Vampire Song  Videos

Hi!

Here, have a musical interlude. I don’t know if this is a fine Monday, but I hope it’s a good one.

Love Song For A Vampire by Annie Lennox (from Interview w/The Vampire)

I’ve been an Annie Lennox fan since her first song, Sweet Dreams Are made of This, waaay back in the 80s. Now couple that face, and voice, with the visuals of Bram Stoker’s Dracula from 1992, which is very possibly one of the most gorgeous vampire movies ever made. It’s been a long time since I watched this video. I’d forgotten it’s as romantic, and overwrought, as the movie.

 

Bela Lugosi’s Dead by Bauhaus (from The Hunger)

This song was originally featured in the movie The Hunger from 1983. I would have been too young to see it when it was released, but I read the book when I was about 16 or 17, and it was the first time I’d ever encountered that whole lesbian vampire theme. Those of you who have not seen this movie will be very happy to know that, not only does the movie star David Bowie, but that it remains very faithful to the book, and takes its themes seriously.

 

Tear You Apart by She Wants Revenge (from American Horror  Story: Hotel)

This song heavily reminded me of Bauhaus’ Bela Lugosi song, which is probably why I like it, and the fact that it played on one of my favorite shows, American Horror Story, makes me  a little biased.

 

Cry Little Sister (from the movie The Lost Boys)

I was seventeen when I saw this movie, the year it was released. I was total trash afterwards, (cuz I was just EXTRA  back then. I’m an older, slightly less EXTRA version, now.). I think I told some guy it was the greatest vampire movie ever made. In my defense, the movie is still pretty damn good, and  I had not yet been exposed to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or Interview with the Vampire, yet.

Of course, I bought (and still have) the soundtrack.

 

Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones (from Interview w/The Vampire) 

I am aware that the original song was done by The Rolling Stones, and that the movie version was sung by Guns N Roses, but I like Motorhead a lot, and I got really excited when I found they’d done a cover of this song, which has always been a favorite of mine.

 

 Moon Over Bourbon Street by Sting

Sting specifically wrote this song about Louis after reading Interview with the Vampire. I remember at some point he was in talks to star as in the movie version of The Vampire Lestat, which is a movie that still needs to be made, even though Queen of the Damned pretended to be some version of it.

My favorite version of this song is the Club version, which I love to listen to on my commute to work.

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Weekend Reading: Random Edition

Scarlett Johansson is at it again, signing up to play a transgender man, Dante Gill, in a movie called Rub and Tug, and directed by the same guy who fucked up the Ghost in the Shell movie. Apparently, these two  have not learned one damn thing about appropriating, and/or whitewashing, the stories of marginalized people. Why is this appropriation? Here, have an essay!

https://slate.com/human-interest/2018/07/scarlett-johansson-playing-a-trans-man-makes-no-sense.html

When Hollywood insists on casting across gender, it hurts trans people by reinforcing two ideas: First, that trans men are “really” women (and vice versa); and second, that trans people are always visibly trans. The idea that trans people are pretending to be something we’re not is at the root of most of the hatred we’re subjected to, hatred that sometimes leads to violence—

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I stumbled across this little post about the toll, that White people calling the police on random Black people, has on the police dispatch workers, who take these calls. I used to wonder what the hell the dispatchers were thinking when they received such calls, and it did indeed skip my mind, that a great many of them are Black, that they receive calls like this all day ,every day, (we only know about the ones that go viral) and they have no choice but to take the calls. She talks about what an emotionally draining job it is to be Black, and taking these types of calls, where the callers make no secret about WHY they are calling.

The woman who wrote this article clearly states that the reason these people are calling the police is they are racist bigots. The yare calling becasue they want Black people to be removed from spaces they think are theirs, or punished for being in that space. She also talks about how the police are required to answer every single call. They have no choice about it, and many of the cops she knows, are every bit as sick of these non-emergency calls, as the random Black people these calls affect, because they are a complete waste of their time.

https://www.vox.com/first-person/2018/5/30/17406092/race-911-white-lady-calls-police-on-black-family-bbq-oakland

You swallow your cold oatmeal, you roll your eyes at your cubicle mate, and you enter the call for eventual dispatch even though you wish you could pretend you never got it. (If you don’t enter the call and something happens, you could lose your job for negligence.) Then you grab the next call.

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That said, it is time for ALL OF us to hold a special day for Black people, to  call the police, on any random White person, that wanders into our orbIt. Why? Because we are some petty muthafuckas, who are tired of this bullshit! Karen got on yoga pants in the office? Call ’em! Don  looking at you with pursed lips or a smirk?That’s just suspicious! Call’em! Suzan getting too loud with her mega grande, cafe latte, half mocha decaf order at the Starbucks? Call’em! cuz she can’t possibly drink that much coffee, without passing out!

https://www.theroot.com/10-wypipo-we-need-to-call-the-cops-on-1827294334

8. Lena Dunham and Post Malone

They just make me feel uncomfortable.

 

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I cannot stress enough how important it is to watch Nannette, by Hannah Gadsby, available on Netflix now. Its probably one of the finest standups I’ve ever  watched, and I’ve seen some of the great ones. She is up there with Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, when she was at the top of her career, and George Carlin. 

Hannah talks about being  transgender, and non-binary, while living in Tasmania, childhood bullying, the foundations of comedy, and the confluence of sexism and art.  It’s a really incredible piece of work, and although Gadsby  announced their retirement, from comedy, right in the middle of their special, I hope they change their mind, and continue to bring their insights to the rest of us.

https://newrepublic.com/article/149545/nanette-rewrites-history-art

 

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There’s a subset of men who hate women who call themselves MGTOWS (Men Going Their Own Way). Except there’s only one little problem. They don’t ever go their own way. What they do is sit on the internet harassing women, and spending endless hours fantasizing about the day women are going to need them.

Here’s an article about Women Going Their Own Way, and how they seem to actually be doing what their name suggests, which is going their own damn way, and not sitting around, obsessing about the men who won’t date them.

https://www.curbed.com/2018/6/20/17479740/living-alone-tips-women-advice

Solitude is often considered a privilege when we can afford to choose it and a punishment when it’s thrust upon us, and the same seems to extend to solo-living situations: Moving out to a place of one’s own for peace, quiet, and privacy is an occasion for congratulations, while living alone as a result of being abandoned or left behind is a much more pitiable affair. In other words, there’s an assertive, active image of living alone and there’s a sad, passive image of living alone.

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Just a little post about how the Greats of history became  great in the first place. They had servants to take care of their day to day shit, like washing things, and preparing food.

how the fuck did all of those renaissance dilettantes learn so much crap? Like they spoke 3 languages and were foremost in several branches of science, plus they wrote poetry, played the violin, and were master artists? And they still had time to be gay?

none of them ever did any laundry at all

The emotional and physical labor necessary to maintain the lifestyles of Renaissance and Enlightenment polymaths was shunted almost entirely to their uncredited servants, slaves, wives, and daughters.

Whenever we compare ourselves to the ‘genius men’ of the past, and wonder why we fall so short, remember this: their intellectual capacity, energy, and freedom was because there was someone else washing the damn dishes.

Source:

 

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We’ve all been there:

 

 

 

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We still feeling the effects of the Black Panther movie which was released months ago. Here Tiffany Haddish, from Girl’s Trip, spoofed one of the best fight scenes n the movie, when she hosted the BET Awards.

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You have to watch this whole video. I guarantee that you will not see where this video is going, and you will laugh your ass off. It’s a journey!

Here’s another of my favorite gang fight videos. If I had to see this then you have to see it!

 

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I am totally here for this EPIC Art feud between the artist, Stuart Semple, and his arch-nemesis, Anish Kapoor. Yes, you have to read the entire thing. This is a SAGA!

Alright sit down for some Art World Drama bcause this is what I live for.

So, sometime last year (?) science invented Vantablack, which is the darkest possible shade of black. Art world got incredibly excited. But as it needs to be very carefully made in a lab, it’s hard to get a hold of, and is extremely expensive. Enter Anish Kapoor, aka FuckFace McGee. Anish Kapoor buys the rights to Vantablack. He is the only human being on the planet that can legally use it, and he’s kind of a prick about it.

Art world is not thrilled with that.

Enter Stuart Semple.

Stuart Semple is an artist, and also makes pigments to sell in his free time. Stuart Semple is astoundingly pissed about this Vantablack nonsense, and Anish Kapoor’s dickery. Stuart Semple makes a new pigment, the brightest shade of pink ever, called Pinkest Pink, and puts it for sale on the internet. To be bought by everybody except Anish Kapoor. Literally, to purchase, you need to confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, do not associate with him, and will not sell or give the pigment to Anish Kapoor or his associates. Art world has a good laugh, everyone buys Pinkest Pink because it’s awesome, and damn it we deserve something.

Anish Kapoor however is a penis, and will not take this lying down, because HOW DARE he not have literally everything.

Anish Kapoor gets his London associates to buy him a thing of Pinkest Pink, and being such a classy human being, posts a picture to instagram of him with his middle finger covered in Pinkest Pink, captioned with “Up yours. #pink”

Everyone flips shit, because. Y’know. Fuck that guy. Especially Stuart Semple. For context here, Anish Kapoor is one of the richest artists on the planet, and has repeatedly been referred to as everything wrong with the art world, and the epitome of the art worlds elitism problem. He’s a giant douchebag. Meanwhile Stuart Semple makes pigments just to get them out there. He turns 0 profit from his now enourmously popular pigments.

Stuart Semple launches an investigation as to who the fuck leaked Pinkest Pink, and plans to strike back. He does so by releasing two new products. First is Diamond Dust, which is a glitter made from glass, so that a painting is still visible after it’s applied, but glitters like a mofo. It’s the most reflective glitter out there, and is available to everyone who isn’t Anish Kapoor. And it being made of glass, if you stick your finger in there, it’s going to hurt quite a bit, so that was Stuart Semple’s way of saying “shove your middle finger in this, asshole, see what happens”. Except without saying that, because he can get an insult across while still being fucking classy.

He also releases Black 2.0, created with the help of over a thousand artists worldwide.

Black 2.0 is the answer to Vantablack. Black 2.0 is a slightly less black black, but looks functionally the same to the human eye. It’s completely safe, smells like cherries, and costs four pounds. Vantablack is highly toxic, potentially explosive, needs to be applied in a special laboratory and sealed properly, can’t be moved across borders, can reach 300 degrees celsius if you’re not extremely careful, and costs thousands of dollars. Anish Kapoor is the only human being who can use Vantablack. He is the only human being who cannot use Black 2.0.

So I think we can guess who got the better deal.

And thus the feud ends, Kapoor defeated.

…But not quite.

Kapoor, in this entire afair, has made exactly two comments to the public. The first being his charming message about aquiring Pinkest Pink, the second being claiming to Buzzfeed that he and his small army of lawyers will be suing Semple, an extremely poor artist who cannot afford a lawyer.

No lawsuit has been made yet, fyi.

The point is, Kapoor is a prick, and doesn’t like talking to the lower classes. So one day in July 2017, he decides he needs another floor on his London studio apartment, and starts making arrangements to have it built. His neighbors are fucking pissed, because this will ruin the light of their apartments. They call to Semple to save them, or at the very least piss Kapoor off some more.

Semple answers to the call, and releases two new paints, Phaze and Shift, as always, banned to Kapoor. They change colours, Phaze with temperature, and Shift is just iridescent. Shift needs to be painted over Black 2.0 to work, and Phaze just works on its own.

So that’s been the art world for the last two years.

Basically, get fucked Anish Kapoor your bean sucks and so does your vantablack.

Stuart Semple is organising a bean-kissing event for Anish Kapoor’s birthday.

 

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We are probably not supposed to be talking about the link between the Dark Monster Below, (Bless His Forthcoming Eternal Reign), and his devoted disciples, the Bi-Sexuals! Question: Does being an LGBTQ ally make you complicit in the Dark Monster’s eventual takeover of Earth?

I’m just asking.

bistuffandthings Deactivated

“Bisexual women get energy from other women and then turn around and put that energy into working out their relationships with men”

Can anyone even explain what this means? What is this “energy”??

bistuffandthings Deactivated

Bi women perform seances to absorb the youth of past wlw which they use to appear more attractive to men

merengae Deactivated

A bi woman once absorbed all my energy and i couldnt help goku form a spirit bomb

But it’s a huge hassle, handling your Dark Bisexual Powers.  Especially when you’re new to it all.  Like, say you date five girls in a week.  That gets you at least ten (10) POWER ORBS.  You store them in your body and if you’re not careful they’re released whenever you come into contact with any man.

I’m just saying that when I was thirteen, I shook a guy’s hand and he exploded.

We should note- this only applies to bi women. Bisexual men on the other hand, drain the energy from literally everyone around them to feed to the Dark Monster Below, may his day of rising come soon.

I can neither confirm nor deny these facts, in the name of the Dark Monster Below, may His Calamity anoint us all.

I’m just gonna clarify that while bi woman don’t necessarily feed energy to the Dark Monster Below, we still Await Its Coming.

Everything you need to know about bisexuals!

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I was laughing about these photos for days. And yeah, I’d have a fucking heart attack, at the thought of my nieces and nephews playing on one of these contraptions. I mean, look at these things. They are massive constructs designed for children to play on. Parents really didn’t give a shit whether or not their kids lived or died back then, I guess. Talk about the literal “Survival of the Fittest”!

 

source: https://insh.world/history/playground-equipment-of-yesterday-that-would-give-todays-parents-cold-sweats/

 

Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1978): The Loss of Self

 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) 115 min – Horror | Sci-Fi

As a general rule, I like to avoid reviewing and analyzing  horror movies that are already heavily reviewed. My thinking is that there is little for me to add to the discussion, beyond what’s already been said. I think this year I may make an exception, and cover some of my favorites, and I can at least explain why it is I like them so much. Sometimes, in examining my tastes in visual media, I realize I have a type of film that I gravitate to, or find out what it is that is really scaring me, and such is the case with Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.

 

In order to understand why this movie works so much better on me, than the others, I have to put things into historical context. America was just coming out of a period in the 60s, where people were greatly consumed by the idea of community. People had this idea that world peace could be brought about by a lessening of the concern for the individual, and more concern for those outside of oneself, something which  could only be achieved by living communally, also known as communitarianism. But this was a failure, and as a result, there were many  failed communities, with the most infamous being The Jonestown Massacre, in the late 70s, which marked the end of that particular era of thinking.

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/jonestown-massacre-what-you-should-know-about-cult-murder-suicide-w512052

The Jonestown Massacre took place in 1978, and really was the last gasp of the Hippie/Free Love Generation, cementing the idea that communitarianism was a complete failure. By the time of the massacre, most of the hippies had given up that lifestyle, and America was fully enmeshed in the Me Decade. I was old enough to understand what happened at Jonestown, and  have the distinct memory of watching the news stories about it. A few years later, I watched, with horrified fascination, the Made-for-TV movie, while my mother explained the details of it to me, in ways than I was more able to understand, than when I was 8.

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In the Me Decade of the 70s, the focus was on the improvement of the individual self, the development of, and getting in touch with, one’s better nature. People took up esoteric hobbies like Chinese cooking, in order to better themselves, they went to see psychiatrists for fun, and they joined movements, like transcendentalism, to reach their higher mental self. Dr. Kibner, a psychiatrist played by Leonard Nimoy, is the embodiment of this idea. But you can see elements of it in Matthew Bennell’s lifestyle, as he darts around his kitchen, frying up dinner in a wok, and in the everyday life of the Bellicec’s, who run a mudbath/spa.

https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/culture-magazines/1970s-me-decade

Economic and political shifts help to explain much of the change. From the end of the World War II (1939–45) until the end of the 1960s, the American economy had enjoyed one of its longest extended periods of growth. That growth came screeching to a halt in the 1970s, and matters got worse as the decade continued. An Arab oil embargo halted shipments of oil to the United States, forcing gas prices to raise dramatically and forcing rationing. Another oil crisis in 1979 continued the economic shock…. Many Americans turned inward and focused their attention on their economic problems rather than on problems of politics or social justice.

This version of The Bodysnatchers sits squarely  in the center of the Me Decade, with its insular focus on the self, and captures all  the dread and fear  in losing that sense of individuality, which the aliens represent. This movie could not have happened in the 80s, in the same way,  as  self development had advanced into narcissistic self involvement, by that time, and was called the Me First Decade, or Decade of Greed.

Several times in the movie, characters state, that when a person is duplicated, all the person’s memories are left intact, but since the fibrous bodies of the pod people are not organic, in the same way that human bodies are, the chemical rush of emotional connections are missing. You’re still an individual, but lack any ability to care, and there is no emotional connection to anything, which  would have seemed nightmarish to people who had spent the past decade caring very, very, deeply about everything.

