Forthcoming Fall Books 2017

Well, I made a list of TV shows, so here’s a list of books I’m looking forward to attempting to read this Fall, or maybe they just look interesting right now. I pretty much have to wait for some of these to be in my hand, before I decide if I’m going to finish, or not.

August

Hex Rated – Jason Ridler

Image result for hex-rated book

From the description this seems like a retro 70s X-Files type of plot. I keep picturing an  Asian cop from Starsky & Hutch, wearing a giant mustache. I still don’t know why I find various combinations of paranormal activity and the Federal government fascinating. probably because government organizations represent Order on a large scale, while  anything having to do with the paranormal represents the complete opposite.

 

Son of the Night – Mark Alder

I got halfway through the first book, Son of the Morning, before having to cart it back to the library, from whence I had procured it! And I do mean cart, because it was a massive book. It was also pretty good, up until I had to put it down. Its an Historical Paranormal Thriller, where actual Angels have gotten involved in Europe’s various wars.

 

Resurrection Game – Michelle Bellanger

Apparently, this is  the third book in a series. I haven’t read any of the others but this one sounds intriguing, and I’ve read Ms. Bellanger’s work before, The Dictionary of Demons, and The Vampire Codex.

 

September

1 – Sea of Rust – Robert Cargill

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This one is about sentient robots, wandering an apocalyptic landscape, while trying to find their own humanity.

 

Iron Angels – Eric Flint

Eric Flint has written lots of Historical Urban Fantasy/SciFi, but this one is  interesting to me. It seems  a little more traditional, with a primary protagonist fighting against some paranormal creatures, in  Chi-Town. It too, has an X-Files type of vibe, with government agents getting involved with the Occult.

 

The Salt Line – Holly Goddard Jones

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This is set in an apocalyptic landscape, where half the US is cut off from the other half, because one side has been invaded by disease carrying ticks, and involves a group of action junkies, who like to play with fate, by jumping The Salt Line.

 

7 – I Am Behind You – Lindqvist

I don’t have a date for this book, but it sounds creepy enough. About a boy and his Mom, who wake up in some kind of twilight zone, with lots of other strange people, and something terrible is coming to get them.

 

14 – Peace Talks – Jim Butcher

I loved the ending of the last book, so I’m eagerly looking forward to this. There’s still no listing on Amazon for this, or I’d have pre-ordered it already.

 

26 – Unkindness of Magicians – Kat Howard

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This sounds not unlike a book I’m reading now about magic in New York City,  called The Last Magician, only this one sounds a lot grittier, and a little less traditional.

 

Sleeping Beauties – Stephen King

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I’m looking forward to King’s collaboration with his son Owen King. I’ve not been much of a fan of Owen’s work, but the plot sounds intriguing. The women of the world fall into a deep sleep inside cocoons, and it’s dangerous to wake them up. Now you know men can be fairly bull-headed creatures, who would of course wake all of them up,  thereby destroying the human race, so I’m interested to see how these two will write around that.

 

October

3 – Scandal in Battersea – Mercedes Lackey

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I’m enjoying these Sherlockian Magic mashups by Lackey.

 

Akata Witch/Warrior – Nnedi Okorafor

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I’m only just now getting into this author through her SciFi book, the Binti series. This sounds like a neat Urban Fantasy set in Nigeria. It’s being billed as an African version of the Harry Potter-verse.

 

What the Hell did I Just Read – David Wong

I’ve liked every one of Wong’s books, so far. They’re terrifying and hilarious, so I don’t want to miss this one, featuring the three main characters from the previous two books, Dave, John (who isn’t actually dead), and Amy, trying to stop some kind of biblical cataclysm.

 

Anno Dracula: 1000 Monsters – Kim Newman

Image result for anno dracula japan

This is set in the Anno Dracula Universe, starring The Diogenes Club, and the Vampiress Genevieve. I’ve tried to read all of the series, and this one is set in japan, which doesn’t have vampires, but has an entire menagerie of its own monsters to deal with. If you like Japanese folklore and mythology then check it out.

 

10 – Stone in the Skull – Elizabeth Bear

I wasn’t going to read this one, but I know some of you guys must like this series, and I’m a fan of Bear’s other work. This is set in the Eternal Sky series, and is about The Lotus Kingdom. I couldn’t get into the other series, but I’ll try this one.

 

17 – Under the Pendulum Sun

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I’ve already borrowed my copy of this from Netgalley and am working on it now. It’s about a Victorian expedition to the lands of the Fae. A Missionary goes missing and his sister arrives to search for him. I like it so far, but I’m still chafing at all the religious stuff.

 

24 – Strange Weather – Joe Hill

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This is another Joe Hill anthology. I’m looking forward to this book, which features four stories featuring horror, and the paranormal, and sometimes, just the normal made horrible.

 

 

November

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault –  James Alan Gardner

This sounds like a parody of the superhero genre, with vampires, capes, ghosts and various weirdnesses. I’ve like Gardner’s books in the past and I like the plot of this one.

 

14th – Into the Drowning Deep – Mira Grant

Image result for into the drowning deep

I read this first novella about an attack by carnivorous mermaids, on the crew of a Reality TV series, and loved it. This is the sequel.

Tumblr Weekend Reading #210

I spend waaay too much time scrolling through Tumblr, but I just can’t help it. The things that come across my dash are a reflection of America in microcosm. Some of the most virulently anti-logic, and vapidly ignorant human beings, clashing with some of the smartest, articulate, and astute people on the internet. (There are people on the internet who are so dumb, it makes me wonder how they found the internet, and why whoever told them about it, didn’t receive a knock to the head, with a Lego block.)

But I digress. Some of the more recent interesting discussions are from Mikki Kendall, whose rebuke, to the Fireside Fiction Publishers and Readers, is about the lack of PoC being published in the Speculative Fiction Genre. This is her response to their response:

http://firesidefiction.com/a-note-from-the-editor-of-the-blackspecfic-responses

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Okay, I still don’t think people are realizing just how incredibly groundbreaking this is, not just for television, but for SciFi, in general. You have two…count ’em two, WoC, who are headlining a Science Fiction show, with one of them as the Captain of a Starship (White women had Janeway), and the other is the show’s lead character. The last time a Woc played a prominent character on a Star Trek show, (Voyager), was  B’elanna Torres, played by Roxanne Dawson who is Hispanic. The last time a Black woman played a prominent Star Trek character was Nichelle Nichols. (I don’t count Whoopi Goldberg because she was only a (semi)-recurring character, not a regular.)

This is very possibly one of the most diverse Star Trek casts ever assembled! And we just learned that the Medical Officer, for the ship Discovery, is Wilson Cruz who is from Puerto Rico. (I totally stan for Latinoooos in Spaaaaace!)

I’m also gratified to see Asians included in the cast, because outside of Sulu,  that’s also rare, although DS9 was very inclusive, too. Shazad Latif is from London and is English and Pakistani. Michelle Yeoh is of Malaysian descent. (Wooo! I’m excited for you guys, too!)

And let’s not forget:

Star Trek: Discovery’ Will Actually Have an Openly Gay Character

https://www.inverse.com/article/34758-star-trek-discovery-gay-beyond-anthony-rapp-stamets

 

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📷: Matthias Clamer for EW📷: Matthias Clamer for EW📷: Matthias Clamer for EW

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And all these images tie back to the idea of representation, most especially for little girls, as stated by 

You know what? I really wish people were as hyped about Sonequa Martin-Green being the first Black woman to lead in a Star Trek series as they are about the D*ctor Wh* casting. But then again, most feminists don’t care about non-White women so it’s to be expected that most of you guys don’t care about the fact that she’s making history too. And when you factor in Michelle Yeoh, you get it doubly so. Last time I checked, this is a pretty big deal for the sci-fi genre too.

What’s strange, to me, is people thinking that the D*ctor Wh* casting gives hope to all little girls when we know that’s not true. This issue is just so very layered and complex, but there is something particularly troubling about the fact that people think a White woman should be the symbol all little girls should look up to, regardless of their race. It’s so very arrogant to believe that little non-White girls will be represented by this woman that looks nothing like them. It’s very arrogant to think that little non-White girls should look up to the new Doctor as their new hero, especially knowing this casting is only a win for White women and White women only.

*Don’t get me wrong, Woc aren’t unhappy about Wonder Woman, or the new Doctor Who, but White women need to recognize that they are not universal. They don’t represent us or our view of hte world, and need to quit acting like they are. One ofhte biggest divides between White women, and Woc, is their complete disregard for the things that affect WoC.

Little girls of color may like and admire these characters, but they’re not going to look to them as role models. I know I didn’t when I was little. There were White actresses and characters I cared about and admired, like Linda Carter, and Ellen Ripley, but I didnt look to be like them. I did not use them as examples for how to live in the world as a woman, and certainly wasn’t looking to those women to teach me how to be a Black woman, even if I did like them. My role models were the handful of Black women, (and non-Black WoC), who made it into TV shows and movies, like Nichelle Nichols, Diane Carrol, Pam Grier, and yes, even Michelle Yeoh.

I plan on watching the new Doctor because I’m curious, I like the actress, (who  starred in Attack the Block, with John Boyega), and I liked Missy on the show this season. I’m not enthused about  the Wonder Woman movie, but I plan to watch it, at some point, and I’m looking forawrd to watching the Justice League.

