If you were on these rough Internet streets a week-and-a-half ago, you probably caught wind of the Joss Whedon’s age-old Wonder Woman script. You know, that thing that bounced around in production hell briefly, nearly attached to the likes of Charisma Carpenter and Lucy Lawless. It had been rumored for years. Over a decade. And […]
Here we go with part four of the most influential movies of my life, according to the year they were released. I thought about adding more of a prologue here but I’ll save it for the last and final chapter of this essay, covering 2011 through 2016.
2001: Spirited Away
For this year there was simply no contest. Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away wins this one hands down. This is not just The Potato’s favorite movie, but her Mom’s and her Aunt’s, when they were her age. I have shown this movie to two generations of little girls and there’s just something about this movie that just resonates with them. This movie was voted the 4th best movie of the 20th century, and that is just too accurate.
This is the coming of age story of a bored little girl named Chihiro, whose parent’s gluttony traps her in the spirit world, where she has to navigate this liminal space in a bathhouse for spirits, dragons, soot sprites, hungry ghosts without faces, and a witch named Yubaba. It’s an Alice in Wonderland story nestled firmly in Japanese traditions. A story about a little girl re-engaging with the world, becoming self-sufficient, gaining confidence, saving her parents, mending relationships and making new friends; most specifically with a little boy named Haku, who has a special secret of his own, a tiny bird, and a little guinea pig, that used to be a giant baby.
Every little girl I’ve shared this movie with became completely obsessed with it and wanted to watch it again and again. And no, I was not immune to it either,as I’ve watched this a countless number of times with them.
This year also saw the release of the final chapter in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which gets an honorable mention and was one the most entertaining movies of the year.
2002: Blade 2
The movies 28 Days Later, Dog Soldiers, and Eight Legged Freaks were all released this year, and I initially chose Dog Soldiers as my favorite, but on second thought, I think I prefer Blade 2, because I love Guillermo Del Toro’s vampires, and it’s one of the first films in what would later become the MCU juggernaut. The next time I think on this topic, my favorite could be Dog Soldiers, though.
Del Toro also introduced a different iteration of the vampire here, which became the foundation of the vampires used in the TV series, the Strain, although I think the book versions were more disgusting. Blade 2 isn’t a meaningful film. It’s just a helluva lot of fun, with Ron Perlman, a giant Jewish guy, playing a Nazi vampire, and some great Martial Arts, choreographed by Donnie Yen and Wesley Snipes. This is one of the most diverse group of vampire villains I’ve ever seen in a movie. And you have to watch the DVD, because Gillermo always gives hilarious commentary. He is quite possibly the most cheerful, profanity spewing, director in Hollywood.
I enjoyed 28 Days Later for showcasing Naomie Harris, in one of her first starring roles as an absolute badass, who gets to kiss pretty boy, Ciilian Murphy. Eight Legged Freaks is one of the funniest movies I saw for this year, and I did a reviews of both it and Dog Soldiers.
2003: Kill Bill Pt. 1
I love Kung Fu movies, and so does Quentin Tarantino, and in the making of this movie, he managed to introduce me to a few I’d not heard of. This movie is one long beautiful love letter to the Kung Fu movies from his youth. From his casting of Gordon Liu as the leader of the Crazy 88s, Johnny Mo, to Daryl Hannah as an assassin named California Whitesnake, from Viveca Fox as Vernita Green (codename Copperhead), to that final big boss fight, that takes up nearly the last full hour, this movie is totally awesome-sauce.
My favorite scene has to be the final fight between Beatrix and O-ren Ishii. It’s a masterclass in how to craft a minimalist fight sequence. The lighting, and sound effects, (which is something I almost never pay close attention to in a movie), the stop and start of the action, the minimal dialogue, and the costumes (O-ren is dressed as the character Lady Snowblood from the movie of the same name), all of it is simply gorgeous. And its such an emotional scene. We’ve been building to the moment these two characters finally crossed swords, since the beginning of the film, when we noticed that O-ren’s name had already been crossed off of Beatrix’s list. Why this film wasn’t lauded by White women as the second coming of Feminism is anybody’s guess., and it’s another reason I find WW unimpressive. Because I’ve seen better.
There wasn’t anything else of note released this year, in my opinion.
2004: Shaun of the Dead/Man on Fire
I’m going with Shawn of the Dead as my favorite this year, even though the Dawn of the Dead remake was also released. I liked Dawn but I always prefer funny over angsty, so Shaun gets my vote, and Dawn of the Dead was mostly pretty grim. Likable but grim. I’m going to review both of these in October. (Yeah, I’m already making a list of horror movies I want to review for Halloween month!)
This year was a really tough call, because Denzel Washington’s remake of Man on Fire, from the book of the same name, was also released this year. I will always stan for Denzel, no matter what movies he makes, but this is one of my top favorites from him, and Tony Scott, who passed on in 2012. It also stars Chrisotpher Walken. Just about anything with a Walken speech in it is going to get my attention.
The Incredibles is the only cartoon about superheroes that I love, love, love, and watch, every time it airs on TV. It was a serious contender for the title of best film of this year for me, (and I feel kinda guilty for not choosing it, so let’s call it a Runner-Up), but I’m going stick with Shaun of the Dead because I wouldn’t mind living in Shaun’s world for a few days.
2005: A History of Violence
David Cronenberg has always been a filmmaker of depth and intelligence, qualities which are well showcased in this movie, based on the comic book of the same name. I do have in my post queue, an outline for a review of this movie, and its companion film, Eastern Promises, because I have a lot to say about both these movies. They have so much in common, even though they look almost nothing alike. The movie has the added benefit of starring two of my personal favorites, Ed Harris, and William Hurt, who I’ve had crushes on since I was a teenager.
In hindsight, I would like to have chosen the Joss Whedon Joint, Serenity, as a fave, but one can only watch this movie so many times. I love it, but Whedon is just not in Cronenberg’s league, and this is one of the few SciFi movies that had my angry-crying at a crucial moment.
Cronenberg is just on a “ho ‘notha level!” It’s just gotten to the point where everything he creates is a gem.
2006: The Host/Slither
I did a review of Slither here:
The Host appears in my list of ten favorite monsters here:
Now three other worthy films were released this year, but I couldn’t pick Apocalypto because I have an intense dislike of Mel Gibson. I love his films, (his version of Hamlet is totally the shit), and Apocalypto is simply one of the most gorgeous films he’s ever made. The man is a phenomenal director, and actor, but also a really shitty human being, so no. I couldnt pick this one.
Paprika is an anime movie from Satoshi Kon, the director most famous for Tokyo Godfathers, and Millenium Actress, and this is one of the most beautiful animes ever made, but unfortunately, it’s confusing as hell. I know that’s on purpose, but still, I’ve watched this movie at least half a dozen times and I’m still confused, which makes this movie little more than a pretty distraction for me. It’s a great movie that has remained opaque to my sensibilities. I’m just going to accept that Satoshi Kon is just waaay smarter than me.
300 is yet another pretty distraction, because I already knew about the Battle of Thermopylae from paying attention in school. There’s nothing particularly deep about this movie, and the plot is fairly simple, but I actually do like Zack Snyder, and this is a gorgeous movie. It doesn’t hurt that it has lots of pretty, half-naked men, running around with spears and shields. I make ‘nan apology for enjoying the sight of Michael Fassbender, jumping around like a giant spider, in a red loincloth. I mean c’mon! Its Michael Fassbender!!!…Naked!!! I will watch Michael Fassbender do just about anything, really. I have watched movies that I have zero interest in, just because they starred Fassbender, and I make ‘nan apology for that!
2007: Hot Fuzz
I had to pick Hot Fuzz, even though I chose Shaun of the Dead, earlier. This movie is just one of the funniest cop movies I’ve ever seen. Okay, I don’t actually watch cop movies all that much, which make Hot Fuzz pretty remarkable Every scene in this movie is a gem, from the opening scenes establishing Nicholas Angel’s total badassery, to establishing Constable Butterman’s total incompetence. Even their names are perfect reflections of their characters, as Nick can do nothing wrong, and Butterman is one of the laziest cops I’ve ever seen in a movie, which is also kinda refreshing.
I loved seeing Billie Whitelaw again, this time being hilarious with a machine gun, and this is the funniest I’ve ever seen Timothy Dalton. I didn’t know he was even capable of that level of smarm. The plot, characters, and every tiny detail, is hilarious, from the police interpreter who needs an interpreter, to Constable Doris Thatcher’s off-color double entendres, to the fact that the village’s security watch group is named after the rap group N.W.A., to the final, ridiculously over the top shootout, which is a requirement in every cop movie. If you have not seen, this check it out. It was last available on Netflix.
I suppose I could have easily chosen Frank Darabont’s The Mist. It’s a good movie, but I wouldn’t call it enjoyable, exactly. That’s a strong word. The end is waaay too depressing for that. I normally shy away from reviewing horror movies that are too famous, preferring to review indies, or little known films, but this is on my list for October, and is mentioned in my top ten monsters list.
There were a lot of really, really excellent movies to choose from this year: No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Sunshine, The Bourne Ultimatum, and finally, Eastern Promises, another Cronenberg Joint, that I’ll be doing a review for, later this Summer.
Wow! This was a great year! But I could only choose one, so Hot Fuzz is it.
2008: The Dark Knight
C’mon! Was there really going to be any other choice.?
The Dark Knight absolutely ruled this entire year, both the anticipation, and the aftermath. I have no more to say about this movie, than the few hundred other people who wrote about it, so I’ll just leave it alone, and let these guys speak:
2009: Star Trek
I chose Star Trek because I’m one of the few lovers of the OG series who actually likes this movie. I don’t think people hated it exactly, but people had a lot of complaints about it. I didn’t have very many outside of plot and pacing. It wasnt a deep movie, but I had a lot of feels and sometimes that’s good enough to make something a favorite. I mean these actors did a great job of capturing the spirit of the original actors without mimicry, and I just found that all kinds of ticklish!
I was going to choose Watchmen for this year, but that movie is a lot more depressing that my usual fare, and contains a nuclear holocaust, which makes it even less fun, and I think The Watchmen is a superhero movie for people who hate superheroes, because it’s a cynic’s wet dream. But I like the ideas being presented, and I liked the visuals so it makes my top five of the year, along with Sherlock Holmes.
Like Zack Snyder, Guy Ritchie is one of those directors people seem to have no middle ground for. You love them or hate them. I really enjoyed this remake of Sherlock. I enjoy all of the Sherlock’s really, and never seem to get tired of new versions of this character. Plus, I will watch Robert Downey Jr. do absolutely anything in a movie.
Christopher Nolan just makes movies after my own heart. He is not the kind of director that ever speaks down to his audience. If you are watching a Nolan film you are expected to pay attention, and be on your toes. And he doesn’t stint on the action scenes either. Like Hitchcock, he makes Thrillers for thinkers, and I appreciate that. He just crafts some wonderfully satisfying movies.
Let Me In is complicated. I enjoyed the book the original movie was based on, but didn’t care too much for the original movie. I think it was the acting that threw me off. I think the creators of the American version did a really good job adapting it for American sensibilities while keeping the spirit and theme of the original film intact, but I couldnt choose it as a favorite, as it has too many scenes of the primary actor being tortured by bullies, for it to be enjoyable, and its kind of depressing.
This took some time to write because so many delicious things happened in the finale. I’ve been pretty busy and tired this week, but I’m determined to get this post out, doggonit! I’m also going to have to do this in installments, because its already long enough. The next post is about the series as a whole, including its future incarnations, and an entire post devoted to speculation about the show’s lead, Shadow Moon, and his relationship with Wednesday.
Fuller and Green pulled out every stop in Come to Jesus. This episode was funny, cute, and awesome, in ways I wasn’t expecting. And that ending? Wow! This episode was also just gorgeous. The cinematography was incredible, from Bilquis backstory, to the final scenes featuring Ostara, tonight’s episode belonged to the women.
We open with Shadow and Wednesday, looking bored, while Nancy crafts new suits for them from spider silk, of course. Why am I not even surprised that he’s a tailor? It’s Easter holiday, and the two men plan to visit the goddess for which the holiday is named. For that, they need to look presentable. Nancy’s house is an arachnophobic nightmare, though. All of his tailoring scenes, and even the clothing, is crawling with tiny spiders. (I think the spider’s are making the fabric, and there’s a giant loom in the background. How do I know this? I used to have that kind of loom when I was a child.) I was a little squicked out by the spiders, though. If you have severe anxiety about spiders, then skip this scene. What’s interesting is that all of these gods have animals associated with them, and that they communicate with. Wednesday has his ravens, and the wolf we saw in A Murder of Gods, Nancy has his spiders, Ostara has bunnies.
Afterward, we get another gorgeous scene of Nancy telling a story, despite Wednesday’s protestations, and Nancy’s signature catchphrase, “Angry gets shit done!” is aimed, this time, at Shadow, who is pissed at Wednesday for killing Vulcan. This episode has so many favorite moments, this is simply the best episode of the season. Mr. Nancy generating his own spotlight is hilarious! (I just love this character!) At first I thought Nancy was going to tell the story he told in the book, about how the monkey got the lion’s balls, but no, he tells Bilquis’ tragic backstory, which is a very neat way to tie her to the other characters we’ve met this season, and tie her presence in this episode to Easter. How he knows her backstory is anyone’s guess, unless he’s making it up (in the book, he and Bilquis never meet) but it’s fitting that he be the one to tell her story here. I think Nancy is probably a little in love with her too, and it makes sense, in this series universe, they would’ve met.
Note: Once again, only the barest bones of this comes from the book. This series follows the foundation, and spirit, of the books, but is very heavily embellished with lots of extra stuff.
Bilquis is a very, very old Queen, (Sheba) with her own temple, and congregation. We’re talking about 3,000 years ago, in ancient Iran, where she was incredibly powerful, and openly worshiped. Of course, you could visit her temple, and worship her if you wanted, but you would very probably be eaten. It’s a beautiful, sensual scene that doesn’t feel gratuitous. Fuller has an unerring talent for crafting sex scenes that are titillating, without being raunchy. Bilquis was so powerful then, like a spider, she just liquefied her companions (whole groups of people), before sucking them into her vagina. Where, according to Technical Boy, they spend an eternity worshiping her in the Vagina Nebula, as she feeds off their energy.
Nancy narrates how various patriarchies went out of their way to destroy her, and failed. That handsome young man with the crown, I believe just represents royalty in general, and no God in particular. At the height of her powers, she devoured kings too. Later, as men became more and more desperate to control and contain her and her followers, out of fear and hatred, they resorted to violence, which seemed to work. As the centuries passed she fell on harder and harder times and, like Nunyunnini, was slowly forgotten, even by herself. Unlike him, she was still potent enough to be revived. As long as people wanted what she had to give she could still take sustenance. Bilquis’ story is a perfect metaphor of the suppression of female sexual agency and power by patriarchy, which is why it was important to Fuller that she be a dark skinned Black woman. In the history of America, Black women have had little sexual agency, they’re bodies often exploited by men for labor and reproductive purposes. We’ve all been taught that woman’s sexuality needs to be carefully harnessed, and are only just now moving away from this concept in the US.
Also, women who look like the gorgeous Yetide Badaki, are rarely shown as sexual icons in media, or as women who own their sexuality, serving no one but themselves. Women who use their sexuality for their own ends, often have their sexuality heavily policed by men and women of all races. Witness how black women like Beyoncé, and Serena Williams have been vilified by social media for expressing themselves, slut shamed by respectability politics, and made to seem less than white women who have engaged in the exact same behavior, but are considered empowered when they do it. The true irony, in this scenario, are white women who think the freedom to express their sexuality is something only reserved for them, and who seek to suppress and castigate WoC for expressing theirs. Bilquis story is all the more tragic because, as Bilquis’ power diminishes, she comes to accept this shame and self hatred, along with her lowly status. She isn’t just forgotten by the world. She forgets her power.
