TFW Bumi Talks to His Dad’s Statue

Let’s talk about one of the best scenes in The Legend of Korra

I wrote a couple weeks ago that one of the reasons that The Legend of Korra is not as great as Avatar: The Last Airbender is that it does not have as many indelible achievements. For instance, ATLA has a character arc like Zuko’s, a villain like Azula, episodes like Zuko Alone, and moments like the “crazy spirit attack on the Fire Nation,” Iroh’s funeral for his son, and the final Agni Kai[1]. There are so many characters, episodes, scenes, musical cues, and images that are breathtaking. Korra simply doesn’t have as many, but that’s not to say there are none. Let’s talk about one of them today, a particular scene that is emotionally devastating and a meta-textual masterpiece.

In Book 2, Episode 4, Civil Wars: Part 2, Tenzin is visiting the Southern Air Temple with his family, including his older sister, Kya, and his older brother, Bumi. During their stay, Tenzin’s daughter, Ikki, has some sibling conflict with Jinora and and Meelo, and the search for Ikki after she goes off to be alone brings up tensions between Tenzin and his own siblings. One of the main points of contention is the ways in which Kya and Bumi felt that Aang favored Tenzin because he was the only airbender of his children.

The scene occurs when Bumi goes on his own into a hall in the temple with statues of all the past Avatars, and he stands in front of the statue of his father. The rambunctious music of the previous scene cuts out, and Bumi stands in the shadowy hall, a shaft of light illuminating Aang’s statue.

“Uh, hey there, Dad. You’re looking well. Look, uh, I’m sorry I didn’t turn out to be an airbender like you hoped. But I’ve tried my best to keep the world safe. Hope I made you proud.”

One of the most important missions of Aang’s time as Avatar was to re-establish the Air Nomad civilization, of which he was the sole surviving member. In addition to training acolytes and repopulating the temples, he would need to produce, with his eventual wife, Katara, a child who could airbend. With that in mind, it’s not too much to say that the first-born child of Aang and Katara would be the most important child in the history of the Avatar universe. Everyone would want to know if there was a future for airbending, no one more than the titular Last Airbender.

Bumi, named after one of Aang’s best friends, was born. And he was not an airbender. To add insult to injury, he wasn’t a bender of any kind. From a young age, Bumi had to know that even if he wasn’t a disappointment, the fact that he wasn’t an airbender was. A few years later, after Kya, a waterbender like her mother, was born, Aang finally got his airbending son, Tenzin. So not only was Bumi not an airbender and the hope for a future of Air Nomad civilization, it was his little brother, the youngest child.

“I’m sorry I didn’t turn out to be an airbender like you hoped.”

Damn.

Aang looms large over the first season of Korra with references to him and his legacy coming early and often and embodied quite literally in the Statue of Liberty-esque monument outside of Republic City. In the first season, that shadow falls most heavily on Korra, and later we will see its weight on Tenzin, but in this moment the focus is squarely on Bumi. Even the world’s best father would have had a hard time making Bumi feel like he wasn’t a disappointment, and, as we learn, Aang was far from a perfect father[2].

But I’ve tried my best to keep the world safe. Hope I made you proud.”

It’s no wonder Bumi joined the United Forces and rose to the rank of Commander. Unable to fulfill his father’s hopes as an airbender, he stuck to the mission of keeping the world safe which so occupied Aang’s time and effort. And, while he embellishes tales of his heroics with an extra typhoon or two, it’s obvious that he must have showed real bravery and determination. For all his jokes and goofs, his motivations were serious, and after a career in the military, he hopes that his service made his father proud.

“Of course he’d be proud of you, Bumi,” says Kya. It’s a tender moment between the brother and sister, and a moment which allows them to make up with Tenzin when they are reunited after finding Ikki.

It’s a brief, but emotionally-riveting scene. It got me again on rewatch, even after I’ve seen it a number of times and thought a lot about it, which is one of the measures of great art.

The scene is also a fascinating metatextual moment. Korra can only ever exist in the shadow of ATLA, and so it was an is scrutinized in the way that follow-ups to beloved shows and movies are. It’s as if in this moment, standing in front of the image of The Last Airbender himself, Bumi is speaking for the showrunners as they hope to make their fans proud. Korra is, in many ways, its own thing and its own thing on purpose, but it can never get too far away from its predecessor. That had to be stressful for the creators, and they had to desperately hope that fans would approve of the work they did. At no point in Korra is the fourth wall broken in quite the same way, and here it is done subtly, as opposed to the overt (yet genius) break in ATLA‘s Ember Island Players.

The high points in Korra are fewer and not as impressive as in ATLA, but there is still much to praise[3]. This scene is a marvel, and one of the many reasons I’m glad Korra exists and is now more accessible than ever. Aang would be proud.

Hold onto moments like this when you learn that DiMartino and Konietzko have departed the production of the live action Netflix adaptation.

Forth now, and fear no darkness.

Soli Deo Gloria

-Peter

Notes

~click the number to return to the text~

1 When my brother and I rewatched the Final Agni Kai most recently, he just said, “Whoever made that the way it is deserves a prize.” Yep. Also my examples here skew heavy towards Fire Nation characters. Don’t get me wrong, I love so much in this show, but you could make a case that Zuko, Azula, and Iroh are the three best characters in the show.

2 Okay, but real talk how could a responsible Avatar really be an attentive father? Pretty demanding job there.

3 A couple notes on Korra real quick. First, the costume design is is so fantastic. It was good in ATLA, but they’re on another level with the variety and creativity. And that score. Man, again, Jeremy Zuckerman does phenomenal work in ATLA, and he’s just as good in Korra. I mean he’s in his fucking bag on some of these tracks. And, as with the costume design, he’s given more variety to work with. I don’t love the jazz numbers as much, but they’re pretty darn good too.

The Imperfect Excellence of The Legend of Korra

The follow-up to Avatar: The Last Airbender is a must-see.

After adding Avatar: The Last Airbender to its library to the great delight of fans, Netflix and Nickelodeon are following it up with the arrival of ATLA‘s sequel series, The Legend of Korra on August 14. For those who appreciated the opportunity to rewatch ATLA without having to navigate sketchy flash players on watchcartoononline, and for those who found out for the first time what they’d been missing, the new buzz is same as the old buzz; the consensus is that ATLA is still a nearly peerless work of American television.

