Friday, May 22, 2015

KP EbE - All About Me (Title Sequence)

Remember how I said I might get to this "tomorrow" thirteen days ago?  Oops.

Anyway, not sure at the outset how much there is to work with here.  I originally intended to have this and the theme song be in the same post, after all.

I said, when discussing the theme song, that Kim is a power fantasy.  There's nothing wrong with that, there ought to be more power fantasies for girls and women (and gender non binary people too), and the title sequence/opening credits really plays that up.  It's dominated by Kim kicking ass and taking names (well, not so much the name taking), with being popular and pretty sprinkled in.

First we get a screen that looks all technical because it's got green lines and random numbers at the top and Kim is in green outline and there's a list of phrases:


The phrases read:
KIM POSSIBLE
SHE CAN DO ANYTHING
AGENT FOR CHANCE TO SAVE THE WORLD
MIDDLETON HIGH SCHOOL
HIGH SCHOOL SOPHOMORE
JUNIOR VARSITY CHEERLEADER
WORLD'S LAST HOPE
FEAR NOT
READY FOR ACTION
"Fear not" is a non-sequitur.  Everything else is about her.  There's almost a fixed pattern so that they could all fit in the same syntactic box, but not quite.  Regardless, we get About Kim, About Kim, About Kim, About Kim, About Kim, About Kim, About Kim, Imperative, About Kim.  Little bit odd there, but it's a decent information dump.

Though they don't update it until the show gets canceled and then uncancelled so "High School Sophomore," has a margin of error of ±1 year.  Also seldom is she the world's last hope.  In fact, when the world is at stake it's always someone else who comes through in the end.  When things are at a global level it tends to be the case that she's the last hope of the world order.  She's preventing regime change.  Preserving the status quo rather than doing any real world saving.

It's a minor quibble though.

So, let us move on.

When I mentioned that Kim was not in fact the basic average girl that the theme song described her as a couple of people in the comments put forward what being normal probably means in this context:
white, upper-middle-class, American, cis-gender, heterosexual, and in high school
'middle class neurotypical/mentally well American cis hetero girl'. Possibly with 'white' added on to it, actually very possibly, although that makes me cringe.

We have two winners.  Kim is white, cisgender, heterosexual, American, upper middle class, mentally healthy, neurotypical, and attends a public high school.

Those are Kim's mission clothes.  She actually wears more on missions (usually she goes sleeveless), unlike most female heroes.  That's sensible.  Mind you she's still in a crop top with three quarter length sleeves so there's plenty of skin to get scraped up.

A note on the animation style: only female characters have their lips shown, and then only the upper lip.  Most of the time this works just fine.  Some of the time, generally when they did a poor job of matching Kim's colors to a dark scene, it looks like Kim has a bright orange mustache from drinking glowing super-Tang.  So, be prepared for that in the future.

[Added:] Alert reader WanderingUndine notes that Gill, who we'll meet in episode 11, was one male character who had his upper lip drawn even before he mutated into a fish monster. [/added]

The title sequence contains a lot of running around and swinging around the giant letters of "Kim Possible" while doing average girl things like dodging energy weapons.  There's not a lot to take from that beyond it could have been edited together better, so I'm only going to show a picture, say three sentences, and then ignore all the rest of it, in spite of how much relative time it takes up:


The beam is hitting where she was, she jumped that high via handspring.  She is very athletic.  What I mean about editing can be seen in that you can actually see elements of the background of the scene that shot was lifted from near the beam, and her grappling hook launcher will change color throughout.


Kim's a cheerleader.  Kim is the head cheerleader.  Kim is the best cheerleader.  As stated before, actual high schools vary wildly when it comes to social structure or lack thereof.  That said, in fictional high school social structure that puts Kim at the tippity top.

I don't think this is necessarily a bad choice, power fantasy and all that.  Batman isn't just someone who fights crime in his free time, he's a popular, well-loved, handsome, rich (inherited so no new-money social taint), playboy, [more things here] Mary Sue.

I do think that there's a bit of a missed opportunity here though.  I'm reminded of the Beatles.  When the Beatles first became famous they did it in America.  They're not Americans.  What this meant was that they would come to this side of the pond, play sold out concerts to screaming devoted fans, basically be on top of the world where they could get whatever they wanted just by asking, and then they'd go home.  Home to a country where no one really knew of their fame and people thought they were making shit up if they tried to tell anyone what it was like for them over here.