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I have spent a lot of time and effort in developing who I am as a person. As a young girl, I decided there was a type of woman that I wanted to be, (a combination of Grace Jones, Nyota Uhura, a dash of Ellen Ripley, and my Mom), and pointed myself towards being that person, with varying degrees of success. So developing and understanding who I was, am, and meant to be, is of huge importance to me. My formative years were during the 70s and 80s, when self discovery and enlightenment was of primary importance in popular culture. It helps that I saw this movie during that ten year time period, when I was discovering  what qualities I considered important for being my best self. I definitely think all of that  informs my reaction to this movie.

I have lost track of how many times I’ve watched this movie, and it has never NOT been scary to me. Unlike the first movie, where the emphasis was on the fear of  sameness, and conformity, the primary theme, of this story, is the loss of the  self, a loss of the uniqueness of self. A subtle, but important difference, although both movies contain elements of both themes. The 1978 version is able to  capture this better than any of the other versions, because it’s so well situated in the center of  the ME Decade, in the original city of self love, San Francisco.

The opening credits are interesting. It’s one of my favorite parts of the movie, because its one of the more unique versions, depicted on screen, of an alien invasion. And also because later in the movie, Nancy Belicec acknowledges this, by asking, “Why do we always expect metal ships?” And she’s  right. There’s no reason to assume that aliens cannot transport themselves through the vacuum of space in some other manner. In this movie, it happens in the form of spores, that travel along solar winds.

https://www.space.com/5843-legged-space-survivor-panspermia-life.html

The revelation that tiny eight-legged animals survived exposure to the harsh environment of space on an Earth-orbiting mission is further support for the idea that simple life forms could travel between planets.

This idea, called panspermia, is not new. It holds that the seeds of life are everywhere, and that microbial life on Earth could have traveled here from Mars or even from another star system, and then evolved into the plethora of species seen today.

 

 

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The Bodysnatchers is horrifying, not just because of the inevitability of the invasion, but because its horrifying to watch this happen to the funny, quirky, vibrant individuals in this movie. For as little screen time as we get to spend with Elizabeth’s boyfriend, Geoffrey, we still  get an idea of what a vibrant, and energetic, person he is. The actor, Art Hindle, imbues him with such an  amount of character, in such a short time, (he’s an asshole), that his change after his duplication, (into a completely different type of asshole), is as jarring for us, as it is for Elizabeth, and we start to identify with her through her anxiety over this change.

Elizabeth becomes increasingly suspicious that Geoffrey is not Geoffrey, as she follows him to his appointments, stalking him through the city. There’s a scene of her striding swiftly through the downtown streets of San Francisco, the swish of traffic, and the low rumble of human chatter, the only sounds, as the camera pans jerkily around, illustrating her wound up emotional state, her paranoia, and her disconnect from the rest of humanity. The first part of the movie is full of such scenes of chaotic city life, as the camera jitters and shakes. The city is energetic, and loud, and vibrant, and these scenes show the disconnection between people, that city life encourages. People don’t actually know each other in the city, the population is too transient, and no one is really close to anyone. Well, the duplication process,  simply amps this quality up to eleven. As a Pod Person, you aren’t just disconnected from others, you’re no longer connected to yourself either.

Matthew Bennell works for the city health department, and is very obviously in love with Elizabeth, although it is unclear if she is aware of his feelings, his friends are certainly aware of his feelings, (including Dr.  Kibner). Elizabeth is either unaware of what he feels, or unaware of her own feelings. One of the more tragic moments, for me is, after Kibner has been duplicated, he declares  love to be irrelevant, and Elizabeth’s immediate response is to turn to Matthew, look him in the eye, and matter of factly state that she loves him, because she knows  she’ll be incapable of saying so, after her duplication. She knows that not only will she not love him, she won’t be capable of loving him, and what’s more, she won’t even care. According to the Pod people, she will remember that she once loved him, but she won’t be capable of caring that they used to care about each other.

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Part of the horror is watching these friends fight against their inevitable duplication, as they argue, and love, and laugh. Then, as they are duplicated, one by one, we can see that the duplication process is not as peaceful as the Bodysnatchers would have their victims believe. They are alive, in that they appear to be who they once were,  but that essential part of who they were, what made their life worth living, is all gone. (I think this is where the other movies fell flat for me. I was not invested in the characters, or what happened to them.)

The aliens keep emphasizing that the process is painless, and that all the memories are left intact, and you can tell by this statement, that they lack  any ability to understand why the  humans are defiant, or why they might be afraid of the process, attributing their fear to pain, or loss of memory. The aliens are often puzzled by the emotional defiance of the humans around them, and  incapable of  understanding  that memories, without any emotional context, are  meaningless, and are an erasure of the “self”. Kibner flatly states, “We don’t hate you.” None of this is a personal thing for the aliens, and they are often mildly baffled at the personal reactions of the humans, to being duplicated.

In the scene where Elizabeth first meets Kibner, they are at a party, and a woman is having an emotional breakdown, as she insists that her husband isn’t her husband. She knows this because he got his hair cut short. He has a scar on the back of his neck that he always used to cover up by growing his hair out, but now, he no longer cares about the scar. There’s no emotional context for a habit he kept up for, possibly, decades. He simply doesn’t care. He can’t. That is the tiny erasure of a personality quirk that his wife understood, and possibly found endearing,  and that itty-bitty erasure of self, is for her, the clearest indicator that he is not who he claims to be.

During this woman’s  breakdown, the other party goers look on with detachment, some of them with faint distaste. These are Pod people. They don’t know, care, or begin to understand this woman’s hysteria, and just want her to stop making a scene. Actually, the aliens do have emotions…of a sort, but they are very faint, and very far away, a distant  memory of what they used to be. They all  display a faint,  muted, (as if through a thick wad of cotton batting), contempt for humanity.

 

Ironically, contempt for other people is such a part of Kibner’s natural human state, that one can see little change in his behavior after his duplication.When Kibner first meets Elizabeth, he engages in the worst sort of psychiatric practices, telling her what she’s feeling and thinking, instead of listening to what she says. This entire scene is infuriating  to me, having been on the receiving end of more than a few armchair psychiatric diagnoses, of whatever pathology that someone decided to slap on me, because I was doing something unexpected.

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When Kibner is  counseling Elizabeth, he interrupts her,  and doesn’t  listen to what she’s trying to tell him, as if he knows better than she does, what she’s feeling, and why. Instead of helping her to explore why she thinks what she thinks, he already has a theory handy, and applies it to her circumstances. He tells her  she wants to get out of her relationship with Geoffrey because she’s frightened of having one, and that what she’s saying about Geoffrey is just an excuse to do so. It’s  the  same advice he gives to the hysterical woman at the party,  diagnosing their problems as  societal ones, rather than  personal ones, based on his newest book.

The scene where Kibner is counseling Bennell’s  group of friends is fascinating, because you don’t realize Kibner has been duplicated. He comes across as just a more sedate version of the man we saw at he party the night before, and it is not until after he leaves the meeting, that we realize he is an alien. This makes  sense of how uniquely unhelpful he is to the Bellicecs during that scene. Calming them down is not his objective, because, as a Pod person, he can’t do that. He has no understanding of their emotions, so can’t possibly counsel them. He only causes them to become more upset, and he is, once again, mildly baffled by their hysteria. Afterwards, Kibner says to the Geoffrey duplicate, that the duplication of Bennell, and his friends, can’t happen soon enough, and says it in  a mildly disdainful way. Those messy emotional humans!

The Belicecs are my favorite characters in the film because they really do seem like a quirky, odd couple, who also happen to be deeply devoted to one another. After they thwart the duplication of their entire group at Bennell’s home, they are pursued into the streets by Pod people. It is Jack who uses himself as a distraction so that his wife and the others can escape the crowd. Nancy, however, is having none of that and, refusing to be parted from her husband, chases after him.

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Surprisingly, it is Nancy (played by a superb Veronica Cartwright) who turns out to be the most resourceful. Its surprising only because  you are not invited to think this way about her during certain scenes,  although in hindsight, all the signs of her pragmatism are there. She runs a successful business, and compassionately, but firmly interacts with the customers. As one of them pressures her to turn off the spa’s music, she resists, saying its good for the plants (a tongue-in-cheek reference to the pods, I think). She may have a head full of fringe ideas, and her reactions are a bit extreme, but she knows how to take care of herself, and is the only one who figures out how to successfully trick the aliens into thinking she’s one of them.

We spend the rest of the movie with Matthew and Elizabeth, as they  attempt to outrun the invaders, getting caught and drugged by Kibner at one point. They escape Kibner, and a duplicated Jack Belicec, but the drug eventually kicks in. Elizabeth falls asleep, and  gets duplicated. The pointlessness of all that fighting and running, their defiance of the inevitable, is what fuels the horror, because everyone has to sleep, eventually. Matthew, in a fit of spite after Elizabeth’s death, manages to burn down a couple of warehouses full of pods, but that act is meaningless. The pods and their caregivers have had at least a couple of days to ship them everywhere. Eventually Matthew is himself captured, and duplicated.

The first time I saw this movie, I still held out hope that maybe Matthew had  managed to escape his fate. Part of the reason I got my hopes up, was at the end of the movie, he is seen walking aimlessly around the the areas he frequented when he was human, quietly observing the activity around him, engaging in his usual hobby of cutting up newspaper articles, or going to work, and I remember Nancy’s ability to fool the aliens. I hope that’s all Matthew is doing but how realistic is that?

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We can see what life is like in Pod-land, when Matthew goes to work. At the beginning of the film, he started his day with newspaper clipping, and he does so at the end of the movie as well. This is just a habit he remembers doing, and it makes me wonder if the articles he clips, when he is a pod-person, are different from the ones he clipped, when he was human, and it’s also sad, because without any emotional tie to what he’s doing, it’s just as pointless as his fight against being duplicated.  After all, whatever he’s clipping can have no emotional resonance for him. He wanders into Elizabeth’s department, and the two of them look at each other, through each other,  and don’t acknowledge each other’s presence. Elizabeth slowly reaches over and turns off a Bunsen burner, as if in dismissal of Matthew’s presence, and he slowly walks away, as if he’d forgotten why he stopped there. The  clicking of the burner, as it slows and stops, feels like an acknowledgment of the death of their relationship. There’s nothing to see here! Move along!

Ironically, Kibner’s theory about people moving in and out of relationships too fast, and searching for excuses to get out of them, has actually come to pass. Being duplicated is the ultimate relationship killer, and it also perfectly illustrates one of the movie’s premises about living in the city. People really are disconnected from each other now. Imagine the horror of  not being able to feel anything for your kids, although you certainly remember they’re your kids. Or your spouse. Or your parents. You remember that you have relationships with these people, but you don’t care. No one  acknowledges anyone else’s presence, as they all glide slowly through their routines, with the blank expressions of robots. A bell rings and everyone rises in unison for the exits. It’s time to go home, and do what? They are all just going through the motions of living.

This brings up a point that was well illustrated in a scene from the 2007 version of the movie. In that scene, several pod-people are having dinner, as  television news reports are heard of the Middle East Peace Agreements, and the de-nuclearization of other countries.  In such a world, everything that arises out of human emotions is meaningless. Jobs, money, bills, all of the usual anxieties of life are gone, but then so are all of life’s biggest issues. There are no wars, no pogroms, no rape, no domestic abuse, no violence of any kind. For what reason do people have to harm one another, in a world in which nobody feels anything for,or about, anyone? Kimberly says it best, it is a peaceful world, a world without strife or anxiety.

Recall what I said in my last review of these films, that the next remake of this movie should be done from the point of view of those right in the middle of some crisis, and not, yet again, from the  point of view of comfortable, middle-class, white Americans. What happens in an environment, (or to protagonists), who actually welcome the alien invasion, because it means an end to their suffering. The war has suddenly stopped. No more police brutality. No more racism. The prisoners have all  been freed. Your husband no longer hits you. Can you still make a horror movie out of such a theme? What if there’s world peace, and your personal crisis is over, but you don’t feel relief or happiness, because you  no longer care. What price to pay for this? This is part of the horror.  What if the revolution occurred and nobody cared?

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*(Hey! You there! I love, love, love this movie, and writing this was a labor of love, so let me know if you loved it, too. Like it and leave a comment (if you’re not too shy!) let me know if I should keep doing these long form film essays. The topic for this series is The Foundations of Fear.)

Bladerunner 2049 (Part II)

In this second post, I’ll discuss everything I didn’t get to tackle in the first, and that is mostly  the themes and technical stuff. This is going to be a long one, and I thought about breaking it into two parts, but I think you guys can handle it, (and it may keep you out of trouble for as long as a few minutes!)

Now that Bladerunner 2049  is on DVD, I have re-watched it many times. Despite the issues I have with it, I still love this film, and I have thinky-thoughts about every aspect of it. I’m not particularly interested in the opinions of those who disliked it, because people were wrong about disliking the first film, too, and its become a modern Scifi classic. I feel that twenty/thirty years from now, we’ll probably still  be talking about this movie. (And are you kidding? I’ve been waiting over thirty years for  this!)

Symbolism &Themes

The Soul

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The movies primary themes are embodied in Officer K, and as always, it starts with the eyes. As in the first thing we see is an eye, looking over the landscape, as K flies to his next assignment. There is the saying that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and though this quote is not explicitly mentioned in the film, there is a lot of focus on K’s eyes. His baseline test as Bladerunner is established using his eyes. The Voight-Kampff Test, from the first film, used pupillary dilation to determine if someone was feeling the proper emotions during questioning. Since replicants, in the first film, didn’t have memories, that test was meant to determine the humanity of the subject by testing for  emotional incongruities to the questions.

 

Everyone already knows K is not human, so he is asked, instead, to establish a baseline emotional personality, against which he will be matched. He is not asked specific questions, but told to repeat a series of phrases, in quick succession, based on the novel Pale Fire, by Nabakov, a story in which a man mistakes a mountain for a fountain. This is the book in the apartment that K has been reading with Joi.  K is probably the one who chose his baseline phrases from this source.

http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2017/10/14/the-poetry-of-blade-runner-2049

“…blood-black nothingness began to spin / A system of cells interlinked within / Cells interlinked within cells interlinked / Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct / Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.” These lines from Blade Runner 2049’s post-traumatic baseline test come from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire. In Pale Fire, the fictional poet John Shade sees a tall white fountain during a near-death experience – the image’s “presence always would / Console [him] wonderfully.” Later Shade reads about a woman in a magazine who came close to death, who visited “the Land Beyond the Veil” and also glimpsed a “tall white fountain” there. Shade finds the woman to share this with her, only to discover it was a misprint – it was not a “fountain” but a “mountain” that she saw. But the error changes nothing: the image of the tall white fountain had meaning not because it had some objective significance, not because it was empirical proof of an afterlife, but because Shade ascribed meaning to it. The fictional scholar annotating John Shade’s poem, Dr. Charles Kinbote, writes: “We all are, in a sense, poets.”

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In the movie, K tells Joshi, his boss, that beings that are born have souls, and that he has never retired anything with a soul before.  K’s definition of what it means to be human involves the existence of the soul. Since he was never born of woman, he has accepted the idea that he does not have one. So why the focus on K’s eyes if he has no soul?

The post below discusses why there is something called “The Uncanny Valley Effect.” Human beings react to inanimate, human-like, objects like normal, until the object begins to look too human, after which we begin to feel distinctly disturbed.

https://theconversation.com/uncanny-valley-why-we-find-human-like-robots-and-dolls-so-creepy-50268

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From:

*Blade Runner 2049 – and why eyes are so important in this vision of the future

If the thought of a non-human consciousness glimpsed through the eye as a “window to the soul” is consistently unnerving, it is because instead of a human connection there is something else there entirely: the terror and wonder of the unknown.

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It’s interesting to note that there is also a good deal of emphasis on Joi’s eyes.  Joi is a simulated being that shows more love and compassion, than any of the human characters in the movie. We’ve seen K be spit at by his fellow officers, as he goes about his daily routine, and objectified by his boss, Joshi, who can also  order the killing of a possible replicant/human child, without blinking.

A lot of people want to get bogged down in a feminist interpretation of Joi and her role in the film, but you know me, I never go for the easy analysis. Not that they are wrong, but that’s an easy analysis to make. I noted the surface reading, that she was  a simulation of male desire, and then I moved on from that, because I feel her role is much more important than  feminist analysis credits her, which is often entirely negative.

I don’t think  people are really taking into account  Joi’s relationship to K, who, it could be argued, isn’t any more of a real  person than she is, with his simulated memories, and yet, he created Joi’s personality details. So what you have here is a simulated being, with false memories, detailing what he likes in the personality of another simulacrum. I think Joi’s personality tells you a lot about what K  values, and about who he is on the inside, beyond being a  determined and relentless killer. I think the existence of Joi (and his behavior towards her) is evidence that K has a soul. It can even be argued that Joi is K’s  soul, made apparent. How could he have helped to create a being as luminous as Joi, unless he has some within himself.

