To All the Girls We’ve Loved Before – #6

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English defines ‘crush’ as:

crush noun
1: an intense and usually passing infatuation
have a crush on someone
also : the object of infatuation

The Cambridge Dictionary of English offers a slightly different but essentially the same definition:

crush noun (LIKING)
a strong but temporary feeling of liking someone:
She has a crush on one of her teachers at school.

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary provides a longer explanation:

crush noun
[countable] crush (on somebody) a strong feeling of love, that usually does not last very long, that a young person has for somebody older
It’s only a schoolgirl crush, it’ll pass.
I had a huge crush on her.

Interestingly, the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary elaborates further:

crush noun

[countable] crush (on somebody) a strong feeling of love that usually does not last very long and often is not expressed. It is usually young people that have crushes, especially on people they do not know very well
a schoolgirl crush
I had a huge crush on her.

I chose to have a brief look at all these definitions of the word because of the curious, elusive nature of human emotion. We are creatures of passion, far more than we are beings of reason. Our lust, our love, our anger, our hate, our fondness and our disgust, – all are like ink-drops in water, swirling away and dissolving into pale oblivion, pulled by the currents of time. Nothing is permanent. Everything passes.

So what sense does it make to describe something as temporary, as opposed to something else which is imagined to be persistent? Is love the supreme ideal that crush fails to be? Or is the difference merely superficial, like the difference between ethereal clouds and earthbound water? – I do not know. I doubt that anybody does.

All we can be sure of is that it’s temporary. Like life. All the emotions and longings that pull at the heart of a schoolboy, they are all fickle and impermanent, true, but so is anything else he will experience in life until he gains the sure security of death. – Let us not look down upon ‘crush.’ Let us accord flesh the same respect we accord to the spirit, since they are really one and the same.

I was introduced to the series Arrow by my friend Ayan. He wasn’t a comic-nerd, but he knew that I was, so he got me to watch it. And as you must be knowing if you’ve watched Arrow, – it was brilliant. DC was doing what Marvel had done with Iron Man four years before, they had taken a second-tier comic-book character to the screen and turned him into a top-tier phenomenon. I knew Green Arrow from JLA: The Nail, and while Oliver Queen from Arrow was nothing like the comicbook version (yet), he was pretty awesome. Arrow was one of the big hits of our college days, most of us became devoted fans in a matter of weeks. And one of our best-loved characters was Oliver’s assistant-in-tech, the lovely Felicity Smoak.

‘Lovely’ is not the first thing you’d notice about Felicity. She was a genius with computers and techy stuff, she was a bespectacled geek, and she was awkward with people – her phrasing things in embarrassingly unfortunate ways was one of the running gags of the show. But once you got used to them, you realized that this girl was something special. Through season one, many of us thought that she was, in fact, the real hero of the show. People shipped her with Oliver in their fan-rants and reviews, and ‘Olicity’ was soon trending all over social media. So much so that in a glorious move of fan-servicing, CW made it into reality (in the show’s reality, that is.)


Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak

If asked why I had a crush on Felicity, I’d have to say I found both her character and her appearance equally attractive. Emily Bett Rickards’ physique was more befitting an action heroine than a desk-bound IT girl; this was, in my opinion, one of the injustices of the show, – Emily looked way more athletic than Katie Cassidy, or for that matter – Willa Holland, but she was the only female character up there who did not physically kick ass. (Caity Lotz as Sara Lance was the only convincing actress in terms of having the physique of a fighter.) When the show entered a bad phase after season two, I watched season three almost solely in order to enjoy Emily’s scenes; nothing else on the show was worth anything. The Flash was doing a far better job.

I discovered another one of my crushes almost around the same time, although in this it was the actress I had a crush on and not the character. It was Morena Baccarin, playing Dr. Leslie Thompkins on the show Gotham.

Gotham was a travesty. I do not even recall Morena’s scenes from that show, so utterly forgettable it was to me (save Harvey Bullock; Donal Logue was delightful in that role). I got the chance to properly ‘court’ Morena when I began to watch what would become one of my dearest series of all time, Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

Inara 2

Morena Baccarin as Inara

In Firefly Morena practically embodies gorgeousness. She was more youthful (Gotham came out in 2014; Firefly was from 2002), beautifully attired, and there was always an elegant radiance about her. Her character Inara was a Companion, an elite member of a guild of professional courtesans who held a position of high social esteem in the world of Firefly. While they did engage in state-sanctioned, voluntary prostitution as part of their social work, the Companions were culturally learned, schooled in psychology, music, fencing, and numerous languages, and trained in unarmed martial arts. Inara was an expert in reading body language and could engage any person in just the way the situation demanded. She was one of the strongest personalities on the show, and one of the most esteemable. To sum it up in her own words, “On Sihnon, we started training at twelve, years of discipline and preparation before the physical act of pleasure was even mentioned. Control was the first lesson, and the last.

