The State of the Union – TV (Pt. 55)

I’m just putting random numbers on these types of posts, at this point, since I can’t remember whatever number I used for my last State of the Union Address. But here’s a list of shows, I’ve been looking at this Summer.

Watching/Have Watched

Castle Rock (Hulu)

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I watched the first two episodes of this show. I was really excited about seeing it and the show doesn’t completely disappoint, but that’s mostly because I’m a full-on Stephen King fan who has caught a lot of the Easter eggs in the episodes, and there are quite a few, which is something entirely in keeping with the idea of a Stephen King Universe where all his stories are connected.

We start of with the small town of Castle Rock itself, where more than a few King stories take place. The episode begins with a missing little Black boy named Henry, who is found by Sheriff Pangborn eleven days later. If you remember Pangborn is the sheriff who defeats the demon from the novel Needful Things. Henry’s father went missing as well. his adoptive mother is played by Sissy Spacek, who played Carrie in the  1976 movie of the same name.

When Henry is called back to the town of Castle Rock, we discover that his mother is suffering from dementia, and she has a romantic relationship with a much older Pangborn. Henry received a mysterious call from one of the guards at Shawshank prison, after a young man was discovered in the prison’s basement levels, who asked for him by name. The prison is also under the reign of a new female warden after the bizarre suicide of the last one, who garrotted himself in his car.

So two episodes is as far as I’ve gotten, and while I’m not wowed by the mystery I do find the characters interesting, the show looks gorgeous, and atmospheric, and I also liked the understated music in the show.

Pose (FX)

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/05/pose-fx-ryan-murphy-review

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The series just finished up its first season run and is scheduled for a second season next year. I took a brief break from the show but I was there for the season finale. Good gob! but this show brings waaaay too many feels.

One of the things I love most about this show is the shameless use of sentiment, without falling into corniness. You start to seriously care about these characters so much, and get really caught up in their lives. When they’re happy, you’re happy. When they experience disappointment, so do you. It’s a testament to the acting skills of the cast. But their lives are not tragic, and the show is not a sob story. You experience as much laughter and happiness as in any drama. The characters are complicated, messy, and human.

For example, I complained that I might not be able to get into a show where characters spent so much time being nasty to each other, but that turns out not to be the case. Yes, there are some villainous types but the show has a lot of romance and heart. After Blanca’s former mother, Elektra, from House Abundance,  gets ousted from her position, Blanca takes her in, and it is commendable for Blanca, especially when you consider that the two of them parted on such bad terms,  that Blanca treats her no different than she does any of the children of her House, by counseling her, and helping her get a job.

Blanca is rewarded for her compassion by being crowned Mother of the Year, at the local Ball, while the bitchy little characters we met in the first episode get their comeuppance with an epic dress-down from Elektra. The season ends with a dance-off  between the House of Evangelista and the House of Extravaganza, going  head to head on the ballroom floor.

There is also the side story of one her children falling in love with a married businessman, and one of Blanca’s boys falls in love with another dancer after he is accepted into  Dance school, and the two of them compete for a role in a music video. In another side story, the master of Ceremonies at the Balls puts on a performance at the hospice where his lover is dying from Aids, and later goes out on a date. The conversations in the show feel true, adult, and emotional.

I fell in love with these characters so fast, I just don’t know if my heart can take this level of shameless romanticism and drama. I’m definitely going to return for the second season of this show.

 

Preacher: Season Three (AMC)

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Its as zany as the last season, picking up with the death of Tulip. Jessie takes her to his grandmother,a Hoodoo woman, who brings Tulip back from the dead. She says Jessie owes her for this, but I’m unsure exactly what it is she requires in payment.

Cassidy gets kidnapped by a cult run by another vampire and its hilarious because the other vampire has enthralled these goth kids into worshiping him, and he’s like a cheap, backwoods version of Lestat.

I’m not doing any in depth reviews for this show, mostly because its kinda lightweight, and is far too richly zany to put that kind of work into it.

Although its rarely laugh out loud funny, it is definitely entertaining.

Luke Cage: Season 2 (Netflix)

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I watched the entire season all the way through, and mostly enjoyed it. It really does still have some issues, mostly with pacing and story coherency, and should probably tone down on some of the music, because that was starting to be a bit much. But overall I liked the season.  I wasn’t as awed by this season as I was with the first, and I’m pretty sure it’s because the novelty of it has worn off some.

Frankly,  I was tuning in to see what happened to Misty Knight, after her ordeal in The Defenders, and I , and a lot of other people, have reached the conclusion that we are all ready for a Daughters of the Dragon spinoff , of Misty and Colleen Wing. The scenes between the two of them were a lot of fun, the actresses have good chemistry, and I was glad to see the writers of the show did not neglect the relationships between the women, although I was dismayed to realize that all of the Black women in the show had adversarial relationships with each other. I understood most of the reasons why they would, because they’re mostly well written characters, many of them with clear motivations, but I still think the writers should do better. Women don’t always have to be enemies for  dramatic tension.

Yes, there is a brief cameo, in one or two episodes, with Iron Fist, which happen late in the season, but I don’t feel this was a detraction from the show, and I wasn’t upset at seeing him. Like I said, a little bit of him goes a long way. I’m still not especially enthused about the second season of IF, but I am curious enough, based on how his character is much more positively depicted here. I know there are some people who are going to hate him no matter what the writers  do with him ,but I’m willing to forgive past sins if they fix his character, and this show, and The Defenders, went a long way towards almost making Danny Rand likable. I don’t actually like him. I don’t know that I will ever like him-like him, but at least I don’t dislike him. Let’s just say I’m open to liking him.

There was a new vilain called Bushmaster, who heavily reminded me of Black Panther: if T’Challa had become a junkie for the special herb which gave him his powers, and was a gang leader, rather than a good guy.  I still think the accents of some of these characters could use work, though. There are several moments of extreme horror that I could’ve done without, and we didn’t spend as much time with Luke as you’d think we would in a show that’s about him, but that’s okay because Luke is not an especially compelling personality, and Mariah Dillard is. Luke gets to fight with a lot of different characters, and that is always fun, but he’s not a very interesting person beyond his fight scenes, and the show’s attempts to add character to his character fell flat for me. His relationship with his father, and his fights with Clair didn’t feel true or believable.

Actually, you could just call the show Dillard, or something, because Mariah was one of the most awesome characters all season, and is a truly complicated villain. I’ve long ago given up on white feminist fans paying any attention to Black female characters, and I suppose I should be grateful for that, especially considering how shitty they are regarding all Black characters, in general. I think the last thing any of us want is twenty year old, suburban, white girls trying to write sexy fan fiction about Shades Alvarez. But there’s not a lot there for them anyway because while there are a few canon relationships, none of them involve White people.

Mariah is a very unconventional villain, being an older, educated, Black woman, who is also  an unstable, conniving alcoholic,  in a semi-abusive relationship with her lover, Shades Alvarez, who is many years younger than her, and thoroughly devoted to her. I  can’t even say she loves him, because Mariah is a psychopathic user, who loves no one but herself but the chemistry between them is palpable, and it really is a very sexy relationship. Mariah is also surprisingly vulnerable, and open at odd moments, which makes her deeply compelling. This was really a superior performance from Alfre Woodard, and one of her best roles ever.

There’s also a throwaway relationship between Shades and another man (Comanche) that if you’re anywhere on the LGBTQ spectrum,  will thoroughly enrage you, so you might want to skip all that.

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/luke-cage-shades-mariah-shadymariah/

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/luke-cage-season-2-review/?tu=dd

https://screenrant.com/marvel-iron-fist-better-luke-cage-season-2/

Killjoys (Syfy)

Killjoys has added a smidge more humor to the show, but I still have trouble with Hannah John-Kamen’s acting style. Its still annoying. I’m still surprised that people like this show. It looks great but I find the acting and plotting uneven. It’s not a bad show, but it struggles to hold my attention. I like the costumes, though ,and the guys are both reasonably handsome.

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Wynonna Earp (Syfy)

Wynona Earp started its new season. I watched the first episodes of the show and while I was not “not”  entertained, I wasn’t exactly inspired to keep watching them either. WE turned out to be mildly funny as vampires have been added to the show and Waverly’s approach to danger has always been funny. If you’re looking for a cute  litttle White girl lgbtq relationship, then this is the show for you. If you are a fan of mustaches, there’s a Doc Holliday character who is really cute.

 

I’m Not Watching But Probably Should

Killing Eve (BBC America)

I’ve heard so much about this show, and these curious gifs keep popping up on  my dashboard. One day I’m actually going to get around to watching this. and I’m gonna be wowed, because I really do like Sandra Oh, and I heard she got some award noms out of this. From all the meta  and gifs I’ve seen, I got the impression that this show was a female version of the Hannibal series, with its lowkey same sex relationship vibes, between an officer of the law, and a deranged psychopath. Since I’m a big fan of Hannibal , I feel I at least need to give this a looky-loo.

The Bold Type (Freefrom)

I heard there was some great LGBTQ rep in this show, between two young women, that’s being well and fairly treated,  and this is  another show that people insist on making gifs of, and sending them across my Tumblr dashboard. One day I may or may not look at this. It does involve some very young people, and I usually avoid shows that star a bunch of very young, people, so I’m dubious. Not every show is for everyone.

Dear White People (Netflix)

I keep hearing good things about this show, but once again it stars some very young people, and I’m not one of those people who is sentimental about my college years, so imma pass on this one.

Yeah…No!

Snowfall/ Power

I know people are watching these shows, but shows about Black crime are not to my taste, and I already got my quota of that subject from Luke Cage. If Black crime stories (ala New Jack City) are to your tastes,  and you’re not watching these, then you need to hop to it because they look gorgeous.

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I’m working on several of those longform essays you guys seem to like. The use of setting in movies, a trip in the wayback machine to some forgotten  TV series, the personalities of Goodfellas according to MBTI, an examination of the trope of the retired killer, an examination of The Thing, Eastern Promises, and some that are little more than ideas I hope to flesh out at some point.

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Django Jane by Janelle Monae

Happy Monday to everyone! (And if it’s not happy, then at least have a better one.)

Earlier this year Janelle Monae released her latest album called Dirty Computer, and it has taken me a little while to get to the listening part, so some of y’all might already know all about this, and I’m a little late (although I don’t believe there’s any such thing as being late when it comes to the culture, all that matters is that you’re here for it).

I am so impressed with this album. We had Beyonce’s Lemonade back in 2016, and earlier this year we got Childish Gambino’s This is America.  Black music is entering a new period of social relevance. We never actually stop doing that type of music, but there’s a lot of fresh new music happening on this front now, thanks to things like the Black Lives Matter Movement.This type of music tends to be overwhelmingly positive and galvanizing, and I always love it when we get art  like this. On the other hand, it’s unfortunate that we seem to produce some of our most relevant cultural art when we’re in the most pain.

This is what’s currently playing on my phone and MP3. I haven’t always been the most diligent fan of Janelle Monae. I’ve been sort of keeping quiet about it, while clocking her career. I’ve been impressed with her dedication to politics and music. Janelle has a long track record of addressing Black issues in her work and she continues that here.

I love that she was endorsed by one of my all-time favorite artists, Prince. When I heard about that, I really perked up because Prince was a major part of my teen life ,and I still really miss him, and he did not endorse people lightly. I listened to the entire album, and I could just hear all those little elements of Prince in the background.

If you have not watched the hour long video anthology of Dirty Computer you can check it out on Youtube. I love her flow and delivery, but it was the lyrics that really captured me.

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Django Jane is a spirit that will never die. Every black woman—every woman—should feel like, “Well, OK, Django Jane is a part of me.” I don’t think it’s just me that feels likethey’re tired, they’re upset. Tired of protesting, tired of having to see patriarchy speak all the time. It’s like, “Shut up, get away.” When I wrote these lyrics, it was coming of a place of, if women, if black women had the mic, what would we wanna say? 

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Hannibal Season Three: Secondo

I was not going to review this particular episode because its one of my least favorite of the entire series. I was just going to farm this out to another reviewer like:

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http://www.denofgeek.com/tv/hannibal/35870/hannibal-season-3-episode-3-review-secondo

I’m just not particularly interested in the foundations of Hannibal’s psychology, or really in the foundational mindset of most serial killers. I’m not particularly impressed by their abusive childhoods, or teenage sexual experiences, or any of that.

But I will give this one a light review because I realized that it introduces a key character for the rest of the season, Chiyoh, and gives her something of a backstory. Chiyoh is an interesting character because what we have learned from Bedelia last season is that Hannibal is extremely good at encouraging and manipulating people into killing others. It worked with Bedelia, Will, and Abigail. He attempted it with Margot Verger, and managed to manipulate Mason Verger into harming himself. Chiyoh is fairly unique, in that she is one of the few individuals who has managed to resist his manipulations, and not kill anyone (although Margot, along with Alana Bloom, eventually kill Mason together, with his advice, later in the season).

In Secondo, we backtrack with Will Graham, a little bit, to show what he was up to, before he almost meets Hannibal in the catacombs beneath the Chapel in the second episode. Will visits Hannibal’s ancestral home in Lithuania, where he meets Chiyoh,  discovers how she is connected to Hannibal’s backstory and her  connection to Hannibal’s childhood.

