How to Make a Justice League Movie That Doesn’t Suck

As most of you know, I have a lot of opinions on a lot of topics. However, when it comes to this post, only one of those opinions matters: in the ongoing market share battle between Marvel and DC, Marvel is superior.

marvel_vs_dc_commission_by_bennyfuentes-d5mh97g

Marvel (and by extension, Disney) have injected the vast Marvel Comic Universe into mainstream media so wholly and perfectly that they’re now able to make movies for lesser-known comics such as Guardians of the Galaxy…and people are excited. Meanwhile, DC and Warner Bros. are cleaning up from a(nother) failed Superman movie and plotting for yet another Batman reboot.

DC has good comics and strong characters, but only one hero from their extended universe has been able to successfully make the transition to the big screen, and if Marvel is at a point where an Ant Man movie is in the works, DC really needs to move past Gotham’s Dark Knight.

And they are. Or at least they’re trying to. Warner Bros. has several DC movies in production or planning, including Batman vs. Superman, The Justice League, and Wonder Woman. I’m excited that they’re (kind of) branching out, and am hopeful for their success, but I still think they’ll fall short of their Marvel counterparts.

My personal opinion as to why Marvel is the superior brand is that (aside from the outrageously obvious science fiction elements) Marvel is founded in reality. The heroes save places like Los Angeles and New York instead of Metropolis and Gotham, and face many of the same “mundane” problems the audience does like struggling with underemployment or mental illness. Their origin stories also hold a certain level of plausibility, having even extraterrestrial visitors based on real world mythology. Meanwhile, DC is a little more fantastical and often comes from places the audience can’t relate to, what with the Justice League being composed of an invincible alien, a rich guy with a utility belt, an alien, a merman, a guy that got struck by lightning, an alien, a member of an alien police corps, and a warrior princess of an immortal race of giant women, to name a few.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Marvel’s movies are perfect. Daredevil and Elektra, Ghost Rider, and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, were cringe-worthy at best, and we’re not going to talk about either of the Hulk movies. Ever. There’s a distinct lack of diversity in most of their films, and only eight of the thirty-four films released in the last fifteen years have passed the Bechdel Test, despite having strong female characters who are (for the most part) excellently written. A lot of people think they moved way too quickly to reboot Spiderman, although anyone who didn’t think Sam Raimi’s trilogy needed to be redone clearly wasn’t paying attention to Tobey Maguire’s facial expressions.

tobey-maguire-faces-collage-634

These are relatively small complaints, particularly in the wake of Marvel’s success at the box office.

I like superhero movies. I go to see movies to be entertained, and Marvel entertains me. I want DC to do the same, but they get too muddied in heavy back stories trying to find deeper meaning, and forget to have fun. I hear internet rumors of what Warner Bros. is planning for the Justice League movie, and I’m scared for the mess of dark angst it could easily become.

Basically, DC needs to take a page out of Marvel’s back issue and not take itself too seriously.

In order to do this, they need to perfect the cast of the Justice League movie. Luckily, Emily and I had an extensive conversation about just this, and have compiled a list of the Ultimate Tumblr Fangirl’s casting* for The Justice League.

*About 50% of these suggestions, much like my photoshopping skills aren’t necessarily serious.

 

Script

A movie is only as good as its script. The Avengers had Joss Whedon, The Justice League needs someone with equal nerd power. Neil Gaiman would bring the perfect mix of action, excitement, and fun along with the dark fantasy element for which he and DC are both so well known.

neilgaiman

 

 

Wonder Woman

I’m going to throw this down right now: Diana Prince should be in charge of the Justice League. She’s diplomatic, a complete bad ass, and has already proven herself to be a competent leader. She’s also gone wholly unrepresented since Linda Carter’s TV stint as the Amazonian princess. Who better to bring her back to the big screen than Gina Torres? If you think the answer is anyone else, go watch Firefly and Serenity, then answer the question again.

