Of Handmaidens and Cheerleaders

After Texas handed down their new draconian restrictions on abortion and the Supreme Court upheld the law (for now), the image above started making the rounds on social media. It’s funny and striking at the same time. A state that loves its symbols is having one of its most famous shrouded in a play on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale. Women without control over their body or their means of reproduction, their bodies hidden from all but those with high enough rank to have access. They have no agency, something the Texas law chips away at.

Yet, the problem with the meme is that Texas, America, the Western world isn’t like this. Shrouding the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders makes no statement because, even in the march toward Gilead, we would never allow that symbol of good, old-fashioned football and sex to be hidden behind a visual metaphor as clunky as this one.

See, we need women to be beautiful and visual, sexually available and on display. The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders represent a free spirit of healthy masculine fun, the red-blooded man’s fantasy. The new law changes none of that. The new law does not restrict men’s access to women, nor give women more agency over their bodies. The new law isn’t a step toward the type of totalitarianism in The Handmaiden’s Tale, for the female body will never be forced to be covered under true capitalism. To shroud the female form is to eliminate one of the most lucrative commodities the Western world has ever seen. Sex sells in the West, but only while you can see it.

The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders are athletes; probably underpaid performers; and one of the most enduring symbols of Texas. While the meme is worth of at least a smirk, the cynic in me understands that control over the female form already has a multitude of wardrobes, engineered for endless visual consumption.

My Demon Slayer movie review

What a crap title.

Inosuke was the reason I watched Demon Slayer in the first place. I’d come across a manga panel of him… being himself…and I thought, ‘I want to know more about that guy.’ I’ll probably go back and read the manga at some point, but I truly enjoyed the first season of the anime (even if it took a while to introduce Inosuke).

So I was truly excited to see Demon Slayer: The Movie – Mugen Train last night. Not only had I been aware of the great reception the film had and how well it was doing at the box office, it would be my triumphant return to the movies in over a year. The last film I saw, funnily enough, was My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The theater was packed and everyone cheered at the end. Last night was a bit different, only about eight people in total. 

I don’t know if it was months of hype or the fact that my Starburst Minis were stale, but I didn’t get the chills I expected. We purposefully chose the subbed version (I’m a sub snob) because I really like Hino Satoshi, the voice actor of Rengoku. I love this character, I can’t explain completely why. Is it that his fiery sense of justice is played out in his hair? His ability to see the quality of a person while not remembering their name? His googly eyes? Who knows. But I couldn’t wait to watch Daichi kick some demon ass.

===Here There May Be Spoilers===

I am used to the expository dialogue of anime, especially fighting anime, but this time it felt excessive, especially coming from Enmu, the main(?) vilain through most of the film. I’m far from watching the season, so I went back and watched the final episode as a refresher before last night’s showing. I wondered how much of Enmu’s simpering vocal style I’d have to endure in the movie, and it was a lot more than I thought. For the his entire span on screen he was emoting and explaining to the point of distraction. Even at the end, his final moments of disintegration, we were subject to his internal monologue and I wondered why. I felt little to no satisfaction in his dying, only in Tanjiro and Inosuke’s success in killing him. Enmu was a non-entity for me, just something for the main characters to aim at. 

This is the lesson where your villains need to have some trait for the audience to connect to. 

Just as the last ashes of Enmu fade away, I was left wondering if that was all. Where was the big battle scene? When would the stakes be raised? Welp, let me introduce you to Akaza, an upper-tier demon that decided to show up about thirty seconds after his silhouette foreshadowed his presence and then boom. FIGHT! 

Akaza would have been more exciting had I not just finished season 1 of Jujitsu Kaisen who’s king of curses, Sukuna, Akaza felt like a pale imitation of. His showing up at the final turn of the film, calling out Rengoku felt tacked on. I left thinking the movie needed Rengoku to die and Enmu wasn’t powerful enough to do the job.

The animation and sound design were wonderful. My friend and I agreed that the whole dream plot line was the most interesting part, particularly Tanjiro’s method of breaking out of his dream (and how it almost backfired.) There was just enough Zenitsu and almost enough Inosuke. And those scenes with Tanjiro’s family, I felt like Sukuna had ripped out my heart, not Itadori’s. (Mixing my anime again, sorry). Ugh.

Overall, though, I left feeling a bit flat. I still love the story and the characters, but I didn’t cry for Rengoku like the characters did. To be fair, I didn’t spend enough time with him, and to be honest, neither did they. The sadness felt forced and Rengoku deserved better.