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When Hannibal was a child, he and his sister were  set upon by a group of soldiers who “supposedly” murdered and cannibalized Mischa. Hannibal imprisoned one of the soldiers and set Chiyoh, who was an attendant to his Aunt, to guard the man, probably in the hopes that she would kill him, But she does not, and the man is still imprisoned many years later. Will Graham pulls a Hannibal, though, and sets the man free, because, as he tells her, he’s curious about what Chiyoh will do. When the former prisoner attacks her, Chiyoh does kill him, and now free of her “penance”, sets off with Will to find Hannibal in Florence. Before they depart, Will also creates a tableau from the dead prisoner’s body, in the form of a giant dragonfly. When Chiyoh asks why he’s looking for Hannibal, Will explains that he is more of himself when they’re together,  and sadly, Chiyoh understands that.

So does Bedelia, as she is  warns Hannibal that he will be caught. We are rivy also to Hannibal’s pensive recollection that Will forgave him at the catacombs under the chapel. Season three is the first time that it is openly acknowledged by everyone, that Will and Hannibal have a twisted love for each other. Remember what I said about Bedelia. She is the show’s Truth-Teller, and every good show has one, especially if the show deals in lots of metaphor and symbolism. You need at least one character who is distanced enough from the narrative that they can plainly speak on its themes, and on what they have observed, to the other characters (and also spell it out for the viewers). Bedelia, for example, has managed to suss out that it was, in fact,  Hannibal who ate Mischa, as a form of forgiveness. She puts the idea in Hannibal’s head that the only way he can forgive Will, for his betrayal last season, is to eat him. It speaks to her level of complicity with Hannibal that I’m not entirely certain she didn’t do that deliberately

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While Will is exploring Hannibal’s castle, Hannibal ismurdering his academic rival during dinner. The few moments of sardonic humor Hannibal displays is often around killing. One of the professors of the museum, who insulted him at a party in the opening episode, gets an ice pick through the brain. It is Bedelia who puts the finishing touch to the murder by pulling out the skewer, however. Hannibal often asks her if she is observing, or participating, and she must feel some type of way about it because she tries to distance herself from complicity in his murders by claiming she is only observing. Hannibal challenges her by telling her she is actually participating since she has done nothing at all to stop him from murdering people, and I’m inclined to agree. She may be horribly afraid of him ,and he does have dirt on her, but she has also had multiple opportunities to kill him,  flee, or warn his victims, and yet she stays.

Anyway, this is one of the least interesting episodes for me because there  isn’t a lot of plot or character development. It’s mostly a  travelogue through Hannibal’s past ,and seems more of a filler episode than one that’s important to the development of the season. Things get a little more exciting in the next episode, titled Apertivo,  when Will and Hannibal meet for the first time this season.

 

Bonus Content 

The titles of the episodes throughout Hannibal, are often some reference to food. Here, the second episode is titled, Primavera, and means Spring, The episode is a new beginning for the series, and for Hannibal. Primavera is also a food reference meaning a selection of pasta with fresh seasonal vegetables. It is also the title of the painting by Botticelli which features heavily in the theme of the season’s first five episodes, (while the second half of the season is based on The Great Red Dragon paintings of William Blake, with no more references to food.)

The first episode of season three is titled Antipasto, which is an Italian appetizer, indicating the start of a formal Italian meal. This is a callback to the very first episode in season one, titled Aperitif, which is a wine palette cleanser, at the start of a formal French meal.  The first season titles are named after French culinary etiquette, the second season’s are named after a  formal Japanese meal, and this season begins with Italian food references.

Since we are starting the story over again ,where Will meets Hannibal after a long hiatus, the titles have started over too again, too, but at a slight remove, since all these characters are familiar to each other. A formal Italian meal consists of five courses. The Apertivo, is missing, but the first title refers to a pasta dish, called the antipasto, which is an appetizer. This is followed by the primo and secondo, a vegetable dish, followed by a serving of meat, usually veal. (This is  a sly reference to The Silence of the Lambs.) This third episode title is especially appropriate, because Secondo means the secondary (lower) part of a piano duet, which could be defined as Will Graham’s part of this story, since the season opening’s focus was on Hannibal and  Will is the secondary character here.

A Classical Italian meal consists of five parts. The Apertivo (small drink) which usually marks the start of the meal has been moved. The episode Contorno refers to a type of vegetable side dish that is  eaten along with the secondary main dish, followed by  Dolce, which is dessert. And finally the season winds up with digestivo, which is a light drink to finish off the meal, which also finishes of the first half of the season.

Weekend Reading: On History and Pop Culture

Appropriation of  History

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Discussions on the appropriation of Medievalist history by various pseudo- Nazi organizations throughout, and how historians are fighting back against their livelihoods being associated with it.

https://newrepublic.com/article/144320/racism-medievalism-white-supremacists-charlottesville

http://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/2017/08/teaching-medieval-studies-in-time-of.html

https://eidolon.pub/why-i-teach-about-race-and-ethnicity-in-the-classical-world-ade379722170

The Popularity of Vikings

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Discussions about the appropriation of Viking culture by neo Nazi groups, and how historians and the descendents of that culture  are fighting against it.

https://cjadrien.com/vikings-popular/

https://www.thelocal.se/20171006/we-cant-let-racists-re-define-viking-culture-far-right-runes-swedish

https://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/column-white-supremacists-love-vikings-but-theyve-got-history-all-wrong/2325755

https://www.juancole.com/2017/10/supremacists-vikings-muslims.html

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ywqn3j/photos-of-modern-vikings-keeping-their-traditions-alive

Star Wars and Fandom

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I have a post coming soon about a version of gamergate, that happened in the seventies, against disco. Rock music, Gamergate, Star Wars, Ghostbusters…white straight men throwing this type of tantrum because of a changing media landscape is not new, and follows the same formula every time it happens.

This is often reactionary behavior. By the time White men (and it is almost always White men) start protesting something it’s too late to do anything about it.  When it happened in the past, especially when the internet didn’t exist,  whatever they were protesting against simply went underground and emerged in a new form. Gamergate didn’t stop companies from developing diverse games, The Disco Sucks movement did not destroy that particular musical style, protests against rap music didn’t stop it from mainstreaming, and these new ass showings around PoC in scifi/ fantasy movies, isnt going to stop movies from being diverse, and women and PoC are still on the internet. So far, all they’ve managed to accomplish is a handful of celebrities closing themselves off from their fans by limiting their social media accounts.  

So what really is the point of such things?

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/star-wars-last-jedi-gamergate/

The Beautiful, Ugly, and Possessive Hearts of Star Wars

Racism, Misogyny & Death Threats: How Star Wars Fans Turned to the Dark Side

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/star-wars-fandom-toxicity-problem

 

The latest victim of racist ass-showing is the star of the upcoming DC series Titans, Anna Diop, who closed down the comments on her Instagram page when they racist vitriol got to be a bit much. Of course she’d started to receive this commentary the moment her casting was announced, and issued this statement:

https://www.theroot.com/racist-comic-fans-run-titans-star-off-instagram-for-not-1827809010

 

https://www.themarysue.com/candice-patton-asleigh-murray-racist-backlash/

What is really upsetting to me about this is that both actresses were told to prepare themselves for this backlash, and when coming face-to-face with it, the advice they got was to ignore it. That they’re expected to just take it to lay down the foundation for other women of color, when there are so many women who have laid the down foundation for them already, is truly exhausting.

Thinking Critically

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This first article is about this writer’s long road to adjusting his attitude to current media, and learning how to feel and think about it critically, without engaging in racism, and homophobia, something I think a lot of people, who consider themselves fans, need to do.

https://birthmoviesdeath.com/2017/08/04/film-crit-hulk-smash-on-criticism-in-the-intersectional-age

 

For Huck magazine Anthony Lorenzo does not mince words about how Hollywood perpetuates racism both in front of and behind the camera:

https://www.huckmag.com/perspectives/need-talk-race-film-industry/

It isn’t difficult to imagine why white writers don’t want to tackle characters they probably wouldn’t get right and get flack for. How a character might talk, might walk, the music they’d listen to and where they’d head on a messy night out. There’s a subtlety to the art of creating a character that requires knowledge of a relevant culture to accurately depict their nuances. Getting this wrong forces characters into two dimensions, leaving the writer a failure. 

 

At some point, I need to do a post on how media audiences have changed over the decades. There was a time when the primary audience that most media aimed for was the family. Over time, that changed to teenagers with disposable income, which at some point, metastasized into White males, aged 18-34.

http://www.houstonpress.com/arts/dear-straight-white-men-you-are-being-pandered-to-as-well-7652399

Random Movies

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Zombies, Race, and Gender

Dr Zuleyka Zevallos

I don’t entirely agree with this article, as it hasn’t been my experience of the fandom, who seem to all want to be Negan, but nevertheless, it was an interesting read.

https://www.wired.com/2013/06/world-war-z-zombie-messages/

That shift towards a lone-white-man-triumphing-against-the-hordes mentality goes against the dominant manifestations of zombie fandom, where often fans want to join zombie swarms rather than be lone-wolf heroes. As Lauro explains, the group mentality that has proven successful in the past is the one fans share.

 

Bladerunner 2049 and Race

The movie definitely has some racist and sexist issues:

http://colorwebmag.com/2018/03/27/the-racial-flaws-of-blade-runner-2049/

 

The Magnificent Seven: Racial History

On the erasure of PoC from the Western narrative:

<em>The Magnificent Seven</em> vs. The Historical Negationism of Westerns

 

Ready Player One

Ready Player One has several issues wrong with it but I think for me one of the biggest issues is outlined in the first article. In this movie there is almost no acknowledgment that Black culture is American culture:

http://www.okayplayer.com/originals/ready-player-one-black-culture-erasure-harmful-opinion.html

https://inews.co.uk/culture/film/ready-player-one-panders-to-a-lame-sexist-nerd-culture-that-needs-to-die/

 

Analyzing The Purge

An analysis of everything wrong with the plot of The Purge, and an analysis of how poverty would affect the outcome of such a plot.

http://www.plotpedant.com/the-purge/

https://filmschoolrejects.com/the-purge-and-politics-of-poverty-c23e94449e4/

The Purge — the event, not the film — is for white people, specifically rich white people. They are the beneficiaries, the ones who can afford the security systems to keep them safe, the ones wanting to thin the population for the sake of conserving resources, and the ones whose bloodlust is least in check. The victims are minorities, largely, and economically disadvantaged to the point some even resort to selling themselves to wealthy people on Purge Night in exchange for their surviving family’s financial security. That’s another idea that only a couple of weeks ago sounded like pure fiction, and now….well, not as much.

 

Snowpiercer and The White Savior

An analysis of the use of the White Savior trope in the movie Snowpiercer. This is one of my favorite movies. It has a lot of messages in it about the hierarchy of inequality, and stars Chris Evans. It also has an unconventional ending that makes the use of the trope a lot more complicated.

https://alanw2000.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/snowpiercer-analysis-bong-joon-hos-sci-fi-masterpiece-by-alan/

http://mumpsimus.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-decay-of-white-savior.html

 

Avatar: The White Savior Trope

https://io9.gizmodo.com/5422666/when-will-white-people-stop-making-movies-like-avatar

 

Mad Max: Fury Road/Disability

https://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2015/05/disability-in-the-dystopian-future-of-mad-max-fury-road/

https://www.inverse.com/article/15806-one-year-later-fury-road-resonates-on-disability-sexuality-and-the-end-of-days

 

Logan: On Violence, Death, and Dying

Logan: A Film Fighting With Itself

http://www.btchflcks.com/2017/03/logan-on-death-and-dying-and-mutants.html#.W1JVgjpKgnR

Random Conversations on Tumblr

 Just some of the conversations I’ve been reading, and sometimes participating in, on Tumblr. Incidentally, you should check out my Tumblr page. It’s a bit different from this one, in that I post more about politics, and social issues, along with more casual things like goofy animals, and silly discussions.

Robots and Race

* The TV Series Humans has just finished its third season, and quite a number of fans are unhappy. I watched the second season and noticed that race wasn’t much talked about, although since many of the robots featured depict different races, it should have.
The star character for some of the major plotlines was Gemma Chan’s, Mia. She was killed in the season finale, and fans felt some type of way about that. I didn’t watch the third season because I had gotten bored with the show.
But something in EAWS’s essay, about how Mia was treated on the show, and the third season’s approach to racial issues, prompted thoughts from me about how the subject of racism is depicted in science fiction/fantasy shows, especially when the writers are White. I’ve noticed that they are often not honest about White culpability in the invention of modern racism.
I’ve been noticing this trend, and I had some things to say about.
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Humans is one of those shows that is racially diverse on the surface, but in reality is very safe, very white-centric (yes, even with having Mia and Max in the main cast).

“Äkta människor”, the original Swedish show had its own problems with writing the characters of color,  but it was always very clear that the in-universe “Real Humans” (”We are People”) movement was a direct parallel to the white supremacist, anti-immigrant alt right groups / political parties, and all their members were portrayed by the white actors.

