Thursday, January 3, 2019

Hi, I want to talk about Aquaman

No, not that version of Aquaman. The new one. The one with Jason Momoa. I'm just a sucker for corny cartoons from the 80s.

I'm also a bisexual, neuroatypical, cis-identified female who found a lot of representation in the new Aquaman. And 2 things I would change. (Only 2! Not 3. It's a Christmas miracle, everybody.) Here's the bullet points. (Also, spoilers I guess if you're worried about that.)


  • When dad meets mom for the first time, she's just jumped out of the ocean to escape an arranged marriage in Atlantis. Why can she breathe above water when later in the movie royal guards suck air when the seal on their water-suits is broken? We're not worried about that now. What I want to focus on is how little she understands about the surface, and how dad slows everything down to help make her more comfortable. Altruism at it's finest. I appreciated how dad was clearly interested romantically, but her needs were tantamount. Dress her wounds, give her a blanket, let her get some rest. And then he serves her tea when she wakes up. Brilliant. Milder than coffee, but a level up from water. (I'd imagine the process of explaining tea leaves would be easier than explaining coffee grounds.) She's from the water, that's familiar to her. He's acknowledging and respecting her aquatic awareness, while at the same time introducing her to land.
  • Little grade-school Aquaman is on a field trip to the aquarium. I assume he's actually been invited to come along on this trip, unlike Harry Potter, who was a pity invite to the zoo. But then it turned out HP could talk to snakes! Aquaman can't talk to snakes, at least not that we're shown in this movie. Maybe only if they're underwater snakes. A quick Google doesn't clear anything up. (Bless you, online nerd community. Never change.) He can talk to sharks, though. And that shark is pissed those other kids are being mean to lil' Aquaman! I liked this scene because the shark doesn't physically hurt anyone. (That cracked aquarium glass is going to be expensive to repair, though.) It's a good analogy for kids seeing this movie that they can rely on their internal strength in moments of hardship. (But if somebody comes at you with a freaking bug helmet that shoots lasers? Then punch.)
  • There are at least two examples of characters in the movie being very direct and clear about how they would like to be addressed. "It's AquaMAN." Also Princess Too-Many-Names a.k.a the one that is basically Ariel. She has a "but you can call me Mera" line. I can't remember her line exactly, but it was really nice to see representation of people defining for themselves what they'd like to be called by others.
  • The whole darn movie is rife with allusions to chosen family vs. biological family. And neither winds up being portrayed as significantly better or worse than the other at the end. Put a giant acceptance rainbow over your daughter's marriage boat, King Trident. (I know that's the other queer-oriented underwater adventure. The correlation stands.) I'd also like to take a moment to applaud a vizier who was serving "too smart for this shit" vibes the entire movie, but then didn't turn out to be evil.


  • There's a scene where Mera is piloting the...I don't know what to call it. It's like a combination submarine/spaceship. It's designed to look like a sea creature. Anyway. It's the get-away vehicle after Jason Momoa gets done punching out all the bad guys under the sea. And when she pulls up, she asks, "what are you waiting for? An invitation?" Something along those lines. Like, "hey, I'm here to get you away from these bad guys. You're clearly outnumbered. Get into this combination submarine/spaceship before they kill you." I wish, in that moment, that Jason Momoa had taken a beat to shrug. To say, "yes, I was waiting for you to invite me in." Vampire rules = enthusiastic consent.
  • This last one is something I find irritating in media generally. It's been mentioned before. If you're looking for a Superhero movie where the protagonist doesn't get together romantically with the person they've been sarcastically bantering with throughout the film, I recommend Into the Spider-Verse. (We will suspend for a later date all discussion of how Miles Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy are technically the same person, so it would be weird for them to be a couple.) It's a trope I can trace back, and instances where the two leads don't get together romantically is rare. Which is not to say romance in and of itself is problematic. What's problematic is the notion that if people have overlapping interests and similar senses of humor, that must mean they're going to dramatically embrace at some point in the future. Or that they've got some form of intimate connection that can't be matched by any other. It's okay to just be friends, dear reader. And it's okay to have many people in your life who you share sarcastic banter with, without any obligation past that.

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