Bt I’m a Black woman, and I wish White women would keep in mind that those women are not our idols, nor are they idols for other WoC. Even if we really like, and admire them, they don’t do anything to further our representation, but Sonequa, Michelle, Danai, and others  do. 

 

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In the new Star trek show we’ve heard that Sonequa’s character, Michael Burnham is Spock’s adopted sister. Now the timeline, assuming she and Spock are near the same age at ten years before the Enterprise, would mean that the two of them grew up together, and she lived with his family. She could also be a relative of Amanda’s as well, which is how she came to live with Sarek’s family.

 Now this has messed with a lot of people’s heads, because they claim that it messes with canon, which I can understand why someone would say that, but there’s a very good rebuttal I’ve seen to that argument, and that rebuttal is Spock himself, who was prone to dropping bombshells about his family’s  status, when given half an opportunity::

Adding to canon is not the same thing as

destroying canon

From the mind of : tomfooleryprime

At San Diego Comic Con, we learned that Sonequa Martin-Green’s character, Michael Burnham, is Sarek’s adoptive daughter. The second I heard the news, all I could think was, “Let the hate begin.” And boy, did it ever.

I understand the disappointment, particularly with fan fic writers who invested a lot of time and effort into crafting stories that fit neatly into canon. Amazing how one sound bite can bulldoze right through decades of widely accepted fanon, huh?

Let’s be real, those little behind the scenes moments are almost the entire point of fan fiction: some of us like something so much, we like to imagine all the things the writers didn’t tell us, but now Michael Burnham has come along like a square peg in a round hole, rendering countless stories AU that previously adhered perfectly to canon. Some of mine included.

But fanon isn’t canon. One might say, “How come we’re just hearing about this now?” Surely Spock would have mentioned having an adoptive sister? But would he? Would he though?

No one had any idea he was engaged to T’Pring until the Enterprise showed up to Vulcan on Spock’s impromptu wedding day in the TOS episode, “Amok Time.” What was it he said when Lieutenant Uhura asked who the lovely woman on the viewscreen was?

If you watch closely enough and get creative with your interpretation, I swear Christine Chapel mouths the word, “bullshit.”

And no one knew that Spock had a strained relationship with his father until that time dear old Sarek hopped on Enterprise for the Coridan admission debate in the TOS episode, “Journey to Babel.” Kirk urged Spock to go down to the planet and visit his family before they left orbit, and what was Spock’s reply?

I can’t think of a better example of where Spock made Kirk look like a total asshole.

And then there’s the fact that Kirk had known Spock for decadesbefore finding out he had a half-brother named Sybok in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

You would think Kirk would be used to Spock family bombshells by now.

So if anything, the idea that Spock had a secret adoptive sister actually feels more in keeping with canon than going against it. Given the weight of the evidence, I wouldn’t be all that shocked to discover he had three step mothers and a whole nest of secret love children drifting around out there.

The other thing is, as viewers, we tend to get into the habit of thinking that if a character doesn’t specifically address something on screen in front of other characters, other characters are in the dark along with the viewers. Like if a character didn’t explicitly announce some detail about their personal life to the world, not only did it never happen, it never could have happened. And that’s just silly. Think about this: Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew spent five years together on that mission, and we only got to view a little less than 66 hours of it. So imagine all the conversations in the mess hall we as viewers missed out on. Not only that, many of those details would be fairly trivial anyway.

Going back and adding to canon is not the same thing as destroying canon. Star Trek, particularly The Original Series, was always more focused on exploring the galaxy and meeting new civilizations – its primary purpose wasn’t to flesh out complicated life stories for each of the main characters. When you think about it, there’s so much we don’t know about Sarek, Amanda, or Spock’s upbringing. Almost everything we do know about this family comes from two episodes – “Journey to Babel” in The Original Series and “Yesteryear” in The Animated Series.

I think because we spent more than five decades without any concrete ideas of how Sarek and Amanda met, what Spock’s formative years were really like, or how their family dynamics worked, we just filled in the blanks for ourselves. But fifty years is a long time for the lines between canon and fanon to start getting blurred.

So I’m actually tickled pink at the thought that Spock had an adoptive sister, not furious that they’re corrupting more than fifty years of canon. It would be tampering with canon to claim that Starship Troopers is actually some kind of prequel to Kirk and the starship EnterpriseThat would be destroying canon, but writing in a sister for Spock where one previously didn’t exist isn’t quite the same thing.

Would you like to know more?

The writers of the show are just doing what we as fan fic writers do all the time – filling in the gaps. You’re definitely allowed to feel however you want to feel about it. And I do understand a lot of the dismay and shock. It really sucks to pour your heart and soul into something, polishing it for months or even years until it’s perfect, and then have Michael Burnham thrown into the mix and it almost feels like a bad Photoshop job over your favorite family portrait, ruining your origins fics for Sarek/Amanda or Spuhura or Spirk or Spones or Spotty? (Is that actually what the Spock/Scotty ship is called?). It’s perfectly acceptable to say that Michael Burnham’s existence has ruined your perception of canon, but I don’t think it should be confused with ruining actual canon.

During the Comic Con panel, producer Alex Kurtzman insisted they have a good canon explanation for why Spock never mentions Michael. He was quoted as saying, “We’re aware [of the situation]. You’ll see where it’s going, but we are staying consistent with canon.” So I’m inclined to keep an open mind and see where they take it before dismissing it outright for being “too ludicrous.” Weirder things have actually happened within the Trek universe, so try not to let this revelation get you down.

 

And from  alightinside

Considering the fact that Spock’s family has to be literally in the same room as him before he even mentions they existent, having adopted sibs he just never talked about is the most canon compliant thing they could have possibly added.

 

*I might also add that Buffy the Vampire Slayer managed to throw in a sister for Buffy, that destroyed four years of watching the show, until it was carefully explained to the viewers why she was there. We haven’t seen Discovery yet, so we don’t have any explanation for why Michael is Spock’s adopted sister, but the creators say there’s a perfectly good explanation for it, and one of those creators is Bryan Fuller, who never puts anything that big into any of his shows by accident. 

 

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And While we’re here,  there’s been some discussion of the marked lack of excitement towards the new Star Trek, from  White feminists, who claim to be progressive, and want diversity. There’s been more excitement from them about the new Dr. Who , then there has been about the groundbreaking diversity on Discovery, with a Black female lead, and an Asian Captain. 

As I said before, I don’t have a problem with White women being excited about stuff that affects them. I’m happy they’re happy. I don’t even have a problem with them being more excited about Dr. Who then about Star Trek, but what  I do object to, is their insistence that white female characters, in leading science fiction roles, are somehow groundbreaking, and role models for little girls all over the world. 

I need them to keep some perspective, in their excitement,  and that perspective is that white women’s stories are not universal, and they are not often role models for little girls of color.

From the mind of  abigailmills: 

You know what? I really wish people were as hyped about Sonequa Martin-Green being the first Black woman to lead in a Star Trek series as they are about the D*ctor Wh* casting. But then again, most feminists don’t care about non-White women so it’s to be expected that most of you guys don’t care about the fact that she’s making history too. And when you factor in Michelle Yeoh, you get it doubly so. Last time I checked, this is a pretty big deal for the sci-fi genre too.

What’s strange, to me, is people thinking that the D*ctor Wh* casting gives hope to all little girls when we know that’s not true. This issue is just so very layered and complex, but there is something particularly troubling about the fact that people think a White woman should be the symbol all little girls should look up to, regardless of their race. It’s so very arrogant to believe that little non-White girls will be represented by this woman that looks nothing like them. It’s very arrogant to think that little non-White girls should look up to the new Doctor as their new hero, especially knowing this casting is only a win for White women and White women only.

 

And my response: lkeke35

I have noticed the chirping silence coming from that particular contingent!

I think that’s one of the biggest divides between White feminists and women of color, is White women’s complete and utter disregard for the fact that WoC  see the world differently than them. They really do think we’re supposed to look up to them as role models. That they are universal.

When I was a little girl, there was precous little diversity on TV, but what diversity there was, I gravitated to. As a young Black woman I never chose White women as my role models, even if I admired a few of them , like Linda Carter as Wonder Woman, or Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley.

I modeled who I wanted to be after women like Eartha Kiit,  Nichelle Nichols, Diane Carroll, and Pam Grier. They were smart, tough, beautiful, graceful women. And yes, I was a Michelle Yeoh fan, and I loved her because she was all those things I just listed (and she still is).

Its not that I didn’t like and admire White actresses. I did. But I also knew, on some level, that no matter how admirably I (or they) behaved,  that as a Black woman, I wasn’t ever going to be accorded the status of a White woman, so I did not use them as  my role models. I didn’t try to be like any of them, and didn’t want to be like them. (This was a lesson I learned very, very early.)

I think its an incredible era we are living in, that my 12 year old niece is growing up with so many role models to choose from, in Pop Culture. I’m going to watch Star Trek Discovery with her and explain the significance to her. I’m going to watch The Walking Dead, and talk about how important Michonne is, and I’m going to take her to see The Black Panther with its gorgeous, and badass women, and yeah, I’m going to go see Proud Mary with her (and my Mom), and we’re all gonna geek out about it afterwards.