The passing eras, and her rise to power again, are beautifully rendered by the changes in costume and makeup. We see her in her original jewelry, at the temple. There’s a scene of her in a disco, with a huge Afro, reminding me of Wednesday’s first statements to Shadow about his mother. (I do wonder if the show will go that route with her. It would be a nice touch, and explain a number of odd things about Shadow, who we still have no backstory for.) She even takes another WoC ,as her lover and I’m sure there are fans who loved this representation of WoC pansexuality. In 1979, during the Iranian Revolt, she is exiled from her homeland, along with many of her followers, and years later, watches in despair, as ISIL destroys her last temple. Later, she finds her lover again, but she is dying from AIDS, which has been seen a punishment for people who are considered too free with their sexuality.
Bilquis is, once again, visiting her display at the museum. She is so ancient, that almost no one now alive knows what any of the objects representing her were for. She is visited by Technical Boy, (who is wearing yet another shitty, ridiculous hairstyle) to whom she owes a huge favor, as he was the one who found her when she was at her absolute lowest ebb, homeless, and sleeping in the gutter. He offers her tribute in the form of a modern dating app, which is where we find her in episode one. What he has tasked her to do, we’re not sure, but she’s meant to meet everyone at the House on the Rock, a place of major importance in the book.
Nancy says Bilquis is reluctantly on the side of the new gods, and that Wednesday needs to collect another ancient goddess as her counterpoint. During all Bilquis’ scenes, we get some idea of what her powers are, and while she’s not at her height, she possesses the ability to charm, beguile, or seduce any human being. Who she is meant to turn this power to at House on the Rock, is unclear. Wednesday, or Shadow? Nevertheless, it’s clear she’s not entirely willing to do Technical Boy’s bidding, and there is hope for her breaking her deal with TB, because we notice she is not carrying her phone, or using her app, when she seduces one of her travel companions.
On the way to Easter, Shadow dreams about climbing a mountain of skulls. This is his prophecy about the war, hanging over his subconscious like Wednesday’s storms. On some level, he knows and believes in what’s happening, but refuses to commit, and Wednesday calls him out on this. No matter how angry he gets at Wednesday, or pretends to, he still likes the old con, and I think Wednesday is counting on that fondness to keep him by his side. Shadow also sees the White Buffalo again, and the World tree, Yggdrasil, which is also a representation of the War of the Gods (Ragnarok) spoken of in Norse mythology.
**Ragnarok (Old Norse Ragnarök, “The Doom of the Gods”) is the name the pre-Christian Norse gave to the end of their mythical cycle, during which the cosmos is destroyed and is subsequently re-created.
When Shadow wakes up, he finds that he and Wednesday are being chased by bunnies. It turns out that the bunny that overturned Laura’s truck was not sent by Easter, although it is her animal to call, and they report to her. I thought that was one of the cutest things ever. The bunnies try to stop Wednesday from reaching his destination too, but unlike Laura, he is unimpressed. He just runs them over, which makes Shadow give him the side eye. So the bunny’s job seems to be stopping uninvited people from reaching Easter’s home, I guess.
Easter is, naturally, celebrating Easter, but she’s celebrating it with all the various Jesuses, which I thought was hilarious. This is notable because Jesus is treated just like any of the other gods in the narrative, and most of the current versions are present at the party. The whole damn thing was just deeply, deeply funny to me, including the scenes where, whenever any of the Jesuses got near a light source, a halo would appear, and Shadow’s meeting with Jeremy Davis’ regular white guy Jesus, AKA Jesus Prime, for some reason. I did see Hippie Jesus, Black Jesus, and even a baby Jesus. Some of the Jesuses I couldn’t pinpoint, although I am told Mexican Jesus managed to resurrect long enough to show up.
Your basic guide to Jesus:
What do you call them? A flock? A gaggle? A Halo of Jesi? But it’s the details that really fetched me up, and made me laugh out loud. From the flock of sheep that follow Ostara in all her outdoor background shots, to the tiny halo on the infant Jesus, being nursed by a woman dressed like old-school Mary, to the jellybean stigmata of the Russian Orthodox Jesus, and the bunnies that poop jellybeans, it’s an incredibly rich, and thoroughly charming backdrop. And if I was a bit dubious about Ostara, at first, I was totally in love with her by the end of the episode.
Easter receives several uninvited guests, along with Shadow and Wednesday. Laura and Mad Sweeney, Media and Technical Boy also arrive. The meeting of Shadow and Easter is just cute in the books but they’re shown here as being much more smitten with each other, which is a good foundation for Easter’s actions towards Shadow later in the series. In the book, she is delighted to meet Shadow and flirts shamelessly, in that way that only Southern Belles can get away with. The two of them are just the most darling thing I’ve ever seen on this show. Shadow blushes like a shy teenager with his first crush, and while she offensively refers to him as pink chocolate! she gets a pass, because I wholeheartedly agree.
That boy is foine!
Kristen Chenoweth is wonderful in this role. I was prepared to be annoyed by her because of the trailer, (and because Chenoweth has a sordid past as a Broadway singer), but she turned out to be a delightful character who, like a lot of southern women, is warm, gracious, and mushy, on the surface, but has a backbone of pure steel underneath. Easter is not happy that Wednesday is crashing her party, and upsetting the Jesuses, who are very nice men.
Laura and Sweeney also arrive, but unfortunately, Easter is unable to resurrect Laura, as Sweeney requests. Looking deeply into Laura’s eyes, Ostara sees the shadow of a raven, and the face of Mad Sweeney, and determines that Laura was killed by a god. Since Laura was killed through Wednesday’s machinations, Ostara cannot interfere in another god’s plans. Laura figures that Sweeney knows more than he’s been telling her and tortures the truth out of him. It turns out, Wednesday isn’t just responsible for Laura’s death, but just as I suspected, is also responsible for that perfect casino heist that went horribly wrong, that landed Shadow in prison, being guarded over by Loki. You need to ask yourself why Wednesday would go through so much trouble, to procure a nobody, from nowhere. Easter also admits that the other gods have been talking about Shadow too, speculating who he is, and why he’s with Wednesday.
I like how they’ve kept Laura’s decomposition consistent. She’s definitely getting to the liquid stage, as her eyes have become milky, and she coughs up maggots. She can’t even begin to hide her smell now, (in the books she covered it up with perfume), and she has her own halo of flies. In the meantime, Shadow has a conversation with one of the Jesuses about the nature of belief. I laughed too hard at Jesus setting his drink down, and losing it in the pool he was floating on top of, because Drunk Jesus!
One of Easter’s bunnies whispers in her ear that Media has arrived, also without invitation. Before I start gushing about Gillian Anderson in this role, I need to give some backstory. Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade was released in 1948, and starred Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. The plot involves an older veteran dancer, who replaces his older partner with a young dancer, he hopes to mold in his image, until he finds himself falling in love with her. The faceless drone we see Media dancing with, is dressed in a replica of his suit, from the movie, and Gillian is wearing a pink replica of Judy Garland’s dress from the movie’s title scene, at the end. The drones are even attempting to dance like Astaire. Media mostly speaks in quotes from the movie. From her opening statement about Easter’s heart beating faster, to the mention of their date, these are all quotes from the movie. Guess how I know this!😊😊😊
Unlike Wednesday, Easter didn’t turn down Media’s offer of aid, although she never asked for it either. In exchange for making certain that Easter traditions remain popular (eggs and chocolate), Easter has gotten a significant boost in her reputation, and followers, even if she has to share her holiday with the Jesuses. In exchange, Media requests her loyalty. When Wednesday approaches, he is confronted by Media and Technical Boy, but he upsets their plans, winning Easter’s loyalty with a combination of lies and tribute. He tells her the Shadow-unapproved story, that Vulcan was killed by the New Gods, for taking his side in the coming war, and making him a sword. He also offers her a sacrifice.
Here, we see Odin for the first time this season. In an awesome display of power,Wednesday shows Shadow his true face, and speaks his many names.
Now once again we come back to the idea of sacrifice. By offering Easter the deaths of his enemies, he gives her enough power to free her from the bargain she made with Media. Throughout the series, he has outlined the basic idea of godhood, and how it works. Give a little, and get a little in return, whether it be worship, tribute, prayer, or sacrifice. It’s fairly simple. Quid pro quo! If you dedicate something precious to a god, you will receive something in return, although not necessarily what you asked for. Media, Technical Boy, and the other new gods, have corrupted this arrangement, and think this makes them more powerful than the old ones. They have never seen the old gods powers fully unleashed, and have nothing but disdain for creatures they see as old and weak, the way so many young people view the elderly.
It’s not that Media and Technology don’t affect the world in some way, but they can’t control the seasons, rainfall, or lightning. They cannot truly control anything on the physical plane, and are not grounded in the real world of human physical sensation. Bilquis can compel people to love her and eats them, Wednesday can control the weather and destroy them, Vulcan can make weapons that kill them. As I said in an earlier post, the old gods are physical in a way the the new gods are not. The new gods are virtual, ephemeral. They promise dreams and fantasies, but give little or nothing in return, for all the attention humans give them. Or rather, what they give in return for human attention is just as ephemeral, shallow, and unreal as they are.
And this is Wednesday’s key to his argument with Easter. Media can’t really give her power. She can influence humanity and she can tug on their bargain to procure Easter’s loyalty, but with the influx of direct power from Wednesday’s sacrifice, she no longer needs Media. The new gods can aid and abet, cajole, promise and seduce, but they can’t really offer her a sacrifice. It’s not just about human attention. Power comes from being offered tribute.We saw this with Bilquis and Technical Boy earlier. If it weren’t for the bargain she made with him, she would be capable of devouring him too. He doesn’t have nearly as much control over Bilquis as he thinks he does, and he is too shallow, and ignorant, of who she is, to know what he has awakened. The same way he underestimated Wednesday, in A Murder of Gods, Media has underestimated the degree of power she is dealing with regarding Easter.
But I also said that neither side in this war is good or bad. There’s no right or wrong from a human perspective. Gods have their own concerns and most are only concerned with what humans can give them. This mindset (and Wednesday’s actions towards Easter) is the key to understanding why Wednesday wants this war, and why he’s willing to kill Laura to procure Shadow for himself, and is also willing to unleash untold misery on humanity, by encouraging Easter to take away the harvest season.
Wednesday did the same thing to Shadow that TB did to Bilquis. He found her at her lowest point and offered her a chance to regain power. Wednesday orchestrates the complete destruction of Shadow’s life, and at his lowest point, when Shadow has nothing and no one, he steps in, and offers him a way out, winning his loyalty. If you want a clue as to who Shadow is, think about why Wednesday would want to collect him, and why he needs Shadow to believe.
We see an awesome display of power, and some truly gorgeous cinematography, as Easter, high on the sacrifices given to her by Wednesday, unleashes the full meaning of her name, as Goddess of the Dawn, and kills off all the plant life in a several mile radius of her home. Humanity can have Spring back when they pray to her for it.
My favorite moments were all the wonderful details like:
Mr. Nancy’s interjections in his scenes with Shadow.
Media’s presence this entire season, which is in keeping with the fact that Fuller is an out gay man, has been a showcase of gay icons. Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, David Bowie, and Judy Garland, are all extremely popular gay icons, from the forties through the sixties.
The Security Rabbits jobs are to stop traffic on the road to Easter’s home, so they can see who is in the vehicle, and then report the occupants back to Easter. I suspect this is what the rabbit that caused Laura’s accident was trying to do. No one approaches her home without her knowing about it , except in the case where Wednesday killed them all.
The deviled eggs at Easters party. It was a tradition in our house to eat those every Spring.
Easter’s tiny halo.
The tiny polka dots on Shadow’s suit.
That poor waiter who was wearing an egg shaped helmet.
The tiny cookies shaped like hands with red centers representing the stigmata.
Wednesday connecting Spring Break raunchiness to the worship of Easter.
The diversity of Easter’s party guests.
Those ridiculous striped silk robes Nancy made Shadow and Wednesday wear while awaiting their new outfits.
Easters slightly tattered finery. If you look closely enough, the flower in her hat has just a bit of rough edging.
When Media’s hat blows off during the storm, that’s also a scene from a Judy Garland movie.
Shadow disapproves of Wednesday’s buunycidal behavior.
*In part two, I’ll discuss my thoughts about Shadow Moon, and in part three I’ll talk about the costumes, cinematography, and visual aesthetics.
Hi! Welcome to the 101 class about the Black Panther movie. I’m here to speak on this topic because I managed to graduate to the 201 class. I am by no means an expert on Black Panther, Wakanda, or even the current version of the comic books. I have mastered basic information about who is who, what is what, and what I personally enjoy.
So the Black Panther trailer dropped Friday, and those of you who refuse to read comic books, or don’t pay that close attention to Marvel Superhero movies, are probably wondering what all the excitement is about. Why are black people so giddy? Who the hell is Black Panther? Is he related to Malcolm X?
Okay. I see we have our work cut out for us. Alright, c’mon over here and sit down, so we can work this whole thing out. I’m gonna do this by giving some background on the character, and breaking down some shit in the trailer.
The Black Panther first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1966, which slightly predates the Black Panther Political Party, so there’s no relation. This is notable because he’s the first black superhero to show up in the comics, predating both Luke Cage (Wooo!) and The Falcon. Black Panther’s real name is T’Challa and he’s a prince of the country of Wakanda, located in Africa. His father, T’Chaka, was played by John Kani in Captain America Civil War. After his father’s assassination T’Challa inherited the Kingdom.
This movie is remarkable for several reasons. It has a huge all-star cast of primarily black actors and actresses. Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, and Forest Whitaker, are all Oscar nominated/winning actors. It has a large “dark skinned” female cast. There are more women in this cast than are featured in almost all the MCU films together. In the comic books, these are characters with names and backstories. Where this movie will truly past the Fabulosity test is if any of the women speak to one another about anything other than T’Challa, although even without that, this is still great representation for Black women who rarely, if ever get to play primary, action oriented roles in such films.
Its also remarkable for the introduction of the term Afro-Futurism into everyday discourse. Yep! This is a phrase you’re going to be seeing a lot more often in conjunction with discussions about this movie.
*Afrofuturism is a cultural aesthetic, philosophy of science, and philosophy of history that combines elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, Afrocentrism, and magic realism with non-Western cosmologies in order to critique not only the present-day dilemmas of black people, but also to revise, interrogate, and re-examine the historical events of the past.
Not only is this an almost entirely Black cast, so are many of behind-the-scenes talent. The director is Ryan Coogler, the award winning director of Creed and Fruitvale Station. Hannah Beachler is the Production Designer. She was also the Designer for Moonlight, and Beyonce’s Lemonade. Ruth Carter is the Costume Designer, and has worked on Selma, Serenity, and the remake of Oldboy.
*There are people out here asking why we’re so hyped for Black Panther.
Like…in case you haven’t noticed…there’s literally a million and five big budget franchise movies centered around white super heroes.
Black Panther shows a black super hero who is the king of an extremely prominent and technologically advanced African country with his badass royal guard that consist of badass black women in all their natural glory and it portrays black people as something other than poor, enslaved, or savage.
Regardless if you understand or not…that is huge for black people.
Black Panther: Chadwick Boseman
After the death of his father in Captain America, T’Challa becomes King, and inherits the mantle of The Black Panther, which is a generational position as Guardian of the country of Wakanda. The Black Panthers inherit their superpowers by eating a mystical herb, which grants them the strength and speed of the Panther God, worshiped in Wakanda. He is one of the wealthiest men in the world, and something of a technological genius, responsible for some of the tech and hardware you’ll see in the movie.
