Super Mario Odyssey was released in late October – a scintillating game wherein Princess Peach gets stolen by Bowser, and needs to be rescued by Mario. But guys, I swear, it’s totally different from other Mario games! This time he has a magical talking hat!
This is truly the game where Peach comes into her own. Once Mario races to the moon to rescue her from her shotgun wedding with Bowser, she rejects Mario and then steals his ship. Not needing further character development, she then embarks on a world tour with her own magical talking hat, and needs to be tracked down for a reason I’m sure doesn’t extend beyond trying to sucker people into spending more time with the game.
The ending feels so much like a battle between “well…maybe Peach should have at least some semblance of agency in this game?” and “Eh, who cares about puppets?” I don’t need to tell you which side won.
It’s so dull to see this railroad plot re-appear so consistently (with the exception of my childhood favourite, Super Princess Peach) – with Peach being swapped back and forth between Mario and Bowser like sexist pass-the-parcel. Her rejection of Mario does nothing to change their relationship,or her role in the game. Mario continues to follow her across the globe, with her tacit approval, and any possibilities for added dimension to their relationship are ignored. Peach remains an unlikable plot device, no matter how cute her outer wrapping.
Perpetuating this damsel-in-distress trope with one of the few important female characters in this iconic series shows how committed Nintendo is to a formula that sells. Consumers don’t want change, they want the desperately sexist familiar, with the flair of some new mechanics.
Honestly, this could have been so much more than Peach flouncing away and committing grand theft petasos. Peach and Mario deserve more interesting plotlines than being stuck in this vibrant Groundhog Day. Super Mario Odyssey promised to add a fresh, dynamic addition to the series, and while its gameplay was fresh, its overarching plot was merely more of the same.
Welcome to the last installment of my first mini-series!
Here, I’ll be discussing Artemis, played by real-life boxing legend Ann Wolfe.
Artemis is a fierce warrior, second only to Antiope, the leader of Themyscira’s army.
Physical strength isn’t usually celebrated in women – athletes, and regular gym rats are mocked for their appearances, and for ‘looking like men’. Heaven forbid we open a door for ourselves!
Artemis is muscular and athletic, but not unwomanly – her face is framed by her tiara, her armour is more practical than Diana’s little off-the-shoulder number, but is still feminine.
But I digress.
Again, Artemis’s power isn’t something to fear – it’s something to aspire to.
She’s set up early in the film as the strongest of all the training Amazons, and Diana proves herself by fighting Artemis, mini-boss style, before moving on to Antiope.
I’m not mad about her being hardcore. I’m concerned about the emotional stoicism she shows in her first appearances. Artemis doesn’t even flinch after getting wapped by some cowardly sneak attack – she just turns right around and gets on with her business. While admirable on the surface, this is a major aspect of the ‘strong black woman’ trope. Mel Perez, writing for Blackgirlnerds.com, dissects this trope and why it’s harmful:
“A strong, black woman is almost superhuman. She bears crippling burdens without a complaint. She nurtures everyone around her and fights for them. She weathers both physical and mental pain and comes through, intact on the other side…Perhaps, instead of superhuman, a better way to describe her is that she is barely human. This is the problem with this descriptor — it strips away our humanity. It makes it so that we’re not allowed to break down. We swallow our pain and try to ignore how we’re choking on it.”
Praising black women for their ability to quietly withstand pain is “a trap that keeps us from being able to express how these negative situations truly affect us.”
Fortunately, while Artemis totters precariously around becoming the “strong black woman,” she breaks through these barriers the next few times we see her. (I guess by the time she appeared on screen, the filmmakers were already preoccupied with pigeonholing Diana’s sitter).
Yes, she’s used to further Diana’s character development (and only as a mini boss)…Yes, she only has one line…
At least for a moment, we see her existing outside of the white protagonists’. When she fights alongside the other Amazons to protect their home, we see her being as frightened and upset as the others as they decide what to do with Steve Trevor. The mask we see her using in the first fight slips, and she’s allowed what the strong black woman isn’t – vulnerability.
So, hardly a homerun, but not absolutely shit.
Again, I really wish they’d done more with this character. What if Ann Wolfe and Robin Wright had switched places? The island’s most powerful warrior would make much more sense as a real-life athlete instead of somebody that, while lovely, is the Ancient Greek equivalent of a dried up old stick with a bad accent.
And speaking of unmuscular, slender women warriors – my next post (Wo)Men in Tights: Femininity in Wonder Woman will cover even more of this wonderful hot mess of a film. See you soon!
I’m a white woman. I wrote this mini-series in the hopes that I could help other white women, and non-black women understand the problematic ways black women are represented in this film. If you’re a black woman and you disagree, or you just want to share your thoughts, please feel free to contact me either in the comment section or via my blog’s contact page. Comments are all moderated by me, and I endeavour to make this blog a place where people of all marginalized groups feel they can safely express their views.
Featured image from Comicbook.com. Others are from Comicbookmovie.com, and Thegloss.com respectively.
This week I’ve been listening to 4 and Humanz and I’ve been absolutely living. 4 is such an underrated album and there are so many absolute bangers. My favourites are Love on Top, Lay Up Under Me, Countdown, I care, and 1+1, AND Grown Woman which isn’t on Spotify and that breaks my heart.
Pop Culture Detective analyses a pedophilic trope he calls ‘Born Sexy Yesterday,’ which involves women with adult bodies but the mind of a child, and their sexualization. Unsurprisingly, he gets much less hate than Feminist Frequency.