I wish White women cared enough to care about, and talk about, WoC in Pop culture, (and think of us as women too) but I don’t need White women’s validation to find and love those characters.

 

And from diversehighfantasy

Nicely said.

I’m also really bothered by the relatively subdued positive reaction to Sonequa leading the new Trek vs Doctor Who. I realized how little it mattered even to white women who are into sci-fi and fantasy when that gifset was going around celebrating all these recent genre leading women (The Doctor, Wonder Woman, Rey etc) all white or perceived as white, and when people started asking where were the Black women/WOC, they added May from Agents of Shield. That’s how off the radar Sonequa leading the new Star Trek (STAR TREK!!) is even for a lot of fandom people.

Now I’m wondering if people on Tumblr even talked about it much outside the Walking Dead fandom. (I know a bunch of people on Twitter acted like ass about “forced diversity,” I mean Tumblr fandom people).

Anyway. Yeah, the difference is very noticeable. I mean, I get the big deal about Jodie, The Doctor has specifically always been a man while Sonequa is playing a new character, and, I guess, to white feminists the barrier was already broken by Janeway. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that if a white woman was leading ST Discovery, we’d be seeing Star Trek/Doctor Who edits everywhere.

 

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Interlude:

Image result for furious knitting gif

 Just like you shouldn’t drive while angry, you should never knit while you’re mad! That’s just wrong.

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Okay Here’s something I’d never given any thought to, as an able -minded Black woman. I don’t suffer from mental illness (now), although I’ve had bouts of it in the past, and I’ve never been on Schizoid-Spectrum. But what do you do when you are Black and suffer from many of the symptoms of schizophrenia, and some of the things you actually believe are true, but will forever be invalidated by the White people around you. The very White people who refuse to acknowledge the existence of the racism that makes some of your beliefs true.

I’m still going to urge any of my PoC readers to look for therapists who are also PoC, if at all possible,  as there are some  unique issues, when you are a person of color on the spectrum, or suffering from mental illness. This is not because White people are incompetent but because they are not aware of the many issues surrounding your circumstances, if you’re a PoC.

Their reluctance to address the existence of racism, in the day to day lives of their patients, and to accommodate for the stress of that, as well as the stress of mental illness, and the different dynamics that exist in communities of color regarding such illnesses, will end up ultimately being of no help to you.

 

From Tumblr User Questingqueer:

questingqueer

I was sitting in the group room at my intensive outpatient program. I had just finished recounting an incident where I believed a security officer had been following me, but the person with me at the time had disagreed and said we weren’t being followed.

The head psychologist said “Your goal this week should be letting in alternative theories to your paranoia. It isn’t likely anyone is following you.” I said “What do you mean? How can I trust someone else’s perspective over my own, especially when that someone is white?” Another person spoke up, suggested increasing my anti-psychotics.

I looked around the room at the other patients and the professionals in group with me. I was the only Black person there.

I’m mentally ill, and sometimes I’m paranoid, and sometimes I’m delusional.

I’m Black, and I’m more likely to be followed around by security, or have negative interactions with the police. The racism in this world is real, and it can affect me.

I’m mentally ill, and sometimes I have persecutory delusions, and there wasn’t any drugs in my orange juice or bugs living in my arms even though I was convinced there were.

I’m Black, and I’m mentally ill. And that intersection has never been acknowledged online or in therapy. That intersection makes us more vulnerable to abuse, domestic violence, and police brutality. 

Black schizo-spec people face challenges that others don’t. We are more likely to be be labeled as dangerous and violent and be disbelieved when we share about how racism has impacted our lives, among many other things. That makes it harder for me to trust others- not to mention that difficulty trusting others is a symptom.

Was I being followed that day? I wish I had an answer, but I don’t know. Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t. But that isn’t the point.

A simple search will tell you that schizophrenia is more readily diagnosed in Black patients than in white (source), and some say it is overdiagnosed.

But where are the positivity posts for Black people with stigmatizing disorders?

Where is the positivity for the Black schizo-spec people trying to figure out what level of fear and suspicion towards the police is reasonable and what is a symptom? Where is the positivity for Black schizo-spec people who have everything blamed on their diagnosis while their other mental health problems get ignored? Where’s the positivity for Black schizo-spec people who distrust the medical professionals they deal with, who have ugly symptoms, who are pigeonholed as dangerous?

We have died because we are Black and schizo-spec. Remember those of us who have been murdered or attacked.

And? Don’t forget to include us in your activism while we are living. 

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In Canada, Target seems to have the same rep as Walmart does in America.

TARGET STORE GOTHIC:

strongermonster

it’s so weird hearing americans talk about Target© as some kind of semi-religious holy space of reasonably priced goods and services, bc in it’s short, fever-dream existence up here in the frozen north it was… Not Good.

in my experience with the three (3) i went to in the surrounding area it was. uh. you know when you step into a place and there’s nothing immediately noticeably wrong but you can just Feel that this is a Bad Space? like the kind of space where if you catch a glimpse of your mother walking down an aisle and turning a corner you know it’s a demonic trick and if you follow her it’ll lead you down a path to a dark space you can’t return from?

or you go in with your friend who’s right next to you but you get a text from them saying “hey i’m in the shoe aisle, you should come here” and you know it’s a trap from the devil? like other things:

  • only half of the dim, washed out, often flickering fluorescent lights were lit at any given time, usually only every-other set, leaving these valleys of darkness that made entire aisles inaccessible for fear of shadow people latching on to your soul like a dark passenger.
  • entire sections were just Empty. empty shelves with no product, never any employees filling them up, no boxes waiting to be unpacked, no signs saying what should be there.
  • no employees at all actually? wandering around the store even though the parking lots were full and you walked in with a group of 20 or so felt so lonely. you could walk the whole place and it was dead silent and the only other “people” around always were several aisles away with their back turned, unmoving. there was always only one cashier and there was never anyone in her line.
  • there was never any music on or announcements played? another place that does this are all the dollar trees in my area and it gives me anxiety. i feel like i’m being hunted, like i have to hold my breath and listen for the footsteps of beasts in other aisles.
  • the fitting rooms had a strange, dark energy to them. it felt like if you ever used them, whatever universe you closed the door on would not be the same one you stepped out into when you were done. the washrooms also contained this same dark energy.
  • passing the employees-only doors felt like wandering too close to a bears den. the glass windows never showed anything going on back there, no racks of product, no employees milling around. it was just pitch black, complete darkness. a hungry void.
  • leaving a target was the same disorienting feeling as leaving a dark theatre and exiting into the light. sound and colour and feeling rush back in. you feel like you can breathe again. a weight is lifted from your shoulders. you can’t remember any of the time you spent inside the target.

it is my sincere belief that the targets in canada never existed. the storefronts were put up, yes, but the stores themselves were vast empty caverns filled with dark dreams and sinister interlopers. passing through the automatic doors was meant to teleport us to the nearest american location, but something went wrong and we entered an unnatural zone halfway between the upside down and whatever it was that happened in the langoliers.

i believe the balls outside target are carefully crafted and powerfully attuned magical artifacts that keep up the illusion known as Target©, but were incorrectly spaced in canada due to a mixup between the metric and imperial systems of measurement, and that is why the brief twilight zone episode that was canadian target collapsed virtually overnight.

 

Source: strongermonster
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From the Tumblr:  writingwithcolor
This is a nice, long essay on the trope of the color black representing evil, and the color white representing goodness:

Black and White Symbolism: A Look into the Trope

We’ve noticed a volume of questions on the topic of Black and White symbolism in works. Light and white symbolizes good and pure. Dark and black is bad and evil. It’s an age-old trope deeply engraved throughout Western society, language, and cultures.

She’s having a “black day.”  He’s the “Black sheep” in the family. The evils of “Black magic.”  They’re “Black as one is painted.”

On the other hand…

They told an innocent “white lie.” He’s “whiter than white.” Good ole “White-collar” jobs.

These were just a few phrases found in the dictionary. The most frequently used dictionaries were written by racist old white men, so most of the language has been shaped by them.

If you flip further back you find entries like these:

imageNow, this guide comes from a western particularly American lens of the view of Black and White and its connotations. We recognize that B&W color symbolism and meaning varies across cultures.

However, western society imports its racist views across the globe, strengthening the Black as Evil and Good as White association within its “conquest” of mass media.

The Trope Incorporated into our Media

This trope is so normalized in Western culture that it is often unconsciously used and incorporated throughout many aspects of culture. It can easily be found in media, such as our TV-series, movies and literature:

  • The black, darkly-dressed or featured characters are often the villains or antagonists,
  • The white or light-featured characters are often the heroes, dispelling the world of the dark Others.

Also note that usually when good guys wear black, they’re more anti-heroes than full-heroes.

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Tolkien really let himself go with this trope in Lord of the Rings and has the pure white race of elves be ethereal, wise, super good and natural *angelic singing*. Then there’s the orcs on the other side who are barbaric, unintelligent, violent and disgustingly ugly. Their language is black speech by the way.

“The Black Speech, also known as the Dark Tongue of Mordor, was the official language of Mordor. Sauron created the Black Speech to be the unifying language of all the servants of Mordor, used along with different varieties of Orkish and other languages used by his servants.”