She is definitely going to need a redesigned costume, though. No woman with even the vaguest understanding of gravity who spends her free time literally flying around fighting crime would voluntarily wear a metal-trimmed tube top. She’ll be just as sexy with her shoulders covered, I promise.

wonderwoman

 

 

Power Girl

Speaking of costume redesigns, Karen Starr’s gaping cleavage hole is next on the list. Felicia Day, geek sweetheart and sci-fi sensation, will bring a tough-but-adorable performance to Superman’s cousin. Considering nearly everything Felicia has appeared in turns to ratings gold, as well as casting a well-known feminist to revamp a classically sexist role will be a double win for DC.

powergirl

 

 

The Flash

My extensive research of Barry Allen (which consists nearly exclusively of the JL8 webcomic) leads me to the conclusion that he’s a fanatical man-child with a massive case of ADHD. Following Marvel’s example of casting actors who secretly are their characters, Barry will be played by Chris Hardwick.

flash

 

 

Martian Manhunter

An alien with near-genius intellect who is the last of his species and carries that burden with heavy guilt? Not to typecast, but that sounds a lot like a certain Time Lord from the BBC. David Tennant with his native Scottish accent and a layer of green latex is an excellent choice for J’onn J’onzz, even if his heartbreaking look of survivor’s guilt may be less effective behind red contact lenses.

And yes, I am absolutely sticking to the insinuation that Martians have Scottish accents.

martianmanhunter

 

 

Aquaman

While extremely powerful in the depths of the ocean, Orin is rather useless on dry land. In order to get the most out of his superpowers, it makes sense to have him spend the majority of the movie either in open water or in a giant fish tank on wheels that gets carted into meetings. Because of the aquatic demand of the role, Michael Phelps will play the King of Atlantis.

aquaman

 

 

Batman

I’m sure I’ll get some hate for this, but: Bruce Wayne is the terrible DC version of Tony Stark. They’re both billionaire playboy philanthropists who had traumatic experiences that pushed them into a life of vigilante justice, but there’s one key difference: genius. While Bruce was stealing, borrowing, and secretly paying for the technology that arms his utility belt, Tony constructed a miniaturized self-sustaining energy source that saved his life and powered a nearly-invincible suit capable of flight and weaponized offensive and defensive strategies that he designed and built, in a cave in the desert. When Tony harnessed the power of an element he discovered to aid his impossibly high-tech suit and save hundreds of thousands of people, Bruce was applying heavy eyeliner and perfecting his Bat Voice™.

Yes, they’re different characters, and yes, Batman has redeeming qualities when it comes to his no killing code and tragic back story, but come on. Batman has starred or been featured in 250 movies, TV shows, and video games since 1989, and we’ve been beaten to death with his brooding angst of I-have-no-parents-I’m-not-the-hero-Gotham-deserves-I-only-dream-in-shades-of-black-and-very-dark-gray as he crouches in silhouette on a rooftop at night.

No more.

Batman will be portrayed by unknown Alex Kurt, will never remove his costume, and will not be trusted to make big decisions that affect anything, because this is the same hero who thought letting a pre-pubescent boy fight hardened criminals in a leotard was a good idea. He will mainly sit in the corner and occasionally wheeze out pearls of wisdom such as, “I’m not wearing hockey pants” in his gravelly Bat Voice™, along with the proclamation of being “the greatest detective in the world” when he reaches the same conclusion everyone else drew several minutes before.

batman

 

 

Green Lantern

The beauty of Green Lantern is that anyone can be one – as long as they have the will to do what’s right and fight for justice. It’s for this reason that there have been so many Green Lanterns throughout the years. It’s also for this reason there will be multiple Green Lanterns in The Justice League. Jason Momoa, Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Godot, and Terry Crews will portray Hal Jordan, Guy Gardener, Kyle Raynor, Arisia, and John Stewart, and rotate as the Justice League’s lantern du jour in every scene. The rapid switching of the lanterns will prove to annoy the hell out of the other Justice League members, except for Batman, who never seems to notice they change.

greenlantern3

greenlantern2

greenlantern1

greenlantern4

FOX 2103 Programming Presentation Post-Party

 

 

Superman

And what about the Man of Steel, the face of the Justice League, Mr. Clark Kent himself?

Yeah, about that.

There can’t be a movie about the Justice League without Superman, but there seems to be an unavoidable trend with movies featuring Superman: they suck.

The solution we came up with for this catch-22 is to feature Superman as a character without ever showing him on screen. Every time he’s needed, it would be revealed he just left the very same room as the other characters, like a dramatically extended 90’s sitcom. Any pivotal scenes or major battles would coincide with Lois Lane finding herself in mortal peril, or Clark needing to make a deadline for The Daily Planet.