One of the proofs that K is more human than human, is his treatment of Joi. Joi is treated with dismissal and contempt by everyone in the story except K. She is just a simulacrum of a human being,and K can treat her however he wants, with no repercussions, yet he always treats her with kindness and courtesy.  He is thoughtful, polite, and treats her with respect.You can tell a lot about a human being by how they treat the powerless, and this says much about K. He  treats her as he would like to be treated,  and it is interesting to note that his behavior towards her is based on his ideas of how a human treats their lover.

Joi is also underestimated in the story by the viewer. Who is to say she doesn’t experience actual emotions for K? Yes, she aids and assists,as she is programmed to do, but she also makes decisions that go beyond her programming. Before she and K can go on the run, she asks him to download  her personality to  her mobile emitter, and erase her from the apartment files. She is well aware that should her mobile emitter be destroyed, so will she, forever, and yet she makes the decision to endanger her existence, to protect K.

That Joi is K’s soul is made explicit when Joi acts as K’s eyes, superimposing hers over his own, when he is researching online, and later, she acts as the soul of another replicant (Mariette) to whom K makes love in Joi’s place. Like the soul, Joi is incorporeal and intangible, but makes it possible for K to experience happiness (in her happiness), grief (at her demise), and anxiety (for her safety), and a conscience, (at the idea of killing a human child).

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Joi also functions as an external indicator of the emotions K does not  get to freely display. She speaks his  actual thoughts, when he believes he might be a real human, and it is only after her death that we see K  display any real human emotion, as he cries in anguish, or yells in rage. It is not until after her death that he discovers he’s not human, but then makes the decision to behave like a human anyway, one of the first true decisions he has ever made about himself.

If souls exist, I certainly think the replicants have them. The presence of a soul  allows the replicants to express emotions, and  deceive the humans around them. (This is also  another parallel to the real life situations of Black Americans, who have historically been censured, and punished, when they  expressed anything other than bland pleasantness in the presence of White people. Even today, Black people can be killed, with impunity, for not showing what is regarded as  proper deference to authority figures.)

Luv also hides her emotions from Wallace. (Notice that she only displays emotions when Niander Wallace is not around, or is not directly observing her.) There is the scene where Wallace kills a female replicant in front of her. He has his back to her and so cannot observe that she is nearly in tears. When his sight drones hover near her face,  she keeps her expression carefully neutral, but you can tell she is afraid she will give something  away, and I wonder how many other Luvs existed before her, who forgot to hide what they were feeling. Contrast that with her exasperated manner when ordering a drone strike on K’s behalf, or the rage on her face when killing Joshi. She lies frequently to the humans around her, to a technician in a lab, and to Joshi before she kills her. Later, when talking to Deckard, she expresses a degree of compassion for him that she has not shown towards any of the other humans, in the movie.

Luv also functions as an example of Ks foil. She is what he is not, or rather what he could have become but didn’t. K has a fundamental respect for human life, as indicated in his conversation with Joshi when she orders him to kill Deckards child. Luv entirely lacks this respect. I did wonder where K got his ideas of how to behave. He I said at all times deferential and respectful to Joshi, as well, even though she is his boss. He also seems to have no actual fear of human beings either, so I didn’t think his respect covered a mask of fear. Luv is informed by her hatred of Wallace and his disrespect for replicant life, but where does K’s respect for humans come from. He is often exasperated and/or impatient with humans , but he doesn’t actively hate them the way Luv does. Luv believes replicants are superior to humans, which is an idea she adopted from Wallace.

K also develops the ability to lie, moving beyond his programming, when he thinks he’s human. He lies to Joshi about killing the replicant/human child, and doesn’t tell her that he believes the child is himself. It is interesting that K can only act beyond his programming when he believes he’s human, but Luv has gone beyond her programming, while well aware that she is not.

The idea that humanity has created these technological, and organic, forms, and yet are completely unaware of the full capabilities of these beings, (preferring to underestimate them), and that these beings are also capable of deceiving humanity into believing such, is a persistent underlying  theme in both films.

Niander Wallace, the creator of the new replicants, lacks a soul, if the above truism  is to be applied to everyone. His eyes are a blind white, and his sight is supplemented by artificial means, in the form of hovering black stones. This is a person who pretends to have a soul , just like he pretends to be sighted.  He has “vision”, but it is severely limited. He only sees the world one way, with him at the top of it, as a god.  Wallace never refers to his creations as what they actually are, (slaves, products, commodities), preferring to call them Angels, instead. In this manner, he can “off-handedly” refer to himself as the god he believes himself to be.

Wallace thinks replicants that can reproduce themselves are the key, which  reminds me of a scene from the movie Eastern Promises. Viggo Mortensons’ character gets reprimanded about his memory of a young girl who died in childbirth. The young girl had been a human trafficking victim, and had been raped and impregnated by his boss. When he is asked how he feels about that, he yells in frustration, “Slaves give birth to slaves!” This is a horrifying idea, because essentially, Wallace would be reproducing actual slavery, in which the children of slaves were born into slavery. And of course rebellion is inevitable. He thinks he has taken into account the replicant’s desire to be free, but he underestimates their ability to go beyond their programming, as evidenced by the fact that Luv is capable of deceiving, him regarding her true nature.

 

Women as Commodity

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One of the biggest hurdles when watching this movie is the depiction of women. There is almost no woman in the movie who doesn’t serve the greater needs of a man, and I’m only taking Joshi out of that description because we don’t know who her bosses are, and she seems to be acting autonomously. Outside of Joshi and Luv, there are no female images that are  not depicted in a sexual manner, and sex as a commodity is still a thing. The street holograms are either naked, or dressed in  fetish clothing, to sell products, or be sold themselves,  Mariette is a replicant sex worker, Joi is a personal hologram designed to serve whoever buys her program, and even the statuary images of women, as seen in Las Vegas, are posed in a suggestively sexual manner. Joshi is the only human woman in the movie who remains non-sexualized, and in a very awkward moment, she obliquely references that K sleep with her, whether he wants to or not.

But what no feminist talks about (which is how I know they have only a surface understanding of the misogyny in the film) is how the women treat each other. How women in movies behave towards each other is as important as  their being present. There are five women in this film, and most of their relationships are needlessly adversarial. Luv destroys Joi seemingly on a whim, stomping her hologram generator which destroys her program. Luv also kills Joshi, after screaming at her in a rage about K’s whereabouts, and then callously flinging her body about afterwards.

The most pointlessly  antagonistic relationship, however, is between Joi and Mariette. Joi hires Mariette to be her corporeal stand-in when she makes love to K. After which Mariette expresses open contempt for her, telling her she’s nothing special. Why does she do this? Is it to illustrate that there is a hierarchy of contempt even among artificial beings? Does Joi regularly sneer at computers, or handheld devices in the house?

The only positive relationship is the one between Mariette, and the female leader of the rebellion, that she works for. They are not friends, but they are at least cooperative with each other, and not needlessly antagonistic. I would say it’s  because the two of them have shared goals, but Joi and Mariette  have a shared goal of pleasing K, yet afterwards, they  behave as if they are rivals for his affection. That’s just lazy, cliched writing  of women.

Deckard’s daughter lives in isolation, and doesn’t come into contact with anyone but K and Deckard.

 

Slavery

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The  theme of slavery is all well and good when discussing actual slavery, in a film like 12 Years a Slave, or Django Unchained, but finds itself in uncertain waters when the cast of a movie, that heavily references slavery and oppression, is almost entirely White. I have mentioned before why I find oppression allegories in science fiction movies distasteful. Scifi moves often do not include PoC in their possible futures, and when they are included, nothing different is predicted for us. We are still serving the same purposes in the narrative future that we serve now. It is as if the White writers  of these stories cannot imagine any other kind of future for us other than serving Whiteness.

None of the oppressed Replicants, in either movie, are PoC, which is a common casting choice in Science fiction films. Aliens and robots are almost always cast with White actors, (Brown and Black people are cast as “The Other” in Fantasy films.)

(https://www.publicmedievalist.com/race-fantasy-genre/)

*From Medium. com: 

BLADE RUNNER 2049: White Appropriation of Black Oppression

Nicholas Podany

Of course, there are certainly other movies that have much much whiter casts (Moonlight. Sorry, I meant La La Land), but Blade Runner stands out because without a diverse cast, the movie is just selective white appropriation of systemic racial oppression. With Blade Runner, white audiences are never required to leave their comfort zones of white fragility to enjoy a compelling story about bigotry and persecution. Ryan Gosling is the new Chiwetel Ejiofor as he tries to escape the unjust fate he was given at birth.

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Environmentalism

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The theme of environmental decay continues in the sequel. From its opening shot, hovering over a bleak, gray landscape, to Sapper Morton’s dead tree, under which Rachel’s bones have been interred, to Mariette’s statement that she’d never seen a tree, to Deckard’s home in the middle of an irradiated, sand clogged, Las Vegas, we are led to believe that the environmental destruction, obliquely  referenced in the first film, has made Earth uninhabitable.

In this movie, the environmental destruction is made much more explicit when we visit areas outside of Las Angeles, like the massive garbage dump, where orphaned children are exploited for their labor, and the giant sea wall separating the rising  ocean from the rest of the city.

But it is the little things that remind the viewer of the environmental devastation of this world. One of the  characters is astonished that K owns a piece of genuine wood, and K takes a two second shower that consist of little more than a blast of water, that is only about 90% pure. Later, we see that K is fascinated by a beehive, and has no idea he probably shouldn’t stick his hand in it, but since he feels no pain, he doesn’t fully understand that bee stings are meant to curb that sort of inquisitiveness in a human. It is also meant to indicate to the viewer, that even though K believes himself to be human during this scene, he is not.

This movie has moved beyond the images of ceaselessly pouring rain from  the first film, to give us glimpses of nighttime fog in LA, dusty sun in Las Vegas, and even snow.

 

 

 

Wealth Inequality

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One of the sub-themes related to  environmentalism is the wealth inequality, which is illustrated by the  lack of clean water. There is plenty of water in the movie. There is a seawall separating the city of LA from the ocean, lest it be flooded, but most ofthe water is irradiated, or otherwise polluted. In an early scene K takes a two second blast of shower water that is “mostly” clean.

Now contrast that scene with Niander Wallace living in watery splendor. This is a man who is so wealthy, he can afford to devote entire rooms of his home, to just holding water, solely for decorative purposes. Like Eldon Tyrell, he lives in a skyscraper above the literally unwashed masses below. Wallace lives in  quiet, vast, clean, minimalist, apartments, which contrast with K’s cozy, uncluttered apartment, with the loud chaos right outside his door. Their  apartments serve the same purpose, as a sanctuary against the noise, reek, and dirt outside.

 

Memory & Self

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In the first film we are told that the replicants are more controllable when given memories to ground them in their personality. Rachel was an experimental replicant created by Gordon Tyrell,   implanted with the memories of Tyrell”s niece, and Deckard himself said that the replicants needed memories. The replicants themselves collect photos,  essentially still moments of the lives they’ve experienced, and Roy’s last words to Deckard were remembrances of his life experiences.

This is the one of the primary themes of the sequel, only unlike Rachel all the replicants we see know they are replicants, and know that their memories are unreliable indicators of who they are. Nevertheless, even though their memories are not real, and they know it, many of them have developed very  distinct personalities on their own. Science is still unclear if  personality affects the memory, or if its memories that create personalities. Who would you be if you could remember nothing of your past self? Or, just like in the movie The Matrix, you found out that none of the things you experienced ever happened?

Later, we find that one of K’s most  cherished memories is a real memory from a human, that’s been implanted in many replicants, (even though giving replicants real memories is illegal.) K is hopeful that he’s a real human, who was born, who had a mother and father. Note how his behavior changes when he believes this about himself. When he goes for his baseline personality test, he no longer registers as who he was to his superiors, and he is openly assertive to Joshi in a way we hadn’t seen before. When K believes he is human is also the first time we see him lie, and even has the temerity to yell at another human being (Deckard). His belief that he has a soul (because of the presence of the false memory) changes his behavior.

It’s interesting that even though the replicants have a shared memory, they all possess distinctive selves, and  yet, have all still ended up in the same place, the underground rebellion. In Bladerunner, photos are the placeholders for the memories the replicants lack. Since they have no memories, the photos prove to them that their experiences, and acquaintances were real. K’s wooden horse doesn’t quite serve the same function, but its existence is proof that whatever  memories he has are real, and so, proof to him that he is human, and has a soul.

 

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Cinematography

Jordan Cronenweth was the cinematographer for the first Blade Runner movie. The incredible Roger Deakins is the cinematographer of this sequel, he is most famous for The Shawshank Redemption, No Country for Old Men, and  True Grit, and this is, of course, a gorgeous movie, for which Deakins has rightfully been awarded an Oscar. Deakins and Villanueva tried to remain faithful to the feel of the first film. many scenes have a sift dreamlike a soft, almost dreamlike tone.

The environment often echoes  K’s emotions, or frame of mind. As K moves further into the story, the scenes  of discovery (especially when he has a clear, and set goal) tend to be crisp and clear, like the opening scenes, where K is sure of who he is and his purpose, and his trip to the orphanage, when he is searching for his past. Those scenes where he is at his most confused, and most unsure of his goals , those tend to be foggy and unclear, and the scenery is obscured. The scenes where he is hunting for Deckard in Las Vegas have a misty ,yellowish tint, (K is, I think most afraid in these scenes. He is certainly anxious, and nervous.This is when he still believes he is human and that Deckard may be his father.) There’s a patina of dust overlaying everything giving these scenes the feel of  vintage daguerreotype images. Deckard is the past, suddenly become relevant.

 

There’s is lots of rainfall in this movie (though not as much as the first), but note that rain has often been used as a cliched indicator of male emotion in movies. It is raining when K kisses Joi at the beginning of the movie, and when he encounters the giant holographic ghost of Joi after her destruction.

Costumes

The costumes are not as loudly impressive here as they were in the original film, probably because the first film had the benefit of novelty. By the time of this film, we’ve seen thirty years of BladeRunner inspired clothing become mainstream. Since  keeping design continuity from the first movie was important, the effect is that the costumes look little different from our everyday wear. What was groundbreaking costume design in 1982 has become daily wear for the rest of us, and a lot of the costumes would not look out of place if seen in real world streets.

Some  of the costumes are callbacks to the previous film, and while some of the East Asian design aspects have been toned down in this movie, there is still a clear Japanese influence seen in some of the movie’s costumes,  most especially in  Niander Wallace’s daily wear. Officer K’s coat is a direct callback to the coat worn by Deckard in the original film, while Luv’s white dress is a reference to  the dress Rachel wore at her first meeting with Deckard. In the movie, Luv wears this dress when she first meets K. The replicant prostitute wears a jacket that echoes Rachel’s chinchilla coat in the first movie, but she is a street replicant, and her version of this outfit is ratty and worn.

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One of my biggest pet peeves, is when White people make Scifi movies, they routinely erase the contributions of PoC from the human cultures being depicted. Black people in America have had an outsized influence on American culture, but you would not know that to watch the Blade Runner films. The only pop culture, and fashion, influences depicted, in either film, are European (namely Punk and New Romantic), and occasionally East Asian. There’s no sign in the 1982 movie of the influence of Hip Hop (which was still in its infancy at the time) on fashion and music, and no indication that we exist as a culture that influences the landscape at all, in the current film.

The reason I find this so irritating is because I know full well the amount of influence Black Americans have had on American culture. It also shows a paucity of imagination of the creators of  these types of movies, who not only can’t imagine a future in which Black people are doing anything other than still serving the narrative needs of White characters, but we have made no contributions to the cultures being depicted, either. In most movies, Black people are almost never given any culture (beyond stereotypes.) So while the makers of Scifi movies can find time to add Elvis Presley  and Frank Sinatra musical interludes,there’s no indication that Hip Hop exists in this universe.

 

Music

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The composer of the original movie’s soundtrack was Vangelis. For Bladerunner 2049, Hanz Zimmer was hired, after Villanueva fired the original composer, Johanne Johnasson, because he wanted the music for the sequel to have more echoes of the original.

If you listen closely to the original film, Deckard has a specific ambient hum in his apartment, and that sound is referenced in the new movie, in Deckard’s new surroundings. (This is also the same ambient noise  heard in the movie Alien, throughout the ship Nostromo, and in  Aliens in the Medbay.) Niander Wallace’s ambient noise is an echo of the tonal sounds of Eldon Tyrell’s apartments in the first film.