“It is notable that the letter “e” is totally absent from the Black Speech. It was omitted on purpose for being a favourite letter of the Elves, and for forming a smile when uttering it.”

“In real life, J. R. R. Tolkien created this language with the intention of making it harsh and ugly…” then later on in the same piece is written: “…the forces of good refuse to utter it.” and “Tolkien designed it to be unpleasant in his own mind…”

With these quotes you can see the link between calling it “Black speech” and the unpleasant, evil and anti-social aspects of the named. Quotes are taken from here.

Many epic fantasy writers mimic Tolkien in his use of fantasy races and themes and such, so they unconsciously also mimic this trope.

Game of Thrones also plays with the good vs evil but switches up the color code with the Kingsguard wearing white and the Night’s Watch wearing black. This posts speaks of the symbolism pertaining to the white cloaks of the Kingsguard.

Attracted to gray characters instead of orcs and angels, Martin regards the hero as the villain on the other side. The Wall’s Night’s Watch, whom Martin described as “criminal scum [who] are also heroes and they wear black”, was a deliberate twist on fantasy stereotypes. Furthermore, the use of black as the identifying colour for the essentially good Night’s Watch and the use of white for the much corrupted Kingsguard is another example of Martin subverting traditional fantasy which tends to link light colours with good and darker ones with evil. From here.

Then there’s Disney that’s notorious for their ingrained racism

This is easily seen in their visuals when portraying villains. When you look at the heroes vs villains, the villains are often portrayed as darker, more “ethnic” (see: Mother Gothel, Jafar) and sometimes queer-coded (like Ratcliff and Dr. Facilier).

Another example: the shadowy,dark huns in Disney’s Mulan. They have greyish, dark skin with strange eye coloring, and they all look the same.

imageOn the left: a hun as portrayed by Disney in Mulan. 

Furthermore, Disney typically depicts baddies as “less beautiful” with some exceptions of very beautiful and vain evil ladies (they have a trope with two types of beauty where one is pure and wholesome while the other is vain and egocentric. The second is also usually an older individual).

The Oz film was pretty visual, colorful, and magical until the evil witch and her black monkey minions come and then everything is dark suddenly. Oh, but there’s the “good” monkey, depicted in bright and lighter coloring.

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Angels and Demons

There is also the trend where angels are always white and demons black/dark in fantasy. This doesn’t have to be and is a biased way to depict them, at least from a non-religious point of view, and as far as I know I never found a mention of white wings if wings at all when angels were mentioned. Exceptions go to the angels in higher orders, but still no white mentioned. Fallen angels suddenly have black wings, when they still have them.

The Harms of the Trope

Why is the B/W – Good vs Evil- trope harmful? Well, look at how the colors are associated. Dark as bad, evil. White as good, pure. But then you group a whole people as Dark + “Black” and the other as Light and “White” and you’ve set these people in opposition of each other.

There are Black people in the world. There are white people in the world. “Black” as a word is literally viewed as synonymous with darkness and evil. “White” is literally viewed as synonymous with goodness and purity. There’s an intentional pattern here.

Malcolm X’s discussion regarding how Black is used to describe a people adds clarify to this.

Read about it here.

Martin Luther King Jr. also discussed the association of Black to Evil and White to Good.

Somebody told a lie one day. They couched it in language. They made everything Black ugly and evil. Look in your dictionaries and see the synonyms of the word Black. It’s always something degrading and low and sinister. Look at the word White, it’s always something pure, high and clean. Well I want to get the language right tonight.

I want to get the language so right that everyone here will cry out: ‘Yes, I’m Black, I’m proud of it. I’m Black and I’m beautiful!

Check out the clip from this speechhere.

Another notable example of the result of these engraved associations and aversion to Blackness is how racist fans reacted to the Rue character from the Hunger Games being (rightfully) portrayed as a Black girl in the movies.

A lot of these reactions can be found online. Like this one.

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The trope is deeply ingrained into people’s minds and reinforced by the media that combined with systematic racism Black people and even Black children cannot be seen as pure and innocent. These traits incorporated in the Black and White Symbolism is enforced on Black people (and white people to some extent). The symbolism has been influenced further with racism and that is why it can be harmful.

What to do with the trope

Now, we don’t believe people should stop using Black and white in relation to people; running away from the word, even given its history, would only reinforce Black as a badge of shame when that’s simply a lie. We think the better solution is to built up a new dictionary. To stop using black to mean all things sinister and evil and white as all things blameless and good.

Black & White in our Writing

While it’d be difficult to deconstruct these associations overnight, it’s definitely not impossible to be more conscious of how one might be perpetuating the B&W trope within their works.

Pay attention to your writing and the color symbolism there.

  1. Where do you find Black & White imagery? How is it being used?
  2. Are you using shadows and night skies to foreshadow bad things to come?
  3. Morning light and white gowns to symbolize purity and hopefulness?

Now even these aren’t inherent pitfalls.

The following are some ways to make sure of that:

Defy the Trope

I was watching the first season of Sleepy Hollow, when there was an episode with a playful little girl running in the forest in a white dress. A little Black girl. While I don’t recall if she were meant to symbolize good or evil so neatly, but simply featuring this young child in white, both common emblems of “innocence” felt like a deviation from the typical white or pale girl to play such a part.

Even when using typically good and white symbolism, including Black and brown people to take part in these roles is a better option that shunning them out of such roles and thus the associated symbolism. How many dark-skinned angels do you see in media? How often are characters of color associated with beings that typically represent purity and goodness?

It’s like with heroes and villains. It’s more preferable to have a diverse mix of characters who play positive roles as opposed to making all your Characters of Color villains or antagonists.

Another example of deviating from the trope can be found with George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series as mentioned further up this post.

Subvert the Trope

Suppose Black represented good. Suppose Black represented life, innocence, and good things to come.

Now suppose White symbolized evil. Suppose White represented death, immorality and ominous things on the horizon.

Subverting the B&W trope is another way to handle it in your writing. If your story is one based on a non-western or even fantasy culture, it’d be easier to sell the idea that this is simply a world that doesn’t treat Black as evil but of neutral or good (and here’s how & why). Attempting to pass this off in a more westernized culture might get confusion or skepticism from readers, though.

One idea is to subtly apply the symbolism. Death always or often occurs under bright, white lighting or sky. The dark, black forest protects the character who is being pursued by evil. A Black cat brings hope and good news.

And before you say this is enforcing “reverse racism!” Nah. Just like if you felt like having all white villains, there is no engraved association with whiteness that exists today that could actually reverse society’s overarching association of white to good and black to bad.

Not All Evil

Say you do have some negative imagery in connection to darkness. First, evaluate how heavily you’re enforcing Black as bad and consider if a change would be good.

You could also avoid reinforcing the message of dark as only/always evil if you were to balance out your associations of darkness by also including positive or neutral connections to darkness.

New B&W Meanings

Black & White don’t have to mean good or evil at all, as in not the case in every society anyhow. There are other associations with the colors you could emphasize in your writing. Take some of these examples below:

Black Associated Meanings:

  • Beautiful
  • Bold
  • Calmness/Comfort
  • Elegant
  • Health/Fertility
  • Heat/Warmth
  • Hidden
  • Life
  • Magical*
  • Mysterious
  • Protection
  • Seduction
  • Strength/Power*
  • Wealth
  • Wholeness

*Additional Notes:

  • Avoid strong = Black people tropes
  • The term “Black magic” is rooted in racism. Read about this and for alternatives to “Black magic” here.
  • See here for more associations with Black

White Associated Meanings:

  • Cold
  • Confusion
  • Death
  • Distance/aloofness
  • Emptiness/Absence
  • Fairness/Balance
  • Isolation
  • Opportunity
  • Order
  • Organized
  • Peace/Calm
  • Plain
  • Protection
  • Sterile

Additional Notes:

  • The point with the White list is to provide more symbolism besides the typical good – pure – innocent therefore some of the images are less neutral and positive than that of the Black list.
  • See here for more associations with white.

Construct New Images

  • Black & White aren’t the only colors that can oppose each other.
  • What about contrasting colors? Primary colors, secondary colors, tertiary colors? Earthy colors/oceanic colors?
  • You could even use bright and dimness as a means of symbolism, as discussed in this post.

There’s so much more you can do with the Black vs. White trope. Getting away from the Black/Evil – White/Good overarching symbolism can add something fresh to your writing.

We hope this inspires you to at least be more conscious of the color symbolism in your writing. More discussion on Black & White can be found in our color symbolism tag!

–Mods Colette and Alice

Summer of 2017 TBR Pile

Currently Reading

This basically means I am well into the book (at least 20%) and dedicated to finishing it. I often have multiple books going at once, and switch out according to mood and whether or not the book needs to be returned to the library soon.

Kill Society – Richard Kadrey

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I love this entire series, which really needs to be made into a movie starring Vin Diesel, because that’s who I picture, and whose voice I hear, as Sandman Slim. The plot, for this newest book, is a total ripoff of Fury Road, but I’m here for it.