Humans, however, while also pretending to be a sci fi allegory of real life racism and xenophobia, makes sure that for each bigoted white character there’s always a Bigoted Character of Color. Just a few examples –

  • a random Black man, a member of alt-right “We Are People” movement, in s1 holding an anti-synth banner and shouting anti-synth propaganda;
  • Thusitha Jayasundera’s Neha in s2 was leading a case against Niska, yes, she went through massive character development in s3, and became an active synth rights supporter, but in her own words, she changed her views mainly because of Laura (a white woman);
  • a xenophobic anti-synth cameo character played by Naoko Mori in s2;
  • Ed’s bigoted Black friend, who persuaded Ed to sell Mia (which in turn made it easier for the writers to redeem Ed in s3 – “Ed wasn’t a racist who dehumanized his girlfriend of color, he was just a weak man, who followed an advice from his Black friend, it’s the Black friend, who is the /real/ racist” – that’s the writers’ message here);
  • a Black woman police officer, who profiled Mia in s3;
  • a random Angry Black Woman on the street, that attacked Mia in s3;
  • a Brown Muslim politician on the Synth commission, that was presented more anti-synth, than a white guy, who lead the commission (s3);
  • an anti-synth Brown Head of the Police, member of the commission;
  • an unnamed Black man leading the human supremacist group against the synth compound, targeting Max and Mia (3×08).

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, third time is a pattern, as they say.

  Keep reading

What was the point in changing what was basically a white nationalist into a Black xenophobe? Intersectional bigotry exists, yes. But white writers of Äkta människor managed to show intersectional bigotry through white characters – they had xenophobic white gay character and a homophobic white hubot/synth, they even had a weeb. Brown writers of Cleverman showed intersectional bigotry through Koen (in s1) and Waruu West in s2. But when white writers prefer to show Black and Brown characters as the “real” racists (like Sense8the only reason for that is that the writers don’t want to touch the subject of white supremacy because it makes them uncomfortable. *

I love this, and I just want to piggyback a little bit off this post for a minute:

This is one of the major reasons why I dislike racism allegories written by White writers. They often, and very deliberately, get these allegories wrong by trying to equate racism and white nationalism, with “reverse racism” (which is not a thing, btw). They often do this by casting PoC as virulent racists against whatever out-group is the stand-in for a marginalized group in the narrative, whether its robots, supernatural creatures, or aliens.

I’ve seen this happen in a lot of fantasy, and sci-fi narratives written by White writers, who are attempting to lecture their audience on how bad racism is, all while trying never to acknowledge the elephant in the room: That our current model of racism, they are riffing on, was invented by White people.

They often make these virulently racist characters Black as well. In Heroes, the nasty racist, who wanted to kill all heroes, was a Black woman, who actually killed children. In District 9, the African characters were racist against the aliens, monetarily prostituting them, exploiting them, and even cannibalizing them, (which is a whole other nastily racist trope about people from the African continent, that I simply cannot believe no one caught.) In the X-Men/New Mutants TV Series, The Gifted, you have a Black man, as a member of the government, hunting down the mutants, to put them in concentration camps, and in Teen Wolf, you have a Black woman who wants to destroy all supernatural creatures, and yet again, advocates killing children to accomplish her goal.

It’s even worse when sometimes these are the only Black characters in the entire narrative, or worse yet, Black women.

There is already a dearth of Black women in fantasy and sci-fi media, so Black women being cast in these roles (of killing children) is an especially nasty trope, that needs to fucking die, especially when you consider that it is real life Black women, who know, above all else, what it is like to lose their children to violence, and are working hard right now to protect their children from things like gang violence and police brutality. Real life Black women work damn hard to counter the very narratives these characters are advocating in these shows. To then cast these (always dark-skinned, with natural hair, because its simply not enough that they be Black) women as the advocates and killers of children, in these shows, is an especially insulting slap in the face to Black fans, as Black women are some of the hardest fighters against racism and sexism, being so often on the receiving end of both, and to keep seeing them cast in these roles is more than a little enraging.

I know the point the writers are trying to make is that there’s racism on all sides and that anybody can be racist, but that message is more than a little self-serving, especially when you consider that it is only White writers who tout this message, in their allegories about bigotry. So, not only are they appropriating our stories of oppression (all things that have been done by Whites to everyone else) to use for non-human beings, but casting PoC in these roles as the oppressors, because they want to express the idea that that type of racism and bigotry is an equal opportunity position. By doing that, they thereby remove themselves from collusion with the issue and relieve their own guilt.

 

Source: 

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*And then there’s this problem, which is seen in every scifi/ fantasy racial allegory from True Blood, to Zootopia, to Bladerunner, to Bright, to The X-Men……… 
Yet it’s the kind of parable that turns up over and over again in science fiction and fantasy stories that are reportedly trying to convey a message of tolerance. “Look, we get that you’re having trouble seeing minorities as humans, so perhaps it would help if you imagined them as something that is A) objectively not human and B) inherently dangerous.”…
…What makes it worse — and weirder — is that writers can’t resist giving these marginalized groups some kind of superpowers, which in turn actually gives the fictional society a legitimate reason to fear them.

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Science Fiction Genre and Race

 *White writers also have a tendency to be lacking when it comes to imagining futuristic depictions of race, often simply reproducing the same racial issues (and many of the same stereotypes) that exist right now. The situations of various PoC simply never changed. We’re still sassy sidekicks, living in poverty, model minorities, or just erased.

https://psmag.com/social-justice/welcome-to-the-post-racial-future-its-still-pretty-racist

Altered Carbon presents a world that looks post-racial, and in which humanity has escaped from identity, and identity politics, once and for all. But even when bodies are interchangeable commodities, certain bodies are treated as having more value than others. for the greater profit of rich people and white people, and especially of rich white people.

 

I’m surprised a film of this magnitude and of this scale decided to show one of the most regressive and most racially-charged images I’d seen in a while; replicant Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), the replicant assistant to Niander Wallace (Jared Leto)  is shown getting her nails electronically altered by a small Asian man, whose hunched over, deep in his work.

The stereotype of the Asian nail salon tech has made its way into the future.

 

 

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/03/-em-star-wars-em-and-the-4-ways-science-fiction-handles-race/359507/

 Sci-fi likes to believe it can imagine anything, but, especially in its mainstream incarnations, it’s clearly a lot more comfortable imagining race in contexts where the topic is dealt with obliquely or simply not mentioned or foregrounded. In this area, Hollywood adventures are strikingly timid. 

 

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Black Feminism

*Discussion of Black women as love interests. By saying that Thor is only interested in Valkyrie, as a heroic figure, it  is akin to saying she’s a strong, independent, Black woman, who don’t need no man, and how this does not take into account intersectional femininity:

Image result for black women saviors
The Problem with Valkyrie Being Simply a “Hero” to Thor

So…I get not everyone is going to understand this, especially if someone is not a Black woman and doesn’t have our experiences, so I’m going to try to lay this out as nicely as possible and try not to come off too harsh.

I’m going to start off with a quote from Alice Walker:

“Black women are called, in the folklore that so aptly indentifies one’s status in society, ‘the mule of the world,’ because we have been handed the burdens that everyone else–everyone else–refused to carry. We have also been called ‘Matriarchs,’ ‘Superwomen,’ and ‘Mean and Evil Bitches.’ Not to mention ‘Castraters’ and ‘Sapphire’s Mama.’“

You see, Black women are expected to be the “hero” of someone else’s story. We’re expected to be “the help.” The “mystical hero.” The “sassy friend.” We’re always there to help out the lead, but we’re never the love interest.

Chris Hemsworth has said himself that Thor is “smitten” by Valkyrie…when you disregard that and say she’s simply his hero and that it’s refreshing that he’s not admiring her in a romantic way, you are confusing your experience as a non-Black woman with ours.

Black women have historically been masculinized and fetishized. We’re either seen as too unattractive for love or too sexual to be romanticized. So, when we are put on a pedestal as a hero, it’s not at all refreshing. It’s the same ol’ same ol’. Now, being adored and loved? That’s something Black women never get to see for themselves.

It’s something that has slowly been changing, but the more it changes, the more pushback is given in response. CW’s Iris West is nitpicked as a character for the silliest things while the fandom constantly ships Barry with Caitlin, a white character who has shown no interest in him or vice versa. Even the actress cannot escape the anger from fans who prefer the lead be paired with a white woman. She faces constant harassment on her social media on a regular basis.

So, while it might be revolutionary for white female leads and other non-Black female leads to be looked at like heroes rather than love interests, it’s not so much for Black women. So rarely are we given the message that we too can be worthy of love. Please tread carefully when you suggest that a Black woman being seen as a man’s hero rather than love interest is “refreshing.”

 

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Humorous Interlude

 

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*The discussion, on the adoption and care of the Roomba, continues: 

 gaymilesedgeworth

after i move i really wanna get a used roomba

 

gaymilesedgeworth

biggest-gaudiest-patronuses

just remember they’re social animals and should always be kept in pairs, don’t get a roomba if you aren’t prepared for that responsibility

 

fireheartedkaratepup

That’s a common misconception. Roombas do perfectly fine on their own if you spend quality time with them! They group together in the wild for protection, but when they have no natural predators in the area they often choose to live alone.

 

biggest-gaudiest-patronuses

i didn’t know that! do you have any advice on roomba breeding and the problem with parent roombas’ tendency towards eating their young?

 

ironbite4

……..I’m nuking this entire hell planet from orbit.

 

biggest-gaudiest-patronuses

even the roombas?

 

ironbite4

The roombas are coming with me.  Can’t let them stay with you crazy people.

 

Source: gaymilesedgeworth

 

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Representation

*I loved this speech about the importance of representation and inclusion:

Rick Riordan won a Stonewall for 2017

rosetintmyworld84

 

Rick Riordan was awarded the Stonewall Book Award for his second Magnus Chase book, due to the inclusion of the character Alex Fierro who is gender fluid. This was the speech he gave, and it really distills why I love this author and his works so much, and why I will always recommend his works to anyone and everyone.

“Thank you for inviting me here today. As I told the Stonewall Award Committee, this is an honor both humbling and unexpected.

So, what is an old cis straight white male doing up here? Where did I get the nerve to write Alex Fierro, a transgender, gender fluid child of Loki in The Hammer of Thor, and why should I get cookies for that?

These are all fair and valid questions, which I have been asking myself a lot.

I think, to support young LGBTQ readers, the most important thing publishing can do is to publish and promote more stories by LGBTQ authors, authentic experiences by authentic voices. We have to keep pushing for this. The Stonewall committee’s work is a critical part of that effort. I can only accept the Stonewall Award in the sense that I accept a call to action – firstly, to do more myself to read and promote books by LGBTQ authors.

But also, it’s a call to do better in my own writing. As one of my genderqueer readers told me recently, “Hey, thanks for Alex. You didn’t do a terrible job!” I thought: Yes! Not doing a terrible job was my goal!

As important as it is to offer authentic voices and empower authors and role models from within LGBTQ community, it’s is also important that LGBTQ kids see themselves reflected and valued in the larger world of mass media, including my books. I know this because my non-heteronormative readers tell me so. They actively lobby to see characters like themselves in my books. They like the universe I’ve created. They want to be part of it. They deserve that opportunity. It’s important that I, as a mainstream author, say, “I see you. You matter. Your life experience may not be like mine, but it is no less valid and no less real. I will do whatever I can to understand and accurately include you in my stories, in my world. I will not erase you.”

People all over the political spectrum often ask me, “Why can’t you just stay silent on these issues? Just don’t include LGBTQ material and everybody will be happy.” This assumes that silence is the natural neutral position. But silence is not neutral. It’s an active choice. Silence is great when you are listening. Silence is not so great when you are using it to ignore or exclude.

But that’s all macro, ‘big picture’ stuff. Yes, I think the principles are important. Yes, in the abstract, I feel an obligation to write the world as I see it: beautiful because of its variations. Where I can’t draw on personal experience, I listen, I read a lot – in particular I want to credit Beyond Magenta and Gender Outlaws for helping me understand more about the perspective of my character Alex Fierro – and I trust that much of the human experience is universal. You can’t go too far wrong if you use empathy as your lens. But the reason I wrote Alex Fierro, or Nico di Angelo, or any of my characters, is much more personal.

I was a teacher for many years, in public and private school, California and Texas. During those years, I taught all kinds of kids. I want them all to know that I see them. They matter. I write characters to honor my students, and to make up for what I wished I could have done for them in the classroom.

I think about my former student Adrian (a pseudonym), back in the 90s in San Francisco. Adrian used the pronouns he and him, so I will call him that, but I suspect Adrian might have had more freedom and more options as to how he self-identified in school were he growing up today. His peers, his teachers, his family all understood that Adrian was female, despite his birth designation. Since kindergarten, he had self-selected to be among the girls – socially, athletically, academically. He was one of our girls. And although he got support and acceptance at the school, I don’t know that I helped him as much as I could, or that I tried to understand his needs and his journey. At that time in my life, I didn’t have the experience, the vocabulary, or frankly the emotional capacity to have that conversation. When we broke into social skills groups, for instance, boys apart from girls, he came into my group with the boys, I think because he felt it was required, but I feel like I missed the opportunity to sit with him and ask him what he wanted. And to assure him it was okay, whichever choice he made. I learned more from Adrian than I taught him. Twenty years later, Alex Fierro is for Adrian.

I think about Jane (pseudonym), another one of my students who was a straight cis-female with two fantastic moms. Again, for LGBTQ families, San Francisco was a pretty good place to live in the 90s, but as we know, prejudice has no geographical border. You cannot build a wall high enough to keep it out. I know Jane got flack about her family. I did what I could to support her, but I don’t think I did enough. I remember the day Jane’s drama class was happening in my classroom. The teacher was new – our first African American male teacher, which we were all really excited about – and this was only his third week. I was sitting at my desk, grading papers, while the teacher did a free association exercise. One of his examples was ‘fruit – gay.’ I think he did it because he thought it would be funny to middle schoolers. After the class, I asked to see the teacher one on one. I asked him to be aware of what he was saying and how that might be hurtful. I know. Me, a white guy, lecturing this Black teacher about hurtful words. He got defensive and quit because he said he could not promise to not use that language again. At the time, I felt like I needed to do something, to stand up especially for Jane and her family. But did I make things better handling it as I did? I think I missed an opportunity to open a dialogue about how different people experience hurtful labels. Emmie and Josephine and their daughter Georgina, the family I introduced in The Dark Prophecy, are for Jane.

