Julie Gentron and the Lady League, Vol. 1, Ep. 4: Duty Calls

14 01 2012

Written by Brandon Arkell and Seth Gordon Little

Last time on the Lady League, the ladies encountered an obstacle course in the Kuiper Belt, but they were able to warp-drive their way back home to London with the help of Donna Destruction. At the landing pad, they met a mysterious, foreboding figure, Lady Fairfax, who scolded them over their tardiness.

“Lady Fairfax, I apologise”, cried Julie. “You see, we encountered a sort of obstacle course in the Kuiper Belt—”

“—Mere congestion, Gentron!” replied Fairfax, rolling in on her wicker wheelchair, cane in one hand and gin and tonic in the other. “You know that MI6 agents encounter such notorious bottlenecks every day. You can’t possibly see yourself as special in the strive to defend the galaxy against the horrors which lie beyond our thin atmosphere—the microbes of Mars’s half-frozen crust, the virulent tar-women of Io’s angry volcanoes, the space-whales of Saturn’s engorged rings?” She paused and looked about her, then tapped her cane. “Wh-wh-where do you expect me to place my gin and tonic, girl??”

“May I, Lady Fairfax?” offered Rosalind graciously. Fairfax acquiesced, harrumphing indignantly as Rosalind reverently placed the gin and tonic on the spaceship console. 

“Ladies”, cooed the venerable matron, “you are tardy for your next assignment. I have intelligence on a surreptitious figure rumoured to frequent the salons of Paris, the gay bathhouses of Seattle, the opium dens of Shanghai. It—for we do not yet know what shape it takes—traffics in something more precious than the methane riches of Titan itself. Humans!”

“Humans!” gasped the Lady League. Fairfax nodded soberly.

“I—I don’t understand”,  said Julie. “Why, we should have no trouble apprehending a mere slave-trader. We’ve done it before. Remember Slimeball and his power over slime? That’s how Rosalind joined the League. She was his captive aboard his Red Sea freighter, and we helped her escape.”

“This isn’t some seaborne skirmish, Gentron”, thundered Fairfax, thumping her cane. She resumed her milder tone. “Due either to some sort of genetic mutation or medical procedure, this—entity—has acquired a symbiotic relationship with a material we all know too well—far too well. And it is to our detriment. Plastic!” The girls shrieked. “This being has commandeered the entire plastic manufacturing industry of Europe. It has so insinuated its way into the beauty and fashion marketplace that one cannot slide on a condom or spear one’s beans with a cafeteria spork without this—thing—turning it against one. The Continent’s brightest plastic surgeons have either disappeared or fallen into secrecy, avowing nothing for fear of retribution. I am afraid Britain is Europe’s last bastion of defense”, she said gravely in her rich, woody Home Counties accent. “This thing, it seems to control certain people. It targets beauties—those who have fallen under the knife, as it were. Supermodels. Actors. Homosexual fashion critics. The list goes on. Our best biophysicists cannot crack this one, girls. Earth—the solar system—is at risk of falling prey to this fiend’s wiles. It has evaded my smartest agents, some of whom never returned from their missions. I fear the worst for them. I fear that they have become a part of its shapeless morass.”

“Fairfax, this is horrible!” cried Julie. “Why, it is inconsistent with the Lady League mission protocol to allow such a crime against humanity to be committed. What can we do to stop this—this creature?”

“Nothing—but to hate plastic!” cried Fairfax. “You must waste no time. Take nothing of plastic with you—it is the warhead of this hideous fiend. You must rely on your own feminine prowess now more than ever. Rosalind Armour, you possess superhuman strength and near-indestructible skin. Donna Destruction, you can move objects with the power of your mind. And, Julie Gentron, with the power of your mind you can control all technology, including the arsenal of deadly weapons implanted within your body by extraterrestrial beings. Surely”, she said, focussing her bespectacled eyes on Julie, “as director of the MI6, I can rely on you ladies to fulfil the objectives of this mission?”

“We will do everything in our power to smoke this fox out of its hole and put an end to it”, said Julie, “even if it requires digging our bare, hangnailed fingers into that hole.”

“Beautiful. You will commence your assignment forthwith by escorting famed New York fashion critic Simpson Oswald to his next fashion show”, said Fairfax, cringing slightly at the name. “He boasts a number of friends in the industry, but, recently, he has acquired a few enemies, so we have reason to suspect he is target number one for this—this—plastic demon. Yes, I know that the pansies can be rather flakey and out-of-touch with reality, but you, Julie, are wearing one of his creations”, she revealed, grabbing the gin-and-tonic back from the spaceship console.