 

Rupert Wong: Cannibal Chef – Kassandra Khaw

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These books are really gory, but also unexpectedly funny. I wasn’t sure what I expected when I picked these up, but the title is basically what the book is about. Rupert Wong is paying off some kind of debt  by acting as a chef in demonic restaurants. Yes, they eat people. This is a distinctly Asian setting, and it’s also funny as, well..Hell. It’s on sale at Amazon for less than four bucks.

 

Phantom Pains – Mishell Baker

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The first book in this series titled Borderline, is very probably the best fantasy novel written last year. That book made my top ten list, and this sequel is looking to make it on there for this year. Its also on sale at Amazon for 2 bucks. Grab it!

 

Aliens: Bug Hunt Anthology

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I haven’t got very far into this book beyond the first story, which was all kinds of fun, so  I’m looking forward to reading the other stories. This book is on sale at Amazon for 2 dollars, but I don’t know how long that’s going to last, so  grab it up,now.

 

To Be Read

Which basically means I’ve gotten about 10% of the way into these books before continuing with the books I’m already in the middle of reading. I often read multiple books at once, switching to a different book according to my mood, or  whatever is near to hand. This means that finishing a book can take a while, as I make incremental progress across several books.

The Change (1-3) Guy Adams

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I’ve read the first book in this short series, and its genuinely scary. Its about an alien invasion of Earth that killed off most of the human race outright when it occurred, but for the survivors, the world has gone hideously, horribly, wrong. I think these are based on his first book, The Change Orbital, which is also pretty terrifying.

 

The Witch Who Came in From the Cold – Malcolm Gladstone

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I like the ideas of spies who do magic, and I like some of Gladstone’s writing, so I wanted to try this one. The opening chapter is very exciting. The book consists of a bunch of nested, shared-world stories, by different authors, sort of like G.R.R.M.’s Wild Cards Series.

 

Strange Practice – Vivian Shaw

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I haven’t read much of this one but the description is adorable. A woman physician in Victorian London, who is related to Van Helsing,  gets caught up in taking care of the illnesses of various supernatural creatures like werewolves, vampires, and mummies, and has to save their existences from some murderous monks.

 

Urban Enemies Anthology

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Famous Urban Fantasy authors put the spotlight on some of their more villainous characters from their popular series.

 

Magicians Impossible – Brad Abraham

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I have no idea what this is about as I’ve only read the first chapter. What I did read was very exciting , and I’m eager to keep going.

 

Graveyard Shift – Michael Haspil

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I was really looking forward to this book, the moment I read the first blurb. This is an interesting story, that’s not unlike the Rivers of London series by Aaronovitch. The lead character is an ancient Egyptian demi-god, working as a kind of supernatural cop, in a world of vampires, and werewolves, who have just come out of the closet. I’m working on it.

 

Books To Recommend 

I have so many recommendations to give you, but I’m going to stop at these few.Most of these are Dark Fantasy and Horror. There are no monster romances in any of these books, nobody talking about their favorite pair of boots, or what clothes the hot guy is wearing, because that kind of stuff just puts me right to sleep. The darker and more unusual the Fantasy, the more I’ll like it, especially if it takes place in the modern world.

The  Barker & Lewelyn Series by Will Thomas

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This is the only mystery on the list. I’ve become obsessed with Hard Victorian mysteries, and Will Thomas has one of the best. The lead character is totally a Sherlock Holmes clone, but I don’t care. I will read about Holme’s clones, all day, every day. There’s a difference between a hard mystery, vs a soft mystery. A hard mystery is more a police procedural. Its darker and grittier,  and I especially like mysteries that take place before modern forensics.

 

The Rivers of London Series

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I’ve written about this series before. Its hella fun. I like to think of it as a calmer, British version of the Harry Dresden series. Peter grant is a Black cop who gets involved in magical events in London.

 

King Rat – China Mieville

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This was the very first book I ever read by this author. I didn’t know what to expect but the description sounded vaguely intriguing. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was unlike any Fantasy I’d eve read. I’ve read nearly every one of Mieville’s books since then, and have never been disappointed.

 

The Iskryne Series – Elizabeth Bear

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I love it when writers take fantasy tropes and  turn them upside down. Bear takes the concept of bonded animal companions all the way to its limit, and that includes how sexuality is handled. Bear’s writing partner for the series is Sarah Monette. There’s not a lot of human women in the books but it more than makes up for that with the ideas that are introduced, and the setting.

 

Wormwood: Gentlemen Corpse Series – Ben Templesmith

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This is the funniest comic book zombie series ever written. At least part of the reason for that are Ben Templesmith’s ridiculous illustrations. Wormwood is not the name of the zombie, mind you, but the name of the tiny, snarky, worm that’s possessing the corpse, who fights various lovecraftian horrors from outer space.

 

The Works of Brom

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Just about any one of Brom’s books is a gem. They’re not comic books but they do contain some beautifully dark illustrations, and cover such topics as: damnation, Peter Pan, toys, and a motorcycling demon. His latest book is called Lost Gods and is about a young man trying to find his way through Hell, to save his endangered wife back on Earth. If you have a taste for weird, then Brom is the writer for you.

 

God’s Demon – Wayne Barlowe

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This is the only prose book written by Barlowe although he has written/illustrated other boos about fantasy figures, science fiction, and aliens. In this story, the war in Heaven continues into Hell, as one of the Fallen, Sargatanas, tries to redeem himself, and win back God’s favor. The novel is based on a series of illustrations Barlowe did for his book, Barlowe’s Inferno, which is a guided tour through Hell.

 

The Skyscraper Throne Series – Tom Pollock

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I love fantasies based on cities, especially when the city is a real character in the book. Such s the case with The City’s Son series. If you liked China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun, then you’ll love this YA series.

 

The Matthew Swift Series – Kate Griffin aka Catherine Webb

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Once again you have a fantasy series where the city is a separate character in the book. The city of London  holds all the magic, and people who are attuned  can access it. This series has a number of Asian and Black characters that I thought were interesting, including a Black female sorceress, who is an apprentice to the lead character, who isn’t, quite, human.

 

Bone Street Rumba Series – Daniel Jose Older

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Daniel Older does for diversity in New York what Ben Aaronovitch does for the city of London. The main character is Carlos Delacruz, a half-ghost,dealing with supernatural events in his working class, Latinx/Hispanic, neighborhood. If you’re looking for diversity, and strong women characters, check it out.

The Eric Carter Series – Stephen Blackmoore

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Much of this series is based on South American mythology. Eric Carter is a modern day necromancer, who gets involved with an Aztec goddess, after the death of his sister. Lots of action, but still less bombast, and more diversity than the Harry Dresden books.

 

The SNAFU Series

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This is an entire series of military horror books, where human beings fight aliens, werewolves, vampires, and various monsters that defy description. If you like military horror then check these out, along with books like:

World War Cthulhu

 

Operation Arcana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Summer of 2017 Playlist

These are the songs that are blowing up on my MP3 player, usually while driving anywhere.  I’m there for anything with a good beat, but sometimes you need some calm go-to-sleep type stuff, too. I think you’ll begin to notice a theme in my choices. Truthfully, I get a lot of my musical obsessions from TV, movies, and Youtube, as I dont listen to the radio. Almost none of these songs are on the radio.

 

Legend Has It – Run the Jewels 

This is the theme from the Black Panther trailer. I immediately fell in love with it. So did a lot of other people, I guess, because Run The Jewels is, as Marilyn Manson would sing,  “the new shit”.

 

Papillion/ The Other Woman/Get Up – Mounika

The French Mounika, (and I don’t know if this is a group or just a person), crafts some of the most relaxing, and hippest, music for reading, knitting, or studying. I say craft because it mostly consists of some remixed sample beats.  Mounika is for when I’m reading or knitting.

 

Hurt – Johnny Cash

Very few of Johnny Cash songs don’t make me cry. I just love how it starts off soft but then becomes a song  of strength and defiance while keeping the same mood. This is the theme song from Logan, which is quite possibly one of the saddest superhero movies, ever. You’re gonna need to pull out some tissues for this song, too.

 

Sledgehammer – Rihanna

I’ve developed a new appreciation for Rihanna. I love the passion in this song. Its like a 21st century version of “I Will Survive”. This is the theme from the last Star Trek movie, which I really enjoyed. I like how she tried to capture the mood of the movie in both the song and the accompanying video. It turns out that Rihanna is a SciFi geek, too. That’s my girl!

 

Only Human – Rag & Bone Man

I’d never heard of this singer before this song was used in the opening credits of Into the Badland’s second season. It reminds me of the main character, Sunny. If you haven’t watched this show, I’ve done full reviews of both seasons, and its available on Netflix.

 

Morning Noon and Night – Ryan Shaw

I love old school R&B, and Ryan Shaw totally captures the feel of  70s Soul music, with just enough touch of a modern edge. This is also one of my Mom’s favorite singers right now, along with, oddly enough, Childish Gambino’s Redbone.

 

Redbone – Childish Gambino

I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to this singer, until his show, Atlanta, blew up, and then I had to go back and take a listen. You might know Childish better as Donald Glover, who also plays Aaron Davis in Spiderman Homecoming. This song was featured in the end titles of the movie Get Out. My Mom loves it because it sounds like Prince, and she misses him.