One of the reason people keep speculating that Deckard is a replicant is because of the replicant’s interest in music. Deckard owns and plays a piano, which Rachel knows how to play because she was implanted with memories of lessons. K is fascinated by the piano he finds in Sapper Morton’s home, (which he must have owned because he knew Rachel liked to play), and fingers the keys. its his fascination with the piano, including being able to tell when keys are out of tune that lead K to the discovery of the wooden horse. Deckard still lowns a piano while living in Las Vegas, and K can’t seem to resist fingering the keys when he gets near it.

all of the songs used in the movie are a reflection of K’s moods and thoughts, and is keyed to the situations K finds himself in. In K’s apartment, he and Joi listen to Frank Sinatra’s love song, Summer Wind, about a man reminiscing about time spent in the company of his lover. Interestingly, K shares his love of Frank Sinatra with Deckard, who has a hologram of Sinatra in his apartment singing “One For My Baby (One More For the Road)”, a scene which occurs while K interrogates Deckard about his past, and which seems to be a song specifically written for for the two of them, as it is a song about a man preparing to make  an emotional confession to his bartender, (who is sworn to secrecy), as K prepares to confess to Deckard that he may be his son.

Earlier, when K and Deckard are fighting, during their first meeting, there is a hologram of Elvis Presley singing Suspicious Minds, echoing both their emotional states about each other. Later, when Deckard talks about about his relationship with Rachel, we hear Elvis’ sad  I Can’t Help Falling In Love (With You), representing Deckard’s grief for her.

Joi’s mobile theme is from the Russian fairy tale, by Prokofiev, called Peter and the Wolf. This too is an echo of K’s storyline, as it is about a little boy who wants to be heroic by hunting wolves. Accompanied by by a cat, a goose, and small bird, he sets off for the hunt, only to be stalked by the wolf himself. With the help of his little bird friend, he manages to trap the wolf by hanging it in a tree, but not before his little goose friend is eaten. At least this is the rather sanitized version I learned in elementary school. K wants to be a hero, and a real boy, and spends the movie hunting these two goals. When he discovers that he is not a real boy, he finds that he is okay with just being heroic, successfully defeating the wolf, and reuniting Deckard with his daughter.

 

 

 

On The Table: Items For Discussion

On Race and Gender

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*One of the things most invisible to us as film goers is, through whose gaze are we viewing the world around us. The statistics are pretty clear, from television, to movies, to books, the point of view is that of cis-gender, straight, white men, who control nearly the entirety of all three industries. They are the ones who determine which stories are important enough to get told,  and how those stories get told. 

One of the more interesting aspects in film and TV, is how none of the  White characters in any of these narratives ever question their race in relation to PoC characters.  Most of the White people in movies do not think about their race, their race is never mentioned, and they never think about the existence of  PoC, just like the creators of these films. Racism doesn’t exist in these all White worlds, and no one ever has to think about it, or deal with it, unless its a story specifically about it. For example, you can have a story with an all White cast that may be specifically about a Native American issue, but White people’s complicity in that issue  is never mentioned in the narrative.

I think I mentioned in another post, how the subject of race is the boogeyman that White creators (and critics) dare not look at directly. Race is the sun around which their entire psyche revolves, but which they refuse to acknowledge exists, as even the stories they tell, that do not explicitly mention race, still say much about how they think (or don’t think) about the subject.

This post discusses the output of three different white male directors who have not included PoC, in any of their films, in prominent roles: Martin Scorcese, Tim Burton, and the Coen Brothers. I have thoroughly enjoyed the collected works of all these directors, but it even took me a moment to realize that this is true. I basically study this subject, but the fact that a number of film directors I truly enjoy, have never employed any PoC in their films, (outside of a couple of villains), was still largely invisible to me, and that’s the point.

https://theestablishment.co/how-to-make-white-movies-5b9b83c61c53

… films with all, or mostly, white casts are not inherently harmful (some are great), but they do create for themselves a unique problem. Because even as the overwhelming whiteness on screen goes unquestioned, unremarked upon, it remains up there for us all to see — and it thus necessarily conveys some meaning.

…Films starring white people, or featuring zero people of color, don’t have the same impact. They must contend with an inherent dilemma, which is that without any commentary, their casting reinforces the status quo. White remains the default, and this itself is a kind of unspoken celebration. Ignoring this reality as a filmmaker is like ignoring a boom mic which falls into the frame. We will see it, even if the director somehow missed it.

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Why Cinematography May Be the Most Gender-Biased Job in Hollywood

A cinematographer — also known as a DP, for director of photography — dictates the movement and gaze of a camera, hugely influencing a movie’s feel. For years, women have been shut out of having that influence. Men vastly dominate its ranks, meaning that movies have been quite literally subject to the male gaze in a way audience members may not even be aware. (This article may have a paywall.)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2018/03/06/why-cinematography-may-be-the-most-gender-biased-job-in-hollywood/?utm_term=.0519c70ed87d

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*This interview with the show runner of Jessica Jones is a perfect example of the above topic, and shows that its an attitude not limited to White men. In fact, she is a textbook practioner of “White Feminism” (this is not a reference to the person’s race, but the name of the type of  feminism being espoused by that person, which does not take into account the lives of marginalized women ). It is the type of feminism that considers WoC to be an afterthought, at best, and non-existent, at worst.

You know how I can tell there are no WoC (or marginalized women) in the writer’s room of that show? In season one of Jessica Jones, there is the Angry Black woman stereotype in the first episode, Jheri is The Evil Lesbian who tries to have her ex-GF killed, her ex-GF is The Hysterical Female, loud, and irrational, and then there’s the Black female victim of the show’s lead. Not one of the show’s writers stopped to think how it would look, that Jessica kills Luke Cage’s wife (conveniently getting her out of the way) and then sleeps with him, while never mentioning to him what she did, (after she discovers that was his wife.)

I made a point to skip the new season, but I am not heartened by the news that the situation has not changed for WoC (or queer women) on that show, and I’m not going to give a third season a chance either. I’m done with the show. What I find even more galling, is that the showrunner makes it sound like the choices they made, regarding the roles of marginalized women on the show, were just some sort of “accident”, that no one had any control over.

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Fumbling to accurately portray both race and gender onscreen is hardly a problem exclusive to Jessica Jones. Shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and Law & Order: SVU, among others, center on transforming our ideas of what a “strong female character” looks like, but fail to decentralize whiteness. By refusing to do so, intentionally or not, these shows continue to present race as a hindrance rather than a very real part of their characters’ identities and a factor in their experiences. 

https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/reviews/jessica-jones-leaves-black-women-behind

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*The Twitter thread on this topic was brutal and hilarious. Mainstream publishing is another industry where female characters  are seen through a White male gaze, and no one ever seems to question this. When the writer is great, this isn’t quite so much of a problem, but when theyre mediocre though, its absolutely cringeworthy.

https://electricliterature.com/describe-yourself-like-a-male-author-would-is-the-most-savage-twitter-thread-in-ages-60d145d638d6

Whitney Reynolds

@whitneyarner

new twitter challenge: describe yourself like a male author would

Lilly Beth Chung@LillyBethChungx

[insert something about being mixed race and how that makes me petite and inherently submissive but juxtapose it with the idea of me being adorably aggressive and will stand up for myself. But make it sound endearing. ]

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*This post is about how women’s stories, in movies and television, are devalued by men. Essentially the test is, take a man’s story that has gotten widespread approval,  replace all or most of the characters with women, and watch the ratings for that story plummet.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/06/the-male-glance-how-we-fail-to-take-womens-stories-seriously

Male art is epic, universal, and profoundly meaningful. Women’s creations are domestic, emotional and trivial. How did we learn to misread stories so badly?

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*This same dynamic is at work in the idea of White prioritization. A perfect example of that is the TV show Friends, from the 90’s. There was a Black show called Living Single, on which Friends was entirely based. It is Friends that is remembered, and  got  revived for more episodes, after its cancellation. Living Single was simply forgotten. This is a great article on the difference between these two shows, and why those differences mattered in the remembrance of one, but not the other.. 

https://www.citylab.com/life/2017/01/the-gentrification-of-city-based-sitcoms/513302/

Patronizing a Central Perk-style coffee shop in the ‘90s meant you had enough income to spend on a marked-up cup of coffee. It meant that you had the luxury of time to hang out in a cafe for hours with your friends because you weren’t working two or three jobs to get by. When free internet became a basic feature, you went there because you could afford a laptop—which were then well out of the price range for many working-class people. Chances were good that your cafe was mostly populated by a bunch of people who shared your privileges and skin color.

Now, for the record, I was a Living Single fan and I pretty much hated and dismissed Friends. I watched pretty much every Black sitcom that came out in the 80s and early 90s, from Sister, Sister, to Family Matters. But just in case you want to get on me for hating Friends, I watched a lot of sitcoms that had nothing but Whites in them like The Drew Carey Show, Perfect Strangers, and Bosom Buddies, as well.

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Recently  the idea of White prioritization  was turned on its head by the movie Girl’s Trip. It was expected that Rough Night, a similar movie about young White women on a road trip, would have been the movie to capture public interest, while Girl’s Trip was ignored. But that was not what happened:

https://www.thewrap.com/how-did-girls-trip-succeed-where-rough-night-and-other-adult-comedies-failed

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*And when White writers do write about race, they don’t do  their homework. They almost always get the depiction of it wrong. Its as if they know racism is bad, they just don’t seem to have quite processed why that’s so. I think I mentioned this before that most depictions are wrong because the bigots actually have legitimate reasons to be afraid of the beings they’re oppressing. Otherworldly creatures, and superpowered beings, (who are almost always White) are bad stand ins for marginalized people in allegories about bigotry, because real PoC, DO NOT have superspeed, superstrength, or  laser eyebeams.

Its also interesting to me that audiences can empathize with these oppressed characters in movies and TV, but in the real world, oppressed people are often admonished against being angry about their situations. Its not a coincidence that such admonishments often come from the ones engaged in the oppressing, and who are most likely to be on the receiving end of that anger.

https://www.themarysue.com/jessica-jones-race-gender-superpowers/

 And in every one, it ends up being people of color versus white vampires, aliens, or whatever a show would rather have stand in for POC than actual POC. It’s often exhausting, and not just because watching a white actor preach about bigotry and racism to a brown actor is irritating. What I find more upsetting is that the characters who are mutants, aliens, super-powered, or whatever, get to be more militant and angry than characters of color.

 

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On the Female Gaze

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To read more on this topic, and the responses, become a member of Medium.com, where you can also follow me, read my responses to articles, and read posts I’ve recommended.

I posted about this earlier, on the fetishization of White, gay men by White women writers.

Why Are So Many Gay Romance Novels Written By Straight Women?

https://electricliterature.com/why-are-so-many-gay-romance-novels-written-by-straight-women-e1ad2ad2f5c8

And in the responses:

I know the perspective you’re talking about here all too well from my experience in fandom, and it’s disheartening as hell. It’s disheartening as hell to come to queer (and queered) media looking for that kind of representation and complex engagement and see it overrun with the worst kinds of Kinsey 0–2 women fetishizing queer relationships. If I never see another who tops/who bottoms “debate” in my life, it will be too soon. If I never see another piece of fanart reblogged on Tumblr to the tune of hundreds of thousands of notes putting stereotypically slender, able-bodied, attractive young white men in crop tops and flower crowns, it will be too soon. If I never am around another Kinsey 0–2 woman acting like pretty boys are just so much prettier if they’re making out with bruises and bloody patches on their faces after being physically abused/physically abusing each other for reasons related to homophobia, it will be too soon. If I am never exposed to the “woke up magically one morning with breasts because of a supernatural plot ….—Kate (Medium.com)

View story at Medium.com

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On Cultural Appropriation

There’s been some huge discussion of how Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs (a play on the words I love dogs) is actually appropriating Asian culture. Is this appropriation?

https://www.themarysue.com/cultural-appropriation-poc-isle/

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-isle-of-dogs-review-20180321-story.html

https://mashable.com/2018/03/23/isle-of-dogs-japanese-culture/#uoZ_BFMcqZqD

*For the record, I had never made plans to see this movie even though I have a dog (Hi Sarge!), and love dogs, because I  thought the dogs looked kind of terrifying, and everyone in the trailer spoke in depressing monotones. (I know I don’t talk about Sarge often, but really he doesn’t do much of note, beyond shedding copiously, and watching me expectantly in case  “walkies”  occur.)

 

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On Harassment Activism

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*A warning for reading these articles, some of them contain some really nasty shit against women and PoC, so read with a certain amount of caution, (or just have a few drinks first.) This seems to be the Right’s go to response to everything they dislike: harassing it out of the public sphere. This is about more than just controlling public forums like Twitter, this is about shutting up the people who are no longer listening to, or supporting, the received wisdom of White men. White men are fed up with so many people talking back, and refuting, the things they’ve been told, or espoused themselves. 

https://www.thedailybeast.com/comicsgate-how-an-anti-diversity-harassment-campaign-in-comics-got-uglyand-profitable?via=newsletter&source=DDAfternoon

https://www.inverse.com/article/41132-comicsgate-explained-bigots-milkshake-marvel-dc-gamergate

 

*And even academics aren’t immune from this “activism”, if they start saying things White men don’t like.

https://www.aaup.org/article/new-reality-far-rights-use-cyberharassment-against-academics#.WsejGfnwb0N

—Their plans became darker and more elaborate. One commenter suggested that their remote attacks on me be expanded to include my family. Another suggested that they take images they had found of my wife and Photoshop them in profane ways. They began to draft letters to send to administrators at my university and provided suggestions for editing to incriminate me. One commenter suggested they alter a screenshot they had created to make it appear as though I had used the term n****r. Another suggested that they accuse me of anti-Semitism. Their stated goal was to see that I was fired. This, apparently, was the type of opportunity they relished: find a person to harass, maybe by drawing him or her into a politi­cal argument, locate any information they could find online, and then coordinate attacks in an attempt to damage the person as much as possible.

 

 

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*This was an interesting article about the response of white people to diverse television, and movies, and their nostalgia about, and retreat to,  past eras of pop culture, like the eighties, when there was less diversity in the media.  We’re going to be seeing more reboots and remakes of TV shows that are not being remembered for their diversity, at the time.

This isn’t just the problem of RPO, but just about every show that is an nostalgic homage to that  time period erases the fact that Black people were having a serious impression on American culture at that time.

The problem with RPO is that the only pop culture of the eighties that’s mentioned in the movie, are things White guys would’ve loved. There’s no mention of the burgeoning hip hop scene, no Beastie Boys, or Run DMC, no Black fashions. In show after show, that’s all just conveniently erased from the history of that era.

https://www.theroot.com/ready-player-one-and-the-unbearable-whiteness-of-80-s-n-1824212737

Where is the Ghostbusters’ Winston Zeddmore? Jazz from The Transformers? Panthro from Thundercats (c’mon, we all know he was black), or even prominent women like Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake and She-Ra?

Writ large, Ready Player One, with its frothy retelling of the ’80s, is no different from decades of Western films with no black cowboys, rock ’n’ roll retrospectives that eliminate the black roots of the music, and commercials that appropriate our past while removing us from it. Today’s Gap commercials would lead you to believe that white people invented breakdancing and pop-locking.

 

I usually post in the mornings, but I was a little late with this one today.

Do You Remember Werewolf the Series?

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So I started watching this on Youtube and I was mostly struck by how bad the clothing is. This series was released n 1987, and I’m not sure why I don’t remember people dressing that bad, but they must have, and I just blocked it out or something:

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The series opens with a monologue, which is a really bad sign. I’m calling bullshit on it because its so full of  80’s macho crap, and I mostly just rolled my eyes. After that, there’s a scene at a night club, and you can tell its one of those 80’s movie nightclub scenes because the music sucks, its full of old white people who can’t dance, and I find it really, really hard to believe that women used to dress like that in da club. You could put someone’s eyes out with those shoulder pads.

So the young blonde victim and her date are walking to the car and they are talking about his job as a company manager or some bullshit, and I’m like, really? This is the shit you’re talking about? Were Yuppies actually this fucking boring that they went to the club, and flirted with each other about monetary futures, or network assets and shit? At this point I was rooting for the werewolf, that I knew was about to attack them,

in that completely empty, fog shrouded, parking lot, outside the club!!!

Anyhoo..

This show is like a cross between The Incredible Hulk, and Teen Wolf, where the lead character named Eric Cord, is bitten by his roommate, after he was bitten by a guy named Skorzeny, played by, of all people, Chuck Connors. Now my Mom watched this because… werewolves, and Chuck Connor, but you know I probably watched it because Eric, like most of the men on TV in the 80s, had a luxurious head of hair. See!

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This was most likely my impetus for watching a lot of shows in the 80s. At least that’s my excuse.

