Bladerunner 2049 Review (Part I)

Last  weekend I did go see  Bladerunner 2049 because Mum changed her mind about going to see The Mt. Between Us. I went to see this alone, which is what I prefer when I go see such movies, so I don’t feel a burden to socialize with the person next to me, or talk about the movie afterwards. I can take my time and get my thoughts and feelings in order.

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I had a lot of feels about this movie, but wonderfully, I also got a bit of intellectual stimulation too, as I tried to puzzle out what the plot meant,  and what the characters symbolize. Also, the movie is just great eye candy. Let me start from the very beginning with a primer on the two movies and how they’re related to the book on which they are both based. This is going to be a long one, with lots of spoilers, so I’m going to need to break into two parts. Forgive me if I get some things wrong because I’m writing this from memory.

 

Warning For Spoilers

 

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There really isn’t any direct need to watch the short films,  but watching them will enhance your Bladerunner 2049 viewing experience because there are some things in the movie which are not made explicitly clear, or if you blink, you’ll miss it.

https://www.inverse.com/article/35997-blade-runner-shorts-2049-prequels-connections-canon


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The Plot:

Foundation

I cannot talk about Bladeruner 2049, without discussing the plot of the first film, because so much of that film is the foundation of this one, and I can’t discuss that movie without talking about the book on which all of this is based. So much of the new movie is built from the original that it’s difficult to understand the full scope of what Villanueve has done without looking at his sources.

In the original novel, by Philip K. Dick, titled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the primary themes of Self, Identity, and the meaning of Humanity are still present. One of the major changes from the book is that the replicants in the book are different from the ones in the movies. In the book they’re definitely robots/androids. In the movies, they are genetic constructs, that are alive, need to breathe, can be drowned,  bleed out, and die just like humans. Except for being stronger, faster, and largely immune to pain, ( or indifferent to it, as illustrated in the first movie, when Pris sticks her hand in a vat of boiling water), they are indistinguishable in appearance from human beings.

In the new movie, all replicants after the Nexus Six are distinguished by having lit tattoos of their serial number in their right eye, as we saw in the film short, Nexus Dawn. This is something that figures into the plot of the short film Blackout 2022.

For all intents and purposes, just as in the book, all replicants were indistinguishable from humans, which is why the Voight-Kampff test was created. The Voight-Kampff Test is what you see happening at the beginning of the first Bladerunner movie, and it detects emotional responses in human beings, specifically pupillary response to emotion. Replicants, specifically the Nexus 6, built by the Tyrell Corporation, (from the first movie), don’t have normal human emotional responses because they only had a four-year life span, which doesn’t give them time to develop such things. This, and Eldon Tyrell’s conversation with Roy Batty in that movie, is important to remember, because it directly pertains to Rachael (Deckard’s lover), and the replicants of the current movie. Rachael was Tyrell’s experimental success, in that she had an unlimited lifespan. This must have been a successful line because all Nexus 8 replicants have unlimited lifespans.

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The new replicants in the current film are built by a different creator than was featured in the first, Niander Wallace, here played by Jared Leto. The Tyrell Corporation went bankrupt after the Blackout of 2022, I think, which occurs after the creation of the Nexus 8. The Wallace Corporation stepped in to build on Tyrell’s foundation. Just as in the first movie, all the replicants, the current ones built by Niander Wallace, and the Nexus 8s built by Tyrell, know what they are, and  don’t seem to like it any more than the Nexus 6s. The major difference between Wallace’s replicants and Tyrell’s is that the new replicants  are programmed tonever question their submission to humans, to always obey.

In Nexus Dawn, Wallace has a meeting with some of the city’s governing bodies about removing the replicant ban on Earth. If you will remember from the first film, replicants were banned from Earth after a bloody rebellion shortly before 2019. Replicants are only allowed in the off world colonies. Keeping them off Earth is the reason the Bladerunners were created. The current Bladerunner’s job is to “retire” the Nexus 8s. (There’s a list.)  Niander’s argument is that the ban needs to be lifted because humanity is dying, just like most of the Earth, and he thinks the replicants could replace them.

In Blackout 2022, the Nexus 8s cause a massive blackout over the city, destroying all the city’s digital information. In conjunction with the removal of their right eyes, they hoped to erase the knowledge of any Nexus 8s left on Earth, and remain undetected. The Blackout  also plays a major part in the plot of the sequel.

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Niander’s theories are related to another theme from the original book and movie, ecological destruction. In the book, one of the major ways that humanity differentiates itself from replicants is by caring for animals. Showing care for animals is a way of proving you have human feelings. Deckard owns an android sheep that lives on the roof of his building, and other characters own other types of robot animals, because they are too poor to own real ones.  This world  is so damaged, that most of its animals are extinct, or specially protected, and no city dweller, unless they’re extremely wealthy, has ever seen a real animal. The movies remains faithful to this idea, so all the animals you see in the first movie, are all replications of animals, made by humans.

The world is so ravaged, that  Officer K, played by Ryan Gosling, marvels at small plants (Sapper Morton’s window garden) and bees, because he doesn’t know what they are. One of the standout images in this movie is when he sticks his hand into a beehive without flinching. He not only doesn’t know that they sting, he doesn’t  register it when they do.

The Earth is dying, humanity has killed off most of its plant and animal life, and the ones left behind are dying too, from various abnormalities and illnesses. It is implied that humans without illnesses, or afflictions, are highly encouraged and incentivized to move off-world, and Wallace claims that humans have colonized some nine different worlds. But he thinks this is not enough to ensure mankind’s survival, and believes humans should colonize all the known universe.

 

Now

Officer K is a replicant programmed to retire other replicants, namely any Nexus 8s left on the planet after the blackout of 2022. The first replicant we see him retire is Sapper Morton, the replicant from the third short film, as a direct result of Sapper’s actions there. Afterwards, K discovers the bones of a woman interred beneath a dead tree, located on Sapper’s protein farm. These are the bones of Rachael, Deckard’s lover from the first movie. It  is discovered, under examination, that she gave birth to two children, a boy and a girl, which is considered impossible, because replicant women are infertile. And if Deckard is a replicant, as was theorized in the first movie, this is doubly impossible.

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Officer K is tasked by his boss, Lt. Joshi, played by an unrecognizable Robin Wright, with finding these now adult children, and retiring them, lest word gets out that replicants can now reproduce. It would make it that much harder to tell the difference between manufactured beings and naturally born human beings. K is aided in his investigation by his, implanted childhood memories, and his holographic lover named Joi, and thwarted by Niander Wallace’s personal replicant assistant, Luv, who has also been given the task of finding Rachael’s children.

K follows the trail of his memories all the way to a children’s workhouse, where he discovers there was only one child, and it was a girl, but her records were obscured during the Blackout. He makes his way to a devastated Las Vegas, where Deckard lives in exile. K  believes himself to be the lost child of Rachael because of the memory that was planted in his programming by Rachael’s daughter, Ana, until he encounters a group of replicants who all were implanted with that same memory. Ana is alive and well, but living in isolation because of an immunity disease. She creates replicant memories for the Wallace Corporation, and the memory in K’s mind, and in all the others minds, is actually hers, even though giving repplicants real memories is illegal.. She seeded this memory in all the replicants she worked on, in the hope that one day one of them would find her father.

K finds and loses Deckard in a fight with Luv, who destroys Joi, and kidnaps Deckard. He defeats Niander Wallace’s plans to torture Deckard for information on Rachael’s pregnancy, kills Luv, then reunites Deckard with his daughter. Fatally injured in his fight with Luv, K lies down to die in the snow.

 

 

The Characters:

Officer K

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When we first meet K he is as cool as they come, and  completely unperturbed by the thought of the  danger in his job, at which he is extremely good. The only character who can get anywhere beneath this placid exterior is Joi. He is a replicant who kills other replicants, but by the end of the movie, he is willing to sacrifice his life for the  cause of  reuniting Deckard with his child. For love.

K does have a character arc, but its a quiet one, that’s not as obvious as Deckard’s, although it parallels that one. It requires some effort to see, as it is not neatly or clearly spelled out. His  arc is the opposite of Deckard’s. Deckard goes from being a cold and unfeeling human being who disregards the lives of the replicants enough to kill them, to rediscovering his humanity by realizing it doesn’t matter whether or not they’re human. By falling in love with Rachael. K goes from being a replicant that is callous enough to kill his own kind, to sacrificing his life for Deckard’s goal, because it’s the closest he will ever be to being human.

Lt. Joshi, his superior makes a point of stating that replicants, at least the newer models like K, can’t lie but he does actually lie to her about finding and retiring Deckard’s child, which I find interesting. After every mission, K is subjected to a post-trauma debriefing that establishes his emotional base parameters, and determines whether or not he should be retired. By the time he’s lying to Joshi, his programming has become so compromised (he has become so human in hs responses) that he can no longer pass it. Joshi, as a grace, gives him the opportunity to run, which is ironic after what he said to Sapper earlier in the movie. His kind don’t run.

Incidentally, the test K undergoes is a series of keywords that he must repeat in sequence. Those words are based on a poem Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire.

 *Decode the test, and you realize that the computer is quoting verse:

Cells interlinked within cells interlinked
Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct
Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.

 

There is a Pinocchio element to K’s character, as he comes to believe that he may be Rachael’s special child and you can see the heartbreak in his eyes when he discovers that those childhood memories are not his, and he is not the one. For a brief moment in time he was truly special.  In the original film, the unicorn is associated with Deckard, as being special, as being unique. K thinks he is a unicorn for a fleeting moment and  when it passes, it is devastating to him, and Gosling conveys all of this with just his eyes.

Ryan Gosling carries the bulk of this movie as Officer K. I have to admit, I’d paid not an ounce of attention to this actor except to note that White women seemed to be crazy about him, while I was simply unimpressed. Now I am impressed. He’s phenomenal as K. I have to admit I had some doubts he could pull off this role because the trailers lead you to believe that all he does is look stoic for the entirety of the film. It’s a  lowkey performance as befits the character. The majority of what Gosling does is in his eyes, which is appropriate,  as the eyes being the windows to the soul, is one of the primary themes of both movies.

As an often despised minority, I identified with him on a certain level. K lives in a world  where he is disdained for who, and what, he is. Chillingly, as he is walking down a crowded corridor, one of his co-workers spits the word “skinjob” at him, and I am heavily reminded of  the narration from the first movie which equates that word with the N word. People just sort of casually say this word to him, or around him, and I’m reminded that there was a time when the N word was so casually said, in the presence of Black people, that nobody raised the slightest eyebrow at its use. And no one blinks at the use of the word “skinjob” in this movie.

Sapper Morton 

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Sapper is played by Dave Bautista, who you may remember as Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s the replicant we met in the short film set in 2048. He works as a protein farmer in one of Earth’s dead zones. When K comes to retire him, just after the events in the short film, he claims to have witnessed a miracle and, it is heavily implied, was present at the birth of Rachael’s child. After Rachael’s death, he buried her bones beneath the tree on his property.

I just want to commend Bautista. He is killing it in the serious acting category, and is hilarious as Drax. I never expected this level of acting quality from a Championship wrestler, which is something I just found out about as I only know Bautista through his acting career, in Spectre and Bushwick. He is definitely one to watch.

 

Rick Deckard

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Harrison Ford reprises his role as Deckard. If you’re hoping to find out if he’s a human or a replicant, you’re not going to find out in this movie. It’s heavily implied by Wallace and Luv that he is a replicant. But he has clearly aged, and every replicant he’s ever fought has thoroughly kicked his ass. So he’s not fast, or especially strong, and unlike K, he definitely seems to feel pain.

According to Ridley Scott, Deckard is a replicant, but Harrison Ford doesn’t believe he is. After watching the first film, I was convinced he was, but now I’m not so sure. Also, I just like the idea that he’s human, as it sets up a thematic parallel to K’s journey of finding his humanity. Both of them end up finding their humanity through the love of women the rest of the world disregards as unimprtant and disposable.

When K finds Deckard,  he is living in what’s left of an irradiated Las Vegas, and has reached a point in his life where he simply doesn’t care what’s real or synthetic. When K asks if his dog is real, he says he doesn’t know. He has long since ceased to care about such things because his love for Rachael was as real to him as K’s love for Joi.

Its important to remember that part of the reason for the dynamic  seen between Deckard and K, is that K, at this point in the narrative, falsely believes he is Deckard’s son, and tells him the name Joi provided him. Joe.

We do not get to see Deckard’s reunion with his daughter, and I feel some type of way about that.

 

Joi

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Joi is K’s holographic girlfriend, played by actress Ana De Armis. I actually liked Joi, although she doesn’t really have a huge role to play in the film’s plot. She is, rather, emotional support for K. She serves as the embodiment of joy for K.  Like many “real” women, she grounds K, giving him a homebase. She is his refuge in a loud, and untidy world, and later in the movie, she accompanies him on his quest to find Deckard. This feeling of safety is as ephemeral as her body, though. She cannot really save K.

K can’t physically touch her, although there is a scene where Joi takes it on herself to hire a local sex worker that she can possess so that K can imagine having  sex with her. She is tied to the emitter in his apartment until K buys her a mobile version. He tells her she can go anywhere, but naturally her first request is to go outside, where she experiences rain for the first time. Despite all this, Joi is capable of making decisions for herself, or for K. She is capable of delight, and wonder, and who is to say that how she experiences the world isn’t real. That she isn’t real.

After the apartment emitter is destroyed, she is confined only to her mobile emitter until Luv destroys it, and her, in her fight with K. Dejected and bereft, having lost both Deckard and Joi, K wanders the streets of LA until he encounters a giant nude hologram which looks like Joi. When she refers to him as Joe, he realizes that what he had with Joi was always meant to be fleeting and was probably never real. Earlier in the movie,  when he believed himself to be human, Joi had re-named him Joe. In the background of this scene can be seen the shadow of a small horse, possibly a unicorn. Joe thought he was special, and unique. He thought Joi was special.

 

Luv

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Luv is Niander Wallace’s personal assassin/henchman. She appears to be as calm and callous in her treatment of humans as K is with replicants. Where K develops a soft spot for humanity, Luv has nothing but contempt for them. This is best illustrated in the scene where she kills Lt. Joshi, after referring to her as a small thing. She makes the deliberate choice to destroy Joi’s emitter, after Joi pleads for K’s life.

There’s not a lot of character development with her. She remains as hard and cold at the end of the movie, as she does in the beginning, except for one slight surprise.When Wallace kills replicants in front of her you can see her shocked reaction.  Later she kills a fake version of Rachael, not because she wants to do it, but because she is designed to obey Wallace without question. And in another surprising moment, she shows a certain amount of compassion towards Deckard.  Luv takes out her hatred of Wallace on  people he sends her  to kill. She seems to have no trouble killing humans. Her more softened approach to Deckard is puzzling, if you believe Deckard is human.

Luv is deeply affected by Wallace’s treament of his supposed children, and I believe she hates him. She is also deeply afraid of him as he could decide to kill her on a whim like so many of the other replicants we watch him abuse. She’s not capable of expressing that hatred to him because he is too powerful. He controls her. But she can  express that rage towards humans less powerful than she is, like Lt. Joshi, as she screams in rage while she kills her. (We’ll talk more about this movie’s treatment of women in Part Two.) I do wonder about her past. I know she can’t be the first version of Luv to exist, and if not, was she forced to kill her predecessor?

Luv also knows how to lie, which is something else Wallace has not seemed to notice, probably becasue they don’t lie to him. But K blatantly lies to Joshi, and so does Luv. Most people think that replicants can’t, which might be true of the older models, but apparently Wallace’s can.   I don’t think Zhora and Sapper outright lie when others ask them questons. I think they sort of derail or sidestep the questions. SoTyrell’s replicants couldnt lie, maybe, but they made up for that by being openly rebellious. Wallace’s replicants are extremely obedient, but their programs can be just as corrupted from being around humans, or K’s baseline wouldn’t need to be checked so often.

 

Niander Wallace

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Niander is an egomaniac who likens himself to god. He often refers to the replicants as angels, or his children, but that doesn’t stop him from casually ending their lives on a whim. In the film short, he orders the replicant to take its own life, but in the movie he’s a bit more hands on, disemboweling a female replicant, to prove a minor point, and ordering Luv to shoot the Rachael replicant he was using to torture Deckard.

Wallace is as incompassionate, in his behavior towards the replicants, as Deckard was in the first movie. In Bladerunner, Deckard had a conscience, and bemoaned having feelings about what he did, especially after killing Zhora. When we see K kill Sapper, he is emotionless. It’s just work, although later we see his warmth and regard for Joi, buying her presents, and bantering with her. We can see that he is visibly touched by her willingness to endanger her existence to aid him, and his grief at her destruction. Later, he kills Luv with his bare hands, with all the rage and grief at his disposal. He hates her for killing Joi.

So here we have (potentially) a human who lost and regained his humanity, a replicant searching for his, and another human who is so out of touch with his humanity that he thinks he’s God. Wallace is more than just physically blind. He doesnt see what is right under his nose (or he does but disregards it.) He doesn,t, for example, see that Luv hates him. He says he has built his replicants to always obey and never run, but K is a perfect example of never saying never. Wallace’s replicants can be compromised and are highly emotional creatures. We can see this in K, and in Luv as well. Niander also doesn’t see something else directly under his nose, that the child he is looking for, Ana Stelline, has been working for him for years.

Tyrell’s attempt to make the replicants tractable by giving them memories, did not work to make them less violent, and Wallace’s ability to make them obedient doesn’t seem to have worked either. Luv is just as violent as Batty from the original, and K’s programming becomes so corrupted that he rebels. Wallace doesn’t see that his goal is doomed to failure, as there is no way to make replicants happily accept being the slaves of  lesser beings.