Diana soon gets fed up with his irresponsible multi-tasking, takes control of the Justice League, and stops inviting him to things.

superman

 

That’s it. That’s the foolproof recipe to make The Justice League a smashing success. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be waiting for my phone to ring with a job offer from Warner Bros.

Hey, Gavin! No it F#@%ing Isn’t.

April is sexual violence awareness month. I say this to preface the fact of how ridiculous it is that in a month where the goal is to spread the word and educate about the rampant problem of sexual violence in this country (as well as around the world), I found myself reading an article titled Hey, Ladies! Short Hair is Rape.

It’s not a parody or some horrifically off-kilter April Fool’s prank, it is a sentiment that the author — a Mr. Gavin McInnes — feels quite strongly about. It begins as a Tuthmosis-like plea for women to embrace that cutting their hair short is a bad idea, but then he takes his sexist motives and raises them a rape claim. He doesn’t even mean it as an ill-fitting metaphor, he legitimately thinks that sleeping with a woman who has short hair is rape:

“Having a sexual encounter you didn’t sign up for is the textbook definition of rape…as soon as we lose the angle, all we see is Neil Patrick Harris going to town. That’s perfectly fine if you’re into that kind of thing, but we straight males went home with a chick with short hair, not a kind, gay man with a delicate body. Is there a legal precedent for something like this?”

No, there’s no legal precedent for “something like this” because if there was, there would also need to be a legal precedent for the kind of irrevocable stupidity Gavin is spouting off.

mcinnes

Quick recon of what’s wrong with this article:

  • Women only exist to serve and please men
  • All straight men are exactly the same, have the same opinions, and find the same things attractive
  • Having consensual sex with someone you don’t inherently find attractive is rape

The most amazing thing about this entire article is that the whole thing is so twisted, Gavin manages to undermine his entire argument — twice! — without breaking stride.

While he may believe that “having a sexual encounter you didn’t sign up for” is the honest to goodness “textbook definition” of what rape is, he is incorrect. The “textbook definition” of rape is, in actuality, “the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse” or “any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.”

Source: dictionary.com

Source: dictionary.com

He admits to freely electing to go home with a woman with short hair and choosing to engage in whatever activities occur thereafter, but later being upset that the woman with short hair he went home with…has short hair. That’s not rape. That’s not even understanding how hair works.

He also makes the claim that short hair is “definitely in the top 1% of dirty[sic] tricks” essentially accusing these women of pulling a switcheroo on him because, see, he went home with a woman with short hair, but then when he slept with that same woman…she had short hair. Unless he took home a woman with long hair and she immediately began to hack it off with a kitchen knife, he’s not the victim of some zany bait-and-switch. And honestly, at that point he has bigger things to worry about than the length of her hair.

If anything, he’s realized through probable trial and error that he’s not attracted to women with short hair, and that’s fine. Everyone is attracted to different things, everyone has the right to choose who they go home with, or if they want to go home with anyone at all.

Much like everyone has the right to cut and style their hair however they choose without having to worry about being accused of rape because one idiot doesn’t like how it looks.

A simple solution for Gavin? If he really has such a problem with short haired women, maybe he should stop going home with them.

However, the overlying issue is that in a month dedicated to the education of the public and the support of all the survivors, having Gavin McInnes claim that he is a victim of sexual assault based on his hair preferences for the opposite sex is appalling. Shame on him, and shame on Thought Catalog for publishing an article that is so disrespectful and blasé about a very serious issue, and devalues the stories of the many men and women that are actual survivors.

For more information about Sexual Violence Awareness Month, please visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Important Happenings of March 26th

Hello readers! I’ve successfully survived another 365 days on the planet, so it’s time again for my birthday post. Though my musical expectations were readily set by Blink-182, I found that people actually did like me when I was 23. Or at least the handful of people I interacted with on a regular basis seemed to like me.

Honestly, I'm just as shocked as you are.

Honestly, I’m just as shocked as you are.

Anyway, I’ve decided to do a look back through history and highlight noteworthy events that coincide with what my mother fondly referred to as, “…my first effing day of maternity leave. Thanks. Brat.”

Love ya, mean it!

Love ya, mean it!

 

Today in…

1027 – Pope John XIX crowns Conrad II as Holy Roman Emperor

1830 – The Book of Mormon is published in New York

1915 – The Vancouver Millionaires sweep the Ottawa Senators three-games-to-none to win the 1915 Stanley Cup Finals

1917 – WWI: The First Battle of Gaza

1945 – WWII: The Battle of Iwo Jima ends and the island is officially secured by American forces

1958 – The US Army launches Explorer 3

1979 – Anwar al-Sadat, Menachem Begin, and Jimmy Carter sign the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty in Washington, D.C.