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Well, glossing over the plot really quick, after being bitten, Eric and his useless girlfriend, played by one of the hottest, flavor of the moment, TV chicks of the eighties, Michelle Johnson, go on a road trip to find the werewolf that bit his roommate, because only by killing the original werewolf can someone escape the curse. In the meantime, Eric is being hunted by a sheriff/bounty hunter, because he skipped out on his bail, after shooting his roommate, without explanation.

This show also heavily reminded me of the show Manimal, because each episode involved at least one scene where Eric turned into werewolf, even though the episodes were only thirty minutes long. That sounds really weird to those of us today, who are used to hour long dramas. Eric traveled around the country getting embroiled in other people’s stories ala Mad Max. Like Manimal, Eric had to occasionally solve a mystery, but unlike that series, Eric had no sidekicks. The 80s were a curious blend of shows with a combination serial, stand-alone format. There were individual events that happened from episode to epsode but they were all tied together by a common theme. Herer the common theme was Eric hunting, running into  werewolves, and various other creatures.

The highlight of the show was the werewolf transformation scenes, naturally,  that were heavily ripped off …erm, based on, the werewolf movie craze of the early eighties, An American Werewolf in London, which won an Oscar for its special effects, and its cousin, The Howling, which didn’t.

This show managed to last an entire season and  I most definitely watched it. I remember the pilot, and the transformation scenes, and even Chuck Connors growling his way through the script. So I definitely LOOKED at the show.

But I don’t remember nan’ detail of a single episode of this show beyond the pilot. But that’s okay becasue there a quite a number of the episodes available on Youtube, so they can now be forgotten by, yet another, entire generation of teenagers.

Ready Player One: The Great White Hope

I’ve been seeing a few articles come across my dash asking the question: Is Ready Player One Black Panther for White Guys?

My firm answer on this one is: Hell to the na!!!

https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2018/03/23/black-panther-is-about-to-pass-two-huge-box-office-milestones/#23b03e83419f

In all fairness, I did not finish the book, and I am not a hardcore gamer. I play some fighting games from time to time, but I do not classify things I do in my spare time, as an identity. (I like to knit, and consider myself a knitter, but that’s not WHO I am. the difference is subtle.) I can’t say whether or not the film will be successful, if it will hit the number one spot, whether or not gamers will flock to it, whether or not they’ll like the movie if they do. I can say I didn’t care for the book, and I’m unimpressed by Ernest Clines credentials. (I couldn’t finish it because I felt it was very badly written.) On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who identifies as a Gamer, than Ready Player One may be just the book (and movie) for you.

I don’t actually think the movie will be as successful as Black panther, because it simply doesn’t have the numbers to put it in the top spot for more than a week, before its supplanted by something new. I have to admit, the trailers look like fun,  because of the pop culture references , and  it moves fast, and is brightly colored. There is no depth to the  images though. Do you have to be a hard-core nerd to get the movie? Do you have to be fluent in gaming to really enjoy it? Is it too reliant on pop culture Easter eggs for outsiders to enjoy it? I’ve seen some good reviews for it, but I’ve also seen quite a few journalists (all White and male) lauding the movie as the second coming of cinema. I haven’t encountered any women reviewers who claimed to love it.

—-However, as the movie’s gotten closer to release, some fans have taken to claiming that this movie is for nerds and gamers in the same way that Marvel’s Black Panther has been for black people in terms of impact.Ready Player One will not be Black Panther for nerds, because they’re not even operating in the same star system, let alone the same level of ambition and thematic depth. It serves no favors to Player One in particular, given the distaste that appears to have grown around the original book and the film’s marketing. If for no other reason, it’s a good idea to keep Panther out of Player One’s sights, because coming at the King will all but guarantee a miss.

https://www.cbr.com/ready-player-one-not-black-panther-for-nerds/

You guys know about my suspicions on journalistic integrity,especially  when it comes to movie reviews, so let’s just say I’m giving these reviews the side eye. Hell, for all I know its a very fun and diverting movie, but RPO does not possess cultural relevance  for anybody but the White dudes lauding it (and maybe people who read the book). It looks to me like the same old “mediocre White guy saves the world” type of plot, that we’ve always gotten, and  the hype surrounding it seems like more of the backlash against Black Panther, and  claiming this run of the mill movie is going to unseat BP, sounds. to me, like just another way of signalling their resentment of the other one’s success.

Letitia Wright is in the movie. In what role, I’m not certain, but if you’re a fan of the actress, you may want to check it out, and report back to let us know what’s up. I had no plans  to see this movie, because its release is too close to Pacific Rim, and I only have so much money to spend. I ‘ll watch it when it comes to Netflix, or Amazon, and I’ll probably enjoy it, but the reaction from White fans here is  very little different from when White fans lauded Wonder Woman as the second coming of the feminist action film, claiming it to be more than it is, when is really no more than what we always had. (In my opinion, THE feminist action movie was  Mad Max: Fury Road.)

As the above article states, White gaming fans don’t need representation, as the hobby itself has gone fully mainstream, and White males, 18-34, have always been catered to when it comes to pop culture, so there’s no more social relevance to be had from this movie, than Pixels,  and  nostalgia for  when the terms multiculturalism, inclusion, and diversity were not topics anyone thought about.

So reviewers…just stop it!

No.

No, this movie isn’t some big win for the culture of gaming. Its not that deep.

People are going to go see it. They may even thoroughly enjoy it, but culturally, the movie means nothing, and will have no more lasting impact, in a culture that regularly serves up a movie just like it, at least once or twice a  month. No one is going to be writing hundreds of think pieces about the meaning behind its images, and ultimately, no matter how much fun it will be, it won’t really mean anything. And that’s okay, too.

 

 

Disco Lives!!!

Yes, I still listen to disco, and I’m abnormally obsessed with this particular video, which is a remix of the Migos’ Bad and Boujee. This is how the song should have been produced in the first place, with the instrumentals of  Earth Wind and Fire’s September.

I remember watching Soul Train. We used to spend weekends over at grandma’s, (who was only a block away from us, anyway) and this aired on Saturday afternoons. Our whole family ( which sometimes consisted of anywhere from ten to twenty people) used to congregate there at random intervals, and eat, gossip, play kickball, or touch football. Some of my family lived in the house, some just lived nearby, and others traveled in from further places, but that was the place of the meetup, and Soul Train was the one show everyone seemed to agree on. So , naturally whenever there was a family reunion, Which was usually when the dancing occurred, there had to be a Soul Train line.

 

 

 

I had forgotten about these fashions, and in some cases, I was too young to remember some of them. I love the women’s unisex fashions, who had entered the workplace in droves, after the Vietnam War took so many young men. There was also a tropic theme in the 70s, after America rediscovered Hawaii, for some reason. Hip Hop was just in its foundational stage, and poppin’ and lockin’ was just being invented, too.

 

I also want to give a shout-out to Janelle Monae , and her new Prince adjacent video, The Way You Make Me Feel. I love this retro 80’s thing, and there’s a really cute cameo from her bestie, Tessa Thompson. A lot of people  have one question, though: Are they a Couple? Especially since Bi-sexuals have heralded this video as being an anthem specifically for them, and I can see why.

Janelle says this song is from Prince’s vault, and you can see it’s heavily influenced by his style. She says the two of them were great friends in life, and that he wanted to pass his stylistic mantle on to her.

https://www.avclub.com/so-thats-why-janelle-monaes-new-single-sounds-so-much-l-1823337068

The Shape of Water (2017]

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I am a huge fan of Guillermo Del Toro. I’ve seen every one of his films, and loved  all of them, with the exception of Crimson Peak, which wasn’t a bad movie , (merely unequal to his other films.)

Guillermo is the kind of director whose films all have meaning. Every image, every line of dialogue, even the costumes and color choices,  have  a  personal meaning for the director,  or propel  the narrative, or examine a character, and he always has something interesting to say, a point he wishes to make, a message to impart to his audience. He makes fantasies that parallel and contrast the real world.

In many of his films, he chronicles how the world of fantasy impacts the real world. In Hellboy 1 & 2, there’s a discussion of real world reactions to the existence of supernatural creatures, and what place someone like Hellboy can make for himself in it. Blade 2, despite all its fantastical elements, takes place entirely in the real world, with the same technology, music, and culture. The vampires in that world have adapted very well to human ingenuity, and in Pan’s Labyrinth, a young girl’s horrifying  real world life, under fascism, is juxtaposed against a fantasy world, in which she actually holds power, and importance, and agency.

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I’ve read many reviews of this film, and not  one of them has mentioned how the fantasy elements of this movie contrast, and impact, the real world, of the sixties Civil Rights environment, in which it takes place. This movie is rich with social commentary that I’m not seeing reflected in any of its reviews. Most of the reviewers focus on the romance between  Eliza and her Fishman paramour, or the set design, or the special effects,  never bothering to go deeper, into what the film actually means for Eliza’s character, or the villain’s motivations. No one has discussed the time period in which it takes place either, which I find frustrating, because the villain’s motivations arise precisely out of the Jim Crow era in which the movie takes place, and informs how Eliza and the Fishman are treated, and the decisions Eliza makes.

The movie sits smack in the middle of the Civil Rights movement, and  although it isn’t something explicitlyshown,  this is a statement, not just about what’s happening with the characters, but a message to us today. As in all his films, Guillermo is telling us something about ourselves right now.  Guillermo says that he chose that particular time period because it’s a direct reflection of what’s happening in the US today, from the re-emergent Cold War, to the various social rights movements like BLM, and the casual racism, sexism, and homophobia, which has reared its ugly head again.

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Just as in the sixties, there is a clash of ideologies, which is often brought about, and exacerbated by, emergent technologies. The internet has allowed marginalized groups to push-back against, and challenge, the narratives of White supremacy, in ways they couldn’t before. Social Media allows marginalized groups to organize, and protest with an immediacy that was once lacking, and online communities allow them to disseminate news and information in real time, as with NoDAPL. In the sixties, it was the handheld camera, that brought the Civil Rights movement, the Korean War, and  the Vietnam War right into people’s livingrooms. It was the Space Program that heated up the cold war between Russia and the United States.

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Michael Shannon, as Strickland, is the physical embodiment of “White male rage, and entitlement”, existing at a period in time in which his cultural supremacy is being called into question by external forces,  that his oppression helped to create. He doesn’t just take his rage out on the amphibian captive, on whom he liberally uses a cattle prod, (his captive does push back against his rage and violence) but takes his hatred and contempt out on both Eliza, and Octavia Spencer’s character, Zelda, questioning her, in a smugly racist tone, why she doesn’t have any siblings (because that’s not common for HER people), which forces Zelda to reveal the tragic loss of her mother when she was born. At the same meeting he loudly asks if Eliza can hear him.

He has the best kind of life there is, with a  loving wife and children, a brand new model car, and a house in the suburbs, yet seems to resent all of it, showing no affection towards his wife and children, even though they dote on him, and he appears to be in a rage at even his “happiest” moments.  This is a man who can’t even find joy in fucking his beautiful, blonde,  trophy wife. The only time we ever see Strickland smile, in the movie, is when he’s contemplating, or bringing harm,  to someone else. Strickland also  lives in a world that is beginning to change, and he can see a future in which he can no longer express his rage and fear at those he deems as less than himself. Just like today, those “people” are talking back to him, and need to be put back in their place of not questioning his supremacy, and again, like today’s form of bigot,  all he has at his disposal is violence. He leads a miserable and rage fueled life.

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Eliza’s neighbor, Giles, is an older gay man who loves musicals, dancing and key lime pie. One of the first musicals we see in the movie is The Little Colonel, starring Shirley Temple, and Bojangles, and is an example of the time period romanticized by the White people of the sixties, just as the early sixties are heavily romanticized today. At one point, Giles entreats Eliza to turn away from the images of civil rights rioting on his TV, to a happier image of  Bojangles,  smiling, and dancing, and happy. Directly after that scene, Eliza and Giles do a little tap dance, while sitting on the couch, and maybe this is Guillermo’s way of pointing out how oppressed people have always tried to maximize what little joy they can find, in the face of so much misery. Eliza and Giles are both single, they don’t own a fancy home or car. In society, she and Giles have nothing, and are nothing. Now contrast Eliza and Giles simple pleasures of pie, movies, and dancing,  with Strickland’s joyless existence.

Dancing is also Eliza’s escape. There’s a surreal daydream about her and the Amphibian dancing in a musical. Guillermo’s message here is about the power of imagination, and how the oppressed find power and happiness. This is something clearly expressed in his movie Pan’s Labyrinth, where the little girl, Ofelia, dreams of escaping her brutal existence, as a Queen of the Fairies,  through the use of her imagination. This is also a statement about Del Toro’s  personal life. He grew up poor and  escaped poverty  through film, through dreams

 

. Eliza wants to escape the circumstances of her life too, and at the end of the movie, she is more than happy to do so. (Although, I must point out, that though Eliza has managed to escape, and Strickland is gone, Giles, and Zelda are left behind to pick up the pieces.)

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https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/guillermo-del-toro-confronting-childhood-demons-surviving-a-real-life-horror-story-1053205

There are several interactions between marginalized people that speak to the lack of unity of that time period. Giles is white and male, but every bit as powerless as Zelda, and Eliza, especially after people find out about his private life. Earlier, Giles is emphatic about not watching racial unpleasantness on his TV, but later, he attempts to defend a black couple who try to eat in the diner he frequents, but get kicked out by the counterman. Giles cares enough to come to their defense, but not in the moment, and we realize just how powerless he is afterwards, when he makes a pass at the waiter, and is kicked out of the diner was well.  Note that Giles is all alone when he does this. Guillermo quietly  illustrates how all these different  outsiders are trying to make it on their own. The message here is that unless  they all unite to stand against their oppressors they can accomplish nothing.

My biggest issue is the lone Black man in the movie, Zelda’s husband David. He is perhaps the weakest character in the movie. He is of no use to Zelda, (who speaks of him often and seems to love him), and he does not come to Zelda’s aid when Strickland bursts into their home and bullies them for Eliza’s whereabouts. He also does not aid in the Fishman’s escape from the lab, tries to talk Zelda out of getting involved, and is so cowed by his environment, that he rats her out to Strickland.

My overall impression is that David gave up fighting long ago, and  that he doesn’t really love Zelda, since he was not only  completely unwilling to fight for her but gave up Eliza as well. I have mixed feelings about this character, and I don’t think Del Toro thought him through very well, or took into account how this would look to any Black men watching this film, who would be infuriated at the depiction. On the one hand, it wasn’t necessary to have the only Black man, in the entire movie, be an example of  what the system of Jim Crow was meant to do, which is drain all the fighting spirit out of Black men, keeping them terrified, and submissive. On the other hand, if he were not those things, it would’ve become a very different type of movie. I feel he could have been eliminated from the plot altogether and the film would largely be left intact.

Strickland wants to destroy the Amphibian, a creature of the natural world that he often refers to as an abomination. He tortures and abuses the creature, to no purpose, but his own petty enmity. When the Fishman is slated for an autopsy table, Eliza teams up with Zelda, a German researcher, and Giles to thwart Strickland. In the end, they all come together to take down Strickland, and I feel like the message here was that only through the unity of  outsiders, can such an overwhelmingly oppressive force, like him, be overcome.

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In all of Guillermo’s films, you have a villain who attempts to destroy the natural world for vengeance, greed, entitlement, and/or short sightedness. In Blade 2, the natural order of the world is disrupted by a quest for power, and the  destruction of humanity is averted by the hero fighting with the very beings he’d made a profession of killing. In Hellboy, the villain wishes to disrupt the order of the world by calling down The Old Gods of Lovecraftian mythology, and in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, faded fairy nobility wants to avenge the destruction of the natural world by human greed. And in The Shape of Water, Strickland is destroyed by the the very sort of people he most hates and fears.

The message of the outsider being more noble, more self sacrificing, and more compassionate is woven throughout many of Guillermo’s films. Since Del Toro himself is a Mexican immigrant, he has always felt himself to be one of the outsiders, and most of his films are seen through such a lens, recognizing the power of those who stand outside the mainstream. All of Del Toro’s protagonists are pieces of himself. Unlike most fantasy film directors, he is willing to address social issues in his films, and reviewers need to give the man his proper respect for doing that, and acknowledge that in their reviews.

 

 

Quick question:What is Guillermo Del Toro’s fascination with Germans? Every one of his films has a German character in it. Can you spot them?

*Note: My second review of this movie will be a discussion of sex and disability.

 

Do You Remember The Sentinel TV Series

This series aired from 1996 through 1999. I remember watching the hell outta this show. It was through this show that I rediscovered slash fan fiction, having gotten away from it, from when I’d discovered Kirk/Spock.

This was very possibly one of the slashiest shows on TV next to Star Trek. Ao3 didn’t exist back then, (although yes, the internet existed) and there was so much fanfiction written about the two male leads of this show, that there were several whole archives devoted to it. (Like 852 Prospect). You can probably still find them. I feel that in some ways this show contributed to  many of the tropes of slash fan fiction, that we find so annoying today.