The Legend of Korra is more divisive. There are some who feel let down by the series for various reasons, ranging from the premise to the particular choices in character construction and plot development. There are others who think Korra surpasses the original, appreciating aspects like the more mature themes. But, if there is a consensus, or, if there is a right opinion in my *pushes glasses up on nose* expert opinion, it is this: Korra is very good. It’s not as good as ATLA.

That’s a lukewarm take and not much to build a compelling blog post around, but for me it’s a premise that reifies ATLA‘s greatness, highlights the accomplishment of the expanded Avatar canon, and validates Korra as a series worth watching once it arrives, whether you’re an aficionado revisiting it again, an ATLA fan finally diving into the sequel, or a new viewer riding the momentum into another new discovery.

Let’s start with the first part of my I forgot I was drinking that tea temperature level take: The Legend of Korra is very good. I was slow to warm up to it at first, disoriented by the steampunk aesthetic and technology and slightly put off by Korra as a hot-headed and temperamental central protagonist. But I have come to love the show more each time I have watched it, now that I’m willing to tolerate the steampunk and have come to appreciate Korra’s demeanor (she rocks). The characters are varied and compelling, the soundtrack amplifies the action, the themes are complex and relevant, and the animation is flat-out gorgeous. It achieves a rare mix of action, humor, art, and intellect, and its best moments are absolutely chill-inducing. Before even making any comparisons to the original series, Korra stands up on its own.

That being said, the second part holds true; it’s not as good as ATLA. Again, before even judging Korra as a successful sequel, it’s clear to me which one is better. Korra is flawed, with some inconsistent writing that is, at times, maddening. There is also, I would suggest, a dearth of towering achievements – with two or three notable exceptions, there is a lack of character arcs, scenes, or themes that stand out as something people will be talking about for years to come like they’ve just seen it for the first time. In short, Korra has problems, and nothing besides the animation reaches the heights greatness demands.

But when we consider the two shows as original and sequel, the deficit in quality is actually to the credit of both. Korra is what it is while following the ATLA formula. For all the ways in which it is its own show, it is clearly cut from the same cloth. The fact that it followed the ATLA formula and is a very good but flawed series is a testament to the greatness of ATLA; Korra shows that the ATLA elements are not enough to make a perfect show and leave room for failure, but somehow the original series dodged almost every conceivable obstacle and reached near perfection. However, the fact that Korra is, for all its shortcomings, still a great show, is proof of how compelling the ATLA forumla is; a deus ex machina here or a giant robot there isn’t enough to undermine the various secret sauces that go into the ATLA recipe.

When you see how things could go wrong in Korra, it makes you appreciate that those things didn’t go wrong in ATLA. When you see the errors in Korra, it makes you appreciate how much work the ATLA elements are really doing.

This makes ATLA sound pretty great, but maybe fails to properly laud Korra, that is until you continue to consider them together and think about what it was that the creators actually tried to do in Korra. Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino set out to make a follow-up to one of the best, most beloved shows in history, running many of the same plays while also expanding in some bold ways. The degree of difficulty there is off the charts – and they succeeded. Again, there are real problems in Korra, and it doesn’t boast the list of mind-blowing achievements like its predecessor, but it’s still a really good show and a really good follow-up.

Could the follow-up series have picked up a few days, months, or years later, continuing to focus on Team Avatar as they restore balance to the world ravaged by 100 years of war? Yes. Could they have gone back to a time period well removed from the events of the original? Also yes. But by choosing the setting they did, Konietzko and DiMartino chose the fertile but unforgiving lands of a healthy distance from beloved material while still firmly in its shadow, and the result is a show that reckons with the questions that mature storytellers and mature audiences ask. Yes, we want to know what Aang did as Avatar after saving the world, but Korra presents us with his legacy, both as a geopolitical figure and as a father. We want to see what Air Nomad civilization looked like; we are shown the weight of building from one family and the identity crisis when Airbenders spring up in the other nations. We might want more martial arts-inspired bending battles and the aesthetic of medieval and early modern Asian history; we look towards how the world would change with advancing technology that would give non-benders more even footing with benders.

The best stories almost never end with “and they lived happily ever after.” They end with something like, “Well, I’m back.” Life goes on even after the big bad has been defeated. The ending of Avatar is unambiguously joyful, but it does hint at the difficult road ahead to heal the world and some of the loose ends that remain. Korra dutifully reckons with what comes next, but pushes the time frame further down the road to give a broader, more contextualized picture of how, even after Aang saved the world from destruction, more baddies arise. Conflicts remain. There is always work to be done.

And, while depicting this evolving world, Korra also follows in ATLA‘s footsteps by dealing with mature, relevant themes, such as totalitarianism/fascism, government corruption, anarchism, weapons of mass destruction, and PTSD. Its final scene changed television with a representation of a same-sex relationship in a show nominally meant for children. Meanwhile, it recognized that much of its audience would be ATLA fans now in their teens and 20s, and imbued the show with a more mature feel, as it is more violent, contains more political intrigue, and is more frank in depicting the characters as sexual beings (all while maintaining a suitability for children).

All of this is to say that I think Korra is not just a good follow-up; it’s just the kind of follow-up ATLA needed and deserved.

The particular success of Korra can also help unlock the wider Avatar universe. Since 2012, Dark Horse Comics has released six complete graphic novels written by Gene Luen Yang, Faith Erin Hicks, and the showrunners about the exploits of Team Avatar after the conclusion of the series. And, guys, they’re freaking great. I don’t read comics or graphic novels, and so I came to these very late – well after the conclusion of Korra – and reading them has felt like such a natural continuation and expansion of the story. Korra showed me that Avatar could go beyond the confines of ATLA, and that this expanded canon was worth exploring. Then there are the recent novels about Avatar Kyoshi, written by F.C. Yee with guidance from DiMartino, and they go so far above expectations it’s tough to overstate. Part of the joy in watching Korra and reading the graphic novels and books is seeing how rich the Avatar universe is. It’s a creative ocean that has depth beyond the things hinted at in ATLA, and holds great opportunities for more stories even when the original gang isn’t around. That’s a great joy and, frankly, a relief for fans, given that some series don’t quite hold up beyond the basic canon *cough* Harry Potter *cough*. It’s not Tolkien’s legendarium or Martin’s Westerosi tax codes, but few things are. It’s also proof that the creators have more to say beyond their original story, and that the source material is strong enough for multiple creatives to be successful (looking at you, Star Wars).

