Aithiopia Forever

The Greek historian Herodotus tells us some interesting stories about the people he refers to as Ethiopians (or Aithiopes in Greek). The term Ethiopians/Aithiopes was widely used in ancient Greece for any dark-skinned people from the southern regions of Africa or India, but the people Herodotus means were those who lived in the northeastern African interior, south of Egypt along the Nile, in the region we know as Nubia.

Herodotus reports several remarkable things about these Ethiopians.While many of these stories are fanciful, or at least greatly exaggerated, they paint an interesting picture of what Herodotus and his fellow Greeks imagined the people of inner Africa to be like.

They were physically impressive and long-lived:

The Ethiopians are said to be the tallest and most beautiful of all peoples.

– Herodotus, Histories 3.20

Most of them live to 120 and some surpass this.

– Herodotus, Histories 3.23

They enjoyed a life of ease and good health, enabled by the special resources of their land:

There is a meadow outside the city filled with boiled meats from animals of all kinds. The lords of the city make it their custom to set these meats out at night, and during the day anyone who wants to may feast there. The locals say that the earth itself provides these things.

– Herodotus, Histories 3.18

[The Ethiopians possessed] a spring where they washed themselves and became sleeker, as if they had bathed in oil, even though it smelled of violets. … [T]he water of this spring was so light that nothing could float on it, neither wood nor anything lighter. Everything just sank to the bottom. If what they say is true, it seems likely that it is their regular use of this spring that makes them all so long-lived.

– Herodotus, Histories 3.23

They have an interesting way of choosing their leader:

Their customs are unlike those of any other people, and especially their kingship: they choose as king the one among them who is tallest and has the strength to match his height.

– Herodotus, Histories 3.20

And they preferred to be left alone and not be bothered by the rest of the world’s problems:

The Ethiopian king said [to the Persian king’s emissaries]: “The king of the Persians does not send you with these gifts because he desires my friendship, nor have you spoken the truth, for you have come here to spy on my kingdom. Nor is that man just, for if he were he would not desire the lands of others or enslave men who have done him no wrong. Now, give him this bow and say to him: ‘The king of the Ethiopians advises the king of the Persians that when a Persian can draw so strong a bow as easily as I do, then he may contemplate making war upon the long-lived Ethiopians. Until then, let him thank the gods for not putting the sons of the Ethiopians in a mood to conquer other lands.’”

– Herodotus, Histories 3.21

I think you can see where I’m going with this.

Herodotus’ Aithiopia is essentially Wakanda.

Happy anniversary, Black Panther!

Image: T’Challa and Shuri via Giphy

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

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One Month to the Captain Marvel Movie Release

The release of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Captain Marvel is one month away.

Twitter Review Wire Media CpMarvel Character Posters

Nice—out of nine characters who got their own posters, four are women, four are men, and one is a cat. Can’t wait!

I’ve tried to stay away from spoilers of any kind, but it’s difficult to do completely in these days of nigh-universal social media saturation. (Yes, I protect my media bubble accordingly!)

While looking for an image to post I came across some discussion on the cat, apparently called Goose, whom we saw Nick Fury getting cute with in the second trailer. That, at least, is a safe topic! 😀

And here’s the tv spot that dropped last weekend:

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel – “Big Game” TV Spot by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Only a few new clips there.

Soon! 🙂

Image: Marvel Entertainment via Review Wire Media on Twitter

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Spider-Man: Far from Home Trailer

After a slew of horrible unsuccessful Spider-Man movie attempts, Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Homecoming felt like a warm spring after a prolonged winter: young, fresh, and welcomed with open arms. Apart from a great supporting cast, Tom Holland’s Spidey is the first screen version that actually feels young and boisterous.

It’s now five months until the sequel, Spider-Man: Far from Home, is released and the first teaser has been out a few weeks:

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME – Official Teaser Trailer by Sony Pictures Entertainment on YouTube

Clearly he is brought back during Avengers: Endgame (which drops two months prior to SMFFH) after being ashed by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. It’s an odd situation; then again, this long a sequence of superhero movies is entirely unprecedented.

Anyway. In the sequel, Spidey gets to go to Europe on a school trip – the debate team from SMH by the looks of it. We see glimpses of London and Venice, plus Nick Fury sticking his fingers in the soup. But before Peter even gets his wheels up, we see Aunt May heading a Spidey rally of some sort. (I think I heard that she has become his social media person?) Not a bad way to update the story a bit. And, what! Happy is batting his eyelashes at May?!?

The neatest effects have to be the earth, fire, and water spirits, though. (WoW elementals, anyone? Now I want to play my shaman more… or maybe my frost mage.) I don’t know anything about Peter Gyllenhaal’s character (Mysterio), so we’ll see. The best lines of the trailer are given to Zendaya, however:

Peter: “You look really pretty.”
Michelle: “And therefore I have value?”
Peter: *stutters* “No… I…”
Michelle: “I’m messing with you. You look… pretty, too.”

