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! 😀

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Hugh Jackman Not to Play Odysseus?

Three and a half years ago, I spotted a tidbit about an Odysseus movie being in development. Since then, I’ve kept an eye out for more news.

Hugh Jackman

There still is an IMDb entry for the movie, and it still lists the project as “in development”. Nothing significant enough to warrant further publication seems to have happened, however.

I don’t know whether the ancient world mini-boom has officially busted, or whether there wasn’t enough money, or what. It sounded like an interesting project, though. Perhaps it still has a chance.

Image: Hugh Jackman on Twitter

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

“At Least It Made You Feel Something”

I have a rant.

There is one phrase I hate to hear more than any other from authors, scriptwriters, game designers, and other creative people: “At least it made you feel something.” It is a phrase that is sometimes trotted out when audiences voice hurt, anger, or annoyance over how a story that they were emotionally invested in turned out, and it is a load of crap.

We all understand that no story is going to satisfy all audiences. Good stories move us, and sometimes they move us to tears or to rage. Some people want stories to leave them angry or sad, and that’s as legitimate as wanting a story to leave you smiling. But a good story should not leave you hurt or annoyed.

There are good ways for creators to respond to upset audiences (which, I note, is not the same as responding to trolls—that’s a different game altogether). They can say: “I’m sorry, I’ll try to learn from this experience and do a better job in the future.” They can say: “This was the story I wanted to tell, but clearly it wasn’t the story you wanted to hear, so you should find a different story.” They can say: “I think this story matters and I don’t care that you didn’t like it.” All of these are appropriate responses. They are honest and respect the validity of peoples’ feelings, even the ones we don’t share. Even no response at all is perfectly acceptable; no creator owes their audience any engagement they don’t feel like giving.

But if a creator does choose to respond to criticism, “At least it made you feel something” is no kind of response at all. What’s wrong with it?

It sets the bar absurdly low

Good stories make us feel things, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter what a story makes us feel as long as it makes us feel something. To put it another way: if I kicked you in the shins, it would definitely make you feel something, but you would be perfectly justified in saying that that wasn’t the feeling you wanted.

It dismisses criticism

Criticism is legitimate. People have a right to have opinions about your story, whether you agree with them or not. Simply dismissing all criticism with “It made you feel something” denies that what your audience feels is just as relevant as how strongly they feel it.

It is self-congratulatory at best, selfish at worst

Reacting to an audience’s complaints with “It made you feel something” is a reach-around self-compliment. Even worse is if you actually take satisfaction in your ability to make others feel bad.

It betrays a lack of belief in the merits of the story

“It made you feel something” is close kin to “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” In a social media world, creators may think that making their audience angry enough post online tirades about their work is the cheapest advertising they can get, but it is also a signal to the audience that the creators don’t care enough about their work or don’t have enough confidence in it to sell it on its own merits.

Stories often make us feel things. That is a huge part of why we read, watch, and play them. To open a book, watch a movie, or play a game is to entrust your feelings to another person for a time, and we have every right to speak up when we feel that our trust has been abused.

If what I feel about your story is hurt that you killed my favorite character, frustrated by the direction of the plot, or annoyed that you railroaded me into playing a villain, you don’t have to agree with me. You don’t have to take any account of my feelings at all if you don’t want to. But don’t waste my time with: “At least it made you feel something.”

Here endeth the rant.

Here there be opinions!

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.

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