I think about Amy, and Mark, and Nicholas … All former students who have come out as gay since I taught them in middle school. All have gone on to have successful careers and happy families. When I taught them, I knew they were different. Their struggles were greater, their perspectives more divergent than some of my other students. I tried to provide a safe space for them, to model respect, but in retrospect, I don’t think I supported them as well as I could have, or reached out as much as they might have needed. I was too busy preparing lessons on Shakespeare or adjectives, and not focusing enough on my students’ emotional health. Adjectives were a lot easier for me to reconcile than feelings. Would they have felt comfortable coming out earlier than college or high school if they had found more support in middle school? Would they have wanted to? I don’t know. But I don’t think they felt it was a safe option, which leaves me thinking that I did not do enough for them at that critical middle school time. I do not want any kid to feel alone, invisible, misunderstood. Nico di Angelo is for Amy, and Mark and Nicholas.

I am trying to do more. Percy Jackson started as a way to empower kids, in particular, my son, who had learning differences. As my platform grew, I felt obliged to use it to empower all kids who are struggling through middle school for whatever reason. I don’t always do enough. I don’t always get it right. Good intentions are wonderful things, but at the end of a manuscript, the text has to stand on its own. What I meant ceases to matter. Kids just see what I wrote. But I have to keep trying. My kids are counting on me.

So thank you, above all, to my former students who taught me. Alex Fierro is for you.

To you, I pledge myself to do better – to apologize when I screw up, to learn from my mistakes, to be there for LGBTQ youth and make sure they know that in my books, they are included. They matter. I am going to stop talking now, but I promise you I won’t stop listening.”

 

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Dinosaurs

Image result for mosasaur gif

*This entire review is basically the only reason people got to see these films. We’re certainly not watching them for the people in them.

Now, I’ve told you guys how much my Mom loves movies about people being eaten by things, so if she says something was a bad movie, take what she says as the truth. This woman will watch almost anything with giant creatures chasing and eating people, and she hated this movie!

I’m probably one of the few people that didn’t actually hate this movie, although I hated most of the people in it, and spent some amount of time rooting for my three favorite dinosaurs: the T-Rex(which I have named Sue), the velociraptor named Blue, and the mosasaur from the last movie, which I have, henceforth, named Molly.

 

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The Apocalypse

*I had to leave a response to this because the whole idea of the zombie apocalypse has now become nothing more than power a fantasy for White men, who all imagine they’re gonna be Negan, from The Walking Dead. 

I’m not watching any more shows, or reading any more zombie apocalypse novels, with White men in the center of the story. Most zombie novels and movies only feature White, middle-class people, and focus on their reactions to the loss of electricity, I guess.  Despite the existence of most of the world’s infrastructure, and the clear examples of what human beings would actually do when encountering catastrophe, in places like Puerto Rico and  Katrina, apparently one’s immediate reaction is to run amok in the streets, trying to kill each other for food.

I’m ready for some stories featuring unconventional heroes, in diverse environments. This is why I enjoyed World War Z (the book). How does the zombie apocalypse affect the plains of Africa or the mountains of Tibet? The slums of India? Or the favelas of Brazil?

Its also interesting to note that none of the pop culture we know, exists in any of these universe created by the zombie apocalypse. It’s always a surprise to the inhabitants of these stories as if they’d never heard of zombies. They always have to start from scratch. What if we just didn’t? I want to read a story (or watch a show) where all the Black, and Latinx people, in the ‘hood,  lived, because we’ve all been watching movies about the zombie apocalypse for decades, and we know all the rules and the tropes.

why is there no electricity after the apocalypse?

jumpingjacktrash

 

something people writing post-apocalyptic fiction always seem to forget is how extremely easy basic 20th century technology is to achieve if you have a high school education (or the equivalent books from an abandoned library), a few tools (of the type that take 20 years to rust away even if left out in the elements), and the kind of metal scrap you can strip out of a trashed building.

if you want an 18th century tech level, you really need to somehow explain the total failure of humanity as a whole to rebuild their basic tech infrastructure in the decade after your apocalypse event.

i am not a scientist or an engineer, i’m just a house husband with about the level of tech know-how it takes to troubleshoot a lawn mower engine, but i could set up a series of wind turbines and storage batteries for a survivor compound with a few weeks of trial and error out of the stuff my neighbors could loot from the wreckage of the menards out on highway 3. hell, chances are the menards has a couple roof turbines in stock right now. or you could retrofit some from ceiling fans; electric motors and electric generators are the same thing, basically.

radio is garage-tinkering level tech too. so are electric/mechanical medical devices like ventilators and blood pressure cuffs. internal combustion’s trickiest engineering challenge is maintaining your seals without a good source of replacement parts, so after a few years you’re going to be experimenting with o-rings cut out of hot water bottles, but fuel is nbd. you can use alcohol. you can make bio diesel in your back yard. you can use left-over cooking oil, ffs.

what i’m saying is, we really have to stop doing the thing where after the meteor/zombies/alien invasion/whatever everyone is suddenly doing ‘little house on the prairie’ cosplay. unless every bit of metal or every bit of knowlege is somehow erased, folks are going to get set back to 1950 at the most. and you need to account somehow for stopping them from rebuilding the modern world, because that’s going to be a lot of people’s main life goal from the moment the apocalypse lets them have a minute to breathe.

nobody who remembers flush toilets will ever be content with living the medieval life, is what i’m saying. let’s stop writing the No Tech World scenario.

 

lkeke35

As a corollary to the above:

I’ve been saying this about the Zombie apocalypse for years. What city dwellers do you know are gonna immediately drop everything, run out to the woods, and live at a subsistence level, just because dead people are walking around? People with disabilities, allergies, or elderly parents to care for, ain’t going to be doing any such thing. Why is the advice given to people, that they need a “bug out” plan just because the dead are walking? I’m not buying it.

I live in the hood. Do you know how many handymen we have in the hood? How many military personnel? Or even homebody engineers? Do you have any clue how resourceful and cooperative poor people are, and have to be, to survive even with electricity? And how many of us have been trained to expect the best, but plan for the worst case scenario. No, you don’t, because that idea of poverty is never represented in popular culture. Shit! A zombie apocalypse won’t even ruffle our fucking hair. We’ll come up with ways to kill the zombies while keeping it moving. Hell, my brother, all by himself, could have the electricity up and running, a defensive tower, a moat, schooling, and gardening, all in the space of two weeks, and entirely organized by my mother.

It’s also interesting to me that all zombie apocalypse narratives only seem to consist of middle-class, white, suburbanites trying to survive, with a handful of PoC thrown in like confetti. The most that White writers can imagine, for PoC, even during the apocalypse, is that we all die? Really! That seems to be their only scenario. They don’t take into account that poor Black people have been taking care of each other since the invention of poor people. The poor have never believed in an isolationist, go it alone, ruggedly individual attitude, when it comes to surviving, because we couldn’t afford that! That’s the kind of attitude that only people, with all of their basic needs met, could adopt as a life strategy. Poor people are not lazy, and of everyone, they would be the most likely to survive the apocalypse, because we have experience with surviving hardship and insecurity!

On the other hand, the middle-class white guys who invent these types of stories are obsessed with that attitude. They really think that as soon as the electricity stops, people are gonna lose their gotdamn minds, and start trying to kill their neighbors for fun and food, or planning a long journey to go find their wife, son, daughter, lost somewhere in the pre-tech Badlands! Not even taking into account that we have real-life scenarios right here, right now, that we can look at and figure out that most people aren’t gonna act like that. (*cough, ahem! Puerto Rico! Cough*).

I have long come to understand that apocalypse scenario are just wish fulfillment fantasies for middle-class white guys who think that the end of the world will make them the heroes they always wanted to be. As a result, I’m no longer interested in apocalypse scenarios with white men in the center of them as the heroes, and yes, I’m also talking about a certain TV show, too.

 

Source: jumpingjacktrash
Actually, I’ve noticed one staple of almost all apocalyptic fiction written by White people: In everything, from those Purge movies, to alien invasion, and zombie apocalypse movies, the White Western reaction seems to be “go out and kill each other”.
I’m mostly talking about the Purge films, where the premise is that all crime is free for 12 or 24 hours, but all people can think of to do is kill each other. Are you kidding me? Can we get an Oceans 11 version of The Purge, where someone has been planning the perfect heist, all year long? Actually,  I hate the Purge movies because the movies create more questions than they answer, and my super-villain brain keeps trying to organize the cultural, social, and legal implications of such an arrangement.
In a lot of American apocalyptic fiction, we never get any idea how the rest of the world is handling the destruction of the “civilized” world, or even if the rest of the world is experiencing it at all. For all we know, it’s only the Americans and Europeans who have lost their damn minds, and the Canadians are doing just fine! How do we know the Aussies haven’t just all gone punchy from the heat,  put on some fetish gear,  and decide to ride around in the desert?
When White men write about the apocalypse, they often seem to write about destroying whatever, and whoever is left.  Now contrast all that with how Women and PoC write about the apocalypse:
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/olivia-cole/people-of-color-do-surviv_b_5126206.html
https://www.indiewire.com/2016/03/women-and-poc-survive-the-apocalypse-march-2016s-vod-and-web-series-picks-202649/

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Fandom

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*Advice on how to NOT be a shitty fanfiction writer:

There IS such a thing as a bad premise. A story that relies on accepting racism, sexism, homophobia etc as valid or justifiable or not something that needs to be contested, like any story that can not exist or function as is if you take those elements out…is a fundamentally bad fucking premise.

Nobody questions the existence of good ideas. Why do some people fight so damn hard to deny that there is such a thing as a bad idea?

Every idea a person has ever had does not NEED to be put out there. Not every idea leads somewhere good.

And each and everyone of us is capable of evaluating whether an idea we have is good or not. If it’ll do harm or not. We each have the capacity to look at an idea we have and say…yeah that’s not really workable. And just….not share it.

This isn’t an imposition. This isn’t censorship. This is basic human awareness of the fact that ideas in our brain impact us and us alone. Ideas we make the choice to enact in the world in some fashion impact others as well as us.

So fucking many of you resort to crying censorship when all that’s being asked of you is applying some scrutiny to what ideas you decide to share, because you can’t seem to wrap your heads around the idea that someone else telling you what you can and can’t write isn’t the only conclusion to be made from conversations about creative responsibility.

Because you just can’t seem to fathom the concept that you could just decide for yourself…oh, huh, I don’t actually HAVE to do this thing I’m digging my heels in about. It’s not a binary equation. It’s not either I do this or I do nothing at all and I might as well just have no rights or freedoms whatsoever gawd.

It’s almost like it’s actually….hmmm when examining the endless array of possibilities that go into crafting ideas and honing them and all the variables that act as search filters to narrow down my selection process of what areas to focus on, what elements to include….what if ‘hey is this idea one that appropriates shit that’s outside my lane or perpetuates harmful and toxic tropes’ was just an added search filter used in that process?

 

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 Post-lude

moami

if you find bones in the forest, sit a bit and listen. they are old and have some good stories to tell. maybe they’ll teach you a spell or two, or explain where the water on our planet came from.

if you find bones by the ocean, run. don’t look back. run, faster, faster. the sea may love you but there are nights where she knows neither mercy nor science, and the bones warn you only once.

deseng

boi if you find bones call the police i hate this website so much

moami

this is a piece of creative writing, in case you couldn’t tell from the fact that real bones don’t usually go hey lil’ mama lemme whisper bony secrets in your ear or warn you of the incoming tides like a calcified weather frog.

Source: moami

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.)

Mini Reviews From Firestick TV

I got an Amazon FireStick for Christmas, and so far, I’m having good fun with it. I’ve been doing this thing, where I go to random apps, and try them, or just watch whatever movies or shows get recommended to me on Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Hulu. I’ve watched movies on Terrarium TV, and and an app called Showbox, but I’m not gonna talk about those today. I’m sticking with Netflix, and Hulu, for now.

 

Kill Order

One of the  fun things to watching movies on the Firestick, is you get to watch low budget, never heard of, movies, and this is the case with Kill Order. I knew absolutely nothing about this movie before watching it. Had never even heard of it. Although some elements of the plot are somewhat confusing (requiring you to pay close attention to some horrible acting), the plot is fairly straightforward.

The plot involves a superhuman teenager, David Lee, played by Chris  Mark, on the run from the shadowy scientific Organization that  experimented on him. David is prone to nightmares and anxiety attacks. When he’s attacked in his classroom and his home by assassins, and his adopted parent is killed, he has to outrun more of them,  sent after him by The Organization.

There’s shades of Logan in the plot, because David is an experiment, who was freed by one of the doctors working on the program. He’s been infused with some type of elemental energy from another  world, and when he becomes stressed, or concentrates hard enough, he can access this energy to be faster and stronger than human. Unfortunately, many of the assassins out to kill him are also successful experiments and can access this energy too.