Obviously, eventually their fame did follow them back to their homeland, but at the beginning they described it as like being in two different worlds.  Here they were celebrities, there they were nobodies.  Not unpopular nobodies, but unremarkable ones.

It's a dynamic that ought to be explored more.  As is the closest we tend to see is superheroes with masks.  Spiderman is famous, Peter Parker not so much.  But it falls apart because Spiderman doesn't meet people; Spiderman doesn't mingle; Spiderman doesn't go to coffee shops.  Spiderman is always aloof.  (It's hard to maintain a secret identity if you're at the center of the social scene.)  It's not so much living in two worlds as having a job that's famous even though you are not.

To a very limited extent the show does explore it, but it does it with Ron.  Except... Ron isn't famous; Ron isn't popular.  Ron is a key component of Team Possible but most people don't know who he is; there is only one villain that (almost) never forgets his name as compared to all the rest who can never be bothered to remember; the most devoted Kim Possible fan on earth has no idea who Ron is; so on, so forth.

Ron saves the world as a nobody and then comes home to be a nobody there too.

This next shot I'm showing just because it's downright weird.  The theme song starts with a bit of instrumental, the words start at about when the cheer scene starts but when it hits "girl" in, "I'm your basic average girl," it switches to this:


Seems sensible enough, the green shirt is part of Kim's standard street clothes, the background is in fact the dining room at Kim's house.  If you're trying to go with "basic average girl" showing Kim in her average girl clothes sitting around the table with family seems to make sense.  Just one problem.  That's not a shot of Kim.

That's Ron.  There's going to be a lot to say about the Kim Possible version of Freaky Friday/the incarnation when we get to episode 6, the body switching fun and games, but for now it's just worth knowing that that is not a girl.

Well, probably not.  Canonically not.  I do think that there's a bit to suggest Ron isn't exactly cisgender, but I don't think that's intended.  I think the parts where Ron comes off as not-cis aren't meant to be indicative of his gender identity but instead signs that he's weird.

Accidental non-cis Ron theories aside, if we take things as the creators seem to have intended, that's a boy in a girl's body.  It's someone who essentially became transgender via mad science and will continue to be transgender until the situation is reversed.  Very much not a girl.

Body does not dictate gender.

Unless you're whoever put together the title sequence.  What follows is known as "back of the envelop math"

The title sequence uses shots from episodes as late in production as number 13.  Given time and frame rate the episodes, minus the title sequence, run at about 30,000 frames (a bit more.)  Each frame is an image (it's progressive frame rate, not interlaced), that makes 390,000 images to choose from.

Given the time between when they switched bodies and switched back only about 19,392 of those frames were of the time when Ron was in Kim's body.  That leaves 370,608.  Except we rounded down to get the frames per episode, so it's more than that.  But, then again, not every frame has Kim in it.  Probably at least a third of them do though.

So, we've got maybe a hundred thousand images of a girl in a girl's body to choose from for when the theme song lands on "girl" but instead an image was chosen from the much, much smaller pool of images where that body housed a boy.

What the figurative fuck?

Managing to send the message that transboys are really girls because their body is more important than their identity in a show that doesn't have any trans characters and never even acknowledges that such individuals might exist is stunningly impressive assholistry,

Especially considering that it was probably done by accident.

It did, however, get noticed.  I wasn't paying attention to that shot at all until I read a discussion where someone pointed it out and then people came out of the woodwork to say, "Yeah, I noticed that and thought it was weird too."  A lot of people picked up on the fact that the "girl" was Ron even though they weren't doing a decon.

Ok, that was a tangent.

Back on target:


This shot goes with "and I'm here to save the world" in fact she's trying to save one person (which is just as noble and people realizing that could prevent scale creep in so many works) and it doesn't work out.  No, the person doesn't die.  The person wasn't a person.  She saved a dummy.

But it's the thought that counts, yes?

We get a couple more shots of her looking cool and heroic and then it's back to the brain switching, which is good because this instance lets me talk about an important disconnect between the title sequence and the show itself.


That is Kim in Ron's body hip checking Ron in Kim's body out of the scene so that she can preform a routine, which Ron had no hope of doing, during a cheer competition.

Also, she's giving Ron a dirty look for not being able to learn in one day what took Kim god knows how long to perfect.

It's one of three times in the credits sequence that Ron comes out looking vaguely competent and it's not even him.

Now the show is called "Kim Possible" not "Kim and Ron" so it's totally understandable the title sequence focuses on her, but it's important to remember that Kim isn't a solo act.  Kim is the head of a team and without that team she can't win.