I did not want to bring up Firefly right here; as far as characters go, Inara wasn’t my crush from that show, it was someone else. I brought this up for the sake of Morena. I was enormously pleased when they cast her as the lead girl in Deadpool. As Vanessa, she got the audience she deserved. I already knew about her, but this was when many other young men discovered her allure for the first time, besides a certain Wade Wilson.

Turning the clock back a few years to the time when Arrow had just begun, I now bring you to the next person on my personal list of femme fatales, – Uma Thurman as the Bride from Kill Bill.


Uma Thurman as The Bride in Kill Bill

I’ll try to keep it short: Uma Thurman is a strikingly beautiful woman. And her beauty is done justice to in that masterpiece by Quentin Tarantino (co-written by Uma herself, in case you didn’t know). I had seen Uma Thurman before as Poison Ivy, in the disaster that was Batman and Robin, and I did not like the way she looked… or the way she did anything in that movie. For years, I had it fixed in my head that she’s not someone I’d care to watch again; I had probably postponed watching Kill Bill as a result of this prejudice. So when I finally did watch it, I was completely bowled over.

I thought she was the most beautiful person on earth as I sat through the closing credits, the long shot of the Bride driving with Goodnight Moon playing in the background. During that sequence, as the credits came up, the characters of Beatrix Kiddo and Uma Thurman became one in my mind; that’s the memory of her that I carry to this day.

Around the same time that I was making my early forays into Tarantino, I discovered another artist I’d stick with through the years, the comic-book writer-artist Frank Cho. Frank Cho is famous (and some editors would say infamous) for his trademark, now-iconic renditions of beautiful women. The artwork anthology Frank Cho: Women describes him as ‘one of the top modern masters of the female form.’ In straighter words, Frank Cho draws his women as offerings to the highest muse of enkindled male fantasy. His women are of heroic proportions, perfectly lined and in every scene strongly evinced, immaculate facial features supplemented with impeccably voluptuous athleticism – all of it put on paper in clean, sharp lines that leave nothing to the imagination. Cho is a talented writer, and the way he vitalizes his women with witty dialogue and force of character only makes it that much easier to fall in love with them.

Brandy 2

10th Anniversary edition of Liberty Meadows, with Brandy on the cover

Almost any of Cho’s leading women are capable of ensnaring a reader, when it comes to physical appeal alone. But we are not merely talking sexiness. So, the Frank Cho character I truly had a proper crush on would be Brandy, the hero of his 37-issue comic-book series Liberty Meadows.

Brandy was, in a way, a callback to Terri Irwin. She was an animal psychiatrist who worked at Liberty Meadows, an animal sanctuary/rehabilitation clinic. Cho had modelled her after Lynda Carter, Bettie Page, and other women he was attracted to in his youth – and it showed. Through the panels of the comics, he invited the reader to share in his own recollected infatuation, re-exploring his own imaginings and fantasies with a bold, adolescent boyishess – and all of it peppered with tributes and references to pop-culture items from the 70s and 80s – the food he had grown up on.


Jen, the ‘bad girl’ of Liberty Meadows

In the story, Brandy had a friend named Jen, who was practically her physical twin – but with the good-girl button completely switched off. Jen was a cocktail of the likes of Catherine Tramell, Felicia Hardy and Mikaela Banes – seduction personified – and she knew it. Brandy had to ‘scold her off’ on multiple occasions to prevent her from giving other characters a tumescent case of heart-attack. I had the hots for Jen, as anyone would, but I had the crush on Brandy Carter.

While on the subject of Frank Cho and his women, – an honorary mention is due to Shanna the She-Devil, a rather poorly developed jungle-girl character in the Marvel universe whom Cho revamped and popularized in a miniseries in 2005.


Wolverine and Shanna team up to whoop some ass

Cho’s version of Shanna was a statuesque blonde bombshell dressed in animal-skin bikinis who killed velociraptors and felled trees bare-handedly, saving lives and making men go weak in the knees in the process. This Shanna was the result of a genetic experiment carried out by the Nazis, – in terms of power, an equivalent of Captain America. The character was a huge hit, and in 2007 Marvel made a sequel called Survival of the Fittest, treating fans to more panels of sinuous she-devilry. I was pleasantly surprised when Cho returned to his character in 2013, putting her on Savage Island alongside Wolverine in a thoroughly enjoyable tale of teaming up against baddies and kicking ass – jungle-style.


Next up on my list is Jennifer Walters, more widely known by her alias – She-Hulk.