1982 – A groundbreaking ceremony for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is held in Washington, D.C.

1990 – The 62nd Academy Awards are held in Los Angeles. Winners include Daniel Day-Lewis (Best Actor, My Left Foot), Jessica Tandy (Best Actress, Driving Miss Daisy), Denzel Washington (Best Supporting Actor, Glory), Brenda Fricker (Best Supporting Actress, My Left Foot), Oliver Stone (Best Director, Born on the Fourth of July), and Driving Miss Daisy (Best Picture)

1999 – The Melissa virus infects Microsoft word processing and email systems around the world

2005 – Doctor Who returns to television with the premiere of the episode “Rose” on BBC One

 

Also born on this day:

Malcolm III of Scotland (1031) – King of Scotland 1058-1093

Adolf Hurwitz (1859) – German mathematician

Robert Frost (1874) – American poet and playwright

Guccio Gucci (1881) – Italian fashion designer

Tennessee Williams (1911) – American playwright, author, and poet

Sandra Day O’Connor (1930) – American jurist, first female US Supreme Court Justice

Leonard Nimoy (1931) – American actor (Star Trek), singer, and director

Alan Arkin (1934) – American actor (Little Miss Sunshine, Argo), singer, and director

Nancy Pelosi (1940) – American politician, 60th Speaker of the US House of Representatives

Bob Woodward (1943) – American journalist

Diana Ross (1944) – American singer (The Supremes) and actress

Richard Tandy (1948) – English keyboard player (Electric Light Orchestra)

Steven Tyler (1948) – American singer-songwriter (Aerosmith)

Fran Sheehan (1949) – American bass player (Boston)

Martin Short (1950) – Canadian-American actor (Saturday Night Live, The Three Amigos), singer, and director

Jennifer Grey (1960) – American actress (Dirty Dancing, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

Kenny Chesney (1968) – American singer-songwriter and guitarist

Leslie Mann (1972) – American actress (Knocked Up, This is Forty)

T.R. Knight (1973) – American actor (Grey’s Anatomy) and fellow Academy of Holy Angels alumnus (1991)

Larry Page (1973) – American computer scientist, co-founder of Google

Jonathon Groff (1985) – American actor and singer (Glee, Frozen)

Keira Knightly (1985) – English actress (Pirates of the Caribbean, Anna Karenina)

 

Hopefully you enjoyed your very date-centric history lesson, and thank you all for the many lovely birthday wishes!

Reader Mail – RE: Debunking the Friend Zone

Disclaimers:

  • Going by MPAA standards, this post is rated PG-13. Please be advised.
  • The following reader mail was submitted elsewhere and has been transcribed for blogging purposes.
  • I realize that my response is composed of many broad generalizations. I do this not to speak for the varied experiences of every person, but rather to respond in kind to the broad generalizations I was presented with by the reader.

Hey there,

I really loved your recent piece about ‘Debunking the Friend Zone.’ The article was well thought-out and I can never argue with the points you make. However I would like you to take a step back to try to understand the poor frustrated guys. Here are my two cents:

In the society we currently live in, it is almost always the girl who chooses a guy. Some guys say that they “pick up girls,” which could not be farther from the truth. If a girl does not like a guy, he is simply out of luck. So unless the guy is one of the select few who every girl chases after he has to put in a lot of effort to even be considered. So tell me Lindsay, if you put in a lot of effort into something in general, and it does not work out, will you not be likely to try blame everyone but yourself? The whole friend-zone concept is a sign of humans being sore losers. It mostly happens to guys because the girls have the upper hand in having the power in selecting their potential mates.

Anyways, it is also “cool” for guys to sleep with multiple girls, and it is usually frowned upon vica-versa and girls are labelled as “sluts.” Which is another reason for girls to be more reserved in general. Also, guys are more likely to act on their sex drive because the act has less potential consequences for them (e.g. pregnancy). And these arguments are just a drop in the water of the whole philosophy that is behind the human mating concept.

Sorry for rambling on…Let me know what you think!

Regards,

Nick

Nick,

Interesting. While I’m glad you enjoyed the article, and your points also seem pretty well thought out, I’m going to go ahead and respectfully disagree with most of them.