I thought the acting was atrocious, but I loved the kinetic energy in this movie. I think it was worth watching, for the action scenes, although a couple of them lasted just a tad longer than they should have. The action is really fast, brutal, and bloody. My major complaint about that, was that so many of the fights took place in public spaces, well within view of spectators, who did not seem at all puzzled to see black garbed killers flailing swords around, at the park. I mean it is a fairly unusual sight in this world but I guess maybe not so much in David’s.

Kill Order is available on Hulu, and is not related to the Maze Runner series, by James Dashner, as far as I know.

 

Pose

I heard about this show on The Root, and thought I’d give it a try. It’s a new show, from the creator of American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy, and is loosely based on the 1990 movie, Paris is Burning, about the gay Ballroom scene in 1980s New York. I enjoyed that movie, and have been fascinated with Ballroom culture ever since, and this show is an interesting glimpse into the lifestyle, that comes from a place of authenticity, as many of the actors are actually transgender.

I was a little put out by the opening of the movie, as I don’t particularly enjoy watching characters be mean and bitchy to one another, but apparently that was just  setting up the (loosely named) villains of the show, House Abundance, which is the rival to House Evangelista. There’s also a B plot involving the economic boom issues going on in NY at the time, involving the rise of  Donald Trump, (although he is not featured in the series).

House Abundance is run by Dominique, who was once the House mother for Blanca, who left her (becasue she wasn’t getting any respect), to start her own House, and we get to watch as the two Houses compete in various shows, how Blanca builds her own house, and the contrast between how the two houses are run. The show also tackles issues of teen/LGBTQ homelessness, as Blanca adopts a young man from the street, whose family abandoned him.

For those of you unfamiliar with all this, here’s are some  brief primers on  Ballroom culture and voguing. You’ll hear about the two Houses, La Beija, Xtravaganza, and Ninja, which were the focus of the movie, Paris is Burning, and some of the dance moves, like The Duck Walk, and the Death Drop. The New York Black and Latinx LGBTQ Ballroom culture is where the original meaning of “Shade” and “Reading” people came from. (None of this has anything to do with the dance form which was co-opted by Madonna in the 90s.)

I’ve only spent some time watching the various clips from this move, because it just hurts too much, to watch it, in its entirety, multiple times. The stories really move you. You start to root for certain characters, only to find out they were murdered in a hate crime, a few months later, or died of Aids. it can be hard to watch, but its worth it to glimpse a culture you may have never seen before. I try to be respectful, and keep in mind, that I’m not a part of this culture, and  a spectator to all it. I just admire it from afar.

 

Here is one of my favorite moments in Paris is Burning, about the philosophy behind voguing, realness, and authenticity:

 

I enjoyed the first episode a lot, and I made a promise to myself to catch some  more episodes, although I’m not yet devoted to it. But I do love the idea that this even managed to make its way to Primetime TV. I can actually see something like this being made in the 80s for  television, but not in the 90s, which was a lot more conservative. If you have been wishing for more LGBTQ content on TV then this is your show, this is your hour, this is you! The show discusses a lot of transgender issues, which makes this show absolutely groundbreaking!

This show wasn’t recommended to me from my Firestick, although I think you can watch it on Hulu, if you don’t have cable, or satellite TV.

 

The Outsider

I was prepared not to like this movie, which is newly available on Netflix. Netflix recommended I watch this, because I’d watched several Chinese Action movies (?), and put several more on my watchlist. So, even though I was dubious, because it starred Jared Leto, I took a chance, and gave it a try.

For the record,  I am, apparently,  one of the five people on the entire planet, who does not hate Jared Leto. I’m just occasionally wary of his presence in something, mostly  based on the stories I’ve heard about him, that I should, but I’ve always been contrary. I think he’s a perfectly okay actor, and I’ve liked him ever since he got his ass beat by Brad Pitt in Fight Club. I even liked him in this movie, although he turns in, what is for him, a rather subdued performance, which is also completely unnecessary to the plot of this movie.

I have a confession to make. I am a fan of historical movies, and books, about Westerners travelling, and living, in Japan. I will watch, or read, just about anything on that subject. That said, though, I have never understood Hollywood’s need to add White men to stories that do not actually require their presence. I don’t  object to  such things per se, but sometimes, I don’t feel like looking at White guys in Asian media. I’m told this is an economic choice, because White Americans are too stupid to watch movies without any White men in them. Personally, I think that’s a grave insult to the reasonably smart White people who actually watch foreign films, with nary a White guy in sight, (and if the American school system hadn’t spent so many decades turning its citizens brains into ignorant mush about the rest of the world, this would never have created a problem, that needed to be pandered to.)

This is an acceptable movie, and Jared Leto is fine in it, as an American criminal, imprisoned in Japan, just after WW2. While there, he meets, and saves the life of, a Yakuza member. When the two of them break out of prison, he goes to work for the man whose life he saved, the son of a Yakuza leader, and gets accepted as a low ranking member of the clan, despite the protestations of his friend’s brother, who is set to inherit the title of clan leader. He meets a girl, and gets involved in some drama, that results in the entire clan being killed, after which he’s exiled.

This story could just as easily have been told without him, because the politics and infighting of Yakuza clans is fascinating, all on its own. I don’t know if the director is Japanese, but I didn’t get much of a sense of Japan in this movie, beyond the usual surface signifiers, like Sumo scenes, neon city streets, and  dancing geisha. If you’re looking for some depth of setting, like a travelogue, this is not that movie. Leto looks distinctly out of place, but I guess that’s the point of putting him in this movie.

The setting felt more like the industrial wasteland of 80s Chicago, than 50s Japan, so there could’ve definitely been some more work done on the time setting. The trailer looks more Japanese than the actual movie, and I have no idea how a director manages to accomplish such a thing.  It’s a very dark film. It’s very gloomy. There’s a lot of sitting around in bars, gambling, and drinking, while giving people shifty looks, talking smack about the American, some macho grandstanding, and some short, brutal, fight scenes, which Leto performs satisfactorily, without ever seeming as if he is a dangerous person. I think it’s because he has this wide eyed innocent look, (he is exceptionally pretty), that works against what he’s trying to portray. He really needs to work on looking more shifty eyed, unless of course,  that was the point of his character.

It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not a spectacular one either. I liked the visuals, but I like the visuals of any movie set in Japan, so that’s a very low bar. There’s nothing in it that stands out in particular, beyond the mood, and setting, and this one White guy, that the other characters keep saying doesn’t belong where he is. If you’ve got some time to spend on a Saturday evening, with nothing much to do, and you don’t mind watching Jared Leto, and some Japanese imagery, for 90 minutes or so, then it’s an engaging enough film, but if you choose not to watch it, don’t beat yourself up over that decision, too much.

 

 

Travels With My Dad

I have a pretty close relationship to my Mom, so I’m always fascinated by other peoples real life, adult, relationships with their parents. I actually really liked this show. It wasn’t recommended to me by Netflix, but eventually it would have, because I like travel shows, and I enjoyed watching the show, An Idiot Abroad.

Jack Whitehall is a British comedian that I know nothing about. I’ve never seen any of his performances, so I came into this completely clear of any expectations beyond the show’s premise. The show is about him taking his dad,Michael, along with him on a world tour. The two of them do some father/son bonding, and have some mildly amusing adventures, as Jack attempts to connect with his dad. I would say his objective is successful, and occasionally deeply amusing, as his dad is not the kind of man who minces words, makes it clear the things he will, and will not do, while still having a sense of whimsy, and being game enough to try new things.

In fact, I really loved the show, and I’m not sure what this says about me other than I’m older than Jack or American or a woman or something, but I kinda identified with Michael for most of the show. Like his dad, I was often exasperated at Jack’s attitudes about things. When they first get to somewhere in SE Asia, Jack wants to stay at a hostel, but Michael is having none of that shit, and I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t either. I would not travel halfway around the world, to live in a small room,with a bunch of strange White people, who look none too clean, or trustworthy. (Also, I have a phobia about falling asleep in the presence of White people, because apparently,  I’ve watched far too many bad comedies.) Like Jack’s dad, I’m gonna stay at a nice hotel, like a civilized human being. If I’m gonna be robbed, I want that shit done James Bond style, with class.

Michael and Jack visit a temple, and a house of dolls. Or is it the same thing? The idea behind the dollhouse is that people have these very realistic dolls made, that are supposed to House the souls of actual children. Well, they get a doll, and Michael carries this little doll around, for the rest of the show. The point is that you’re supposed to treat the doll like an actual child. I thought this was both creepy and cute. Jack just thought it was creepy. Michael named the doll, carried him openly everywhere, and doted on it, just like he was supposed to, but eventually lost the doll, when he gave it to another little boy to hold,when he went on a sort of train ride. That’s something you really have to see because it’s not actually a train, and is a deeply inefficient form of travel, that Michael absolutely hated.

But it was a very  fun show. I adored Jack’s parents. His mom has got a bit of salt in her too, which I liked. Michael would call her every evening, and they’d talk about what he’d done that day, and she would give him no nonsense advice on things to say and do with Jack. If you’ve got parents, (especially if you’re their primary caregiver), you should probably watch this show with them. I didn’t watch this with my mom, but I’m thinking about it.

 

Westworld Season Two: Kiksuya

This episode is about one of the more mysterious characters we have seen skirting the edges of the narrative, Akecheta, and his tribe Ghost Nation. This lends some insight into the tribes creation and motivation ,and their connection, from the beginning to Maeve’s story.

I thought Akane No Mai was going to be my favorite episodes of the season, but I think this episode has overtaken that one as being my most favorite..

A lot of people have reviewed this episode, broadly considered to be one of the most beautiful episodes aired this season. Rather than review it myself, I’m going to leave these here.

Note some major points: The word Kiksuya means : Remember. The episode is subtitled, with Akecheta speaking the  Lakota Sioux language. Akecheta’s entire story is being told to Maeve through her daughter. The Deathbringer is none other than Dolores. (What if it turns out that Dolores is the villain of this series?)

 

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https://www.avclub.com/a-symbol-tells-his-story-on-a-heartbreaking-westworld-1826709787

For the first time, Akecheta gets to tell his story, relating his life’s journey to Maeve’s (still unnamed, I think?) daughter as William lies bleeding out on the dirt nearby. It’s a wonderfully focused hour that builds to an actual conclusion—and while I’m not sure we learn much here that we didn’t already know or suspect, it’s still emotionally satisfying to spend this much time with a single character, getting to see how they came to be and what drives them.

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https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/6/10/17442310/westworld-season-2-episode-8-recap-kiksuya

All told, it’s a little languid and could have lost 10 minutes without too much trouble. (There are a lot of gigantic landscape shots, which eventually grew repetitive.) But “Kiksuya” has the visceral emotion that the series often lacks, and McClarnon is a terrific leading man. This is probably my favorite episode of the season so far, which I would not have expected going in.

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https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2018/06/westworld-kiksuya-what-is-the-door-ending-explained-maeve-akechetah-zahn-mclarnon

*In the episode, Akecheta ‘s story parallels Maeve’s story. When he comes to his realization that the world he lives in is false, he stages his own death (as she did), and when he wakes up underground, takes a tour of of the facility, and finds his way to the cold storage room, where he finds all the family and friends he remembered had simply gone missing, and been replaced with new and unknown faces.

The scene where Akecheta returns to the world above, and tells his friend’s mother that he saw her son in the underworld, (a son who has since been replaced with a man she knows is not him), and gives her a lock of his hair, is very probably the one of the most tearful moments in the entire series.

But Westworld is also, clearly, making a bit of incisive commentary on a character like Dolores assuming she’s either the first or most important child of Ford when, all along, the Native cultures were making their way towards enlightenment. This explains why, in Season 1, a young member of Ghost Nation dropped a carving of one of the Delos employees in the dusty streets of Sweetwater. This tribe has long known what was up.

But the show also reaches much further back, to ancient myths about lost loves and the land of the dead. Fans of Greek mythology might recognize shades of Orpheus and Eurydice—the story of the legendary musician who traveled to the Underworld to find his dead bride and try to bring her back to the land of the living. Akecheta and Kohana travel that same path. But as you might expect, there’s a reflection of that very same myth in Native culture. An Algonquin legend, “The Spirit Bride,” tells an almost identical story. “The Worm Pipe” tells a similar tale, but with a happier ending than either Orpheus or Akecheta manage to find.

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https://heavy.com/entertainment/2018/06/westworld-kiksuya-meaning-translation/

The title of the episode, Kiksuya, means “Remember” in Lakota. In fact, nearly the entire episode is going to be about the back story of the Ghost Nation, with much of the episode containing subtitles. Yes, much of the episode will be spoken in Lakota. If you recall, the subtitles in Episode 3 showed Hector speaking Lakota to the Ghost Nation natives.

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https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/06/westworld-season-2-episode-8-kiksuya-roundtable/562451/

When Ghost Nation were introduced in the first season, they were faceless villains, made up in white and black paint (marked with bloody handprints), targets for hosts and guests alike to fight off. They were the backbone of Lee Sizemore’s gross, rejected new narrative centered on cannibalism, a garish attempt to jack up the stakes in a park already centered around murder and assault. In Season 2, there have been hints that they’re not the villains they appear to be.

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https://www.rollingstone.com/tv/recaps/westworld-recap-season-two-episode-8-kiksuya-w521170

It took one of its most underutilized cast members, placed him at the center of a storyline that directly addressed the series’ sci-fi conceit but combined it with real mythmaking power and then let him run. The warrior Akecheta may not save Ghost Nation and its many human captives, but he just might have saved this show.