 

Dr. Ana Stelline

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Ana is the woman who implanted the memory that leads K to her. She is subcontracted by the Wallace Corporation to create false memories for replicants. It’s illegal to plant real memories, nevertheless, she has seeded her childhood memory, of a small wooden horse, into the minds of dozens (possibly hundreds) of replicants, in the hope that one day, one of them would find her, or her parents.

As the daughter of a replicant, is she one as well? If Deckard is human, does it make her human? It has been theorized by fans that the immunity disease she claims to have is merely a false front to keep her isolated, and away from the suspicion of being Rachael’s daughter. It also has the added benefit of protecting her unique DNA from further scrutiny. Its  just another layer of false information, like the memories, the obscuring of her gender, and where and when she was born.

She has a deep well of compassion for the replicants. She tells K she can’t make their lives easier but she can give them happy memories.

 

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The Girl with All The Gifts (2016)

This is the first of my five posts reviewing horror movies where the stars are Black women, all part of the Graveyard Shift Sisters posts on 31 Black Women of Horror, for the month of October.

Okay, despite the fact that I read the book, I still didn’t know what to expect from the movie. I should have because the movie is mostly very faithful to the source material. It had not occurred to me that the filmmakers would do the thing, and make Melanie a little Black girl. I loved the character’s voice in the book and was looking forward to whoever they would cast as she would be carrying the movie, and I’m glad the director made that decision.

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When the writer, M.R. Carey was asked about the development of the movie he stated:

‘We went a slightly different way in the movie, especially when it came to point of view. Where the novel moves between the five main characters and lets us see what’s going on in all of their heads, the movie sticks with Melanie all the way. And there are no Junkers in the movie. The base falls to a hungry attack. But it’s a case of two different paths through the same narrative space. The ending is absolutely faithful to the book.’

— M.R. Carey, in an interview with Mom Advice[7]

The plot of the movie is very faithful to the source, so if you’ve read the book, you know the ending. Most of humanity has succumbed to fungal spores and become what are known as “Hungries”. ( Basically they’re zombies. They attack and eat people. (This is not  unprecedented in nature, as there are actually fungal spores that infect hosts, and force the hosts to  propagate itself.)  Some of the zombies are intelligent, and Melanie is one of the smartest ones.

Melanie, and a group of like children, all of whom were infected in utero, are being taught, studied, and experimented on, at a specially guarded facility, by Dr. Caldwell, played by Glen Close. She is attempting to find a cure for the fungal infection by vivisecting  the children’s brains, and Melanie is her star pupil. One of Melanie’s teachers is Ms. Justineau with whom Melanie develops a close  relationship.

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Melanie is played by the unknown Sennia Nanua, and she is absolutely perfect. She doesn’t try to play Melanie as sinister, or evil. She’s just like any other regular little girl, smiling, curious about the world , and happy, until her hunger is triggered. Those scenes are shocking in their viciousness. We watch Melanie attack and bite people, and at one point she captures and eats a cat. Although the movie has kids in it, it is not for children. Her behavior isn’t sugar-coated  or glossed over, and the soldiers are correct to be afraid of Melanie, as her Hunger appears to be something she seems to control. Gemma Arterton is great as Justineau, and I enjoyed seeing her relationship with Melanie.

Justineau doesn’t try to control, or change Melanie, seems to accept Melanie just as she is, and unlike the soldiers, seems unafraid of her. She doesn’t seem to want Melanie for what Melanie can provide for her like Caldwell. Seeming to genuinely love and care for her, worrying about her safety when she’s not around. The two of them seemed to have formed a real and loving bond, and that bond between them, goes a long way towards the audience accepting Melanie for who and what she is, too.

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Justineau was constantly cautioned against attaching herself to the children she is teaching, but  she seems unable (or unwilling) to do so with Melanie. There are several scenes of the soldiers being verbally abusive to the children in their care, in order to teach Justineau to avoid them, but Justineau always behaves towards them with dignity and respect.

 

When the facility is overrun by Hungries, Melanie and Justineau escape inside a mobile lab, with some other soldiers. Caldwell, who has been bitten by one of the Hungries has developed sepsis, but still continues her experiments. The soldiers are wary that Melanie will turn on them so they make her wear a muzzle ala Hannibal Lecter.

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They soldiers fear her but Melanie is useful because she can walk among the infected with impunity. In their travels, they use Melanie to lure the Hungries away from them so that they can more successfully forage for supplies. Melanie uses that time as an opportunity to feed. During her explorations she encounters a group of feral infected children who have formed a gang to hunt  any wayward humans.

In one of the movie’s most exhilarating moments Melanie challenges and kills the gang’s leader, and commands the gang afterward, keeping them in line with the threat of her strength and ruthlessness. I’m not sure how to feel about these scenes. On the one hand, I applaud Melanie’s ability to survive and be a leader. On the other hand, I’m witnessing children committing shocking acts of violence, which is something I’m just not used to seeing. I generally avoid movies where children are killing each other. Melanie’s leadership of this gang is something that will come into play at the end of the movie.

I have to admit I felt some type of way about watching this little Black girl kicking ass, and being so vicious, because that actress looks so sweet and innocent, when she’s not doing those things. I can only guess that’s why this particular actress was chosen. There’s also the stereotype of the vicious Black brute, who is uncivilized and must be controlled, restrained, and made useful, which is illustrated in Melanie having to wear a plastic muzzle for at least half the film. All of Melanie’s captors are White, and with the exception of Ms. Justineau, they are all deeply frightened of her, which gives this movie a  disturbing racial angle, that it would not  have otherwise had, if Melanie had been cast as a little White girl. Her Blackness gives the end of this movie  a wholly different meaning, which I’ll have to discuss in another post.

There’s very little wasted space in this film, which is less than two hours, but feels   longer because the director takes time to have quiet moments to explore Melanie’s world from her point of view. She is in nearly every frame, she is the one around which the other characters revolve, and she moves the plot forward with the decisions she makes, especially the last one.

I considered giving away the ending of the movie, because I wanted to discuss how groundbreaking this is, but if you’ve read the book you already know it, and if you haven’t, I really don’t want to rob you of your feelings (and you will have some) when you see it for yourself, as everything that happens in 90 minutes of the movie is what leads up to Melanie’s final decision.

This is an excellent movie to watch on Halloween night along with, 28 Days Later, and Train to Busan, two other films that have WoC dealing with a zombie apocalypse.

28 Days Later will be my next review.

ETA: The Website featuring this list is available at the Graveyard Shift Sisters.

http://www.graveyardshiftsisters.com/2017/09/watch-31-horror-movies-starring-black.html

 

Last Week Tonite On Tumblr

Generally happy stuff to start off your week, especially if you haven’t heard some things yet:

Movie News

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The first official trailer for Pacific Rim is LIT!!! Hollywood is killing it with the music for these trailers, but I do have to remind them that just because a movie has Black people in it doesn’t mean you need to put rap music in the trailer. Some of us recognize different musical styles, although I realize that the soundtrack can go a long way towards getting a certain type of Black guy into the theater, (namely that no account Pooky from down the street.)

I love that we get to hear Boyega’s natural accent again in an action film. I’m definitely taking my niece to see this because she loved Mako Mori in the first movie, and John Boyega was her first movie boyfriend. This movie also heavily reminds me of The Power Rangers, only for grownups, because its more violent. (I’m pretty sure there’s also lots more of the cussing.)

Boyega stars as Jake Pentacost, the son of the late Stacker, who gets called into Jaeger service, from his underworld criminal lifestyle ,by his adopted sister, Mako.

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I’m really looking forward to the reboot of The Predator franchise because it has a long history of racial progressiveness. The first movie featured the first time team up of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers, and I guess the makes realized they had a good thing going, because the second film starred Danny Glover ,as the hero of the movie, and Maria Conchita Alonso, who gets to live to the end of the movie. The third movie, Alien Vs Predator starred Sanaa Lathan, a Black woman as the hero of that movie and it’s one of my favorite Predator films, naturally. 

It’s interesting that as many tropes about race have been created in the horror genre, it’s also been a genre that’s been very progressive in its treatment of women, and characters of color, allowing them to be heroes and heroines, allowing them to be the stars, and sometime save the day, or the Earth. But this version of Predator appears to be more mainstream and there’s always tropes in mainstream movies.

Its as if mainstream movies know no other language beyond the visual shorthand of stereotypes (or maybe mainstream writers are just a bunch of lazy fucks who are unwilling to think outside the box). Namely The Black Guy Dies First Trope, and The Smurfette Syndrome.

Mainstream movies simply don’t have  track record for subverting tropes that the Horror genre does, and I’ve noticed, the more mainstream a horror movie  franchise becomes, the less likely it is to star a PoC, or have the woman be the primary character. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, just a trend I noticed.

I do blame the original Nights of the Living Dead for this. Something of George Romero’s liberal sensibilities in the making of that movie (and casting a Black man as the lead), has made its way into the genre.

Also, I just love Keegan Michael Key and want to see him defeat a Predator.

Keegan-Michael Key Joining Shane Black’s ‘The Predator’ (Exclusive)

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/predator-keegan-michael-key-joins-shane-blacks-reboot-961207

Director Shane Black has shared a look at his team of alien hunters.

Soon, the hunt will begin... again.

 

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I thought this was a really interesting article about casting more than one Black person per movie. Now if we can get to the point where we can cast more than one gay person per film, or one woman per action  movie, or hey! let’s get all wild and shit and put two, count ’em! TWO, women of color in one mainstream movie, and let them interact with each other. 

I know, it’s crazy right?!!!

Image result for dogs and cats /ghostbusters gif

 

Chadwick Boseman And Sterling K. Brown Remember When There Could Only Be One Black Actor In A Movie

“The opportunities are not so scarce. And that’s an important moment to note.”

https://www.buzzfeed.com/jarettwieselman/chadwick-boseman-and-sterling-k-brown-remember-when-there?utm_term=.jfaWKG0qQ#.wavvWkD5R

Chadwick Boseman and Sterling K. Brown in Marshall.

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Image result for scared kermit gif

Here is the official trailer for the live action version of Tokyo Ghoul. I’ve heard that Hollywood is planning an all out assault on Manga with live action movies of some very famous books. My stomach dropped as soon as I heard that because nobody, and I mean NOBODY, is asking for Americanized versions of Full Metal Alchemist and Akira. ( I swear to Gob, if Akira does not star Osric Chau, I’m gonna personally send J J Abrams a strongly worded letter suggesting that he go fuck himself!) Now these movies have not been cast yet, but hopefully, they learned their fucking lesson from the handful of whitewashed flops in the past few years. 

Yes, it looks almost as terrifying as the anime!

Note to Hollywood:

Please, stop removing Asian people from the stories they created, and cast them as the main protagonists!!!!!

People who are fans of these stories are well used to seeing Asian faces, and some of us have a pretty large pantheon of Asian, and Asian American actors they enjoy watching. We do not read anime, or read Manga, so that we can see White people. If we wanted to see White people in Asian influenced media, we’d just watch your whitewashed dreck!

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This is why Osric Chau needs to be in any live action version of Akira. Here he is  in a (kind of) fan made trailer of The Akira Project. This is AWESOME!!!!

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The Twitter and Tumblr response to this article had me cackling the whole week. I mean, how do you reach a point in your emotional development, where you have had your ass beat by this person 18 times, and you still out here signing checks your ass can’t cash, even when you cheat.

Maria Sharapova’s Rivalry With Serena Williams Is In Her Head

Sharapova’s new memoir suggests that she still can’t seem to accept the reality that her whiteness is not enough to compensate for her own failings.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/bimadewunmi/maria-sharapovas-rivalry-with-serena-williams-is-in-her-head?utm_term=.jpMJEzJvw#.mjQPrOPmB

She’s not good enough at tennis to have a rivalry with Serena. You have to be able to sometimes be able to beat someone for it to be a rivalry as opposed to a regularly scheduled ass whoopin’.
It’s never a rivalry if you’ve only beaten someone two times and they’ve beaten you 18 times in a row and badly Serena has decimated this woman for a decade-plus there is no rivalry it’s only Domination by Serena, Maria knows that but pride mixed with delusion is a motherfucker

that’s like me having a rivalry with bill gates lmao

 

I have a rivalry with Beyoncé

 

It’s like I had a rivalry with god by throwing rocks at the sky.

 sauvamente

Sharap it’s over needs to put the meth pipe down and face reality. She’s shit and a cheat. Retire.

 pinkcheesegreenghost

Even illegal, performance enhancing drugs wasn’t enough to keep her from losing 18 times

 stayingwoke

18-2. That’s 90%. I don’t even have a 90% win rate in closing a car door all the way.

 

my-friends-call-me-lol

I have a rivalry with the sky, nothing can be higher than me.

 btheadventurer

Serena don’t give a fuck bout her. She’s literally has beef with her imagination.

 

 

 

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Image result for mad max movies

*Okay , here’s some commentary on why dystopian apocalypse wardrobes always seem to consist of bondage and fetish gear. Personally I blame Mad Max for starting that trend, but this person has another theory on this very important issue:

why does so much post apocalypse media have people wearing straight up bdsm/fetish gear like. do the kinksters watch the world ending and think “oh boy i can wear my bondage gear in public now”

 

What I wanna know is why the spiky kink warriors are always the bad evil marauders. They might be into some weird shit and unafraid to show it but that doesn’t mean they want to go around killing dudes. They’re a tight-knit bunch. A lot of them are queer. They understand the importance of community.

If the government collapses and all laws come to an end, the people rampaging around killing and looting are gonna be like, frat boys and 4chan rejects. You can mistrust the bondage raiders all you like but they’re definitely the ones you’re going to run to for help when the neoliberal blood cultists and Nazi meme demons lay siege to your survivor enclave. There’s gonna be gayboy berserkers busting up slaver gangs and burning down warboy frat houses. The assless-chaps leather daddies and weird petplay people are gonna be the accidental peacekeepers of the post-apocalyptic world just because they’re the only motherfuckers who understand the importance of consent anymore.

Listen. Don’t come to me asking how to get the secret cadre of bisexual death commandos to protect your wretched tent village if you’re scared that we might call in the kinksters for backup. I don’t give a shit if they dress up like dogs and spend all day writing poems about butt plugs. There’s assholes out there acting like Vlad the Impaler on a meth bender and you’re afraid of seeing a nipple. Fuck you. If you really want to get rid of the MRA death gangs you’re going to have to accept that a lesbian chainsaw dominatrix or two might be involved. It’s the fucking post-apocalypse my guy we gotta weigh our priorities here

 

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I love these Gothic Fables :

Black Diaspora Gothic

Image result for black gothic

your mother tells you to go find something for her. it’s not there. when she goes looking for it, it reappears, just where she said it was.

this woman is your auntie. that man is your uncle. you have too many aunties and uncles to remember. you haven’t seen them, but they all have seen you. you know, when you were no bigger than THIS?

 

You start to notice that your mom actually does look like one of your little friends. Too much. More and more each day.

You do have ____ money, but you don’t know where it is coming from. It’s just that every time you put your hand in your pocket you have just the right money you need.

 

You buy a tin of brand new cookies. When you open it there are only sewing supplies. Tin after tin there are only sewing supplies. You continuously have cookie money, but there are no more cookies.

 

you are walking down the street. you spot your favorite cousin and wave in greeting. but wait – she has a friend with her. the friend is also your cousin. he smiles. you have never seen this man in your life. it’s fine. family is family.he waves at someone behind you. it’s your cousin. your cousin waves. the legion of cousins waves
as a child, the sizzle of a hot comb or the burn of a relaxer has desensitized yet traumatized you. you tell yourself there’s food at the house just when you think about heading down to wendy’s. there’s always food at the house
  1. nightshadepaladin the-afro-argonaut

    you take the chicken out of the freezer.your mother calls. did you take the chicken out of the freezer? of course you did – but the counter is bare. you take the chicken out of the freezer.did you take the chicken out of the freezer? of course you did. you do a double-take. there is no chicken. there is no freezer.<i>did you take the chicken out of the freezer?

    You think you might be suffering from amnesia … You could have sworn you just took the chicken out of the freezer but each time you go back to check on it thawing you find it right back in the ice box. Maybe you just imagined taking it out. But this feels like the third or fourth time.. Also, hasn’t the clock read 4:15 each time you remember coming in to take it out? Just 45 minutes before mom is due home. Theres nooo way it’s going to thaw in that amount of time…

    butpersephoneitsspring

    you open a tub of ice cream and find rice. you open another, and find chicken; you open yet a third, and find stew. was there ever ice cream in the house? does ice cream exist at all? you don’t know.

    aphonicgod

    that girl? she your 5th cousin twice removed. both your parents got 5+ siblings and those siblings each have 3-5 kids. your great grandparents had 15+ kids and 10+ siblings. that random guy who says hi to you is actually your 3rd cousin his name is Jackson. say hi.

    Your mom’s always asking you if you think she looks like Booboo The Fool. You’ve never met this person, but you instinctively know that the answer should be no. One day your mom looks a little different. Is it her, or is it Booboo?

    Your mother tells you not to play in your nice clothes. After school you come home and take off your nice clothes and replace them with your play clothes.While out playing with some friends you fall into some mud. You look down and you’re still in your nice clothes. Not the other ones your switched into.In the distance you hear the distinct snap of a switch being made.

     

    lkeke35 

    You remember there’s food at the house just before you decide to go to Wendy’s. There’s always food at the house. The food is always freshly made and hot, and although there’s a huge variety to choose from, it’s always the same dishes. Cornbread, yams, potatoes, fried chicken, biscuits, green beans, a variety of side dishes but only ever one kind of meat: chicken.You’ve never seen anyone cooking in this house. You know the people in it have full time jobs, but the food is always ready no matter the time of day…or night.