 

Way Down We Go – Kaleo

I just love this song. I know nothing about the singer, but ihe successfully captures the mood of the movie, Logan.

 

Better Love – Hozier

This song is from that deeply stupid Tarzan movie but I don’t care. Sometimes you just love cheesy love songs, and Hozier writes some of the best.

 

Thunder – Imagine Dragons

Aaaaahhhhhh! Yes, I am an Imagine dragons fan. I can’t explain it. Their music just works for me. I have crafted some great images in my head to this song, which really needs to be used in a movie.

 

Gangsta – Kehlani

This song is from Suicide Squad. I don’t normally listen to this type of music, but the scene where it was used in the movie, just sticks with me, and I liked the melody. The dub remix sounds even better.

 

Ghost in the Shell (Steve Aoki Remix)

I didn’t see the live action movie, and aint lookin’ to do that anytime soon, but I loved the original movie and have an entire playlist of remixes of the title theme. This one just joined the list.

 

Because I’m Me – The Avalanches

I cam across this video while looking through some other Avalanches videos and its sooo cute! I just love the lovelorn little boy in the video, Wallace, who is trying so hard to give his heart to this thoroughly unimpressed woman, who is just trying to get through her day.

But I also love it for sampling that 7o’s song by The Honey Cone, called Want Ads

 

Are You Down Remix – Marian Hill

The Potato loves to listen to this in the car. Marian Hill is another very soothing and relaxing singer. This is great for when you need soft sounds for concentrating on some other activity, like driving.

 

 

 

INTJ: The Mastermind!

ARCHITECT PERSONALITY (INTJ, -A/-T)

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It’s lonely at the top, and being one of the rarest and most strategically capable personality types, Architects know this all too well. Architects form just two percent of the population, and women of this personality type are especially rare, forming just 0.8% of the population – it is often a challenge for them to find like-minded individuals who are able to keep up with their relentless intellectualism and chess-like maneuvering. People with the Architect personality type are imaginative yet decisive, ambitious yet private, amazingly curious, but they do not squander their energy.

Nothing Can Stop the Right Attitude From Achieving Its Goal

With a natural thirst for knowledge that shows itself early in life, Architects are often given the title of “bookworm” as children. While this may be intended as an insult by their peers, they more than likely identify with it and are even proud of it, greatly enjoying their broad and deep body of knowledge. Architects enjoy sharing what they know as well, confident in their mastery of their chosen subjects, but they prefer to design and execute a brilliant plan within their field rather than share opinions on “uninteresting” distractions like gossip.

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”

Harlan Ellison

A paradox to most observers, Architects are able to live by glaring contradictions that nonetheless make perfect sense – at least from a purely rational perspective. For example, Architects are simultaneously the most starry-eyed idealists and the bitterest of cynics, a seemingly impossible conflict. But this is because Architect personalities tend to believe that with effort, intelligence and consideration, nothing is impossible, while at the same time they believe that people are too lazy, short-sighted or self-serving to actually achieve those fantastic results. Yet that cynical view of reality is unlikely to stop an interested Architect from achieving a result they believe to be relevant.

Read More:

https://www.16personalities.com/intj-personality

 

Every time I take this test, no matter where online I take it, I always  get a hard INTJ result. Here are my results for this one, and you can also take the test yourself. When you guys are ready I would be willing to form our new team of Supervillains:

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American Gods: Of Gods and Shadow Moon

 

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                   SPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERS

 

 

I’m  going to maybe do a little spoiling ,so if you didn’t read the book….best check out now, although just because it’s in the book, doesn’t  mean it will play out on the show. However, the show is following the spirit of the book, and some of the major plot points  of the book have been struck.

At the end of this first season, it’s difficult to say where we are in the book because the series is showing events out of order. A significant middle portion of the book is taken up with Shadow, alone in a small town, waiting for Wednesday to contact him, as he goes about gathering together the various gods.

One of the major changes from the book is Shadow is with Wednesday, as he attempts to round up the various gods for his war. The end result of this decision by the show’s writers,  is that the focus is now on Shadow’s relationship with Wednesday. Their relationship was not something that was elaborated upon in the book, so by focusing on the closeness of Shadow’s friendship with Wednesday, we can better understand  at least one of the key decisions that Shadow will make in the next season.

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In the Bone Orchard, we’re introduced to Shadow while he’s in prison. The way we see him there, is how we’ll see him for most of the season, reacting to something that’s being done to him. He essentially moves from one kind of prison to another, where he is not in control of any of the events that are happening to him, from his wife’s death, to his early release from prison, to his meeting with Wednesday, and he spends almost all of his time being fought over by various gods, and  reacting, or not reacting, to someone, or something. From the disrespectful airport lady, to Audrey’s attempted rape, to Wednesday roping him into his deal as a bodyguard, to fighting with Mad Sweeney., Shadow spends the entire season reacting to things others are doing to him. (The most decisive things he did all season was to accept Wednesday’s job offer, and Believe.)

How Shadow reacts to the world around him in those first 30 minutes is key to realizing how shaken he is by the events of this season, and what a huge turnaround it is for him to say those words to Wednesday in the season finale. From his early reactions, we understand that Shadow is not a stupid man. He thinks about what’s happening to him, and how he should feel, or respond to it.

For example the airport scene where he thinks back on Lowkey’s warning not to piss off airport ladies, despite that woman’s blatant disrespect of him. He understands that the survival behavior he developed in prison is not going to work outside of it, and adapts his behavior accordingly. You can almost see the exact moment when he backs down from going off on the woman, realizing that more than a few ex-cons ended up right back in jail because they were unable to adapt their prison behavior to their new situations. It is his intelligence and adaptability that will stand him in good stead on his journey into the realm of the gods.

When Sweeney tries to provoke him in the bar, Shadow tries to stand down, because he wants to learn Sweeney’s coin trick, but after a moment, he figures out that Wednesday is testing him, and steps up. When Technical Boy threatens him, he remains calm and  unruffled by TB’s threats, mouthing off to TB as he would to any other convict who tried to scare him. Once again reading the situation correctly, and then adapting his behavior to suit it.

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I said in an earlier post that Shadow Moon is the show’s Everyman. Every fantastic, supernatural show, must have one. They function as a lens through which the fantastic is experienced by the audience. We’re meant to identify, and empathize with this character. Shadow is  remarkable  because the vast majority of such characters are often Average White Guys. It’s  extraordinary for us that a Black man has been cast in such a role because the audience is supposed to project themselves onto his character, and identify with him, and the decisions he makes.

This is only the first season, so much of our time has been spent establishing the world that Shadow has joined. A a result,  Shadow is often a passive, rather than a dynamic character, which I know sometimes frustrated some viewers, but this is quite common.  He’s done very little to move the plot forward, which is in keeping within the tenets of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Think of Luke Skywalker, who starts off Star Wars as a somewhat passive character, who is mostly reacting to things being done to him.

This season has been a journey to get Shadow to do one thing. Make one big decision of his own volition. Believe! After this, much like Luke, in The Empire Strikes Back, Shadow should become a much more active participant in the proceedings, and Bryan Fuller promises that he will.

Like Luke Skywalker, Shadow receives the call to adventure (from Wednesday). As soon as he agrees to it, he’s given supernatural aid, in the form of a magical coin by Sweeney, after his first challenge, which is besting Sweeney in a fight. (Giving the coin away is what actually aids him, at the end of The Bone Orchard. Had that coin never resurrected Laura, Shadow would have died on the tree.)

His second challenge is his checkers game with Czernobog, which he loses. He is then given a second gift in the form of a silver coin, that helps him best Czernobog, when he challenges him to another game. Technical Boy is the Guardian of the first threshold. Shadow has  fully committed to the adventure by the time they meet.  His lynching is his entrance into the Belly of the Whale. He couldn’t back out of the adventure now, even if he wanted to, because the new gods are aware of his presence. Shadow has to keep moving forward now, just like Luke had no choice but to keep moving forward after his first encounter with Darth Vader. Once you become known to the major players, its impossible to back out of  events, as they will keep drawing you back into the game, by coercion, or force, if necessary.

As Shadow moves forward, he is beset by  temptations and challenges, which occur in threes. The first temptation is in the cemetery with Audrey, while one of the challenges is his game of checkers with Czernobog.   Along the way, there are two other temptations: Laura’s return, and Media’s seduction to the dark side, both of which Shadow successfully withstands. Another of his three challenges is the  bank heist, which is successful, and Mr World makes, yet another, offering to him, of flesh and blood,  in the form of Technical Boy’s teeth. So Shadow withstands three temptations, overcomes three challenges, and receives three gifts. Along the way, he is aided by his assistant (Helper), Laura, and mentored by Wednesday.

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Shadow is also shown to have gifts of his own, an ability to prophecy, control of the weather, the ability to do coin tricks, to heal quickly, and to See. One of the  first things we know about Shadow is that he has prophetic/mystical dreams. He dreams about Laura’s death, telling her on the phone, and in his dream that he has a feeling of dread, that something bad is about to happen. The Bone Orchard is his dream about impending danger, of being attacked by Technical Boy’s white clad droogs, in a meadow, next to a tree. In the dream, Shadow stands in a blood covered orchard with bones, while he is attacked by white, bone-like hands reaching out of the trees. Shadow doesn’t know it, but the Bone Orchard represents the deaths of TB’s drones, at Laura’s hands. Later, he dreams about the same Buffalo God that denied entry into America to Nunyunnini, the forgotten god of Lemon Scented You. In his dreams this  god tells Shadow to “Believe.”

