Connect with us

Comics

20 Years Later: ‘Chasing Amy’ is a Nice Try for a Straight Guy

Published

on

Chasing-Amy-Movie-Wallpapers

In April 1997, a little indie movie that opened with comic book art (a full three years before X-Men) was released in three theatres.  Featuring a lead actor who would win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting the next year, and then go on to play both Daredevil and Batman, Chasing Amy was only made for $250,000. It ended up grossing 48 times that, won two Independent Spirit Awards, and garnered a nomination for a Best Actress Golden Globe for Joey Lauren Adams. Not bad for a film about a cartoonist named Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck),who has found commercial success as co-creator of the popular dick and fart joke filled Bluntman and Chronic superhero comic with his homophobic, irascible best friend Banky Edwards (Jason Lee). Holden ends up falling for a lesbian comics creator named Alyssa Jones (Adams), and against all odds, they have a romantic relationship. However, things don’t end up going well when Holden can’t come to terms with Alyssa’s sexual past.

Chasing Amy is easily writer/director Kevin Smith’s most personal film, and its central romance plot was based on his previous romantic relationship with Adams, as well as his inability to come to terms with her past. So, the scene where Smith gives his longest ever Silent Bob monologue is basically him lecturing a past version of himself that happens to be played by a teary-eyed Ben Affleck. There are other parallels, like Holden lamenting the fact that he wants to do more meaningful comics work than weed-themed superheroes, just like Kevin Smith wasn’t feeling so hot after he made the studio film Mallrats, which was critically-panned and barely made back one-third of its budget.

One thing that was pretty revolutionary for this 1997 film was its inclusion of well-crafted lesbian and gay characters in Alyssa and the African-American cartoonist Hooper X (Dwight Ewell), who is the creator of White Hating Coon (and definitely thinks Archie and Jughead were gay lovers). Also, neither Alyssa nor Hooper die or suffer any great tragedy. Especially in comedies, I think an LGBTQ character is well-represented when they are making the jokes and not just the butt of jokes. In fact, Hooper gets to be the leading light in one of Kevin Smith’s funniest scenes, period (the infamous “37 dicks” conversation in Clerks is pretty close), where he goes on a rant about how the Star Wars trilogy is Nazi propaganda, then ends up pulling a gun and yelling “Black rage!” as the audience (Sans Holden, Banky, and Alyssa, who are in on the joke) flees the Minority in Comics Panel. Then, without skipping a beat, he returns to his usual, stereotypically gay affect, and pokes fun at Banky asking, “What’s a Nubian?” Like Jeff Anderson in Clerks or Jason Mewes in, well, everything, Ewell has a real knack for delivering Smith’s filthy, pop culture-infused, everyman-philosopher dialogue. He can go from delivering a monologue about how (straight) men think that they always have to be pioneers when it comes to sex, to losing his mind over a Yanni CD. It’s a pity Ewell’s only other appearance in a Kevin Smith film was a funny cameo in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, where it’s implied that he and Banky are sexual partners (and that he hasn’t appeared in a film or TV episode since 2011)

Chasing Amy is filled with pejorative references to lesbians as “dykes,” hating men, and – in one of many cringe-worthy lines from Banky, while he and Holden are waiting to pitch Bluntman and Chronic to a couple of film execs played by Matt Damon and Brian O’Halloran (Dante in Clerks) – even just needing “a good deep-dicking.” Still, Alyssa herself is probably the most well-rounded character in the film, and holds her own in both the comedic and dramatic parts. The moment that most likely earned Adams her Golden Globe nomination is Alyssa’s song “Alive,” that captures her depth of feeling in singer-songwriter ballad form, even though it’s directed toward a woman she is attracted to and not Holden at that point in the film. This passion translates to later in the movie, such as when she tells Holden that she loves him after he suggests that they have a threesome with Banky to “fix” their relationship.