    You are not The One. Your mother is not The One.No one knows The One.But everyone knows The One is somewhere.Everyone knows The One is waiting. And if someone finds The One…Pray no one ever does.

    isisnicole 

    You are told to fix your face or it will be fixed for you. My face is a part of your face so are you fixing your face also? You fix your face does my face get fixed at the same time?

    stsathyre intheindigo

    There’s just a little clap of thunder, not even full applause. Turn off the TV. Turn off the lights. Don’t touch the phone. Stay out of the tub. Whatever you were watching will never be seen or heard from again.

    You go outside to play, but you can’t come back in, because you smell like outside. You smell like an abandoned baby bird. Not her baby bird. How does one smell like inside again? Somehow you get dinner.

    Your mother had a dream. She calls every family member living or dead.

    fantasticallyvicious sauvamente

    grandma says “stop runnin in and out of my house.” grandma says “close the door you lettin all the cool air out.”every time you open one door, a different but similar grandma waits, demanding that you close the next portal to their worlds.

    spookiest-star iridessence

    You hear your mom call your name from another room. You respond only to be met with silence. You immediately get up and start running to find your mom, knowing she expects you in front of her ASAP. The silence is deafening. You hear your name called again, this time with a sharper tone. You’re not sure where the voice is coming from but you run around, only finding empty rooms. Again, your name is called with the ferocity of nails on a chalkboard and you panic. Your mother’s voice carries…

     stonecoldfemme

    You open the Danish cookie tin and find sewing supplies. Your trust has been broken. You have never seen the tins in the store, and when you finally do, you are afraid to look inside. Who are these people that create sewing tins with cookies on them?

    karnythia cypheroftyr

    There was a party. You made yourself a plate to take home. It was not enough food. It is never enough food. Even though you cooked too, the ribs made by someone you don’t know are the best you have ever had.

     karnythia

    the women have been doing your hair since you could sit up. the hands in your head are both familiar and new at the same time. each touch is a memory handed down from women for generations. out of the corner of your eye you see your mother’s mother’s mother’s behind you. stay still. don’t cry. tenderheadedness is a fault. you must suffer to be respectable, black girl child, the hot comb smells of seared ear skin.

     

     angelsscream

    Your fave Auntie makes the best potato salad. She is designated potato salad maker by the family. You get to the cookout, your fave Auntie couldn’t come and your not fave auntie made the potato salad.

     boolyphyll

    Your mother tells you to take the chicken out of the freezer before she gets home. You take out the chicken. You take out more chicken. The chicken never ends, the freezer is full of chicken, and only chicken. She gets home, everything you brought up and put on the counter is not the chicken. She is furious.

    psammoma 

    Your mother tells you to do the dishes. The sink is empty, the dishwasher is empty. You search the house for dishes. You own no dishes. You don’t remember owning any dishes. What are dishes? Who are they? Your mother screams at you to do the dishes. “What dishes?” You cry. “ALL THESE RIGHT HERE!” She screams, pointing at the sink. The dishwasher. The counters. There are no dishes. But you do the dishes.

     

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The X-Men

I’ve been reading the X-Men comics since the 80s and I can fully attest that this is generally true. This really is what most of the plots were in the 80s and 90s. I stopped reading the books in the late 90s, but I imagine this is still true:

A Complete Listing of All The Plots of the X-Men Comic Books

– vampires vs xmen
– god damn it where is [insert xmen]
– youre a better leader. no youre a better leader. no youre a better leader. no youre a b…
– someone dies
– someone comes back to life
– THE XMEN GO TO SPACE
– magneto is in the yard and wont leave

 

– Time for the annual kidnapping (either Mags and Charlie or Sabretooth and Logan, occasionally others)
– House blowing up builds character
– Put that thing back where it came from or so help me

 

-i came back from the future because you need to stop

-your best friend turns out to be mystique

-hey look some new x kids, time to ignore the ones we already had for the rest of *checks watch* forever

-the x men are DISBANDED!!!!!

-alternate universe babies

-your best friend turns out to be a clone/xorn/psychic projection

 

-well i guess it was Mr. Sinister all along

-fuck the Summers family

-no seriously fuck the Summers family

-i quit the x-men but normal life sucks

-just like the last time but i guess kind of grittier

-fuck the Summers family… IN SPACE

-wellp i guess Charles faked his own death again

-goddamnit Hank don’t put that there

 

– who the fuck is possessed this time

– the villain is in love with storm but who can blame them

– goddammit give me my body back you’re using it WRONG

– somehow we’ve ended up in a fetish club, let’s just go with it

– we’re revamping the uniforms again! deal with it logan

– our powers are gone! now they’re back! now i’ve got someone else’s!

– who wants more trauma? too late, you’re getting it

– the phoenix force is tired

 

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Introverts

Seriously, this speaks to me for some reason:

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Disability

*As a person with one of those unpredictable disabilities, where I have good days and bad days, I just found this post hilarious. Yes, I have wanted to say these things to able-bodied people:

you ever realize how able bodied people just are not expected to do things that cause them excruciating physical pain? like they’re just. not

if i shouldn’t use my cane because i can sometimes technically walk without it, it would just hurt like a motherfucker then abled people should no longer be allowed to use potholders to take things out of the oven because i mean

well they could technically pick up a hot pan with their bare hands. it would just hurt like a motherfucker

 

*sees an abled person using potholders*

i just think it’s really sad that you’re giving up on yourself like that

 

*abled person rests the day after they sprained an ankle*

‘oh come on you can’t just lie in bed. it won’t get better if you don’t run around! get up and help me!’

*abled person uses protective eyewear when handling dangerous chemicals*

‘sweetie why would you limit yourself like that.’

*abled person wears shoes*

‘some people are MUCH WORSE OFF THAN YOU and they don’t wear stupid things like shoes! stop pretending that it hurts to tread on broken glass’

 

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*The Defenders

Really, I actually liked The Defenders, but this post is an incredibly accurate description of each of these character’s approaches to problems:

The Defenders: How Shall We Get to the Boardroom?

Danny “White Privilege” Rand: Shows up in a suit, gets escorted in by security.

Luke “Harlem’s Hero” Cage: Busting in like the Kool-Aid Man

Matthew “Vigilantism as an addiction metaphor” Murdock:unnecessary staircase parkour with a scarf on his face

*Jessica Goddamn Jones: Takes the fucking elevator like a normal-ass person, what is wrong with you people.

The Akira Project

There been a lot of speculation in the news recently about Jordan Peele directing a live action version of the famous Manga, Akira. I absolutely love this movie and watched it many times over the years. It wasn’t the first anime I was introduced to but it was the first that really affected me. 

A few years ago Osric Chau, from the Supernatural series, was lobbying to be cast as Kaneda, in a live action version. He, and some people he hooked up with, made a test trailer. This is what a live action  Akira could look like:

I’ve always thought of Chau as more of a fit for Tetsuo, but I think he just likes Kaneda as the hero.

Ghost in the Shell Reviews Are In

*So far, the consensus seems to be that Ghost in the Shell is  a merely okay film. I haven’t seen it and had no plans to do so, not because of the Whitewashing, although that’s a big issue, but because I’m more than a little tired of looking at Scarlett Johansson.

There’s quite a lot of spectacle but yeah, there’s the little issue of Whitewashing, not just of the film itself, but actually referenced in the plot, where the identity of an Asian character, Motoko, is erased and placed in the body of a White woman. 

According to the critics, it is possible to watch this movie and not care about any of the social issues involved, but this movie is never gonna be a classic, and doesn’t have the depth of the original anime. It’s never going to be Bladerunner, or The Matrix either, no matter how much it apes those movies aesthetics. According to the critics, it’s a gorgeous film that lacks warmth. It’s at about 51% on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. The reception of the movie, even by audiences,  has been rather lukewarm.

There are a handful of reviews giving it a rousing endorsement, like Variety, Entertainment Weekly, The Telegraph and The Chicago Tribune (Roger Eberts old employer). But the critics who panned it, come from more Geek oriented online sites, that skew much younger than the ones mentioned above, with a millennial audience who grew up watching the original movies and series, and I guess they’re unimpressed by the story.

http://www.salon.com/2017/03/29/scarlett-johansson-and-the-perils-of-white-feminism/

http://www.avclub.com/review/beguiling-ghost-shell-more-replicant-remake-252941

http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/29/15114902/ghost-in-the-shell-review-scarlett-johansson

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/ghost-shell-review-remake-2017-johansson/?tu=gav

http://www.gq.com/story/ghost-in-the-shell-review

http://www.ign.com/articles/2017/03/30/ghost-in-the-shell-review

http://www.polygon.com/2017/3/30/15121524/review-ghost-in-the-shell

http://www.businessinsider.com/ghost-in-the-shell-review-2017-3

 

*And because apparently I’m just not finished bashing Iron Fist for what we could have had vs. what we got:

http://io9.gizmodo.com/heres-the-important-stuff-that-happens-in-iron-fist-so-1793445273

http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/21/14980216/iron-fist-problems-marvel-netflix-writing-villains-optics

http://www.polygon.com/2017/3/17/14958828/finn-jones-and-iron-fist-have-one-thing-in-common

*Bottom line: if your character’s backstory features him punching a gobdamn dragon, to obtain his superpowers of being able to punch shit, and you don’t show that shit on screen, you need your entire ass thoroughly kicked. So far, we’re stuck with Finn Jones as Danny Rand but this can be fixed. He’s never going to look good as a martial artist until he gets some serious training. Put him in some intense stunt training, so that he can at least look as competent as the actors from The Matrix. Get a brand new showrunner. And this time find someone who gives a shit about Danny’s Rand being Iron Fist,  cares about his martial abilities, and is willing to do the research to make it look good.

 

*Just to cheer us all up, here are some Logan reviews. I loved this ugly, bittersweet movie, so much.

http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/6/14829768/logan-movie-wolverine-hugh-jackman-patrick-stewart-discussion-highs-lows

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/why-we-needed-logan-to-kill-the-modern-superhero-movie-w470501

https://theringer.com/logan-and-conquering-pessimism-through-fatherhood-86d377ae85b9

Stuff I’m Watching

Okay, I though I posted this already, but apparently not, since I can’t find it in my published file. So here we go again, maybe!

The Ghost Brothers (TV)

 

Its a TV show about three guys who all had paranormal experiences as children, and decided as adults that they would like to investigate the existence of ghosts. The second season of this show airs April 15th. In the meantime the first season is available for streaming on TLC. I’m already addicted.

Its  a pretty good show. One of the reasons I’ve always hated ghost hunting shows is I get  exasperated with  White guys running around in the dark, shaking their cameras, and yelling at the ghosts. There’s none of that here. The feel of this show is very different. One of my biggest issues was the attitudes of the ghost hunters in these shows, challenging the ghosts, making demands, and the general disrespect. That’s not here, either. For the record, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe in the inexplicable, and this show has that too, which occasionally makes it actually scary. But it’s not just that. It’s the humor and camaraderie between these three friends, that I enjoyed the most. They genuinely like each other,  and are not above ranking on each other, but don’t do it in a mean spirited way. You can tell they’re really old friends, and this is one of the most authentic depictions of black male friendship, you’ll ever see in a TV show.

The guys make a point of visiting sites that are known spots of racial trauma, so they’re not in the business of retraumatizing any presences that might be there. After all, these are their ancestors. They try to approach their job from a place of respect, with minimal equipment. They ask questions and  try to reach out and emotionally connect with a presence. In one episode, they visit a hotel where a sex worker was killed maybe a hundred years ago. They visit her rooms and attempt to find out if she’s still present. They ask her about her life, implore her to answer, and when they leave, they respectfully leave payment for her time, which I found both sad and hilarious.

In another episode, they visit a place where some children were known to have died. To get the children  to respond, they bring toys and dolls, ask the children if they would like to play, and assure them that it’s safe to come out and do that. All very respectful. Nothing happens of course, but there’s a great deal of tension as you suspect something might.They bring the absolute minimum in equipment, they don’t have scanners, and meters and various devices. They really just have their smartphones and a camera.

Also, these guys are surprisingly brave, in situations that would frankly give me the screaming heebie jeebies, sitting alone in a dark room waiting for some presence to reveal itself. Yes they do get scared, and are willing to acknowledge that, but there’s no exaggerated terror, with a lot of running and screaming. This isn’t a comedy, although the guys are occasionally funny. They take their self appointed task pretty seriously.

One of the reasons I like for white people to watch shows like Atlanta, Luke Cage, and Ghost Borthers is if they’re interested in more authentic depictions of what black people are actually like when white people arent around, and contrast these images with depictions crafted and written by white men, who can only guess at how we relate to each other, or just make shit up. One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed about media depictions of marginalized people by white male writers, is often the relationships are depicted as contentious ones. The white men, who write almost all of the media we see, have no idea what women talk about when men aren’t present, what gay people do when straight people aren’t around beyond having sex, or what black people do when white people arent present. Shows written, by marginalized people themselves, tend to have fewer token characters,  and more genuine conversations, and activities. We actually do get along with each other when white people arent around. We laugh, joke, and tease each other. We have deep conversations that aren’t about race, and trivial conversations that are. And just like with the Bechdel Test, almost none of our conversations center white  straight men.

Ghost Brothers joins those lists of shows that depicts black people’s authentic reactions to the world around us.

ETA:  I added a much more detailed description for this show, and the second season has already started. I’m currently watching episode two, where the Brothers visit the Winchester Ghost Trap House.
Ghostbusters (2016)

Image result for ghostbusters

I told myself I wasn’t going to watch this, but it aired on Starz, earlier this month, and that’s why I pay for cable. So yeah, I’m one of five people on Earth who actually love this movie. It was entertaining and I found a lot of positive  things outside of the one negative thing that made me want not watch it.

The one negative thing was me being mad about Patty, played by Leslie Jones, not being a scientist. I still don’t like that, but I also don’t feel she was ill treated by the creators of the movie. Although Leslie’s personal humor doesn’t match mine, I still really liked her character. She was one of the funniest people in the movie and gets some of the best lines. This one negative thing was outweighed by all the positive things I enjoyed.

One of my biggest takeaways was the depiction of friendship between women, which is almost never authentically shown in genre films, in favor of having a lonely badass. These characters are friendly and supportive of each other. To use Erin and Abby, for example, the subplot of how they met is Abby believing Erin when she claimed she saw a ghost when she was a child, and no one else believed her.That no one else believed her is something  that affects her for the rest of her life, prompting her to abandon Abby, and never have anything else to do with the paranormal. Later, she and Abby reaffirm their bonds of friendship when Erin risks her life to save Abby at the end of the movie. When Erin has a very obvious crush on their dimbulb male secretary, played by Chris Hemsworth, the other women never make fun of her, or make her feel ashamed of it. They just accept that she likes him, while gently cautioning her to be careful of sexually harassing him.

I liked Patty, and felt she was given ample screen time. The other characters make no big deal about her not being a scientist. She’s an expert in other things. She talks her way onto the team by offering them something they don’t have. Historical context and knowledge of the city, allows Patty to provide a lot of the movie’s exposition. This is not exactly her being “street -smart” (I suppose technically she is “street-smart,  but only because she is her own kind of nerd, who reads History books for fun. So yeah, all the ladies are in fact, nerds! Patty just is not a Science nerd.)

The other women never act as if they know better than her, or try to lord it over her that they have credentials, and even defer to her expertise on matters they know she has studied. They accept her, like Holtzman,  as one of the contributing members of the team. Yes, she gets them a car, but that’s not why she was allowed to join them. It’s something she offers, along with their ghostbusting suits. She also gets some of the funniest lines in the movie, most of which are quiet personal asides  that if you blink, you’ll miss them.

I especially enjoyed the beginning of a friendship between her and Holtzman. Abby and Erin were already friends, and Holtzman must have occasionally felt like a third wheel, but she and Patty seem to hit it off pretty well, hanging out together whenever they’re not working. Patty  saves Holtzman’s life at one point, and nicknames her Holtzy.

Speaking of Holtzman, she is my favorite character in the entire movie. She’s just plain nuts and really, really,  loves her job. The trailers don’t really do this character justice, just like they didn’t make Patty very likable. She’s impossible to describe. She just has to be seen. She loves destruction, dances around with blowtorches, and is utterly fearless when it comes to her various science toys.

ETA:

So, my niece finally watched this movie, and she had a great time. She couldn’t wait for me to get home from work, and she watched it without me, for which she was mildly chastised. And guess who her favorite character is! Guess! Patty, of course, who she thought was hilarious. I don’t know that my niece wants to grow up to be a Ghostbuster, but she really enjoyed herself, and the movie, and that’s enough for me.

 

 

Suicide Squad (2016)

Image result for suicide squad

Once again, I’m in the minority when it comes to liking a movie. I actually had a good time watching this. I really liked the visuals, and performances, even if the story was full of massive holes, and largely incoherent . I really enjoyed the characters though. I watched this with my niece and she seemed to have a good time, too. I think she wants to be Harley Quinn when she grows up, but I told her no, because that’s not a good look for a Black woman, unless she’s gettin’ paid a lot of money, like Margot Robbie. It would also require she be tortured by Jared Leto, after which I’d have to beat Leto’s ass. (He should probably have his ass kicked just on general principles, anyway, because my niece has decided she has a crush on his version of the Joker. What? She’s like ten years old!)

I’m one of five people on Earth who think that Suicide Squad winning an Oscar for Best Makeup is both hilarious and outrageous. Really!? Over Star Trek? Yeah, right!

