reign, we had a slue of more positive shows for little girls.
Gone was the superficial nonsense of the 1980’s. In place of those shows were Tenko and the Guardians of Magic and a heavily edited port of Sailor Moon. While both shows “did” have a toy line, the toys were an afterthought and often scarce. The focus was not on makeup or looking pretty, but rather on the girls being strong, fighting monsters and saving the world. Both title characters Tenko and Sailor Moon comprised their teams of every character who was treated as the odd ball out, in sharp contrast to Jem, who shunned girls who were not as preppy as she was. Tenko had a mix of male and female characters in varying roles, while Sailor Moon only seemed to hang around misfits, save except for Naru, then known in the states as Molly. The shows encouraged girls to be themselves, embrace their differences, and to never be afraid to fight for what’s right. The early 2000’s would be helmed with Cardcaptor Sakura, another Japanese import about a little girl who used magic cards to save the day, and similar to Sailor Moon, was an instant friend to anyone who was an outcast. The only throwback to the 80’s being Sky Dancers and Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders, two slightly superficial shows but both rooted in action sequences with girls taking the helm as superheroes. For the educational set, there was Carmen Sandiego, an action cartoon about a girl named Ivy who had to track down world renowned thief Carmen, while also solving history and geography based clues with her younger brother. All of these shows had a moderate message for teamwork, but each season finale was centered on the girls ultimately learning to rely on their own, separate power, the lesson being that you must rely on yourself and that you won’t always have someone to hold your hand and guide you.
But as soon as Clinton left office, we had good ol’ Dubya. And for eight years, we had Bratz.
Similar to the 1980’s girls shows, Bratz was a toyline first and a cartoon second, that focused on fashion and makeup. Once again, we had alleged “good guy” characters who would trash people who were different, body shame and teach little girls that looks really are everything. Bratz is by far one of the worst offenders, with a toyline featuring underage girls dressed like hookers. Even Bratz Kids and the Bratz baby line were rife with age inappropriate costumes that would have made Barbie blush.
Following Bratz, we had Totally Spiez, a spy program that featured three again, judgmental girls who were so obsessed with clothes and makeup, that they would often forget they were on a mission on behalf of the government. A slue of superficial Barbie films made their way to television, again touting the importance of friendship (albeit more forced this time around) and on looks. Dora the Explorer offered a little more adventure to the preschool set, but was a show that talked (or rather screamed) down to little girls and had Dora relying on everyone around her to help her do the tiniest task. As she grew to adolescence, the focus became less about adventuring and more about once more, makeup and fashion, as she found a multicultural set of females to aid her in lipstick and shoes. A remake of Strawberry Shortcake focused on friendship and minimal plotlines while action shows Winx, Tokyo Mew Mew/Mew Mew Power and Magical DoReiMi offered less fighting and more segments of underage girls dressing in age inappropriate attire, conversing about makeup, boys, fashion and friendship. A slight reprieve came from W.I.T.C.H. but was also light on action when compared to the 1990’s programs.
Once Obama was in office, girls programming took a different approach.
We had Sofia the First, followed by spin-off Elena, two shows about girls in positions of power who have to learn how their choices affect everyone. Doc McStuffins about a girl doctor who has to use quick smarts to save the life of her toy friends. DC Super Hero Friends leaves much to be desired in the writing department, but does encourage girls to get into comic books and action, Shimmer and Shine promoted problem solving and responsibility while closing out the Obama years was newcomer Nella: The Princess Knight, a pre-school show about a child princess turned knight who balances diplomatic issues with swashbuckling action sequences. Similar to the 90’s, each of these shows reminds girls that teamwork is wonderful, but you need to first focus on your own strengths and smarts to win the day.
As we enter the Trump years, led by a man who famously has gone in public with his low opinion of women and his desire to strip away both education and women’s health while also combating accusations of spousal abuse and rape all over the media, we are again faced with the prospect that television may take a step backwards in regard to our girls.
Republican years in girls programming have shown to be all about makeup, clothes and in being judgmental, while non Republican years are about girls being strong, educated and welcoming.
Republican era involves teaching girls that they are nothing without a team while non Republican years have our girls still appreciating teamwork, but relying on their own merits first.
We need to encourage programmers and stations alike to keep up with the trend of forward thinking shows for our young girls.
Be vocal, be relentless.
Our girls are watching.
Koriander Bullard is an author, cartoonist and human rights advocate. Keep up with her on Facebook!
When the news broke that Batman: The Killing Joke was going to get an adult animated movie, comic fans rejoiced. The dark tale that ended Barbara Gordon's time as Batgirl and set the course for her new life as handicapped hero Oracle would not be censored for the 6-11 year old demographic, and would instead have DC follow after longtime rival Marvel in the adult market, after their successful and R-rated hit Deadpool.
But the reaction in the coming months to the story was more shocking than anything stemming from pen and paper, and illustrates an alarming trend in adult men.
For starters, when news leaked that a rape segment involving The Joker and Batgirl was going to be left untouched and accurate from it's comic book origins, comic fans rejoiced. This was yet another victory.
…. Until it was also leaked that there is a consensual sex scene involving Batman and Batgirl.
Suddenly, those cheers for joy turned to angry and vile internet hate. Fans once primed and ready for the film's limited release, suddenly turned to threats of violence against the animation team at Warner Brothers, demands of refunds for every piece of Batman related merchandise, and the looming threat of a boycott leading up to the film's debut.
Let's examine what's wrong with this.
In the first place, despite what the media has ungenerously posted, a sexual relationship between Batman and Batgirl actually did happen in the comic books. For those who missed the pre-1990's comics, Batgirl has had intercourse with both Batman and Nightwing on several occasions. She has also had a tumultuous off and on relationship with the latter for several years. Longtime DC fans not of the threaten-via-Twitter generation not only accepted the brief romances of Barbara, they have also played with said relationships in everything from fan art, fanfics, cosplay and video game modding. This is not news. Even the 1990's cartoon that was aimed at children ages 6-11 hinted at a flirting feeling between Batgirl and both men.
Second, let's discuss the double-standard. So Batgirl sleeps with Batman and Robin, and she is a whore. Alright. And yet you say nothing about Batman being a deadbeat father and Nightwing being a man-whore?
Until The New 52 series, Batman almost never saw his son Damien, a demonic child born out of wedlock from a one-night stand with Talia al Ghul. He left Damien completely alone in her care, even knowing the boy's maternal grandfather was a clinically insane enemy, and did not start to take responsibility for the boy until Damien became a tween. Until then, Batman enjoyed many a loveless dalliance with Catwoman, Batgirl and a laundry list of shameless tarts, debutantes and side characters. Shouldn't Batman take the slut-shaming from fans in this regard?
And then there is Nightwing. The original Robin has had his own share of illicit sex partners. At one point or another, the Boy Wonder has slept with Starfire, promised to marry her, only to sleep with other women behind her back. He's played the same game on Barbara, and yet nobody is slut-shaming this thoughtless pig in spandex.
But number three on my list is what really disturbs me the most.
Just like in the comic book, again, The Joker rapes Barbara. Rather than view this as a vicious and mind-altering crime the way original fans of The Killing Joke graphic novel saw it, today's comic fans are cheering it on. Somehow, The Joker is no longer seen as a murderous rapist and villain, he's seen as a “hero” to today's youth.
And with Barbara being the victim, movie goers are cheering even louder. How dare she have a consensual relationship with Batman? How dare she take control of her own body and her own life? Stab her! Kill her! Rape that whore, Joker, you're our man!
Is nobody seeing this as a problem? Have we lost our minds?
The Joker is evil. He is a villain. He does bad things on purpose. And in case you skipped the 5th grade, let me be clear. Rape is evil, no matter what the excuse is.