Adams can do funny as well, and engages in a fast-paced tete-a-tete/Jaws homage with Jason Lee, as Alyssa and Banky compare “sexual scars” while Holden basically sits there, open-mouthed. They sell these insane moments – including Banky relating a story about losing range of motion in his neck when an angry father pulled the then-teenage tracer off his daughter – through their vocal inflection and hand motions alone (the “flashbacks” themselves definitely show that Chasing Amy was made for next to nothing). Even though Banky spends most of the film being antagonistic towards Alyssa for basically stealing his best friend, Smith gives them a shared moment in this hilarious scene to show that if the situation was different (or if Banky wasn’t as close-minded), they could have been drinking buddies or something.

Alyssa and Hooper are fantastic characters, but almost every other line of dialogue in Chasing Amy has some sort of homophobic slur. The constant questions about how lesbians have sex definitely betrays Holden and Banky’s ignorance as mere Catholic boys from suburban New Jersey (like Kevin Smith himself). In a friendly chat on a swing set, Alyssa basically reveals that Holden’s definition of sex is that it’s a synonym for penetration. He and Alyssa are definitely friends, as shown by several montages of them enjoying the Jersey life, including skee ball on the Shore, haggling for a painting hanging up in a diner, playing an NHL video game on the Sega (because it wouldn’t be a Kevin Smith film without hockey), comic books, Star Wars references, and dick jokes. However, his line of questioning betrays his straight privilege, as Holden feels entitled to an explanation from Alyssa about why she is attracted to women, and what she does with them. Being a quick wit, she turns the tables on Holden and asks, “Why girls?”

Throughout Chasing Amy, Alyssa is constantly on the defensive from Holden and Banky’s interrogations about being a lesbian, and on the flip side, she also has to disguise Holden’s gender when talking to her lesbian cartoonist friends, until one of them sees through her “pronoun game,” and they slowly lift wine glasses like they’re at a wake (because apparently bisexual and pansexual people don’t exist in the View Askewniverse). The fact that a homophobic superhero inker from New Jersey and a lesbian slice of life comic aficionado believe that straight and gay/lesbian are the only two ways you can swing hints at Smith thinking like this in the late-1990s. At least, however, he didn’t portray Alyssa as a psychopathic bisexual killer, like Sharon Stone’s character in Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct (1992).

Chasing Amy has a painfully dualistic view of sexuality, and that is probably its biggest problem. You’re either gay/lesbian or straight, and there is no room for fluidity without judgment from your friends. No one in Chasing Amy, including the “sexually enlightened” Alyssa, Hooper, and Alyssa’s lesbian cartoonist friends, mentions or acknowledges the existence of bisexuality or pansexuality in the film, even though it would likely solve some of the relationship tension between Holden, Alyssa, and Banky. A simple “I’m mostly attracted to women, but have had sex with guys in the past and am occasionally attracted to them now” could have solved the Gordian knot of a monologue that Holden delivers about having a threesome with Banky and Alyssa to strengthen their relationship. Banky and Alyssa don’t agree on a lot of things, but they do agree that this would be a terrible idea, because sometimes sexual and emotional intimacy aren’t the same thing. The chief conflict of Chasing Amy is Holden’s inability to come to terms with Alyssa’s past sex life, especially that she has slept with men, and his lack of empathy and openness towards her past choices and current sexuality is why he ends up being a “morose motherfucker” towards the end of the film.

I have been pretty harsh with the Chasing Amy characters Holden and Banky, and for good reason. They represent a world view that “straight” is synonymous with “default,” and that being attracted to or doing sexual things with the same gender is a kind of deviant behavior, even if most people aren’t pulling a Westboro Baptist Church and protesting against LGBTQ people in the streets with signs. However, even though the plot and ideas of Chasing Amy are based on his real-life experiences, the views of Holden McNeil aren’t synonymous with Kevin Smith’s. Holden’s arc in Chasing Amy is a painful learning experience with consequences, as he chooses to basically slut shame the woman he loves, and ends up ruining his relationship with her and his creative partner. Unlike in the opening Comic-con scene, the ending one shows that Holden, Banky, and Alyssa aren’t all buddy-buddy, despite exchanging long, if still-friendly glances across the show floor. They’ve all taken separate paths in life, but Holden seems to have learned from his mishaps, and offers an autobiographical comic titled Chasing Amy as a kind of apology. He has screwed up his life, but also found a way to make soul-searching art out of it, so the film really has a bittersweet ending.