“After the events of Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, King T’Challa returns home to the reclusive, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to serve as his country’s new leader. However, T’Challa soon finds that he is challenged for the throne from factions within his own country. When two foes conspire to destroy Wakanda, the hero known as Black Panther must team up with C.I.A. agent Everett K. Ross and members of the Dora Milaje, Wakandan special forces, to prevent Wakanda from being dragged into a world war.”
For a closer look at this character, and his abilities, see Captain America Civil War, now available on Netflix, and read Ta-Nehisi Coates current run of the comics, (although there are other versions).
Everett Ross: Martin Freeman
This is one of only two white faces you’re going to see in the rest of this trailer, and probably the movie. Everett Ross only gets a still picture because he does nothing gifworthy beyond being annoying to the other characters in Civil War. If you see any critiques about how this character is the hero of Black Panther… RUN!!SAVE YOURSELF!! You have wandered into a cluster of White Man’s Nonsense.
Ulysses Klaue: Andy Serkis
You may remember this character from Avengers Ultron, where he lost his arm, and got the privilege of locking ScarJo in a cage, I think. No, this movie isn’t about him either, but he gets the gif treatment because I like Andy Serkis. If you see reviews focused on either Ross, or Klaue’s important roles in the film, I urge you to escape that review, STAT!!!, and immediately Google a review from a Black critic, as you have probably wandered into a field of White Gibberish. Save your brain cells!! That person is not logicking correctly and that shit is contagious.
Wakanda is a fictional nation, hidden, isolated, and futuristic, located in the central part of Africa. Its meant to represent what an African country would be like if it had been allowed to develop without colonization or exploitation by the West. Wakanda is one the wealthiest nations on the continent because of its large Vibranium reserves.
In the comic books, the central city of Wakanda is surrounded by 18 other city-states, that are constantly vying for power. You can catch glimpses of these various tribal kingdoms in the trailer.
The Dora Milaje (Dora Meh-lah-shay):
The Dora Milaje are the King’s Elite (Special Forces) Bodyguards. In English, their name means, The Adored Ones. In the comic books they were also considered potential wives for the King, specially trained warriors, who were selected from the surrounding tribes by the King, in an effort to keep the peace between the various rival tribes. These young girls are groomed from a very early age to be warriors.
The Dora Milaje are the best warriors of Wakanda. They have defeated Namor, and fought even Storm and Black Widow to a standstill, although it is rumored, that over the years, many Black Widows never made it out of Wakanda alive, thanks to them.
It’s the custom for them to have shaved heads. No, they are not the King’s special booty call, as Adored One is a ceremonial title. They are not his harem.
Okoye: Danae Gurira
Danae is most famous for her role as Michonne on the Walking Dead. She’s the King’s first , speaking only to him and only in a rare language. This was so the King and his wives could speak in private while out in public. Think of her as something like the head of a federal organization that only answers to the president.
Ayo is the Dora Milaje we got to see for the first time in Captain America Civil War. She said six words and stole half the movie. They better not let her say too much in this movie or none of us will remember why the hell we were sittin’ in the theater.
Nakia: Lupita Nyong’o
This is Nakia, played by the Oscar Award winning Lupita Nyong’o. In the the comic books Nakia is a mutant of some kind, with enhanced speed, agility, and strength. She later becomes a villain named Malice.
Erik Killmonger: Michael B. Jordan
Killmonger is played by Michael “Bae” Jordan from Coogler’s last film, Creed, and unfortunately from The Fantastic Four, but the first time I saw him was in the movie Chronicle. He is one of T’Challa’s rivals for the throne of Wakanda, and plays a pivotal role in the movie. In the books, Erik harbors a grudge against T’Challa for exiling him to America, after the death of his father, who had been branded a traitor. When Erik returned he plunged himself into Wakandan history and traditions, and this radicalized him. So now he preaches against outside Western influences, and wants to rule so that he can make the country more isolationist.
Ramonda: Angela Bassett
C’mon! Ya’ll know who Angela Bassett is. Ramonda is T’Challa’s mother. Note the white hair. Disney doesn’t possess the rights to Storm from the X-Men, who is T’Challa’s in canon ex-wife, but they can troll the film company that does, by casting the woman who was born to play that role, and making her up to look like her in this movie.
Shuri: Letitia Wright
This Princess of Wakanda is T’Challa’s little sister from a different mother. She is the Wakandan genius behind most of the tech you’ll see in the movie, including those nifty little cat gloves she’s wearing in the trailer. I don’t know what they do but I want them. Shuri is the very definition of Afro – Futurism, combining her country’s cultural traditions with technological concepts beyond even Tony Stark’s skills.
In the books, Shuri is a warrior who was trained by her brother to take over his mantle should the need arise, and who, on occasion, has had to step in and become The Black Panther, in her own right, after one of her brother’s extended absences. Here she’s been re-written as a tech genius.
Daniel Kaluuya: W’Kabi
I got nothing about this guy. I’ve never paid much attention to him beyond that he grew up with and is T’Challa’s second in command and advisor. You know him as the actor from the movie Get Out.
Forest Whitaker: Zuri
Zuri is played by Forest Whitaker, is a veteran warrior, and one of T’Challa’s senior advisers.
*On a more serious note we have to talk about this issue here:
Since the release of the trailer onto the national stage, I know some of you guys who are the most excited about this movie, have experienced an influx of racist gibberish into all of your inboxes. There’s something about this movie that has truly galvanized racist geeks into a paroxysm of harassment. (Well I simply can’t imagine what that might be.)
I’ve been warning my friends on Tumblr, and other social media to have their Block finger ready because it’s going to get a lot of exercise. And it’s not just the white racist dudebros out there either. You have a lineup of various hoteps, and native Africans making static too. Everybody whose got a beef with black people have their fingers tapping, and mouths flapping, to destroy this movie, which is an utterly pointless pursuit.
You’ve got people writing racist meta about how unrealistic Wakanda is, because Africa is such an undeveloped country, how Black people are acting too uppity, and culturally appropriating African cultures, the poster for the movie is militant, there are going to be riots and shootings at the theaters on the day of the movie’s release, and a complete basket full of nonsense. Basically people out there projecting every one of their racial and social insecurities onto this movie, and it hasn’t even been released yet. And its only going to get worse as the movie nears its release date.
And all because black people are giddy about a movie trailer.
*Black Panther is a FICTIONAL movie about a FICTIONAL country in Africa so people need to stop projecting all of their issues on to it and let ALL black people enjoy something for once. Seriously. CAN WE STOP WITH THOSE STUPID DIASPORA BATTLES THAT HAPPEN EVERY TIME BLACK AMERICANS GET *ANYTHING* POSITIVE?!
This isn’t my essay, but it says want I want to say much more eloquently. This is from an AfroFuturist tumblr site, and is very deep and entertaining. Please give them a visit.
I’m sure everyone has seen the trailer for the Marvel Black Panther movie that is set to be released next year. And if we are to be honest, we are over the roof excited about it. Have you seen the memes!? The ones showing how we’re going to go dressed for the premier? Have you seen the amount of views the trailer has on YouTube!? 2018 can not come any sooner!! So, tell me why, in between all the excitement and anticipation for the movie, we still see people hating on it?
So, one person called it “unrealistic” and “poorly put together in order to give Blacks a place in the entertainment industry”. And I’m like, “the name is science FICTION, afrofuturist to be exact, and the sole purpose of such work is to not just envision Blacks in the future but as the agents and subjects of the future.”
And then, I saw this post asking how can Wakanda be so technologically advanced and yet it had no imperialistic goals and its innovations did not spread to anywhere else. Y’all remember Avatar? The one with the blue people with tails that were primitive and highly developed at the same time? They loved that movie right? So why the lack of love for Black Panther then?
Could it be because it is BLACK PANTHER? Could it be because it shows Blacks not just as props and prawns but in the center as kings and leaders and scientists and warriors? But anyway, I hope this is one of many afrofuturist works to be produced because it’s about time we have a place in the future, in science fiction.
*But here’s the thing, this movie is going to be released. Its a done deal. Its going to do as well as any of the other MCU films to date. No amount of online harassment, from people who can’t stand to see Black people being happy about something, is going to stop us from going to the theater, and seeing it multiple times.
Now I’m done with this particular topic!
This episode is Mad Sweeney’s elegy. He is also one of the more unlikable characters in the show., but it turns out he’s not actually a bad man, and has heart of gold. In the real world, someone like Sweeney would get their ass kicked on a regular basis, (actually he does in the show, too) but he is a great character.
Normally, I like fictionalized assholes as much as I like real world ones, which is to say not at all, but from time to time I get captured by a great depiction, and Sweeney is one of those. Pablo Schreiber plays the hell outta this guy, and I have to give him some props, especially when I had no idea who he was before this show.
One small dislike for me is that this is another filler episode, that distracts from the greater narrative revolving around Shadow and Wednesday. I didn’t dislike this episode, it’s just that I’m less interested in what Laura and Sweeney are up to. But tonight’s episode was devastating in its implications about the relationship between Laura and Sweeney, deepening it, and explaining a lot of the dynamic between the two of them.
The episode begins at the Anubis funeral home, where Mr Ibis and Mr. Jaquel not only lay out corpses for burial, but can even predict when corpses will arrive. I thought it was interesting getting a glimpse into their relationship. Are they a couple? Are they brothers? Just friends? They’re always considerate and polite to each other, and know each other too well. Mr. Ibis tells Sweeney’s story through the eyes of an Irish girl named Essie, who looks suspiciously like Emily Browning. Laura is not the reincarnation of Essie, though. Its that Laura reminds Sweeney of Essie, and I think he’s starting to like her.
The episode is split between Laura’s and Sweeney’s modern day road trip, and Sweeney’s past, when he knew Essie. This follows the book pretty closely. Essie has a very colorful life, as a thief, an indentured servant, then a wife and mother, and finally grandmother, where she often traded on her looks to get ahead, aided by her gifts to, and stories, about “The Good Folk”. Notice that whenever Essie stops giving to the good folk, they stop giving to her.
There’s a scene where Essie is in Newgate prison, after having not made an offering for a time, and Mad Sweeney is in the next cell, and she tells him stories. She tells him about her wish for a good life, quiet and settled, a tree, some children. She makes an offering to the Good People using the only food she has available, a piece of rotten bread. Eventually she gets out of Newgate and gets sent back to America where her wish comes true, because she made an offering of her last bite of food.
Eventually she has to stop telling her stories about the Fair Folk, realizing that there’s no place in her current world for belief in such things. But she never stops believing, and upon her death, it is Sweeney who comes to collect her soul.
The term Good Folk is a reference to the Fay, or any Fairy creatures of Celtic folklore. The general idea in most people’s minds are the tiny, butterfly beings that frequent rings in meadows, or Tinkerbell, but the term encompasses a greater variety of creatures than just those, (some of which are pretty horrific, deadly, and not at all tiny. See any book by the painter/illustrator, Brian Froud.) Irish folklore is pretty complicated though, and you could spend your entire life studying the subject.
*For background on Faery lore, and myth:
*And for background on the real mythology behind Mad Sweeney:
Sweeney, Salim, and Laura stop at the site of the White Buffalo statue.The legend of the White Buffalo is somewhere around 2,000 years old, and was originally a tradition of the Lakota Sioux, a Plains Tribe. This particular scene, like all the modern day scenes, which involve Laura and Sweeney, don’t happen in the book.
For those of you concerned that there haven’t been any Native gods depicted, I think Shadow’s dreams count. In the book, they don’t play a pivotal role until much much later, and are responsible for interfering in the war, coming in on Shadow’s behalf. I expect we may not see them until well into second season. Although I do agree they should be introduced in some greater form beyond the forgotten Nunyunnini.
While at their rest, Sweeney is visited by one of Odin’s birds, who he harshly chastises. He mistakenly lets Laura know that all the gods are meeting at a tourist attraction/resort called House on the Rock in Wisconsin. Now that she knows where Shadow is going, Laura decides to release Salim from his bargain to take her to a resurrectionist friend of Sweeny. She tells Salim to go get his Jinn. He happily leaves, but not without (hilariously) informing Sweeney of what a vile creature he is. (Yes, he is, but Sweeney also has a lot of secrets.)
That morning, Laura talked with Salim, asking him if he loved God, or was “in love’ with God. He answered in the affirmative. I think Laura is seeking an answer to her own questions of how she feels about Shadow. She may not have loved Shadow when she was alive, but I think she is certainly loves him now, (or is obsessed or something) and part of that may be the supernatural connection that exists between them, because I dont tihnk she is “in love” with him.
Laura hasn’t looked at peace since she was resurrected, so I just want to point out, during this episode, we often see her quietly smiling to herself when contemplating Shadow. I think she is finally at peace in a way she never was in life. She has a goal and a purpose now, that was missing, when she was alive. Shadow is her purpose. He’s her god, now. He is literally her reason for living and not only has she realized that, she’s okay with it. She even seems happy about it. Yeah, she is stalking Shadow, but if you’ve ever read John Campbell’s Hero’s Journey books, then there’s a purpose to it.
While driving, Sweeney gives Laura some more background. He tells her about his hoard of gold, that he used to be a king in Ireland, that he was once a bird, and then a saint according to the prevailing beliefs of whatever time period in which he lived. He ran away from so long ago war in which he knew he would die. He gave up his sword and vowed not to get involved again, but he owes Wednesday a war, which explains his objections to Wednesday’s warmongering between the old and new gods, but also his refusal to leave.
Keep in mind, Sweeney is a leprechaun, which is a kind of Celtic deity. Although Laura is more powerful than him, he is not without power of his own, as illustrated by him easily stomping a park bench, without breaking a sweat. His speech to Laura is a reference for how diminished the gods have become as people’s belief in them changed, and leprechauns have been demoted to cute cartoon characters on cereal boxes, something which bears almost no relation to what he actually is, or even looks like.
One of the rules of being a Fey is one can only take what’s freely given, so when we see Sweeney throw the coins out if the vehicle, its becasue he took the ice cream out of the freezer, and the owner wasn’t there. When he and Laura stole the truck, Laura gave the owner of the truck all of his money, so he doesn’t object to that. He didn’t have to leave anything behind in return for stealing Salim’s taxi because he was interrupted before he could finish.
One of the questions that is confusing to a lot of people about American Gods is if these gods can die. If all it takes is a belief in them, then can they really be killed. Vulcan is is killed in the last episode. But he is definitely a god, people actually believed in a version of him. Does that mean some other version of him will take his place? Does Wednesday’s curse prevent this from happening? Just as there are different versions of Jesus, there are different versions of ods like Wednesday and Sweeney, wherever they are believed.
For example, in one of the last scenes from the book, Shadow meets a more authentic version of Wednesday in his home country. He is a more original form in his country of origin, and acknowledges Wednesday as an offshoot of him. I don’t think the gods can travel to anyplace where they are not believed in. Wednesday can’t leave America, and hasn’t done so, as he says to Shadow in one of their earlier discussions. When the new gods offer to make a missile in his name, over North Korea, Wednesday refers to it as a form of exile, and it would only be that way if belief in him were transferred, from America, to the missile system over North Korea.
Another treat we get in this episode is the white rabbit. The white rabbit is a sign of the goddess Easter, or Ostara, a pagan fertility goddess. She is also the goddess of Spring and renewal. Her imagery often involves hares and rabbits. We will meet Ostara in the season finale. When a White rabbit hops into the middle of the road, Laura swerves to avoid it, crashing their vehicle. She flies out the windshield, and loses the coin, after which there is another revelation, as Sweeney contemplates her dead body.
Sweeney was the one who caused Laura’s first death in a car crash, and he feels some kind of way about that. Incidentally the words he’s screaming, after the truck crash, are in Old Irish, not Gaelic. Something along the lines of, “Why is this shit happening to me? Haven’t I suffered enough? And I’m not an evil man!” Which is ironic after being told by Salim that he is an unpleasant creature.