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During the scenes where Laura visited her family, Wednesday asks Shadow if he can see her, and Shadow, through glowing  eyelids, perfectly describes Laura, looking through her family’s front window, and deciding that she can’t join them. . So far, he has been shown as having the powers of many of the beings he has seen or met. His ability to prophesy mimics the Zorya Sisters powers. The coin tricks mimic Sweeney’s abilities with coins. Laura’s one heartbeat, when he kisses her, implies he has the powers of Anubis, or Easter, to resurrect the dead. (It is definitely Shadow who resurrects her because the power of  Sweeney’s  coin does not entail resurrection. )The trick with the snow is an echo of the powers of a certain storm god we all know, but who has, conspicuously,  never been mentioned.

We’ve also seen that Shadow is able to heal very quickly. When he was attacked by TB’s henchmen he suffered a stab wound in his side that needed to be stapled shut, but by the time we see Wednesday healing him in Murder of Gods, he only has the tree wound, which is healed by the time of Come to Jesus. Shadow doesn’t act, or move as if he’s in pain, or wounded, shortly after these events.

Not only do we know Shadow through his actions, but we also know him through his emotions. Ricky Whittle gives a beautiful performance  of a man who is hanging on to his sanity by his fingernails. Whittle’s portrayal is remarkable for the depth and breadth of emotions he brings to his character. He’s allowed to be tough and snarky, just like your typical hero character, but he’s also allowed to express vulnerability, without coming across as weak.

Not only is Shadow allowed to be tired, upset, angry, happy, hopeful, and even fearful, he is allowed to express these emotions without censure from the other characters. And even when he’s not openly expressing his emotions, in some of the first episodes we have some idea of what he’s feeling through the weather around him. Whenever we see Shadow trying to keep control of his emotions, the scene transitions indicate his inner turmoil, with shots of heavy clouds and storms. This is also indicated by followup shots that move from Shadows facial expressions to shots of the sky just above him.

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In one of the first scenes in The Bone Orchard, Shadow gives full vent to his emotions on a hilltop, which is followed by a shot of clouds clearing from a blue sky. When he vents, skies tend to be clear. When he tries to suppress or control his emotions, the weather is often an indicator of his inner turmoil. When he first meets Wednesday, their plane is flying through a storm, as he deals with the aftermath of Laura’s death, and this annoying stranger he’s trying not to snap at.

In Secret of the Spoons, we see clouds form, and a storm occurs, just after he is kissed by The Midnight Star, from a sky that was  clear a moment before. He must be feeling a great deal of fear, dread, and grief and guilt, after his wife dies, being threatened by Czernobog and his bleeding hammer, and having some strange girl kiss him. And there are other scenes where we are meant to directly attach the weather conditions to whatever Shadow is feeling at that moment.

In A Murder of Gods,  and The Bone Orchard, we get to see Shadow be scared, and apprehensive. We get to see him react in a realistic manner to the craziness, and potential danger around him. This is a man who, while always acutely aware of his Blackness, doesn’t let that define him, or limit his actions. Shadow is secure in who he is as a Black man, and doesn’t seem to care to engage in fake posturing, or in trying to convince everyone that he’s not weak. This is a man who simply knows he can handle himself. He is not at all intimidated by TB’s bluster, or Sweeney’s rants, and it’s that self-assurance that makes his vulnerable moments all the more touching.

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From  his guarded response to Czernobog’s questioning of his race in Secret of the Spoons, to his naked fear at being in a town with so many White people fondling guns, in A Murder of Gods, he doesn’t hold back from showing what he really feels when in Wednesday’s company. This emotional openness is part of the reason Wednesday likes him. Wednesday is almost never perturbed by Shadow’s feelings about anything. He often steps back and just lets Shadow handle his own business.

One of the highlights, and a subject of some concern to the fans, is Shadow’s relationship to Wednesday. I really want to like it. Actually, I do like it, sort of, but I also  keep in mind the Wednesday is a con man. A user, who is grooming Shadow for some dark purpose. Nevertheless, you can see the genuine affection he has towards Shadow. You know Shadow needs to separate himself from this man who orchestrated, not just his sojourn in a prison cell, but the deaths of his entire family while he was away. It’s easy to forget that when watching the two of them together though. I have to keep in mind that Wednesday thinks like a god,  and is not held to  human morality. He did what gods have always done, which is manipulating humans to suit their needs. I dislike Wednesday because he’s a manipulative narcissist.  He cares about Shadow because it’s in his best interests to care, and yet all of that doesn’t make me actually hate him, probably because there is  a genuine liking for Shadow in his demeanor.

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Shadow’s relationship with Wednesday is complicated. He knows what kind of person he’s with, which is the reason he’s so often angry with him. He knows Wednesday is a con man, a liar, a thief, and a user, but seems unable, or unwilling, to pull himself from Wednesday’s orbit. This isn’t because Shadow is stupid. It’s the opposite. It’s because Shadow is curious about the larger, weirder world, he’s been glimpsing over Wednesday’s shoulder, and he’s drawn to it, even if he resists believing in it. How many of us, if given a glimpse of such a world, could resist becoming a part of it? Of wanting to?

It’s the reason people worship gods in the first place, for a glimpse of something bigger than themselves. Shadow was mostly godless before he met Wednesday. The closest thing to a god he believed in was Laura, and that was smashed by learning of her infidelity. (See how Wednesday needed to squash that belief before recruiting Shadow to his cause? And how Wednesday warns Shadow about getting close too close to Ostara? He is a jealous god, who does not want Shadow setting any other gods before him.)

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Now for some speculation.

My speculations are entirely based on the book, and are subject to total reinterpretation next season. So this will contain spoilers from the book, and maybe, or maybe not, spoilers for the future of the show.

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One of the reasons Wednesday needs Shadow to believe is Shadow agreed to perform Wednesday’s Vigil should anything happen to him. Its part of the bargain Wednesday quietly slips  in,  at the beginning of Shadow’s employment, in The Bone Orchard. A Vigil, at least in Norse culture, is done over the body of a  dead relative. And yes, Shadow is Wednesday’s son.

I have speculated if the writers will make Bilquis Shadow’s mother, as we keep being given subtle hints that the she may well be. That Disco scene in the finale with Bilquis, with the huge Afro, morphing out of a lunar eclipse (which is another term for a shadow moon) is one such hint, and Wednesday speculating about Shadows mother having an Afro, in The Bone Orchard, is another. And having a son is something that could have happened to Bilquis during her fall from power, in the late eighties/early nineties, which would put Shadow at just the right age to be her son. But this is just me speculating. (If this is so, Shadow would be a true-God, not a Demi-god.)


Fuller has promised that Bilquis has an important part to play in the narrative, so everything we’ve seen of her so far, is all setup for a later reveal. Notice how women are instantly sexually attracted to Shadow (outside of Shadow looking like the extremely hot Ricky Whittle). I think this is  deliberate on the part of the writers. From the waitress at the Crocodile Bar who openly flirts with him,  to Audrey’s attempted rape, to Ostara being instantly smitten with him, and Laura’s new obsession ( Is the reason she sees him as an eclipse a sign of his godhood?) women have had strong sexual reactions to him, which could be a sing of Bilquis’ influence, as she is a Love Goddess.

Let me be more specific here: white women all have strong sexual reactions to him, as he hasn’t had any interactions with WoC, yet. If Bilquis is his mother that would explain much of the behavior we’ve seen, and could also be a deliberate statement on the  white supremacy which sees Black men as hypersexual stereotypes. We’ll see!

In the book, Wednesday is killed by the new gods,  to be used by Loki as a martyr, to help facilitate their war. Shadow is the one who performs this Vigil, by being hung on a tree for nine days, just like in Odin’s mythological backstory. Odin hung on the World Tree, for nine days, to receive wisdom, and the price paid, was the loss of his eye.

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In the book, Shadow hangs on an Ash tree for nine days. During that time, he receives wisdom about who and what he is, while traveling through the underworld. Shadow dies, but is resurrected by Ostara, and her fondness for Shadow, in Come to Jesus, is a nice setup for why she would decide to do that.

This also ties into the lynching imagery throughout the series, because that is foreshadowing for when Shadow will choose to hang on a tree for Wednesday, despite the naked fear we see in him. This lynching imagery is used throughout the series as a dreadful reminder of Shadows future. It is literally hanging over his head in his scenes in the jail courtyard, and Vulcan’s front yard. You are meant to be afraid for him. He is being manipulated to sacrifice himself for Wednesday, and cannot do so, if he doesn’t fully understand who Wednesday is, which is why Wednesday’s reveal, and Shadows statement are so awful. Wednesday is that much closer to realizing his plans for Shadow.


All season long Shadow has been admonished to Believe. So yes, even though believing is his downfall, it’s also the only way he can be saved. He has to believe in something, not necessarily Wednesday, but something, or he will never get through any of this intact.