Even though it has ignorant and dated ideas on LGBTQ people and sexuality as a whole, Chasing Amy is refreshing as a romantic comedy because it doesn’t have a tacked-on happy ending, and has characters face the consequences of their actions. Holden behaves boorishly toward Banky and Alyssa in the threesome scene, and thus his friendship and romantic relationship with them ends. Silent Bob’s famous speech at the end drives home this idea, as he realizes that he has lost a shot at love with “Amy” because of his foolishness and slut shaming, just like Holden has with Alyssa. Along with his 1999 fantasy comedy DogmaChasing Amy is one of Kevin Smith’s high water marks as a filmmaker, as he wrestles with questions of love and faith in a way his subsequent films (with the exception of the non-View Askew Red State) wouldn’t, something which is kind of unfortunate, as Smith has gone from laying out his personal failings and struggles bare on the page and screen to making a movie that is the same Canadian joke over and over again, shilling for the amorphous blob that is “geek culture,” and directing okay episodes of the CW’s superhero shows.

By day, Logan is a data entry administrator in Louisville, home of the Kentucky Derby. But when he has free time, he enjoys writing about his favorite comics, movies, and TV shows. He also interviewed a vampire once and cries about the future of the L.A. Lakers at least once a day. Logan will watch, read, or listen to anything by Joss Whedon, Neil Gaiman, Edgar Wright, Damon Albarn,Donald Glover, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, Gerard Way, Grant Morrison, Kieron Gillen, St Vincent, and Black Mask Studios so you should ask him about those things on his Twitter. (https://twitter.com/MidnighterBae)

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comics

‘Ruins Of The Empire’ is The True Followup to ‘The Legend Of Korra’

The Legend of Korra continues the second Team Avatar’s adventures through an ongoing follow-up comic book series in collaboration with Dark Horse Comics…

Published

on

Ruins of The Empire

For every fan of The Legend of Korra, ‘Ruins of The Empire’ is a must-read.

Over five years ago, Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra ended with its fourth and final book ‘Balance.’ As Korra and Asami ventured off together into the spirit world, it was obvious that the journey may have concluded on the small screen- or rather on the network’s website after being yanked off the air- but series co-creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko were likely not going to allow their narrative to come to an indefinite close. In the same fashion as its predecessor Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra continues the second Team Avatar’s adventures through an ongoing follow-up comic book series in collaboration with Dark Horse Comics.

I probably do not have to tell you this, but Dark Horse Comics has had an overall strong history with the Avatar universe. The Avatar: The Last Airbender comics from over the course of almost the last decade are nothing short of exceptional and are the next best thing for those wanting to see more of Aang and the gang. While they certainly may not always be able to achieve the best aspects of the show we grew up with due to the limited medium it has been adapted into, each arc published has both visually and textually felt like a direct follow-up to the original series in many regards with even some comics such as Team Avatar Tales filling in fun gaps during the show’s continuity. They are faithful sequels- or rather prequels in Korra’s case as the comics do connect the two shows- that every major fan of this franchise will tell you are well worth your time if you are just dying for more stories from the world of the four nations.

That being said, once The Legend of Korra was set to hit store shelves in its newly adopted format it seemed like another guaranteed hit was on the line for Nickelodeon and Dark Horse. The Legend of Korra’s first comic story arc Turf Wars, however, was not the followup most fans wanted from this show. It was undoubtedly a comic series that fans expected a lot more from as the post-Earth Empire world had tons of narrative points to explore. I’m certainly not in the minority when I say that Turf Wars was a trilogy that let me down due to its story’s focal point. Turf Wars often falls flat as it treads on a narrow line attempting to fill a justified relationship rather than focusing on telling a story well suited to the established mythologies of Avatar and Korra. The new villains that you could not sympathize with or even just enjoy for a three-book story, some odd character dialogue, questionable decisions to help move the plot forward, and ignored consequences of the show’s finale did not help the reception of these books from fans either. It is certainly a story with substantial themes and moments, but it is not what you would want from a followup tale to Book 4’s incredible closing moments.