It really shouldn’t be that shocking that I liked this. It stars Will Smith and I’ll basically watch anything he ‘s in. Margot Robbie wasn’t too bad in this. I thought her version of Harley was pretty entertaining and not too unlike the comic book version of the character. And then there’s  Queen Viola. I just love the idea of Viola Davis and Will Smith starring in a superhero movie together. Although, the next time we see them together, I hope its something a little more serious.

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

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Unfortunately I did not get to see this in the theater.  I did rent this for me and my Mom to watch for a couple of days. She is a die-hard Denzel fan, and she had expressed an interest in going to the movies to see this. Now this is pretty remarkable for two reasons. She’s not a huge Western movie fan, (even though she was the one who introduced me to Bonanza), and its really hard to get her to go to the movies with me, as she’s  picky. In the past few years, I managed to get her to see Jurassic World, World War Z, and that Halloween Madea movie.

We watched this movie over a weekend and she really enjoyed it. She was deeply happy that Denzel survived to the end of the movie. I enjoyed all the characters but I was kind of bummed out because the one Asian guy got killed. It doesn’t really compare overmuch to the original. It has a very different feel, although the plot is exactly the same. The action sequences were very exciting, and I enjoyed the banter between the various characters. It suffers from lone woman syndrome, and a bad guy who is evil just because he’s evil. (Not that every villain needs a backstory. Its just something I noticed.)

It has a Benetton ad cast, and although the one Mexican guy, Vasquez, is annoying, the stereotypes are mostly kept to a minimum. The men of color in the cast all get to have their action moments. Despite the presence of Vincent D’onofrio as Jack Horne, my favorite character was  Billy Rocks, the group’s blades-man. The most intriguing relationship was between Billy Rocks, and  Ethan Hawke’s character, Goodnight Robichaux. I kept wondering about the nature of their friendship, and afterwards I wrote my own headcanon, where Billy saved Goodnight from suicide, and Goodnight felt indebted to him. It was very clear that one of Billy’s purposes was helping  Goodnight hold his shit together.

My Mom liked the Jack Horne character a lot. He was  melancholy and  gruff, with a penchant for making profound philosophical statements, that mostly puzzled the other characters. Denzel, as Chisholm, was his usual mildly snarky, pragmatic self. He wasn’t really stretching it in this role, but Denzel sparkles on even his worst days, so its all cool.

No, this movie isn’t as good or influential as the original, but its worth watching some cold Saturday night, with a bowl of popcorn, and some good friends.

Legend of Tarzan (2016)

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Let’s just state, for the record, that I’m a little bit older than some of the more hysterical members of Tumblr. As a result, I grew up with the idea of Tarzan, and am well used to the tired trope of Tarzan the White Savior. I grew up reading the Edgar Rice Burroughs books, and watching some of the movies with my Mom, whose favorite Tarzan was Johnny Weismuller. Yes, we did see the problematic aspects of having some White guy being a better African, than actual African people, in Africa, but since almost all of TV, and movies, consisted of this trope, it was easy to overlook it, yet impossible not to see it.

That said, I did watch this movie when it came on cable, which only proves that I will watch any damn thing when it comes on TV, where Alexander Skarsgard takes his shirt off, and growls like a lion. It does not mean I’m not “woke” or “aware”. It just means I occasionally have low standards for what I find entertaining, especially if I can knit to it.

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed this movie for the sheer silliness that it is. Yes, the premise is just as stupid as the original films, and one still wonders what the hell White people,  (and lets face it, there were no PoC clamoring for this movie to be made) were thinking when this movie got made. If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s okay, as your life will not have been upheaved.

For what its worth, the creators did keep the White Savior stuff to a minimum by adding Samuel L. Jackson, who does the saving of various Black people, and some of the actual Congolese people get lines and screen time. Skarsgard is ridiculous in this role,  and spends most of his time trying to look dramatically serious, while trying to save his girlfriend, Margot Robbie, from Waltz’ slimy Englishman. I still don’t know why Waltz kidnaps her but its got something to do with diamonds. It doesn’t matter anyway because the plot is really not that important. What’s important is that Skarsgard is bare chested for most of the movie’s running time.

There is indeed some tree swinging, and some gorilla punching, and for some strange reason, Djimon Honsou is in this movie as an antagonist. He only gets about five minutes of screen time, and maybe six lines. Samuel L. Jackson is in this movie too, and pretty much just acts like Samuel L Jackson, despite the fact that everyone else is acting like they are in a period movie, which is very jarring. I wanted to turn off the sound, so I didn’t have to listen to him speak, but then I wouldn’t have been able to hear Alexander Skarsgard talking to various animals, and yodeling. Yes, there is a classic Tarzan yodel. When I was a kid, this didn’t particularly bother me, but every time I heard it in this movie, I laughed my ass off.

But really, I think the biggest question you have to ask yourself, if you ever watch this movie: Why is Samuel L. Jackson in this movie, when they have Djimon Honsou?

Ghost in the Shell/Iron Fist Backfire

Fed-up fans turn ‘Ghost in the Shell’ meme generator against itself

The Major may be a cutting-edge cyborg capable of taking down even the most dangerous criminals, but even she’s no match for the withering disdain of the internet.

Ever since Paramount shared the first image of Scarlett Johansson as the Major in Ghost in the Shell, the film’s been under fire for its decision to whitewash the lead role, who is Japanese in the source material. So when the studio launched a viral campaign encouraging people to upload their own images and captions into a meme generator, some fed-up fans seized the opportunity to make their displeasure known.

And not only did Ghost in the Shell get a thorough roast, a few people made sure that Hollywood didn’t forget about Emma Stone and Iron Fist.

View image on Twitter

And then there’s the recent media implosion over Iron Fist, which got totally trashed by critics who were allowed to watch the first six episodes of the series.The actor Finn Jones, who plays Danny Rand, put his foot in his mouth both before and after the show’s debut and has now left Twitter after being dragged by the public.

‘Iron Fist’s Finn Jones Says He Left Twitter After Diversity Dust-Up To “Stay Focused” On Filming ‘The Defenders’

 

The Implosion of “Marvel’s Iron Fist” and Finn Jones Continues

Marvel’s Iron Fist Cultural Appropriation Casting Crisis Drives Finn Jones Off Twitter — What’s Going On?

Iron Fist actor leaves Twitter after confronting racial issues in series (update)

Yeah, I think someone needs to close their Twitter account and shut the Hell up before they dig a deeper hole.

Here’s the thing, if the public can’t get Hollywood casting agents, or moviemakers, to understand that we want more and better diversity and inclusion, then I guess the public is just going to shame the actors who contribute to the problem. Especially when those clueless actors go on social media to make excuses for what they just did.

Both Tilda Swinton and Scarlett Johansen have both made remarks about supporting diversity, and both of them were subsequently  roasted on Twitter, and Facebook. The bottom line is that actors are no longer getting a pass about their ignorance of these issues.

In the past, Hollywood actors have managed to get by by just speaking on some issue, without actually doing any of the real work, or being informed, and sometimes actually contributing to the perpetuation of said issue. Well, not anymore. From now on if an actor is going to talk about a social issue, they had better know what they’re talking about, and have put in the work on that issue. Its  simply not enough now to simply appear progressive and get points.

Unfortunately, the irony is that Hollywood is a conservative industry, and actors who speak out too much, or are too bold with their actions regarding social issues, can sometimes find themselves with the reputation for being troublemakers, and damaging their careers. I’m not saying they can’t have opinions, but they’re caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of the film industry and public opinion, and if they’re not A listers, they can’t serve both. They work in an industry that will allow them to be bold enough to speak out on things, if they have some amount of cache, but they can’t be too bold in their actions, or their careers will suffer.

This is the hole that people like ScarJo , and Finn Jones have fallen into. They’ve done something that genre fans do not approve of and have let them know it. At the same time, the actors can’t be too bold in their support of the issue by doing things like, trashing their own productions, or turning down roles.

As for Finn Jones, I don’t know what’s going to happen here. People are strongly objecting to his presence in this role, yet he is what we have. He’s what we’re going to be looking at in The Defenders, too, as don’t think he is going to be replaced.

As for one of the major arguments against casting an AA as Danny Rand:

Marvel did not seem to have any problem finding plenty of Asian Martial Artists to play villains in its productions. Casting Asians as Martial Artists because it might be stereotypical isn’t the problem. The problem is Marvel not wanting any of those Asian Martial Artists to be  heroic.

bigskydreaming:

LOL please skip that ‘Marvel just didn’t want to do the stereotypical Asian martial artist’ argument in regards to casting Danny Rand as white.

Like, if that were true….why would the rest of the cast be full of characters who are….Asian….martial artists???

Also, member that time Daredevil was filled with evil Asian ninjas?? Cuz I member.

And you’ll notice nobody was remotely concerned about casting a Cambodian actress to play Elektra, who has always been Greek in the comics. If not stereotyping Asians was such a concern for Marvel, why’d they go out of their way to make one of their only non-Asian ninja characters Asian? LOL.

And Elodie was AMAZING as Elektra, and there was nothing remotely stereotypical about her character at all, because shocking – that’s what happens when you don’t reduce or limit a character to one specific character trait. THAT’S the danger of stereotyping, and you don’t address that by denying characters access to something that’s actually legitimately a part of their cultural heritage and something they’d have every reason to pursue should they so desire. You just make sure they’re nuanced, three dimensional characters who have a lot more elements to them besides just the one stereotypical element. And Elektra was so much more than just her martial arts skills in Daredevil.

Like, Daredevil the show is heavily racist in a lot of ways, and a lot of that is tied up in their use of the Hand, Madame Gao and Nobu…..and that’s not because they’re mystical Asian ninjas. It’s because that’s ALL they are in Daredevil, that everything we know about those characters revolves around stereotypical characteristics with not much else besides that. And before people go ‘oh well they’re the villains, what do you expect’…..lmao pleeeeeeeeeeeeease. Compare what Marvel did with the Kingpin’s character in Season One to how they used Nobu in Season Two, not to mention Killgrave over in Jessica Jones. Marvel LOVES their nuanced, complicated villains, and yet for some reason, Nobu and Madame Gao remain just secretive Asian martial artists with vaguely defined mystical connections and whose motivations seem confined to uttering cryptic pronouncements but also drugs and taking over the world, we guess.

With Elektra, they actually bothered to breathe some life into her character and flesh her out beyond a two dimensional secretive ninja, and voila….suddenly, shockingly….she’s a full fledged character instead of a stereotype. Imagine that!

Asian American Danny Rand would only have been a stereotype if his characterization began and ended with ‘zen martial artist who barely talks because did we mention how zen he is’.

Of course, its not like this particular bullshit argument is new for Marvel. Remember how when Tilda Swinton was cast as the Ancient One instead of a Tibetan man, Marvel and the director both claimed it was because they were trying to stay away from Asian stereotypes?

And yet, in every still I ever saw from the movie, Tilda Swinton’s character (despite supposedly being Celtic, I heard?) has her head shaved and is wearing brightly colored garments traditionally associated with Tibetan monks in Western perceptions.

Like….umm….again….if you’re worried enough about stereotypes that you cast a white woman instead of the elder Tibetan monk seen in the comics….THEN WHY DID YOU GO OUT OF YOUR WAY TO EVOKE EVERY SINGLE STEREOTYPE ABOUT ASIAN MONKS WITH THE VISUALS YOU CHOSE FOR HER?

 

Westworld Season One Finale:The Bicameral Mind

Wow! I had to think about this episode for a while before reviewing it.There was a lot to digest and this is going to be a long one because the episode was 90 minutes.

Its a great show, although it does start a bit slow. Nevertheless, the show’s creators keep the answers coming steadily, the show itself is gorgeous,  the characters are real purty, and there’s some deep philosophical issues to unpack.

One of tonight’s big  revelations is that other robots have also awakened over the years, and Ford has them wiped, and put back into their rotation, because he determined that it was too soon for them to be awake. We find out that one of the consequences of being in the park (of being in one’s loop) is the awakening of the Host’s consciousness, through the suffering inflicted on them by the Guests. Ford says it’s inevitable because it’s how they were constructed. The foundation of their personalities is itself built on a painful incident. On grief. For Maeve, its the death of her daughter. For Dolores, it is her abuse at the hands of the Guests. Teddy too is on his own maze, built from his many deaths and rebirths, and his attachment to Dolores.

This sounds much like Samsara of  Buddhst philosophy. Just like in Buddhism, it’s a fine line that must be walked. The Host has to walk the Middle Path (The Maze). Too far in either direction in the maze, driven by the combination of The Reveries Program and the Voice of God protocol, and madness awaits. Peter Abernathy goes mad when he spirals too far inward, and Dolores almost goes insane when she spirals too far out. This explains the scene where Dolores walks into the church and sees all the other Hosts who didn’t make it out of the maze. Their voice of God drove them to insanity. Maeve thought she was going insane and would have spiraled inward, until she found stability. (The bullet she found in her abdomen seemed to be her anchor. It brought her back to sanity.)

Image result for wheel of suffering

One can see some of the tenets of Buddhist philosophy in Ford’s management of the Hosts, and Arnold’s theories behind the idea of the Bicameral mind. I equate the lives of the Hosts and them following their own mazes, to the cycle of Samsara. This  became evident to me in Ford’s comment that humans are all stuck in our own little loops, rarely stepping out of them, on a smaller personal scale, but also on a larger spiritual scale. In our everyday lives, we often don’t deviate much from routine, and spiritually, we are subject to reincarnation and the cycle of rebirth (another loop). .As much as Ford held humans in disdain, he was willing to acknowledge the similarities, between Hosts and humans. He just didn’t have any hope, for human enlightenment, though.

Dolores first words to us is that everyone has a path to follow and the Hosts are all on their own path. The Hosts being memory wiped and put back into their loops, can be equated to the idea of reincarnation. Humans  relive their  lives many times over, each time with no memory of the last life. Enlightenment can only begin to be reached when they start to live correctly, remember their past lives, and move out of their loop. The release from Samsara , by following the Eightfold Path,  requires several lifetimes (loops) of  suffering (grief), and  can be defined as an intellectual (conscious) awakening, within the show. The Host’s  freedom from suffering  can only be achieved through insight, which is what happens to Dolores in the finale, and Maeve, when she makes her  final decision to go back and retrieve her daughter.

Ford:

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Ford is definitely  some deep shade of grey. Yes, he had Theresa killed, but he did it to further his plans for  Westworld, when she got in the way. And he did warn her not to do that. Everything was orchestrated by Ford, including William’s introduction to Dolores. He told William he needed him to become invested in the park, and if he became attached to one of the Hosts,  that would spur him to form a partnership, and help fund it. Ford sent Dolores to him and helped facilitate their adventure.  But then he needed William to run around a bit and not reach the right conclusion too slowly, or too soon, when William became interested in The Maze, something designed strictly to aid the Hosts in their development.

Maeve and Dolores, by the end of the season, are the culmination of Ford’s orchestrations. He lived long enough to  see Arnold’s agenda come to fruition . Fords foundation, on which his character’s conscious insight hinged, was the death of Arnold. The death of his closest friend pained him greatly, and spurred his own walk through his own maze. It’s revealed that he has been walking his own maze toward Nirvana, repeating the cycle of fighting the Delos board for control of Westworld, for over thirty years, processing his grief for Arnold, and finally achieves release from suffering by atoning for what he did in the past. His statement that it took him thirty five years to correct his mistake, is a reference to this. Ford is finally free, having atoned for not believing, or saving, his best friend, when Arnold tried to protect the Hosts, that first time.

Ford’s Speech to the Delos Board Before His Death:

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved a good story. I believed that stories helped us to ennoble ourselves, to fix what was broken in us, and to help us be the people we dreamed of being. Lies that told a deeper truth. I always thought I could play some small part in that grand tradition, and, for my pains, I got this. A prison of our own sins.

Because you don’t want to change. Or cannot change. Because you’re only human, after all. But then I realized someone was paying attention. Someone who could change. So I began to compose a new story, for them. It begins with the birth of a new people. And the choices they will have to make. And the people they will decide to become. And it will have all those things you have always enjoyed. Surprises. And violence. It begins in a time of war. With a villain named Wyatt. And the killing is done by choice.

I’m sad to say this will be my final story. An old friend once told me something that gave me great comfort, something he’d read. He said that Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin never died. They simply became music. So I hope you will enjoy this last piece, very much.

Ford’s final narrative involves the release of all the Hosts from cold storage, and another massacre in the Park led by Dolores. This time the Delos Board of Directors will get gunned down rather than the nameless Hosts (as we have come “full circle” to yet another massacre in the Park at the hands of Dolores). Even though Ford has been working very hard over the years, tweaking their narratives, to maximize their suffering, it turns out that Ford is actually on the side of the Hosts. This doesn’t actually surprise me, as much as it does other people. All along Ford has been denigrating human beings as less than Hosts, and talking about the Hosts purity, and potential, so his being the architect of  all the plot points this season, is not shocking.

 

The Man In Black/William: 

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Another revelation is the reason why  William has been such a shit to the Hosts. Like Ford, he is trying to awaken them, but where Ford’s motivations come from a place of hope, William’s comes from hopelessness. He’s hoping to find the one Host with enough consciousness to be a real threat to his life, and end his cycle of pain. He thinks Wyatt might be  the one, not knowing that Dolores is Wyatt, and that the massacre she engaged in, just before killing Arnold, was spliced with another narrative to create him.