First, if the way a “poor, frustrated” guy deals with rejection is to ignore my wishes and continue to harass me, I don’t really have much interest in understanding where he’s coming from, as he clearly could care less about where I’m coming from.

Your claim that women almost always choose the guys is probably accurate in your own experience; however, as I’ve actually witnessed (and experienced) guys picking up girls, and girls being on the bitter end of rejection just as often as I’ve witnessed (and experienced) what you mainly observe, I can hardly concede that the girl always, or even almost always holds the power in the decision-making process. In my experience, it’s typically held equally between both parties, which parenthetically is what consent looks like.

Now yes, unless a guy is one of the “select few” a woman is interested in, he is “out of luck” in the sense that she does not want to pursue a romantic relationship with him. He may be upset about her decision, but (as I stated very clearly in my article) because she is a human being, this is a decision she is able and entitled to make. It doesn’t matter if “he put in a lot of effort even to be considered,” if she isn’t interested, she does not owe him anything. The same would be true if the situation were reversed, as well. Just because someone is nice to you and put in a lot of time and energy to make you pay attention doesn’t mean you’re obligated to give him or her sex if he or she asks for it.

Here’s where you bring up an interesting point: if I put a lot of effort into something and it doesn’t work out, am I going to blame anything and everything else because I failed? Of course not. I would go back and analyze where I went wrong in the process because the issue is probably with me. That’s what girls do. There have been psychological studies illustrating this self-serving bias, when males don’t get something they want they tend to blame external factors, while females tend to blame themselves and other internal factors. Why? That’s how society has told us it’s okay to act.

Oh yes, society. You brought it up yourself, it’s “cool” when a guy sleeps around, but girls are “sluts” for doing the same. It’s a double standard that society has made permissible, and incidentally can explain your concept of women allegedly holding all the power in the process of “selecting their potential mates.” Society has told women that we must be more reserved because anything to do with sex is wrong and dirty, and vaginas are disgusting, and how dare we even consider sleeping with more than [insert increasingly ambivalent number deemed acceptable by society here] men, and if we get pregnant everyone will know what whores we are because even if we’re in a situation that is horrifically detrimental to bearing or raising a child, society has elected government officials who see it fitting to pass hundreds of laws and propose thousands of provisions to regulate our reproductive systems, which many of them don’t even understand (because vaginas are disgusting, remember?).

Meanwhile, societal norms tell guys that you can sleep with as many women as you want, as often as you want, and if any of those women say they’d rather not sleep with you it’s perfectly okay to throw a tantrum and call her names because she’s obviously a cold bitch and something is wrong with her, and you can go ahead and continue trying to get her to sleep with you, and while you’re at it, you should totally draw penises on every conceivable surface because that’s hella rad. Guys exercise their sex drive more often because they’re told over and over in multiple facets and outlets that there are no negative implications that are their responsibilities.

So what do I think? I think that shedding light on these inequities might put the injustice of sometimes getting shot down into perspective for you. I think that you have strong opinions that have been formed by your own life experiences, and may be very valid for those life experiences. I think that my original article hit a bit too close to home for your liking, and when mixed with your opinions, made you a tad indignant. And I really think that your indignation may have caused you to miss the underlying message of my article, which is quite simply that the Friend Zone does not exist because your penis is not the most important thing in the universe.

Most importantly, however, I think you shouldn’t question a feminist’s views on how some guys can’t handle rejection by bringing society’s double standards of sex into the fray. Particularly when said feminist has a blog and is very willing to use it.

Regards,

Lindsay

Debunking the Friend Zone

Of all the modern relationship tropes, fantasies, and myths, it’s hard for me to find any more twisted and awkward than that of the Friend Zone, mostly because I’m sick and tired of seeing my friends get harassed for exercising their basic human right of free will.

For those of you who are blissfully unaware, the Friend Zone is a term coined by romantically frustrated teenagers and young adults, almost exclusively of the male variety. Essentially it’s what happens when a guy who has romantic feelings towards a woman finds out that she does not reciprocate those feelings, or is strictly platonic in her feelings.

Source: Urban Dictionary

Source: Urban Dictionary

Apparently this is one of the worst fates that can possibly befall any adolescent or post-adolescent male.