Wednesday has been trying really hard to keep Laura and Shadow apart, and was the orchestrator of her death. He was responsible for hiring Sweeney to kill her the first time, and I’m certain he’s responsible for hiring Ostara to crash their vehicle this time, since the rabbit which caused it, is her symbol. Laura is meant to die again and she does, when the coin, that Sweeney has made clear that’s all he’s interested in, pops out of her open chest cavity. Sweeney retrieves his coin and he could walk away, but flashing back to the night he first killed her, he changes his mind and places the coin back in her chest. He immediately regrets it, of course, when Laura punches him out, for touching her. The two of them continue their journey.
I also want to mention the music in this episode is so spot on, it’s hilarious. During the scene where Essie absconds with her latest husband’s money to become a market thief, the theme is Runaround Sue by Dion. Daddy’s Home by Shep and the Limelights, is the song that plays the first time she offers bread to the Good Folk in America, an unknowingly summoning Sweeney.
Next week is the season finale, titled Come to Jesus, so I guess there will be some Jesus involved. The show has already been picked up for a second season, and if we’re lucky it will continue for many more beyond the story of the book.
I had written an essay about this but scrapped it, because I wasn’t saying what I wanted to say, without getting sidetracked by secondary issues. I think some other writers have explained this a lot more clearly than I would have.
Note: We are not saying that WW is a bad movie, or that the 25 year old white nerdgirls at which this film is aimed, shouldn’t enjoy it. Love the fuck outta this movie, if that’s your appealing! I understand that there are a bunch of Jewish women who are really loving the representation from Godot. I got it. Hell, we got Luke Cage, and Black Panther, so let Jewish women have their thing.
Let me make something clear though: I don’t hate the movie. Its not much different than the many, many, other action movies, starring a white woman, from Selene, to Ripley, to Sarah Connor, that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, and even loved. I’ve also heard its a fun movie, so that’s not what this criticism is about. What I’m having a problem with is, once again, white women are putting themselves in the position of speaking for ALL women, in saying that this movie is a win for feminist representation in superhero movies, without considering intersectional feminism. Black women can count on one hand the amount of real representation we have in superhero movies, and in this movie specifically. For Latinas, and Asian American women, it’s even less. None of them are adequately represented in this movie either.
My problem is with white women’s claims about this movie, not the movie itself (which is a whole other subject.)
As both a woman and a longtime fan of superhero movies, the success of Wonder Woman at the box office has made me happier than I can express. But as a black woman and a longtime fan of superhero movies, the actual content of Wonder Woman depressed me. Racking up $200 million worldwide on its first weekend, Wonder Woman‘s status as a superhero film starring a woman and directed by a woman has made it a feminist victory in ways having nothing to do with the all-female island of Themyscira and the inclusion of lines like “Be careful in the world of men, Diana. They do not deserve you.” But I’m sorry to say that Wonder Woman is just a white feminist victory — barely. For black feminists, it’s exactly like every other superhero movie, just with a white female lead.
I haven’t been posting very often this week because I’ve been working on some things for you guys to read this weekend. This one was kind of unexpected. I did not think I’d be doing a post on The Incredible Hulk series, but I’ve been watching this lately and kind of enjoying it, and thought I’d share it.
I used to watch this when I was a kid, and the last time I watched it, was some re-runs when I was a teenager, so its been a few decades. I expected it to be hilariously cheesy, like most of the things I watched as a young girl, and it was those things, but it also had emotional depth, and progressive social messages, at least for the 80s.
The Incredible Hulk television series lasted five seasons and starred Bill Bixby as Bruce Banner, and Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk. Recently the El Rey Network had a three day marathon of all 82 episodes and I watched a significant number of them and was inspired to review the series as a whole. How well does it hold up as far as acting, its messages, and its special effects? But also how well does it hold up to today’s standards as a show?
The answer is: Surprisingly well.
Bear in mind, that I had not watched this show in decades , but I was surprised to find myself becoming very engaged with the characters and messages, in some of the episodes. Once I got past a few plot points, and the 70s wardrobe, I was able to settle in and start liking the characters. By the fourth season the show was less earnest, and a lot more cheesy, especially in its search for new plots, but it still held up really well, even by today’s standards.
I like Hulk the series more than I liked either of the two films dedicated to him, although I prefer the villains of the films, rather than any of the villains of the show, who were often simply extremely petty criminals, who engaged in random thievery, various frauds, and some occasional street hooliganism.
In the series, the character is named David Bruce Banner and is a medical physician, rather than a physicist, being pursued by a tabloid reporter named Jack McGee, played by Jack Colvin. I was under the impression that he was modeled afte Kolchak the Nightstalker, but the writers say that wasn’t their influence. Nevertheless, McGee comes from a long line of vexing antagonists, who like to merely hound and annoy the protagonist, rather than try to kill him.
David hitchhikes around the country, taking odd jobs, and getting into various mishaps, which occasionally require the Hulk’s involvement. A lot of the episodes are not unlike Mad Max, or the Spaghetti Westerns of the 60s, (starring Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name), who wanders into a town full of corruption, disrupts that story, and then leaves after everything is settled. On the surface these appear to be standalone stories, but the connective tissue between all the episodes is David’s search for a cure for the Hulk, and his constant pursuit by McGee.
Like Mad Max, Banner often wandered into other character’s stories, although occasionally he did have a story of his own. Banner was a lot nicer person, though, who seemed to genuinely care about the events and people with which he became involved. Bill Bixby is a remarkably versatile actor, and his firm, quiet competence lends a note of realism to what were sometimes ridiculous plots. Like the episode, Prometheus,where Banner has to help a blind woman lost in the woods, near a fallen meteor. He is attacked by a swarm of bees, triggering a transformation into the Hulk. Afterwards, affected by radiation from the meteor, he can’t fully transform back into his human state. The acting from the blind woman, played by Laurie Prange, is atrociously over the top, but Bixby, is his usual calm self. I ended up taking quite a number of plots very seriously only because Bixby was so good at what he did, it didn’t occur to me to laugh at them, like the episode where David is held hostage at a private island, and forced to attend a costume party, or the one where three escaped female prisoners kidnap him, and one of them goes into labor.
There’s the episode Alice in Discoland, which requires Banner to be undercover at a discotheque, where he meets, and has adventures with an alcoholic young woman. The plot sounds pretty stupid, and on the surface it is, but once you get past the horrible costumes, and dancing, it manages to deal seriously with the subject of alcohol addiction. On occasion, the show dealt with heavy subjects, like police corruption, drug addiction, greed, and PTSD, with a great deal of respect, and surprisingly little preachiness. A recurring theme though, was the young blond damsel, who has been put in distress by some family member trying to kill them for power, or money.
In the episode starring Lou Ferrigno, as himself, in King of the Beach, Lou plays a deaf man seeking independence from his parents, and hoping to open his own restaurant, by trying to become a famous bodybuilder. Lou Ferrigno himself is deaf, and a champion of Deaf people’s rights. (Incidentally, he is still alive, and looking pretty good for a 53 year old man.) On the surface, King of the Beach sounds silly, and there are some silly moments, but Ferrigno’s character is always treated with respect and dignity, and the subject of his disability is not the main plot. He’s allowed to speak for himself, and articulate his own problems and issues. At no point is Banner placed as a White Savior. Ferrigno’s character is allowed to make his own decisions, and his disability is just part of the character, and all the other characters adjust to it, finding it unremarkable.
I think the silliest part of the show, and the part I couldn’t help laughing about most often, is that Banner is sort of required to turn into the Hulk at least two or three times per episode, even if some of these transformations are a bit of a reach. After about the fourth season, just about anything could set him off, as the writers had to keep coming up with new ways to make Banner get angry or stressed.
In the beginning of the series the threats were a little more dire, like being buried alive in cement by mobsters, or perhaps a car accident, but by the end of the series, the writers had to stoop to Banner getting stung by bees or getting thrown into some bushes. And while these two events are certainly stressful, you can tell the writers are getting just a bit hard up for reasons that Banner should Hulk-out. There’s also the fact that Banner really does need to learn some defensive tai chi or something because it’s just waaay too easy to beat him up. One interesting point is that as the series continued, it did get a little harder to predict when he would transform into the Hulk. In the first couple of seasons it was fairly predictable.
I do want to discuss the roles of the women on the show. The show featured a lot of women,and in a lot of different types of roles. Although, sometimes they were damsels, they also showed up as villains and schemers, scientists, show girls, single women, wives, mothers, sisters, etc., and their status wasn’t always a part of the plot of an episode. In one of the episodes, King of the Beach, the lone woman in the story started out as a grifter, who later becomes a trusted friend, and business agent, to Lou Ferrigno’s character. No, the show didn’t pass the Bechdel test very often, but it had no problem depicting women as flawed and complicated human beings. I found it interesting that there were a lot of women scientists featured on the show, who were smart and capable, and not necessarily love interests for Banner, although they did occasionally need rescuing.
Lou Ferrigno turns in a surprisingly nuanced performance of the Hulk. He got to engage in some emoting. You would think the role would only require some growling, yelling, and throwing things, and sure, there’s plenty of that, but there’s also some emotions in there too. He gets to have reactions to people and things that isn’t just anger. It’s a bit different from any of the movie versions of the Hulk, and not much like comic book versions. This Hulk doesn’t speak, but I understand that was a deliberate choice by the creators. The amount of violence the Hulk engages in is pretty low scale. He likes to toss people around, and sometimes a vehicle. I’m guessing that’s because of budgetary reasons. He rarely if ever punched anything or anyone, and there was never any blood, and that would have been due to violence restrictions on television, at the time. He also gets a lot of cardio in that he runs away a lot.
There’s still the mystery of the stretching pants, which is something fans have been asking themselves about for years. What is funny though is that every now and then while watching old TV shows like this, I become aware of how different the show would be if today’s technology existed then. While watching an episode I’ll think ,”Hey, that wouldn’t have happened if he owned a cellphone.” Or ,” Now you could just Google that!” From time to time, the Hulk would go running through the streets of Chinatown, or New York, and I can’t help thinking that McGee’s job would’ve become obsolete because he would’ve just been able to watch cellphone videos of it on YouTube.
Overall though, I had a pretty good time watching the marathon, and not just for the nostalgia. Once you get past the surface stuff, the show has a certain amount of depth. Banner’s situation is always approached with compassion and respect, and most of the humor arises out of people’s reactions to the Hulk, never because Banner, the Hulk, or his patron of the week, are being mocked. Most of us remember the show because of the theme song, a tinkly piano tune called “The Lonely Man”, and the show’s opening voice-over, which went a long way towards eliciting sympathy for Banner. There have been a lot of iterations of the Hulk, from Eric Bana to Edward Norton to Mark Ruffalo, but the Bixby/Ferrigno version is still one of my all-time favorites.
This episode is all about Laura and it’s a pretty good episode. I enjoyed it. I initially thought it would be rather boring because I wasn’t particularly interested in Laura Moon. I’m still not a huge fan but I like and understand her a little bit more. In the book, Laura has no backstory. We hardly know anything about her other than Shadow loves her, and she cheated on him with his best friend. So kudos to Bryan Fuller for fleshing her out for the show, and making her as richly complicated as any female character I’ve ever seen, on TV.
I don’t want to get into diagnostic behavior but Laura shows all of the Classic signs of clinical depression. She’s low energy, she’s got no hobbies, she’s bored, sad, and at one point tries to commit suicide in her hot tub,using a bug spray called Git Gone. She’s looking for meaning. She’s looking to believe in something. Depression is often signified not so much by not wanting to do something, so much as just not caring about what you’re doing. Much of the decision making on Laura’s part arises out of boredom, and apathy, and I understood that.
She works in what some people consider the most exciting place on Earth; Las Vegas, as a dealer in a cheesy, Egyptian themed casino. For Laura, it’s just any other old job until Shadow walks in, and tries to scam money from her Blackjack table. Like Wednesday, Shadow lived his life conning people out of their money. She warns him against that, and afterwards, he approaches her in the parking lot, to thank her. She takes him home with her, they have sex, and begin a relationship. One of the clues I had for Laura’s sense of apathy is she goads Shadow into being rough with her. This means she’s looking for excitement. For something to break up the endless tedium of her life. She takes home a stranger she knows is a criminal, so perhaps she was hoping he would kill her.
Over the four years they’re together, Shadow meets her friends, a couple named Robbie and Audrey, and they become Shadow’s friends too. Robbie offers him a job at his gym, and Shadow is happy. Shadow, as it stands in the narrative right now, has no backstory. As far as we can tell, he’s all alone. His mother is dead (or so he believes) and he doesn’t seem to come from anywhere, and appeared to be going no where in particular,when he met Laura. Laura becomes his home, and he cares deeply, not just about her, but the idea of her. He idealizes her and she is perfect in his eyes. Shadow isn’t just in love with Laura, he’s in love with being in love, as he really doesn’t know a whole lot about her. In other words, he BELIEVES in Laura, even after he finds out about her infidelity. I think this is what allowed the coin to resurrect her.
The first time Laura approaches Shadow, with the idea that she is unhappy, he doesn’t understand. He simply took it for granted that she was happy because he was happy with their life. She tries to explain that she is depressed but she can’t articulate this to him. She tells him that it’s not him, but I don’t think Laura fully understands what she’s experiencing either. She knows she’s supposed to be happy, but she isn’t. And she wants to be. So when we catch her asking Shadow to bring home bug spray, we know her depression is in full force again.
Instead of suicide, she decides that criminal enterprise is the way to make her life exciting this time. She comes up with what she thinks is a full proof plan for robbing the casino. Shadow initially balks at this (We can see where his reaction to Wednesday robbing a bank comes from. That he ultimately goes along with Wednesday’s plan, proves that Shadow hasn’t learned his lesson, or he actually really trusts him. Pick one!) but he goes along with Laura because he thinks it will make her happy.
It all goes horribly wrong.
Shadow ends up in prison, where Laura says she will wait for him. She does wait, and tells her friends she’s waiting, but Laura is still bored and depressed. One way to alleviate her boredom, if not the actual depression, is to fuck her best friend’s husband. So she begins an affair with Robbie. She keeps saying she wants to break it off but keeps sleeping with him anyway. it the only thing she has to alleviate her ennui.
All of this is carefully watched over by Hugnin and Munin, Wednesday’s ravens. They’re present at every stage of Shadow and Laura’s relationship; at the barbecue where Shadow meets Robbie, they’re watching from the roof; when Shadow goes off to work they’re watching from the street lamps; when Laura and Robbie have their fatal accident, the birds are following their vehicle. Which means Wednesday didn’t just meet Shadow by chance. He’s known about him for a very long time, although whether or not he caused the car accident is still uncertain. I do wonder if Wednesday had something to do with the heist that went wrong, that landed Shadow in prison, to be conveniently watched over by a man named Low Key (Loki) Liesmith.
Because Laura believed in nothing, but worked in a casino dedicated to Egyptian gods, it’s Anubis who comes to retrieve her when she’s dead. She refuses to cooperate with him, she doesn’t want her heart weighed. She wants to be sent back home, but he tells her she will go into darkness instead. She asks if there will be peace but he doesn’t say, and before he can make her climb into the representative hot tub, in which she tried so often to kill herself, she gets snapped back to Earth when Shadow drops his lucky coin on her grave.
Laura crawls out of her grave and is understandably mystified by her return. She sees a beacon of light in the distance and follows it until she comes upon Shadow hanging from the tree, surrounded by his assailants. So it’s Laura who was Shadow’s mystery savior. She discovers she is incredibly fast and strong as she easily bludgeons Shadow’s attackers, then jumps into the air, and pulls him down. She does lose her arm, though. Unable to face Shadow in her bloody state she eventually finds her way to Audrey’s home.