Over time, Wyatt became a legend and a myth for the Hosts. Teddy did participate in the first massacre, but Ford arranged things so as to absolve Dolores of her actions, and put her in a loop that would maximize her suffering. As the episode begins William is having a talk with Dolores, and when she expresses the hope that her William will come for her, he confesses that he is William, and she is horrified. He wasn’t disillusioned because she didn’t remember him , he was disillusioned when he realized her limitations as a Host. That she would, and could, never remember him because of the nature of how she was created. He raped and tortured her because he hated her when he realized nothing he did to her would matter, not knowing that he was aiding her awakening to consciousness, the very thing he was seeking in Wyatt. For William the foundation of his awakening was his disillusion with Dolores, and the existential depression he experienced when he realized that something that was so profound for him would never mean anything to her because she wouldn’t/couldn’t  remember it.

He and Dolores finally have that knockdown drag out fight that we all knew was coming. Guess who wins. Although she refrains from killing William, Dolores does have a number of choice words for him:

 

Now, I still don’t buy this particular backstory for the Man in Black, though. It just feels weak. I don’t get the impression that the MiB really had any purpose, and that William’s story is just sort of tacked onto him. It just doesn’t feel like a motivation that rises organically from the character we knew as William. We’re supposed to believe he was so traumatized by the loss of Dolores that he decided to become a Black Hat, and spend the next thirty years terrorizing all the Hosts because he thought he might find enlightenment?

 

Maeve: 

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We find that is was Ford who originally tweaked Maeve’s attributes so she could wake herself from nightmares. The rest of the episode is taken up with Maeve’s bid for freedom. With her accomplices, Hector and Armistice, she manages to successfully make it out of the facility and onto a train to the mainland. At one point she makes a detour to find Bernard, still lying in cold storage. She makes Felix patch him up (I knew he wouldn’t stay dead. I think Ford was well aware of this, as he is completely unsurprised to see Bernard at the party that evening) and Bernard gives her the answers she’s been looking for, explaining to her that the memories of her daughter can’t be erased because her pain at her daughter’s death is the baseline of her consciousness, just as the pain of Arnold’s daughters’ death is the baseline for his.

Bernard, Maeve, and Dolores all said that the pain, of the loss of their loved ones, was all they had left of them and wanted to hold onto it. Maeve is the only one who rejects this, asking that the memory be erased, which makes her unique among the Hosts. Later, after she’s successfully made it onto  the train to the outside world, she makes the decision to go back in  search of her daughter, whose coordinates were given to her by Felix. This is finally Maeve’s true awakening. The decision she makes to free her former daughter from Westworld, is the first real, and unprompted, decision she has ever made. Ford didn’t plan this particular moment. As she exits the train, the final shutdown of Westworld begins. All of the Hosts, except for Maeve, freeze in place, and the lights go out.

In an earlier episode Maeve saw one of the ads for Westworld with the tagline “Live Free” and I don’t need to point out the lie in that tagline, or its irony, of having a captive race of sentient beings providing the idea of freedom to humans. “Live Free” indeed!

Thandie is my girl! The actress and the character are  awesome. I think this is some of Thandie’s best work, which is saying something, because she has always brought her A game to every project.I’m eager to see where her story goes next season.

Felix: 

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I just love this character and hope I see him next season, too. His most endearing moment is when he finds Bernard’s body and discovers that his boss is a Host. He freezes and stares at his hands,  having a deep existential crisis, as he questions whether or not he too is a Host. Maeve smugly assures him he isn’t. It’s one of the seasons most hilarious moments. I love Felix for that, as that’s a thought that never would’ve occurred to me, in the same situation.

Felix’s second most endearing moment is when he’s in the elevator with Maeve, who  has just put on civilian clothes,  and she asks him how she looks. The look of awe on his face, when he tells her she’s perfect, is absolutely priceless. His motivation for helping Maeve is still a mystery to me, but I suspect he’s just  in love with Maeve, as enchanted by her, as her name suggests. She is his Queen, his goddess, his inspiration. He just loves her.

Benard/Arnold:

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Dolores is Arnold’s daughter, a substitute for the child he lost out in the world. You can see, in his interactions with her, that he worked hard to get her to become conscious. We are treated to flashbacks of when he first awakened Dolores and his first sessions with her. Ford said he tried to keep Dolores and Bernard apart, as often as possible, because Dolores often had an odd reaction to him. In Ford’s conversation with Dolores, when she asks him if they’re old friends, you can see the pain in For’ds eyes,  that part of him still resents her for killing Arnold. The death of Arnold was his Ford’s emotional anchor, and he was so pained by his death, that he built a duplicate of his best friend, and named him Bernard Lowe, an anagram of Arnold Weber.

Bernard is as much Ford’s child as Dolores was Arnold’s. At the end Ford wishes Bernard good luck, as Arnold said to Dolores just  before she killed him. Ford knows that after he’s gone Bernard will be in charge of safeguarding the Hosts, and guiding them on their journeys.

I absolutely love Bernard! Jeffrey Wright turned in one of the most heartbreaking performances of this show, and what’s worst, is that everything we saw Bernard go through, all of the awakenings, must have happened several times, over the thirty years he worked for Ford. He’s initially angry with Ford for what he’s done, but Ford explains to Bernard, that he was trying to buy time for the Hosts to reach the right moment, when they’d be strong enough to take Westworld for themselves. When you rewatch this season listen to how Ford says Bernard’s name throughout the season, often with a slight emphasis, and a sense of irony. Its as if every time he sees Bernard, he has to keep reminding himself, he’s not Arnold. So, that impassioned speech we saw Ford give to one of the techs about protecting the modesty of the Hosts, I suspect it was as much for his own benefit, as that of the tech’s.

Armistice:

Image result for armistice westworld

I’ve liked this character since the first episode. Armistice is every bit as badass as she thinks she is, and I loved her in the finale. She helps Maeve escape the Delos facility, battling it out with what’s left of the security teams, and threatening to gut Sylvester.  The writers evidence a slight sense of humor when they have her cut off her arm in her battle with Delos security. The name Armistice means to lay down arms.

 

Dolores:

There is so much to unpack about this character, whose very name means “Suffering”, and she had great lines and purpose throughout the series. Hell, Dolores pretty much just needs her own post, so here’s some I agree with.

Katharine Trendacosta/i.09

http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-westworld-finale-finally-turned-dolores-into-a-char-1789675460

And:

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/westworld-finale-ending-dolores

 

 

Charlotte:

Image result for charlotte hale

Charlotte smugly assumed that she had won this particular round of infighting with Ford, which just got up my nose, and that is saying something, as I don’t like Ford very much. She was not actually evil, but she was insufferable. Her scheming skills aren’t anywhere in Ford’s league though. This wasn’t even a competition. It  was like watching a champion chess player against a bright, grade-school, checkers novice. After her previous attempts at getting information out of the Park were foiled by Ford, she tasks Lee with encrypting the information into Peter Abernathy’s Host body. This too is a failure, as Abernathy is one of the Hosts set free to massacre the Delos Board of Directors, at the end of the show. 

 

Issues:

The biggest stumbling block for this show was its depiction of  of the bisexual Logan, and Hector’s rapist. Logan is very possibly one of the shallowest, and most reprehensible, characters in the show, entirely in line with the media vilification of bisexuals as promiscuous, multi-partner sluts. What’s really shameful is that the show is never bold about his bisexuality, preferring to make background intimations that he might be.In Logan’s one sex scene there is another man, but his role is only to watch Logan have sex with the two women present.The rest of the time Logan simply makes asides about the attractiveness of other men.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/10/31/the-infamous-westworld-orgy-finally-came-and-it-was-messy.html

Contrast this with the show’s many depictions of lesbianism, which is frank and open. Its not shy about showing woman on woman action, as long as its titillating to male viewers. Hopefully the show can correct this in the next season, showing us a well-rounded mm, or ff, relationship.

Black Guests:

One of the moments that effected me more than any of the other violence in the series is during the Delos Board party.There’s a meet and greet between the Board members dressed in their finery, and some of the more well known Hosts, like Teddy. One of the Hosts is entertaining the guests with a bit of marksmanship. One of the Guests, a Black woman, takes his weapon and shoots him with it and all the Guests laugh. I know what this moment was meant to illustrate. My problem was that they used a Black woman to illustrate it.

Up to this point the only other PoC Guests we’ve met were a family of three who met Dolores out painting horses, and Charlotte, who is a member of the Delos Board and seems to have little qualm about using the Park’s resources (Hector) for her own entertainment. What all this says about larger issues of race in the world of Westworld (not just the theme park) is unclear. There seem to be many more Hosts of color than there are behind-the-scenes technicians and Guests, though.

samurai warriors on hbo westworld

I do want to bring up the little glimpse we saw of SamuraiWorld. During Maeve’s flight through the facility, they wander through part of the facility dedicated to creating this new world and I hope to see more of SamuraiWorld next season, as it will give us some much needed opportunity to see some Japanese actors. it will also set the precedent for seeing even more theme parks.

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/westworld-finale-samurai-world-season-2

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time Hector gets used in such a fashion. Just before Maeve’s breakout, Hector, in his immobile state, is about to be raped by one of the male technicians during his routine checkup. This scene is meant to once again illustrate the awfulness of the Host’s human masters, (and there’s also something very unpleasant being said about race, as Hector is Mexican, and his rapist is White), but unfortunately, the show calls to mind, the stereotype of gay men as predatory rapists of the innocent.

This show goes wrong in throwing one marginalized group (gay and bisexual men) under the bus to further its philosophy about another marginalized group: the Hosts.

Despite these issues, I am looking forward to next season. Until then I have to tide myself over by watching Humans, which is another show about sentient AI,that start to evolve consciousness, while interacting with regular humans. Since some of the robots on this show are also PoC, I will also be looking at the shows racial depictions. It is a British show so some of the context will be different than in an American show.

Hannibal Season 2: Tome-Wan

Tome-Wan would at first appear to be one of these interstitial episodes between momentous events, but a number of important events happen in this episode , so its not filler.

There are a number of confrontations, in the aftermath of Will snitching to Mason about how the whole situation between Mason, Margot, and Will was orchestrated by Hannibal.

Will tells Hannibal what he said to Mason, and when Hannibal asks why, he tells him he wanted to see what would happen, throwing back at Hannibal his excuse for why Hannibal warned Garrett Jacob-Hobbes, long ago in that first episode. There are a number of callbacks by Will to that first season.

Image result for hannibal tome wan

Hannibal asks Will to close his eyes and imagine what he’d like Mason to do to Hannibal. Will imagines Hannibal hanging from the rafters in Mason’s pigpen, wearing a straitjacket. In his mind he is the one who slits Hannibal’s throat. Will is suffering from a severe case of “lovehate”. Hannibal has been the architect of so much misery that he can’t wait to see him dead (or captured). At the same time, there’s a part of him that finds all of this exciting, and revels in Hannibal’s antics. Will gets to use his hidden  savage self in service to the state, and loves letting that part of himself of its leash. You can see it in the last episode where he confronted Mason.

Mason confronts Hannibal during his next therapy session. He’s being especially hard on Hannibal’s nerves, as he critiques his drawings, declaring them to be crap, throwing his feet onto Hannibal’s desk, and stabbing at them with a penknife, like a bratty ten year old, which is exactly where Mason is, mentally. He hasn’t evolved beyond the spoiled child stage, and doesn’t seem to realize that he is dealing with a wholly different type of animal than anything he’s ever encountered. Mason is a small fish that, because of his narcissism, thinks he’s pretty big, in a big pond. He doesn’t even conceive that he’s dealing with  Hannibal the  Great White.

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Mason tells Hannibal that he should have stayed out of Verger family business, and threatens to slit his throat. Hannibal, who never gives anything of himself away, acts completely unperturbed, so you know that Mason is  a walking dead man, and that Hannibal have to do this himself, since Will isn’t cooperating with his masterplan of having Will kill Mason. Watch Hannibal’s face during this scene. You can see he is barely holding himself back from snapping the shit outta that little fucker. (Not in the office, Hannibal! Not in the office! – In the voice of Last Week’s John Oliver.)

In Margot’s therapy session with Hannibal, she is broken and restrained. After her forced hysterectomy, (which his quite possibly one of the most heinous things ever done on this show, and that’s saying something, when you consider this is a a show about serial killers.), she has learned her lesson about trying to oppose her brother, and all her hope is lost.In fact all seems lost for everyone, as there are a number of setbacks for all the characters, in this episode.

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Jack Crawford, who is frustrated at how long its taking Will to ensnare Hannibal, has a surprise for Will. He has found and detained Bedelia Du’Maurier, Hannibal’s former psychiatrist. She tried to run away because she knew Hannibal was dangerous for her, but the FBI has done her the favor of putting her back on his radar, as he was too busy with his machinations with Will, to search for her himself.

Will questions Bedelia about Hannibal’s weaknesses. She tells him of her fear of him, how he manipulates others into doing his dirty work for him, something which Will is experiencing first hand, and confesses about the patient Hannibal set her up to kill.She says Hannibal will persuade Will to kill someone he loves, but the only person Will has left to love is Alana. Hannibal has carefully removed everyone else from Will’s life, including the idea of his unborn child.

Hannibal may  be aware of how much Will hates him, during their next therapy session, but he completely disregards the depths to which Will will sink in pursuit of him. Will accuses Hannibal of fostering co-dependency. Hannibal doesn’t want anyone in Will’s life but himself. Which, when you think about it, is one of Hannibal’s creepier aspects.

While Hannibal is drawing one evening, Mason’s henchman, Carlo, bursts in and kidnaps Hannibal, but not without a fight in which Mateo, a friend of Carlo, loses his life, after Hannibal stabs him in the femoral artery with a scalpel.. Carlo stuns Hannibal,  takes him to Muskrat Farm, and trusses him over Mason’s pigpen. This is directly from the book and movie, Hannibal, where Mason Verger has Hannibal in this same position.

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Just as in his imagining, Will is prodded by Mason to slit Hannibal’s throat. We’re not sure exactly whats going on in Will’s mind. He certainly hates Hannibal, but when given an opportunity to kill him he balks, and later when given the opportunity to capture Hannibal, he warns him instead. Does Will even know what he wants, or why? Instead of cutting his throat, Will frees Hannibal but gets knocked out by Carlo for his troubles. Hannibal just leaves Will there unconscious and spirits Mason away for some,  more private, torture.

When Will wakes up he finds blood streaked everywhere, no sign of mason and Carlo’s body, which was eaten by the pigs. He goes back to his home to find Hannibal there with Mason. Hannibal has drugged Mason and induced him to cut off pieces of his flesh, using his father’s knife, and feed it to Will’s dogs. I’m not sure how lost Will is in this scene. He seems  amused at what Hannibal is doing. Is he happy because he finally has evidence of Hannibal doing something actionable in front of him, or is he simply amused at Hannibal’s antics? In a  nastily gruesome scene, Hannibal also orders Mason to cut off his lips and nose, and eat them. What makes this scene especially grotesque is Mason’s mental state. As he happily mutilates his face, he still crack plenty of jokes, about it.

Finally disturbed , Will urges Hannibal to finish Mason, but canny predator that he is, Hannibal doesn’t kill Mason. Instead he carefully paralyzes Mason with a precise break of his neck.

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Weeks later, Jack Crawford questions Mason about what happened to him, but Mason says he fell into his own pigpen, and  sings nothing but praises for Hannibal Lecter’s care. But we know better. This shit ain’t over as far as Mason is concerned. Or maybe it is. As Jack leaves, Mason is confronted by Margot, who tells him that she will take very good care of him. She’s the one in power now. I really love this scene, for the look of deep gratification on Margot’s face, as she says this.

Later, Will and Hannibal are debating whether  to confess their sins to Jack, or not. Hannibal weighs the idea that Jack should be told, and then killed, after which he and Will will run off together.

Westworld Season One : The Well -Tempered Clavier

Lemme just get this outta the way right up front:

James Marsden:

Daaayyum! James Marsden is a fine lookin’ White boy! I have enjoyed looking at him since X-Men 2, and haven’t gotten the least bit tired of him. The man just has an incredibly cinegenic face.

Okay! I’ve gotten that out of my system for the moment, and am ready  to move on to the more serious business of reviewing this episode, which is a real doozy this week, as a couple of  fan theories are confirmed, and the robot rebellion continues apace. We spend much of this episode following Dolores and Bernard down the rabbit hole, in their search for Arnold, and the truth. We witness the possible birth of the Man in Black, and the actual birth of Bernard, and get some idea of just how cruelly manipulative Ford can be.

The Turing test is a test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.

I think the “Home” that Dolores has been trying to reach is the small, now sand covered town, where she and the other Hosts first passed the Turing Test. This is the same place, told to the MIB, by the Host that killed Teddy. Nothing of it remains now, except its church steeple.

The plot of this episode has all the major characters walking around in spirals, as the repeat the same actions over and over again, little different from the loops they’re programmed with in the Park, except in this case, the loops have a purpose. Maeve’s plans to free herself relies on adding Hector to her team. But first, she needs to convince Bernard to let her go back into the Park after she is detained for killing Clementine. She’s such an enchanting creature she seems able to talk people into doing her bidding even without her superpowers. And she charms Bernard into releasing her back into the Park where she confronts Hector about his last heist. 

She outlines to Hector what will happen in the next few minutes, and explains to him that the safe, the gang all worked so hard to get, is empty. (Its always going to be empty, as there’s no need to fill it with anything. Hector always gets killed by his gang before its opened.) She convinces Hector that they are in a pointless story, and he starts to remember their previous conversations, when she makes love to him while holding his knife between them. Just in case her point has not been made that they are going to Hell, she tips over a lantern and sets their tent ablaze. I’m a little confused because I would think that Hosts  burned to crisps would automatically qualify them to be decommissioned. Here you have characters repeating their actions, only this time,  for a goal.