The team is Kim, Ron, and Rufus.  Rufus is a naked mole rat and Ron's companion.  Rufus actually gets a good showing in the title sequence, but for the moment let's stick with Ron.

This is how we're shown Ron:

Ron loses his pants.  Ron losing his pants is a a running gag in the show.  I haven't kept a tally but I don't think it happened too much originally.  In fact, off the top of my head I can think of only two times it happened in Season 1.  So less than 10% of the time.  But every episode opens up with him losing his pants so in later seasons you'll have him being known as the person who loses his pants, have them come off for no good reason whatsoever (at least in season 1 it was because climbing equipment was attached to his belt which makes some sense unless you try to figure out the physics of the shot above) have him lose so much clothing that he starts to shiver and villain tells his henchmen to get the kid a towel, and finally have a super belt given to try to fix "the pants thing" be the critically important thing that allows Kim to regain her memories in the obligatory amnesia episode.

When Kim and Ron meet Kim's biggest fan, who happens to be one of her cousins, said fan knows every detail of every mission except for Ron.  No idea who he is.  Ron finally resorts to pulling out Rufus, who is instantly recognized, and Ron describes himself as the person in whose pocket Rufus is carried.  Finally, a faint glimmer of recognition, "Oh yeah, you're the one who's always losing his drawers."  (No, actually, that's the only part he's allowed to keep.)

One wonders if losing his pants would have become such a big thing in the show if they hadn't shown the above scene at the beginning of every episode.

Then we get Ron running scared (and oddly) while Kim keeps her cool:


That scene doesn't even appear in any episode.  They had to take Ron running scared solo and put it behind Kim running determined solo in order to create the contrast between Ron the scaredy cat and Kim the cool keeper.

Ron doesn't have his usual outfit or his usual haircut which makes it very easy to place where the "him running away" animation is from.  Deadly energy beams are being a shot at him.  Being scared is a reasonable reaction.  Kim is in her usual mission outfit which means the scene could have come from almost any episode.  For all I know she's not even in danger there.  (She usually does more acrobatics and less running when she's in mortal peril.)

[Added] And oops, I was wrong.  It does appear in a blink and you'll miss it way and the only significant change is that they swapped the direction.  However it's weird when it shows up.  The reason that I missed it is because it follows a "running, infiltration, hop over walls, dodge the searchlights" sequence in which Ron is running normally (pretty much the same way Kim is) and then suddenly for a brief bit at the end he suddenly switches into "this is how I run when I have to cross an open space with deadly energy blasts being shot at me and there's litterally nothing I can do to keep safe but pray" mode for no apparent reason.

Anyway, it's still scardy Ron against cool keeping Kim, even though in the context from which it's lifted Ron ... isn't actually afraid.  He's annoyed bordering on pissed off and will momentarily be bewildered.  No fear, yet the only other time he runs like that is when he comes inches from being blasted by a deadly energy beam.

Like I said, it's weird in context.  For now, though, context doesn't matter.  He's shown as afraid to Kim's cool headedness.[/added]

So, Ron loses his pants.  Ron runs away scared.  What else can we do?


I honestly don't even know what to do with that.  It seems to be from a deleted scene from the third episode.  Because of the whole "deleted" part of "deleted scene" I can't say much about it definitively but, given the context it appears in here it looks like Ron, who has severe pithecophobia due to being traumatized as a child, is responding to four monkeys trained as ninja lunging forward to attack him.

So, basically, his irrational fear is given form, dialed up to eleven, multiplied by four, and sent to kick his ass.  Note that irrational fears are so difficult to deal with because they're irrational.  Rational fears can be often be dealt with via rational means, irrational ones not so much.  So the foundation here is that Ron would be afraid even if he were seeing the nicest monkey on earth on the other side of bulletproof glass.  What's then added to that foundation is that these four are trained attack monkeys being sent to attack him, which ought to scare someone without an irrational fear of monkeys.

Not surprising he doesn't manage to put his best face forward.

We do get one shot of Ron that's unambiguously good:


Ron and Rufus high five after a job well done.  In context it is, perhaps, overly enthusiastic considering how little the job in question entailed.  Really it wasn't a job at all but more of a warm up, when it gets time to do the job, well...


That's the next Ron shot and it's from a bit later in the same episode.  Fearful Ron and Rufus being saved by Kim.