I’m still not entirely certain exactly what Laura felt for Shadow. Audrey claims she treated Shadow like a pet, but Laura insists that even if she didn’t love Shadow before, she certainly loves him now, and that appears to be the case. Laura finally BELIEVES in something. In someone. Like she’d always been searching for when she was alive. And remember, in this world, it’s all about belief. This makes me wonder how her belief in Shadow will express itself in his life. Because all it takes is for just one person to be thoroughly convinced that Shadow is special.
Audrey is freaked out to discover a dead woman, in her house, walking and talking. I love the relationship between these two. They say exactly the kinds of things you expect two such people to say, and are fairly blunt about it. Audrey handles the situation like a boss. I still don’t like her for trying to rape Shadow, but she’s not actually evil. Like Laura, she’s complicated, and so is their relationship.
Laura convinces Audrey to take her on a road trip but that is interrupted by Anubis and Mr. Ibis. The two of them run a funeral home and they take Laura there and patch up her decaying body, reattaching her arm and giving her a lifelike glow. One of my favorite moments was Anubis low key dragging Laura, while he fixes her up. She gives him the side-eye because shes not sure if he’s being funny. He also says he’ll be there to collect her when her task is over.
Shadows presence in the world appears to Laura like a beam of sunlight moving in the distance and she is compelled to follow it. I think it’s hilarious that Shadow looks like his name to her. A “Shadow Moon” is basically another term for eclipse, and that’s what he looks like to her, a shadow that’s surrounded by beams of light. Laura eventually makes it to Shadow’s motel room. One of my favorite images is Laura’s point of view of Shadow walking towards her, his light getting brighter and brighter, outlining him in a yellow corona, as he steps into his motel room.
I just recently listened to the audiobook versions of these two stories, and was as struck by the similarities, as much as the dissimilarities. Suffice to say, if you’re going to write a Kaiju Style Apocalypse, for maximum terror, these are the things you’re gonna need to include: monsters, death, intrepid survivors, and some human villains.
Nightworld, written by F. Paul Wilson, waaay back in 1992, (it was heavily revised in 2001) , was the conclusion to a seven book series that started with The Keep, and starred Wilson’s original character, Repairman Jack, (who is sort of like Jack Reacher, only he fights the supernatural.)
In Nightworld, the entire world is beset by monsters who have emerged from sinkholes that circle the globe. This invasion is the precursor to the rise of an of Anti-God, named Rasolom, and Hell on Earth, as the sun begins rising later every day, and setting earlier every evening. Worldwide. (To someone with even the most basic understanding of Astronomy, that’s already pretty terrifying.) The endgame is an endless nighttime, where the various monsters, that are allergic to sunlight, can roam, and eat, freely.
In The Mist, a novella written by Stephen King, and first published in 1980, in the anthology titled Dark Forces, the world is overcome by a dense fog, in which all manner of different monsters live. It is theorized, by the characters, that scientists accidentally opened a portal to another universe, that flooded into Earth.
First, something naturally unnatural has to occur, in the sky or in the earth, like the sun setting at the wrong time everyday, fogs, mists, tsunamis, or giant holes opening up in the ground. The precursor to all hell breaking loose (literally), for these characters, is if the natural environment has suddenly gone horribly awry.
Second, you are going to need monsters, and not just Leviathans. You’re gonna need a variety of sizes to induce maximum terror. After all, you might be able to fight off, or avoid, the big ones, (I say “might”) but smaller monsters can creep into human hiding places, and cause general havoc, as well as sleeplessness.This is what makes these books different from a Kaiju story. They’re more like Kaiju-Adjacent.
You must have gruesome deaths. Some of these gruesome deaths must involve the use of some kind of acid that dissolves its victims alive. In Nightworld, there is a thoroughly disgusting collection of acidic critters that fly around eating people’s faces. In The Mist there are giant spiders with acidic webbing, as if the idea of giant spiders isn’t quite terrifying enough,I guess.
Some of your monsters must have wings. It doesn’t particularly matter what type of wings, as long as the creatures can fly. In Nightworld they have insect wings. In The Mist bat wings seem to be the preferred method of flight.
At least some of your monsters must have tentacles. Nightworld fulfills this requirement admirably, by having lots (and lots) of creatures with tentacles, grabbing people and pulling them into small apertures. The Mist has giant tentacles just sitting outside a grocery story, not even attached to anything, apparently. They’re certainly not attached to anything aquatic as grocery stores are normally on land. The Mist pours some extra gravy on its tentacular horrors by giving them tiny mouths.
At least one of the monsters encountered has to be so fantastical, that it defies belief , like The Mist’s Leviathan, or the creature that decides to take up most of the Atlantic Ocean in Nightworld.
Speaking of giant monsters, they have to come from somewhere, and out of giant holes, whether under the ocean, or out of the ground, as in Nightworld, are the perfect portals for entry. You must have portals. What?! Them monsters gotta get here somehow.
Okay, once you’ve got your monsters sorted into their various sizes, along with where they’re visiting from, and their transportation, you then have to lay out who it is they’ll be eating. You must have an intrepid group of people, whose job it is to be eaten, trapped, survive, or defeat the monsters.
I’m not sure if The Mist qualifies in that department, as the people in that story seem scared shitless, throughout the entire ordeal. Nevertheless, since all the other criteria are met, we’ll refer to them as intrepid anyway. After all, they do some brave things, like fighting the giant spiders, and arguing with the crazy religious lady. The characters from Nightworld are actually described as brave and fearless in the book. In fact, one of the characters has a speech about it, and they all engage in some boldness, some daring, and even some indomitable behavior.
Your intrepid group of people must consist of, at least one straight, honest, stand-up, White guy. It is a requirement that he be both honest, and White, and no substitutes will be made. He must be the kind of White guy who is strong and bold, but also compassionate, idealistic, and willing to protect the little guy. He must be able to clearly articulate why things need doing, and convey those beliefs to the other characters.
In other words, you need Captain James Tiberius Kirk.
Nightworld fulfills this quota with two…count’em!, two stand-up White guys. Although, I feel the writer is clearly overdoing it, by having one of them be a former priest, and the other an ancient swordsman.
In accordance with the James Kirk Axiom, you will them need a pretty blond White woman. A redhead or possibly auburn haired woman can be used in a pinch, but she must be heterosexual, and conventionally pretty. No arm fat, tattoos, arthritis, or nervous diseases need apply. Not even allergies. She must be in perfect physical health and form, and above all else, she must remain un-traumatized by any of the preceding events attending the end of the world, like watching her family and friends be eaten.
And for Gob’s sake, no women of color! Apparently women of color, (and any women with tattoos) all get eaten first…or something. Whatever is happening though, they never seem to make it to the being intrepid part of the story.
There must be at least one child, preferably a boy, but a young girl will suffice. They can be White, but it is not a hard and fast rule, as it is not required that they be genetically related to either the White man, or White woman. Sometimes it can just be some kid one of them picked up somewhere. Extra points if the child is an orphan who just witnessed their family be eaten by the monsters, for maximum trauma. How else are you going to convey to the reader how dangerous the world is, without the help of crying, screaming children. Also, you can always fill up some time by having the child be in extra special danger, by having them wander off alone, or be autistic, or something.
Nightworld is interesting in that there is a perfectly healthy and un-traumatized child in the story, which is turned on its head, by having the child become autistic, when he helps save the world.
Surrounding this trio are what I like to call the intrepid, but disposable people. They are the literary equivalent of non-playable characters. Don’t get too attached to them, these characters could be eaten at any second. They should consist of at least one (if not more) men of color, preferably Black or Latino. You can break the rules and have there be at least one woman of color in the story, but they can’t have any lines of dialogue, unless its exclamations like “Look out!”, or “Aaaaaahhhh!” Any exposition should be left to any extra White men, that you have added, preferably a teacher, or a scientist. Nightworld has a priest, who knows what’s happening, and can explain it to those characters who are out of the loop. David Drayton, from The Mist, is an illustrator, which kind of changes things up a bit, but he is still the narrator.
Nightworld is not a good template for casting your characters because all of its major characters are White. (People of color probably didn’t exist when it was written. I have it on good authority, that we weren’t invented, in Horror literature, until about 1999. Well, Stephen King had discovered us, but we had to be magical to get in his stories.) There should be no more than ten of these non-essential characters. More than ten and the reader will lose track of who they should be terrified is going to die next.
And last, but not least, you must have at least one asshole. No story about the end of the world is complete without at least one human being, who is trying to kill off the other human beings, and that you wish would hurry up and be eaten by something. By anything.
The Mist is exemplary in that it has two…Count ’em! Two assholes. Norton, the asshole neighbor of David Drayton, and Ms. Carmody, the asshole religious townie. Norton fulfills the role of the asshole who wants desperately to be in charge, but no one will listen to him, who becomes increasingly unhinged. He eventually dies by skipping out into the mist to feed himself to the monsters.
Ms Carmody fulfills the role of the asshole, who is already thoroughly unhinged, before the story even begins, and the intrepid people are now trapped with her crazy ass, and the other scared people start thinking that human sacrifice makes sense.
Nightworld fulfills this requirement, in exemplary fashion, by also having multiple assholes in the script. In the unrevised edition of the story, (from before 2001), it was the husband of one of the intrepid people. In the newly improved book, its some random bad guys from previous books, who mostly don’t come into contact with our intrepid gang.
And finally, the ending can’t be all wishy-washy. (We’re looking at you Steve!) In The Mist, there really isn’t much of an end to the story. We don’t know if David Drayton and his friends ever get out of it, or how long it lasts. (Thankfully the movie corrects this problem, which is all I have to say, in that the movie definitely has an end.) Nightworld correctly follows the rules, by having the good guys win, at the last possible second. You know the rules. Disaster is only averted when the countdown reaches one.
Now my people, go forth, and kill your darlings.
The title of this one is a reference to a scene from the book, when Wednesday tells Shadow to think of snow, but we begin this episode with an introduction to the Egyptian god, Anubis. In the books his name is Mr. Jaquel, and he runs a funeral home with Mr. Ibis (Thoth). Everything I know about this character, I know from a book on Egyptian mythology, and a mediocre episode of Supernatural. Here he is doing his job as a psychopomp, which is a spirit which guides souls to the afterlife, guiding Ms. Fadil to her final fate.
Anubis job is to weigh the evil of the soul, by weighing their heart against a pure white feather. If the soul was heavier than the feather, than the soul was devoured by a demon and destroyed. If the soul is lighter than the feather, than the soul is allowed to move on to the next phase of its existence, in the land of the dead. Ms. Fadil is accompanied by her hairless sphinx, a representative of the goddess Bastet. Bastet was, for a short time, considered the wife of Anubis, and was a Warrior, and Protector of the pharaoh.
Anubis usually wears white but Mr. Jaquel shows up at the door wearing black, but still doesn’t look remotely disreputable. I think it’s interesting how they bluntly recognize Ms. Fadil’s anti-blackness. So the showrunners are gonna go the whole route, not just contrasting how immigrants were treated vs. Black Americans, but they are not shying away from the acknowledgement that a lot of immigrants adopted racism towards Black people, as a way to achieve the privileges of Whiteness.This is a level of honesty I wasn’t expecting as almost no one in America acknowledges intra-racial discrimination. (That is discrimination and prejudice among PoC towards each other.)
Shadow and Wednesday
Shadow wakes up after losing his game with Czernobog, and goes to the roof, where he finds the third Zorya sister, also called The Midnight Star. In mythology, there are really only two Zorya sisters, one who opens the gate to let her father rise into the sky in the morning, (The Morning Star) and one who closes the gates when he sets in the evening (The Evening Star). Neil Gaiman and the showrunners simply added the Midnight Star to the other two, and made it her job to watch the heavens at night to make sure that the “great bear” ( Ursa Major) is still chained in place. If he should ever get free, (if the heavens should fall, or the stars go out) it would be the end of the world.
This sister gives Shadow a coin, she says, to replace the one he lost. She plucks the moon right out of the sky and hands it to him, in the form of a silver dollar. (Shadow is being given the sun, the moon, and the stars, right?) This is something that happens in the book, but you can still get some idea of the showrunner’s sense of whimsy. (This episode was directed by David Slade, who also worked on Hannibal, and he has a rather cheeky visual sense.) Zorya #3 tells Shadow it’s for luck. Shadow wakes the next morning believing he dreamt her, as there’s no way to reach the roof from the apartment, but feeling lucky, he challenges Czernobog to another checkers game, and wins this time. Czernobog is now obligated to support Wednesday before he can kill Shadow. It’s a testament to the director’s skills that he can make a game of checkers so exciting.
It was pointed out to me, by an astute fan on Tumblr, that this is the second or third time Shadow has been sexually assaulted by a White woman, on the show. Robbie’s wife, Audrey, attacks Shadow in the cemetery, as revenge against her late husband. She tries to get him to have sex with her, grabbing him, pulling at his clothing, and pushing him, while Shadow refuses her overtures. The Zorya sister kisses him without his consent, although she does give him a kind of warning, telling him she wants to be kissed. Her other sister, after Shadow gives her the romance novels Wednesday insisted he buy, blushes nervously in his presence, and Media offers to show him Lucy’s titties.
The OP wondered if this hypersexualization of Shadow was because he was a Black man, although she was also worried that the show was making white women look racist, as so far, Shadow has had no interaction with any WoC (although, I think Laura is Latina.) I’m not certain it’s the second, but I’m fairly sure that these women’s reactions to Shadow has something to do with his secret identity, and his relationship to Mr. Wednesday. I was too busy geeking out over the shows imagery to pay close attention to much of anything else. (I’m just glad Fuller has another show on TV.) If we see WoC act like this way towards Shadow, then my theory may be correct, and if they don’t, then the writers are making some other point.
While Shadow is visiting with the youngest Zorya, Wednesday is putting the moves on the eldest sister. It’s obvious the two of them are long familiar with each other, and she is both annoyed and charmed by him. She likes him but she worries. Everytime she sees Wednesday, she knows there’s going to be trouble, and she predicted Shadow’s death. The two go out for a walk and it begins to storm. Again! There’s a lot of storm imagery in the show, and over time, the astute watcher will begin to understand why. No, Wednesday is not the one responsible, even if he was ready for it.
Speaking of Wednesday, I understand from Tumblr, that a lot of people were really confused about the lynching imagery in the last episode, and were puzzled at Wednesday’s offhand attitude, when Shadow confronted him about what happened. Shadow’s reference to Strange Fruit is a shout out to the song made famous by Billie Holliday, about the lynchings of African-Americans in the South. The lynching imagery is a very deliberate statement, directly related to Shadow’s relationship with Mr. Wednesday (which is why Technical Boy chose that particular method of killing.)
I’m trying really hard not to give away Shadow’s secret for those who haven’t read the book. (For reference on Mr. Wednesday, you need to read The Prose Edda, to understand why the symbol of hanging is so important.) No, the writers aren’t simply being insensitive. I know from Fuller’s work on Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, and Hannibal, that he likes to write a lot of foreshadowing and symbolism into his work. Like Joss Whedon, Fuller likes to make his series one long story, with lots of callbacks to previous episodes, (so if you skip a season, you won’t know what the hell is going on.) We will see this imagery again in a later season.
Poor Shadow! Since he’s been employed by Wednesday, he’s been in a barfight, been beat up, sexually assaulted and lynched. (There’s a scene of him having his wounds tended after the lynching. Remember the, now stapled wound, in his side. It’s important.) At any rate, by the end of the episode, he does not appear to be suffering any pains from his wounds, although to be fair, I don’t know how many days its been. It is understandable that he’d have just a tiny bit of resentment towards Wednesday. Personally, I would have quit the job, but I’m more of a scaredy cat than Shadow.