LOL! 😀

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Captain Marvel Special Look Trailer

Captain Marvel, the next installation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is released this March. I don’t typically go looking for hype and speculation; instead just read whatever I come up with in my usual browsing, but this special look trailer of (mostly) Carol Danvers is so great I’m tempted to.

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel | Special Look by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

LOL! Awesome! 😀

When a female (super)hero—and, sadly, usually only the one—is part of a story, I tend to cringe, because a lot of the time they’re not treated terribly well or given anywhere near equal screen time or lines or agency as their male co-heroes. As impossible it is to truly say on the basis of trailers, though, I’m more and more optimistic of Captain Marvel.

I’ve eagerly waited for the MCU movies before, sure, but I can’t remember being quite this pumped before. I really, REALLY can’t wait for March!

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Avengers: Endgame Trailer

Whoa – Marvel Studios released the second Captain Marvel trailer and the first Avengers: Endgame trailer only four days apart.

Marvel Studios’ Avengers – Official Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

It does make sense—Avengers: Infinity War was implying heavily that Captain Marvel will be there for the sequel—but I can’t remember a big studio doing anything similar before. It’s a good time to be a geek. 🙂

As for the trailer: I didn’t much care for AIW, and it came across particularly wooden after the glory of Black Panther. Also, we all know a lot of the events of AIW will have to be undone in Endgame. We’ve now seen a teeny glimpse.

I’m wondering whether the fact that Doctor Strange wasn’t in the trailer at all means the postproduction team is still furiously working on the scenes. More likely is that they’ll want to safeguard any hints of his involvement in the final reveal from leaking prematurely. Also, I have to admit that I was surprised to see Hawkeye return; looks like he might have been written an interesting story twist.

If there’s a major complaint I have, it’s Tony frigging Stark being plastered front and center. In a trailer that runs 2:25, he monologues / occupies the scene for almost a minute (0:55). That’s way too much; weren’t the Avengers supposed to be ensemble movies, after all?

In addition, I have some fleeting thoughts that don’t really go anywhere. (When did Cap shave? Why is Cap crying? And that’s so great—in my world, a man is nothing if they don’t allow themselves to cry. Huh—Scott Lang embiggened and out of the subatomic realm? Ok, there’s Black Widow and Nebula, but where are the rest of the women?)

Mostly, though, the trailer managed to re-ignite my interest in the sequel after the decidedly lackluster first part.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Second Captain Marvel Trailer

Yesterday’s release of the second official Captain Marvel trailer caught me off guard. (It seems to happen to me a lot this fall.) No matter—it’s as AWESOME as the first.

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel – Trailer 2 by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

My thoughts of the first trailer pretty much stand for this one, too—more of Nick Fury is great, and especially when he get gets cute with a cat! 😀 Also, again, it’s seriously sooo wonderful that Carol Danvers is shown as a soldier instead of sexy-woman-soldier (think of those silly Halloween costumes). I’m not at all interested in the Skrull and the Kree plot yet, but we’ll see.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Representation Chart: Marvel Cinematic Universe, Phase 2

We all know that the representation of people of different genders and races is imbalanced in popular media, but sometimes putting it into visual form can help make the imbalance clear. Here’s a chart of the Phase 2 movies of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (Iron Man 3; Thor: The Dark World; Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Guardians of the Galaxy; Avengers: Age of Ultron; Ant-Man).

Characters included

  • Iron Man 3: Tony Stark / Iron Man, Aldrich Kilian, Happy Hogan, Trevor Slattery, President Ellis, Savin, Harley Keener, Vice President Rodriguez, Maya Hansen, Pepper Potts, Brandt, Colonel Rhodes / War Machine, Yinsen
  • Thor: The Dark World: Thor, Loki, Odin, Malekith, Fandral, Volstagg, Erik Selvig, Ian, Jane Foster, Sif, Frigga, Darcy Lewis, Heimdall, Korath, Algrim, Hogun
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Steve Rogers / Captain America, Alexander Pierce, Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier, Rumlow, Agent Sitwell, Arnim Zola, Rollins, American World Security Councilor, Senator Stern, Batroc, Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow, Maria Hill, Sharon Carter / Agent 13, Peggy Carter, British World Security Councilor, Nick Fury, Sam Wilson / Falcon, Indian World Security Councilor, Chinese World Security Councilor
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Peter Quill / Star-Lord, Ronan, Yondu Udonta, Dey, The Collector, Kraglin, Saal, Nebula, Nova Prime, Bereet, Carina, Gamora, Drax
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (new characters): Bruce Banner / Hulk, Clint Barton / Hawkeye, Pietro Maximoff / Quicksliver, Baron Strucker, Dr. List, Ulysses Klaue, Vision, Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch, Laura Barton, Dr. Helen Cho
  • Ant-Man: Scott Lang / Ant-Man, Hank Pym, Darren Cross / Yellowjacket, Paxton, Luis, Kurt, Mitchell Carson, Hope van Dyne, Cassie Lang, Maggie Lang, Dave, Gale