The Legend of Korra had so much more to tell with its story that was not being explored in the comics- or at least with its first run. The writers have listened though and they have gotten themselves back on track with their newest series Ruins Of The Empire. This comic series is exactly what fans of this show wanted since the last episode aired. Not only is it the best Legend Of Korra comic so far, but it might just also be one of the best Avatar franchise comics currently available. In the same way that The Promise and The Search were real followups with answers to questions posed in Avatar: The Last Airbender’s finale, the latest story arc in The Legend of Korra’s post-finale is exactly that. Ruins Of The Empire not only explores the transition into the Earth Kingdom’s attempt at establishing a democratic system of government, but it smartly highlights the shaky aftermath of Kuvira’s surrender from both character and worldbuilding standpoints as those who hailed the great uniter quickly fell into organized chaos.

Right off the bat, the story of Ruins Of The Empire is not spotlighting one character relationship or slowly building up a new villain that is set to be dismissed with no real consequences. Korra and Asami’s lover dynamic is explored in this story arc but more appropriately in a blended storytelling fashion comparable to the source material. It unfolds exactly as you would expect an episode of the show to play out- not forced or made plot-driving as what had previously been mistakingly done. It is now implemented as something on the sidelines that has a dangerous toll on the narrative which ultimately leads to character decisions that have real consequences. Turf Wars chose to ignore the entirety of the Beifong family and the collapsing Earth Empire, despite the fact that those two subjects practically revolve around every plot point you would expect a followup of the finale to explore. The shift in focus inevitably makes for a properly developed story that is able to draw a spotlight on several subjects.

It is not just the narrative that has been correctly altered either. When it comes to the way in which the cast talks with one another and the overall look of the book, everything feels properly adjusted. For one, each character is actually here this time around and not blatantly missing. Michael Dante DiMartino really stepped up his game with Ruins of The Empire’s script that aims to draw closure with the show. It is not perfect, but it is a major step up that pushes the narrative forward rather than being stuck in still water. The questions you probably had about where characters went after the finale are tackled here. Everyone is overall done justice. As I said previously, the Avatar comics were written as well as if you could hear the characters talking and the same can be said here. If you had not read what was going on in the photo above, have a look again here below!

Ruins Of The Empire feels more akin to its source material than its predecessor run thanks to more so the art then its speech though. The art quality jump between the two is unmistakable- beyond noticeable when put side by side. It is a massive improvement that needless to say has already enhanced the post-television comic run and given it back the life it needed. Turf Wars’s covers are a complete deception to what lies inside each graphic novel. While the face value may look as appealing as the television show, adopters will quickly realize Irene Koh’s art lacked character details, expressions, and even backgrounds. It accumulated into an experience that felt more like a fan project than something from the original creators. Koh’s artwork was unbearable by any means, but it never hit a certain point of quality fans expect- especially from Dark Horse Comics, and at times it shamefully felt thematically disconnected with the Avatar universe.

The new runner-up artist Michelle Wong has done a fantastic job adapting Korra into the comic book medium. Wong’s work is miles ahead of everything Koh previously drew in Korra’s first Dark Horse outing. The jump in improvement artistically is undoubtfully perceptible based on a mere first glance at the two. Every character here feels more animated, the action is more engaging to look at, and the backgrounds are no longer completely flat and detailless. Wong deserves serious credit for her work on these books. Her dedication to the source material is something that generally falls behind in other television to comic adaptations, but she did the absolute best she can do here. The fact that she personally went out of her way and rewatched the entire series before starting to draw the artwork for this story arc just shows her dedication and care for the fans. Wong has successfully made this comic run feel as if you are watching the show again, something Turf Wars should have achieved first.

For those interested in reading the complete set of Ruins Of The Empire, Dark Horse Comics will be releasing a hardcover library edition of the full story arc on September 22nd. If you are dying in reading Korra’s latest story now, however, you can go ahead and grab volumes one through three separately in either a digital or softcover format today. For any fan of The Legend of Korra, it is without a doubt well-worth your time and money. After your television binge of both Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, you will not be disappointed with this story.