I've seen some of the non-anti-Batgirl excuses, and they are pathetic. Probably the most pathetic is a 50 Shades of Gray inspired notion, that The Joker is just misunderstood.
If you honestly think that, you missed the comic and the movie's point entirely.
The Joker is not “misunderstood”. He's also not a “troubled soul” in need of counseling. Never has been. He is fully aware, conscious and understands what he is doing. He's not troubled, he's a monster. DC Comics has done everything they can to convey that clear, black and whit message here, and yet so-called Joker fans are looking for more ways out for the purple clown than his own henchmen!
This generation calling for the rape of Barbara Gordon is the very same under the delusion that DC's live action Suicide Squad film, in which The Joker must play emergency hero along with a cast of other clear and obvious villains. They fooled themselves into thinking he was a tragic soul with a romantic streak during Batman: The Animated Series as he was seen slapping around his lover Harley Quinn, and they fooled themselves into thinking he was the true hero and Batman was the villain in the Dark Knight. In every incarnation of Batman, from the comics to movies, even in the campy and comedic Batman: Brave and the Bold and Superfriends line of cartoons, DC has taken great care not to blur the line too badly on the Joker and to make it crystal clear he is and always has been an unforgivable monster, and yet despite all efforts, this generation is hailing a rapist as a hero, and a female superhero as the villain, simply because she has control of her life.
The violence and torture of the adult cartoon Batman: The Killing Joke shouldn't shock you if you read the comic book. The only way it could really disturb you is if you were a fan of Batman: The Animated Series as a few returning voices from your childhood return to completely destroy it, but the fans of the cartoon, or now anti-fans, now that's what ought to shock and disturb you.
Written and Illustrated by Koriander Bullard
Folks, it’s time I come clean on a secret I’ve been harboring my whole life.
I am and have always been……….. a Care Bears fan.
Born in 1986, my formative years included the Care Bears and the Care Bear Cousins between spots of WWF Superstars, Thundercats and G.I. Joe. While I was very fond of more “boy” related programs, I was just in tune enough with my gender that I could appreciate the cuddly, though sometimes heavy-handed teachings from Care-A-Lot.
But were the Care Bears secretly preparing us for a more transgender friendly world?
A little back story. Originally, ten Care Bears appeared in a line of paintings in a pitch to American Greetings and Kenner by illustrator Elena Kucharik. The characters were created by a group called Those Characters From Cleveland and were an instant hit with the marketing firms. Before you could say “Care Bear Stare” the original ten bears; Bedtime Bear, Birthday Bear, Cheer Bear, Friend Bear, Funshine Bear, Good Luck Bear, Grumpy Bear, Love-a-lot Bear, Wish Bear and company mascot, Tenderheart Bear, graced greeting cards as far as the eye could see. Over the next six years, four different animation studios would go on to produce television specials, three silver screen movies and two different Saturday morning cartoon shows, featuring the original ten and a small gathering of new bears, not to mention the often overlooked cousins, who cared, but were not bear in origin. Then as the two TV shows went into perpetual reruns after their initial 22 and 49 episode lineups respectively, new books continued to be written and sold to children, as several characters started getting makeovers and a few new bears hit the lineup.
Between 1986 and 1991, a few very large changes to the bears started creeping in under the radar. These changes would become more pronounced when the characters were re-launched in 2002, 2004, 2007, 2012, 2015 and recently in 2016.
One of the first to change was Cheer Bear. While most of the Care Bears were drawn 100% alike with only color and symbol changes prior to 2007, Cheer Bear suddenly appeared on television with a slightly spiked ponytail. Alternating Nelvana episodes also featured her with budding bear breasts, though this was likely an animation error, as the 49-episode Care Bear Family series was rife with animation and sound blunders. She would be the second to wear clothes consitantly after Bedtime Bear, though several characters occasionally are seen wearing raincoats and galoshes.
But cosmetic changes wouldn’t stop at fashion.
Champ Bear, Secret Bear, Noble Heart Horse, Take Care Bear, Daydream Bear, Polite Panda, Environmental Cheer Bear, (who is, but is not Cheer Bear) True Heart Bear and Prize Bear have all changed fur colors since their respective debut points between 1985 and 2007, while a growing selection of other Care Bears have had symbol changes, most drastic belonging to Share Bear and Harmony Bear, who are both purple female bears.
But why stop at skin or fur color?
Over the course of the franchise’s existence, Funshine Bear, Secret Bear, Surprise Bear, Lotsa Heart Elephant, Swift Heart Rabbit and Prize Bear have all switched from being male to female, vice versa and back again without any explanation or acknowledgment from the rest of the cast. Lotsa Heart Elephant was the first to switch genders in 1984, with some gender swapping occurring mid-episode two years later in 1986, while Funshine was ambiguous about gender, unless another character directly calls Funshine “he” or “she”. This was the case until 2004, when Funshine was given a directly masculine voice. And Swift Heart Rabbit may be listed currently on Wikipedia as a female, but collectors know the character to be currently without a definitive gender, having only had one assigned sporadically in the 1980’s only to be changed as quick as Swift Heart’s speed.
Most drastic has been Proud Heart Cat. This feline has not only switched gender and fur color several times, Proud Heart also switched species! That’s right! For a brief period in 1991, Proud Heart turned from an orange and brown male cat, to a blue-teal female cat, to a snow-white male bear! Donning the American flag over his heart, his design would later influence America Cares Bear in 2003.
Proud Heart Bear would also star in a line-up of other “re-hash bears” who are but are not, but kind of are previously established bears. These bears, many of whom have also had cosmetic symbol and fur changes, include the aforementioned Environmental Cheer Bear, Environmental Bedtime Bear, Environmental Friend Bear, Environmental Love-A-Lot, Environmental Tenderheart and Environmental Share Bear, each one considered to be an alternate universe “cousin” to the pre-established bears of matching names, and much like the 1986 Cheer Bear, would occasionally sport new hairstyles.
The gender, color and species changes were never announced publicly, and always slipped into the usual television programs and toy bins without fanfare. Not once did Nelvana, DiC or any of the other animation studios ever produce a special “after school” program, directly addressing one of the bears’ sex changes on camera. In fact, most of the voices were kept gender-neutral, except for Brave Heart Lion, Noble Heart Horse, Grumpy Bear and Tenderheart Bear, who were distinctly more masculine when compared to the other either feminine or androgynous sounding characters. It wasn’t until the 2000’s when one at a time, more of the characters were given directly male or female voices.
Not once was there ever fan outcry, a petition or a rally led by a conservative, cartoon-hating parental group, lobbying to define or restore a Care Bear or Cousin’s original gender.
And why? How did we miss what a landmark franchise this has been for children?
One reason why we may have missed this, is because most regular-aged Care Bear and Cousin is treated exactly the same. Grams Bear, Noble Heart Horse and True Heart Bear are treated as parents while Hugs and Tugs are treated as toddlers. Brave Heart Lion and Tenderheart are treated as elder brothers, and Grumpy is treated as his namesake. But think about it, all other characters have similar personalities, similar voices, and nobody is treated as greater or lesser than the plush next to him. The make an equal number of mistakes in each episode and usually come to the same conclusions.
It may be the interchangeable nature of the characters prior to the 2000’s that led both fans and developers of the show to simply… not care. In a very ironic twist, not one single, solitary person behind this show has cared enough to notice such glaring changes in the characters’ genders and colors. Was this done to appeal to more boys or to more girls? Was this done to shake the foundation? It’s very likely that the people behind each re-hash of the loveable 1980’s plushies have never actually cared enough to memorize such important traits about cartoon bears.
Or maybe, this was done on purpose after all.