Shadow has lots of discussions with Wednesday about belief. In the last episode, Wednesday was rather nonchalant about Shadow’s belief that he was going insane because Lucy Ricardo propositioned him. Wednesday’s attitude is always, “If you believe it, then it’s real. If you don’t believe it, then it’s not real, and you are going insane.” He makes this statement to Shadow several times because, as a god himself, belief is everything. For Wednesday belief determines reality. He makes it clear to Shadow that being forgotten is the worst possible thing that could happen, worse than insanity.
Shadow does not have this particular reaction in the book. That version of him is much more relaxed about meeting gods and goddesses. I like that this Shadow questions and challenges Wednesday. I love the chemistry between the two of them, and I like that this is not an easy relationship, as the two of them continually chafe at each other. Wednesday behaves towards Shadow like an indulgent uncle, and Shadow knows Wednesday is a liar, so he’s often exasperated with him, but there’s also a part of him that really likes and admires Wednesday.
Shadow isn’t a stupid man. He’s knows something is going on, but he’ll never understand what’s happening, if he refuses to believe in any of it. It doesn’t help that all of the people he’s met don’t just come right out and claim to be gods. As Wednesday tells the elder Zorya, “I’m easing him into it.”
Salim and the Ifrit
This scene is taken, almost shot for shot, from the book, and it’s an introduction to the Ifrit, giving us his backstory on how he came to drive a taxi. Salim is an unsuccessful salesman from Oman, trying to make money on behalf of his brother. The two of them recount to each other their misery in America, and after Salim discovers the djinn’s secret, and reaches out to him, to two of them share a sexual interlude. Afterwards, the djinn leaves, taking Salim’s clothes and plane ticket. He leaves Salim his clothes, taxi, and driver’s license instead. Salim sees this for the opportunity it is. He quits his old life and happily drives off into the NY, streets.
This is being touted as one of the most graphic gay sex scenes on television, but it’s much more important than that. Representation matters, and this scene is notable for showing two Men of Color (Middle Eastern) in a non-exploitive, sexual relationship, something almost no one mentions. It’s certainly almost never represented in fiction, or on a mainstream television show. It’s also notable for how it’s filmed. This isn’t sex. This is solace. This is two unhappy men, far from their homeland, seeking comfort from, and giving comfort to, each other. It is interesting that Salim’s room number is #318. In the Bible, Job 3:18 is loosely translated as, “There the prisoners rest together and hear not the voice of the oppressor. ” For Salim his oppression is his ties to a family that hates him, and hold his purse strings; for the djinn, it is a job he hates, with people he despises.
Salim refers to the djinn as an Ifrit, which is one of the most powerful types of djinn mentioned in the Koran. They are giant winged creatures made of fire, often depicted as wicked and ruthless. So no. They do not grant wishes, although this djinn is happy to break with tradition and grant Salim’s wish to be free to live the life he wants. (I don’t think the djinn goes back home because this is the guy we saw talking to Wednesday in the diner. We may see him again later.)
As for the lucky coin Shadow lost, Mad Sweeney is having a very bad week. The coin has often served as a protection for him against death, and he inadvertently gave it to Shadow, after their bar fight. He wakes from a drunk, in a filthy bathroom, to the sight of the owner’s rifle. He challenges her, thinking the weapon won’t fire, but it does, and his face gets cut by glass. Later, he hitches a ride with a stranger, but that man gets impaled by some rebar. Sweeeney realizes he has lost his lucky coin and that he must have given it to Shadow.
Shadow and Wednesday
Wednesday is happy to announce to Shadow that they are about to rob a bank. In the book, Shadow barely protests this, but the series version is a lot more reticent to go back to prison. Wednesday assures him that he will not, if he thinks of snow, and asks Shadow not just to believe that he won’t go back to jail, but to believe IN him. I love this scene, not because of the robbery, but because of the silliness surrounding it. While preparing for their felonious endeavor, he and Shadow discuss the existence of Jesus in a copy shop, which is appropriate. Apparently there are several copies of Jesus, and Wednesday skirts just a little too close to racism when mentioning Mexican Jesus, (Yes, there is a Mexican version of Jesus, that we’ll meet in a later episode) for Shadow’s comfort. I was just tickled to find out there’s a bunch of Jesuses: a Black Jesus, a Mexican Jesus, a Catholic Jesus, etc. and why not. Jesus would have different American versions, because it’s all about belief.
Another favorite moment I thought was hilarious, was Wednesday buying Shadow chocolate, while Shadow embarrassingly admits that he does, indeed, like marshmallows, which I’m glad he does, because Wednesday pretty much just gave him a cup full of marshmallows, with a drop of hot chocolate. Honestly those are the biggest marshmallows that have ever lived, which is then followed by a shot of Shadow intensely concentrating on images of snow, while their car, Betsy, jumps over the mounds of marshmallows in his cup.
It actually does start to snow, and under that cover, Wednesday pretends to be a security guard taking in business pouches, at the broken ATM. (No, this would not work in real life, people.) Shadow gets wrapped up in this scheme when the police, investigating Wednesday, call to verify that he works for him. You can see Shadow gets a bit enthusiastic about his role. They retire to another diner to count their loot, while Shadow waffles about whether or not he made it snow. Both the show and the book are unclear on this point, but I like to believe he did, because that makes me happy.
Sweeney finally makes it to Shadow’s side and tries to bully him into giving up the coin he accidentally gave him, but Shadow is unperturbed and tells him he threw it on Laura’s grave. Sweeney goes to Laura’s grave but there’s no coin, and no Laura either.
Back at the hotel Shadow returns to his room, and is surprised to see his dead wife waiting for him. Yes, she is dead. No, she is not a zombie. I think technically she’d be called a revenant or something, I guess. Laura does get to play a pivotal role in Shadow’s story so no, she’s not just a sexy floorlamp.
Next week, we get Laura’s backstory. Why and for how long was she cheating on Shadow with his best friend? What if anything did Wednesday have to do with her death, since he knew about it ? How did she and Shadow meet? Did she ever love him? How come I’ve never seen that actress before?
Oh wow! From here on out its getting increasing difficult to choose one movie. When you’ve watched as many movies as I have, at my age you have a helluva lot of favorites, so this is like picking those desert island movies, (the movies that you would most like to have if you were stranded on a desert island.)
I did have to cheat a few times and choose two:
1991: Terminator 2/Addams Family
Beauty and the Beast was also released this year, so I had a really hard time choosing just one movie. Why is this so hard? I love movies. I find at least one thing to like about even the worse movies, so this is just making it extra difficult, when the movies have fewer flaws to latch onto.
I chose Terminator 2 though, because it was the movie that had the most emotional effect on me. America had just come out of the “Cold War” with Russia, in the 80s, when I had to (real quick) deal with my own existential angst, coupled with the idea of nuclear annihilation. I had a lot of sleepless nights as a teen. That was a very rough period, and watching that movie reawakened all my worst anxieties, especially the scenes of nuclear devastation. I was near tears just at the opening credits, and my anxiety issues almost caused me to walk out.
I have since calmed down about this movie, and can appreciate it for what it is. I still can’t watch the bomb blast scenes, but that hasn’t stopped the movie from being most excellent, in all other regards, and I’m gonna have to review it someday because the plot and themes still resonate. Also, I have tremendous respect for James Cameron, who managed to tear it up, with some of the best sequels, (to already great movies), ever made.
I chose the Addam’s Family solely for nostalgic reasons. I just love this movie, and never get tired of its humor. I watched the TV show as a child and it was alright. I liked it okay, but the movie built on it in ways that just shone. The acting and actors are, quite simply, perfect. Raul Julia as Gomez simply can’t be topped. And I’ve been in love with Angelica Huston ever since. When I first saw this movie I didn’t even know who she was. Now, whenever I think of her, I think of Morticia. And of course Wednesday Addams was my personal avatar. If I can be said to have a life philosophy, then Wednesday gave voice to a lot of it. She was smart, practical, snarky, and tolerated no nonsense, often saying the type of things I actually manged to get away with saying to people, when I was a child, without getting my ass thoroughly kicked. Incidentally, check out the video series Adult Wednesday Addams. It perfectly captures what she’d be like as a grown woman, and is absolutely hilarious!
The animated version of Beauty and the Beast gets a special mention. Yes, I am also a Disney fan, especially the years before CGI, and if I had to pick just one Disney film, it would have to be Beauty and the Beast. Its just gorgeous, Howard Ashman’s music was at its best, and I loved all the songs. I know every word of Be Our Guest, and still get chills listening to it today. Why that song resonates with me I can’t even guess! But in every Disney film there’s at least one.
1992: Bram Stoker’s Dracula/Reservoir Dogs
I was in Art school when I went to see this movie with some friends. Dracula is another of Cuppola’s masterpieces. It’s another one of those movies where, when you walk out of the theater, you have to take a moment to readjust to reality. Despite the dodgy acting of its younger stars which has not held up well, the movie itself is one long, lush, beautiful dream sequence, that doesn’t even need dialogue. This is one of those movies I appreciate, not for reasons of nostalgia, but for solely artistic reasons, and this was one of the first movies I really appreciated as such. I saw it twice in the theater and have watched it multiple times since. Everything, the details, the colors, even the camerawork, has meaning, and I never get tired of watching it.
Reservoir Dogs I saw a couple of years after its release and it was the first Tarantino movie I’d ever seen. It’s one of those movies where you have to ask yourself who that is, and then follow them for the rest of your life, or their career. Despite Tarantino’s many controversies, I have never been disappointed by one of his movies. Even when I didn’t particularly care for a movie, it was still worth looking at. Another reason I like him is because he has managed to singlehandely revive the careers of actors that Hollywood had long forgotten. I would love him just for giving us back Pam Grier, who I grew up listening to my mother rave about. In fact my mother loves Grier so much that she is a total stan for Jackie Brown. I can’t get her to even look at any other of Tarantino’s movies, but Jackie Brown is always on replay. I love Tarantino because he made my Mom redsicover her love for Pam Grier.
1993: The Piano
Okay, now I’m reacting to the artistry of the movie. The Piano is one of my all time favorite films, looking incongruous next to movies like The Addams Family, but really it fits right in. Since I’ve been trained as a visual artist; the camerawork, costumes, colors, details, are what attract me to certain movies. With The Piano though, I really started to pay close attention to the music in a film.
Music has always been a huge part of my life, (I have moments, milestones, everything), but this was the first time I’d been as engrossed in the sound of a movie, as I was its visuals. I was haunted by this movie. I thought about it for days afterward. I was moody, examining it, my feelings about it, and puzzling over its meaning. The mood of it simply wouldn’t leave me, and in a lot of ways it still hasn’t left. It’s not a movie I watch often, but when I do, I have to be prepared for several days of thoughtful melancholy afterwards.
Jurassic Park gets a shoutout because I am a total dinosaur fan, and you have not lived until you’ve seen a full grown woman act like a damn fool in a movie theater, at the sight of one of the most realistic looking T-Rex’s every created for the silverscreen. Does it make me a bi-sexual, if I’ve fallen in live with a female dinosaur?
True Romance: Quentin Tarantino didn’t direct his movie but he wrote much of its dialogue, and it shows, most especially in the scene between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper. In the Sicilian scene, Walken stars as an old school Mob boss trying to torture information out of Hopper on his son’s whereabouts. This scene is right up there with that classic meeting between DeNiro and Pacino in Heat, and is very possibly one of Hopper’s finest scenes.
1994: The Crow
I know I should probably pick something the critics loved like Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption which were also released this year, but nope. This year belongs to The Crow.
I had just left college around this time, I was working, and had a little bit of disposable income. So you know what I did with that extra money? That’s right! Go to lots of movies. I don’t even remember seeing the other two films in the theater, but I went to see The Crow 3 times, dragging all my friends along each time. I’ve seen this movie lots of times since, then, and read the book a few times, too. Yes, I still miss Brandon. I still feel hurt over the career this beautiful man could have had.
The alternative to this movie was Toy Story. I enjoyed TS a lot but I wasn’t really into it like that, until Jessie’s song, When She Loved Me. Til then, I just thought it was cute.When I started crying in the second movie, I knew that shit was serious. But I’m not picking that one. I’m picking Seven because:
This was the first time I’d ever heard of David Fincher. I wasn’t expecting too much from this movie when I first saw it. I was ready to dismiss it as one of those dark detective type movies, only with extra Morgan Freeman, whose movie career I’d been following, since he played Fast Black in Street Smart. But Seven turned out to be excellent, and upended any expectations I had about the plot. Oddly, my favorite scene isnt the ending, but the scene where Morgan Freeman’s character (Detective William Somerset) goes to do some research at the libray, and banters with the guards. The music playing during that scene is Bach’s Air on the G String. I’ve watched this dozens of times since its initial release, but the best way to watch it is with Fincher’s commentary on the DVD.
This year also saw the release of one of the most intelligent vampire movies I’ve ever seen, Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction, starring Christopher Walken and Lily Taylor, about a college student who has an existential crisis after she gets bitten by a vampire on the streets of NY. I watched this movie three or four times just trying to follow the conversations in this movie, because gobdammit, this movie is not smarter than me! Except maybe it is. Or maybe its just a bunch of pretentious drivel.
This is one of those movies where you have to pay attention when you’re watching it. No eating popcorn, or chatting with your friends. As a result, this movie was much more successful on video then it was in the theater. And since this is a Ferrara movie, it doesn’t skimp on the gore, either. There’s a fairly graphic scene, towards the end of the movie, where an entire college faculty room gets massacred by vampires. These aren’t the most vicious vampires on screen, as they’re too emotionally detached, but that’s what makes the scene so terrifying.
Christopher Walken also starred in The Prophecy this year, a movie about a new Angel war in Heaven and on Earth. This is also one of my favorites movies. I know people like to write off Walken as a silly actor but he’s starred in a number of very intelligent horror movies.
I just finished a two part analysis of this movie, and its comparison to Raising Arizona:
1997: Princess Mononoke
I had a hard time getting my niece to watch this, instead of her billionth viewing of Spirited Away, but I finally did, and it was worth it, as I used this movie as a way to hone her critical thinking skills. But rather than focus on the environmental issues in the plot she seemed to focus more on the moral issues. We had a good discussion about the morality of Lady Eboshi, the primary antagonist in this movie.
Lady Eboshi lives in a camp in the forest. She is a weapons maker, and to do this, she tears down and corrupts the forest and its creatures. The corruption is spreading to other parts of the forest not associated with what she’s doing, the forest creatures are angry and want to destroy her, including Princess Mononoke, a young woman who has been raised by wolves. Lady Eboshi also takes in “fallen women”, ex-whores looking to escape their old lives and live free of the brothels, and lepers, whom she tenderly cares for and makes sure their final days are comfortable.
My niece and I discussed the moral grayness of someone like Eboshi. What she’s doing to the forest is very obviously wrong, and she doesn’t care about that, but at the same time, she cares very much for the unfortunate people around her, so its not easy to condemn her as a villain. I think I summed it up for my niece like this: That sometimes, good people do very bad things. And sometimes, bad people do nice things. I don’t know how much of this conversation stuck with her because she was about ten at the time. She also seemed quite taken with the little white forest spirits in the movie. I had a much harder time explaining Japanese religious beliefs too her, tho’.
Most other people would probably choose Men in Black or Disney’s Hercules as this years favorite, but apparently, I like to be contrary.
1998: Dark City
Despite the release of both The Truman Show and Pleasantville, this year, for me, belongs to Dark City. Directed by David Goyer who made The Crow, and starring Rufus Sewell, who a lot of people inexplicably hate, this is one of the smarter SciFi action movies of the nineties. Its not the characters though, its the plot. From its opening scene of a man waking up in a bathtub, to its apocalyptic ending ,the audience is taken on a compelling mystery, just like it s primary character, John Murdock. There are spiral symbols, aliens, mysterious men in black, a captivating beauty played by Jennifer Connelly, a nosy detective played by William Hurt, and a city that moves around at night. Are you intrigued now? Good!