Hearing the awful words “I just want to be friends” is pure tragedy. It means a guy has wasted months – even years! – spending time with a girl or woman, only to find out she has no romantic or sexual interest in him (which of course are the only reasons for men to have women around in the first place). It means something is horribly defective with her; why else wouldn’t she accept his ardent admiration with open arms?!

What none of these drama kings seem to realize, however, is that the Friend Zone doesn’t actually exist. Or rather, it doesn’t exist in the way most guys claiming to be trapped in it seem to believe.

This is important: If you are a male who has suddenly found yourself in an inadvertent platonic relationship with a female, she has not trapped you in the Friend Zone. She is not a bitch. She is not a slut. She is not mentally unbalanced. Kindly refrain from referring to her as any of those things.

Source: Urban Dictionary

Source: Urban Dictionary

She is your friend. You’re in something that’s called a friendship, which means you enjoy each other’s company and probably spend time together, but for one reason or another she doesn’t want to sleep with you.

“But I’m such a nice guy!”

One of the most common defensive arguments from “Friend Zoned” guys is that they’re “really nice guys.” However, if the only reason you’re being nice to a woman is so you can get in her pants, you’re not actually a really nice guy. If anything, you’re a poor excuse for a human being and you’re systematically destroying the foundation any relationship with her – platonic or otherwise – could have been built on. If you’re going to be nice to a woman, consider being nice to her because she is a human being and deserves the same amount of respect as anybody else.

“It’s not fair, I’ve always been there for her!”

If you’ve helped her through a tough time or listened her vent her frustrations about her boss or a previous boyfriend, it means you’re a good friend. It does not mean she owes you anything besides a reciprocal friendship, particularly if you’ve never made any mention of ever wanting to be more than friends (no, being a really great listener doesn’t count as mentioning your feelings).

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about!”

It’s not easy or fun to make a move on the woman you’re interested in, only to find out that she doesn’t feel the same way about you. If this happens, you should accept that she’s not interested and move on. What you absolutely should not do is ignore what she says and continue to make moves.

I understand that the phrase “I don’t want to date you” is extraordinarily ambiguous, but please understand that no means no, regardless of context. If my dog can tear herself away from whatever delicious garbage she’s managed to get ahold of because she hears “no,” but you can’t refrain from hitting on a woman because she asked you not to, you’re not giving her reasons to change her mind. You’re demonstrating that you’re not as well behaved as a terrier that tries to eat garbage.

A good friend of mine, whose recent experience with all of this was the inspiration for this post, found the whole experience unnecessary, irritating, and ultimately demeaning:

“I know this guy and he really tried for a while, but I wasn’t interested so I told him, ‘Hey, I just want to be friends,’ because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but he didn’t seem to get the hint because he kept trying…so I started straight up telling him, ‘NO,’ which is when I realized that men really do not understand the meaning of ‘NO.’ When you try to touch my arm and I yank it away? That is not an invitation to try it again. When you try to kiss, sweet talk, make a move, date, etc. and I shrug you off? Do not make an attempt to repeat it the next time you see me. Am I supposed to be attracted to you because you can’t respect me enough to listen to what I’m saying to you? You’re making a fool of yourself and trying to make it my fault.”

Source: Urban Dictionary

Source: Urban Dictionary

I know that not all men are guilty of this, but enough are that it’s an issue. For every man that is kind and polite and respectful to a woman, regardless of their relationship, there’s a guy who’s calling a woman names for not going out with him. And the bigger issue is that they’re getting away with it.

This is my PSA: Stop letting guys trap themselves in the Friend Zone. Start calling them out on their melodramatic bullshit, because it’s ridiculous that a guy can shame a woman into feeling bad for how she feels, and he still comes out looking like the victim.

When a guy says, “She put me in the Friend Zone!” all he’s really saying is, “I’m too immature to handle rejection, and don’t respect her enough to realize that she’s entitled to her own opinions and choices!”

Which probably has something to do with why she didn’t see him as boyfriend material in the first place.

Road to State: The Starliners

First formation.

There is a power behind certain words, and strong emotions tied to different phrases. To me, there is not a more soul crushing or blood chilling pair of words in the English language than these.