The Care Bears have been sold to babies, toddlers and to very, very young children since at least 1982 after the successful greeting card run for adults. Very small children often notice very big changes in their favorite characters, such as a gender swap or a palette change. Introducing these changes without acknowledgment tells a child one of two things, either the marketing team thinks you little ankle biters are too stupid to notice these details, or, on a brighter note, they have introduced these concepts to you in a way that normalizes the change, so that if you do encounter someone between genders, you will still treat them the same as anybody else and you won’t freak out over their chosen gender.
Think back to when Swift Heart Rabbit had a drastic pitch in her voice. She appeared with her new voice next to Brave Heart Lion in a random Nelvana episode.
Rather than ask embarrassing or uncomfortable questions as to why Swift Heart Rabbit is a girl this week when she was a boy in the last episode, what do we see?
We see Brave Heart Lion address her as a “she” and move onto the next subject.
That’s it. No discussion. No big PSA. Just she’s a girl now, let’s move on.
Of all the Care Bear characters to change genders, not one was ever asked about their faith, not one was threatened, and nobody threatened to run them over with a cloud car or push them off the Rainbow Bridge if they didn’t stick with their birth gender. And nobody asked if Take Care Bear used her Stare to initiate the operation, what led to the decision to change colors and genders, what other secrets Secret Bear was hiding, or if Surprise Bear needed a “coming out” party. Not one gender joke, snide remark or backhanded compliment uttered.
In an era of television where we had special episodes and PSA’s aimed at children as young as two about sexual abuse, strangers, drugs, drinking, smoking, makeup, AIDS, dieting and arson, from a decade where every major, adult problem had to be scaled down and talked up on Saturday mornings, here we had a gang of transgender teddy bears and stuffed animals, whose sole purpose was to make the world a less scary place. Each adventure was about making children emotionally stronger and the environment a little less messy while also tightening up their own community bonds, and prejudice was not allowed in the land of Care-A-Lot.
How did this happen? The LBGTQ community has been craving a series for their children, promoting transsexual characters in a positive light with sound morals, and not one person either straight, asexual or otherwise has ever realized we already had a perfect series.
While I can’t speak for newer incarnations, the original Care Bears cartoons normalized gender-neutrality before that became a popular thing, and if you’re looking for a gentle way to introduce the concepts of transgender to your children, select reruns of the show are now available on Hulu.
Koriander Bullard is an author, cartoonist and human rights advocate. Keep up with her on Facebook!
After a deluge of utterly depressing news revolving around the state of the nation and this farce of a presidential election, it was nice to get some good news of sort. Naturally, it happens to be news that has nothing to do with politics.
On August 1, 2016, Lionsgate Entertainment announced the pending revival of the classic 1980s independent home video label Vestron Video as a specialty boutique sublabel. Staying true to the roots of Vestron, the revived label will issue DVDs and Blu-Rays of independent movies, many of them B-level and in the horror genre.
Undoubtedly many younger readers will not be familiar with Vestron Video and the tremendous impact it had on the home video industry back in the day. So, as Phoenix’s foremost home video historian, here’s a two-part look back at the rise and fall of one of the top independent video labels of the 1980s home video boom.
The year is 1981, when home video was still in infancy. Although the major studios had dipped their toes into the home video pool, they still didn’t see home video as a viable permanent revenue source. They viewed it as a passing fad, worthy to indulge in at the moment and not much longer. The proof was often found in those early video transfers for which the studios provided video technicians with murky, battered and filthy 16mm prints instead of prime 35mm film elements.
With major studio apathy, it was a market just ripe for a viable independent video company to make a serious mark.
However, if the home video market was an opportunity for a viable independent, the same could no longer be said for theatrical distribution. The major studios had started making B-level movies with A-level budgets and better production value, hurting the bottom line of the major independent distributors, such as Roger Corman’s New World Pictures and the legendary AIP (soon to be rechristened Filmways Pictures) and the film division of Time-Life, Inc.
Time-Life was in dire financial straits, brought down to its’ knees by a string of very expensive flops, most recently the Paul Newman vehicle Fort Apache, the Bronx. Not only did the financial flops forcing Time-Life to cancel the release of Peter Bogdanovich’s romantic comedy They All Laughed, they decided to pull out of the movie business altogether.
Enter Austin O. Furst, Jr., a 13 year employee of Time-Life, Inc. and currently working as an executive for HBO. He was assigned the arduous task of unloading the various assets that comprised the Time-Life Films. Furst was able to quickly unload the theatrical production and distribution unit onto Twentieth Century Fox, which had stepped in to help release the last handful of Time-Life movies during the initial financial crisis. Columbia Pictures Television eagerly took Time-Life’s broadcast TV division. However, there were no takers for Time-Life’s video division or the home video rights to their library of 20+ films.
Fed up with trying to find a buyer, Furst decided to purchase the video rights to the Time-Life film library himself, negotiating a relatively cheap price from the Time-Life board of directors. Then he resigned from Time-Life/HBO and took the initial steps towards starting his own home video distribution company. His daughter came up with the name Vestron Video, a combination of the Roman goddess Vesta and tron, the Greek word for instrument.
Vestron Video debuted in February 1982. Amongst the initial batch of 51 titles released in that first year of operations included the Time-Life film library (Fort Apache the Bronx, Loving Couples), select Hollywood movies for which the video rights were up for grabs (The Cannonball Run), Canadian-made prestige films (Tribute, The Changeling), independently made B-movies (usually from the horror genre, most memorably Bloodsucking Freaks) and even a few oddball titles (Woody Allen’s What’s Up Tiger Lily and a trilogy of video game instructional tapes).
Opening these initial cassettes was a still, silent placeover onscreen logo set against a blue background.
It was nice and pleasant, but soon it would be replaced by a more exciting animated logo. Although considered primitive by today’s standards, the new logo was exciting and futuristic at once. It was most fitting for an entertainment format that seemed from the future, especially since the general public was still getting accustomed to the concept of home video.
It may be hard to fathom today, but once upon a time, video rental stores were considered Public Enemy No. 1 by the major studios. The studios already had a half-hearted position when it came to home video and once they found themselves in the video business, chose to focus exclusively on sales. In the days before videotapes were attractively priced to sell, pre-recorded tapes could cost as much as $100 each. If it was a 2-tape set, that cost could rise as high as $179. I still recall my parents blanching at the $139 price tag of The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur, inspiring them to wait until both played on TV again instead of purchasing them.
Video rental was often the salvation of those of us who couldn’t afford to build a home video library just yet.
Furst and company president Jon Peisinger (himself a fellow Time-Life/HBO refugee) saw an opening for Vestron. They wisely cooperated with video rental outlets, choosing to foster a mutually beneficial working agreement that paid off dividends. Vestron Video was the first home video label to focus on heavy advertising and displays in video stores. I can still remember the many cardboard cutouts, display cases and vivid posters lining the walls and floors of my local video store.
It soon became clear that Vestron Video would need more product in order for the company to grow. A golden opportunity arose in 1982 as Orion Pictures was in the middle of a contentious divorce from then-partner Warner Bros. Of the initial 25 films released since the partnership’s start in 1979, only a third had been profitable and only two (Blake Edwards’ 10 and Harold Ramis’ Caddyshack) were monster hits. WB had been especially upset that Orion stupidly passed on financing a pair of Steven Spielberg blockbusters: Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. Had those hits been in the house of Warners, Orion’s mounting debt likely would have been forgiven.
Needing a viable theatrical distribution company, Orion had attempted to purchase Allied Artists but failed to offer an attractive enough price to close the deal. Inquiries into purchasing Avco Embassy met with laughter the likes of which would have made Mel Brooks and Woody Allen jealous. Filmways Pictures, formed from the remnants of AIP, was suffering from a string of box office duds and inspired by the recent sale of United Artists to MGM, decided to sell. Orion had their own distribution at last. However, that didn’t extend to home video just yet.