I remember when I first saw the trailer for this movie. I was immediately captured by it. It suits my aesthetic. This movie wasn’t well received by critics, probably because you have to be patient with it. You don’t know anymore about what’s going on than John, and you find out what’s happening only when he finds out. This is one of the movies on which Roger Ebert and I fully agreed. He enjoyed this movie so much he did three separate commentaries for its DVDs.
1999: The Matrix
For a lot of people, this year was all about the Sixth Sense, and its twist ending, but for me, and a lot of other geeks, it was all about The Matrix. This is one of those tent-pole movies, that is not only a summation of all the hottest SciFi film-making techniques of the twentieth century, but also one of those movies to which every SciFi movie afterwards would be compared. Bladerunner did it in the eighties, but the Matrix belongs in The Crow/Dark City family of films. Lots of rain! Check. Black trenchcoats! Check. Mysterious agents in black! Check.
This year also saw the release of Fight Club, and the first part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Ravenous. As much as I love David Fincher and cannibal movies, I’m not picking those because this is the movie that captured my imagination. The world I would most like to live in, despite the charms of Hobbit-town.As a OG Star Trek fan, I also enjoyed Galaxy Quest immensely.
2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
I did a review of this movie from a storytelling point of view.
I’ve said before that I grew up watching Kung Fu and Wuxia movies, so I’m well used to the tropes used in this movie. I used to work with a rather pretentious white guy who fancied himself something of a cinemaphile. He had seriously lofty taste in movies, and occasionally tried to recommend movies to me. I don’t recall liking anything he suggested but that’s not my point. When this movie was released, he heard great things about it, and checked it out. He came back to work crowing about the wonderfulness of this movie.
I had every intention of seeing the movie anyway but I simply wasn’t as impressed as he was. For him, the movie was the greatest creation since Wonder bread. For me, the movie was a very well made version of movies I’d been watching my whole life. I heard later that Chinese audiences had very much the same reaction. It was a beautiful film but really not a whole lot different than a thousand other Wuxia movies released in the 90s. It was only a new genre to him.
The year 2000 also saw the release of Pitch Black which starred Vin Diesel, who I had never heard of before ,and one of my all time favorite comedies Best in Show, by Christopher Guest. Unbreakable was also released this year and its one of the most awesome low-key superhero movies ever created, and I’ll have more on it later.
Ooh! Stay tuned for my 2000s movie list, later this month? Next month? And with the success of American Gods, I’d better get started on my Hannibal Season Three re-watch this Summer, and I have a really nice post on my favorite Supernatural episodes per season. I know I keep promising I’m gonna do special stuff, and these things are sitting in my queue, they just take a bit more time to write then some of my other stuff.
For personal reasons, I won’t be watching this series, which airs on Hulu this month. I have developed a thing about dystopias. I’m largely no longer interested in any of them. The only one I’m currently watching is The Walking Dead. I haven’t added any more to my roster of shows. (I’m not sure if Into the Badlands counts.)
The current argument from most PoC, even those who are fans of dystopian narratives, is that some of us have always lived in one. Certainly, the past is one huge dystopia for Black (Jim Crow), Latinx (Zoot Suit Riots), and Asian Internment camps), and Gay, and Transgender people, in this country. It’s been said that White people can look forward and see dystopian futures. Marginalized people have only to look at history.
Here in the US, it’s the 25th anniversary of the 1992 LA riots. The riots resulted in millions of dollars worth of damage, with over 50 people dead, and nearly 2,000 people injured. I remember I was in college at the time. I watched the beating of Rodney King when it occurred months earlier, listened to the announcement of the acquittal, and sat there watching the entire riot, appalled at what I was seeing. I remember feeling terrified (even though what was happening wasn’t anywhere near me). It felt like the end of the world, when it was happening. And I was angry, because I’m a person who knows some history, and I understood why these people were mad as Hell. Unlike most White people, I had been paying attention to what came before the riots, and what had been happening in that environment, for years.
Last night, National Geographic aired a three hour documentary of the LA riots, and I wanted to watch part of it. I was a bit nervous because I know that the documentary was made by White people, specifically White men, and not only have they a long history of only telling news stories from their own perspective, I expected a certain amount of cluelessness and bias in favor of the police. I expected the documentary to focus only on the actual rioting and violence, and mention none of what led up to that violence, (because White Americans have mastered the art of ignoring the things Black people say they are actually mad about, in favor of just making shit up.)
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the most of the doc was well done. Not exactly blalnced but not as bad as I thought it would be. There could have been a little more emphasis on the fact that it wasn’t just Black people involved, and why the Korean shopkeepers got caught in the crossfire, but the parts I did see weren’t actually awful. I didn’t finish the show because I don’t actually need to watch a documentary about something I witnessed, (and American Gods was on.)
Remember, the LA riots wasn’t like Ferguson, or any of the riots that have happened in the time of social media. We didn’t have social media back then. There were no reports from people, in the thick of things, tweeting about what was happening, in real time. The only way the rest of the world knew what was happening was through mainstream news reports by the talking heads who were witnesses. I have never trusted the mainstream media because it has historically aided and abetted the violent stereotypes of PoC. Its the news media’s reliance on spectacle, that has lead to the depiction of Black people as violent savages, that has given impetus to racist beliefs that Black people are animals, and coverage during the riots, without any focus on the cause, just gave more fuel to those beliefs.
Note: I have lived in Black neighborhoods my entire life and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually witnessed a violent act. I have never committed an act of violence myself, or had one committed against me. This may be higher for Black people in other parts of the country, or lower, but the bottom line is, unless you’ve lived in our neighborhoods and been part of our culture, you have no fucking idea what being Black in America is like, and the only information you could possibly have about us, are biased news reports, from a media that benefits monetarily from telling White people horror stories about Black misery. I live in the Midwest. Its not a utopia, by any means, but its no more, or less, hellish than any other part of the US. and certainly nothing like the slice of hell the media would have everyone believe. (Nor is it the privileged party-fest that bigots would have you believe either.)
I’ll give you an example: I grew up in Cleveland Ohio, at the height of the Crips/ Bloods/Crack era that was happening on the East and West coasts, in the late eighties. We heard about it, but it was distant. It didn’t affect our everyday lives. We believed it was happening though, not because of what the mainstream news reported, but because we had an entire genre of rap songs chronicling the shit that was happening in those cities. Rap music was like news reports telling what happened to Black people in other parts of the country.
I watched the mainstream news with my Mom, and I noticed the news media was always trying to play up Cleveland’s gang problem. So desperate were White people in Cleveland to be seen as being as cosmopolitan as NY and LA, they were willing to invent problems Cleveland didn’t actually have.
Remember, I was a teenager during all of this, and I lived, worked, and played around the same neighborhoods they were pointing their fingers at, and saw no evidence that there were gangs. Sure, there were young men who hung out together on street corners, and front stoops. I knew those guys, said hello to them all the time, got catcalled by them (as I was a PYT back then). They weren’t gang members. Were there guys who hung around and got into trouble together? Sure. I wouldn’t have classified them as a gang. (They didn’t have colors, insignia and personal graffiti, although sometimes they named themselves, and had parties.) Were there guys who wished they were a gang? Sure. Were there guys who got together to sell some drugs? Yep. Was there crack in our neighborhoods. Probably! Although I’ve never witnessed, nor encountered, a “crackhead”, and I’ve lived near the “projects” my whole life, and had friends who lived in them. None of these people were gangbangers. I met a gangbanger once. I worked with him during one of my Summer jobs. He seemed like a nice enough fellow. We talked about politics a lot. He didn’t seem inordinately angry about the various issues of the day.
And yet, “violent” is all some people think they know, or need to know, about our lives, trotting out that hoary old trope of “Black on Black crime” at every opportunity, as some kind of gotcha, in conversations about racial politics.
Okay, I’m getting off point. My point was that I’m off dystopian futures, for the most part, because I like to maintain hope for the future. I’ve seen what happens when people lose that hope (and I’ve been there myself). I’ve seen those studies discussing the rise of drug use, and suicide among White men. Some people have theorized that part of the reason the death rate has risen, for that particular group of men, is because they have lost hope for a future in which being a White male is no longer the easiest player setting in the game of life.
Another reason I won’t be watching A Handmaids Tale is because Black people have actually experienced a dystopian past, but the movies and books lack PoC. White writers are willing to mine their sordid past, only to cast White people in the roles of the oppressed, when historically, its always been everyone else on the receiving end of that oppression. The Handmaid’s Tale is basically dystopian fiction which casts White women in the roles that Black women used to inhabit. So many of White people’s nightmares about the future seem to involve being treated the way they have treated others.
In the original story by Margaret Atwood, America has been taken over by a religious sect of men. Due to environmental pollution, most women have become infertile. Instead of fixing the problem though, their solution is to enslave all the fertile White women, and force them to have children. Women who are not considered fertile are killed or enslaved, they can no longer have jobs, read books, or go out in public without blinders. In the book, almost no mention is made of Black people, who are called the Children of Ham, except to mention their relocation elsewhere. Homosexuality is outlawed and punishable by death, women who refuse to adapt to their assigned roles are also executed. There’s even a kind of “underground railroad” to spirit women away into Canada.
I’ve seen people trying, unsuccessfully, to compare this to Sharia Law, when there’s no need for that, because we have examples right here. This is not a new story. America has already done these things to Black women. (See: 12 Years A Slave). Atwood’s story entirely leaves out this angle of the narrative. (The streaming series is doing something different, but almost as traumatic, by including Black women, but not mentioning race at all.)
I won’t be watching A Handmaid’s Tale because the trauma of what happens in that show is already real for Black people. We’ve already lived through it. It was only about fifty or so years ago that Mississippi had one of the highest rates of lynching in the US. My mother was born in Miss. in 1950. She had six brothers. Ours was one of the lucky families that managed to emigrate to the North, when she was about ten years old. My grandmother did that because she wanted all her children to grow up, and they had a far less chance of doing so in Mississippi, at that time. My family’s move to the North is a direct result of racist activities, during the Jim Crow era, in my mother’s lifetime.
My grandmother had spent much her life under Jim Crow, and would have spent the rest of her life in Miss., had she not been afraid for her children’s lives. I was too young and scared to ask her for stories about the things she’d seen, and experienced. You see, my grandmother had already lived through the dystopian fictions that White people find so entertaining to cast themselves in now.
I’m no longer watching movies that are about Black misery, and consequently I refuse to watch any more movies, and shows, about Black misery that only feature White people.
Okay, that’s enough rambling from me.
Here! Have some links!
*These are specifically about the intersection of race and sexism in A Handmaid’s Tale
Now, the TV series makes a point of adding a woman of color to the story, in the character of Moira. In the book, Moira is a lesbian, who opts to become a Handmaiden, rather than be sent to The Colonies.
In the books, Moira is openly rebellious, and after several escape attempts, is sent to a life of enslaved prostitution. In the series, she is played by Samira Wiley, who is most famous for playing the character Poussey, a lesbian convict, in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Her character was unceremoniously killed off that show, which raised some controversy, as it fell into the trope of Kill All Your Gays. If the show follows the books, then no! I have no urge to see yet another Black woman be degraded to a life of sexual servitude.
This particular essay, in the Atlantic, is an excellent summation of something I touched on in the post above. White people keep looking to the past for a utopia, and to the future for their more nightmarish scenarios. Dystopia seems to be a matter of perspective.
A series of articles on the Whiteness, and heteronormativity of Dystopian futures
*So here I am, with more thoughts about this movie, because I just love thinking about it, and analyzing it. Its also a good way to exercise my brain and practice writing. Hopefully this post isn’t too much of a wankfest, and when you watch the movie, maybe some of this will occur to you, too.
For my earlier review of the movie, and the meanings behind the monster, see:
I’ve wanted, for some time now, to follow that first review with several more observations of the plot and characters. A lot of the meaning gleaned from the movie is through implication, but by looking at the movie’s details, listening carefully to what the characters say, and what they, and the monster, does, you can get a clearer idea of the movie’s meaning.
This movie is not just about sexuality and STDs. That’s just a surface-level description, and the one most easily accessed by the viewer. Those two subjects are merely the vehicles through which the meaning of the story is being imparted. The movie is actually about the existential fear of growing up, growing old, and death.
Jay is a pretty blond girl right on the cusp of womanhood. She is presumably attending some type of community college in her city, and is entering the part of her life where she’s considering leaving home, getting married, and having kids. These are major issues for her, and I think the monster reflects these anxieties about her present and future.
In Rockwell’s famous painting, we see a young girl contemplating her oncoming womanhood. She has thrown her doll to the side (ie. put away childish things) and is considering her future, comparing herself to the woman in the magazine.
Mary’s pose seems “apprehensive, as if she understands that womanhood is upon her and fears that she is not quite ready,” writes art expert Karal Ann Marling in her 1997 book, Norman Rockwell.
I feel that the above is an accurate statement of Jay’s mindset. Several times we see Jay looking at herself in mirrors. In the first instance, she is just using it to put on her makeup. She is playing at being an adult, copying behavior she’s seen her mother engage in many times. But Jay is very young and not as sophisticated. The reason I say playing at being a adult is becasue of Jay’s visible bra straps. A more sophisticated, and experienced woman would know to wear a bra with straps that match with her dress. We can tell from this, that Jay is still new at this whole, dating thing, and is pretending at being an older, more experienced woman.
The second time we see her, in the mirror, is after Hugh has passed the monster to her. Everyone believes she has been raped, although the sex was consensual. Nevertheless, this scene evokes the type of contemplation scene we often see in movies, where a woman has undergone some radical, physical experience (such as a sexual assault) and is staring, wonderingly, at herself in a mirror.
We’re not sure exactly what Jay is thinking here, as she carefully inspects her privates, but the idea being imparted, is that she’s genuinely a woman now, whereas before, she was only playing at being one. In the parlance of gaming, she has had sex with an adult male, of her own free will, and so now, has leveled up. She is no longer a child. This has nothing to do with sex, exactly, because Jay was not a virgin when she slept with Hugh, but what happened to her does represent some type of major change in her life that she is apprehensive about. When seen in the context of the rest of the movie, for the first time, she may be thinking of her impending death, in some nebulous future.
The time period for the events in the movie have been deliberately obscured, according to the director. There is no specific year, that it occurs, as evidenced by people’s clothing, the TV shows they watch, and cars they drive. People are dressed modern, but all of the TV shows anyone watches are more than twenty years old. All of the movies are in black and white. The cars are all older models, except for Paul’s car which looks slightly more modern at the end of the movie. Yara’s shell reader throws a monkey wrench into everything by being futuristic. That’s an object, that’s never been invented in this world.
Its also impossible to tell what time of year it is. The weather changes from sunny, to dark and cloudy, from day to day. Its cold enough for people to wear heavy jackets and boots in the evening, but warm enough at midday for Kelly to drink cold sodas, and for Jay to swim in the backyard pool. One night, its warm enough for Jay to fall asleep on top of her car wearing nothing but a t-shirt and shorts, but earlier on her date with Hugh, she wore boots and a jacket. Detroit exists above the snowline, so its not winter, but neither is it clearly Spring, or clearly Fall.
Another thing that adds to the obscurity of the time period is that we’re not sure how long it takes for any of these events to occur. We know that the events at the end of the movie occur very close to one another, because Jay is still wearing a cast on her arm, from when she crashed Greg’s car, but for the events that happen before that, there could’ve been a few days, weeks, or even months between those. For example, we don’t know the time period from when Jay has sex with Hugh, to the time when she retreats to Greg’s lake house, or from the beginning of the movie, to its end.