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The show featured a Ranger named James Ellison, played by Richard Burgi, who lost his Special Ops team in the Amazon jungle. The sole survivor, he discovered he was a member of a mystic warrior race with heightened senses, called Sentinels, whose job it was to watch over their specific tribes. After his rescue, he goes back to Cascade Washington (really just someplace in Canada), becomes a cop, and years later, has forgotten all about his time in the Amazon, until his senses get accidentally re-awakened, when solving one of his cases. At this point he gets discovered by an anthropology researcher named Blair.To help control his superpowers, Jim adopts Blair as a  spiritual focus, whose job is to bring Jim back to reality, when he gets too caught up in whatever he’s sensing.

Now, is that, or is that not, the kinda stuff slash fiction is made of. You’ve got superpowers, spiritual bonds, mystic shenanigans, cops, a handsome and gruff older man, and a cute  and excitable younger partner. It’s like the plot of every yaoi anime ever, and I was totally here for it. This show took me to church!

The popularity of this show was not at all harmed by shirtless images of Richard Burgi in his prime, and that the show’s actors were well aware they were being ‘shipped, and were all for it. Possibly they were even playing it up, since, because of censorship, the show’s creators would have been largely prevented from showing an openly gay relationship, between the two male leads. The study of slash fanfiction was also in its infancy then, and most people wouldn’t have known anything about it, as that was very much under  everyone’s radar. To give you some idea of the timelines involved, Buffy began the year this show ended, and ran until 2003. The show Supernatural began in 2005.

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Richard Burgi was the new hawtness at the time, and Garrett Maggart, who played Blair, wasn’t too shabby looking either, and a lot of the show was really suggestive. The two of them lived together as roommates, they also worked together, because Blair said he wanted  to monitor Ellison’s superpowers, they were very touchy-feely and dramatic, everyone in their lives knew they were living together, including Jim’s ex-wife (Jim simply referred to Blair as his partner, with no other explanation to the rest of the staff of the police dept.) and the two hung out together ALL the time, and everyone seemed perfectly okay with it. This show set the grand standard for queerbaiting .

But I don’t think of this show as queer baiting because that wasn’t really much of a thing back then,  and because of the time period of the show, an open homosexual relationship couldn’t be shown. (Well, rather say that it is, in fact, queer baiting, but its the same kind of queer baiting that exists in old movies, where nothing could be explicitly stated.) Neither character had any long term love interests that the viewer knew they’d eventually end up with, and both of them spent entirely too much time standing uncomfortably close to one another, and looking into each other’s eyes. Queer baiting wasn’t a term that was used yet, but people did spend a lot of time discussing whether or not the characters were gay.

I really think this was a way for the show’s creators to get around  gay relationships not being  shown (or allowed to be shown) on prime time TV. In other words, they had to be sneaky. If you were gay, or gay adjacent, you would see it, and if you weren’t, then you didn’t, (because plausible excuses had been given for why they were not), which is entirely in keeping with the way homosexuality had always been dealt with in popular culture, with innuendo, hints, and allegations, and the show made absolutely no effort to go the “no homo” route by playing up the character’s  relationship with each other, while putting them in  endgame heterosexual relationships.

https://www.amazon.com/Celluloid-Closet-Armistead-Maupin/dp/B001NI5C6U/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1519758939&sr=1-1&keywords=celluloid+closet

It helps that there  was nothing about this show that was even remotely realistic, although if you’re not gonna quibble about the mystical aspects of the show, you shouldn’t have too many problems with other stuff on the show, such as the relationships, or how the “detectiving” was done.

Has anyone else noticed how the detectives on these shows don’t seem to specialize in any one type of detection, even though you can see that wherever they work is fully staffed? Ellison shouldn’t be working a murder case, a drug deal,  and a counterfeit jewelry op, all while trying to catch a terrorist bomber, at the same time.  Most 80’s cop shows just call for the detectives to work on whatever crime pops up that day, instead of specializing in a particular type of crime like homicide, or drugs, or something, which is not how that actually works, in big cities.

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At least several times a season Jim’s senses would go haywire, and Blair would have to talk him out of it, all while trying to keep this a secret from his commanding officer, Captain Simon Banks, played by Bruce Young, because, according to Ellison, if people found out he had superpowers, all his old cases would come up for review, and all the criminals he captured would have to be released. After all, superpowers are not sanctioned by the court system. I think this was a thinly veiled metaphor for being closeted. Jim and Blair often lived in fear that the people around them would find out about Jim’s superpowers, but neither of them cared that they looked like they were in a romantic relationship.

Simon wasn’t clueless the whole time. He eventually finds out, and keeps Jim’s secret, although I do like to wonder what he was thinking about this supposed academic following Jim around, and living with him. And Jim wasn’t actually wrong either. At the end of the series, there’s a riff between him and Blair, when Blair’s dissertation on Jim is accidentally leaked to the public, Jim is outed as a superbeing, and all hell breaks loose. Jim gets suspended. His cases all come up for review. He blames Blair for the potential  loss of his career, and civilians (and the media) are harassing him in the streets. But it all gets resolved, and the series ends on a positive note.

Since there was a mystical component to Jim’s superpowers as a Sentinel, there was a lot of references to his time in the Amazon, and a black jaguar, which appeared to be Jim’s totem animal. My biggest issue was that Jim had regular sightings of this jaguar, and I feel some type of of way about a cop who regularly hallucinates about his spirit animal. That just really bothered me. I’m dubious about the motivations of most cops when they’re completely sober, so a cop who has  visions, yeah…no! But I admit,  I really enjoyed that one episode that involved Jim’s Amazonian shaman visiting Cascade. That was kinda cool.

Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg in "The Sentinel"

 

The Powers

Jim’s hyperacute senses allow him to perceive things undetectable by normal humans. He can see perfectly in low light situations and with superb acuity at long distances, hear sounds at extremely low volume or beyond the normal range of human hearing, and sense what others cannot via taste, touch and smell; he declares himself “a walking forensic lab”. Jim’s powers have a drawback: if he concentrates too strongly on one sense, he may become oblivious to his immediate surroundings. Part of Blair’s job is preventing this, and protecting Jim when he is focusing. As a Sentinel Jim has several powers:

  • All 5 senses are strongly enhanced
  • Able to communicate with ghosts
  • Has a spirit animal, a black jaguar
  • Receives visions that guide him in the choices he makes and sometimes predict the future (Jim had a vision that showed Blair’s death before Alex killed him)
  • Used the power of his animal spirit to bring Blair back from the dead

—  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sentinel_(TV_series)#Powers

Despite my misgivings though, I genuinely loved the show, and not just because I thought Richard Burgi was the second coming of hawt and bothered, which…yeah!.  I  actually liked the premise of the show. It was inspired,  and I think it would be great for a remake.

 

Note:

Some of the best fanfiction I ever read came out of this ‘ship, and I’m sad that I never let those writers know just how appreciative I was of their skills, at that time. Most especially, Saraid, and Brenda Antrim who now goes by the name Glacis,  and has her own Wikipedia page. (She is so good that she’s won awards just for being a fan.)   Saraid’s  Panther Tales series can be found on Ao3.

 

Oh yeah, here is one of the funniest reviews I ever read about this show:

http://www.somethingawful.com/news/sentinel-show-senses/

 

The Sentinel is not currently available for streaming . All four seasons can  only be found on DVD.

 

 

Do You Remember Earth: The Final Conflict?

 

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This show came across my dash, while I was scrolling through Amazon Prime, and I  had to say something about it. I did watch this show when it aired, and it wasn’t a bad show, but I had some trouble watching it now, as I’m spoiled from having too much of the good shit.

Earth The Final Conflict is a Gene Roddenberry show, (it says so right in its title), even though the show doesn’t seem very Roddenberry-ish in tone, and one of the only other shows he ever created besides Star Trek. I remember deciding to watch it, back in the day, because I thought it would be kinda Trekky, but it wasn’t. Its a very different type of show. than Trek.

It aired from 1997 to 2002 ,and you’d think people would remember this more, because it wasn’t actually awful, but maybe because it was so middle of the road, people don’t care. Hell, even I feel that way about it, and I watched it. I only remembered it because it was suggested to me as part of my viewing history on Amazon.

 

The show kinda reminded me a little bit of V, because aliens called the Jaridians,  visit Earth with the public intention of helping humanity, as they always  say. In this case though, the aliens really are ALIEN, and deeply enigmatic. I watched this show for about three years, and I still don’t know what the fuck the aliens wanted on Earth. But no matter what their intentions, you know there has to be a group of human beings in opposition to them, because they’re suspicious of the aliens, even though the aliens have provided food security, cured various diseases, and stopped war.

ETFC starred Gene Roddenberry’s wife, Majel Barrett, and a handful of bland White people, along with PoC who had too much character, because that’s how TV did things in the 90’s. The show had an Asian actor as one of the leads, Von Flores, but his character was pretty  sketchy, and was in league with the aliens, so I don’t know if he counts as good representation according to today’s standards, and because I still can’t say whether or not the aliens were evil. The aliens are such a gray space that they might have actually been good, but its  the humans around them who were a bunch of duplicitous assholes, and maintaining the drama.

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There was the token white, male, hero of the show, Kevin Kilner, playing a guy named Boone, who gets conscripted into working for the aliens, after his family is fridged. This actor was so lacking in character, and personality, that I don’t even remember his name, nor do I remember seeing him in any other shows after this. Not that he didn’t star in anything else, it’s just that I wouldn’t have noticed if he did.

There was also  the token Black guy named Richard Chevolleau, and he played some type of rebel hacker. I remember him because he had a weird accent.

But the standout characters were actually the aliens themselves. Someone put some real imagination into making them really alien, especially the leader, Da’an, played by a woman named Leni Parker. All the aliens were played by women, but played in such a way that they were meant to be non-binary, so the aliens did not behave as either males of females, in any stereotypical manner. They put some real thought into things like how to dress them, body language, speech and their actual voices. These aliens were so mysterious, that I didn’t even consider them stand-ins for some other race of human beings, which is a trap that shows like this frequently fall into.

I actually liked Da’an, because they seemed okay, and I liked the way they were portrayed. I remember when I watched the first episode, and heard Da’ans voice for the first time, and was deeply puzzled. It took a few episodes to get used to the depiction of the aliens, because there just wasn’t anything on TV like them. My brain kept wanting to read Da’an as female, but the show creators actually took things like that into account, and put some real effort into making sure Da’an didn’t conform to any gender roles.

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I do  remember  mildly disliking most of the humans on the show. Except for the token Black guy, named Auger, and Von Flores, as they were the only two characters with actual personalities. Flores was sneaky and duplicitous, so he was hard to actually like, but at least you remembered him when the episode ended, and Chevolleau’s character had a sense of humor, something which no one else on the show displayed. Everyone on the show was always deeply grim and serious, even though the show didn’t look that way until the later seasons.

 

Later on, there was an alien- human hybrid added to the show because, of course, and some extra, more suspicious, aliens were added to the show, to contrast  Da’an. Basically, because the show was unclear  if Da’an was a villain,  they needed to clear that up by adding an actual villain,  which did not work, because, many years later, I’m still unsure if Da’an was a villain. So  that didn’t work either, and  there were some actual evil aliens added to the show, called the Atavus that the Jaridians were fighting.

I also got tired of the humans fighting colonization by aliens plot that was the primary plot of season one and two. I still hate this plot today. Once again, it’s always White people (the ultimate colonizers of everywhere on Earth) who get to decide, and fight for the future of humanity, and then there was the idea in the back of my mind,  that the aliens weren’t actually bad guys,  just the humans who worked for them were bad, and that these resistance fighters were blowing up buildings, and assassinating people, for nothing.

The rebels seemed to be resisting the idea of aliens making human beings behave better towards each other, and I remember being upset about them making the decision to kill other beings, for all humanity, without asking the rest of humanity if they wanted to be fought for. I remember disliking  the rebels deciding  that humans needed saving, because I’m not entirely sure the aliens were evil. I, for one, welcome our new alien overlords.

The show is also an interesting depiction of how humans might actually behave, if Earth were colonized by an advanced species, that weren’t obviously hostile. Because of their good behavior towards humans, some people would worship them, and some people  formed churches, in which Da’an is deified. Some other human beings would definitely be upset about the deification of the aliens, and want to break that shit up, I guess.

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I thought the special effects were pretty good, especially the flying ships, the depiction of the aliens, who were these semi-transparent creatures, that seemed to be made out of layers of energy, and the destructive blasters worn by their human assistants, called Skrills, which I think were living creatures of some kind. I remember being more curious about the living writstblasters than any other technology displayed on the show, and wondered what it was like to wear one, and if the aliens were monitoring their human companions through their bioware.

 

Anyway, the show is  worth a re-watch if you can get past the bland acting of the humans. The aliens are definitely worth watching, if only to try to figure out if they are actually evil, or not, and because they are an  interesting interpretation of non-binary, a-gendered beings. I didn’t watch the show through its entire run, so I can’t say what the outcome is, or whether or not the conflict was, indeed, final.

Black Lightning The Review

So this review is going to be a little unusual because I’m going to talk about my Mom first. If you’ve been reading this blog then you know that she has had a huge influence over my tastes in pop culture and we often enjoy movies and TV shows together.

One of the things we really  didn’t enjoy together, very much, was comic books. I know she has read them, but she pretty much stuck to Archie and Peanuts, and those were the comics I was introduced to as a little girl. I went from there to Marvel, where I read Conan and Red Sonja, and then superheroes in the 80s and 90s. My Mom pretty much stopped reading comics, and moved on to paperbacks.

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So, while my Mom does know something about superheroes like Batman and Superman, whom she disdains for some reason, and I do remember watching Wonder Woman, and The Incredible Hulk with her, when I was a kid, she is not specifically a fan of superheroes, really. I couldn’t get her to watch Captain America, Daredevil, The Defenders or Spiderman, but I did get her to watch Luke Cage, which I consider a success. Apparently, if its a Black superhero, she will watch it, because she also really loved Blade, and seems to be looking forward to Black Panther. She binge-watched (for the first time) Luke Cage, the weekend after it aired.

Basically, I know my the kind of stuff she likes, so I tried to sell her on Black Lightning. I was only slightly nervous, because I wasn’t absolutely sure she would like it. I told her it was like Luke Cage, which I think she maybe watched too fast, because she only has vague memories of really enjoying it. (I did inform her there would be a season two of the show this summer.)

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I don’t know why I was so nervous though, because I should’ve remembered that she loved Blade, and yeah,  she loved Black Lightning. She mostly really got into the action scenes., which I have to admit were very exciting.  Now, anytime I can get my 67 year old Mom to watch a superhero show on the CW, it must be compelling. I have to tell you, my Mom is what you might call, an enthusiastic television viewer. She is very loud and vocal about what she is liking on the screen, and this was the case with Black Lightning. The loud whoops, and cheers I heard coming from her part of the house, was more than enough to vindicate my decision. She was even giddy enough to try to tell me about the episode afterwards, even though I told her I’d already watched it! I was getting a tiny bit worried because she was very worked up about Anissa having superpowers.

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I had already watched the episode the night it aired, and recorded it on the DVR. Wednesday nights are her dialysis evenings, and after her session is over she likes to watch a couple of hours of TV and fall asleep. So now she’s excited to watch 9-1-1 on Wednesday nights, and Black Lightning on Tuesdays.

As for Black Lightning, I did very much enjoy it. Its very possibly one of the most unapologetically Black things on TV, or at least on the CW.  From the dialogue, to the plot, and music, there’s a lot of cultural relevance in it for Black audiences, and this appears to have worked because the show got good reviews. I was not wrong in comparing it to Luke Cage, because the plot is very reminiscent of that show. The show isn’t related to any  of the other superhero shows on the CW. Meaning it doesn’t take place in the same universe as Arrow or Legends of Tomorrow. Nevertheless, I’m really glad a lot of non-Black viewers came out in support of the show, and seemed to enjoy it. too.

Jefferson Pierce is Black Lightning, a high school principal, who  has been  retired from the superhero/vigilante lifestyle for some nine years. He is separated from his wife, with whom he has joint custody of their two daughters,. One of his daughters, Anissa, is a part-time  sex education teacher at the school (so viewers will definitely be receiving some sex education this season, along with history lessons), and the other, Jennifer, is one of the top students at the school. When Jennifer falls into the company of a local gangbanger, who threatens her, and her sister’s  life, their father has to come out of retirement to rescue them both.