Vestron Video made Orion an offer they couldn’t refuse. Vestron promptly snapped up the video rights to all but one 1983 Orion release (Warner Bros. refused to relinquish all ancillary rights to Woody Allen’s comedy Zelig in the divorce), all but a handful of Orion’s 1984 releases (Francis Coppola’s The Cotton Club, of which the video rights were pre-sold to Embassy Home Entertainment, was one; Amadeus was another) and a large chunk of their 1985 releases.
Under the deal, Vestron also acquired the rights to whatever AIP library titles that weren’t cherrypicked by Warner Home Video or sold off to other independent video labels. This included George Miller’s first Mad Max film (rushed onto video in 1983 to capitalize on the box office success of The Road Warrior- no one could accuse Furst of not taking advantage of a blessing in disguise), a large chunk of Roger Corman’s AIP output, including two of his highly regarded Edgar Allan Poe film adaptations and the controversial LSD drama The Trip, the controversial vigilante drama Rolling Thunder (20th Century Fox sold the film off to AIP over concerns about the harsh violence contained within the film) and the tongue-in-cheek horror satire Squirm.
Vestron also finagled laserdisc rights to four high-profile Filmways releases that Warner Home Video only held videocassette rights to: Brian De Palma’s electrifying thrillers Dressed to Kill (1980) and Blow Out (1981), Arthur Penn’s highly emotional Four Friends (1981) and the popular Charles Bronson actioner Death Wish II (1981).
The Orion film library would provide Vestron with enough product to sustain itself for at least the next three years. This allowed them to pursue other profitable deals.
Speaking of Corman, he managed to find a video home through Vestron for an acclaimed drama that Warner Home Video had passed on releasing on tape and laserdisc: the emotionally arresting 1984 Jamie Lee Curtis star vehicle Love Letters. Warner likely rued the day they passed on the film as it became a colossal and very profitable release for Vestron.
When Polygram decided to pull out of the movie business and a deal with Universal Pictures in 1984, they sold the home video rights to An American Werewolf in London and Endless Love to Vestron, which re-released both on tape and laserdisc in 1985. Both remained highly profitable for Vestron and the various successor companies formed from the rubble until Universal reclaimed all rights to both films in 2001.
In 1984, Vestron Video was also the first home video label to release a pair of pro wrestling videos, Lords of the Ring and Ringmasters: The Great American Bash. This pre-dated Vince McMahon’s Coliseum Video label by almost a year.
As the company kept growing, Vestron branched out with several specialty sublabels. Having scored a success with such animated titles as Ziggy’s Gift and Smurfs and the Magic Flute, not to mention having secured video rights to the Terrytoons cartoon library, Vestron launched Children’s Video Library in 1983. These releases were shockingly cheap for the era, often costing no more than $35 per title, which was a big deal back then.
When the music video scene exploded in 1983-84, Vestron created Vestron Music Video. It was through this sub-label that saw the release of the first million-selling music video tape of all time: Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It sold for $30 during a time when most tapes of its’ kind sold for twice that.
Lightning Video was launched in 1984 as an outlet for the growing library of B-movies, schlock features, major studio castoffs and whatever AIP/Orion product hadn’t already been issued on the parent label. It also wound up serving as US distributor to two independent video labels that had experienced financial hassles: VidAmerica (which handled the RKO film library) and Wizard Video (mostly schlock and foreign horror flicks).
By 1985, the decision was made to take the company public on the stock exchange. It seemed as if Vestron couldn’t lose. Little did they know.
Going public on the New York Stock Exchange is a risky move for even the most successful business. There is clearly staggering money to be made by going public, but one can lose their shirts with just one bad move on the stock market. That is why some fear that the risks far outweigh any possible advantages and gains.
A perfect example is the saga of independent film distributor New World Pictures. Despite the strong urging of staff and counsel to take the company public, Roger Corman famously refused to do so. In his autobiography, Corman did admit that he might have considered it had the company been losing money, but since he was seeing multi-million dollar returns, he chose not to take the risk. Wisely, as it turned out. In 1983, Corman sold New World to entertainment lawyer (and current Trump supporter) Harry Sloan and pals. Immediately after, the new owners proceeded to take the company public, grossly overestimating its IPO valuation and raising hundreds of millions in capital. By 1989, New World was no more after a string of costly financial failures, a failed attempt at taking over Marvel Comics and a mountain of debt. (Incredibly, Sloan would go on to ruin two other Hollywood studios, most recently MGM. But that's another story for another day.)
So you can see the risks of going public. In 1985, Vestron Video was flying high. They were the most successful and the largest of the independent home video labels, with an annual net worth of $300 million. So the time seemed right to take the company public and reap the rewards. What they wound up reaping was the slow protracted death of the mighty Vestron Video.
Vestron went public in 1985 with an excessively overpriced IPO valuation of $440 million, which was $140 million higher than their current net worth. This kind of overvaluation on the stock market wound up being one of the root causes of the financial meltdowns that have repeatedly plagued the US, but that’s another article for another day.
What Vestron Video didn’t foresee prior to going public was that the home video market was changing. And not for the better.
By 1985, the major studios finally realized that home video was not the enemy, but a viable revenue source. Selling off the video rights of their product to an outside firm made no sense anymore. In the search of easy coin, the major studios were also aggressively pursuing video rights to the various independent, foreign and low-budget films that Vestron thrived on, driving the prices up sky high.
Another sting was the loss of the near-exclusive distribution deal with Orion Pictures. HBO wound up entering the home video business in 1985, purchasing a half-stake in Thorn EMI Video. Some questioned what HBO brought to the table. What they brought were some very attractive connections with cable television and lots of money. The company, now rechristened Thorn EMI/HBO Video, poached the Orion contract from Vestron in late 1985, taking with them many of Orion’s higher profile titles, such as the Oscar-winning drama Amadeus, Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters and Radio Days and the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back to School. (In 1988, after a massive cash infusion from media outlet Metromedia, Orion would form Orion Home Video, retaining the video rights to their own studio product.)
So to make up for the loss of consistent product, Vestron Video decided to enter film production and distribution. Vestron Pictures was launched in 1985, with the idea of producing enough product to keep the video arm humming along. Borrowing the successful Corman model of mixing up exploitation fare with higher quality art pictures wasn’t a bad idea, but Vestron failed to take into account three things that Corman did when facing the same problems.
For starters, Vestron spent far more money producing their films than Corman ever did on his, so it was harder to recoup the money spent in a timely fashion. The major studios had started making genre films and highbrow stuff with far greater production value and better distribution means than the upstarts ever could. Most important of all, Corman had the savvy and ability to adjust his business model to survive; Vestron didn’t.
Vestron Pictures began with the creation of a new corporate logo, which was also adopted into the video company. As far as late 80s logos go, it wasn’t bad at all. However, many still preferred the classic “future lines” logo from 1982-86. The cool reception accorded the logo was not a good omen for things to come.
The movie division launched with a pair of foreign films intended for Oscar contention and a grade-zilch horror flick called Slaughter High. The intended Oscar nominations never came through as the Academy chose to snub both foreign pictures while Slaughter High was heavily cut to appease the MPAA, which initially slapped the film with an X rating. So an inauspicious start to what was hoped to be a competitive film division.
Of the 54 films released theatrically by Vestron Pictures, they only had one big blockbuster hit: Dirty Dancing. Grossing $214 million worldwide against a $6 million production cost, it was massively profitable. Unfortunately for Vestron, it couldn’t offset the millions lost with one flop picture after another. They often ran afoul of the MPAA, forced to make cuts to such pictures as Cat Chaser, Waxwork, Catchfire, And God Created Woman and The Majorettes to receive the more attractive R rating, but wrecking the movies in the process.