Continue Reading

Comics

Ghosts and More in this Year’s Hellboy Winter Special

Published

on

Hellboy Winter Special

Before spring arrives, there’s still time to cozy up with the latest Hellboy Winter Special, a single anthology issue of three supernatural tales. The eponymous demonic-looking investigator features in only one story, and it’s the strongest in the collection. However, the remaining tales satisfy with their own glimpse at the occult world Hellboy inhabits.

The anthology issue opens with Hellboy’s story, “The Miser’s Gift.” Hellboy creator Mike Mignola is back to write another tale for his iconic hero, crafting a solid short story. Hellboy is a warmly familiar presence while he helps out a guy with a ghostly problem. The paranormal investigator subtly shows his depth of character as he intervenes, ranging from his matter-of-fact attitude in the face of weirdness to his ever-present undercurrent of kindness, particularly demonstrated when he tries to initially talk down the spirit causing the problem. The other characters serve their purpose, with brief glimpses of nuance. The man Hellboy helps show a nice mix of mild and genuine, and the ghost ends up with a heavy sense of melancholy that feels like a consequence of a greed-filled life. The most paper-thin character is the professor, but he moves things along with exposition well enough, and even winds up as a morbid punchline in the end. Regardless of one character’s fate, the whole cast ultimately shares a story of compassion and goodwill winning out over greed, fitting the ideal spirit of the holidays.  

Excerpt from "The Miser’s Gift" in the Hellboy Winter Special.
Hellboy gets a new case in “The Miser’s Gift.” (Writer: Mike Mignola, Artist: Mark Laszlo, Colorist: Dave Stewart.)

While Mignola writes for Hellboy again, Mark Laszlo takes care of the art this time. Mignola’s stylized and shadowy drawing for Hellboy is unquestionably the signature look of his creation, but Laszlo’s illustration is wonderful in a different way. Laszlo’s lines feel looser and sketchier, creating a warmer tone. Dave Stewart’s colors bring extra warmth, and are used to distinguish between flashbacks, the characters’ present in the ‘80s, and even past worlds literally encroaching on 1989 Budapest. Laszlo’s art helps with the border between worlds, warping the ghostly city while the buildings of 1989 are more straight. Altogether the art does feel like a good match for a winter special and a perfect fit for Mignola’s story. Laszlo and Stewart’s work even feels a little reminiscent of Peter de Sève’s illustration.

Though the remaining two stories don’t feature Hellboy, they feature other characters found in his world: fellow paranormal investigator Sarah Jewell and the Knights of St. Hagan. Jewell’s story, “The Longest Night,” is a paranormal riff on murder-mysteries that starts in media res and goes straight to figuring out the culprit. But this is a murder-mystery operating in Hellboy’s world, and even if he’s not around to carry out justice, it feels fitting that another supernatural being takes care of things—though far more viciously. Overseeing all of this is Jewell herself, whose character gets the most time to shine with masterful grace and perceptiveness.

The anthology concludes with “The Beast of Ingelheim,” arguably the weakest tale in the collection. It’s a vague and ambiguous little thing featuring the Knights of St. Hagan that may mean more to someone who knows the full continuity of Hellboy, but isn’t as accessible as the previous stories for new readers. However, towards the end, its ambiguity seems to transform into something a little more intriguing due to a twist and the realization that the ending leaves with a question—did the narrator spare or take a life?

Excerpt from "The Longest Night" in the Hellboy Winter Special.
A swift and brutal karmic payback strikes in “The Longest Night.” (Writer: Chris Roberson, Artist: Leila Del Duca, Colorist: Michelle Madsen.)

After debuting in 2016, the seasonal series is still going strong today. With a classic Hellboy vibe, a mix of murderers devoured by paranormal creatures, and self-proclaimed holy warriors chasing shadows in the woods, this year’s Hellboy Winter Special is a nice collection of stories to peruse.

Cover for Hellboy Winter Special.
Continue Reading

Blog

‘Avengers: Endgame’ and the Golden Easter Egg

Published

on

Aki- hiko Avengers Endgame Easter Eggs

Let’s Talk About Hiroyuki Sanada

With Deadpool 3, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness coming soon, everything is taking shape for the introduction of mutants into the MCU, yet there is one Easter egg left un-cracked from Avengers: End Game that could show how mutants have been a part of the world this entire time… enter Hiroyuki Sanada. 