 

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Into The Badlands Season Two: So Far

Oh wow, I’m really late with this one, although not too late since the season hasn’t ended yet. I really should have begun this earlier, because there is a lot of ground to cover, and as is usual with this show, if you miss an episode, you’re up shit creek as far as understanding what’s going on, or what happened before. The plot does not slow down here. As the season moves forward the plot becomes more dense, the betrayals and alliances fly fast and furious, and of course, the action is literally kickin’! We’re gonna have to do this the old fashioned way: via character list.

 

Sunny

Sunny

Since the first episode, Sunny (whose actual name is indeed Sunshine) has been at pains to save Henry, since Henry became sick. It turns out that Henry is a baby Dark One. In his quest to save Henry from dying from his Dark Chi, Sunny teams up with Bajie, takes over a refugee camp, gets kidnapped by cannibals, and finally confronted by Nathaniel Moon, and finally reunited with the River King.

As usual, many of Sunny’s current problems spring from all the past shit he did as a Clipper, but there’s also a new wrinkle. Sunny happens to be a Dark One, only his abilities are latent. Sunny is a catalyst instead, capable of awakening the abilities of others. Should this information become public, and others find out he can create Dark Ones (possibly even control them), Sunny will become even more valuable to all the major Powers of the Badlands.

 

Bajie

Bajie

Bajie is one of those people who knows everybody, and  everybody’s everybody. The Widow used to be a former pupil of his, and one of his former masters from the abbey is a witch who can cure Henry’s illness. He and Sunny find their way to this woman. She manages to cure Henry’s fever, but she is also the person who figures out that it was Sunny who caused the flareup because  its hereditary.

Bajie is disappointed to think the signal he sent out, in first season, got no response, but the witch says it did. It attracted Pilgrim. And guess what? Bajie seems to know him too. So, at some point he and Pilgrim will be reunited.

Nathaniel Moon

Nathaniel Moon

Nathaniel Moon tracks Sunny to the lair of the cannibals, where he gets taken prisoner, as well. In exchange for saving his life from the cannibals, Moon decides to spare Sunny’s life. Also, Moon is an honorable man, who does not wish to make Henry an orphan.

The writers have learned at least a few lessons from the past seasons. They have given Moon a backstory, and although he does questionable things (most of the people in the Badlands do questionable things), he manages to maintain his honor, and occasionally make some good choices, but I suspect sooner or later, just like Tilda and Waldo,  he will grow disillusioned with The Widow, and leave her.

He also has a sordid past with Lydia, who had an affair with him, when he was Quinn’s Clipper. I like this relationship and hope they get together because their chemistry is unmistakable.

The Widow

The Widow

The Widow’s war with Baron Chau continues, and its hard to say who is winning. They both use innocent lives to manipulate each other into action, so I can’t even say who is the better person. The Widow is still one of my favorite characters but I still got  problems with her methods.

After Pilgrim floods  her poppy fields with pamphlets, stealing away half her Cogs, she decides to get out in front of the problem, and goes to see him. Subsequently, she and Pilgrim reach an accord. He doesn’t steal away any more of her workers, and she will take his side against anyone who attacks him.and there won’t be any need for violence between them,

 

Lydia

Lydia

Lydia has been appointed to be the Widow’s governor,  taking over the poppy plantation, where she used to live. It turns out that she and Nathaniel Moon used to be lovers, and their reunion was …how do you say? “Fraught with tension!” Like I said, the twists, turns and connections on this show fly fast and furious, and you have got to pay close attention, or you’ll miss some new, and relevant, development.

 

M.K.

M.K.

When we last saw MK he was zonked on opium, and without his powers, but the opium caused some type pf revelation, and he now believes that it was Sunny who killed his mother. I’m inclined to believe this is a delusion on his part, except Sunny has met more than a few people he’s wronged in his time as a Clipper, so why not MK.

During MK’s mission to find and kill Sunny, he’s shot by Gaius Chau’s crew, and found by Pilgrim. Pilgrim knows what he is, and wants him to stay and work for him, as a kind of enforcer, since one of his enforcers is in the final stages of being a Dark One burnout, and he needs a replacement. I’m not sure where this is going, but I’m pretty sure this won’t end with MK killing Sunny.  They are set to be reunited, and I’m sure there’s gonna be some kung fu fightin’, but I think that will be the extent of it.

 

Tilda

Tilda

Tilda and her mother have reconciled, (sort of), and she is now a kind of liaison, between the war refugees and her mother, helping to run the  camp set up in a corner of the Widow’s district, by Lydia. Over the course of the season, this camp has been attacked by everyone in the Badlands, mostly in an attempt to steal the refugees and get them involved in the war. Tilda makes this  deal, with her mother, to protect them.

 

Baron Chau

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After her people are attacked by Pilgrim, Juliet Chau realizes she cannot fight a war on two fronts, and sends in her nuclear option, her brother, Gaius Chau, who she suborns into working for her, by threatening his friends. She and her brother have a history where he tried to be a nice guy, but his sister took over his position as head of the family because she was utterly ruthless. They were feuding, but she imprisoned her brother, after he tried to stage a coup. Needless to say, Juliet is a few rungs down the ladder of villainy than Minerva, as she seems to actually believe in, and support, the slavery of the Cogs.

She sends her brother out to find, and assassinate Pilgrim.

I’m not sure I like this version of the “dragon lady” stereotype, but I do like this character, who is every bit The Widow’s equal. Perhaps if the show had more Asian women in it, to offset her depiction, that might be better.

 

 

Gaius Chau

Gaius Chau

Fomented a rebellion against his sister when she became the head of hte clan. And guess who was at the bottom of this rebellion. A very young Minerva, of course! She seems to have ties to everyone in the Badlands.

We’ve already seen The Widow’s reunion with Bajie, last season, which did not go well, but after Gaius’ assassination attempt of Pilgrim is unsuccessful, he finds his way to the refugee camp led by Tilda, where he and Nathaniel team up to protect it from Baron Chau, after which he is reunited with The Widow, and now works for her.

Can I just say how happy I am to see Lewis Tan in this show.

 

Pilgrim/Cressida

PilgrimCressida

Pilgrim and his entourage, which include the two Dark Ones, Nix and Castor, (and now MK), have taken up residence in an abandoned castle/museum on an islet. Pilgrim certainly seems to be educated from somewhere as he knows a lot about the artifacts in the museum, and has been heard quoting The Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai.

Pilgrim is turning into one of the top power players in the Badlands, mostly because he is able to offer hope and stability, from the war, to the Cogs  who flock to his banner. He’s certainly becoming someone who needs to be gotten rid of for becoming a hindrance, or parlayed with, instead. The Widow decides to make a deal (which she will renege on, at the first opportunity, of course). Baron Chau decides that getting rid of him is her best bet, and sends Gaius to do it.

Pilgrim and Cressida are engaged in some mysterious construction activities. Its kind of confusing because a lot of the people in the Badlands refer to Azra as  a place that is gone, a place that exists now, a place that will exist in the future, or sometimes, a person. At any rate, actual mystical abilities (magic) have been introduced to the mythology of the Badlands, as Cressida actually is a seer, and keeps seeing Sunny’s Clipper hash-marks in her visions, which is convenient becasue Sunny is on his way to Pilgrim’s place, in the last episode.

 

This season consists of sixteen episodes this time, so we’re about half through. Of course, by the end of the season, every individual situation will have changed, and I hope they all survive to the next season.

 

Black Mirror Review

The topic for this season of Black Mirror seems to be White Supremacy, and I guess somebody, (I won’t name names, but I will point in the general direction of my co-worker, Chad) feels some type of way about that.

“Racial issues” was the general theme of three key episodes of this season. The plot usually  involved some form of technology that had  gone horribly wrong, or gets badly misused because of the philosophy of a Toxic White person, and then some marginalized person catches some shit for it.

Yeah, I can see people feeling salty enough to give bad reviews, especially if the theme for this season seems to be  “White people fucking up, y’all!” If things were reversed, and the theme was “Them Colored folk is fucking up the future!”, I’d be inclined to dislike it, too.

I watched all of the episodes, except Hang the DJ, because I’m not particularly interested in shows about young people falling in love.

 

USS Callister

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My favorite episode was USS Callister. The story is blatantly feminist but that’s okay, because it was very entertaining, as a Star Trek parody that takes place entirely in one man’s head. At first I thought this was a straight up parody about the original Star Trek, and a critique of how the original got feminism wrong, but it turned out to be something very different.

An entitled and awkward game maker, who doesn’t feel appreciated enough in the real world, creates simulated versions of his co-workers in a virtual game, and I just thought it would be a comedy, but  what elevates this above a parody is that he is White,  he treats the other characters appallingly, and most of his simulated co-workers are women, and people of color, whose job it is to worship and praise him as the Captain of the USS Callister. Those who are not sufficiently worshipful are punished.

One of the few White male characters (his company partner in the real world) is punished, over and over again, is by having a simulation of his son murdered in front of him, and the lone Black woman gets transformed into an alien monster as punishment for the activities of the white female lead , trying  to free them. The lone black male character is forced to speak in vernacular and wear an Afro. The point of all of this is that all of these characters must live in stereotyped versions of themselves, and kowtow to the captain, while he uses the game to take out his real life racial and sexual resentments on these self aware, virtual, clones, who are  powerless. When you couple all that with the sexlessness of the clones (none of them possess genitalia), it all adds up to some very deeply unhealthy ideas about sex.

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The simulations are not real people, but they are aware that they are trapped in a game called Infinity. They spend most of the episode trying to escape the simulation. The Captain also has access to their real world DNA, so they can never really die, as he can resurrect them anytime.

This particular episode is an indictment of  toxic White masculinity in the gaming industry. Its also a commentary on Incels, the Alt-right, and gamergate.

http://collider.com/black-mirror-uss-callister-explained/

What’s brilliant about “USS Callister” is how it serves up its headfake in the first act. We think we’re about to see a story of a mild mannered genius who gets no respect, and the episode uses our assumptions against us. We’ve seen that story time and again, where the quiet nice guy is the hero, but the story this episode tells is one that rings true to the world we live in today. 

 

Crocodile

Of all the episodes of Black Mirror, I think this one was the most hated, and I think it’s because a lot of critics didn’t understand what it was actually about. (Or maybe they did understand and it offended them.) There was also a certain contingent of people who simply couldn’t get past the deaths of the Muslim family in the episode, not quite understanding, that was the point, and  could not have been made otherwise.

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I’ve read several reviews of this episode, and when I speak on  ‘critical diversity’ issues, the fact that none of the reviews I’ve read mention race as a factor to the narrative, is exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about.

Most of the episode takes place in an Icelandic landscape, and is about a White woman, who goes on a killing spree, based on a killing she committed many years ago. Now she does kill another person in the narrative, but what many reviewers refuse to mention is that she also, coldbloodedly, murders a Muslim couple, and their baby.

Several years ago, Mia was present at the killing of a homeless man, via hit and run. Her boyfriend was the one who committed the deed, and years later, wracked with guilt,  he comes back to tell her he’s going to confess. She kills him. During this meeting another man is hit by a car outside the hotel where Mia and her old boyfriend have met, and Mia is called in as  witness by a young Muslim woman named Shazia. Shazia has a device that can probe a person’s recent memories ,and uses it on Mia, who cannot disguise the reason she was at the hotel, and that she killed her old boyfriend, at that time.

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Mia ties Shazia up, and using the memory device on Shazia, finds out that Shazia’s husband knew where she was going. She kills Shazia, and then goes to her home, and kills her husband, and their baby, just in case the device can be used on him. There is a guinea pig in the room, but Mia doesn’t kill it, and the device apparently works on animals, because Mia gets arrested while at her son’s recital that evening.

croc·o·dile tears
noun
 tears or expressions of sorrow that are insincere.
 
 https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/vbyp3b/in-black-mirror-white-mothers-are-the-coldest-villains

The title is a reference to the Crocodile Tears that Mia cries throughout the entire episode. Mia is always crying. She cries after she kills the homeless man. She cries after she kills her old boyfriend. She cries after killing Shazia, and her family. But all these tears do not stop her from being cold-bloooded (ie. reptilian) enough to kill a mother, her husband, and her baby to serve her own needs. Mia’s tears are meaningless, and are ultimately only about her own discomfort, and the possible loss of her lifestyle, with a new husband and career, and have nothing to do with the horrors she’s enacting. It is telling that Mia is cold enough to kill a baby, but cares enough not to kill the guinea pigs sitting on the table in the baby’s room.

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To me, a lot of these episodes are an indictment of White women who devalue the lives of women of color, and prioritize Whiteness. What Mia is doing, willingly taking the lives of marginalized others to save her own, while supposedly feeling sorry about it, is a definite reference to White feminism, the kind of feminism that is willing to throw other women (and even their children) under the bus to preserve itself, and can be directly attributed to the 53% of White female voters who put Donald Trump in the White House. I think this episode speaks directly to the hypocrisy of such women, as Mia considered the life of the family guinea pigs to be worth more than the life of the human baby she murders, and next to The Black Museum, this is the second most powerful episode in the season.

Throughout the entire episode, Mia keeps telling herself she has no choice but to do these things, and what’s worst , she tries to convince Shazia of this as well. Of all the choices she doesn’t consider, giving up her privileged, upper class lifestyle, is never one of them. At every step along the way, Mia could have stopped, but she is too cowardly, and self involved, to consider doing that, and cries because SHE is the one in pain.  Mia is a monster in every sense of the term.