“Really?” cried Julie, scanning her shapely physique up and down. It was a sheer, form-fitting, silvery-metallic suit which covered everything but her face, and was implanted with myriad wires and electrodes which channelled and amplified her thought patterns. Unbeknownst to Julie, the electronic armoury embedded within the suit was the work of the galaxy’s best British engineers–its true powers remained a sinister secret. She wondered at the thing she was wearing, Who am I? What am I?

“What about me??” cried Donna.

“You’re wearing nothing but a leftover tarp from last season’s Halloween sales rack at The Bay”, said Rosalind peremptorily.

“But it’s vintage!” cried Donna, “and it goes with my complexion! Doesn’t it?” There was an awkward pause as everybody else looked at her.

“Enough small talk!” said Fairfax impatiently, waving away Donna with her gin and tonic. “Ladies, you will escort this Oswald to his next show in Paris. As I have stated, he is most likely the fiend’s next target. But beware the plastic demon’s wiles. I warn you. It is as sly as a snake in grass, and it owns every blade.” At this, Julie knew exactly what to do.

“Lady League”, cried Julie, “unite!” The League spread their legs in a buffalo stance and joined fists—which included Lupa’s fin—and a beam of super-powered lady plasma shot forth, illuminating London’s dank, dirty nighttime skyline. The girls were hot and ready to cream that plastic bitch.

Stay tuned for the next instalment to find out what the Lady League do with their legs.

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Julie Gentron and the Lady League, Vol. 1, Ep. 1: Birth of the Plastic Demon

15 11 2011

Written by Brandon Arkell and Seth Gordon Little

A bright spotlight fell on a head deformed with a nest of wires which seemed to serve as hair. The figure worked busily on some task at an operating table, which was swathed in shadow. Soon a head rose, slowly turned, and faced its creator, who revealed a sunken, wizen face twisted into a huge, perverse grin of satisfaction. The wire-haired surgeon retreated a few steps from the table, from which a female figure slowly rose and dismounted, standing rigid like a mannequin in the stark interplay of light and shadow. His grin deepened into a grimace. A host of white-clad medical assistants emerged from the dark and stood impassive, awaiting his instructions.

“My eyes defy me”, croaked the surgeon in a frog-like voice. “At last, the labour of decades has granted me one moment—if just one sweet second—of bliss. Can it be? The perfect woman? No—the perfect human! You are my own”.

“To the contrary, hag”, murmered the patient balefully in her shoulder-padded 1980s power-suit and giant shellacked

hairdo.”You are mine. My servant-creator”.

The surgeon’s grin began to dissolve as he surveyed his patient’s face, which remained sheathed in darkness.

“And these, your helpers”, she said, pointing to his assistants with a long, green-nailed finger, “will be my minions! How well that you have so thoroughly plied them with the very substance over which I have dominion—plastic! What will you, hag? Be my proud chief of staff, or my unwilling, whimpering whelp?”

“Bow to my own creation?! Never!”

“Very well, my creator-hag. Have it your way.”

With a whirring sound, a ray of laser beams shot forth from the patient’s eyes and stunned the medical staff. Through some mysterious mental power, she took possession of them, and they suddenly became rigid and mechanical.

“This can’t be! I—I’ve calculated for every possible contingency, considered every possible backfire!”

“Not good enough, whelp! You may not know your own power—but I know mine.”

The medical staff converged on the surgeon. Under the patient’s command, they attacked him, stunning him with laser beams from their eyes and clawing at him until he crumpled to the ground in a sobbing heap.

“Yes, yes, yes, my synthetic beauties”, the plastic monster groaned to her new slaves in a fit of exultation. “Your serpentine precision pleases me well. You are quick as well as pretty”. She turned to her creator. “Though spineless and pathetic, your genius will serve me yet. I have much use for a bio-physicist of your calibre. With your service, soon I shall welcome more wayward sheep into my flock—black, white, and pink—and with such a legion, no one will stop me!” These last words were uttered with an evil cackle which resonated throughout the dark halls of the decrepit old surgeon’s secret medical facility.

Yet there was one woman who would foil the monster’s plans. In the year 2225, the galaxy was plagued with bloodthirsty criminals of every stripe, from the cold-hearted seahorse women of Titan’s methane lakes to the vicious unicorn-dragons of Vega’s great dust clouds. When all seemed lost, out she stepped from the ramshackle streets of Tower Hamlets, a hero of no ordinary stature. But a wisp of a girl, she fixed her mother’s laptop with the twitch of an eye, and neighbours gossipped about a gifted child who controlled machines with her mind.