It’s been almost six years to the day since my last Starliner practice, but even writing them down gives me a little bit of a chill. These were the words that we heard five, six, seven, eight — or more — times everyday at dance practice. These were the words that silenced us, and spiked our heart rates as we shuffled into our places, taking deep breathes and trying remain calm. These were the words that meant in three and a half minutes we would be reduced to gasping desperately for air, and would take every ounce of our rapidly dwindling stamina not to collapse on the mildew-scented floor in an asthmatic fit, but instead gulp down as much water as our stomachs could handle, and hope to God we could catch our breath before they said it again.

In short, “first formation” was how our coaches told us we were going to run our high kick routine full out in its entirety. It was my least favorite part of practice, even worse than The Box, or running because someone was late, or getting yelled at by our coaches.

starliners 5

We usually deserved it.

During my time as a Starliner, I expressed my fear and/or hatred of the phrase many times, which often led my non-dance friends and family members to question why I continued. Why did I practice for over 15 hours a week in crappy practice spaces that were full of mildew and asbestos warnings? Why did I turn until I couldn’t see straight, and stretch until I pulled both hamstrings, and kick until I had shin splints? Why did I let my GPA suffer and never see my non-dance friends outside of school during winter season?

The obvious answer is because I love to dance, and I firmly believe that the good things in life are worth the extra effort. Most of my best memories of high school happened at dance competitions, and the hard learned lessons of being a Starliner are still ingrained into my everyday life. Three of my closest friends, whom I speak to every single day, are all former Starliners, and I can’t watch more than one kick routine without my chin navigating towards the ceiling.

And, of course, State.

starliners 4

That’s what everything was really for, after all. State was our Super Bowl, our Olympics, our light at the end of the competition tunnel. State was everything that we worked for at every single practice, and what we gritted our teeth and thought about through all our social sacrifices. We knew it was all for State, but we also always knew we were going to State. My senior year was the 25th anniversary of the Starliners, and the 24th year we went to State. We always went to State. It wasn’t a question of who was in our sections that year, or how many seniors we had lost, it didn’t matter. We always worked hard, we always did well, and we always went to State.

Two years after I graduated, Starliners got second in kick, medaling at State for the first time in over a decade. The next year they got third in kick. Then the next two years, they didn’t go to State. There were several factors at play, a new section full of formerly-AAA teams, the loss of nearly a dozen seniors, and a complete overhaul in the coaching regime, twice. A two year absence doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but of their current varsity team, only two members have ever been to State. Two years in the dance team world is an entire generation, and in those two years, people have forgotten about them. The Starliners aren’t on the mental list of spectators for the six teams that will move on to finals, or the three that will medal. Why should they be?

Well for one thing, they’re back.

starliners 2

The Starliners are finally going back to State, and they’re going in both dances. Said current Starliner Rose Mikhail, “It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed about. I’ve never wanted something this much before and now it’s real. I’ve [watched] State every year since I was ten, so it’s weird to finally be the one performing. I feel like this whole year has just been a dream.” The senior reflected on the team’s experience at sections with some emotion, saying, “After we got our section medals, my grade gathered in a circle and just kind of stared at each other…after we weren’t announced for State my junior year, we gathered in a circle and made a pact that our senior year was going to be the year that we would make it, and we did!”

Many things came together in order to make this comeback happen, but the return of Starliner alumni Nina DeNio and Annie Halloran as coaches has made perhaps the biggest impact. “Everyone this year had a new motivation because I think the coaching staff is a better fit for our team,” said sophomore Emily Keis. “Nina and Annie are both amazing coaches. They really understand the Starliner program and have pushed us to be the best dancers we can be…I couldn’t ask for much more!” Mikhail added, “My sophomore and junior year I would dread going to practice, but this year there hasn’t been a day where I didn’t want to go…they are both the most motivational people I have ever met.”

All of that is why I respect this team so much, and will be yelling my head off for them this weekend. Don’t get me wrong, when I was a Starliner we worked hard enough that we passed ibuprofen and inhalers around practice like candy, but we also knew that we were going to State. Working towards an inevitability isn’t motivation, it’s an inevitability. These girls, on the other hand, worked just as hard for the last two years…for nothing.

starliners 3

Well, nothing but the pure motivation to get to where they are now. For Mikhail, it’s the sweetest of bittersweet moments, knowing that her last high school competition will be the one she’s spent years trying to get to. “[I hope] we perform our absolute best,” she said. “I don’t want to set any limits as to how far we will make it because all year we’ve been saying, ‘Why not us?'”