Sometimes the financial problems became so severe that Vestron had to sell off movies they intended to distribute to other studios: Little Monsters and Blue Steel were sold to MGM/UA Entertainment, Co.; Young Guns and The Princess Bride were sold to 20th Century Fox; Some of their later films stayed on the shelf for several years before finally getting a very low-key video release.
Not helping was the general public’s increasing apathy towards independent, low-budget films. The theatrical market had shifted from the willingness to attend any movie to being prejudiced towards big-budget major studio fare. Vestron found themselves with ironclad commitments to over 20 low-budget films and no ability to budget more expensive fare. Desperate for cash, Vestron sold off the video rights to a large chunk of their 3,000 film library to the budget-priced home video label Video Treasures. These tapes often used cheap VHS tape that was recorded on the lower-speed LP or EP mode since shorter tapes were cheaper to reproduce. It was a depressing final chapter to a once mighty giant.
All further attempts to gain an infusion of outside cash and capital failed. Vestron filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy by the end of 1990. On January 11, 1991, LIVE Entertainment purchased Vestron for a surprisingly cheap $24 million, gaining the 3,000 film Vestron library in the process.
LIVE was a conglomerate whose specialty was absorbing video labels in financial trouble. Vestron was just one of the labels consumed by this growing beast. Also found within its’ bowels were Family Home Entertainment, IVE (the successor to U.S.A. Home Video) and Carolco, Inc. By 1992, all remaining vestiges of the Vestron Video name were no more. By 1997, LIVE itself would be poached by a growing beast that preyed upon the misbegotten and unfortunate: Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital. Romney and his goons renamed the company Artisan Entertainment. A merger with Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment in the mid-2000s would lead to the Lionsgate, Inc. company of today.
It is often a staying that what’s old often becomes new again. Sure enough, 25 years after its’ death, Vestron Video made a surprise return to the video market. Incredibly, it was born from a random musing between Red Shirt Pictures executive Michael Felsher and a friend over what a modernized Vestron Video logo would look like. Lionsgate executives were looking for a good boutique horror sublabel to launch and took Felsher’s musing seriously. This October, we’ll be able to witness the rebirth first hand, with the Blu-Ray release of Blood Diner, a 1987 Vestron Pictures release that has long been out of circulation in the home video market.
Written and Illustrated by Koriander Bullard
It was October of 2010 when Capcom officially announced at a ComicCon event that Mega Man Legends 3 was in development, after years of fans begging for a sequel. This was ten years after the release of Mega Man Legends 2, which saw the protagonist Mega Man Volnutt trapped on Elysium in a cliffhanger that had never been resolved.
The new game would have been on the Nintendo 3DS, still a hot selling handheld at the time of this writing. Capcom had kickstarted a campaign in which fans of the series would create new characters, levels and offer ideas on the plot for the game. A bulk of the game data would be fan created through various contests held via their Devroom website.
The Mega Man Legends series on a whole has a cult following. Initially panned by critics for it's lack of similarity to the 1980's Mega Man line of games, hardcore gamers grew to love the series, which boasts an epic and branching storyline, decent shooting mechanic and enough tongue-in-cheek humor to break up the tension as the story unfolds. Graphically speaking, the first two games were a great way to test the limits of the PlayStation 1 console, which the games did by creating expansive caves and underground facilities to explore, hidden caverns and enough play-altering side quests and item creation to keep players returning to and restarting their journey over and over again. The only consistent complaint was about the learning curve with the camera, but a 3DS port promised to fix this.
Another reason why Legends has picked up a new fan following in recent years is it's ease of game play. Today's Mega Man fans are often seen chastising Capcom on various message boards and on Nintendo's Miiverse for developing earlier entries in the Mega Man world to be insanely difficult, allowing the player virtually no reaction time between villains. Legends on the other hand is paced evenly, with the challenge being relegated to it's later boss stages, allowing players to enjoy the game to it's fullest.
Capcom spent from October of 2010 until July of 2011 promising gamers the same expansive universe they had grown to love in the form of screen-shots and game-play videos, showing proof of concept that this was an actual game in development.
A Nintendo eShop demo was slated for release in July of 2011. In the months leading up to the demo debut, Capcom had launched an advertising campaign on par with previous entries in the Mega Man franchise. A two-page spread with insider details was written for the legendary but now defunct magazine Nintendo Power, while other publications had geared up for similar and lengthy articles detailing the game's specs, audio and storyline. Nintendo 3DS owners had made plans for purchase and were anxious to see their group efforts paying off.
The closer the world got to the demo, the more details came out. Glowing reviews from industry insiders revealed the demo was actually a prototype cut of the game, featuring ten, full levels, a full cast and intense boss battles. Early access players gave the game rave reviews and praised Capcom for keeping the cost of the prototype down to $2 in US currency.
Then, in the late hours of July 18, 2011, a rumor had leaked that the game had been canceled. Online speculation arose, as the rumor was confirmed as true by Capcom Japan the same day, and Capcom's North American branch the following day.
Despite the fact that the game was mostly made of fan content and the fact that the Mega Man Legends fan demographic had nearly tripled since the first game launched in 1997, Capcom lied to the public, claiming that there “was not enough fan support” to launch the promised game. They even chided fans via Twitter, promising to make a move if at least 100,000 fans could drum up support.
In the five years since, more than the initial 100,000 have taken to Facebook, Twitter, The Devroom and many more social media websites, petitioning for Capcom to keep their promise and release the game.
And what is Capcom's response? Simple. Troll the fans.
Aero, whose design was supposed to come from fans who entered a contest but was actually designed by Capcom developer Shinsuke Komaki, has since appeared in the iTunes game Otoranger while select levels from the game were taken apart and re-worked into less successful games. Aero would be teased for other games though nothing further has been published.
Servbots and their severed heads appear in many of Capcom's fighting games, as does Tron Bonne, who gives subtle hints about Legends 3 with her Servbots in Project X Zone, another 3DS title. Those who played as Tron in the last Marvel vs. Capcom game for Xbox 360 could unlock a new ending, where Tron goes to Elysium to rescue Mega Man Volnutt on her own.
Every other year, Capcom creates a new excuse as to why the game was canceled, and yet each excuse has been met with reasons why said excuse is a poorly-crafted lie. And their internet-troll behavior has also spilled over into their other games. Google the name “Capcom” and you'll find horror stories about on-disc DLC in which customers have already paid to own the content on the disc, but must pay Capcom again to use the content they already purchased, unwelcome reboots of beloved franchises and every horror story is followed by Capcom's indifference to fan complaints, despite this blatant attack leading to a decline in sales. It's also made it harder for fans to turn off instant online play in some of it's newer Street Fighter titles, allowing experienced players the chance to randomly attack newer players not yet familiar with the game at a faster pace than the Arcade mode. Also, the stories are more rampant than before of Capcom coding newer games to be more difficult and less forgiving, alienating newer gamers and more casual players. And the less said about alleged racial themes in Street Fighter, the better, and considering how much shorter the games are getting, it hardly seems fair to charge customers $60 per game or expansion, plus an additional $30 for a season pass or $5-10 per DLC.
When they're not trolling their fans, Capcom has also gotten poor marks from their employees. Developers on the brink of suicide, artists passing out at their desks, upper management harassment and enough stories of workers being hospitalized for ulcers and dehydration to make a team of lawyers think it's Christmas.