(This is where I don’t share my thoughts on the live-action re-imagining being made for Netflix other than to say I don’t get it).

The buzz around ATLA since it came to Netflix has been fun, and I’m hoping that something similar will happen with Korra as fans revisit and reevaluate and newcomers see what they’ve been missing. If all we ever got from Konietzko and DiMartino was Avatar: The Last Airbender, that would have been enough, but The Legend of Korra is a worthy follow-up that I am looking forward to diving into once again.

Zhu Li, do the thing.

Forth now, and fear no darkness.

Soli Deo Gloria

-Peter

A Moment for Black, Queer Jesus

Jason Micheli from http://tamedcynic.org/

Call me old fashioned, but I believe Jesus and literature always apply. That’s one of the reasons I pursued an advanced degree in the subject.

I’m posting an excerpt from my Master’s Thesis in light of the recent racial reckoning in America which happens to coincide with Pride Month. Jesus of Nazareth was a human being like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as the thousands of LGBTQ individuals now protected from employment discrimination after the Supreme Court’s decision (and the thousands of Dreamers now temporarily protected after another decision). But the remarkable nature of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and – if you believe in that sort of thing (*narrator voice* I do) – resurrection, means that the Middle Eastern carpenter executed by the Romans has a transcendent nature for all peoples in all times. In my thesis, I sought to use literature to show how the concept of “Black Jesus” properly emphasizes Jesus’ place in the experience of oppressed peoples. My work was especially concerned with the experience of Black Americans, but a portion of my first chapter explored the ways in which Black Jesus is of special relevance to LGBTQ individuals because Jesus is, I argue, a queer figure.

The excerpt below comes from my chapter on Wallace Thurman’s 1932 novel Infants of the Spring, a story about young Black artists during the Harlem Renaissance told from the perspective of Raymond, a young writer who is Thurman’s stand-in. For the full thesis and citations, go here.


The story of the Harlem Renaissance, and indeed of Black American history, is often told as a story of remarkable individuals, some of whom Raymond specifically discusses. The novel does not affirm this narrative, and instead casts light on the shortcomings of flawed individuals. In this, W.E.B. Du Bois is again relevant and prescient, claiming, “Throughout history, the powers of single black men flash here and there like falling stars, and die sometimes before the world has rightly gauged their brightness,” (34) a tragedy which he attributes not to weakness or inferiority, but to the nature of double-consciousness, or the “double-aimed struggle of the black artisan” (34). As the novel’s concerns take shape, it becomes clear that remarkable individuals represent an answer to existential problems, but the characters can hardly conceive of an individual powerful enough to address the nature of their plight.

The novel’s misgivings about the saving power of individuals works in conjunction with anxieties about the stock placed in the future as the location of progress and salvation. After Raymond’s longtime friend Lucille comes to him for help in getting an abortion after she becomes pregnant with the boorish artist Bull’s child she says to Raymond, “I never want to bring a child into this world. I agree with you, although I doubt your sincerity, that race suicide would be the quickest way to cure human beings of their ills. Why should we go on bringing others into this world?” (158). It is a morbid and sociopathic thought, but one which Raymond affirms:

“It would be a grand day when the entire human race would be rendered sterile…a grand joke on the cantankerous old creator of our universe. I would chuckle with glee if one by one the inhabitants of this foolish old world would drop dead with no newly born replicas to don their shoes. That, in my opinion, is true anarchism.” (158)

Raymond’s remark is a compelling inversion of contemporary eugenicist thought, which Thurman decried not only in Infants of the Spring but in the screenplay he would write for an antieugenic film, Tomorrow’s Children, in 1934. His remarks here enter into the project of defining and controlling the succession of the Black family. The legacy of chattel slavery has, according to Hortense Spillers, dehumanized and commodified the Black body (67) while destroying the capacity for African peoples in the Diaspora to conform to Western notions of patronymic succession and nuclear family structure (74). “Failure” to conform to these structures affirms anti-black narratives, and so the creation of future generations ends up working against the Black population.  Raymond’s inversion of eugenics rejects the notion of eliminating a population deemed inferior or undesirable.

This critique of family structure and succession also attacks the stronghold of eugenic practice: the future. Paired with Spillers’ work, Lee Edelman’s No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive raises the stakes as he suggests that prizing the future limits the potential of the present as the interests of the future erase any deviance that would threaten a social order based in heteronormative reproduction:

For politics, however radical the means by which specific constituencies attempt to produce a more desirable social order, remains, at its core, conservative insofar as it works to affirm a structure, to authenticate social order, which it then intends to transmit to the future in the form of its inner Child. (2-3)

Edelman rejects the future as it, even in attempts to be new, better, or progressive, acts to reproduce the past. He suggests a mode of existence which (quoting from Guy Hocquenghem), “is unaware of the passing of generations as stages on the road to better living. It knows nothing about ‘sacrifice now for the sake of future generations’ . . . [it] knows that civilisation alone is mortal” (30-1). Edelman’s rejection of the future is based in the threat the Child poses to affirming the place of queer sexuality in society, a conflict which plays out in Paul’s fate. Fiona Ngô describes Paul’s suicide as “a grand performance of queer identity, where death is presented as another form of transcendence” (104). Paul is open about his queer sexuality, but in his death he rejects societal demands in extraordinary fashion as he denies whatever possibilities were held in the future of a system built to write people like him out of it.

Rejection of the future based in queer identity is part of Raymond’s proposal of universal sterilization, but it also stems from marginalization based in other deviances from normativity. The artists of Niggerati Manor are judged and oppressed on account of the color of their skin, and some of them affirm the constructed superiority of whiteness by trying to pass for white or by affirming the value of sexual partners with lighter skin, which, looking to the future, would create light-skinned children more in accordance with white society’s standards of breeding, worth, and beauty. The artists are also pressured to produce the right kind of art. In his artistic pursuits, Eustace refuses to sing Negro spirituals, a belief which Raymond thinks has Eustace unwittingly affirming “the theory of Nordic superiority” (65). The artists also face scrutiny for their bohemian lifestyle and decadence, which runs counter to the expectations respectable society has for producers of visual art, music, and literature. The standards, expectations, and normativity which the artists do not acquiesce to are future-oriented; it is in the interests of the future, of the Child, that society seeks to regulate their behavior and castigate them for their deviance. But Raymond and Paul do not want to have to look to the future for solutions. They do not want to affirm the structures which put people of non-normative identities on the fringe. The future is nothing to them if the future demands a sacrifice in the present – especially as that future will be tailored to the needs of normativity.  Raymond’s vision of the destruction of humanity is based in an unmet demand: to be able – not tomorrow, but today – to live and express oneself as straight or queer, as any color, creating whatever art they see fit in their individual experience as a human being of worth.