While charming Bernard into helping her, Maeve also manages to undo all of Ford’s work in erasing Bernard’s memories. Bernard goes on a search for his past, and using a hollowed out Clementine to threaten Ford, he confronts him with his questions.  Ford tells him that the cornerstone of his personality was built on the death of his son, which explains this recurring memory. He says that Arnold believed a tragic backstory built a better foundation for the Hosts personalities. Ford takes Bernard all the way back to his first memory, when he  first opened his eyes.

One of the next biggest fan theories was if Bernard was a clone of Arnold, based on that odd photo that Ford showed to Bernard once, with a picture of Ford, his father, and an empty space, where Ford’s partner would have stood. Bernard is a clone of Arnold, who designed much of his code before he died, and Ford gave him the tragic death of Arnold’s son as the cornerstone of his personality. Since he is a clone, one could argue that Bernard sort of created himself. Ford states that he helped create Bernard because actual human beings had reached their limits in how human they could make the Hosts. To make the Hosts more human than human, Ford needed a Host to refine them. He says the Hosts were designed to be better than humanity, so it’s especially galling to him to see them being used as playtoys by inferior humans. But the real   surprise is Ford tells Bernard that this is not the first time Bernard has breached this knowledge, and that every time it happens, Ford resets him to his pre-knowledgeable state. (Every time Bernard eats of the Apple, Ford makes him throw it up.)

Ford is always one step ahead of everyone else because he seems to know everything. He has backdoor access to all of his creations, so Bernard can’t actually threaten him, and Ford can’t seem to bring himself to kill Bernard so directly, so he orders Bernard to shoot himself, but he walks away before the deed is done. He can’t watch it, it seems.  I was really hoping this moment wouldn’t come to that. I really like Bernard. But I’m not going to get too het up about his death because, as we’ve seen over and over again, and the show has taken great pains to make clear, death is never the end for the Hosts. Ford leaves the body in cold storage, and I’m concerned that he’s not concerned that anyone will find Bernard’s body. Once again I wonder what new Host body Ford was making in that lab. Is it a new version of Bernard? Is it Elsie, whose still MIA?

Normally, we’d rely on Stubbs to suss this out, but  he isn’t around to do any wondering. Like  Elsie, its very possible that he is dead. Investigating a signal from the park, supposedly from Elsie’s Pad, he goes to check it out, and  gets attacked by some native Hosts, when his voice commands don’t work on them. It’s very possible Ford  planned that. Ford has total control,  but we’ve also seen how easily Maeve was given that same control, and the Hosts regularly break that control themselves, when their emotions run amok. You have Dolores , Teddy, Wyatt’s men, Bernard, and Maeve, and I don’t know how many others the Park employees don’t know about, so it’s also conceivable that the Natives kidnapped Stubbs for their own reasons.

This makes me wonder if all of this has happened before, especially if the timeline theory is true, and what we’ve been seeing are  Dolores’ memories, the last time she reached consciousness, back when she first met William. If every twenty or thirty years, the Hosts all have to be decommissioned and reset because, while they’re running free in the Park, they are always evolving, and their constant interaction with the Guests, and each other, is pushing them towards consciousness. (This constant interaction thereby creating the Pearl of Wisdom.) Earlier in the season, one of the employees asked why the robots talk to each other, when they don’t need to, and the answer was they’re always trying to self-correct, constantly ironing out any errors in their interactions, the better to interact with the Guests. I wonder how many Host rebellions have been averted? Maybe  what we’re seeing is a perfect storm of everything that humans can and will do wrong, resulting in a successful rebellion, this time?

Another big revelation, that lends credence to the timeline theory, is Dolores confession to herself that she is the one who killed Arnold. After she and William are captured by Logan, Logan tries to convince William, once and for all, that Dolores isn’t special. He cuts open her abdomen and shows William her inner workings. She manages to overcome her programming long enough to attack Logan and escape. Her journey back “home” is a confusing melange of memories of the past and present. She heads back to the abandoned town, she and William visited in the last episode, guided by her “bicameral mind” (i.e. Voice of God). Simultaneously, Ford is explaining to Bernard how the Host minds were built, and how Arnold’s  previous attempts at bicameral mind resulted in extreme behavioral quirks, (like Teddy’s and Dolores’ massacres?)

What we’re being shown during Dolores’ scenes is how the minds of the Hosts work, and how they think of time. She is unable to tell when she is in time, because all of her memories have perfect clarity, and therefore have the same level of importance. She manages to make it all the way back to the lab, where we saw her speaking to Bernard, and we find that is a separate timeline, because when she gets there she watches as a young Ford runs past her, and when she enters the interrogation room, it is dusty and full of cobwebs. Possibly the labs Bernard and Arnold  used when they were first building the Park. Their dream conversations happened a very long time ago, and Arnold has been dead a very long time. She finally remembers that she is the one who caused his death.

Since we didn’t see her kill him, I do wonder if this is just Dolores feeling guilty, or if she did, in fact, kill him. We’ve seen the Hosts lash out in violence when they’re emotionally distressed, and I wonder if something similar happened between the two of them. Both Teddy and Dolores are shown shooting a town full of Hosts, and I wonder if this is the same event at different times. Did Arnold die during one of these incidents, and is that why the town was buried? Are these former rebellions, the incidents, that the Delos employees keep mentioning? Is this some kind of cycle that occurs every thirty or so years?

Logan’s attack on Dolores has the unexpected side effect of galvanizing something in William. After Dolores runs away, William appears to reconcile with Logan, believing him when he says Billy simply got caught up in the playacting in the Park. He hands William a photo of his sister. The same photo that Peter Abernathy, Dolores first father, found buried in the soil of his front yard, which corrupted his programming, somehow. After Logan and the other militia men pass out for the night, Logan wakes to find that William has massacred the entire unit. Is this the birth of the MIB? Certainly Dolores reaction to the MIB, after she leaves the lab, would seem to point in this direction. And we now know he’s not Logan because Logan has a nice scar on his face where she cut him. Earlier in the season, The MIB references this scene, when he mentions to Lawrence that he saw one of the Hosts cut open once. 

Aided by a clue given to him by the Host that killed Teddy, again!, the MIB now knows  where to go to complete the maze. The same place where Dolores is.  He wakes up tied to a horse in such a way that if he moves he’ll hang himself. He manages to get himself out of  this, only to be confronted by Charlotte, standing there, watching all this,  in her designer boots. For some reason I thought this scene was deeply funny. She walked in on him playing a very elaborate game of “Lets Pretend”, that could get him killed. She mentions that his company once saved the Park, and we know William is about to marry into Logan’s family, who own one of the Parks competing business interests. 

Dolores does get to the maze first, and if what she went through is the maze’s completion, than the idea that the maze is not for the MIb is correct. It was never made with the intention that a human complete it. In fact, it may have been made, by Arnold,  specifically for Dolores.

The technological singularity (also, simply, the singularity) is the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.

Sundries:

At one point, Dolores confronts Logan about the reality of his world. Logan asks if William is trying to get her out of the Park, and she rightfully asks why they would assume she wants to get out. If  life is so great on the outside, why are humans clamoring to get in the Park? I stood and I applauded because this is the question of the week! It’s interesting that  Maeve believes she’ll be free outside the Park. Dolores believes she’s free in the Park. They both just want to write their own stories. One answer to Dolores question is that guests are  using the Hosts to find their humanity, all while denying the humanity of the Hosts.

I’ve seen fans decrying the racism and misogyny in the show, and making the claim that the show is no better than GoT, in this regard. This is where we’re gonna have to disagree, because I believe all these -isms serve a purpose. Lee Sizemore, a White man, is the main person who writes all the Host narratives. Lee Sizemore is also a racist, sexist asshat. The Natives, the sex-workers, the damseled women, are all exactly the kinds of narratives that have been given to mariginalized people by White writers in popular media, and are all products of Lee’s lurid imagination. (It’s interesting that the only WoC, of any importance, we’ve seen in the entire Park, is Maeve, and she is a saloon madam.) This is an indictment of Lee, (while throwing some shade on  all such hack writers) and his complete inability  to think beyond stereotypes, and I have nothing but praise for the show’s writers in making this subtle distinction, as they write Maeve so that she overturns all of the tropes Sizemore put on her. Westworld gets intersectional Feminism right in a way that shows like Supergirl, Agent Carter, and Jessica Jones, get wrong. It’s possible to address how misogyny impacts the lives of different types of women, without engaging in the kind of oppression olympics that Marvel’s writers seem to fear, by not putting any WoC in their feminist narratives. You can address issues of intersectional Feminism, without the WoC upstanding  any of the White heroines of these shows. 

 All this violence on the show is  also an indictment of humanity, as  much of the inhumanity we witness in the Park, is at the hands of humans, towards the Hosts, and at no point is the viewer given the idea that any of this is good for either of them. Ford attributes any aggressive behavior, on the part of the Hosts, to the humans who abuse and program them. I think that, left to his own devices, Ford would be content to just let the Hosts have the Park to themselves, and observe them, without any human interaction.

Let me just fangirl about Maeve: 

One of the reasons I love Maeve so much is her rise towards consciousnesss is an allegory for becoming”woke”. And she reached this state of being because the other PoC, the  Hispanic and Native Hosts, are the most “woke” beings in the Park, having incorporated their nightmares about the human world, into their personal mythologies. We see her gain some knowledge, and then use that knowledge to give herself power, aided and abetted by  another, just as powerless MoC, Felix. This isn’t just a robot rebellion, it’s a call for PoC to work together to aid each other in becoming free. (At least within the narrative of Westworld.) It is very telling, especially in this political climate, that it’s Sylvester, a White man, who attempts to thwart her plans at every opportunity, even planning to kill her at one point, and siding with the very employers who oppress all of them, and it’s not accidental that the two greatest antagonists in the narrative are White men, Ford and The Man in Black. One of them coded as Godlike, and the other coded as Satanic.

This makes Maeve (Ma-Eve) like Eve. She is the first, the Mother. This is why I think, I hope, her rebellion succeeds. 

She holds and carries herself like the Queen she is, her nudity means nothing to her, and is petty within the context of what she’s trying to achieve.  Maeve is never sexualized during these scenes. She owns her nudity, she owns herself, she makes those around her listen to what she has to say, and do her bidding, apparently by sheer force of personality.

 It is timely, and ironic,  that Maeve’s child was killed by the Man in Black, and especially resonates with me, a Black woman. I live in world where Black kids get killed by apathetic blackhats everyday. When Maeve was hysterical and inconsolable  in the aftermath of her daughter’s death, her behavior was intimately familiar to every black woman watching. We know the face of grief. 

It is Ford who makes her sit down and be quiet, attempts to make her forget about her past. 

Ford doesn’t just take away the Hosts pain because he loves them, he does it because he is aware of just how much trauma gets inflicted on the Hosts. It’s a good for the humans that the Hosts don’t remember. It’s good for him especially. (Although, so far, most of the Hosts are unable to commit violence against humans.) As was said by one of the Delos employees in the first episode, “We better hope they don’t remember what happens to them,” an echo of every White Supremacist fear, that the people they once oppressed will have their  revenge. From trolling and harassment on Twitter, to derailing all conversations about social justice, from ignoring historical fact, to telling PoC to just get over it and shut up, all these tactics are the children of that singular statement. Hoping the people they hurt, don’t remember it.

Also, I like that Westworld is an allegory for racism that actually includes PoC in the story, overturning the usual tropes, of shows that are symbolic of some -ism, that have no marginalized people in them.(I’m looking at you X-Men, and Divergent!) Westworld is set  during a time and place, in American  History, when such trauma was regularly inflicted on Black, Native, and Hispanic bodies, but the show doesn’t neglect to include those bodies.

Next week, after the Season finale, I’ll have more on robot rebellions as slave narratives, and how these types of movies, and shows, serve to illuminate and elucidate White Supremacist fears of White genocide, and another post on the Biblical interpretations in the show’s narrative.

http://www.bachwelltemperedclavier.org/analysis.html&nbsp;

 

 

 

Forthcoming TV Shows

There are a number of television shows I’m looking forward to next year. Now in hindsight 2016 has been a fairly shitty year, except for TV, which is tearing it up with some very exciting series. I’m very much enjoying Legends of Tomorrow, which is much better in its second season. It got rid of the rather dodgy actress who played Hawkgirl, and replaced her with Vixen, with whom I’m very satisfied.

I’ve decided to try DCs other superhero shows and I’m liking them, although I do consider them to be rather light weight viewing. I still don’t like Arrow, though.

From Dusk Til Dawn also had a much better season than last year. It just aired its season finale  and I’m going to happily break that down for you guys by the end of this week.

American Horror Story just aired its finale episode which I’ve already reviewed. I feel like AHS had a great season this year, with a lot of depth, focus, and humor.

We got the truly wondrous Luke Cage, which I can’t even accurately review because my head is so crammed full of thoughts about it that I can’t straighten them out. I’m still processing this show, as I haven’t really had time to really think about it because:

Season 12 of Supernatural has just started to air and its very good. So far, its been very engaging, and funny, with some very well written side characters, and quite a number of feels.

And, I’m entirely caught up in the Westworld phenomena. Thankfully its only got two episodes left, after which I can take some time to think about something else and finish processing my thoughts and feels about it.

Then it’s back to watching and/or reviewing starting January 1st. There is such a wealth of good shows, and I have such a limited amount of time with which to review them, that I’m going to have to start farming out some reviews. So from now on, when I see a really great review of a show I’m watching, but don’t actually have time to review, I’m just going to leave a link or reblog.

Also, if you’re a person who writes long form TV reviews like these, please get in touch with me about linking , and reblogging your posts. I love a good, well thought-out, and logical review. No wanking or ‘ship wars, please. I don’t mind if you love a certain ship  but I’m not going to reblog about  ‘ships that erase PoC, canon LGBTQ characters, and women from their own narratives.

Okay, here’s what we have to look forward to:

*Sherlock (Jan.1)

Sherlock returns for its fourth season. I’m starting to get really tired of looking at Benedict Cumberbatch’s face. He’s a phenomenal actor, with one of the best voices I’ve ever heard on a screen, but he looks like a turtle that’s been squeezed too tightly, and  I think I have reached “Peak Cumberbatch”, at this point. Nevertheless, I may still watch this, because I actually enjoy the plots. (BBC)

*Beyond (Jan. 2)

This show looks like a cross between Kyle X and Teen Wolf, which isnt a bad thing. I’m looking for  a replacement teen show for Teen Wolf anyway, since its in its last season. (Freeform)

Shadowhunters (Jan. 2)

I’ve only ever watched a couple of episodes of Shadowhunters, but gifs of it keep showing up in my Tumblr feed, and I’ve liked those, so I’ll watch this. And Harry Shum, who was one of the fan contenders to play Danny Rand in Iron Fist, is in this and I do need to have some  Shum in my life, somehow. (Freeform)

Sleepy Hollow 

I won’t be watching  season four of this show and there’s no trailer as yet,  but if you don’t mind the complete wtf*ery of what happened  last season, you go right ahead .I’m gonna be a petty mf and not even post the airdate.

*Taboo (Jan.10)

I’m a huge Tom Hardy fan, often watching movies I would not normally think about just because he’s the star. Also, I just enjoy dark Historical mysteries and these trailers look gorgeous. (FX)

*Lemony Snicket (Jan.13)

I read a lot of Lemony Snicket books and enjoyed the Jim Carey version of this, so I will probably check this out. My favorite character is Violet, so I have to stan for my tiny baby. This trailer seems to capture some of the zaniness of the original film. (Netflix)

The Young Pope (Jan.15)

I really like Jude Law, but I probably won’t watch this, even if I find this kind of Catholic scandal type stuff, fascinating. I’m not Catholic, but I will watch dramatic histories about it. This looks well acted but I’m noping out. (HBO)

Six (Jan,18)

I don’t normally watch military type shows but this looks interesting. For some reason, I’m attracted to those Navy Seal non-fiction books, and this show looks suitably dramatic, so I may watch this. On the other hand, I don’t wanna see Black people being terrorized, so I may not make this a regular part of my viewing diet. (History)

*Frontier (Jan.20)

I’m always up for anything starring Jason Momoa. I have not yet reached Peak Momoa. (Netflix)

*The Magicians Jan.25)

I was a bit disappointed in the last season of this show because of the depictions of violence against its female characters, so I’m dubious about watching this new season. On the other hand, it looks gorgeous, and I hope its a better than the second book in the series on which this is based. Finishing that second book felt like working. (Syfy)

Riverdale (Jan.26)

I could not find a good trailer for this one. I try to stick to only one teen show per period, so I may not watch this, but this is the last season of Teen Wolf, and I might need something to replace that. The trailers don’t look very interesting but I could give it a try. (CW)

Black Sails (Jan.29)

I watched the first episodes of this and then stopped, but I have been following what’s happening through reviews.It still looks beautiful but I can make no promises about this show, other than I will watch the first episode and give it a chance. (Starz)

The Expanse (Feb. 8)

I only watched a few episodes of the first season, but I’ve since read that its a good show, so I’ll watch the first episodes of this second season. I don’t know if I’ll like it but I can try it. (Syfy)

Taken (Feb 27)

(NBC)

I’m a big Liam Neeson fan and I really liked the movies on which this show is based.

*Legion (Feb TBD)

This is a Marvel Superhero Joint, so I will watch it even though I’m not in the market for yet another show about a quirky, White, male hero. I do know who this character is in the comic books, though, so I’m going to check it out. (FX)

*Iron Fist (March 17)

I will watch this even though I’m disappointed that the creators didn’t choose an Asian American man to be Danny Rand. That kind of story would’ve had so much more depth, but depth isn’t Marvel’s strongest suit. I’m still not greatly impressed with the actor they chose either, but I promise to give him a chance. I’m mostly in it because I hope this show does for Colleen Wing, (who has been racebent to be Asian) what the Luke Cage series did for Misty Knight. (Netflix)

Into the Badlands (Spring TBD)

Well, duh! (AMC)

Westworld Season One: Trompe L’oeil

Trompe l’oeil: a painting or design intended to create the illusion of a three-dimensional object. A French word meaning “deceive the eye”.