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As I’ve said before, I’m always here for some Black girl damseling, but that isn’t all we’re in for though, as it turns out that Anissa also has superpowers. She can change her physical density, which gives her speed and strength. In the comic books, her superhero name is Thunder, and her little sister, who has powers much like her father, is known as Lightning. (She has the ability to transform her body into lightning, which is all kinds of awesomeness). I haven’t read much about either of them in the comic books, even though I was a fan of Batman and the Outsiders in the early nineties. I first encountered Thunder in a story where she was fighting with her dad about choosing the superhero lifestyle. She is currently a member of The Outsiders. I suspect that title  is going to become very popular after this show.

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Black Lightning and Luke Cage (Misty Knight) will be only two of three shows, that I know of, which will feature Black female superheroes.  The other show is Legends of Tomorrow with Vixen. It will have the groundbreaking distinction of being the only show on television with a Black lesbian superhero (in the comic books Thunder is the partner of superhero  Grace Choi, who is being played by Chantal Thuy) This is notable for two reasons. Grace Choi will be the only Asian (Vietnamese/Canadian) lesbian superhero on TV, as part of an interracial couple, (where neither partner is White),  which is pretty rare.

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Another thing I liked about this show was the relationships.  We see a positive ex-wife/husband relationship. They act like mature adults who talk to each other about their lives, and raising their daughters. Its evident that Jefferson and his ex-wife still love each other, but for some reason feel they can’t be together.We get to see a positive family dynamic between a father and his two daughters, and we get to see a loving and supportive relationship between two sisters, which is also interesting on TV, as there are rarely more than one or two WoC in any narrative.

My Mom seemed especially interested and excited at the idea that the daughters have superpowers. She was very vocal about it at any rate. Which kind of saddens me, because sometimes a person doesn’t know they need something until they’ve seen it. She’s probably wanted to see Black women with superpowers her whole life. And it was not until we started getting Black directors and content creators, that she got the chance to see it. I read comic books as a kid, so I had Storm, but my Mom had none of this growing up.

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http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-comic-con-2017-black-lightening-won-t-avoid-social-1500782478-htmlstory.html

So I just want to give a shout-out to the Black  men content creators, who have not forgotten that their “sistahs” exist, and want to see representation for themselves. We want to see ourselves kicking  ass and having adventures too. Ryan Coogler, (The Dora Milaje), Cheo Hodari- Coker (Misty Knight), and the husband and wife directing team (Salim and Mara Brock Alil) of Black Lightning, have not forgotten to give Black women strong, positive roles in their new venture, something which White directors (especially White female directors)  always seem to forget, or only remember as an afterthought. Black content creators are doing the Lord’s work and I thank them for it. Plenty of little Black girls, including my niece, will grow up watching versions of themselves saving the world. And my Mom can finally get to see those Black female superheroes she didn’t know she needed.

This is one of my favorite scenes where Jefferson’s daughters surprise their father by joining him on his morning run.

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As for the more questionable stuff: If you’re having anxiety issues surrounding police brutality, or implications of rape, then use caution while watching this show. There are a lot of guns (mostly used by gang members),  but you don’t really see many people get shot, until the end of the show, (and those are all villains). There is a mildly graphic scene where a man gets eaten by piranha. Don’t ask!

I have to admit to feeling a good deal of tension surrounding the opening scene, when Jefferson gets pulled over by  cops for driving while Black, and he and  his daughters are threatened. It’s a very harrowing scene, even when you remember that none of these characters are going to die ,or there’d be no show. This doesn’t seem to be one of those shows where “anybody can die”, but only the marginalized characters ever seem to get killed, so you guys are safe on that front.

There are three primary villains in the show. One of them is a low status employee of the local drug dealer who stalks Jennifer after she goes out to a club with him. One of them is an associate of Jefferson named La La, played by William Catlett,  and the other is Tobias Whale played by the albino actor, Marvin Krondon Jones III. Although ,once again, we really need to examine this thing where people with albinism are cast as villains all the time. I’m pretty sure that such individuals don’t like seeing themselves as the bad guys all the time in popular media.

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The show tackles several topics. like the generation gap in activism, gangs, gun control in schools, and it also presents interesting ideas of how Black men handle oppression. There’s Jefferson’s manner, which is to try to lift up as many people as possible. There’s La La’s way of handling it, which seems to be just giving in, and the Kingpin-like Tobias Whale approach, which is to take advantage of the system to get ahead, and  attempt respectability.

After Jennifer and Anissa are kidnapped,  Black Lightning has to come out of retirement to rescue them. It seems the stress of being kidnapped, and nearly killed has unleashed Anissa’s abilities, so while we come into Black Lightning’s story in the middle, we will get to see the origins of Thunder and Lightning, and how they navigate the world with powers. We’ll also get to see how Jefferson deals with his children having abilities, and his daughter’s coming out,as a lesbian.

The show-runners have said that for the first season their focus is going to be on Black Lightning’s origins, and his beef with Tobias Whale. Most of his adventures will remain at the street/vigilante level, as with the first season of Daredevil ,and they’ll explore how Jennifer and Anissa deal with their new powers.

I also want to give a shout-out to the soundtrack director. Every form of  modern Black music gets represented , and I spent more than a little amount of my time not paying attention to the plot, as I sang along to some oldies, and even got introduced to a few new artists.

As with most pop culture  aimed at Black audiences, I’m mostly reading and signal boosting reviews from PoC , because I feel like these are the reviewers who can best understand  what they’ve just seen, and be able to speak to the authenticity of the show, as regards Black culture, although most reviewers, of all races, seemed to have enjoyed it.

Be here for further updates. I wont be doing a week by week review but I will keep abreast of events,  and come back to discuss some of the highlight episodes.

Adequate Representation & Fandom Racism

 

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I think Samuel R. Delaney really summed this up best when he outlined how the rise in racist behavior from White people in fandoms (and most other ventures and organizations) is often directly commensurate with a rise in the number of PoC who are participating in said event. Not to imply causality here, but certainly there is a correlation.

 

*(Warning for graphic descriptions of lynching.)

“Racism and Science Fiction”
by Samuel R. Delany

From NYRSF Issue 120, August 1998. “Racism in SF” first appeared in volume form
in Darkmatter, edited by Sheree R. Thomas, Warner Books: New York, 2000.
Posted by Permission of Samuel R. Delany. Copyright © 1998 by Samuel R. Delany.


Racism for me has always appeared to be first and foremost a system, largely supported by material and economic conditions at work in a field of social traditions. Thus, though racism is always made manifest through individuals’ decisions, actions, words, and feelings, when we have the luxury of looking at it with the longer view (and we don’t, always), usually I don’t see much point in blaming people personally, white or black, for their feelings or even for their specific actions—as long as they remain this side of the criminal. These are not what stabilize the system. These are not what promote and reproduce the system. These are not the points where the most lasting changes can be introduced to alter the system.

 

http://www.nyrsf.com/racism-and-science-fiction-.html

 

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Delaney was specifically discussing Genre literature in this essay, but this same reasoning could also be applied to television, film, fandoms, tech startups,  travel, medicine, and academia. The reason why so many people like to look back to the “Good ‘Ol Days” and say there wasn’t any racism back then, is because there weren’t enough PoC involved in that particular industry back then, to trigger the “Pushback” behavior we’re seeing now, at least not in enough numbers that White people thought it worrisome.

There isn’t more racism being expressed in fandom. It’s the same amount of whitewashing, erasure, and White prioritization that  has always existed. The only differences now is that with the rise, in number, of fans of color, White bigots have become more  vocal in their efforts to push back against those numbers, and there are more of us to call them out on their behavior.

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Whether they know what they’re doing or not, fans are participating in an effort to drive PoC away from spaces they have always considered safely theirs, and not just against PoC, but women as well. This happens in every industry, and it has always failed.  There has never been a time when White bigots (whether they knew they were bigots, or not) successfully managed to send THOSE people back where they came from, or halt their participation in some cultural pursuit. Nevertheless, each generation of newcomers must go through the same song and dance of defending our presence, wherever we happened to show up, or defending our interest, in something we found entertaining.

And I am a WoC, so I have had to work doubly hard at this.

Star Trek Discovery Review

 

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Before we get started on the second half of the new season, let’s talk about what I liked and disliked about this new show, and do some quick character reviews. I know some of you had some doubts about this show and you can decide for yourself whether or not it’s worth your time, based on my observations. I’m gonna try to be as fair as I can considering I’m biased.

Let me lay out my credentials: I’m an OG Star Trek fan, since about ten or so. I’ve been around since the replays of the Original series back in the 80s, and have watched every episode, multiple times, over the last 35 years. I’ve seen every movie multiple times, can quote dialogue, know most characters backstories, from having read almost all the books , and vowed I would marry Mr. Spock when I was twelve years old. I was a Trek fan before I was a fan of Star Wars,and that’s where the bulk of my nerd-love went.

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I have to admit, I’m kinda addicted to this show, which surprised me, after my initial reserve of those first two episodes. I got into it about six episodes in,when CBS All Access offered a special subscription. As I’ve said, there’s nothing else on the network worth looking at, but I’ve heard there are some promising shows for the future, and I think this is one of them. It’s tackled a couple of sensitive issues with Star Trek’s usual care, and lack of hysteria, and it has some intriguing characters.

The major plot consists of Captain Lorca’s efforts to create a weapon that will help Starfleet win in the war against the Klingons. To that end, he has Michael’s transport shuttle waylaid, so he can use her big brain to help him to do this. Over time, we learn that he has Carte Blanche to do whatever he pleases, as long as it accomplishes his goal. When they find another ship whose crew wiped out by a hostile alien, called a tardigrade, they capture the alien, and use it, (and it’s parasitic relationship with some sentient mushroom spores) to create a new form of trans warp drive, that allows their ship to movie itself anywhere instantly.

When Michael and Stamets find out that their use of the creature is killing it, Michael, in her compassion, sets it free, and prepares to use her own body in place of the alien, to communicate with the spores, but Stamets sacrifices himself instead, and by the end of the season, they have accomplished their goal of creating a new weapon in the war, to spectacular fashion, in an episode rivaling the TNG two parter, The Best of Both Worlds. But Stamets is so changed in personality by what he has done, as to be unrecognizable from when we first met him,and there will be repercussions from that, as biological experimental weapons are outlawed in Starfleet.

 

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In the meantime, most of Michael’s actions, on the ship,revolve around her navigating  new, and old,  relationships, and occasionally saving the ship. She is usually the one person who thinks differently enough from any of the other characters (due to her dual heritage) that she is able to come up with solutions to their problems.

 

Up first:

I like the relationships and characters most of all. ST has never shied away from relationship stories. In fact, I’d argue those were some of the best episodes of any of the series. But Star Trek has always been very plot driven, too, and Discovery does not skimp on that end. I find everything except the  Klingons to be compelling. The special effects are good, and the writing is well done, often involving a primary plot, a B plot, and a couple of smaller subplots, all of them elegantly intertwined, such that what you think is a B or subplot could have an effect on the main one, at any moment, or come into play later in the season.

A word of warning:

 

This is a very dark show. If you liked DS9, then you’ll probably like this one. I was not a huge DS9 fan until after the series ended. But I like how dark this show is. The characters aren’t as blandly pleasant as they were in TNG, which I also liked a lot, or as polarizing as in the Original series. The show has dealt with war, ptsd, rape trauma, spiritual possession, revenge, and treason, and that’s just in the first half of the season.

If you’re used to thinking of Star Trek as light and fluffy, then just remember the Original series had some occasionally very dark episodes too, that addressed serious social issues, like Toxic Masculinity, in Charlie X, and The Enemy Within. It dealt with sexism in Turnabout Intruder, and frequently dealt with issues of population control, slavery, conflicted identity, and the nature of violence. One of my all time favorite episodes of Voyager was the introduction of a member of the immortal Q Continuum who wanted to commit suicide, but was prevented from doing so by the others, in Death Wish. I think that’s probably the only episode, of any of the series, to ever bring me to tears.

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If you’re looking for fun and fluffy, this has very little of it to go around. There are occasionally beautiful moments, (you can see this show costs money), and some lighthearted banter, but that’s not the focus of the show.

Now let’s talk about the six primary characters:

Michael Burnham:

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Its hard to get a grasp on this character. She really is the main focus of the show. She has most of the onscreen time,and many of the episodes revolve around how she thinks and feels, but she is not an especially demonstrative character, due to her Vulcan upbringing, and it’s takes time, and lots of viewing, to get some idea of what she’s thinking and feeling. She is brave, idealistic, and earnest. And at least is not as stiffly formal as when we first met her. She is learning to act more human, I’m going to argue that she either suppressed or ignored her emotions as being irrelevant, because that’s how so many Vulcans operate.

We need to keep in mind that the third episode and the subsequent episodes take place immediately after her court martial, so I’m guessing all within the space of a year, or a few months. Her entrance to Lorca’s ship gets off to a rocky start, as she is rebuffed by Tilley, and tested by Stamets, and rebuked by Saru, who is terrified of her. But over time, these individuals start to understand her worth, as she regularly saves their lives, and they warm to her.

Everyone questions her purpose on the ship, but Lorca knows why he wants her. She’s smart as fuck, and has no qualms about kicking Klingon ass. And I think he just admires her, for her. She has been a great asset to his ship, but no matter how useful she is to him, she has to always keep in mind that she is under a life imprisonment sentence with Starfleet, and is, basically, a convict, whose sentence has been briefly commuted. When Lorca’s mission is over she believes she will go back to prison, so that’s the sword that is hanging over her head throughout all her missions,and informs some of her decision making.

 

Tilly:

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Tilly is Michael’s roommate, and I immediately disliked Tilly, at first, because of the way she treated Michael when they first met. But, I’ve grown to really, really like her. Sometimes more than Michael, but Michael is a very heavy character, who is hard to cozy up to, because she’s so closed with her emotions. Tilly’s emotions are wide open, which makes her more easily accessible, and one of the most likable people on the show. If Michael is the intellect, then Tilly is the heart of the show, and in their friendship, we can see a reflection of the relationships of the Original series, (Kirk, Spock ,and McCoy, who often acted as Kirks intellect and conscience). The only word that can truly describe Tilly, is ” bubbly”.

She is often the comedy relief, for whom Michael plays the straight man, and has sort of appointed herself to be Michael’s emotional liaison, helping her navigate a human social system, without any rank to smooth the way, and I would argue that they are great friends, or getting there. Michael has none, so has to work out each individual relationship, as she encounters them. Tilley has also appointed Michael to be her mentor, and I can’t tell you how heartening it is to watch Michael develop the same relationship with Tilley that she had with Gheorgiu, and fulfilling Gheorgius wishes for her.

Another thing I have to applaud the show for is Tilly’s relationship with Michael is  treated as a priority for both of them, and the writers show that by not creating a trite love triangle between Tilly, Ash, and Michael. It is Tilly who shows initial interest in Ash, but when she can see that Ash and Michael have a connection, she steps aside, and encourages Michael to pursue a relationship with him. In the hands of lesser writers, Tilly and Michael would have competed for Ash’s attention, and I appreciate that these writers were more mature.

Bryan Fuller is known for having positive female relationships in his shows and I am here for it, and I love seeing it.

 

Ash Tyler:

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Ash is played by the exceptionally handsome Shazad Latif, he of the big round eyes! When Captain Lorca gets kidnapped by the Klingons, he gets trapped in a cell with Ash, who had been a prisoner for some time, and was only alive because L’Rel, a female Klingon, took a romantic fancy to him. He later talks about his time with her, to Michael, and we come to understand that he was in fact raped repeatedly by L’Rel, as he slept with her to keep from being tortured and killed, like all the other prisoners who were captured before him. When L’Rel surrenders to Lorca, she gets sent to brig and we see Ash have his first panic attack, as he suffers from ptsd. The writers handle the issues of rape, and post traumatic stress, delicately, and with respect.

After a successful mission with Michael, that saves the ship, Ash gets appointed to Head of Security, as he and Michael form a strong emotional bond. It’s not exactly a romance yet, but there is an implied intimacy of feeling between the two, and they do discuss having a future romantic relationship. Later, during a time travel episode, they share their first kiss. Star Trek has portrayed many different types of romances, but this is one of the few interracial relationships, on any of its shows, that do not involve a White partner, (most interracial relationships on TV involve a White partner), or an alien, and I think it’s handled very well, with care and sensitivity for both their issues, although I suspect it will turn out to be tragic, as the future doesn’t look good for an ex-con, whose only free on sufferance, and a Head of Security in Starfleet.

 

Lt. Saru:

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Saru is played by the inimitable Doug Jones, from Hellboy, and The Shape of Water. If you’re interested in some interesting tidbits and updates on his career (along with some great philosophical analysis of mythology in pop culture) then check out, and follow, his brothers website:

For smart, philisophocal reading on superheroes, follow my oldest brother Bobby and scroll down his WordPress entries!