….

The Middle Passage also moves Raymond’s dream as a site of freedom outside of linear time, which frees him from the demands of the future while also inviting the presence of Black Jesus, as Black Jesus is also unbounded by time. The Transatlantic slave trade was an event that can be measured in linear units of time, but as a location and as a historical event its temporality is unstable and fluid. It is, as Sharpe says, “the past that is not past” (9). A reclaimed Middle Passage is not constrained by the demands of the future which oppress Raymond. While remarkable individuals who might be race saviors face the limits of time, Black Jesus does not, and so this space is ideal for the figure to enter. Black Jesus exists outside of space and time and brings hope without insisting on looking towards the future, all requisite traits for an individual answer to the frustration and pessimism exuded by Infants of the Spring. Raymond’s dream of the Middle Passage locates refuge and freedom in an unparticular time and place, and his musings on human extinction indicate his distaste for future-oriented solutions. While the historical Black Jesus – a Galilean Jew executed in 33 A.D. – is confined within linear time, the theological figure of Black Jesus and his ongoing ministry are not limited by chronology. Black Jesus suffers in solidarity with the oppressed throughout history. James Cone sees the body of Christ “recrucified” in every “black body hanging from a lynching tree” (xv) in American history. Cone also calls for envisioning the cross of the crucified Christ with “any reference to the ongoing suffering and oppression of human beings – those whom Ignacio Ellacuría, the Salvadoran martyr, called ‘the crucified peoples of history’” (xiv). In this spirit, Raymond’s body coming to rest on the comforting shore might be accompanied by Christ, cooling Raymond’s “fervid head” (Thurman 128) and restoring his frustrated soul, existing in solidarity at that time and place instead of – like Euphoria’s vision of a Black Joan of Arc – leading Raymond towards some future time and place where they would progress into victors.  Although the historical Jesus had a birth date and grew into maturity before beginning his ministry, Black Jesus is not an archetypal promised child as he is already a fully realized savior. So, unlike any extraordinary individual towards which Raymond might have looked, Black Jesus is not bound by the paradigm of the Child.[2]

Black Jesus’ suitability for the novel’s concerns as a non-white, present-oriented figure unbound by space and time is augmented by Jesus’ queer identity. Black Jesus, and, I would argue, any framing of Jesus, is queer. The historical figure, according to Christian tradition, was unmarried and celibate. He carried out his ministry with a small group of (primarily) single men. I do not argue that Jesus was homosexual, but, if Jesus really was asexual in thought and action, then it is problematic to claim he was simply an abstinent or repressed heterosexual[3]. At the very least, his life did not conform to or perpetuate heteronormative standards, one of the many sets of social standards which his ministry rejected or critiqued. The ministry as continued in the figure of Black Jesus carries on these queer traits. We might clarify our understanding of Jesus’ clash with time as well as the temporal struggles of the novel’s characters by using Judith Halberstam’s theory of “queer time,” a term for what happens “once one leaves the temporal frames of bourgeois reproduction and family, longevity, risk/safety, and inheritance” (6). The historical and theological Jesus, as well as the marginalized artists in Infants of the Spring, resist the temporal “logic[s] of capital accumulation” (7). Black Jesus is capable of successfully resisting, but the conflict threatens to destroy people like Raymond. However, the queer time of Raymond’s dream invites a reading of Black Jesus as a companion in a space outside of the temporal frames which threaten queer identity.  Queer sexuality’s marginalization in a heteronormative world is one of the novel’s primary concerns, and Jesus’ status as a queer figure makes Black Jesus that much more appropriate as the solution to those concerns.

Raymond’s dreamscape of the reclaimed Middle Passage also appeals to an aesthetic sensibility which brings a life-giving solution to the novel’s death march. As Raymond’s naked, spray-enveloped body floats from the sea onto the shore, the scene evokes Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (c. 1486). Venus in the Middle Passage is an illustration which Wood also utilizes as he prompts a thought exercise of “how the creation of a visual narrative focused on a black African Venus in Europe, and the African evolved Candomblé goddess Iamanjá, are used to mythologize the female slave body in ways not available to white abolition rhetorics” (123-4). Botticelli’s painting is a twofold birth of beauty: as an artistic representation of the birth of the goddess of beauty, and as a milestone in the history of aesthetics. For a novel frustrated by dominant paradigms of human and artistic beauty, invoking this particular painting from within the space of the Middle Passage makes a claim for the aesthetic value of art produced by those people existing within the wake. Raymond’s black body, drifting in on the same waves which once carried millions of enslaved African bodies, stands in for the European Venus emerging from the sea. However, sensuous as these parallel scenes are, they are not sensual. Rather, they evoke a spiritual aesthetic. W.S. Heckscher claims that “Botticelli’s Venus, the naked goddess of Love, far from being secular, alone erotic, is above all ethical and religious” (6). Botticelli’s new-born Venus, the Anodyomene, evokes a spiritual figure which provides an individual which answers the novel’s demand for liberation from society’s white-privileged, heteronormative, bourgeois, future-oriented standards of existence and excellence.

The connection to Botticelli’s Anodyomene further develops the appearance of Black Jesus, as Black Jesus and Venus both address the longing presented in Raymond’s dream sequence. Heckscher explains that Botticelli picked up the tradition of combining pagan and Christian ideas and was the first artist to assimilate them in a masterpiece in the post-classical age (31). The scenes of the Birth of Venus and the Baptism of Christ hold plenty of similarities, such as “a divinity born, distinguished by nuditas sacra, flanked by attendant figures, emerging from a watery expanse” (Heckscher 6), and leaders of the 4th Century Christian church had apparently drawn the two figures together (29). Botticelli’s Birth of Venus integrates Jesus into a secular artistic tradition, and, given the above discussion, Raymond’s dreamscape evokes the Anadyomene from within a reimagined Middle Passage. Black Jesus and Venus are not future-oriented, or bound by the rules of time and place which limit human beings. In comparing the Birth of Venus and Baptism of Christ, Heckscher notes that “both divinities were redeemer-figures who appeared, though just engendered and born, in full panoply” (6). Jesus had dates of birth and death, but the theological configuration – like Venus – is already fully-realized and ready to stand in solidarity with oppressed people at anytime and anywhere.

