Posts Tagged ‘Voltron’

Voltron and Problematic Characterization

Since we seem to be on a characterization kick, why stop now?

The small, mobile one likes robots, so while ditzing around seeing what was available in the cartoon robot department on Amazon Prime, we discovered Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar, Voltron was a mid-80s port of a Japanese show called GoLion, I believe, about five robot lions that can combine to form a giant “people robot,” as the small one would say, whose purpose is in theory is to defend the galaxy, though he spends most of his time defending Planet Arus, which the bad guy is unfathomably interested in and so spends a lot of his resources on, for whatever reason.

(This is not to be confused with a new TV show called Voltron Force, which I know nothing about except it’s some sort of modern take on Voltron.)

Now, Voltron used to be on Cartoon Network back before CN started to make its own shows, and I used to watch it, because one of my online RPing friends was obsessed, and had a Star Trek/Voltron crossover RP I would occasionally do with him. So, going into watching this with the small one, I had fond memories of the show.

But when we actually started to watch it, I was kind of horrified. Yes, in general it’s a shining example of a lot of the terrible tropes 80s cartoons tended to have. But I was especially upset with the treatment of the single female on the show, Princess Allura.

Original Voltron Force

(Guess which one she is?) From voltron.wikia.com

Beyond being the token female in pink, she’s supposed to be the leader of Planet Arus. But the other characters don’t think much of her at all, despite the fact that she’s continuously trying to learn new things or be responsible, efforts that are constantly shut down by her male companions, either her advisor or the other members of the Voltron Force. There’s a scene early on when her old governess returns to the castle, flips the princess over her knee, and spanks her in front of everyone else. And everyone else laughs.

My husband doesn’t want the small one watching Voltron anymore because he thinks it’s too violent. I don’t want him watching anymore because wow, what a horrid way to treat someone.

I will admit that this is not a new form of characterization, the ruler that they won’t let rule, because it’s too dangerous or they want them to appear incompetent or whatever. But coupled with the constant derision of the other characters, and the humiliation that seems heaped on the character, it’s really unfortunate. And that she’s the only female main character on the show–that’s not going to teach the small one anything about respecting people, especially women.

And it’s too bad, because if you look at Allura without her male companions, she’s pretty great. She’s been isolated in an attempt to protect her, but she wants to learn and protect her people, and is willing to do whatever’s necessary. But when you add in everyone else, she’s just a giant joke, the woman who won’t get in her place and let the men do things.

Oy.

The lesson here may be not to revisit shows from your childhood. Or it might be that, if you only have one woman on the show, not to treat her like crap.

Have you watched any shows or movies recently, Squiders, that you used to like but couldn’t get over some aspect of now?

How Reading Order Influences

So, last weekend, I was talking to a random person about scifi and fantasy authors, comparing things we’d read and suggesting new people and the like, and we had the following exchange.

Guy> Oh, {author} is like Philip K. Dick.

Kit> Ah! I like Philip K. Dick.

Guy> I find him highly derivative.

Kit> Really?

And he went on to say that he’d started with a lot of science fiction from the 1910s and 20s, which were a major influence on Philip K. Dick. Whereas Philip K. Dick was some of the first short scifi I read, so it read more original to me.

And that got me to thinking–each of us are directly influenced by the order we consume media in. The fact of the matter is that a lot of books (TV shows, movies, comics, etc.) are similar to other books (…etc.). And our perception of what came first or what is derived from something else is often directly based on the order we consume things in.

Let’s look at Power Rangers and Voltron, for example. Both involve a team of people who wear color-coded jumpsuits. Both involve aliens and robots and swords. Voltron technically came first, being an anime released in the mid-80s, but if you were a kid who watched Power Rangers and then found Voltron later, you’d say to yourself, “Oh, this is just like Power Rangers.” Never mind that it’s the other way around. You found Power Rangers first, and so Voltron seems derivative, even if intellectually you know it came first.

Another example of this is when some novel gets big and attracts readers that don’t normally read that genre. You get a ton of people who heap praises on that novel without knowing that it’s standard (or, in some cases, substandard) for that genre of novel. I’m going to use the Hunger Games as an example here. (Now, to clarify, I liked the first two books–and I think we talked about why the third was bad here, but if not, I will,  but it’s a good example of people reading genres they don’t normally.) I think we can all agree that the Hunger Games as a series brings nothing new to the dystopia genre. Yet, for people who were new to the genre and its tropes, it was amazing.

So, sure, you can sit there and say “Well, Battle Royale did the kids killing other kids thing first” but for people who started with the Hunger Games, that doesn’t matter. They didn’t experience things in that order.

What do you think, Squiders? Do you agree with me? Do you find that you compare things to what you experienced first, or are you able to separate things out intellectually?