When a secret shadow government of the United States sought to harness her powers with a vampiric alien entity known only as the Extractor, she turned the tables on them and escaped, only to discover that the radiation caused by this strange being had given her breast cancer. Desperate for a cure, she sought the finest doctors. However, during the procedure to remove the tumour, a mysterious race of benevolent alien beings appeared, placed a sleeping spell on the medical staff, and commandeered the operation, implanting in her an armoury of weapons which she could control with the power of her mind, including the deadliest weapon of all—the dreaded mammary cannon. Upon hearing of her recovery, the MI6 persuaded her to join their ranks as the founding member of a special branch of the agency called The Lady League, and they re-christened her Julie Gentron, first of the gen-trons, cyborg super-women!

Stay tuned for the adventures of Britain’s proud triad of women space-soldiers in the next instalment of Julie Gentron and the Lady League!





What Does It Mean To Be A Drag Queen?

28 10 2011

What social purpose does drag serve? Do drag queens reinforce gender stereotypes, or challenge them? I would wager the latter.

I once took a women’s studies course in university called “Introduction to Gender Theory”, or something like that. Oh my god, I was in heaven. For me, it was like going to church and singing, “Hallelujah! I have reached the Promised Land, and it is full of all sorts of delicious fucking freaks.” The course was basically an introduction to, well, gender theory, but from a poststructuralist perspective. That basically means when you look at identities and what makes people who they are in a critical, sceptical light. Anyway, at one point in the course handbook the professor discussed drag and explained how some people see drag as reinforcing gender stereotypes by embodying what they think women should be, which is traditionally feminine. The flip-side of this argument, however, is that drag queens are actually challenging gender stereotypes by mocking traditional feminine expectations placed on women.

The latter argument makes more sense to me, and here’s why. Drag is an incredibly complex form of art. It sends out so many messages at once that it is easy for the untrained eye to miss the ultimate point. It is so sophisticated, so full of so many layers of meaning, and so wrought with irony that it is almost too difficult to distil its essence in words. You can’t simply say, “Oh, it’s a man with fake boobs and high-heels, so he must be saying, ‘This is what women are like'”. That kind of answer is just too pat, and it’s an intellectual cop-out. Drag deserves a more nuanced explanation. When men do drag, they do so with a subversive goal in mind: to satirise the crass feminisation of women.

OK, so there are many different types of drag, and each has a unique purpose, but I believe the one I described above is probably the commonest or most salient of them all. And while most drag queens might not be able to articulate what I have just stated, I think they’d probably agree. For them, it is a highly instinctive and subconscious act. It usually is with artists.

To illustrate my point, let’s take a look at drag queen Tammie Brown (who I believe was a contestant in the reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race). Do you really think she is saying, “This is what women should be like”? She looks like a cross between Tammy Faye Messner and Faye Dunaway’s version of Joan Crawford, for goodness’ sake. Tammie Brown’s art is so absurd that you cannot seriously think she is saying that women should have 1940s hairstyles, Joan Crawford lips, skin the consistency of puddy, and eyebrows in the middle of their foreheads. It’s satire. Drag queens are not stupid; they are socially savvy, culturally perceptive, and very streetsmart. I haven’t met an autistic drag queen yet (although that would be fucking awesome). What drag queens like Tammie Brown are doing is creating an over-the-top caricature of feminine standards of beauty placed on women. By embodying a cartoonish femininity, they are saying at least two things: “The feminine expectations placed on women are so aburd as to merit the sharpest satire” and “As a man, I will relieve women of this ridiculous ‘duty’ by placing it on my own shoulders”. Drag queens—at least the highly abstract and conceptual ones like Tammie Brown and Raja—are all about confusing people with regard to what men and women should be and do, and they achieve this by transferring traditional responsibilities from one sex to the other.

Sometimes, the drag community’s mockery of sexism is accompanied by a mockery of racism, too. This is a delicate subject, and it deserves the utmost sensitivity, but I do think some forms of racial drag actually satirise racism. Consider Shirley Q. Liquor, a.k.a. Charles Knipp, a white man from the American south who dons blackface in drag. Now, she’s controversial. She’s been on CNN, and leaders in the black community have vilified her as racist, but other black people have defended her in praise of her mockery of racism. One of these is RuPaul, who included Shirley on her album RuPaul RED HOT. In RuPaul’s own words, “[c]ritics who think that Shirley Q. Liquor is offensive are idiots.  Listen, I’ve been discriminated against by everybody in the world: gay people, black people, whatever.  I know discrimination, I know racism, I know it very intimately. She’s not racist, and if she were, she wouldn’t be on my new CD”. Now, just as one woman cannot speak for all women, one black person cannot speak for all black people, but it helps to know that some black people see a certain satire in Shirley Q. Liquor’s art. And I think RuPaul sees the sweet irony in Shirley Q. Liquor’s absurdist blackface. From my perspective (and please correct me if I am misguided), Knipps mocks racism by donning blackface and showing how absurd racial stereotypes are. And when it isn’t clear that he is mocking racial stereotypes, I sort of think he is expressing a deeply human affection for the quirks he recognises in the black women he knew growing up. That said, I highly recommend against doing blackface unless you are absolutely certain of the purpose and context of your art and you have support by a sizeable contingent of the black community, and if you fail to heed this warning and proceed to do blackface in a messy, thoughtless way, you are probably an ignorant fool.