Reading the novel as an abstract work sets it on a slant and grants a view into a more complex, more distressed, and, I would argue, a more emotionally engaging reading than might be accessible by treating the novel as a rollicking satire and witty roman à clef. The novel may be these things too, but one of the useful traits of abstractionist aesthetics is opening this space for multiplicity and ambiguity. Envisioning Black Jesus as a response to the novel’s anxieties and concerns – as a configuration which fills the spaces opened within a fractured reading – accomplishes two main objectives for the novel. The first is that it illuminates what is missing by setting Black Jesus in relief against the inadequate efforts proffered by the novel’s characters. Black Jesus is an array of attributes unmatched by an individual like Euphoria’s Black Joan of Arc, a societal solution like human extinction, or even an indomitable spirit of artistic individuality. Against Black Jesus, all other proffered solutions appear inadequate. This does not undermine the novel’s aims; rather, this further underscores the novel’s insistence that something critically wrong at the intersections of race, art, culture, and sexuality has set the lofty goals of the Harlem Renaissance on the brink, despite or because of the plethora of ideas of racial and societal betterment circulating at the time. The second is that applying an abstract reading of the inherently abstract figure of Black Jesus allows for a more diverse and more robust understanding of the relationship between Harlem Renaissance Christian theology and Harlem Renaissance art. Reggie Williams and David Cone discuss appearances of Black Jesus within the works of a few prominent artists, including Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, and W.E.B. Du Bois, but all of these representations of the Black Christ are explicit – explicit as Aaron Douglas’ brilliant painting of a Black Christ in The Crucifixion (1927). Limiting configurations of Black Jesus to realistic, explicit works boxes the concept into the realm of the sacred while also recreating what Hartman describes as scenes of subjection. If the borders between sacred and secular are as mutable as some scholars suggest, then supposedly irreligious works like Infants of the Spring will be inadequately understood without attempting to read into how the Christian zeitgeist of Harlem shaped it.

Infants of the Spring is an abstract work, and, when read with this aesthetic, the resulting fractures open up a space of unattended anxieties and concerns which Black Jesus is well-suited to address. Black Jesus is an appropriate solution because this particular theological concept is inherently abstract. Anytime Jesus is invoked – even in the Bible – the appearance is representational and a sign of something else; realism can hardly be achieved in representing Jesus. Even in the four canonical Gospel accounts (let alone those deemed apocryphal), different (though not incompatible) pictures of Jesus are presented. This suggests any rendering of Jesus is some degree of abstract, which means appearances and invocations of the figure do not need to be limited to realistic representations. From the beginning, the legacy of Jesus has belonged to those who tell stories and those who interpret them. Therefore, Jesus, perhaps especially Black Jesus, exists precisely where we decide to put him. Where we decide to put him can be unexpected and surprising, but also so natural as to suggest the space called for his presence all along.


Forth now, and fear now darkness.

Soli Deo Gloria

-Peter

[2] Some theological clarification: My claim is that Black Jesus is especially suited to the concerns of Infants of the Spring because the figure invests the present with hope without having to make promises about the future or demands about acceptable behavior. This claim might seem to run totally counter to accepted Christologies, because part of the hope of the Gospel message is a promise of a better world after death. I do not mean to ignore this essential part of the doctrine of Christ even as I emphasize Christ’s impact on the present. Similarly, as part of the processes of salvation, justification, and sanctification, Christian doctrine encourages and discourages certain behaviors. I do not mean to say Black Jesus has no notion of right and wrong behavior, but Jesus’ presence is not blocked off on account of supposedly immoral, licentious, or sinful actions. Ignoring either of these aspects of Christology would call into question whether or not I am even using Jesus at all. Rather, I am reconsidering prioritization of Jesus’ attributes; Black Jesus re-emphasizes the present and seeks to correct the disproportionate attention given by other Christologies to the future and to morality, as both of these emphases tend to reify dominant structures and marginalize certain individuals.

[3] Benjamin A. Kahan interrogates definitions of celibacy which cast it merely as abstinence from or repression of sexual desire, and suggests that while it may be a choice for some, celibacy can also exist as “a sexuality in its own right” (2).

Looking Back at Notable Characters with a Conspicuous Disability

This here blog ain’t been the home of listicles and rankings for quite some time (okay yes I listed my top ten films of the 2010s but the point still stands (and I have to amend that list because Parasite and maybe Portrait of a Lady on Fire should both be on there now that I’ve seen them but I don’t know what to kick (but this blog is still the home of annoying multi-layered parentheses))), which sports blogging lends itself to more than writing about a dying dog, Charles Dickens, racism, or, like, smoking pipes and thinking about the meaning of life.

But I’m going to dive back into that genre after a fashion today by rating/ranking the very standard topic of *checks notes* one-handed science-fiction and fantasy characters on the page and the screen.

Certain physical features become essential to the depiction of many iconic characters, perhaps especially when that feature fundamentally affects what that character does or is capable of doing. Oftentimes, this feature comes in the form of a missing/prosthetic hand or arm. It’s not surprising that these characters would leave their mark on viewers and readers; you do a lot of life with hands, and having less than a pair makes some of the most basic tasks exponentially more challenging. We absent-mindedly wave them at people we don’t know, assuming they have a hand to wave back, which can be very dangerous. In short, we know losing a hand would be a major bummer, and so seeing a character contend with that – and even conquer it – is inspiring on a level that is basic but no less affecting.

One-handed characters are worth talking about together beyond basic criteria for putting together a ranking or list. Representation matters, and while gender, race, and sexual orientation are discussed with some frequency, ableism is easy to overlook and characters with disabilities are grossly underrepresented. And, too often, the representations that do exist are not positive. Joe Parlock reviewed last decade’s mixed bag of disability representation in video games for Polygon, if you’re interested. This rating/ranking is not an assessment of how positive each character is, but the extent to which the disability makes some sort of meaningful impact on the character will be taken into account.