Both Starliners I talked with had words of encouragement to all the teams who didn’t make it to State this year. “Let next year be a fresh new start,” said Mikhail. “Just because you were the underdogs this year doesn’t mean you will be next season.”

“Don’t let anything stop you from not getting to State next year!” added Keis.

Looking back at my seasons on dance team, I have a lot of different memories. Some good, some terrifying, and some sad, but the only ones that are absolutely fantastic are my memories of going to State. I’m so happy another generation of Starliners now gets to make those memories.

Good luck, girls!

starliners 6

AAA State Preview: Pre-Section Showcase

This past Saturday was a day of dance; a day of debuting state routines, dispelling wild rumors, and nearly getting taken out by an angry dance mom.

It was fantastic.

Eastview hosted a pre-section showcase of ten schools: Benilde-St. Margaret (AA), Burnsville, Chaska, Eagan, Eastview, Edina, Hopkins, Lakeville South, Spring Lake Park, and Wayzata. Judges were there for feedback, but as it was a showcase, scores and rankings were not announced at the end.

Here are a few noteworthy thoughts from the day:

BENILDE-ST. MARGARET
The Knightettes were the only AA school at the showcase, more than likely invited to show off their jazz routine, which in my opinion probably outranked a few of the AAA routines present. You can read more about Benilde in my AA State Preview.

BURNSVILLE
Burnsville debuted their state kick routine, which had been kept very quiet. It was an 80’s exercise theme, complete with work-out belts, sweat bands, and garishly colored leotards and tights. Their choreography fit their theme perfectly, something Burnsville always excels at. For a first performance, it looked good. They had a few personals and a hole, but nothing that won’t be cleaned up before sections and State. If they do, they’re certainly a contender to medal.  

CHASKA
I am always genuinely entertained by Chaska’s kick routines, and this year was no exception. Their Sherlock Holmes theme was a delight, complete with plaid costumes and their signature 54+ formations. It was a little busy, but it was seamless precision and creativity, and I am very much looking forward to seeing it on the State floor, more than likely more than once. 

Their Mumford & Sons inspired jazz was beautiful, and particularly worth mentioning due to a rumor. Word had been going around that they were forced to re-choreograph because they had ripped off a studio routine. This is false information.

EAGAN
I have to give a shout-out to Eagan because I’ve been following their progress throughout the season, and I know how much they’ve improved from their first competition. They have a very tough section and a smaller team for a AAA school, but a lot of talent and excellent choreography. If they continue how they have been and really focus on being clean and sharp, there’s a very good chance we’ll see them both days at the Target Center.

EASTVIEW
The Lightning Dance Team also took the showcase as an opportunity to debut their State kick routine, which had been rumored to be a Russian theme. Spoilers, it was not a Russian theme. They performed to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and in true Eastview form, blew it out of the water. There were some very minor personals, and a clear loss of energy towards the end, but there’s no doubt it will be perfected by the time they perform it at State, and I have a feeling their mirror-like unitards will be reflecting blue at awards.

Their jazz was exquisite, and could once again be a candidate for the hotly-contested third place ranking at State.

WAYZATA
Major props to these girls, who had their music skip and start over about 45 seconds into their kick routine. They came back and performed the entirety of their Prince themed routine after the rest of the teams performed, and it was very well done. Because they’re a jazz team, there were lots of tricks and jumps, but it was clean and had fun choreography. They could definitely go to finals with this routine.

Their jazz was astounding. It was executed perfectly, and the choreography was absolutely gorgeous. While I’m usually Team Maple Grove, unless they pull out something akin to their “Dream On” routine from 2008, Wayzata may be walking away with the blue ribboned medals this year.

This really goes without saying, particularly in AAA, but State is going to be intense. I’m pumped to see how these teams do when schools like Maple Grove and Brainard are added to the mix. As I mentioned before, the scores and rankings were not announced at the end of the showcase. They were given to coaches, and while I do know people, they’ve been sworn to secrecy until after State.

Instead, here are my predictions from the showcase.

KICK
1. Eastview
2. Chaska
3. Wayzata
4. Burnsville
5. Lakeville South
6. Eagan
7. Hopkins
8. Spring Lake Park
9. Edina
10. Benilde-St. Margaret

JAZZ
1. Wayzata
2. Eastview
3. Burnsville
4. Spring Lake Park
5. Chaska
6. Lakeville South
7. Eagan
8. Benilde-St. Margaret
9. Hopkins
10. Edina