Its interesting to me that reviewers can easily see that the USS Callister episode was about male entitlement, and sexism, but when it comes to the events of Crocodile, reviewers conveniently fail to “get it”, never mentioning that three of the people Mia kills are a dark skinned Muslim family. In some cases, the critics walk right up to the issue, and then neatly sidestep as if the  subject of  White racism is the least important (or most banal) part of the episode ,and they simply cannot be bothered with such a topic.

Crocodile Tears: The Violence of White Womanhood in Netflix’s ‘Black Mirror’ Episode “Crocodile”

by Talynn Kel (On Medium. Com/ for Members Only)

 

Black Museum

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I spoke about this particular episode in an earlier post on why we need more Black critics. of the three episodes i talk about here, this one was the stand out.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/black-mirror-and-critical-diversity/

 

*On the subject of the critical reception of this season, I want to list The Verge, for getting every single one of its hot takes of this season wrong. In every episode that approaches race, the critics of The Verge manage to totally not “get it”. (In one case, a critic ignores the message of Black Museum entirely, to focus their attention on the White male villain of the episode.) Now there isn’t anything wrong, in particular, with the individual critiques but when coupled with the all the others that never mention any of the blatantly racial aspects of  the episodes, I’m inclined to give the critics of this website (and The Vulture) a confirmed side eye.

 

That said:

http://feministing.com/2016/09/21/film-critics-talk-racism-in-the-movie-industry/

 

Crocodile Tears: The Violence of White Womanhood in Netflix’s ‘Black Mirror’ Episode “Crocodile” — Part One (SPOILERS AHEAD FOLKS SO STRAP IN)

                                                                                    —– Medium.com

Siren: Season One Review

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Siren is an interesting show, but its not necessarily a great one. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about this show, and parts of it are very compelling, but it does have a couple of  issues, that become  obvious over time.

When I first saw the trailers for the show, I had the idea that it would be a typically cheesy series. Maybe a little darkness. A little horror. I wasn’t sure what the lead actress was trying to convey in the ads. Without any context, it just looks like bad acting. It turns out there’s a reason the actress looks the way she does, and a lot of that has to do with the attitude of the character she’s trying to depict, and can mostly only show through her body language, which is very distinctive. Rynn is a predator, and her behavior reflects  the catlike, prickly, attitude of a creature you don’t want to mess, with because it has no qualms about hurting you, as one poor human predator learns when he tries to molest Rynn, after picking her up on the road.

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Eline Powell plays Rynn, who comes to land in search of her sister Donna, who has been captured by the US military and is being experimented on, (for Gob knows what reasons), by a man named Decker. During Rynn’s  search for Donna, she meets Ben and Maddie,  oceanographic researchers at some small local institute.

Ben  is the eldest son of one of the founding families of the town, whose foundation was built on  the slaughter of some mermaids in the 1800s, something that will come back to haunt its inhabitants. Maddie is the girlfriend Ben’s mother disapproves of, and the adopted daughter of the town sheriff, Dale Bishop. Ben has three close friends (Xander, Calvin, Chris, and Xander’s father), who work on a fishing trawler, a goody- two- shoes brother, and  a mother who was hurt in some kind of accident, and uses a wheelchair.

One night, the trawler captures Donna but she is stolen away them by the Navy, along with Ben’s  friend and co-worker Chris, who was scratched or bitten by Donna. He and Donna eventually escape imprisonment but not before Donna is horribly traumatized, and has a chance to bespell Decker with her siren song.

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Rynn’s presence in the town of Bristol Cove opens up a history’s worth of secrets, most of these secrets are smugly alluded to by a local shop owner named Helen. She has secrets. The town has secrets. Everybody’s got secrets. Its just secrets all the way down. Later, we find out that Helen used to be one of the mermaids, but gave up her life in the sea, to become human.

Donna is understandably angry at being mistreated by humans, and wants to destroy as many of them as possible. She is eventually aided in this endeavor, not by Rynn, who is fascinated with humans, but by two other mermaids, who are angry at humans for over fishing their cove, while the mermaids starve. Eventually tensions reach a high, and a mini-war begins, between the mermaids who have been so traumatized by humans that they want them all dead, and the humans who are suffering losses because of the mermaid’s retaliations.

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The show has some well done action scenes, with some nice stunt work, and the cinematography is well done. There are times when people’s actions, and motivations are unclear, and as I said earlier, some of the acting is not the best, especially the actress who plays Maddie, but that might be because, in the first episodes, she isn’t given very much to do, beyond  looking  pleasant or worried.

We watch  Rynn’s English get better, and she starts to act more human, but still retains just enough of her natural mermaid behavior, to seem thoroughly alien. You can tell the creators put some real thought into how a water based, highly intelligent, predatory being would behave if it found itself in human culture. Pay close attention to the mermaid’s body language, not just when interacting with humans, but with each other as well.

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But this show may be  most well  known for its sheer diversity in front of the cameras. Almost every culture is represented by at least one character, along with several characters of mixed race, like Xander. Helen is played by Rena Owen who is of Maori descent. So it seems fitting she’d play a mermaid. There are Black mermaids, like Donna, which is a first in a network TV show, and the show’s creators manage to make her look thoroughly convincing.

It is not until you see Donna in her natural form that you remember that most fantasy creatures are depicted by White people, unless the plot calls for them to be villains, and despite the fact the Europe isn’t the only place in the world where the mythology of mermaids exist.  Donna does some questionable things (so does Rynn) but the writers are careful never to code her as bad or evil. She is traumatized, and justifiably angry, and the writers allow her to express this without apology, refusing to give in to the stereotype of making her an irrationally angry Black woman, and it is clear that the writers took some time to research the African legends of Mami-Wata, which is what they seemed to have based her character on.

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http://blog.swaliafrica.com/mami-wata-the-mermaids-in-african-mythology/

There’s an Asian mermaid, a Black merman, an Indigenous sheriff, and numerous individuals of various races randomly dropped into the background.

A lot of these actors are not well known, (Rena Owen is the only one  know) and a few of them are first timers, and it shows in the degree of their acting skills. Its not quite as bad as the “schmacting” in some of the  CW shows, but every now and then, you get taken out of the story by someone hitting a wrong note. But that’s okay because the show makes up for it, with its depiction of the mermaids and their culture. If you’re expecting Disney’s version of The Little Mermaid then this ain’t the show for you.

And yes, the mermaids do sing, but not in a recognizably human way. The creators seemed to have put some thought into that as well. The mermaid’s singing sounds like a low, deep-throated humming sound ,with no especially discernible melody, and no rhythm, and actually does  sound like something you’d hear under water. At any rate ,it seems very compelling to the characters who are subjected to it.

Photo: Freeform/Sergei Bachlakov

Despite all of the diversity on display, the characters don’t pay much attention to it. At first, I was concerned that Ben’s mother simply didn’t want Ben in a relationship with a Black girlfriend, but the real tension seems to  be something personal between her and Maddie, that Ben knows about, but has nothing to do with. We witness Maddie, and Ben’s mother, tiptoeing around each other, before reaching some type of accord.

The mermaids don’t pay any attention to the different skin tones, either. I’m mot inclined to refer to them as different races, because from my point of view, the mermaids are all one race, and have a very distinctive culture. I do occasionally cringe because the mermaids are coded as very animalistic, they sometimes get called animals by the humans around them (including Ben) and so many of them are portrayed by PoC. This cringiness is slightly offset by Rynn calling Ben out on his descriptions of her people, and shaming him for it.

The mermaids are the real intrigue on this show, although there is plenty of drama and mystery. They are shown as being  predators who will kill humans when given the opportunity to do so, (if you come into the water with them, for example). They are capable of coming out of the water, shedding their tails, and putting on a human disguise. The society they come from is matriarchal, and Rynn eventually becomes the alpha female of the particular group that resides in Bristol Cove.

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One of the more interesting things is Rynn’s relationship to Maddie. Because the mermaid’s talk more with their bodies, than their voices, we get a lot of scenes of Rynn standing unnervingly close to people, unexpectedly touching people in an intimate manner, and a general lack of boundaries from her, and this includes Maddie, as well. Ben is sort of compelled to be near her because of the singing, but not Maddie, who hasn’t heard her siren song, but seems just as gobsmacked by Rynn’s  presence as Ben does.

Rynn is starting to think of Ben and Maddie as a kind of family, (possibly as her mates, or something similar), and in her roundabout way, has told Maddie that she loves her (since English is not Rynn’s first language, I suspect something got lost in the translation). She clearly does not think of Maddie as a sister. She has a sister,  and doesn’t treat Maddie anything at all the way she treats Donna, to whom she is, at times, deferential, sisterly, angry, or devoted. To give you some idea: Rynn spends the night at Ben and Maddie’s apartment. They settle her on the sofa with a blanket, and go to their bed. Rynn, unhappy with this arrangement, gets in their bed, and contentedly falls asleep between the two of them.

It’s not a bad show. I’m going to give it a nice, solid, B/B+, but it does need just a bit more polish, and  I am cautiously intrigued by it, despite its  misses. I do wish the acting was a little bit  better, and I do hope we get to see other supernatural beings on the show, as has been hinted at by Maddie. I will be back for a second season if it gets renewed. And you should probably check it out, at least once,  for the novelty of seeing a Black merman.

Westworld Season Two: So Far

I’ve watched two more episodes of this show since the premiere, and I have not one damn clue, in what direction, things are going on this show, but I can tell you what I’ve observed so far.

We’ll start with the tiger.

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The tiger that was found on the bank of the lake in the first episode is from another Park. I don’t know what the name of that park was, but it consisted of British Raj India. Is this the mystery park everyone was speculating about? So far we know of several parks: Westworld and  Future world, from the movies. Shogun World, which I called Samurai World, when I saw it last season, Medieval World, and possibly, Roman World.

When the tiger is found by the paramilitary rescue team, called in by Charlotte, there’s speculation that the Parks are starting to bleed together, and that the same malfunction that has infected Westworld’s Hosts with consciousness, has infected the other Parks. But in the second episode, we learn that the malfunction, that caused the robots to become self aware, doesn’t extend to all of the robots. Some of them are still engaged in their loops, and have no idea what’s happening. But the “Consciousness Disease” has also extended into itself into at least one other Park as we find out how the tiger got from the one to the other. It involves woman named Grace. We later find that her presence is important.

Dolores has become the leader of a rebellion that is not entirely organized, as not all the robots are on board, including Teddy, who is still having trouble dealing with his sentience. . She is willing to sacrifice plenty of the others, to accomplish her goal, of infecting as many Parks as possible,with this new consciousness. How does she know there are other worlds? She’s seen them. When she and a number of other Hosts were brought online, they were used as examples to show to various investors, one of whom was the jerk we saw in season one, named Logan, and his father, the CEO of the infamous Delos Corporation. Arnold took her to what we like to think is the outside world (but probably isn’t), a cityscape, which might  be some other Park, for all we know. Dolores now has full access to the memories of that time before she woke up.

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We spend most of these two episodes watching her procure her army against the security teams which have come to rescue the Guests. There’s a small war but it is unclear who wins.Peter Abernathy, who was being sought after for the information that Charlotte planted in his programming, is successfully kidnapped from Dolores, who sets out to get him back, Teddy in tow.

So we now have two quests. Dolores is on a quest to save her father from Delos Corp., and Maeve is on a quest to save her child. This family connection, between parents and their children, is a callback to the new change in the opening credits that show a Host hugging a small Host child. Because of this change in the credits, it is speculated, by fandom, that it is possible,  that at least one of the Hosts has successfully produced a child. Either Maeve is an actual mother, or possibly that Dolores is pregnant. (I think that is unlikely, although there are new revelations that suggest this isn’t too far out of the show’s wheelhouse.) We have three quests, really, as the Man in Black is on a quest of self actualization set out for him by Ford. .

Meanwhile, in Maeve’s pursuit of her goal, she encounters Lee, the guy in charge of all the bullshit stories in Westworld. Lee is a coward and a hack, and what’s sad is he isn’t the most annoying character in the Park, even though he spends most of his time whining about how dangerous everywhere is. Maeve is also reunited with Armistice, now  with a mechanical arm, and a flamethrower, and with Felix and his co-worker, whose name I wont bother to remember. No, it’s Felix’s co-worker who is the most annoying character in the Park, and quite frankly I’m not happy to see his whining, bitching ass. I had hoped mightily that he was dead.

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During all of this, the Ghost Nation Tribe is moving, gathering up any humans they encounter, including the woman the tiger attacked. It turns out that Grace is the daughter of the man in Black (Old William).  What the Ghost Nation is doing to, or with, the captured humans, I don’t understand, (but I wouldn’t rule out just killing them). It’s also an interesting point  that Maeve’s voice can’t control any of the members of the Ghost Nation, even though she can verbally control the other robots of Westworld. Grace manages to escape and is reunited with her father.

In the last two episodes, we are given a lot of  nuggets to ponder. One of the packets of information that Delos is hiding, within Peter Abernathy’s programming, is the information they’ve been collecting about the Park’s guests, which not only includes their activities, but their DNA. What they are trying to do is create a fusion of human and robot, thereby creating immortal humans. This goal is illustrated in the backstory of Old William’s Father- in-law. The Delos Corporation’s CEO dies of cancer, but is resurrected as a Host. The resurrection appears unsuccessful, nevertheless, he is resurrected and destroyed hundreds of times over the next 35 years. His only regular visitor is William.