We started with Kim giving Ron a dirty look, so we should probably close with that, but first can we make Ron look silly and incompetent one more time?

Of course we can:


When dealing with Bond-level gadgets, wait for your personal Q to tell you what it does before fiddling.

Ok, so to close all of this Ron out, here's the last shot of him:


We'll get to talk about this relatively soon as it comes from the second episode.  The short version is this: Kim wanted a jacket she didn't need (the picture of it is taped to a nacho cheese dispenser) and so took a job she didn't want.  To take the edge off she decided to have Ron along.  She applied for the job for him without asking, and then emotionally manipulated him into taking it.

Then it turned out that Ron was really good at it and Kim wasn't.  He's managed to find joy and fulfillment in this, and Kim is pissed the fuck off at him for it.

Now that we've finished the Ron scenes, here's why I went through them:

Kim Possible is not, as the name sort of suggests, a show that centers on the exploits of Kim Possible.  It centers on the exploits of Team Possible.  Kim, Ron, and Rufus save the world.  They help each other with their social lives and school work.  They function as a unit.

The title sequence takes one third of the team, half of the human members, and cherry picks moments that show him in an extremely negative light.  With the exception of the Ron-Rufus high five the only time Ron is shown doing anything successfully is the shot immediately above this.  A shot where Kim is clearly not happy with Ron.

Kim having trouble with Ron's success is something that will come up a few times, but in general we see a team that works very well together.  Except for all that the team gets things done, it's Kim that gets the credit.

In-world we see this in the fact that no one even knows who Ron is.  Right here we see it in the title sequence.  Every episode begins with Ron losing his pants, Ron running scared, Ron with a look of [whatever you call that] and a terrified Ron being saved by Kim.

This is an even bigger disconnect when we consider that while the show is supposed to be about a strong female character with help from her friend, it ends up being Ron and Rufus to the rescue way more often than it should.  One theory, which I'll explore as we go through the episodes (or, at least, which I plan to explore) is that the show's creators didn't know how to do the strong female character protagonist thing and ended up accidentally letting the heroic role fall to Ron.

A quick, and possibly wrong, tally has Kim being the one to win in the end in seven of the twenty one episodes in Season 1.  Ron does just as well.  (With the final seven including one tie, one monkey, one ambiguity, and four times human males not on the team did it.)

Definitely Kim's impossible athletic skills are always a key component, but so are Wade's gadgets and so is Ron's goofy ability to distract.  (And Rufus being Rufus is vitally important.)

All of this goes together to deliver the twisted message that the only way for a female character to succeed is to tear a male character down.  Giving Kim all the credit while making Ron look like an incompetent coward is how Kim becomes the girl who can do anything.

That's fucked up.

The message could easily have been that you, female target audience, can do anything with a little help from your friends.

There's also just poor choice with regards to the things excerpted here in general.

Kim scores high on the looking heroic and looking cool points, but she doesn't get to do a lot of substantive stuff.  Saving Ron is her big moment really, moment two involves dynamite strapped to a snowmobile but without context you don't know that she managed to steer it away from an oil pipeline, you just know that she jumped off a vehicle that then exploded:


It absolutely looks cool, but you don't know what's going on so for all you know all she did was save her own skin.

The jetpack scene continues for long enough that you see her actually catch the dummy, so if you take a close look you realize that she wasn't actually saving anyone there.

Most of what Kim does is move.  She does a lot of jumping and swinging around a giant rendition of her name while dodging energy blasts, you know... running away.  In one excerpt it's even explicit because she's shown running from Shego's green plasma encased hands:


Don't get me wrong, she runs away well.  She's got awesome run away scenes that were used to make the title sequence, but if you really think about what you see it seems like all style, not so much substance.  She saves Ron, but given how incompetent he comes off, how hard could that be?

And while lack of context takes the significance away from the snowmobile scene, context makes other scenes worse for our hopefully-strong female character.

We see her facing off against robots, turns out her dad is going to be the key to victory that time.  In contrast to Ron losing his pants we see her scaling a wall after using her grappling hook successfully.  That mission ends in failure.  She rescues people who were being held captive, but they were only being held captive so there would be time for a robbery, and the robbery worked.  If she hadn't shown up they'd have been freed almost as fast.

We see her running through a school hall in a hurry as if there's something very urgent.  There is, but the urgent reason for her to disrupt everyone --knocking a girl's papers everywhere and accidentally kicking a boy's book out of his hands-- is that she waited until the last possible moment to print out her term paper.  Nothing heroic there.