Rules

In the interests of clarity, here’s the rules I’m following for who to include and where to place them:

  • I only count characters portrayed by an actor who appears in person on screen in more or less recognizable form (i.e. performances that are entirely CG, prosthetic, puppet, or voice do not count).
  • The judgment of which characters are significant enough to include is unavoidably subjective, but I generally include characters who have on-screen dialogue, who appear in more than one scene, and who are named on-screen (including nicknames, code names, etc.)
  • For human characters that can be reasonably clearly identified, I use the race and gender of the character.
  • For non-human characters or characters whose identity cannot be clearly determined, I use the race and gender of the actor.
  • I use four simplified categories for race and two for gender. Because human variety is much more complicated and diverse than this, there will inevitably be examples that don’t fit. I put such cases where they seem least inappropriate, or, if no existing option is adequate, give them their own separate categories.
  • “White” and “Black” are as conventionally defined in modern Western society. “Asian” means East, Central, or South Asian. “Indigenous” encompasses Native Americans, Polynesians, Indigenous Australians, and other indigenous peoples from around the world.
  • There are many ethnic and gender categories that are relevant to questions of representation that are not covered here. There are also other kinds of diversity, including sexuality, language, disability, etc. that are equally important for representation that are not covered here. A schematic view like this can never be perfect, but it is a place to start.

Corrections and suggestions welcome.

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

First Captain Marvel Trailer

The first official Captain Marvel trailer just dropped today, and it’s AWESOME!

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel – Official Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

The below reaction is pretty accurate:

io9 Tom Hiddlestons Loki Whee Gif

Okay, granted, it doesn’t show much yet beyond glimpses. I know nothing of the comic book version of Carol Danvers to begin with, nor do I know whether a rumor saying the movie won’t be dealing with her origin story is true or not. What impressed me, though, is how much the trailer highlighted her determination, standing up time and again after falling down.

It was also great to see younger, sprightlier Nick Fury. Not to mention Coulsooooon!

Tumblr The Playlist Cobie Smulders Coulson1Tumblr The Playlist Cobie Smulders Coulson2Tumblr The Playlist Cobie Smulders Coulson3Tumblr The Playlist Cobie Smulders Coulson4

(As an aside and half-serious at that: as someone who’s going to turn into a little old lady at some point, I hope there’s a darned good reason for Danvers’s punch!)

Last, a LOUD-AS-HELL YAY for no boob armor, nor sexy boob-butt-thigh poses. Frickin’ finally!

Ant-Man Its About Time

The movie opens March 8, 2019. Can’t wait!

Images: Tom Hiddleston as Loki whee gif via a comment on io9.com. Gifs of Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill from The Avengers’ blooper reel via The Playlist on Tumblr. Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne screencapped from one of the stingers at the end of Ant-Man.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Rating: Marvel Cinematic Universe, Phase 2

We’re moving on with rewatching and rating the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here’s our take on the next crop:

  1. Iron Man 3 – 5
  2. Thor: The Dark World – 4.5
  3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – 8
  4. Guardians of the Galaxy – 3
  5. Avengers: Age of Ultron – 5.5
  6. Ant-Man – 7

The average rating for this phase is 5.5, which is solidly mediocre, and that pretty much sums of the movies of this period: solid, but mediocre.

After an experimental start in phase 1, Marvel had clearly worked out its superhero movie formula by phase 2, which is both the strength and the weakness of these movies. The hero is an ordinary guy (still almost entirely guys) who gets or discovers some awesome power, struggles to balance his responsibilities as a hero with his own desire for a simpler, more comfortable life, and ends up fighting the equal and opposite guy (still entirely guys), who wants to use his power for wealth and/or self-aggrandizement. Marvel’s formula is by no means a bad one. It consistently delivers watchable summer popcorn flicks, but in phase 2 we begin to see the limits of the formula. Movies that stick to the formula chug around in the middle of the range, while those that stretch their bounds sometimes excel and sometimes flop.

Iron Man 3 rates a 5, the lowest of the Iron Man movies, largely because Tony Stark’s character just doesn’t have any room to grow. Number 3 provides some good action and Tony-tinkering, but its emotional rhythms just feel like a retread of 1 and 2.