While rumors about the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3 still swirl around the sudden departure of Mega Man co-creator Keiji Inafune, it does not explain the troll tactics Capcom has used for games he was not involved in. Canceling the latest Legends game may have been a move to hurt the legacy of Inafune, but it has done more to hurt Capcom in the long run.
For a company with the longevity Capcom boasts, it's business practices are sophomoric at best and self-destructive at worst. Not one of these tactics has done anything to hurt the fans or developers behind Mega Man, but it has done plenty to hurt Capcom on a whole.
In the five years since canceling Mega Man Legends 3, Capcom has learned nothing from it's biggest financial mistake, even when faced with declining sales and a high number of returned purchases for their more recent games.
The only thing keeping Capcom afloat seems to be nostalgia itself. The re-releases of their 1980's and 1990's games onto the current platforms plus an aggressive marketing campaign for t-shirts and toys based on their original line-up has proven itself to be at least semi-decent, albeit not great with price mark downs on the new ports and the amount of merchandise meeting clearance bins worldwide. It's only a matter of time before the nostalgia effect wears off, and video game fans realize the shortcomings and ruthless core of Capcom.
Five years from today, I hope the landscape will have improved. I hope that Capcom will either learn from these mistakes, or at least get bought out by a company that has a better grip on quality when it comes to their employees and their paying customers.
Or at least in five years, we might actually get Mega Man Volnutt down from Elysium.
The clock is ticking, Capcom. It's time to grow up.
Koriander Bullard is an author, cartoonist and human rights advocate. Keep up with her on Facebook!
Written and Illustrated by Koriander Bullard
Please, don't imagine I am writing this letter out of spite. Rather, this is on behalf of the young girls bobbing their heads to your songs, the young creatures not yet old enough to understand the consequences of life. And more for the adults who have proven themselves to be easily swayed.
We all saw what happened on MTV. You were accepting an award, when suddenly, Kanye West stormed the stage, took your microphone and said “I'mma (sic) let y'all finish, I'm sorry, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.” before jumping off the stage like a mad rabbit.
You were so upset that someone took away your limelight, that you walked away, never even thanking the people who gave you the award.
You were so upset, Beyoncé took pity on you, and gave up her award time to let you return to the stage and take your earned time.
We all saw what he did, and we all agreed it was tasteless.
…. It was also in 2009.
Three years from September will make TEN YEARS since Kanye stormed the stage and took your precious spotlight. In the seven years since, the world has moved on.
It's time you did too.
It's also time you learned to let go of your past in other areas.
It's fine that you've had more than one boyfriend in your limited run in the spotlight. You wouldn't have been born for another twenty plus years when the sexual revolution of the 1960's paved the way to allow men and women the right to date around without the usage of ugly slang thrown in your direction. You're an American citizen, it's your right and nobody needs to question that.
What is not alright is the aftermath.
For example, Joe Jonas was barely out of your life for thirty seconds before you jotted down “Forever and Always” where you playfully jab “Cause I was there when you said forever and always. You didn't mean it, baby, I don't think so.” which was followed by “Last Kiss” with the lyric “The life of the party, you're showing off again” and the third Joe Jonas song “Better than Revenge” where you not only rip up Mr. Jonas, but also his now ex-girlfriend, a woman you never actually met. I'm only using Mr. Jonas, because the less said about the album you dedicated to Jake Gyllenhaal the better. The most popular track for him had you belting out a near tantrum “never ever ever ever” for the longest four minutes of anyone's life.
For each celebrity boyfriend, you have written songs (sometimes a whole album's worth) about them, posted catty things against them on Twitter, posted snide comments about their new girlfriends or regular acquaintances, and then insisted that the world greets you as a victim. When you are confronted you insist the person telling you to “stop trolling” is the “real” hater and bully, and then you cry for a few days before posting a triumphant message to your “haters” reminding them that you will “shake them off” insisting you didn't take to heart what was asked of you, which was again, that you stop bullying your exes.
Taylor, in less than three years, you will be 30 years old.
For the sake of your fans, it's time to stop.
You have impressionable fans, many still in middle and high school, who follow you more than they follow Jesus Christ. This behavior of yours is not only childish and hurtful, it's also destructive.
Please ask yourself. Is this how you want to be seen?
Would you knowingly tell an eleven year old girl that it's alright to write scathing lyrics about a boy who doesn't accept you back, and then stalk him on Twitter? Because this is what you are doing when you're not complaining about Kanye, who since his MTV debacle has written you an apology song, gotten married and had two children, the first of which will be entering preschool soon.
If you know you have adult fans who are obsessed with you, would you knowingly tell them that bullying someone via Twitter is fine, but being told to stop bullying is you being bullied?
It seems there are people getting mixed messages here, and it's getting to the point where your fans are threatening murder and rape to complete strangers via Facebook and Twitter, simply because there are those of us calling for enough.
Taylor, you are a very famous singer, and rightfully so.
But it's time to put down the guitar, look in the mirror and ask yourself some hard questions. You can start with the small ones, such as “Why do all my relationships fail?” and “Why do I want to keep verbally assaulting the people who I break up with?” and you can then ask deeper questions. “Who am I, really?” and “What message do I want to share?”
Take some time off. Instead of looking for the next boyfriend to “understand your feelings” make time to understand them yourself. You can't seek a soul mate if you're not even sure of your own.
Taylor, if for nothing else, use your fame to good merit.
Have a chat with Dr. Phil. It's high time you sought therapy for the issues you have with male celebrities, and the sooner you do, the better off you will be.
Taylor, you can choose the high road and seek help, or take the low road and “shake me off” as a “hater”. It seriously won't effect me either way. You can even write a song about me if it helps you sleep at night.
Either way, the choice is yours. But whatever choice you make, understand that your public actions speak louder than any lyric, and trust that it is reaching your fans. And often, in a dangerous way.
Koriander Bullard is an author, cartoonist and human rights advocate. Keep up with her on Facebook!
No, this isn't yet another clickbait article, pointing out the homosexual joke left by Anger when he talks about “bears” in Los Angeles, and no, this isn't a knock on any of the feeling based characters. This article will instead focus on where the movie should have, the story of Riley, and everything wrong with Riley's existence.
Recently, a video popped up on the video sharing site Vimeo, cutting out all of the colorful scenes of Riley's emotions, and instead, just showing the “Riley Only” segments. Considering the fact that the movie is supposed to be all about Riley, it's pitiful to see that the main character's actual role lasts a mere 17 minutes of actual animation. This is not only indicative of how little the cast actually thinks of Riley, but is an adequate setup for where her story goes wrong.
In the muted tones of Riley's outside life, we see a short vignette of Riley from birth to her tween years. We see that she lives in a nice home, in a safe neighborhood, surrounded by friends and family. She goes to a good school, has access to a decent education, and lives a happy, normal life.
Suddenly, her parents, who barely even acknowledge her existence, sell the house, and drag her against her will across country, to a seedy, crime ridden street in Los Angeles. They cram her into a leaking, falling apart, attic-bedroom, strip her of all her furniture, and leave her cold and alone on the floor. Over the course of the film, we see her new classmates treat her like utter garbage, her new teachers are sullen and uninterested in her, her new hockey team comes across as abusive, sexist and equally uninspired by Riley, and her parents grow more and more selfish and self-centered. When Riley shows even the slightest distaste in her new, abusive surroundings, her parents sweep her emotions under the table, and insist she just “act happy” to make them feel better. They scold her, ignore her, and do absolutely nothing resembling proper parental guidance. The only point in the film where they at least feign a caring emotion, is near the end, where Riley breaks down and cries after stealing her mother's credit card and trying to run away. But even here, where Riley is offering her heart to the only people she has left in this world, she is again reminded to fake a smile and deal with it.