So, each character will be given a score of 1-10 based on five questions, some of which are slightly problematic so I’ll hope you’ll let me preface them:

  1. Did the character lose their hand in a cool way?
    Oh boy, off to a rocky start. Let’s not minimize the trauma of losing a hand, but let’s acknowledge that if it’s going to happen, some ways are better than others. Getting your hand chopped off in an honor-bound duel is way cooler than putting a cleaver through your wrist while you’re out here dicing meats[1].
  2. Did the character take on a prosthetic? If so, how stylish or effective was that prosthetic? If not, is there something to be said for that?
    Let’s not fetishize or objectify or criticize a character because their replacement limb wasn’t infused with vibranium, but we’re dealing with sci-fi and fantasy, so if the prosthetic is merely a prosethetic, well, dream a little bigger darling.
  3. How did the loss of the hand change the character?
    Everyone responds to trauma in their own way, but it’s worth more points to come out on the other side better[2].
  4. Is this representation of disability thoughtful, meaningful, or consequential?
    In other words, is the choice to maim a character doing something worthwhile, and thus depicting the disability in a thoughtful, useful way?
  5. How great is this character?
    Let’s just give some points for how overall great this character is. Just gotta make sure some punk character doesn’t win just because they lost their hand in a cool way, have a chic prosthetic, and became super powerful.

Alright, let’s begin! (SPOILERS)

Luke Skywalker (Star Wars)

Did the character lose their hand in a cool way?

The duel between Luke and Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back is, to many, the best lightsaber fight in the Star Wars films, and Vader is arguably the best movie villain ever, so from a meta sense, yes this is a very cool way. But even in-universe, it’s not bad, even though it meant Luke lost by TKO. He’d been holding his own, having just scored a hit on Vader’s arm, when Vader, like dads playing hoops in the driveway with their kids all across the wolrd, decides play-time’s over and uses some fencing finesse to get the opening he needs, and Luke’s weapon (and hand) go flipping off screen and into the chasm below. Score: 7

Did the character take on a prosthetic? If so, how stylish or effective was that prosthetic? If not, is there something to be said for that?

Luke’s prosthetic hand is lame. It looks and works just like a regular old human hand. Now, that’s kinda the ideal for a prosthetic in our world, but this is a galaxy far far away. True, the medical droids have been known to use weird space diapers and shrugged off medically undiagnosable deaths, but come on Luke, ask for something a little better. Score: 2

How did the loss of the hand change the character?

He comes back more mature, wise, and powerful. The loss of his hand is a physical reminder of his fateful encounter with his father, so much so that when he cuts off Vader’s own mechanical hand in the rematch, the sight moves him to let go of his anger and refuse the Emperor. Score: 7

Is this representation of disability thoughtful, meaningful, or consequential?

The loss of the hand is a reminder for Luke, but in a practical sense it doesn’t change his life much going forward because the prosthetic is so effective. Maybe this is just me, but I sometimes “forget” Luke has one hand, even though the scene in which he loses the hand basically formed the baseline for me as a child for what someone in agony looks like. Score: 3

How great is this character?

His depiction in Last Jedi complicated the perception of the character who was once the Jedi, and that perception is already complicated because in the films he is sometimes whiny and is overshadowed by Han and so much of the cool stuff he does is outside the films. But he’s the hero of arguably one of the most important mythologies ever, so he’s going to score well. Score: 7

Total: 26

Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars)

Did the character lose their hand in a cool way?

For the purposes of this list, we’re focusing on Anakin until he becomes a quadruple amputee[3]. He loses his first hand dueling Count Dooku, and the answer to this questions is no. No it was not cool how he rushed in and got force lightning’d, then got back into the fight and eventually got his arm chopped off by a really basic move. This happens a few minutes after Jango Fett gets decapitated. This a movie for children rated PG. Score: 2

Did the character take on a prosthetic? If so, how stylish or effective was that prosthetic? If not, is there something to be said for that?

Anakin’s prosthetic is a visibly bionic appendage, as revealed in what is I guess a nice little moment in the secret wedding. He wears a glove over it most of the time and it doesn’t appear to help or hinder him. Score: 3

How did the loss of the hand change the character?

It didn’t. He holds off on mass-murders for a little while, but returns to his old ways and eventually betrays and destroys the Jedi Order. Score: 1

Is this representation of disability thoughtful, meaningful, or consequential?

Again, I kind of forget that there was a good long while when Anakin Skywalker had one hand. Probably has something to do with the longer while he had no hands or feet. Score: 1

How great is this character?

I’m not taking Darth Vader into account, and the Anakin of the prequel films just never quite gets it across the goal line. Compelling ingredients are there, and Clone Wars Anakin is pretty great, but it’s tough to buy him as a hero because, again, he’s a mass murderer. Score: 5

Total: 12

Kreia (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II)

Did the character lose their hand in a cool way?

Kreia is notable for being exiled from both the Jedi and Sith orders. She loses her hand when her former Sith apprentice, Darth Sion, cuts it off in a duel. Near the end of her life, her other hand is cut off, and she responds by just wielding three lightsabers at once using Force telekinesis. Pretty solid overall. Score: 7

Did the character take on a prosthetic? If so, how stylish or effective was that prosthetic? If not, is there something to be said for that?

She did not, but, again, she can wield three lightsabers at once using Force telekinesis. Tell me which you prefer. Score: 8

How did the loss of the hand change the character?

Kreia’s character goes through some major changes, but these are not linked to her loss of a hand. Points for remaining a deadly adversary anyway. Score: 6

Is this representation of disability thoughtful, meaningful, or consequential?

She is significant for being a female character with this disability, and that is worth something, as is the extent to which her depiction as a one-handed, blind old woman lulls the player of KOTOR II into underestimating her. Score: 8

How great is this character?

Kreia is one of the best Star Wars video game characters. KOTOR is possibly the best Star Wars game with many of the best characters, and while KOTOR II is not quite as well written, Kreia belongs right with any of the game franchise’s best characters. Score: 8

Score: 37

Imperator Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Did the character lose their hand in a cool way?

George Miller revealed that Furiosa lost her hand in a “hardcore battle.” That’s a pretty cool way for a warrior to lose a hand, but we’re missing a lot of information. Score: 4

Did the character take on a prosthetic? If so, how stylish or effective was that prosthetic? If not, is there something to be said for that?

She does, and her metal arm is perfect. You could sit around all day trying to come up with a better prosthetic for the Mad Max universe and not come up with one. Score: 9

How did the loss of the hand change the character?

It’s tough to say, not knowing what Furiosa was like before the film, but in this case I’m giving points for a lack of change; she has a metal arm in a world where you gotta be shooting guns and driving cars and blowing stuff up and doesn’t miss a beat. Score: 8

Is this representation of disability thoughtful, meaningful, or consequential?