Water is Jay’s safe space. This is a message reinforced throughout the movie which begins with an image of Jay floating in her backyard pool, just before her date with Hugh, after which her life is irrevocably changed. Just before, or just after, each encounter with It, Jay retreats, or runs to water, and there are images of her in water throughout the movie. Water represents safety and childhood. Or possibly even the womb. Jay’s mirror is surrounded by photos of her in her pool, for example, and after she witnesses Greg’s death, she drives to the woods, next to another body of water.
Just after one of her first encounters with It, Jay runs to her room, and although there’s no water there, one of the first things she says to her sister, during her panicked reaction, is that she wants some water. When the monster invades her bedroom, Jay runs away, but only as far as the neighborhood playground, which represents, yet another, retreat to childhood.
Jay spends most of the movie, not trying to pass the monster on to someone else, but running from it. And in doing that, one could argue that she is regressing to her childhood, as she doesn’t want to think about what it means to be a grownup, even though she seemed happy enough to pretend at it earlier, and when she’s in the water she doesn’t have to. One could also think of her backyard pool as a a kind of womb, from which she feels she never has to emerge. Later in the movie, there’s a shot of the pool, broken, with all the water emptied out, a not so subtle metaphor about birth. After that, Jay can no longer retreat to her special womb, because its been destroyed.
At the end of the movie we find that It does not like water, and will not enter any water voluntarily, reinforcing the idea that Jay is safe from death, as long as she remains in it, as long as she remains a child.
The Monster – Again
At this point we need to discuss the monster again, and why it appears to Jay in the forms she sees. Its interesting to note that It pays no attention to any of the other people in Jay’s surroundings. When she’s sitting on the beach, as It approaches, It doesn’t register the presences of her friends. I suspect that It can’t see anyone but its victims. This reinforces the idea that death is a specific event, for each individual, who has to grapple with their mortality alone. When a person walks through that door to the other side, they have to walk through it alone. So it’s fitting that Jay is the only person who can see It.
Throughout the movie, her friend Yara’s only quotes from The Idiot, are about the inevitability of death.
“The most terrible part of the whole punishment is, not the bodily pain at all—but the certain knowledge that in an hour—then in ten minutes, then in half a minute, then now—this very instant—your soul must quit your body and that you will no longer be a man—and that this is certain, certain!” -One of Yara’s quotes that she reads from Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.
When Paul attacks It with a chair, it pauses in its attack on Jay long enough to knock Paul aside, but otherwise, acknowledges no one but Jay, and the only time we see It register the presence of someone who is not its immediate victim, is when its pursuing Jay’s neighbor Greg, to whom she passed it, at the hospital. Jay has followed It into Greg’s house, and the creature, in the form of Greg’s mother, is determinedly knocking on his bedroom door, when it pauses long enough to notice Jay’s presence. This moment is especially chilling because, until then, It has not noticed anyone else in the movie. It notices Jay because she is the only other person who can see it, and she’s next, when it finishes its business with Greg.
The first time it appears to Jay is in the forms of strangers, who represent concepts of adulthood, that Jay has anxieties about. Later, after its been pursuing her for some time, these forms become much more specific. The first form it appears in, that she knows, is her friend Yara, then her sister, Kelly. It appears to her later as Greg, while its stalking him. Its unclear if the creature took Greg’s form only because she can see it, or if that’s just a projection from Jay.
After Greg is dead, It appears in the forms of the dead, her father and grandfather. Its interesting that it doesn’t appear in Greg’s form again, as you would expect Jay to have some anxiety about Greg’s death, and for the creature to exploit that, but Greg’s death is probably too immediate to register as a subconscious anxiety.
It never appears to her in Paul’s, or her mother’s, form. Jay has no anxieties about Paul, it seems, and worries very little about her mother. She feels secure about the two of them, in a way that she doesn’t, about Yara and Kelly, who appear to be closer friends to each other, than they are to her.
There are three mothers in the movie, and no fathers. We never see Yara’s and Paul’s parents at all. It appears to us, first as Hugh’s mother, and then later, as Greg’s mom. It’s interesting that it never appears to Jay in the form of her own mother, but it does appear to her as her father, which has led some people to speculate about the sexual component to the creature’s transformations. As I said, I don’t think the creature’s appearances have anything to do with sex. I think that’s just the vehicle by which it’s passed on.
There are many theories about Jay’s mother. That she is an alcoholic after her husband’s death, or that her alcoholism drove the father away, and that she is neglectful of her kids. I disagree. I believe her husband is dead, but I don’t think that’s her fault. She does drink, and makes no secret of her drinking. The day after Jay’s assault, she is seen drinking, with Greg’s mother, in the middle of the day. But I don’t consider her a full-fledged alcoholic. After all, she is still working and paying the bills. According to Kelly she has some job that requires her to be up at 5AM.
Jay’s mother (she has no name) does care about her daughters, and what we see as neglect, is probably just the usual parental obliviousness to what’s going on in their kid’s lives, since the movie is told from their point of view. She is at the hospital after Jay’s car accident, and at the end of the movie, we can see her giving Jay a backrub. Her full face is never shown. I think that’s meant to illustrate how teens often believe their parents to be peripheral to their lives. Or that Jay has assigned a decreased level of importance to her mother. Greg and his mother are shown as being close enough to have conversations about their neighbors, and Hugh’s mother, although she knows nothing of her son’s extracurricular activities, is warm and friendly to Jay, when they meet.
Much has been made of the fact that for Greg and Hugh, It appears in the form of their mothers. I don’t necessarily believe there is any Oedipal component to this. Their father’s aren’t present. Their mothers appear to be the primary influence on their life, so it would make sense that the creature would appear as someone that they have anxieties about. Although, I do understand why people would think the above, because both of their mothers appear to them either entirely naked, or half dressed.
Paul and Yara
I said earlier that we never see Paul and Yara’s parents. (Also, I think Paul and Yara are twins.) Most of their time seems to be spent in Jay’s house. I think Paul and Yara represent the past that Jay is leaving behind as she grows up. I think Paul represents childhood, and Yara represents being a child.
For example Jay and Paul are almost always having conversations about the past. The two of them never have a full discussion about the future until Paul comes up with his plan to destroy the creature. When Jay and Paul talk later, Jay makes it clear there are no hard feelings about any of Paul’s past misdeeds, but once again she and Paul reminisce about some past sexual behaviors, like finding some porn magazines, or being each other’s first kiss.
When Yara isn’t quoting death passages from The Idiot, she mostly discusses past events. She talks about how, when she was a child, she wasn’t allowed to go the Fair, without her parents permission. She mentions this while all four of them are out at night, going to the Rec Center they visited as children, and this is meant to delineate the divide between childhood and adulthood. Adults go where they want, when they want, but children always need permission. She and Kelly both take turns mentioning embarrassing events from Paul’s childhood.
The only person Jay ever discusses the future with is her sister, Kelly. One of Kelly’s first statements to her is asking if she’s going on a date later that evening. And when the two of them go out for a walk, Kelly asks Jay if she’s going to sleep with Hugh. Kelly is in a place where she also play acts at adulthood, by smoking, but she’s still mentally in a child’s place because she tries to hide that from her mother.
At the end of the movie, all of them believe they have defeated the creature. After Paul shoots it ,it falls into the swimming pool, where Jay believed herself to be safe. Using dream-logic though, there is no body left behind in the pool, only a giant bloom of blood. Some people have theorized that this is meant to represent menstrual blood, as across many cultures, menses is the moment that represents a young girl’s final ascent to womanhood. Jay’s journey is now complete and her existential wrestle with her mortality is over. She isn’t any safer than she was before, because death could still come for her “in any form”, but she has now made peace with that.
I think this is illustrated by Jay finally agreeing to have sex with Paul. During their sex scene, its raining heavily outside, but not storming; keep in mind that water means safety. Instead of fearing the future, she has decided to find some kind of future with Paul. The last scene, in the movie, is of the two of them, walking down a sidewalk, hand in hand. Jay is wearing the same dress she wore on her date with Hugh, at the beginning of the movie. She’s no longer pretending at being grownup, now.Jay looks mildly apprehensive about her relationship with her childhood friend, but seems like she ‘s okay to live with her curse, as long as she has Paul by her side. And this is how most people deal with existential dread. They form relationships, they love each other, and hope, by doing so, to keep their “demons” at bay, which Jay may well have done. Far in the background, can be seen a figure, walking slowly, keeping pace with the two of them.
The eighties is when I did the bulk of my movie watching, so its going to get harder, as I go, to just choose one movie, and in some cases, some movies are going to have to share the spotlight with others.
The eighties also saw the invention of the VCR, for wide spread home use, and my family got our first one in 1983 or 1984. Yes, I saw more than a few of these movies with my Mom, but there’s less of a nostalgia factor involved, and more of an appreciation for good filmmaking in my choices. This is sometimes less about which movies influenced me, and more about which ones I could appreciate as a noobie film-wonk.
At about the mid-eighties, I started babysitting my nieces and nephews, and some of my Aunts had cable. So I watched a lot of these movies on HBO, (along with lots of MTV). I watched a helluva lot of Horror movies, in the eighties too, so this list is going to contain quite a few of those. I think my Mom and I tried to see every Horror movie made between 1980 and 1988, at which time I headed off to college, and wilder film adventures.
1981 – American Werewolf in London/The Howling
I couldn’t choose between the two hallmark werewolf movies of the 80s. At the time American Werewolf was released, it was considered the total shit, but I didn’t care because I was stuck on The Howling, and as far as I was concerned, nothing surpassed it. Until I realized what everyone was talking about. An American Werewolf in London is, indeed, a most excellent movie.
I love both movies for different reasons, though. By any measure, American Werewolf is the deeper film, with its themes of survivor’s guilt, and cultural displacement. That, along with the special effects, make it worth the hype. The Howling is pure, grade B horror film-making, with its cheap melodrama, and mordant sense of humor, and something in my fourteen year old soul (my age when I saw it) just loved it.
1982 – Bladerunner/ The Thing
When I first saw the trailer for Bladerunner at age 12, I knew that was my movie, and we were destined to be together. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see it until several years after its release, and only on TV. I’ve been a Ridley Scott fan ever since. I am obviously going to have to do a review of this movie, and share my love, even if there’s nothing new to be said about it.
I distinctly remember watching this trailer on TV, and thinking I wanted to see this movie.
I could not choose between Bladerunner and what is quite possibly one of the most perfect horror movies ever made, The Thing. This is how you do a remake. I’d argue that the eighties was the decade of the great remake. Starting in the late 70s with Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, the 80s saw the remakes of The Fly, Scarface, The Blob, The Thing, The Little Shop of Horrors, and Cat People.
Most people looking back on this particular year, often choose E.T. because it was the most popular. Well, I’m not an E.T. fan. I don’t care about it, have no warm feelings for it, and almost never think of it, and at twelve years old, I’d be the perfect age to love it. I didn’t.
The Thing is another movie I didn’t see at its release. In fact, this didn’t register on my radar until several years after, when people began praising it in various magazines. I have no memory of watching the trailers for it, although I must have seen them. I really didn’t know anything about it until a few years after its release.
There was also a movie released this year called Xtro, which was one of the grossest scifi/horror mashups I’d ever seen, and was surpassed only by another horror movie, released in 1987, called Street Trash.
1983 -The Right Stuff
I have been a total NASA stan, ever since I fell in love with Star Trek as a child, so for me this movie felt like a behind the scenes look at one of my favorite organizations. This was the first time I’d ever watched Ed Harris in anything and I totally fell in love with him, and Scott Glenn, but I was also in love with everybody when I was fifteen, apparently.
Yeah, okay, I’m still in love with Ed Harris, solely on the basis of him starring in this movie.
1984 – The Terminator
I didn’t see this movie until 1986. I remember this so well, because at the time it was released I had longed to see it, but didn’t have any money to go to the theater. I saw it in 1986, on tape, at my neighbor’s house. I remember because our neighbors, two brothers who lived across the street from us, had just bought a new VCR, and invited our family over for movies and popcorn.
I remember their house was a total mess and I was more than a little dubious about staying, but after a while I was so engrossed in the movie, I completely forgot my surroundings. It was the first time I’d ever seen a James Cameron movie, and my introduction to Bill Paxton and Arnold Schwarzeneggar. This is another of those movies where I just wandered off, home, while slowly trying to readjust to reality.
1985 – Fright Night
See my review:
Return of the Living Dead gets an honorable mention:
1986 – 3 Films
I could not pick just one movie for this year. Three of my top favorite films were released this year: Aliens, The Fly, and Children of a Lesser God. Each of these movies is the perfect example of its genre for this year. But, if I absolutely had to pick one of them, to watch on a desert island, or something, I’d pick Aliens, since I never get tired of watching it.
1987 – 4 Films
This is another year where too many of my favorite films were released, so I can’t pick just one of them.
I saw both Evil Dead 2, and Robocop on a double bill at the local theater. To this day, I can count this as the best spent three hours of my entire life. Just me, some popcorn, and a quiet movie theater, all to myself.
Lost Boys is on this list because I distinctly remember gushing about this movie to one of my classmates about how the guys in the movie were so cute. So, this makes the list more out of nostalgia, than that its a great movie, although, its still pretty good, by today’s standards.
I didn’t see Near Dark until many years after its release, but I do hereby acknowledge it as one of the best, most underrated, vampire movies of the 80s.
1988 – Akira
Dangerous Liaisons, Beetlejuice, and Young Guns, were all released this year, but really there was no other choice for me to make. This year belongs to Akira, although I didn’t watch it until 1992, while I was in college.
Not only is it the best movie made that year, its one of my all-time favorite Anime. Its also the very first time, I’d ever seen Anime on the big screen. When I walked into that theater, I had no idea what I was in for, since my roommate refused to tell me anything about it. She just kept saying I would like it. There are a handful of movies, that have such an effect on you, that you have to seriously readjust to being back in the world, when you walk out of the theater, and end up contemplating them for months after you see them. Akira is one of these films.
Incidentally, I had a bad falling out with the roommate who introduced me to this movie, a few years later, and while I have mixed feelings about her, I have never faulted her taste in movies. Whenever she said I would like something, she was NEVER wrong. Raising Arizona, Tremors, Near Dark, Seven Samurai, and Akira are movies I probably would never have watched without her influence.
1989 – The Little Mermaid
Batman, The Abyss, and Casualties of War, were also released in 1989, but I have to pick The Little Mermaid as my favorite. Ursula’s song, Poor Unfortunate Souls, is the meanest, snarkiest shit I ‘d ever heard in a Disney film, and I absolutely love that character. Of course now I know, she was modeled after the Drag Queen, Divine.
This was one of the first Disney films that ever made me cry, and I’ve been crying at these movies ever since.
1990 – Goodfellas
Tremors and Dances with Wolves was released in 1990, and I saw all three of these movies in the theater, where they probably should first be seen. I wasn’t unaffected by those movies, but Goodfellas is a movie made by a director, Scorcese, who was at the top of his game at the time, and he has never made a better movie since, in my opinion.
This one of my favorite scenes in a wealth of favorite scenes. Personally, though I don’t find the “Do you think I’m funny?” scene, to be especially funny. Yeah, its iconic, but its not my favorite.
The 1990s, though, was when I really started, not just to develop my own tastes, but began to pin down just what attracted me to certain films. I began to really think critically about what I was watching, and Why I was watching it. I began reading the opinions of others about the films I liked, and this taught me how to approach film criticism. I started to trust certain critics over others, began reading books on film theory, and audience theory, and reading the filmmakers ideas about what they were trying to accomplish.
So, as the 90s progress, you’ll start to see a change in the kinds of films I enjoy, although SciFi and Fantasy will still make up the bulk of my viewing habits.
In an awesome, long, and rather intense essay, Erin Horáková deconstructs Star Trek to expose Kirk Drift, a phenomenon in which the character in the original stories is shifted in our memory and perception towards a more stereotyped masculinity — and the change says some things about cultural biases. There’s a cartoon version of Kirk…