CJ Entertainment

In most regards, the 2020 Oscars are already a disappointment.

In a year full of cinematic diversity, from Lulu Wang's brilliant The Farewell and Greta Gerwig's revitalization of Little Women to Lupita Nyong'o's haunting turn in Us, the major category Oscar nominations are all too blatantly white and male.

Across all four Best Actor/Actress categories, 20 nominations in total, only one POC was named––Cynthia Erivo for her leading role in the Harriet Tubman biopic, Harriet. Apparently Awkwafina's Golden Globe-winning performance of a Chinese-American woman coping with a looming familial death from two conflicting cultural perspectives in The Farewell was not worthy of a spot over Charlize Theron playing former Fox News host Megyn Kelly.

Awkwafina the farewell A24

The Best Director nominations are also, once again, entirely male, with Greta Gerwig getting categorically snubbed, despite Little Women receiving nods for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress. But at least that's better than the Oscar's treatment of Lulu Wang, who got snubbed entirely. Todd Phillips' Joker, on the other hand, received 11 nominations, more than any other movie this year, which says pretty much everything anyone needs to know about the 2020 Oscars… Or at least it would, if not for Parasite's Best Picture nomination.

In the entire history of the Oscars, only six foreign language films have been nominated for both Best International Film (formerly "Best Foreign-Language Film") and Best Picture. All of them have won the International category, but none have ever taken home the grand prize. After all, for an International Film to win Best Picture, that would require the Academy's overwhelmingly white male voting body (as of 2018, out of 8,000 members, 84% are white and 69% are male) to agree that a movie made by a POC outside of Hollywood is better than anything produced from within (and, more importantly, to actually read subtitles).

A lot of people were surprised by the 2019 Oscars when Green Book––a movie about race relations from the perspective of a white director, white writer, and white protagonist––beat Roma, Alfonso Cuaron's intimate portrayal of a poor Mexican housekeeper. In retrospect, the Academy's choice makes sense. Roma feels like an art film, whereas Green Book practically shouts, "It's okay, white people, we solved racism through friendship!" Considering the Academy's demographic, it was the obvious choice.

But that was 2019, and this is 2020. If the Oscars hope to maintain any glimmer of relevance in the new decade beyond just another masturbatory awards show where Hollywood elites pay lip service to diversity while endlessly patting white men on the back, Parasite needs to win Best Picture.

song kang ho parasite CJ Entertainment

For one, Parasite absolutely deserves it. Bong Joon-ho's darkly comedic thriller about South Korea's class divide is unique, impactful, and more timely than any other film this year. Its themes surrounding ambition, desperation, loss, and social immobility both feel specific to South Korea, and maintain a universality that connects with audiences around the world. Joon-ho's direction and writing (he was also nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay) were spot on, approaching all of its characters with distinct empathy while subjecting them to some of the most brutal, unpredictable twists of any thriller in recent years. The acting was phenomenal too, and it's worth noting that Song Kang-ho's omission from the Best Lead Actor category displays a clear failure on the Academy's part to recognize the humanity of Asian actors and characters.

Still, Parasite seems better poised to win Best Picture than any international film in years past. That's not to knock any of the international Best Picture nominees that came before it, but rather to comment on the modern era. People are more globally connected than ever, thanks to the Internet, and Parasite falls into an overwhelmingly popular, accessible genre and encompasses universally appealing themes. In other words, the only barrier to entry is the subtitles.

It's time for Hollywood to recognize that as the world becomes more internationally connected, white western media can no longer be considered the end-all and be-all of cultural influence. Bong Joon-ho is living proof that some of the most important, talented artistic voices of our era are not white, American men and that diversity is a gift to creativity.

CULTURE

Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.

Villains always have the best outfits.

From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.

Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com

But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.

Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.

Oh, right.

Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.

Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com

Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.

As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.

History of Nazi Chic

For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.

The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.

Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it

Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.

The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com

Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.

Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.

Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com

Nazi Chic in Asia

Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.

A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.

In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.

OF COURSE. i.imgur.com

That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.