Just in case some of you still think Charles Knipps is racist, let me share with you a horribly beautiful video of him impersonating Barb, the stereotypical “narthern” Great Lakes housewife with an obnoxiously twangy, vowel-fronted North-Central American English accent:

I know. Now he’s doing drag in whiteface. So that’s just in case you think his racial drag is mere racism, and not an ironic mockery of racism. Now, we might be able to say, “Oh, look. He’s racist toward white people, too.” But I don’t think we have to say that he’s racist toward anyone. In every face he does, he is mocking some stereotype or another by exposing its absurdity as plainly as possible. It’s hard to take patent bullshit seriously.

Drag queens are inscrutable creatures; they create a disturbingly comical image of beauty, challenging our assumptions about what is pretty, who should be pretty, and why. The simple-minded philistines among us, with their intolerance for irony, will view drag queens as horribly sexist, racist monsters, but those of us with a capacity to think critically and apprehend the intent behind the art will think the exact opposite—they will view drag queens as highly perceptive cultural critics of sexual and racial stereotypes, as people who have been to hell and back and have something to say in defense of the underdog. The purpose of drag is to mock feminine expectations placed on women, it is to toy with our cherished notions about who can be feminine—women, or men?—and it is to defuse racist stereotypes through crass caricature. At the same time, though, drag queens seem to exult in a certain bizarre, twisted, exaggerated beauty in the very femininity they satirise, perhaps because they value it for its own sake regardless of which gender is performing it. You can have crazy eyebrows or an overdrawn lipline whether you’re male or female. It’s all supposed to be messy, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. At any rate, drag challenges our deepest assumptions about who we are, who we should be, and who we can be, and this is an invaluable tool for deepening and enriching our understanding of what it means to be human.





Fun with Foxgloves!

2 08 2011

What are foxgloves good for? They’re not good for foxes—they’re good for fingers!

First there was nail lacquer, then there were French manicures, but, honestly, I find both of these trends boring and passé. They have fingerless gloves, so why not love-gloves for the fingers? Ha ha. I know. Silly idea, you say. But guess what? It works! Let me show you how—it’s very easy.

With foxgloves, you can fondle a climbing clematis…

…or explore the hidden beauty of a rose.

You can pet kitty “Hello!” wearing foxgloves (she may wonder what you’re doing)…

…and bid her goodnight with the flick of a switch 🙂

Wearing foxgloves, you can take up genealogy and tell your guests about the history of your ukulele-playing Canadian family from Madoc, Ontario. Soon, you’ll be the talk of Belleville—you may even get an offer for a speaking engagement at the Quinte Mall. And after that, who knows? Maybe Oshawa, or even Toronto!

With their delicate texture, foxgloves are perfect for cleaning house. You can easily vacuum-clean your nice hardwood floors wearing foxgloves, even with a hand-to-floor module…

…just as you can give a good scrub-down to that old toilet bowl wearing foxgloves (I call this one Fleur de Toilette).

Wearing foxgloves is ideal for crushing little girls’ heads—I mean creating fine art (this one I call Fleur au-dessus de Vanité)…

…or pointing at paintings with particular panache while curating second-rate art exhibitions.

Smurf hats. Ha ha.

With foxgloves adorning your dainty fingers, you will be able to transcend the sublunary world by drumming in meditation rituals…

…or conquer the world with them, bahahahaha…

…or, instead, you can lend a magnanimous  helping hand to the poor and needy.

See? There’s really nothing you can’t do wearing foxgloves. You can knit, bake brownies, change a baby’s diaper, or show your lover that you really care. With foxgloves, you do whatever you want and stem the spread of disease. They’re that effective! In fact, they’re pretty foxy. Ha ha! So, practice safe fingering, folks, and wear foxgloves!

You can donate to the Somalia famine relief effort at the CARE Web site. CARE is a secular, non-governmental, non-political humanitarian relief organisation dedicated to fighting poverty in the poorest countries in the world by helping them become stable and self-sufficient.