Through the efforts of the other gods, Shadow survives the Vigil. Earlier in the series, Wednesday mentioned that there’s no King of America, which is why the philosophical discussions that happen between Wednesday and Shadow need to be attended closely. They offer clues to Shadows future. Shadow ends the book as a kind of Demi-god, a new King of America, who can see lies, and expose the truth. And this  is also the reason Shadow had to be a Black man. It’s a statement on how Black men are one of the few marginalized groups that have most often spoken truth to power. A black man who can see Truth is just keeping it real.

In the next few seasons we may or may not get to see the war, (in the book, there’s no war), but I’m not very concerned about that, because I don’t think that’s really the series end game either. I’m speculating that Shadow’s  birth as a kind of God of all gods, (sort of like Odin) is what’s at stake on the show. At least that’s where I’d like to see the future of this series turn.

Black Cowboys/Girls & Black Westerns

 

I recently had a discussion with one of my regular readers (Hi!) about Westerns starring PoC, some of which they hadn’t seen, which inspired me to make a list of some of my favorites.

I love Westerns. If you’ve been reading the Favorite Movies of My Life posts then you know I have a lot of nostalgia for TV Westerns. I used to watch Big Valley, with my Mom, because she loved Barbara Stanwyck, and Bonanza because she liked Lorne Green. Later, we discussed, and watched, shows like Rawhide, which starred Clint Eastwood, and The Rifleman because she was a big Clint Walker fan. From there, she introduced me to Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns, and inspired by her, I went on to watch movies like The Magnificent Seven, because I fell in love with Yul Brynner.

But my biggest joy was watching Black people in Westerns. The existence of Black people in the West has been all but erased by Hollywood, like so much of History has been erased, and supplanted, with images of only White people getting to have adventures, or make History.

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*The cowboy is an iconic American figure and in popular mythology almost always a white one. For every Django or Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman’s character in Unforgiven) there are hundreds of white gunslingers. But of the “estimated thirty-five thousand cowboys that worked the ranches and rode the trails between 1866 and 1895, researchers have calculated that the number of black cowboys ranged from five thousand to nine thousand, with the high number representing 25 percent,” wrote Tricia Martineau Wagner, an author of several books about the West, in Black Cowboys of the Old West.

https://theundefeated.com/features/fred-whitfield-and-the-black-cowboys-of-rodeo/

 

 

*How Hollywood Whitewashed the Old West

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/10/how-the-west-was-lost/502850/

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*The Other Pioneers: African-Americans on the Frontier

http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=4807

 

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*Black Outlaws, Cowboys, and Lawmen of the Old Wild West

https://owlcation.com/humanities/Black-Outlaws-Cowboys-And-Lawmen-Of-The-Old-West

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*AFRICAN AMERICAN COWBOYS

http://plainshumanities.unl.edu/encyclopedia/doc/egp.afam.002

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*10 African-American Cowboys Who Shaped The Old West

http://listverse.com/2016/04/04/10-african-american-cowboys-who-shaped-the-old-west/

Even modern day cowboys are simply not being acknowledged. Lets face it, if you’re a Black person, who lives anywhere in the Southern United States, you know there are Black cowboys. Its unfortunate that Hollywood and television don’t ever seem to remember that. My family is from deep Mississippi, so I know about this, but hardly anyone outside of the Southern states seems to know.

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Image result for modern black cowboysOnly one member of the Cowgirls of Color competed in rodeo events as a teenager. “I was the only black person there,” she says. Photograph: M Holden WarrenKB works to control Yankee Girl during the barrel relay Photograph: M Holden Warren

*They’re Cowboys And They’re Coming Straight Outta Compton

 

 

And Philly:

 

Whitewashing of the term Cowboy:

They’re Cowboys And They’re Coming Straight Outta Compton

http://www.npr.org/2015/04/30/403353200/comptons-cowboys-keep-the-old-west-alive-and-kids-off-the-streets

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As for Westerns featuring Black actors, here, in no particular order, are some of my favorites:

Gang of Roses (2003)

Reviewed here: https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/gang-of-roses/

Posse (1993)

I remember this movie was a huge deal in the Black community when it was released. A lot of my friends were crowing about how good it was. While it’s not my absolute favorite Black cowboy movie, its in the top ten, because at the time, it was kind of mind-blowing, since the last movie, that was anything like, it had been released in the seventies. And I got mad respect for Mario Van Peebles, who was  trying hard to make Black genre films a thing.

 

Blazing Saddles (1974)

I saw this one when I was in college, as a double bill with Raising Arizona, and laughed my ass off the entire evening. Two of the funniest Westerns ever. This movie was not afraid to go there. My favorite scene is when some racist cowboys bully the the Black railworkers into singing for them, and they burst into a piano-lounge tune called,  “I Get No Kick from Champagne”. The White cowboy’s reactons are  priceless. That scene never gets old!

 

Unforgiven (1992)

Unforgiven has some deep themes. While I’m not a fan of Clint Eastwood, the person,  his films have always been first-rate. Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman are awesome in this movie.

 

Silverado (1985)

I saw this around the time of its release. Starring Danny Glover, and Kevin Costner, it was the  first time I’d ever seen either of these two actors, and the first time I’d ever seen a Black cowboy in a movie.

 

Buffalo Soldiers (1997)

I don’t remember a whole lot about this one. I watched it on cable late one night and remember enjoying it somewhat, so I’m not sure if this classes as a favorite, but I did watch it in its entirety, so felt I should put it here. It stars Danny Glover again, so that may have been my initial impetus for watching it in the first place, since I enjoyed Silverado.

 

Wild Wild West (1999)

I will watch Will Smith in anything, so I was overjoyed to see him in a Western, even if the movie royally sucked. The music video, on the other hand, was the shit. Yes! I know ALL the lyrics!

 

Django Unchained (2012)

Reviewed here: https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/in-defense-of-django-unchained/

 

The Hateful 8 (2015)

Reviewed here: https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/geeking-out-about-the-hateful-eight/

 

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Yeah, I liked this movie!

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/03/28/stuff-im-watching/

So When Are We Gonna Stop Letting Joss Whedon Coast on 20-Year-Old White Feminism? — Sublime Zoo

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 […]

via So When Are We Gonna Stop Letting Joss Whedon Coast on 20-Year-Old White Feminism? — Sublime Zoo

Favorite Movies of My Life Pt. 4 (2001-2010)

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

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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.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/eight-legged-freaks-2002/

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/geeking-out-about-dog-soldiers-2002/

 

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:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/geeking-out-about-slither/

 The Host appears in my list of ten favorite monsters here:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/my-ten-favorite-monsters/

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:

A Scene-By-Scene Analysis of THE DARK KNIGHT (2008, dir. Christopher Nolan)

http://www.slashfilm.com/assessing-the-themes-of-the-dark-knight/

 

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.

 

2010: Inception

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.

http://narrativefirst.com/articles/meaningful-storytelling-an-analysis-of-inception

Movie Review: “Inception”

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.

American Gods Season One : Come to Jesus (Part One)

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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.

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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.

http://nerdist.com/american-gods-history-primer-bilquis-a-k-a-queen-of-sheba/

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

—– http://norse-mythology.org/tales/ragnarok/

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.

Obstructionist Bunnies!

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.

 

On Ostara:

https://www.thoughtco.com/eostre-spring-goddess-or-neopagan-fancy-2562488

https://www.themonastery.org/blog/2013/03/easter-and-ostara-converging-traditions/

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!

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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.

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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!

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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!😊😊😊

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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.

 

 Odin’s backstory:

http://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/the-aesir-gods-and-goddesses/odin/

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.

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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.

 

Black Panther Trailer: Class 101

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.

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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.

——Wikipedia

http://www.ebony.com/entertainment-culture/black-alt-enter-afrofuturism-999#axzz4k5esHWHx

http://afrofuturism.net/

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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.

Plot Synopsis:

“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

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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:

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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

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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:Florence Kusumba

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.

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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.

 

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*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?! 

—–karnythia from angelsscream

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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.

*Double Standard

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.

 

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*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!

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From pathlesspagan:

Me and squad at the Black Panther premiere.

 

A Prayer For Mad Sweeney

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:

http://www.medbherenn.com/faerie-lore.html

http://www.medbherenn.com/faerie-lore.html

 

*And for background on the real mythology behind Mad Sweeney:

http://www.askaboutireland.ie/reading-room/history-heritage/folklore-of-ireland/carlow-folklore/the-story-of-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.

http://lightningmedicinecloud.com/legend.html

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.

 

 

Why I Don’t Give A Damn About the Wonder Woman Movie

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.

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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.)

‘Wonder Woman’s Feminism Is Strong As Hell, But It’s Not Intersectional

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.

 

https://www.bustle.com/p/wonder-womans-feminism-is-strong-as-hell-but-its-not-intersectional-62798

 

Continue reading “Why I Don’t Give A Damn About the Wonder Woman Movie”

The Wayback Machine: The Incredible Hulk TV Series (1978-1982)

Hello There!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

American Gods Season One: Git Gone

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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.

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Laura at the Casino

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.

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Rob and Shadow

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.

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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.

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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.

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Laura kicks ass.

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.

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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.

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Laura and Audrey on a road trip.

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.

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Laura waits for Shadow.

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.

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