Saru is another character that is hard to warm up to, but only because he’s so bluntly, and directly suspicious of Michael. I have to keep in mind that Saru is traumatized by the loss of his captain,which really wasn’t that long ago, and blames Michael, and in many ways, himself. Saru is an alien from a member of what he calls, “a prey species”, and so has developed a keen ability to detect danger. He often talks about being risk avoidant, but I’ve seen this character be brave and fearless in a couple of episodes, so I’m taking what he says about himself with a grain of salt.

Over time he does begin to warm up to and trust mIchael, but he never loses his initial suspicion of her. He’s still very wary, but the two of them reached a moment of ,if not friendship, then at least detente,when Michael is delivered Gheorgius last will and testament in the form of a giant telescope, that was her family heirloom. Gheorgius last words to Michael is the first really tearjerker moment in the series, which is only equaled by the scene in which Michael offers the telescope to Saru. In fact we learn about what Saru thinks and feels in that episode,so we reach a fuller understanding of him, even if he is difficult to warm to. He’s not a bad character. He’s not even especially dark. He’s just afraid, but I’m very protective when it comes to Michael’s character, and tend to give the side eye to anyone on the show, who doesn’t like her.

Saru is too traumatized to ever trust Michael. He is always going to be afraid of her, and what she might do, but he makes it clear that he has the utmost respect for her, and I’ll accept that.

 

Lt. Stamets:

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I think all of these characters start out as inherently unlikable, but over time you grow to like them,and none more so than Stamets. He is also a lot like Lorca, in that he is focused and needs to work on his social skills, as he is very blunt and direct, and I initially hated him. When he first meets Michael, he tests her scientific knowledge, but once she has proven she is capable, he simply doesn’t care about her past. She is a member of his crew and the only person he considers smarter than her, is himself. As a character, he is every bit as idealistic and brave as any of the other characters from previous series, and becomes much more likable after he forms an intimate relationship with some sentient mushroom spores. (Don’t ask!) Although, without the influence of the mushrooms, Stamets is the kind of person you’re either terrified of, or just want to slap the living shit out of.

Stamets is married to the ships doctor, Hugh Culber. I liked how their relationship was portrayed in the show, as just like any other. The audience is gradually introduced to them as a romantic couple, living together as partners, over time. Culber doesn’t have a huge role in the show as of this time, but we’ll see more of him as the series progresses. There’s also another one of the first (and few) gay kisses on a Star Trek show, (DS9 had a couple of them), and it is given the full romantic treatment, with swelling music, and swooping camera angles, that it should be given, as Stamets prepares to risk his life to save the ship. Earlier in the season Michael got her own romantic moment with Ash.

Culber is focused and dedicated in his work, and is an absolute cinnamon roll compared to Stamets. Nevertheless, you can see in their interactions with each other, why Culber loves him,and Culber is one of the few people who can call Stamets on his bullshit, and get away with it.

Anthony Rapp, and Wilson Cruz, are both openly gay actors who play openly gay characters, which is how it should be.

 

Captain Lorca:

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Let’s get this out of the way. You will not like Lorca. He isn’t meant to be liked, and he isn’t likable. If you’re expecting someone like Picard or Kirk, then you need to go home, cuz he ain’t the one. Picard, Kirk, and the others were captains of exploratory, diplomatic ships. They were chosen specifically for their positions because of their charm, idealism, diplomacy, candor, and all those other fine qualities. Lorca is the captain of a ship of war. He is mysterious, shifty, shady, unreliable, ruthless, conniving, and morally gray, but he is not evil. At least not actively so. He was appointed to his position for the specific purpose of puttin’ a whoopin’ on some Klingon asses, and that’s his top priority. His job, and his ship are focused on creating new weapons for Starfleet. He is focused and blunt (I can identify with that to a degree), and will sacrifice anyone or anything to meet his ends.

He likes to collect things, and his dimly lit office, (he has some kind of eye disorder that makes him allergic to bright lights) is full of all manner of alien curios, including a live tribble, and some Gorn armor. He’s intriguing and I ljust know he’s getting shipped with somebody on this show even though he isn’t close to any of his crew. He’s generally respectful but he’s not a warm man. The only time we ever see him be warm is with his lover, and oldest friend, Admiral Cornwell.

He is the kind of man that makes no effort to be the bigger person. He saves Ash from the Klingons but when he finds out that Harry Mudd is a spy for them, he leaves him behind to be tortured by them, which is something that comes back to bite him in the ass later, When his lover, Admiral Cornwell , gets captured by the Klingons, he makes no effort to rescue, her because she called into question his ability to command,and planned to report him to Starfleet. And although there are no details, the loss of his light vision is directly attributable to some dust-up he had with Klingons.

It’s interesting that no mention of him is made in any of the other series, which take place long after his death. So I do wonder what happened to him and the technology he created in this show. I very much suspect that he and his ship are destroyed, or are lost somehow. Although we need to keep in mind which universe this show takes place in. Is it the 2009 Star Trek Verse, or the Original series/movie Verse?

 

Favorite episodes:

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Episode 6: Lethe – This one is about Michael’s relationship with Sarek, her decision to join Starfleet, and a mystery she needs to resolve between the two of them to save Sareks life. Some great character work from Sonequa, and Frain.

Episode 7: Magic To Make the Sanest Man Go Mad – This was my all time favorite episode, which surprised me because I’m familiar with the old Harry Mudd episodes from the Original series,and those were not my favorites. So when I heard that the new series would re-introduce this character, I automatically dismissed him. But this episode proved extremely likable.  And Rainn Wilson makes a very compelling Harry Mudd.The events of this episode are directly brought about by Lorca’s previous actions in an earlier episode.

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*There’s a scene where the crew is having a party and the music you hear playing in the background is definitely Al Green’s “Love and Happiness”, and Wycliffe Jean’s “We Tryin’ to Stay Alive” and  Tilley refers to this as Classical music. (All you gotta do is put some of my favorite music in your show to make me a fan for life, apparently. ) Michael dances with Stamets, and Ash and Michael share their first kiss. This episode sets up Michael as being qualifying romantic potential.

Episode 8: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum – I actually think this is one of the weakest episodes of this season, because the plot is rather typical, what sets it apart is Doug Jones awesome performance, as an exceptionally dangerous being, possessed by another alien species. This episode belongs entirely to Lt. Saru.

Episode 9: Into The Forest I Go – The last episode before the hiatus is just some great plotting,as far as I’m concerned. Outside of the Harry Mudd episode is the second best of the season, and a great setup for the major changes to come in the second half.

 

The show picks up the second half of its season on January 9th. And while I’m looking forward to new episodes, I’m kinda pissed that I have to wait a week between them as CBS has string the episodes out to keep people subscribing to their channel. They seem pretty aware that the only reason any of us signed up for it is to watch this show,and that as soon as it’s over, we’ll drop this channel. Hopefully, they’ll release some new shows before we all feel an urge to cancel it.

Hi! Have Some Mini Reviews

Attack of the Killer Donuts

Yep! Its attack of the Killer Donuts. I was eager to watch this the moment I heard about it, but didn’t know where I’d be able watch it. I thought maybe it would take at least a year for it to reach the Syfy channel, maybe. Its actually on a library app called Hoopla. (If you have a library card, and your library subscribes to Hoopla, you should be able to access free books, movies, comic books and music.)

Yes, this movie is exactly as stupid as it sounds, carrying on in the grand tradition of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and stars our boy, Ponyboy,  I mean C. Thomas Howell, yucking it up, as a cop who naturally, loves donuts. I’d list the other actors in this movie, but you still wouldn’t know who they were. It’s an entire cast of nobodies, who will never be anybodies, because that’s just how atrocious their acting is.

It’s hard to make a parody of a parody, but this movie actually  manages to successfully spoof Killer Tomatoes. Johnny is a hapless loser, whose blonde bombshell girlfriend cheats on him, and who doesn’t recognize that  his childhood friend, Michelle, has been totally crushing on him. He lives with his Mom, while his uncle lives in the basement and does weird medical experiments on rats. Also, his Mom is secretly sleeping with his nerdy best friend, Howard. Johnny works in a local donut shop that’s been going out of business for years because the town is nearly dead.

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Michelle is a techinical genius, who fixes computers, in her spare time. Unfortunately, her shiftless, dumbbell brother takes all the credit, and refuses to pay her for it. Michelle has been crushing on Johnny since they were little kids, and I totally bought into their relationship. The actress is good  enough, and there’s just enough backstory, to be able to sell her friendship with Johnny. Why does she love him, especially since she’s the smartest person in town? Because it’s in the script.

When Johnny’s uncle’s weird resurrection experiment manages to contaminate some donuts, the infection soon spreads to the rest of the shop, where the donuts come alive, sprout giant teeth, and decide to chew their way through the town’s inhabitants. Do not stop to ask yourself pertinent questions like: Where did they grow those teeth from? How are they moving around without legs?  Where is all the flesh they’re eating going to if they don’t have stomachs? And do the donuts produce poop? Never mind all this! Just enjoy the sheer goofiness of watching crullers, twists, and creme filled long johns, flying through the air, and trying ot bite people.

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I got a real kick out of this movie, though. It’s not very deep and I got a few hearty laughs out of it. The characters are definitely meant to be mocked and ridiculed. The three smartest people in the cast are Michelle, Howard, and Johnny ,who manage to fight off the donuts, and prevent possible donut Armageddon, by beating back the donuts using a combination of bravery and batlike objects, and blowing up the donut shop. The body count is pretty  low, but only because the movie doesn’t have a large enough budget to star more than ten to twelve people anyway.

The characters who are meant to be liked are likable, and you root for them to survive. The characters who are meant to be hated, are hatefully over the top, and you gleefully hope the donuts will eat them, like Johnny’s asshole boss, who allows Michelle to be bullied and sexually harassed by some dudebro customers, and Johnny’s faux-girlfriend, who is only with him because he keeps giving her money. Michelle is waaay too pretty and smart for Johnny, but that’s also on purpose. Heroes in these movies are almost always outshone by their girlfriends.

The stars of the movie though, are the donuts who chase, bounce, jump, bite, and generally act like a pack of rabid weasels. Occasionally someone  eats one of the cursed donuts and they, in turn, become rabid, and attack people, too. These are some of the cheapest, funniest special effects, I’ve seen in a while and I loved it! You could do worse than spend a happy, mindless, 90 minutes with this movie.

 

Star Trek Discovery

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I re-subscribed to CBS All Access because they offered some kind of special to sign back up. Of course I’m sure they realize, that as soon as the first season of this show is over, I’m going to unsubscribe to this  channel, because there’s not a whole hell of a lot to offer on this network. I generally don’t watch CBS. (They don’t have especially interesting shows, there’s almost no diversity, and there’ aren’t a whole lot of movie choices, either.)

Well, I subscribed so I could watch the first half of the first season of Star Trek Discovery and I have to say. I’m hooked! It took about three days to get through the first 7 or 8 episodes and now I’m invested. Like a lot of shows that do so, it improved from the pilot episode, with the introduction of new characters and themes.

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The first two episodes don’t really give a lot of indication of what the show will be like the rest of the season, and by the 4th and 5th episodes the show has definitely developed its flavor, with a good balance of light heartedness, and seriousness. Michael Burnham’s character takes a real turn when her prison ship is diverted to the Discovery by Captain Lorca.

Michael isn’t well received on the ship. Most people either hate her or fear her, except for Lorca, and her roommate, Tilly, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. There’s also been the introduction of a love interest named Ash Tyler, played by the lovely Shazad Latif, who was rescued from a Klingon ship, suffers from PTSD, and may be a Klingon spy. I’m also really liking Anthony Rapp’s character, after I hated him in the first couple of episodes. Something happened to him that made him much more likable and approachable, without changing his essential nature.

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Each episode has a philosophical theme, that can get a little bit heavy. and I’ve gotten the impression that a lot of the kids on Tumblr aren’t used to Scifi shows being like that, I guess. But if you’re an OG Star Trek fan you should be well used to that sort of thing. The show definitely captures the spirit of Star Trek, if not the exact timeline and details. One of the things you may have the hardest time with is people cussing, and actual (not implied) sex scenes, because up til now, its mostly been a very PG type of show.

I’ll do a more in depth post on this later this month, after I’ve had some more time to think about the characters and plot.

 

Justice League

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Certain parts of this movie I really enjoyed, mostly any scene that didn’t involve Batman, or the villain. The end of the movie is a hot and colorful mess. The pacing is off, the music is annoying, just really, this could have been a  better movie.  But there are things to like about it. The most compelling story is Cyborg, and I wish I’d gotten to see more of The Flash, because all we got from him is quips. He still turned out to be my favorite character in the entire movie, which was a suprise because I thought it would be Aquaman. (Cyborg is too grim and tragic to be a favorite, although I really liked him, and I look forward to his solo film.)

It doesn’t help matters that every time I heard the villain’s name, I thought of the band Steppenwolf, (I did not know this was an actual character in DC comics.), and the funky remix of Magic Carpet Ride would play in my head.

 

Thor: Ragnarok

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This was a much better movie, even though I was trying really hard not to compare it to Justice League.  I really love Taika Waititi, and his brand of humor is stamped all over this movie, plus there’s a lowkey anti-colonialist message underneath all of the fun.

My favorite moment is Hela’s entrance into the story, and the introduction of Fenris. I didn’t know I needed to see a giant wolf  until I saw it. The Hulk turned out to be a lot funnier than I thought he would be, and of course, Jeff Goldblum was gold! Tessa Thompson was having waaay too much fun blowing shit up, and catwalking her way through the action scenes, and I loved it. Heimdall has a much larger role in this movie, and I’m eternally grateful at getting to watch Idris Elba kick some ass with a giant sword.

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Funny moment #213!

I had a great time!

 

Blade of the Immortal

I used to read this Manga back in the nineties, becasue that’s what I was doing back then, reading Samurai Manga, and binging YA novels. If you’re looking for a fairly faithful rendition of the manga, this will do.

Manji is about to die in battle when he’s approached by some type of immortal nun, who infects him with something called blodworms. The bloodworms heal any injuries he gets, no matter how severe or life threatening. In the books, he can only be killed after he kills 1000 men. Well, in the movie its been 50 something years, and he hasn’t killed 1000 men yet, when he’s contacted by a woman, Rin, who wants him to avenge her family’s deaths at the hands of the local sword fighting school.

I really love Samurai movies, ever since I first watched Seven Samurai, and will watch almost any one of them. I really liked this one, but not for the story, which I found not too remarkable. I liked it for the gore and sowrdfighting. I’m pretty sure Japanese viewers will get a lot more out of watching this movie than I did, but for me it was all just eye candy and some great fight scenes. And there are a lot of those, and naturally, there’s also a lot of blood. Blood and appendages are flying all over the place in this movie, re-attaching themselves, only to be lopped off later in the film. While this has the unintended side effect of muting any danger that Manji might be in, Rin is still in peril, and you’ll have to settle for a will she or won’t she survive type of thrill.

 

Valerian and the City of One Thousand Planets

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I was really hyped to see this movie because its got creatures, aliens, scifi costumes, and action and adventure, and I like Dane Dehaan. I ended up being disappointed, not because this is a bad movie, but because  it has so little substance to it, and I just expected more. Despite all the alien candy on display, the most fascinating thing, in the entire movie, was Cara Delevigne eyebrows. Talk about eyebrows “on fleek”. I kept staring at them, wondering when she had time to do her makeup, with all the shooting and running around she had to do.

I was also mildy excited because there was a big deal about the  singer Rihanna being is in this movie, as a shapeshifting character named Bubble, but she doesn’t appear until about 3/4 of the way in, and is killed off soon after, as she sacrifices her life for the two White protagonists, after one of them tortured her for information. Everything aobut this character is just bad, when looked at from the perspective of race. Everything!!! She’s toyalty of some kind, who was kidnapped and enslaved, and reduced to the level of a sex worker, (who is happy to be whatever you want). The worst part is that this tragic character is meant to be a form of comedy relief.

So let’s get this right:

Enslaved? Check!

Sex worker?Check!

Torture of yet another PoC? Check!

Comedy relief? Check!

Sacrifices herself to save the White protagonists? Check!

*Sigh!*

It’s like the writers went through a list of all the  Black film stereotypes they could find and wrote the character around every one of them. It wouldve been better if this character had never existed at all. (That would still have not improved this film however.) I know Rihanna is a huge scifi geek because she said so, but she really needs ot choose her nextproject with more care. I had no trouble with her performance of Bubble, however. She came across as funny and sweetly vulnerable.

There’s a lot of action in this movie. A lot of running around all so that everyone can end up in the same place, which has the side efect of making you think all the running around was to no purpose, a series of film vignettes, loosely based around the movie’s McGuffin. There is the same underlying theme of colonialism as in Thor Ragnarok, but it’s so nebulous you can barely see it.

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And so am I.