In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.

Implications

So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?

The answer is not so black and white.

On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.

But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.

Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.

FILM

Marvel To Feature Its First Transgender Superhero

Fans think the character will be an angel.

Here's some good news to start your new year off right: A trans superhero is coming to Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Kevin Feige confirmed the news in a Q&A at New York Film Academy. When asked if the studio would ever have a transgender character, the Marvel Studios president said, "Yes, absolutely. Yes," adding that a trans character is appearing "very soon, in a movie that we're shooting right now" and clarifying that more trans and LGBTQ+ characters would be making an appearance.

It seems that Feige and Marvel are finally understanding that representation matters—and pays. "You look at the success of 'Captain Marvel' and 'Black Panther.' We want the movies to reflect the audience and we want every member of our global audience to see themselves reflected on the screen," he said.

While it's unfortunate (although expected) that Marvel's decision to increase diversity in its casting is connected to whether or not these choices will make a profit, the decision to create a trans superhero is an important step in normalizing the trans identity.

Most likely, Marvel's trans character will appear in Thor: Love and Thunder, as last summer the film's cast list included a trans woman. Fans believe that the character will be the angel Sera, who "descends from a group of all-male angels but who has transitioned to a female identity," according to MSN.

Marvel's History of Transgender Representation

Regardless, Marvel's new trans characters won't technically be the franchise's first trans superhero. That honor belongs to Rebekah, a child transgender activist who was the subject of a recent Marvel documentary, which aired on Disney Plus as part of their Hero Project series. They turned Rebekah, a Christian and a transgender girl, into a hero named "Mightly Rebekah."

Marvel's Hero Project Clip: Mighty Rebekah www.youtube.com

Whoever plays Marvel's first big-screen trans character also won't be their first trans actor. In 2019's Spider-Man: Far From Home, trans actor Zach Barack played one of Peter Parker's friends, though his gender identity didn't feature into the plot.

In an interview, Barack emphasized the importance of trans representation onscreen. He explained that superhero movies, in particular, always "felt like [trans stories] because [they're] talking about identity." Superhero films, he explained, are "about separating what people know about you and what they don't. And I think that's something I kind of live with every day. And on top of that, I don't see a lot of trans-masculine people on television or trans men specifically, and getting to be part of that is beyond unreal."

What Is Your Origin Story? | Zach Barack | TEDxBoulder www.youtube.com


Ramping Up Representation: The Eternals and Representation Firsts

The MCU's first trans character is just the latest in a series of firsts for the company in terms of LGBTQ+ representation. The franchise will also feature its first gay character in the film The Eternals, which will star Richard Madden as Ikaris, "a levitating immortal with teleporting and vaporising powers and abundance of cosmic energy," who also happens to be in a committed and loving gay marriage.

Marvel's Eternals (2020) Teaser www.youtube.com

Among other upcoming firsts: The Eternals will also feature the MCU's first deaf character, and Marvel's first Asian-American star will feature in the film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, set to debut in 2021.

The MCU character Valkyrie is apparently bisexual, according to actress Tessa Thompson, who stated, "In the canon, [Valkyrie] is bisexual. You see her with women and men, so that was my intention in playing her," she told Variety. "Obviously, at the forefront of most of these stories is not typically their romantic life. They have big stakes, like saving the world, so that tends to sort of trump." Even so, the film Thor: Ragnarok received some criticism for erasing Valkyrie's bisexuality.

In most superhero movies, in order to save the world, heroes have to learn to embrace their inner strength and the powers that make them special and exceptional. Maybe the parallels between trans narratives and superhero stories aren't exact—but they're certainly not mutually exclusive, and combining the two will likely only strengthen them both.

Let's hope that they continue this tradition and hire more diverse representation across all their teams, including their writing staff and managerial board. Marvel is incredibly influential in shaping ideas about masculinity, heroism, and cultural norms at large, and therefore their decision to question and challenge archetypal gender roles will likely ripple across culture in the way that no number of tweets or academic papers about transgender identities could.