Furiosa became instantly iconic as a female action hero and in joining that select group, she is also one of the very few examples of a female character in sci-fi and fantasy with a disability. It makes some sense that various creators would shy away from maiming a female character, but the result is a lack of representation. And, in this case, the violence done to Furiosa’s body doesn’t reinforce women as subjugated or the objects of male violence. She has, of course, been the object of male violence, but she competes in the arena of violent men and asserts her agency. Score: 9

How great is this character?

Again, Furiosa became an instant icon. She might be the best part of what is probably the best action film of the last decade. She is as great as any female action hero since Ripley in Alien[4]. She’s great. Score: 9

Total: 39

Jaime Lannister (A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones)

Did the character lose their hand in a cool way?

Jaime tells a convincing lie to stop the Bolton hunters from raping Brienne, and then he talks a little too much like a rich kid to Locke, who then chops his hand off like it’s a beef shank. He stares at it in shock and screams, and then it cuts to credits played over by a rock cover of “Bear and the Maiden Fair.” I think it all evens out to a fine score. Score: 8

Did the character take on a prosthetic? If so, how stylish or effective was that prosthetic? If not, is there something to be said for that?

Jaime’s gold hand is very stylish, and, considering it’s worth more than most people in Westeros will ever own, quite a flex. But it’s not – as he acknowledges – practical, and Bronn even smacks him in the face with it during a training session. It doesn’t exactly instill fear so much as it reminds everyone he’s not the fighter he used to be. Score: 5

How did the loss of the hand change the character?

In the first episode of Game of Thrones, Jaime has sex with his sister and pushes a child out a window. By the late seasons, Jaime is a character we’re legitimately rooting for who does a lot of brave and noble things. So he changed a lot, you could say, and losing his hand is the key turn in his journey. It also fundamentally changes his role in the world and the way people see him, as he goes from being arguably the best fighter in Westeros to a legitimate liability in combat. The showrunners really made a mess of his character in the second half of the final season that undermined much of his development, but I’m hoping George has something better in mind. The only reason he doesn’t get a perfect score here is that the next character on this list actually gets better at fighting after losing their sword hand. Score: 9

Is this representation of disability thoughtful, meaningful, or consequential?

See the above answer. Score: 10

How great is this character?

Again, Jaime is one of the greatest achievements in character-building history. I knock him down one point because what we have for the time being as canon ended in a mess. Score: 9

Total: 41

Maedhros (The Silmarillion)

Did the character lose their hand in a cool way?

After being captured by Morgoth, Maedhros is chained by the wrist high up on a cliff face. His cousin and close friend, Fingon, faces the danger to save him, having to cut Maedhros’ hand at the wrist to free him, and the two are flown to safety by the eagle Thorondor. This is a famous story from the Elder Days, and while Fingon is the hero of it, it’s a good story for Maedhros, too. Score: 7

Did the character take on a prosthetic? If so, how stylish or effective was that prosthetic? If not, is there something to be said for that?

No. There aren’t prosthetics in the Tolkien legendarium. But Maedhros learns to wield his sword with his other hand and becomes even more deadly. I’m not going to penalize him for that. Score: 7

How did the loss of the hand change the character?

On top of the increased skill with a sword and an enhanced personal feud with the enemy of the world, Maedhros distinguishes himself as the best of the sons of Fëanor. He had already showed signs of being more temperate and compassionate than his father and brothers, but after losing his hand he cedes kingship of the Noldor to Fingolfin in recognition of Fingon’s rescue and he serves his people tirelessly as a valiant general and a skilled diplomat. His rash oath eventually leads him to commit violent, unjust acts even as he maintains a good heart, making him one of the most complex characters from the Elder Days. Score: 8

Is this representation of disability thoughtful, meaningful, or consequential?

It’s a significant part of his character, but ultimately after he loses his hand Maedhros’ character would essentially operate the same way as if he had both his hands. Score: 3

How great is this character?

Just another shout-out to the people who think all of Tolkien’s characters are either good or bad. You’ve obviously not read him. Maedhros is one of the great tragic figures in mythology. Score: 9

Score: 34

Beren (The Silmarillion)

Did the character lose their hand in a cool way?

Beren and Lúthien are escaping Thangorodrim after the greatest deed of the Elder Days (stealing back a Silmaril) when they run into Carcharoth, a wolf bred by Morgoth for the specific purpose of being the most terrifying wolf in creation. Beren steps to defend Lúthien, bearing the Silmaril aloft, and Carcharoth bites off his hand, Silmaril and all. The pain of the burning jewel sends Carcharoth on an anguished rampage. I’m not sure it gets cooler than that. Score: 10

Did the character take on a prosthetic? If so, how stylish or effective was that prosthetic? If not, is there something to be said for that?

Again, no prosthetics in this universe. However, he does take on the moniker “Erchamion,” which means “One-Hand,” which is cool. He also makes his dramatic reveal to Thingol about the fate of the Silmaril when he holds up his arm to show his missing (but not empty) hand. When the Silmaril is retrieved from the carcass of Carcharoth, Beren’s hand is intact, still holding the jewel. Score: 8

How did the loss of the hand change the character?

It gave Beren a new name, but he’s much the same before and after. He still goes with the elite squad to hunt down Carcharoth, and there’s much to be said for that. Points for steadfastness. Score: 7

Is this representation of disability thoughtful, meaningful, or consequential?

Similar to Maedhros. Score: 3

How great is this character?

Beren is great, and if anything he’s too great. He’s a paragon of virtue and bravery and is at the heart of one of the great tales of the Elder Days. And, all that being said, I think Lúthien is still out of his league? Score: 8

Total: 36

Bucky Barnes (Marvel Cinematic Universe)[5]

Did the character lose their hand in a cool way?

Bucky falls from a train into a river during a mission. He loses his arm in the fall but survives until HYDRA picks him up. Not that cool. Score: 2

Did the character take on a prosthetic? If so, how stylish or effective was that prosthetic? If not, is there something to be said for that?

Oh did he ever. The Winter Soldier’s arm is pretty dope. It looks cool and is a useful weapon. Later, he gets one made of vibranium in Wakanda designed by Shuri. Rocket even asks if he can buy the arm from him. Score: 9

How did the loss of the hand change the character?

Wellllllll Bucky wasn’t an assassin for an evil organization before he lost his arm…but we can blame that on the amnesia. He regains his memories and becomes a good guy. So does the arm change him? In some respects, but I think a middling score is appropriate. Score: 5

Is this representation of disability thoughtful, meaningful, or consequential?