We see her dramatically appearing as a safe opens.  Robbery stopped: good (though there were enough regular law enforcement people there that it probably could have been done without her.) Villains get away: Bad.

When she saved Ron?  It was because she almost dropped a giant robot on him.  (Though, to be fair, that could happen to anyone.)

We see four villains.  Two (Drakken and Shego) are a team, the other two (Monkey Fist and Gill) are Ron's villains.  Neither of Ron's is nearly as central as Drakken or Shego, but from the opening credits you wouldn't know that.

Here's a scene where she looks cool and determined and tough:



Context ruins it.  There's not even a fight.  She's captured without incident.

Without context the title sequence has Kim looking like a badass action hero (which she is) and Ron looking useless and stupid (which he isn't.)

With context the title sequence makes Kim look a lot less competent than she is and, oddly, makes it seem like Ron-centric villains (as opposed to Ron stealing the show vs. Kim villains) is an equal or larger part of the show than Kim-centric villains.

The whole thing is a mess.

So let's close with things that are nice.  Rufus:


It'a impossible to capture it with a still, but Rufus gets to do very impressive things with that stick.  His martial arts abilities are not to be underestimated.  He's also the on site mechanical genius and electronics wiz.

The voice-with-an-internet-connection hacker and gadget-maker is Wade:


While what they timed to "girl" in the song was bad, they did a good job with "Call me; beep me," including this shot:



So, anyway, that's all for now.


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7 comments:

  1. I remember Douglas Hofstadter (of Godel, Escher, Bach fame) talking about how errors are more informative of how human thought works than correct behavior. When someone gets the right answer, it doesn't tell you much - I mean, getting the right answer is what the machine is supposed to do. But if someone messes up, you can look at the difference between the goal and where they landed and think about what could have sent them down the wrong path.

    Your analysis of their using Ron-in-Kim's-body as the "girl" of the title sequence ... yeah. That says something about their thought process.

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  2. "One theory, which I'll explore as we go through the episodes (or, at least, which I plan to explore) is that the show's creators didn't know how to do the strong female character protagonist thing and ended up accidentally letting the heroic role fall to Ron."

    Actually, there's no need to theorize here at all, the creators said it themselves that the show is really more about Ron than Kim, that's how they intended it to be, that's also why there's such focus in making him look incompetent at first, so when you see him doing well, there's character development. The show has really a consistent character arc for Ron where he gets to realize he's awesome and important, Kim is way more static, the lesson she seems to learn and forget is that other people are special too.

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    1. Do you happen to have a link to an article/interview where they said that? I'd like to read what they had to say on the subject.

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    2. That's something I saw when I was still following the show, it's been so many years, I don't really have a link handy. Sorry... :(

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  3. Another thought that just occurred to me:

    Well, probably not. Canonically not. I do think that there's a bit to suggest Ron isn't exactly cisgender, but I don't think that's intended. I think the parts where Ron comes off as not-cis aren't meant to be indicative of his gender identity but instead signs that he's weird.

    One of the things I've heard people say is that depression and anxiety disorders are often depicted very accurately, subtly, and tastefully in fiction ... because the writers don't realize that they are doing so. They assume - and are! - simply creating a character with some of the traits of people they know, integrating those traits into the characters' entire personality, and because depression and anxiety disorders are so stigmatized, the inspirations for these depictions have not told the writers (or, sometimes, realized themselves) that they are depressed or suffering from anxiety. Similarly, a friend of mine told of a movie they saw in which one character is clearly an abused wife, but the creator of the film didn't know it.

    Trans* isn't remotely a mental illness, but it's definitely "weird". I wouldn't be surprised if the writers of Kim Possible did the same thing that many other have, and correctly depicted something they didn't understand.

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  4. I'm going to head canon Ron as trans now :P. Kinda makes me want to watch it again just for that and see how it reads.

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    1. If you do, be sure to share your thoughts.

      I'm actually trying to start a tally of things that suggest Ron is a trans girl, because in my "Here's how it is"-verse she is.* It just takes her the duration of the first three seasons to realize that she is.

      Looking strictly at canon I think that conclusion is supported (part of why I'm using it in that), but it's equally (if not more) supported that Ron is genderqueer instead of being a trans girl.

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      *Only stories that I have of that thus far are Breaking up can be easy, Graduation 1.5, and Larry makes contact (which is set during Graduation 1.5 because I forgot to do a follow up with Larry.)

      They all take place post Ron's transition.

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