The reaction from so-called “adults” over this film, is as disheartening and frightening to see unfold as the misery this poor little girl is forced through. Below is a comment I recently left on an entertainment website about the film:
“Speaking as a kid who was forced to move from one horrible area to another, and was a consistent outcast, I feel really sorry for Riley. Her parents come across as selfish and self-centered. If they really cared about their child at all, they:
1. Would have stayed in the nice, large house and GOOD neighborhood they foolishly left behind.
2. Would have at least pretended like her feelings mattered BEFORE she resorted to thieving her mom's credit card.
3. Bought the kid some decent furniture.
4. Would never have moved her into a slummy, falling apart shack of an apartment.
5. Would have scoped the area out first, spotted the equally selfish hipster culture that has sprawled out, and decided not to subject their tween to this life of misery.
6. Changed to a job that would have allowed them to stay where Riley was safe, rather than to throw away everything to live in a dump.
This hits very close to home for me. I would love to trade Riley's dad for Mufasa, Bambi's mom, or any of the other Disney parents who were wrongfully killed off.
Riley is forced to suffer for her parents' selfish choices, and she's pretty much told "your emotions are garbage, you get nothing and like it" until the tail end of the film, when her parents give her a hug, while accepting no part of the blame in her running away.
Call me cynical, but I find nothing charming or "whimsical" about these segments at all.”
After this comment, I was bombarded with hateful emails and mudslinging comments. Below are the four that spoke to me the loudest:
From a 27 year old Man: You're a stupid (withheld) who had better die. Riley's parents probably HAD TO move her, because a house that nice is probably too rich for their blood. Riley is a stupid, whiny (withheld) if she doesn't understand that. Kids can be so selfish.
A 32 year old mother of two: You probably hate your parents and need therapy you sicko. Riley just needs to deal with the fact that life will not always be fair. I feel so bad for her parents and yours.
A 25 year old woman: Riley's parents really do love her. Sometimes when you are a parent, you have to make hard choices, whether your kid likes it or not. Who cares what Riley thinks? She's a kid, she'll get over it. It's not like she'll remember anyway.
A 40 year old man: Riley is just a selfish little (withheld) who will likely grow up to be a (withheld) if she doesn't get her attitude in check. Her dad probably is doing this for her future. He probably had to move the family because of a job, and she's being very ungrateful for not getting that.
This is not even a full list. On several pages, I've seen grown adults in varying age groups wildly defend this movie, and hate on the character of Riley. But where the hatred of Riley is unwarranted comes in the character herself. She isn't “whiny”. In fact, she only has one real fit of anger after the move in the entire film, which is again greeted by a quick dismissal from her parents. She allows as much abuse as a tween can take without showing any emotion other than happy or confused for a majority of the film. I'm starting to wonder what subliminal message has been dropped in the background of Inside Out, especially considering the fact that this film just stole the Oscar for Best Animated Film, despite being a very depressing film that left most of the kids at my local theater in tears.
Aside from the childish name calling, here is where the excuses from fans falls short:
1. At no point in the film is it even hinted that Riley's parents are in any type of financial straits. In fact, their run down apartment proves to be more of a financial ache than their old house, so the excuse of “this is for Riley's financial future” just falls flat on it's face.
2. Riley's parents do not move because of their jobs. This is not hinted at nor mentioned during the film.
3. Riley's parents only care about Riley when she is behaving like a smiling goody-goody. When she has any other emotion, they shut down. They can't even care enough to buy her furniture or at least learn the names of the new people in her life. This extreme, gross negligence is what leads her to running away.
4. If Riley's parents actually cared about her future at all, they would never have moved her into a crime ridden area. California is a big enough state they could have found literally any other apartment, and maybe even a cheaper apartment, away from “the ghetto” as I have heard some adults call Riley's neighborhood.
I could delve into everything wrong with the more colorful segments of the film, such as Riley's imaginary friend committing suicide on camera, or the fact that Joy comes across as a Tinkerbell version of Riley's parents, shutting out the real life issues Sadness brings up, but for as dark as those spots are, they pale in comparison to the depressive state Riley's real world segments leave viewers in. The lesson of the film is that basically your emotions are garbage, lie down and accept what life gives you, but be sure to smile to make everyone else happy. And I can't think of a more damaging message to send to the 2-11 year olds this film was aimed at.
Inside Out is not brilliant. It's not fun and it's not appropriate for small children. It's a shameful display of bad parenting, and the hold it has on adults is disturbing.
Koriander Bullard is an author, cartoonist and human rights advocate. Keep up with her on Facebook!
Written, Illustrated and Screen-Captured by Koriander Bullard
Last week, an episode of Sailor Moon Crystal marked a turning point for the series, as they revealed that Sailor Uranus is not actually a female, but is "Transgender" in the way that she was born with both male and female genitalia, but she can switch between the two genders at will. This is why her girlfriend, Sailor Neptune, can alternate between calling her as a "she" or a "he" at will in every other episode.
Those who read the original manga, which was first put into graphic novel format in 1995 in Japan, and then translated in English in 2000 and again in 2012, already knew about Sailor Uranus and her dual gender, and were just happy that unlike 1994's Sailor Moon S anime which saw Uranus as a female only, in Sailor Moon Crystal, Uranus, known also under the name Haruka Tenoh, is finally being showcased as a strong, transgender teenager who is satisfied with the way she was born.
However, newer fans of the series lost their minds on Twitter and Facebook, unable to accept the fact that Haruka's gender has been altered to match the original manga instead of the more popular 90's anime. Some say the term is wrong for her, and that a softer term, such as "Gender Fluid" should be used instead.
And it goes without saying that Conservatives are sharing a group-coronary over the issue, but this comes as no shock, considering that the current season is based on the Infinity Arc, which features heavier and darker overtones. Infinity and Sailor Moon S both feature new character Sailor Saturn being accused of being the Deity or Messiah of Destruction, and Sailor Moon needing to acquire the Holy Grail in order to save the world. Add to it a Transgender and more than one new lesbian character, and we have a show fit to be crucified on the 700 Club.
Another group of fans in a tizzy today are fans of the Toonami edit of Sailor Moon S. Back between 1999 and 2000, Cartoon Network and YTV Canada aired a watered down edit of Sailor Moon S, in which Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune were still allowed to be touchy-feely with each other, but were edited as "cousins" who touch each other, rather than lesbians…… because according to Cloverway, the now defunct Toei Animation subsidiary responsible for the change, cousins touching each other is more "kid friendly" than lesbians touching each other. Sense made? None.
But getting back on track, the subject of Haruka's gender has been the source of confusion for years, not because of what she is, but by what name is socially acceptable.
Back in 1994/1995 when the original manga was drawn, Haruka was known as a "Hermaphrodite" which is a medical term for those who are born with both male and female genitals. But by 1999, the term Hermaphrodite started creeping up in songs and TV shows on MTV as a slur, meaning someone who is "stupid" because of their dual-gender nature. Other medical terms such as "midget" and "retard" also became slurs on the trash television network, prompting public outcries. All three medical terms while still used in hospitals the world over, are now banned from daytime TV due to trolling.
A few years ago, the term "Transgender" started being used to explain both people who are in the process of changing genders and those who are born as both a man and a woman, while "Gender Fluid" is a relatively new term meaning those who are still questioning their sexuality, identity or those who do not wish to have a title put upon their gender at all.
Haruka's character is not questioning herself at all.
When she is on the race track or at school, she chooses to be seen as a boy, and wants others to address her as such. She is comfortable in the role of a man in these two, mostly male-dominated areas.
When she is Sailor Uranus or relaxing, she is fine with being seen as a girl and is fine with being called as such.