This will sound odd, but I wasn’t infatuated with Jennifer Walters because of the most obvious reasons. She-Hulk is a character who’s been overtly sexualized by Marvel for years, and as a marketing strategy, it’s worked wonders. Marvel capitalized on the rising popularity of female bodybuilding since the 80s, creating a character who was both visibly muscular (unlike Wonder Woman, who was powerful but didn’t necessarily look like an Olympic athlete) and deliberately under-dressed, catering to cravings of millions of hormone-high teenagers across the world. To this day, She-Hulk continues to be adapted to fantastical fanfictions and artwork that are thinly disguised odes to her animal seductivity.

Which is a pity, because Jennifer Walters is an incredibly fun, amazingly cool character to read – without the aid of any of her cosmetic extravagances. I know, because I read the books. I went in expecting pulp, but ended up enjoying drama.

She-Hulk isn’t exactly a female Hulk, there’re differences. For one thing, She-Hulk isn’t a rage-monster, she retains her personality, brains and sense of humour even when she is leaping around in green. Secondly, Jen Walters is a lawyer. That’s where the stories get so interesting. There are two lawyers in the Marvel universe who are legendary among their peers – one is Matt Murdock, one you know as the Daredevil; another one is Jennifer Walters. It was a riot to see Jen take on difficult supervillains and convoluted S.H.I.E.L.D. codswallop – sometimes as a green-skinned Fury, sometimes as a brilliant attorney – and sometimes when things got really crazy, she mixed the two up and served green-tinged justice like a complete boss.

And if that wasn’t enough, She-Hulk as a character is legendary for breaking the fourth wall. One could say she was doing it before it was Deadpool. In a particular brilliant issue, The Sensational She-Hulk #50, she arrives at the Marvel Comics headquarters and “learns some startling news from editor Renee Witterstaetter. John Byrne has died and She-Hulk needs to choose a new creative team to take over her comic book series. Renee has already gone ahead and gotten some samples from some writers and artists so She-Hulk can pick the new direction her series will be going in.” – What follows is a surreal roller-coaster ride through pages of She-Hulk drawn by cult names like Howard Mackie, Frank Miller, and others – the artists themselves had pitched in to parody their own work elsewhere – with Jen going through the pages and rejecting them all one after another. To a comic fan, the issue is a virtual smorgasbord.

She Hulk

She-Hulk used to break the fourth wall pretty regularly in her stories

Before coming to the last person, a moment to acknowledge my fascination and respect for one of my favourite actresses, the beautiful Marion Cotillard.


Marion Cotillard

Why do I have a crush on Marion Cotillard? Well, she’s beautiful, she’s talented, she’s an amazing actress (one of Christopher Nolan’s favourites, mind). And she’s French. – You’ll pardon me if I am a bit partial towards the French – I’m Bengali myself, and I did grow up reading Syed Mujtaba Ali. – It was bearable as long as I had only watched Nolan’s work with Cotillard, but after watching Midnight in Paris, – well, I had to commit.

– How things lead on to things! Midnight in Paris also stars Rachel McAdams, another recurrent infatuation of mon cœur naïf. But let’s not pause. We shall bypass Rachel for now, and go straight to the last person we have to meet in this rather long episode.

I had to talk of her in the end, because Korra is too close to my heart, a character I cannot decide if I admire more as a lover, or love more as a friend.

Let me start by saying that if you have not watched the seven seasons of the animated show Avatar, you are missing out big time. When I watched it, I felt like I had discovered the magic of Harry Potter for the second time. The same immediacy of friendship and love, the same real rush of passion, the same sensation of living the life alongside the young heroes, going through their silly frivolities and dire dangers, exploring shades upon shades of humanity in the characters, moments of profound wisdom and sublime beauty – enriching me, deepening me as a human being. Such a wide array of human diversity, such a broad range of social, political, and emotional exploring – it seemed to me almost preordained by some cosmic design that the story of Avatar was told over seven ‘Books’, just like the story of Harry Potter.


Korra with her friends

Korra’s story is the last four Books, the second arc of the Avatar saga. With Korra, it was kind of like Katniss – a bud-romance that morphed into camaraderie, only this time, the tale was longer, the pace slower. There were four seasons – I had fifty-two episodes to accompany Korra on her journey, and as I did so, it happened. But like I said, I don’t know what it was, – a strange aquamarine of blended hues of love and friendship. I guess these are the times when we come to realize that our boxes and pigeonholes are really just make-believe toys, vain attempts to define and quantize the undefinable. The truth was that I was fond of Korra; whether I can put a tag to that emotion is of little or no consequence.

And I loved the way the writers concluded her story. How do the kids these days not know of this amazing series?

(hopefully to be contd.)

2 thoughts on “To All the Girls We’ve Loved Before – #6

  1. You know what they say about apples and doctors. Same could be said about crush.

    A crush a day keeps love away. 🙃🙃


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