Thor: The Dark World gets a 4.5, a slight step up from the first Thor, which isn’t saying much. Christopher Eccleston’s wooden performance as the villain Malekith, who gets almost no interaction with any other characters to enliven his scenes, doesn’t help the murky plot. The lack of chemistry between Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster drags the movie down, although the perpetual spark between Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki brings it back up a bit.

The best movie of the phase is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, at 8. While we don’t like everything about this movie (I, for one, have never felt emotionally invested in the Steve-Bucky relationship), its pacing is crisp, the action is sharp-edged, and the emergence of the new Hydra represents a daring narrative choice for the MCU, which could have chosen to stay on safer ground.

The Winter Soldier is followed up by the worst movie of the lot, Guardians of the Galaxy, at 3. We know that our opinion of Guardians is not shared by many Marvel fans, but we find the movie tedious and most of its characters annoying. We’re not fond of stories in which a lone competent woman with a strong motivation has her narrative taken over by a self-centered man-child. We’re also not on board with a story whose emotional climax comes with that woman getting called a whore by another character out of the blue. Besides, all the crap we didn’t like when we were kids in the 80s is still crap we don’t like now.

Avengers: Age of Ultron muddles through with a 5.5. It is a movie filled with character moments that almost work, dialogue that almost means something, and narrative choices that almost make sense. A few excellent performances, like James Spader’s Ultron and Paul Bettany’s Vision help lift the rating, but they’re pulling against a lot of dead weight.

Ant-Man takes us out on a high note, at 7, with a zany tiny-sized heist that, like sucking on a good piece of candy, doesn’t really satisfy your hunger, but sure feels good while you’re doing it. The small scope of this movie (literally and narratively) is an asset, allowing the jokes to land and the characters to develop without too much worrying about the end of the world to get in the way.

Have a different favorite (or un-favorite)? Let us know!

Image: Screenshot from Captain America: The Winter Soldier via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Representation Chart: Marvel Cinematic Universe, Phase 1

We all know that the representation of people of different genders and races is imbalanced in popular media, but sometimes putting it into visual form can help make the imbalance clear. Here’s a chart of the Phase 1 movies of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (Iron Man; The Incredible Hulk; Iron Man 2; Thor; Captain America: The First Avenger; Avengers).

Characters included

  • Iron Man: Tony Stark / Iron Man, Obedaiah Stane, Agent Coulson, Happy Hogan, Abu Bakaar, Pepper Potts, Christine Everhart, Colonel Rhodes, Nick Fury, Yinsen, Raza
  • The Incredible Hulk: Bruce Banner / Hulk, General Ross, Emil Blonsky, Leonard, Stanley, Samuel Sterns, Betty Ross, Major Sparr,
  • Iron Man 2 (new characters): Ivan Vanko, Senator Stern, Justin Hammer, Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
  • Thor (new characters): Thor, Loki, Odin, Erik Selvig, Volstag, Fandral, Agent Sitwell, Clint Barton / Haweye, Jane Foster, Darcy Lewis, Sif, Frigga, Heimdall, Hogun
  • Captain America: The First Avenger: Steve Rogers / Captain America, Bucky Barnes, Colonel Philips, Johann Schmidt / Red Skull, Howard Stark, Dr. Erskine, Dr. Zola, Dum Dum Dugan, James Falsworth, Jacques Dernier, Gilmore Hodge, Senator Brandt, Peggy Carter, Gabe Jones, Jim Morita
  • Avengers (new characters): American World Security Councilor, Russian World Security Councilor, Agent Hill, British World Security Councilor, Chinese World Security Councilor

Rules

In the interests of clarity, here’s the rules I’m following for who to include and where to place them:

  • I only count characters portrayed by an actor who appears in person on screen in more or less recognizable form (i.e. performances that are entirely CG, prosthetic, puppet, or voice do not count).
  • The judgment of which characters are significant enough to include is unavoidably subjective, but I generally include characters who have on-screen dialogue, who appear in more than one scene, and who are named on-screen (including nicknames, code names, etc.)
  • For human characters that can be reasonably clearly identified, I use the race and gender of the character.
  • For non-human characters or characters whose identity cannot be clearly determined, I use the race and gender of the actor.
  • I use four simplified categories for race and two for gender. Because human variety is much more complicated and diverse than this, there will inevitably be examples that don’t fit. I put such cases where they seem least inappropriate, or, if no existing option is adequate, give them their own separate categories.
  • “White” and “Black” are as conventionally defined in modern Western society. “Asian” means East, Central, or South Asian. “Indigenous” encompasses Native Americans, Polynesians, Indigenous Australians, and other indigenous peoples from around the world.
  • There are many ethnic and gender categories that are relevant to questions of representation that are not covered here. There are also other kinds of diversity, including sexuality, language, disability, etc. that are equally important for representation that are not covered here. A schematic view like this can never be perfect, but it is a place to start.

Corrections and suggestions welcome.

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.