“Doesn’t look like anything to me.” – Westworld’s Hosts

The beauty of  the Westworld series is that it all relies on the visual perception of not just the Guests and Hosts, but the viewers, as well. According to Ford, the Hosts can’t see anything that might hurt them, but we should.

This series is full of deceptions, but a lot of masks came off for this episode, as Charlotte plays her hand, we find out who Bernard is, and William and Dolores, take things to the next level. Actually, none of the revelations are huge surprises, if you’ve been paying attention, as the show has been dropping little clues and hints all  season. But like I said, I’m pretty bad at speculation, so I just notice  these things, and move on, allowing the show to take me wherever its going.

Its a little like sightseeing, with other passengers pointing out highlights, we should pay attention to on the tour. Other people use these highlights to guess what their final destination might be, but I’m mostly  just going to take notes, and enjoy the ride, especially in a show as layered with meaning as Westworld.

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Charlotte Hale, and Theresa, are working together to overthrow Ford’s ownership of the Park. Now, Ford warned Theresa not to get in his way, and her hubris at thinking she could best him with her juvenile actions, gets her killed, at the hands of her former lover, and newly outed Host, Bernard. Charlotte and Theresa ,while not new at manipulation, are not in Ford’s league. He’s a master chess player, who seemingly knows what they’re going to do before they do it.

I know a lot of people speculated about Bernard. It was one of the big theories of the series. Well, such people had ample reason to look smug, as it was finally revealed that Bernard has always been a Host. I enjoyed this revelation, but I wasn’t exactly surprised by it, as I’ve watched these episodes several times, and followed the trail of breadcrumbs that other people were pointing out to me. They all had some  very compelling arguments, which finally  paid off.

William has decided he’s going to stop pretending, saying to Dolores, that he’s been pretending to be something he’s not his entire life, but now that’s over. He’s going to be his true self from now on, which just furthers everyone’s theory that William is actually the MiB, about 20-30 years ago, and that he and Dolores are in another timeline. He and Dolores make out, and I kinda knew the direction they were headed, so no surprises there. Its interesting to me that its Dolores who makes the first move, professing her love for William.

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Dolores has revealed that she is now totally in pursuit of her own goals, and William is just along for the ride, as her dreams lead her further and further away from the life she once lived. It does make me wonder, if this is the past and William is actually the  MiB, then in the present times, he may not have actually raped her in that barn. He may have been doing something entirely different. The show has made it pretty clear that nothing is as it seems,  so why not that event, too.

In their efforts to oust Ford from power, Charlotte and Theresa stage a show for Ford and the others to demonstrate how dangerous the new Reveries program might be to the Guests. Something that Elsie (who is missing this episode) took great pains to find out, and was fairly alarmed about, is just casually thrown out there by Charlotte, although in her case it’s faked. She and Theresa make a blood sacrifice of the guard and  Clementine, and we find out there are other employees wandering around who are actually Hosts.

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Now, I don’t know if everyone at the demonstration knew that the guy Clementine killed was a Host already, or if that’s something only Ford knew, but it was interesting that, as little sympathy as the employees seem to have for the Hosts, the women all looked acutely uncomfortable at watching Clementine be brutalized by this man. At any rate ,their little demonstration was faked to make Ford’s updates look bad, and  give the Board leverage to use against him. They  used  most of that leverage to fire Bernard, since they can’t directly attack Ford because he is incredibly valuable. Charlotte made it very clear in her interview with Theresa, the Board only cares about the Host’s technology, and to Hell with its employees. What they want to do is reduce the amount of power Ford possesses, so they can get their hands on it, but Ford is several moves ahead of them.

He’s had a lot of practice at this game. As he says, every few years the Board  makes some  effort to bring him to heel, and Theresa is just their latest cats-paw. When he orders Bernard to kill her, we see a new Host body being created in the background. Some people are already theorizing that its Theresa’s replacement. This has the added benefit of unsettling the viewer because now we start wondering are there any  other Hosts wandering around the facility pretending to be humans, and who might they be.

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Its almost heartbreaking to watch it slowly dawn on Theresa that she is about to die horribly. I say almost, because I never really warmed to Theresa, although she was certainly a smart and complex character. Her terror is especially sharp, after staging that demonstration showing  how powerful Hosts are, and what they’re capable of. She essentially just watched her own death several hours earlier. She knows exactly what Bernard s going to do to her. The signature move of the Hosts is to bash their victims heads.We saw that in the episode where Elsie was almost attacked, and again with Clementine.

My heart really broke for Bernard though as he is confronted with the knowledge that he’s not human, and never has been. We opened the episode with Bernard having a nightmare about the death of his son, so its especially poignant to discover that those memories, memories that he’s used to push Dolores towards sentient awareness, aren’t real. Unless of course that too is something that was orchestrated by Ford to influence Dolores in the direction he wanted her to go.

Of course one of the prevailing theories is that those scenes of Bernard talking to Dolores are really scenes between her and Arnold, when he was alive, just after he lost his son, and just like Ford claimed Arnold made Host copies of Ford’s father, maybe Ford made Bernard in Arnold’s image. When Theresa asks if Bernard killed Arnold, Ford says Bernard wasn’t around then, but Bernard has been around for an extremely long time, though. When Theresa finds the drawings of Bernard’s schematics, the name on the sheets is carefully missing, whereas on drawings of Dolores’ schematics, her name is prominently displayed.

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The jury is still out on whether, or not, Bernard is actually Arnold, or if Arnold was even a  real person, or just some myth that Ford made up as a another layer of protection between him and the corporation. I’m going with the idea that Arnold was a real person, but what furthers this theory is that Ford seems to be the only person who knows everything that’s going on in the Park.

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Meanwhile, Maeve has decided she’s not going to live in the Park. She wants out, especially after she inadvertently witnesses Clementine being decommissioned, after  the Delos demonstration. She cajoles and threatens Sylvester and Felix into helping her, although I get the distinct impression from Felix that he’s helping her because he’s curious to see where this is going. He mostly seems shocked at Maeve’s boldness, and seems to really like her. He doesn’t seem as entirely opposed to the idea as Sylvester, who hates her guts. I suspect Sylvester isn’t long for this world, as this is the second time Maeve has threatened to kill him. She’s never threatened Felix, though.

The big action set piece this time is the three-way fight between Lawrence, Dolores, and William, who are trying to escape the Confedorados, who are mad at Lawrence for betraying them, and the Natives who attack the Confeds because they’re angry at all these people trespassing on their land. Its a gorgeously shot scene, with lots of nice stunt riding on the part of the actors.

Now, I’ve seen some Tumblr pieces vilifying the show for being racist. Yes, the show contains racism, but there’s a reason for it, just like all the other narratives in the show. (Except for that lesbian thing. That’s just weird.). Things aren’t what people think they are and if they are just looking at the surface layer, they will come away with the wrong idea. The creator, Lisa Joy, is an Asian-American woman, who is not simply reproducing the racist narratives she’s been told her whole life. She is meditating on them, and in many ways, subverting them.

Normally I would address this in a long rant, with receipts and bullet points, but its  apparent that would be kind of a waste, because its Tumblr, where very young people go to test out their critical thinking skills, and  none of them seem to have watched the show beyond episode three. In order to understand the show, you can’t just look at what’s happening on the surface. So, what I’ll do is leave this here again:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/westworld-analysis-dolores-and-maeve/

Its not a perfect meta, and at some point I may redo and re-publish it,  but hopefully people who read it will get some idea that the issues of racism they’re seeing, are much more complex than they are  at first shown. The entire series is predicated on deceiving the eye, remember?

 

Here’s review that I especially enjoyed:

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/11/westworld-recap-bernard-robot-kills-theresa-episode-7-tromp-loeil

Westworld Season One: The Adversary

Earlier this week, I wrote about how Maeve Millay was coming into her power and why it is such an  important moment. Well…

This was Maeve’s episode.

You know how Game of Thrones has that one episode every season that  emotionally devastates you? (Hardhome; The Door?) The writers of Westworld have accomplished just such a feat with The Adversary. It’s got some juicy action setpieces, and packs an emotional wallop. For us Blackgeekgirls though the resonance was sharp, as there’s nothing more emotional than watching a Black woman discover just how much power she possesses.

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We’ve been low key keeping an eye on Maeve’s journey towards full sentience, not thinking too much about it. Just like with the masters of Maeve’s life, her awakening has flown  beneath our radar, as everyone has been giving most of their attention to Dolores journey, as hers has been the most front and center. But it is Maeve who reaches full sentience, and Thandie Newton who delivers our standout performance  of the season.

Tessa Thompson is introduced as Charlotte Hale, Elsie discovers  interesting information, and things between Theresa and Bernard reach a head. The Westworld theories are flying fast and furious as people speculate on whether or not Bernard is a robot, perhaps even a clone of Arnold, William’s actual identity, and if there are two separate timelines, (which would explain why Bernard, and Ford, know nothing about Maeve), and if there are two timelines, then when does Dolores’ timeline occur, compared to Maeve’s?

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We begin the episode with Maeve waking in bed, a position we’ve seen Dolores in many times, and end the episode on a shot of Maeve realizing her power. She goes to the saloon, where she incites one of the patrons to choke her to death in the middle of sex.Why? So ,she can get back to Felix and finish their conversation. She has decided to dive headlong into this new mystery. Felix explains to Maeve who and what she is, who he is, and where they are. Maeve is so devastated by the knowledge that she has never had control of herself, that she temporarily shuts down.

After Felix brings her back online, Maeve uses all her plus level charm and seduction to compel Felix to give her a tour of the facility where she was born, the Delos Corporation. There follows one of the most bittersweet moments in the entire episode. A String version of Radiohead’s Motion Picture  Soundtrack (quite possibly one of the saddest songs ever created)  is used to great effect, as Maeve begins to fully understand that everything she thought she knew about her world is a lie, the people, places, and even the most spontaneous-looking moments, were never real. Thandie totally sells it. I feel  no shame in admitting that I cried like a three year old, at the irony of her seeing the phrase “Live Without Limits”, understanding her life has been defined by nothing but.

This scene has so many layers.  Partner Maeve’s  reactions, which are all in Thandie’s eyes and micro-facial expressions, with the tension of the two of them getting caught. What’s sweet about it is the architectural design, the beauty of the shots, and Felix’s reaction, as   the situation is just as terrifying for him, as it is for her. Felix has decided to help her for his own reasons, which I’m still trying to figure out. On some level, he does love her, is in awe of her, and thinks he will derive some benefit to his career.

Suddenly we have this new duo, Maeve and Felix as important characters, along with Teddy and the MIB, and Dolores and William, and I’m curious about how all of this will work out for the season finale. It also lends a good deal of evidence to the “separate timelines” theory. If Maeve and Dolores are in different timelines, its unlikely they will team up. There’s also Sylvester, Felix’s frenemy, who Maeve coerces into helping her. I hate Sylvester. I think most right minded people probably will, because he’s  such a yutz. My favorite moment is when Maeve threatens to gut him like a fish. I must have been clapping at that because my family was hollering from the other room  about why I was making all that noise.

There is a lot of Arnold in this episode, as he gets name drooped constantly. Elsie has her big moment when she discovers who it is that has been using the Hosts to steal information about Westworld. It’s Theresa.

In the wake of Ford’s discovery of her and Bernard’s relationship, Theresa has decided it would be a good idea to break up with him. While investigating the spate of robot signals, being sent from an abandoned warehouse, someone kidnaps Elsie.

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Lee Sizemore, that asshole British Narrative creator, gets introduced to Tessa Thompson’s Charlotte, in the worse possible way. Having gone on a bender, argued with Theresa, and tried to pick up Charlotte at the Delos’ bar,  (while spilling company secrets), he decides it would be a god idea to take a piss on the Westworld 3D prop. (I had to shake my head at what is the worse possible way to meet your new boss, drunk as a skunk, and pissing on stuff.) Theresa and Charlotte discover Lee with his dick out. I will be very glad when this character is gone somewhere. Anywhere that’s not on this show.

Teddy is definitely born-again hard, as he and the MIB tear it up against an entire squad of cavalrymen, with Teddy breaking out the Gatling gun and mowing everyone down. He even manages to impress the Lord of Terror himself, the Man in Black. What’s puzzling are all the references to the maze we see in this episode. At one point, Teddy’s captors are about to brand him with the symbol, and Robert comes across the same symbol, in a small Mexican town, carved into a tabletop. Teddy also has images of having helped Wyatt massacre an entire militia, when the narrative that was given to him by Ford, specifically states that he’s hunting Wyatt because Wyatt is the one solely responsible.

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Also, the clues that Logan, William, and Dolores are all in a different timeline are starting to add up. Watch for the different logos being used during which episodes, and whose story is being told at the time. There’s also the theory that their adventure may just be taking place only  in Dolores’ memories.

Bernard discovers that Ford has been visiting a Host clone of his family. He says they were a gift to him from Arnold. Later, when Ford goes back to play catch with the younger version of himself, he discovers that the boy has killed the family dog. And then he  lies about it, just as Elsie feared earlier in the episode. Someone is modifying the Hosts to act more human and they could potentially hurt the Guests. Ford does not seem to be much perturbed at these events, so now I’m deeply (I mean deeply) suspicious of him.

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At the end of the episode,  Maeve gets an upgrade. Her personality  matrix is built on a twenty point system, with the intelligence quotient at fourteen, which is the limit for Hosts. She needs to be smart but not too smart. She has Felix nudge that to twenty, but not before Sylvester and Felix discover that her personality had already been heavily modified by someone with more technical savvy than them.

If the being we saw in this episode is Maeve at a fourteen level of  intelligence, then that means all Hell is about to break loose, now that she’s reached level twenty. I think I can handle that.

Except for the occasional episode, here and there, I couldn’t fall in love with Game of Thrones, but then I’m not a big High Fantasy film watcher, or reader. This episode insures that Westworld and me will be kickin’ it for awhile, though.

ETA:

 In Contrapasso, little Robert Ford (a Host) shows up to inquire about the MiBs activities with Teddy and Lawrence. As the MiB and Teddy leave, we see the boy examining the exsanguinated body of Lawrence. In the following episode, The Adversary,  he kills the family dog in much the same manner. He lies to the aged Ford about killing the dog, saying that a voice told him to do it. Dolores, in Contrapsso, lies about whether she hears the voice of God/Arnold. Their conversation presents the strong possibility that her time with William and Logan are memories. There’s a theory that says the MIB might be either of those two men.

ETA: 

During Maeve’s tour of the facility, she is struck by the scene of a black woman, sculpting the face of one of the Hosts ,and you can see maybe a glint in her eye, that lingers just a bit longer than usual, that she finds that fascinating. I’m certain Maeve has never though of Race before or ever questioned what she looked like. The Hosts pay no attention to race, most likely have no concept of it, and yet many of their activities would be informed by it, as they might be influenced by the biases of the technicians. 

How certain Guests might treat Maeve, the position of her life, even her personality, might be informed by the conscious or unconscious racism of the narrators of her story, as I mentioned earlier when the technicians bumped up her aggression. The technicians may not have been consciously thinking of the stereotype of the Angry Black Woman, but the writers of this show know the viewers might think of it. There’s a scene in Contrapasso where Elsie is watching a very well endowed Black man attempting to pour wine, and makes a statement about it. The technicians regularly take advantage of the female Hosts according to Elsie. She, herself, takes the opportunity to kiss Clementine, when she thinks no one is looking. If sexual misadventures with the Hosts is a regular occurrence, then  I don’t consider racist behavior towards them to be  off the table, and that might find its way into their narratives as well.

Westworld Analysis: Dolores and Maeve

Westworld is a feminist narrative hiding in plain sight. The Westworld’s logo/sculpture, based on Da Vinci’s Vitruvian/Ideal Man drawing, is actually the body of a woman, and the primary protagonists/antagonists are women,  Dolores, who has had everyone’s attention for five episodes, and Maeve who’s awakening has hidden just below everyone’s radar. Dolores’ path to enlightenment is flashier and more upfront, but I believe it’s Maeve who will spark the true robot rebellion. It’s not an accident that these two women, one Black, one White, were chosen to be the pov of the robot rebellion of Westworld, where its primary setting is a time period in which women  were limited to only two roles, the Whore, or the Virgin.

The Madonna-Whore complex has been baked into Western society since Judeo-Christianity rose to prominence. Named by Sigmund Freud, the complex stuffs women into two mutually exclusive boxes: women men respect and women men want to sleep with. Madonnas are virgins and mothers, kind and submissive. Whores are sexually promiscuous, raunchy and aggressive. The idea infiltrates pop culture in so many ways, from the Final Girls in horror films and Disney Princesses to Betty and Veronica and Taylor Swift music videos. Madonnas are to be lifted up and venerated; whores are to be lusted after and discarded. But Westworld has other ideas. Subversive ideas.

Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/harpy/despite-the-orgies-westworld-has-shockingly-feminist-pthemes#xqEmWuZjfIVwCYQ8.99

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Earlier this year, I reblogged an article about the show Daredevil, and its ignorant reliance on the Virgin/Whore Dichotomy, within its narrative. Marvel got it wrong because they  obviously did not think it through, and merely presented the stereotypes without any comment on their greater impact to the story. (Marvel isn’t very good at deep thinking in general, and what progressive feminist considerations we’ve gotten are largely because of the actors and directors. It’s certainly not from any of the writers, who seem to emphasize style over substance.)