During the brief scene where we catch Clint Barton, Jeremy Renner, on a murderous rampage, we found he has retired Hawkeye and taken up the mantle of Ronin. Clearly distressed about what the Yakuza have been doing and the fact that they were spared from the snap, Ronin makes quick work of all the goons, except for one, Aki- hiko (Hiroyuki Sanada). The only real take away from their brief exchange of dialogue is that Clint is as much of a villain from his new murderous persona, setting him up for his character’s arc later in the movie. But the question people have ignored has been left without a real answer, who is Akihiko and why would Marvel put him in the highest-grossing movie ever made for such a small role? 

So, who is Akihiko? Put simply, Akihiko is a nobody scientist who works for the Yakuza used in one issue, Nick Fury #7 from 2017, written by James Robinson. The plot is simple, Nick Fury Jr. goes to the moon to chase down some of the Yakuza’s Shogun Reapers, which are led by Akihiko. They are planning to finish building a cannon that can control Earth’s plate tectonics from their lunar base. On the moon’s surface, the Yakuza are piloting their War Machine like suits, the Shogun Mechas. Fury chases down the Yakuza and takes control of Akihiko’s Mecha forcing him to fire a ray at a room that decompressed it and everyone in it, Akihiko included. A tried and true, one and done issue threat. 

The question of who was Akihiko is a simple answer. Not so much the latter of why Marvel would use this character out of their endless sandbox of villains. Taking a look at the first appearance of Ronin in New Avengers #11, written by Brian Micheal Bendis, the answer may be revealed. 

The basic plot of Ronin’s first story goes like this. The hero is in Japan on the trail of the Silver Samurai who the shadowy gang we’ve seen in Daredevil and the Defenders, both on Netflix, has just sprung free along with 40 other prisoners from the government’s water jail, the Raft. The jailbreak was orchestrated by Viper, and an agent seeking to take control of the splintered and leaderless Hydra. The Japanese Yashida clan is in a similar state as Hydra with their leader, the Silver Samurai away from his duties. Viper uses the opportunity to mend rifts and create a more international alliance in organized crime. 

Backtracking to the news that Ryan Reynolds will be returning as Deadpool for the MCU confirms that at least some of the Fox X-Men franchise will be part of it as well. This puts Hiroyuki Sanada in a very good position to branch worlds considering he not only played Akihiko in Endgame but also Shingen Yashida, the Silver Samurai, in The Wolverine

Ronin Marvel Avengers

A rewatch of The Wolverine with this information fresh in memory is very telling. It includes almost all the characters of Ronin’s first appearance including the Yakuza and Viper herself. After Days of Future Past, the events of the movie would have been rewritten and these characters would still be alive. In the movie, Shingen’s father had the family company on the verge of bankruptcy and without Logan coming to Japan it very well could have happened. Shingen was ashamed of his father and wanted to distance himself from this legacy. Adding this to the fact that he already had Yakuza gang ties in the movie, it’s not a far reach to think he could have changed his identity to Akihiko and went on to pursue the sciences his family’s company started with them. 

This holds especially true when you compare these two pictures. On one side is the Silver Samurai suit from The Wolverine. The other is taken from Nick Fury #7, Akihiko’s Shogun Mecha suit. 

Marvel is known for hiding details from fans to set up future movies and this tiny Endgame moment is a perfect storm. It bridges worlds and further expands on the multi-verse and alternate timelines bringing the Silver Samurai to the universe connecting the X-Men and their gallery of villains. It sets up Viper looking to head Hydra, which very coincidently is who was head of the organization in the comic books when Sam Wilson took up the mantle of Captain America. The prisoners, broken free from the Raft, could easily include members of the Sinister Six for the next Spiderman installment. The ramifications are massive and if true would be a brilliant and believable future for the MCU. 

  • Andrew Smith 
Continue Reading

We update daily. Support our site by simply following us on Twitter and Facebook

Facebook

Trending