She chooses her gender based on role, and is perfectly comfortable in her own skin as either gender. She is confident in herself, her choice and in how she sees herself, and her girlfriend is always first to comply with calling her as a "he" or a "she" depending on whatever Haruka has chosen for that day.
The other characters as this episode seem fine with Haruka's duel-gender nature, and literally no questions have popped up about it since.
Her transformation scenes only show her female side, as it is still heavily frowned upon in Japan to draw male genitalia on any character who appears as an adult or late-teen, and so far, every nude shot has also been drawn from her feminine side, but in all other segments, her gender is addressed based on her choice and not by how anybody else feels about it.
Sailor Uranus has always been a strong character for the LBGTQ community, but as of today, even more so. Those who are not flipping out over her newly restored gender role are embracing her.
Koriander Bullard is an author, cartoonist and human rights advocate. Keep up with her on Facebook!
Written and Illustrated by Koriander Bullard
Earlier this morning, I was nursing a migraine. Once the episode ended, I found myself wide awake at seven in the morning, the result of drinking a caffeinated beverage to nurse my aching head.
So I stumbled through the internet, still quiet in the early hours without a soul in sight texting or blogging. I read one of those "click-bating" articles that take me through 1990's nostalgia while also blowing through the minutes, when I saw an ad that led to an ad that led to a Google search on Tamagotchi. Curiously, I followed, landing on a fan Wikia page for the virtual pets.
And there before me, stood something I could never have fathomed.
My old Tamagotchi had a name I never knew, Kusatchi. But more baffling than knowing it had a name, was knowing I never really knew my pet very well at all, despite the hours I spent caring for it.
Kusatchi it seems, was something of a cross between a Venus flytrap and a duck.
But back in 1997, I didn't know this. And if you can see the diagram above, then you probably wouldn't have guessed that either. For 19 years, I've been trying to explain Kusatchi to other Tamagotchi parents, and all I've gotten back are odd stares, funny faces and laughter.But let me go back in time a bit to explain and remember Kusatchi.
It was 1997. My father was working long hours at a Service Merchandise store several hours away. This was our second Christmas in Reading, Pennsylvania, in a gated community where I was the only little girl on the block, and part of the only minority family in the whole community. We lived in a nice townhome, but our neighbors were rich, racist and snobby. They had caused us plenty of chaos that entire year, but it was Christmastime, meaning that they were temporarily out of our hair, and Santa was dominating television.
I didn't care that I had just turned eleven years old. Santa was a rock star in my eyes, and I had been extra good for most of the year, despite hitting puberty equally as hard and having gone through the hormonal angst usually reserve for teenagers much beyond my years. I had a mile-long wish list, filled with every toy and video game that would have deemed me "the cool kid" had there been any other kids my own age on the block.
Well to my wonderment and surprise and for the first time ever, every single wish was granted that Christmas morning. In fact, Christmas was so awesome, I even had wishes granted from years prior, and wishes I hadn't even wished yet! My stockings ranneth over with video games, action figures, dolls and so many amazing and awesome things from Japan that hadn't even become popular yet! I had an official set of Pokemon figures long before the craze hit the states, an N64 that still to this day plays Starfox 64, and so many wonderful items from Mattel and Hasbro.
And there, just behind the Christmas tree…. Was a Tamagotchi.
I thought I was going to faint! The little plastic egg had been sold out in every store. I couldn't believe it was right there in front of me!
Opening the package, I found a blue and white pamphlet that curiously, only had a battery warning and a partial chart of what my little LCD screen "could" produce.
Quick as I could, I ripped out the paper tag holding the battery, set the clock and watched a little pixelated egg hatch. What was it? Could it be that cute puppy I wanted? A bunny? A kitty?
…. It was a blob.
I looked at the chart to find that this was the baby stage. Okay, not a problem.
I went to Yahoo and searched for tips on how to raise my new blob, who was screaming at me the whole time I was looking for how to care for it. I had no directions, no owner's manual, not even a proper guide. Just a slip of paper, wishing me the best of luck in Japanese. So I did the best I could. I fumbled through the controls until I could figure out the "Clear Poop" button, fed it, gave it medicine and accidentally scolded it when my finger slipped on the menu.
Smacking it by accident made it spout legs. (Tongaritchi)
Finally, after hours of it beeping non stop in anger, it started to grow up. What would it become? A puppy? A bunny? A kitty? Maybe it was becoming a frog?
…. Well, if you saw the above picture, it became a Kusatchi.
Since Tamagotchi was new at the time, I had no idea this was supposed to be a Venus flytrap. Instead, my heart sunk, my eyebrows knitted together in an angry-sad combo, and my lips curled like over cooked bacon at the sight of what I assumed was a duck with a stick up it's butt, glued to a dinner plate.
But, it was MY pet. And since it was my first and only pet, it was my responsibility to take care of it. I figured if I could show my parents I could be responsible with a virtual pet, that maybe I could snag a real one next Christmas.
The following year, I got a Golden Retriever….. doll.
With a puppy….. doll.
Every day, I made feeding and taking care of Kusatchi part of my everyday routine. When my father came home from a business trip a few months later, he gave my brother (not yet six) and I each the Tamagotchi rip-off "Dinky Dino" which was a Russian keychain where you raise a dinosaur that only lives seven days. I was so responsible, I raised Kusatchi, my seven-day dino, my brother's dino, and I still had plenty of time to do my schoolwork and comfort my brother, who was two and a half years two young for the age warning on all 3 digital pets, who had nightmares every time his extra creepy dino died. I suffered migraines even as a child, and the endless beeping of Kusatchi and the dinos was annoying.
I gave up on the dinos, but found a pause function on my Tamagotchi, which let me cheat the programming and keep Kusatchi alive for an unreasonable 396 days. I would wake her, feed her, pause her, put her to bed, and all was right with the world. She would nag at me, beep obscenities and demand extra food, but only for as long as I let her. And after a few months of cheating, she actually seemed to like me, and would sometimes play a game with me.
But 396 days is well past the reasonable age for a Tamagotchi. Like it's younger sibling Digimon, one day is a whole year for a Tamagotchi, so my Kusatchi could have been named Methuselah by the time she passed away.
For as much nagging and grief as she caused me, I was heartbroken when she died. I actually mourned as though this was a flesh and blood pet. I watched her soul go into an 8-bit spaceship, and fly away to the stars above, just as the battery finally died with her.
I had a toy coffin leftover from a kids meal Dracula set. I placed my egg inside the red box, set up all of my dolls, and held a small funeral for Kusatchi, whom I nicknamed "Picasso" due to her abstract image. I played "Amazing Grace" on my Barbie faux-CD player (which played birthday card music from a chip) and then buried Kusatchi in a sweater in my chifferobe. I later lost the egg in a flood, granting her a burial at sea.
A month later, still raw, I saw a TV ad for a new Tamagotchi. "Tamagotchi Angel" where you could raise the dead Tamagotchi on a white egg, until it was time for it to be reborn. It would go through a "death" in Heaven, only to be reborn as a new Tamagotchi on your older egg. For the low price of $20 per egg, you could digitize the circle of life, and keep raising a pet several lifetimes into the future!
I declined to ask Santa for the egg housing the soul of Kusatchi. Instead, I enjoyed playing with my soft, battery-free plush dogs. They never asked me to clean digital poop off of anything.
With Tamagotchi being back in style, many have asked me if I would like to go back to owning an LCD egg. But I smile and decline. Kusatchi left me with enough plastic egg on my face to last a lifetime. Instead, I'll just wait until I can find a real pet, one made of flesh and blood that doesn't beep at me if I forget to clean up after it.
I just wonder who else had Kusatchi?
Koriander Bullard is an author, cartoonist and human rights advocate. Keep up with her on Facebook!