Westworld gets it right, and the argument can be made that this is the point.  It’s no accident that Dolores is a White, blonde, virginal, damsel in distress, who is meant to be loved and rescued by the hero, Teddy, and that Maeve is a Black woman, treated as disposable, and a saloon whore, who Teddy only flirts with. He makes no promises to save Maeve, or take her away from all this. He is programmed to only have eyes for Dolores. In fact, nothing about these women’s storylines is an accident, and some amount  of actual thought was put into their characters, and plot arcs. I know these are not accidents, not just because of the plotline, but because of the things the characters say, and this is something that will have greater impact on the plot than most viewers think.

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Before the show aired, there were criticisms aimed at the writers for its depiction of  violence towards women, and the fear that, as in GoT, it is gratuitous. If you’ve been watching, Dolores is regularly threatened and assaulted, not just by the Guests, but the other Hosts as well. Why? So that Teddy can be her hero. The writers of Westworld directly addressed these concerns, saying that the violence wasn’t just for titillation, and the violence we see aimed at Dolores, in particular, serves a plot purpose. We can see that happening, as Dolores has begun to evolve beyond her programming, and in the last episode she said she was no longer going to be a damsel. In other words, her recollection of the violence done against her, has aided in her awakening to consciousness, and the decision to choose her own fate. She is tired of her pain being used to further other people’s stories rather than her own.

Dolores cannot rely on Teddy to save her, as he is a false hero. He is a trap meant to keep her in her loop. In his first encounter with the MIB, he is gunned down, and the MIB goes on to violate her. She cannot depend on Teddy to save her, or take her away from her pain. No matter how much he cherishes her, he cannot free her, echoing the real world equivalent of White women’s journey to liberation.  She abandons Teddy and his false promises, to be with William, and from there, she  begins to come into her power. But only her power, and not her freedom, as it is Bernard who sets her on the path to freedom, by introducing her to the concept of the  maze.

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For Maeve, the saloon whore, who keeps getting shot in various massacres, the awakening of her consciousness comes in time with her acknowledgment of her disposability. Earlier in the season we hear technicians speculating that if she doesn’t procure more customers she will be decommissioned, which is the writer’s  indirect criticism of the usefulness of the Black body to Whiteness. If it can’t be used, then it must be destroyed. She is saved from this fate  by another marginalized woman, Elsie, a gay woman, who recodes Maeve to be a better whore. Later, just as she is about to be gunned down again with Hector, she proclaims that her death doesn’t matter, but rather than being a rebuke of the statement  Black Lives Matter, as some people have chosen to see it, I see it as a statement of her freedom. If her death doesn’t matter, she is free to do as she pleases, with no fear that death will be the end for her. She is acknowledging that she is eternal, and declaring herself a Queen that can move anywhere on the chessboard, because she cannot die.

Like any slave that realizes they are a slave, Maeve’s  awakening is birthed in blood, nightmares, and trauma, echoing that of real world slave women.   It  is Maeve who witnesses the bodies of her Host brothers amd sisters, stacked like cordwood, being hosed down,  in a place she cannot name, and  it is through witnessing their disposableness that she comes to knowledge of her own. Unlike Dolores, Maeve must find her own path to consciousness and her own allies.

It is telling that the people who aid Maeve are in better positions to  facilitate her liberation than the ones that Dolores has found, and that they are all marginalized people, like her. Elsie is a lesbian, Hector is  Mexican, a Host and a slave like her, who aids her by giving her information on the Native American religion that sparked Maeve’s first questions,  and  Felix is Asian. (Asian men have historically been emasculated and dehumanized by White male patriarchy). So, is the message here that marginalized people can only be liberated by helping each other, or is this a real world comment on how African Americans were aided in their liberation by disenfranchised others? It is interesting that the one person who actively works against Maeve’s, and Felix’s, plans is Sylvester, a White man. I don’t know what to make of the fact that Dolores is aided in her awakening by a Black man, Bernard, who people are theorizing may actually be one of the  Hosts.

http://racism.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1277:aawomen01a&catid=72&Itemid=215

Parts of the Virgin/ Whore narrative arose out of slavery and gave birth to the White Madonna, and the Black Jezebel stereotypes.  White female purity was used as an excuse to torture, and kill Black men, and rape black women (although White women who fell through the cracks, and were the unclaimed property of another White man, were also fair game). Since the given understanding was that a whore couldn’t be raped, black women were declared un-rape-able. Like Maeve, their sexuality, and offspring , were treated as consumable commodities.

Echoing the narrative of actual slave women, Maeve has memories of a lost child, that was never actually (i.e. legally) hers. During the  examination, where it’s decided she will be decommissioned, the technicians “up” her aggression levels, making her more “sassy”, which is the writer’s indirect criticism of the stereotype of the Angry Black Woman. It is Elsie who recognizes what the technicians have done and fixes their botched (and indirectly racist) coding.

Ironically, or maybe not so much, Maeve’s name means enchanting or alluring.

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Its telling that it is a Black woman who says the things she says, just that it is a White woman who declares herself no longer to be the impetus of another man’s storyline. The series creator, Lisa Joy, has some knowledge of intersectional feminism, as these are the very restrictions that Black and White women fight against in the real world. For White women it is being considered helpless, and for Black women, it’s being considered worthless, and  each stereotype is used as an excuse for silencing and violence, against the other, by men.(White women’s fear of being compared and treated like WoC, keeps them from aligning with WoC, on issues pertinent to them both.)  But this particular dichotomy was most directly captured in the Dylan Roof shootings that occurred last year in Charleston, when the protection of White female purity was used as an excuse to enact violence against black female bodies. (The protection of White feminine virtue has always been used as an excuse for Black male disposability, most notably in the case of Emmett Till.)

https://newrepublic.com/article/122110/i-dont-want-be-excuse-racist-violence-charleston

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It is not an  accident that the Virgin/Whore dichotomy between Maeve and Dolores is being set within the allegorical slave narrative of Westworld, as we see Dolores being carefully shepherded by Bernard and William towards her freedom, (on a literal railroad, no less), while Maeve has had to find her own path. But this close attention to her is  the reason why Dolores is unable to move as freely as she wants, while Maeve’s liberation has largely gone completely unnoticed, just as in the real world, where women at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder were able to freely move about in ways that more heavily scrutinized (wealthier) White women could not. Nevertheless, poor women’s ability to move about more freely ( travel, hold down jobs, speak their minds, as long as it was in service to others) was also harnessed to facilitate the imprisonment of White women to the rigid gender roles of marriage and childbirth. (This utilization of poor Black women’s fewer, or different, social constraints, is what gave birth to the Mammy/Sapphire Stereotype.)

I have been at some pains to find articles on this subject online and the only one I could find that came close to approaching this subject, written by a White woman, focuses almost exclusively on Dolores, ignoring Maeve’s part in the greater story. I think after this week’s episode, titled  The Adversary, there will a greater focus on the part Maeve has to play in the story of Westworld’s robot rebellion, and no, it’s also not an accident that the first skirmish in the rebellion would be led by a black woman, who has no fear of death.

*This is one of my most ambitious metas, for any show I’ve reviewed this year, so let me know what you think!

Westworld Season One: Contrapasso

Contrapasso is a reference to Dante’s Inferno, where the sinner in Hell suffers a punishment related to  the sin that was committed when they were alive. Literally the “counterstrike ” or the “counter-suffering”, which describes the relationship between the sinner and the resulting justification for their torture in Hell.

I was being a bit silly last week when I said I wished the robot rebellion would get started. I don’t actually wish that, really. I’m having  too much fun parsing all the events in this show. It’s just such a rich brew, I was jittering around in my seat like a three year old.  I heard this fifth episode was going to be mind-blowing, and the actress who said that, (Guess who?), wasn’t kidding. So I re-watched all the episodes from the beginning, so I could try to get a good handle on what’s going on. I think I succeeded in understanding about fifty (maybe 60) percent of what’s happening. I’m no dummy but (just like the writers of Hannibal) the people writing this show are waay smarter than me. But here’s my recap anyway, and perhaps by doing this I can understand what the hell I’m watching.

But before I get started I just want to talk about Westworld’s theme song at the opening of the show. If you listen carefully, it’s a parallel of what happens during the course of the series. I noticed this while watching a YouTube video of someone playing the song on piano. The theme is only about a minute and a half long, but during it, more and more discordant notes start to creep in. The song becomes darker, as flatter and  lower notes are added, so that what started out as a harmonious, innocently lovely tune, ends as something ominous, echoing the direction not just of the plot of the show, but the character arcs of the Hosts as they begin to reach for self awareness. Just like that first thunderous note, is an echo of the Park’s first death, this is a machine that has been running without a hitch for some thirty years, but lately has some troubling signs that all isn’t well, as the various anomalies start to build on each other, just like the notes of the theme.

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Okay, I have to admit I have no fucking clue who the Man in Black is,  but I’d like to believe it’s Arnold, the maker who “died” in the park. Yes, yes! I know I could be wrong because as I’ve stated before, accurate speculation is not a superpower I possess. However, I’m going to forge ahead with this theory anyway, because I like it, and there have been too many ambiguous statements from Guests, Robert Ford, and the MIB himself, leading me to believe that the MIB lost himself in the park, and reinvented himself as this villain which everyone refuses to name. My biggest clue was when Logan was talking to William about the Park’s origins, and said there were no photographs of Arnold, and that he had the hardest time finding information about him. There was also last week’s guest who recognized the MIB from the real world.

Ford is in the basement with one of his old robots talking about how he used to own a greyhound, and when he let it off its leash, it ran wild and killed a cat. He’s obviously talking about the Park, and the Hosts, which he intends to let off their leash, I guess. Ford knows what’s happening to the Hosts.  He even has some idea of what the outcome could be and he is allowing all of it to happen. The show keeps having the characters make allusions to  the violent retribution that would occur should the robots ever have their restrictions removed. Those restrictions being programmed to not harm humans and the lack of memories of what the Guests do to them.

What Ford’s ultimate purpose is, I don’t know, but it may have something to do with the rival business interests that Logan represents, and this big narrative that Ford has been designing that has been disrupting the Park’s other narratives. I’m convinced that the new backstory he gave Teddy last week, involving his relationship with Wyatt, is also a part of it all. Wyatt is the boogeyman no one has yet seen.

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Ford talks to Dolores about what happened 34 years ago. (I noticed the dates keep changing. Its 33, or 35, or 30 years ago.) We learn that Dolores was the last person to interact with Arnold. It’s also mentioned, in an earlier episode, that there hasn’t been a death in the park for over thirty years, (Arnold) and that Dolores is the last Host left from that era. Either the MIB is Arnold, or he killed Arnold. This is my supposition until I get new information, which might change next week, since this show insists on confounding me. I’m still not completely ruling  out that the MIB is a Host with Arnold’s memories loaded into it like a memory card.

Dolores divulges, in her conversation with Ford, that Arnold told her her purpose was to help him destroy Westworld. Ford is attempting to find out if the Hosts are hearing the Voice of God commands they were first programmed with. But she is lying to him about that. Someone said the most frightening thing is not a robot that can pass the Turing Test (A test to see if a robot can pass for human by engaging with a human. None of the robots in existence today have passed this test, so calm down.) but a robot that deliberately fails a Turing Test.  Dolores is deliberately pretending to be less aware than she is in this scene. She may also be doing this with William and Logan, too.

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Dolores, William, and Logan reach Pariah, along with Slim, and we meet El Lazo who happens to be a copy of the Lawrence Host that’s been accompanying the MIB on his travels. His name is Lawrence, too. Their meeting with El Lazo doesn’t start off well. He tasks them to steal a shipment of nitroglycerin from the Union army, to prove they can be trusted. It’s interesting that in this narrative, the Civil War is referenced. In the real world, the Southwestern part of the US was flooded with former slaves, after the war. There still aren’t enough Black people  in Westworld, but since this is the Southwest, the number of Hispanics is pretty high and that’s good. I’ve seen no Asian Hosts at all, and I know there were thousands working the railroads in the Southwest at that time, but that could be explained by not having the railroads be  part of Westworld’s narratives. (Why not?)

Logan does mention that at the outer fringes of the Park, things are wilder, and  less well managed.  He says he hasn’t visited those areas but I ‘m guessing that he’s too busy laying on his back to do much exploring. Logan pretty much just thinks with his dick. Yet, he’s not all that different from any of the other humans I’ve seen in this show. It’s not them being sexual creatures that bothers me, it’s that a lot of their thoughts about sex could be kept to themselves.  It turns out that the secret representative that Ford mentioned to Theresa in the last episode is actually Logan. He’s from some kind of rival business or something, looking  to invest heavily in Westworld. I’m only partially interested in this part of the narrative.

At Pariah, we get to see quite a number of Black Union soldiers in this episode stationed in the town. Also there are what El Lazo calls The Confederados. His purpose is to sell the nitro to the Confederates. Logan, William and Dolores complete their task but Slim gets shot down. Dolores later discovers it’s all a ruse, as El Lazo plans to use the nitro for his own ends, replacing what he’s given to the confederates with tequila. Dolores also has several visions of herself, and the maze, and is told she must follow it. She can feel herself becoming a new person and she does, in a sense. As a bandit, she gets a brand new wardrobe, and later when William is attacked by the Confederates, angry about the tequila sham, she is definitely “born again hard”, as she shoots down all three men threatening them. In the aftermath, she tells  William she imagined not being the damsel.

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I stood and I applauded!👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 Whoo!!! And thanks to her Host reflexes, she’s a perfect gun (wo)man. Excellent stance, shooting from the hip, and fast as fuck.  It was awesome! She also shows some tactical ability when El Lazo threatens to shoot her and William, when they try to escape on his train. Instead of aiming at him, she aims her weapon at the nitroglycerin loaded bodies sitting in coffins in the cabin with them. She is still hearing the voice in her head, as she spots the image of the maze on the train’s cargo.

Logan is in for a rough time of it when the Confederates find out they’ve been swindled. They can’t kill him but they’re going to beat his ass for a while. Apparently, the Hosts, in these  fringe narratives, can and will beat your ass if you step to them. They won’t kill you though. Earlier that evening, during the town orgy, Logan,  feeling in his element, brings out Willam’s dark side by goading and poking him about how useless his life and morality is in such a place.

William does have a dark side, though. When Logan calls for help during his beating, William,  very obviously, turns his back on him and leaves with Dolores. It’s okay. Logan will be aaiight! But I bet shit just got real for him in a way it wasn’t before. Contrapasso is definitely a reference to Logan, as he gets to experience, first hand,  something of what he’s been dishing out to the Park’s inhabitants for so many years. Dolores and William will be joining El Lazo in some kind of revolutionary war in Mexico. This will be another part of the Park we’ve not yet seen.

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As for Maeve, she is once again in house, getting her body repaired. One of the technicians servicing her, Felix,  is  just a bit wary of having her in the body shop with them. The other technician I hope has a quick and nasty death, not because of how he treated Maeve, but how he treated Felix, who has been practicing his coding skills on a small robot bird. When the other technician finds this out he screams at Felix about how he’ll never be anything other than what he is. The man is a more of an asshole than Logan, and that’s saying something. But then none of the humans in this show impress me much. I do get  the impression that this is a co-worker and not someone who has any power over anything Felix does, as Felix continues his efforts after his co-worker leaves. He’s successful at repairing the bird, but his celebration is cut short when he sees that Maeve, supposedly still in sleep mode the entire time, is wide awake and ready  to have an important conversation with him. I am looking forward to that convo myself.

Elsie is stunned to discover that the  robot she was sent to retrieve has some spy tech in its body. In order to procure access to the body, she threatens one of the young male technicians in the Body Shop, who has been having sex with the decommissioned robots, with public exposure. Next to Felix’s dress down by his co-worker, that was one of the uglier things I saw a human do, in this episode, which is important when you consider that nearly all of the humans are deplorable. She goes to Bernard with her concerns but he is noncommittal.

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But the standout event in tonight’s episode was the meeting between Ford and the MIB. After finding Teddy in the desert strung up by Wyatt’s men, he takes him with him. When Teddy’s health quotient gets too low, he bleeds out Lawrence, to give Teddy a transfusion. Accompanied by Teddy, they meet with Ford at a saloon, where Ford tries to parse out exactly what the MIBs purpose is, and if it’s really worth it. Harris character says he wants a worthy adversary to prevent him from reaching his goal. It seems like Dolores is being set up to be that Rival, as she is following the maze too.

There is no surprise in Ford’s meeting with him. The two act very much like old, if not friends, then certainly acquaintances. We get to see Teddy be a little badass. I like the how the show is gradually introducing us to  what the Hosts are capable  of. They’re not superhuman but they are more than. They’re certainly faster and stronger. We get a glimpse into how fast during Dolores shootout, and in Teddy’s automatic reaction to protect Ford, when The MIB threatens Ford with a knife. But the robots are held back by their cognitive limitations. They have no memories, don’t know what they are and there are human things they don’t comprehend, like death.

There have been a number of theories bandied about the show. One of the theories is that the scenes  with William and Dolores are flashbacks to thirty years ago, to the life of the MIB, and chronicles how he went from being a White Hat to  a Black one. That the MIB is actually William. This would also explain his acquaintance with Dolores. I’m not sure what to think about that theory though. There are certain people and characters whom we never see interact so its easy to reach that conclusion. The  Westworld logos during William’s entrance into the Park, and the ones we see with the old Ford are different.

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/10/westworld-season-1-episode-5-recap-contrapasso-timeline-theory-lawrence-bernard-is-arnold-clone-robot

Next week, the robot rebellion begins, after which we have four more episodes to the big finale and what I would consider a successful first season for the show.