Losing an arm and becoming superhuman through advanced technology is sort of the most basic level for what to do with a physically disabled character. Score: 2

How great is this character?

Pretty great? I guess it depends on what canon you’re going with since in the comics he becomes Captain America. We’ll see (well, you might, I won’t) where he goes in his coming television series. Some suspect the MCU version will become White Wolf. Your opinion of Bucky also depends on how you feel about the kinda regular heroes in the MCU (Black Widow, Hawkeye, etc.). They’re cool and all but the power balancing in these movies is so frustrating. Like what are they doing on the same field as literal-god Thor? Score: 6

Total Score: 24

Ulysses Klaue (Marvel Cinematic Universe)

Did the character lose their hand in a cool way?

He makes the mistake of mentioning Tony Stark to Ultron, and Ultron cuts half his arm off. This is seconds after Ultron makes Klaue a billionaire. This is not a cool way. Score: 1

Did the character take on a prosthetic? If so, how stylish or effective was that prosthetic? If not, is there something to be said for that?

On the one hand[6], the prosthetic just looks like an arm, which is lame (see Luke). However, it’s also infused with vibranium and it’s a sonic arm cannon. I can respect that. Score: 7

How did the loss of the hand change the character?

Before losing his arm, Klaue was an arms dealer. After losing his arm, Klaue is an arms dealer. Points for releasing a mixtape though. Score: 3

Is this representation of disability thoughtful, meaningful, or consequential?

No. That’s all I have to say about that. Score: 1

How great is this character?

Somehow Klaue leaves an impression on Black Panther even though he’s about the one hundredth most interesting thing about that film. I think that has to do with having a few good lines and Andy Serkis is just a compelling actor. But Klaue is not great. Score: 2

Total: 14

Captain Hook (Peter Pan)

Did the character lose their hand in a cool way?

A boy who never grows up cuts it off in battle and feeds it to a crocodile. So no. Score: 2

Did the character take on a prosthetic? If so, how stylish or effective was that prosthetic? If not, is there something to be said for that?

The hook is, well, iconic. Captain Hook and Long John Silver are probably the two most important characters in shaping what pirates look like in the popular imagination. And in Shrek 2 he can still play the piano with it so how do you like that? Score: 9

How did the loss of the hand change the character?

It makes him forever afraid of being eaten by a crocodile, which is understandable. Score: 7

Is this representation of disability thoughtful, meaningful, or consequential?

I don’t think J.M. Barrie was really thinking about disabled representation. Score: 2

How great is this character?

You can’t really argue with how iconic the character is, whether or not he’s actually interesting. Score: 7

Score: 27

Peter Pettigrew (Harry Potter)

Did the character lose their hand in a cool way?

“Flesh, Blood, and Bone,” is one of the most absolutely haunting chapters in all of Harry Potter. Pettigrew chops off his own hand in a blood magic ritual to reincorporate Lord Voldemort. Look…if you chop off your own hand and throw it into a cauldron and the most powerful dark wizard emerges from it…I’m going to respect that. Score: 9

Did the character take on a prosthetic? If so, how stylish or effective was that prosthetic? If not, is there something to be said for that?

Voldemort begrudgingly grants Pettigrew a new silver hand, which is stylish obv. But when Pettigrew doesn’t kill Harry in Malfoy Manor, the Dark Lord’s gift turns on Pettigrew and he is STRANGLED BY HIS OWN HAND. That’s really cool magic, but there’s no points for being killed by your own replacement hand. Score: 1

How did the loss of the hand change the character?

Wormtail is an evil, sycophantic, groveling punk before and after. Score: 3

Is this representation of disability thoughtful, meaningful, or consequential?

It’s mostly a symbol of his commitment to Voldemort, and I gotta say Voldy is just mad unappreciative. Pettigrew is a punk but his allies don’t give him enough credit. Score: 2

How great is this character?

He’s nice as a literary creation, but he can get the FOH. He betrays Lily and James, blows up a bunch of Muggles, brings the Dark Lord back from the dead, and MURDERS CEDRIC DIGGORY DO NOT FORGET. He sets Peters back so far. A disgrace to Rocks everywhere. Score: 1

Total Score: 16

Total Scores

  1. Jaime Lannister (41)
  2. Imperator Furiosa (39)
  3. Kreia (37)
  4. Beren (36)
  5. Maehdros (34)
  6. Captain Hook (27)
  7. Luke Skywalker (26)
  8. Bucky Barnes (24)
  9. Peter Pettigrew (16)
  10. Ulysses Klaue (14)
  11. Anakin Skywalker (12)

Honorable Exclusions: Detective Del Spooner (I, Robot) and Davos Seaworth (A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones). Spooner loses his arm in a car accident and it felt weird writing about that in this way. Davos only loses his fingers at the knuckle. And if we let in people with missing fingers from ASoIaF we’d have way too many to manage. Both would add something to this discussion.

So, there you have it. Jaime Lannister is the “greatest” one-handed character in science fiction and fantasy, with Imperator Furiosa close behind. Here’s hoping that individuals with disabilities become more common in film, television, gaming, and literature, and that these representations are positive, thoughtful, and embodied by compelling characters.

Forth now, and fear no darkness.

Soli Deo Gloria

-Peter

Notes

~click the number to return to the text~

1 When I think of chopping meat, I think of one of the early scenes in the Chinese film Wrath of Silence, which is a pretty gnarly film, not even so much for the violence as much as the threat of it. Compelling movie, and you can watch the entire thing on YouTube. I watched it on Kanopy, which is the best (free) streaming service you’ve never heard of and one of my new favorite things.

2 We do not endorse the problematic choice that was GoT having Sansa say she wouldn’t have ever grown up if it wasn’t for being manipulated and raped.

3 It would basically be Vader, the travelling orator from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and the peasant girl from 13 Assassins. Not fun.

4 Seems like a lot of people measure back to Ripley, but I think one needs only go back so far as Shu Lien (played by Michelle Yeoh) in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She is one of my all-time favorite characters, and one of the very best female action stars ever.

5 I’m just going with the film versions of Bucky and Klaue. There’s just too much stuff in the comics I don’t even know how to get my arms around it. Maybe that makes me ignorant.

6 DAMN I made it all this way without any bad hand puns and I honestly did this one on accident.