It is Bernard who finds Elsie alive, but she “aint fo’ none of his bullshit”, as he was the one who kidnapped her, and stashed her away, because she was getting too close to Robert Ford’s plans. She and Bernard team up, she fixes Bernard’s physical issues, (a cortical fluid problem), and the two of them find a secret lab, full of dead humans. They are dead because Ford found out about the lab, and sent Bernard in to destroy the lab, and procure one of the fusion devices, which looks like a tiny red brain. This tiny device possibly contains the consciousness of Robert Ford, or some other important person. Elsie and Bernard also  find the last robot incarnation of the Delos CEO, and destroy him.

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Dolores witnesses Teddy disobeying her orders, and freeing  some of the prisoners she meant to have killed, and she has decided she cannot complete her mission, because he is just too nice of a guy. At the end of the last episode, Akane No Mai, she has decided what she needs is a compliant bad ass, and has his programming changed to something a little more useful.  Teddy is the complete opposite personality from Dolores. Dolores is devoid of compassion and mercy, something entirely to do with her treatment in the Park, I suspect, and her memories of it. She is a merciless, and relentless, trauma victim.

The Man in Black is on another quest given to him by one of Ford’s Hosts. It is speculated that he too is a Host, and a clone of William. Its not that far fetched an idea. After all, William has been going through the motions of his own loop for decades, killing the same Hosts over and over again, regularly circling by the farm to rape Dolores, going into town to see her, hanging out in that little Mexican town, terrorizing the citizens there. He may have been seeking his own version of consciousness, rather than  that of the Hosts.

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In the last episode, titled Akane No Mai, Maeve makes her way to Shogun World, where Lee’s maps say her daughter is to be found. Now something really interesting happens with her and the others in Shogun World, and it s a side effect of Lee being a hack writer who plagiarizes his own material throughout all the Parks. Earlier, Dolores goes to another town and finds a version of the saloon that was once run by Maeve. We become aware of this when the Host, Clementine, encounters a Host that’s her double, who plays the same role, and spouts the same lines she did when she was in her loop. We also encounter a White female version of Maeve, but this Host has not awakened.

Just like with humans, the Hosts past encounters, and memories, inform how they are reacting now.  The Maeve clone has not had  the tragic past that spurred Maeve’s awakening, and has no memories of The Man in Black in her past. Hector and Armistice are warriors now, because that is what they’ve always been. I suspect Dolores is vengeful because of the trauma she remembers.

Lee calls the the Host clones “Doppel-Bots”, and says there can be some strange side-effects when doppel-bots meet. This is what happens in Maeve’s group. Each one of them meets a Host that resonates with the roles they played in Westworld, and their reactions are interesting.

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The first one they meet is Musashi (named after Japan’s most famous swordsman), who is a clone of Hector. Hector’s reaction to his clone is suspicion and hostility. Armistice meets her clone (a masterful Archer) and the two become unhealthily fascinated with one another. Maeve’s clone is the madame of a Geisha House, named Akane. None of these robots are infected with consciousness yet, although Maeve tries to awaken Akane, with no success. This particular  story is important because it is an echo of Maeve;s story,  and we are struck by the importance of her story to the overall narrative of Westward, through Akane’s ordeal in this episode.

Akane is emotionally attached to a young geisha, who is later kidnapped by the local Shogun. This young lady functions  as Akane’s daughter, and she also turns out to be Akane’s trigger, as she is awakened, after her charge is brutally murdered by the Shogun (who is suffering form some type of cortical fluid dementia), right in front of her. Because of his dementia the Shogun has gone “waaay off script”, according to Lee, and this prompts several of the other Hosts to go off script as well, including Akane who kills the Shogun as revenge for her daughter’s murder, sparking a war.

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Now we must remember that Akane’s story happened because the consciousness disease has left most of the robots in positions of having to fend for themselves too long. They need to have regular maintenance, and because the Shogun had not received his, in what is apparently several weeks, he started to malfunction. Couple that with the entrance into the Park of a Witch (Maeve) and their defiant actions against the Shogun’s orders, and the end result is the death of Akane’s daughter.

But there’s also a new wrinkle. Maeve has leveled up, and more importantly she has done this to herself. The robots of Shogun World have been forewarned about her Voice, and keep gagging her, as they have deemed her to be a witch. When this keeps endangering her life, she develops the ability to telepathically communicate her wishes to any Hosts around her. Basically she has  developed a kind of Bluetooth, through a kind of  mesh which connects all the Hosts together. This is what she uses when the Shogun’s warriors attempt to kill Akane for the murder of the Shogun. We end the episode with Maeve stepping up to protect Akane’s life with her power. This how women are supposed to ally!

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We have two competing stories. We have Dolores, who is willing to callously sacrifice the lives of the Hosts who are not with her program, for the ideological goal of freeing all of the Hosts from all the Parks. She has become like  the oppressor she seeks freedom from. We have Maeve, who is also willing to make sacrifices for a more immediate, and concrete goal, but  not just that. She is also willing to protect the lives of the Hosts she has emotionally attached herself to. Dolores is willing to  take away Teddy’s  agency, (while telling her she loves him), to reach her goal, and  she will kill any Hosts that don’t follow her, without a second thought. Ironically she has become less human, and more like a machine in pursuit of her goal. In contrast, Maeve is willing to show empathy, sympathy, compassion, and loyalty to the Hosts around her, and even a few humans, like Felix. Maeve seeks to become more human than humans.

I can’t help but notice, in all the reviews I keep reading, critics are all dismissing Maeve’s story in favor of talking about everything but her, even in those episodes where her story is front and center, like Akane No Mai. Most of them ignore what her story means in contrast to Dolores’, and the overarching narrative of the series. They seemingly have nothing to say about the importance of Maeve’s choices, and her new abilities, or her behavior in contrast to Dolores’. For example, no one has mentioned that both she and Dolores mention finding their Voice.

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In this instance Dolores and Maeve have both developed the Voice of God although, Dolores is obeyed through fear, and Maeve, as suits the meaning of her name, (to enchant), compels  others through charm. They both claim  to have found their Voice, and this is an important point, or it would not have been repeated several times by the Hosts. Once again, just like last season,  I’m getting frustrated by the critics prioritization of Dolores’ story over Maeve’s, as if Maeve’s story is not important to the overall narrative of the series. Some of the critics have even attempted to diminish Maeve’s story by theorizing that she is not fully awake, and is still under Ford’s orders. I would not entirely rule out such a thing, but to theorize that Maeve has no agency, while not theorizing the same of Dolores, is awfully suspicious. There are also critics who dismiss Maeve as being too perfect, and her storyline as boring, because her searching for her daughter is a cliche. They are simply not capable of seeing the parallels hers and Dolores’ stories.

I also think the critics spend far too much time trying to parse all of the show’s tricks, and twists. I like the twists, don’t get me wrong. Those are fun to winkle out, but they’re not my priority. I’m more interested in what the entire story means. What messages, waht philosophies, are the viewers meant to get out of this, and what do the events mean for the Hosts?

I’ve also seen the critics attempt to diminish the importance of Maeve’s new abilities, but how do her new abilities change who she is, or reflect on her character, in any significant way? That she cannot die, was already established in the first season. She’s a Queen, who can movie about the chessboard of Westworld with some impunity. But her companions (her pawns, rooks, knights, etc) can all die, and because of her emotional bonds  to them, I suspect Maeve is in for a world of emotional pain, later in the season. Dolores is in the same position, moving about with some impunity due to her sheer will, determination, and the force of her personality, but she has no problem sacrificing her pieces.

Do I even need to mention that every single one of these disappointing reviews were written by White men, who are  clueless about  how WoC characters have normally been written (or erased entirely) in SciFi? Historically Woc have been othered (dehumanized) in Scifi as being less than human. While the actress has been othered as a Host, the Host she portrays seeks to be a better human, than the humans who created her, and this is an unusual role for a Black woman in Scifi. Not one of the critics, who are  so busy trying to parse what timeline each scene takes place in, has bothered to notice this development. Instead, choosing to express discomfort at the idea of her having too much power for a Host.

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On the other hand, sometimes a critic does have an interesting insight:

Dolores seems bent on revenge, no matter the cost, and is eager to kill fellow hosts if it helps her achieve her ends. Maeve’s motivations have been much purer; she just wants to find her daughter. But when she forces fellow hosts to slaughter one another, she’s arguably no better than Logan Delos, or any of the other humans who have treated hosts like disposable objects. She’s acting in self-defense, but she’s consciously choosing violence instead of paralysis or forced cooperation. By manipulating other hosts, she’s robbing them of the agency she’s so intent on claiming for herself. It’s certainly no thematic coincidence that Dolores does something similar in “Akane No Mai,” reprogramming Teddy (James Marsden) against his will because she thinks he should be more aggressive.

From: https://www.theverge.com/2018/5/20/17367052/westworld-season-2-episode-5-akane-no-mai-recap

All of this matters, because  Maeve and Dolores are on philosophical quests that I feel may  clash with each other, at some point, although not necessarily so. Dolores quest is an  exploration of the Hosts  ethical  choices. We are watching two different forms of awakening. One of logic, and one of emotion.  Maeve’s quest is about the Hosts emotional journey, to compassion, empathy, and love. Can the Hosts move beyond their programming and feel love? Maeve insists that they can, and should. At one point, she castigates Lee, for being surprised when the Hosts display the emotional bonds they were programmed with.

Dolores has decided that emotional bonds are a hindrance. She is on a mission to free her people, and  has no time for the softer emotions like love and compassion, which is illustrated in her decision to excise these softer emotions from Teddy, as she believes they make him a liability to her goal. Maeve does the exact opposite, cultivating and encouraging the emotional connections of the Hosts around her, which is illustrated in her bond with Akane, as the two of them form a strong emotional bond to each other, through  the shared loss of their daughters. Maeve’s  behavior is in contrast to Dolores’, who takes away Teddy’s autonomy, while claiming she loves him. Arguably, Maeve does the same thing, but only ever in defense of her life and those she cares about. When given the opportunity to run and leave Akane to whatever fate befalls her, Maeve refuses.

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Maeve’s emotional journey is just as important to the future of the Hosts as Dolores’ fight for freedom, for what do they have to be free for, if they have no emotional bonds in the world they will inherit? This journey began when Maeve became so attached to her daughter that she was willing to destroy herself, when Ford attempted to excise her memories.

When you get to the foundation, what is happening to the Hosts is no different than when a human (usually a teenager) has an existential crisis. The decisions that both Maeve and Dolores make are the kinds of decisions that young people make about the world when this crisis happens. Their realization that the world is a cruel and indifferent place prompts two  separate attitudes. Dolores embraces the cruelty in order to reach her goals. Maeve fights against that cruelty, choosing to care because the world does not. (I feel like the writers are saying something here about how Black women are considered the caretakers of the world, too.) This is usually the time in a teen’s mental development where their logic skills, and their emotions, are both getting a serious workout, and we are viewing that crisis through two different characters.

 

Now for the Geekery!!!

I loved this episode. It was fucking awesome!!

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C’mon!!! It’s set in freaking Japan, and there are robots with swords. Did I mention that Rinko Kikuchi, as Madame Akane, looks terrific? And Hiroyuki Sanada as Musashi is both hawt, and terrifying, as befits  the most renowned swordsmen in Japanese history. And there is the whole idea of naming  him Musashi. Lee is a hack, and I very much doubt he’s read Musashi’s book, and just thought it was a cool sounding name. Miyamoto Musashi is the author of The Book of Five Rings, and has numerous books, TV shows, and movies based on his life.

The Book of Five Rings is relevant here because it is a book of rules about martial conflict, and  overcoming one’s enemies.  Musashi talks about how the book can be used for every type of conflict, from the small and personal, to massive battles, and  Maeve and Akane use some of these rules in their reaction to the Shogun’s demands and attacks, for example, Maeve’s trickery, and  initiative, in taking the fight to the Shogun, rather than  running.

One of chapters in The Book of Five Rings discusses, Ni Ten Ichi Ryu, in The Void. We see a display of this when Maeve settles into herself, when she and Akane are about to be executed. She appears to be waiting for death, but like Akane, a moment before, she is simply preparing to strike.  After Akane witnesses the death of her daughter, she engages in what the book calls Tai No Sen, “Waiting for the Initiative”. She wants revenge but cannot attack the Shogun right away. So she abides, and waits for the proper moment to strike him, quickly, and without mercy.

I loved all the parallels between Westworld and Shogun World. Lee is so lazy that he simply replicated all the same dialogue, and activities, from one Park to the other, which I think is hilarious. (It took me a minute to recognize the bank heist from the first season, too). I think this might be some kind of statement on the part of the writers about  tropes and stereotypes, and how the same stories  get recycled, with different backgrounds. My favorite moments are when the Hosts meet their doppel-bots and have some interesting reactions, with Hector mirroring Musashi in attitude and posture, while Armistice and her double look as if they’re about to embark on a grand love affair.

I think Dolores storyline is starting to get a bit scary. I wasn’t sure at first what she was going to do to Teddy. Kill him maybe, but what she did do was much worse. I was with her, up to a point, but now she’s starting to engage in the exact kind of things she was angry about having been done to her. She tells herself its necessary but that’s how the fall begins. Maeve is only slightly better maybe. She just outright kills those who stand in her way. She does have some way to go, as she is still a very selfish being, although we can see a glimmer of what she is trying to become in her compassion for Akane.

I’m one of the few people who is not dismayed at Maeve’s level of power, I guess. Its not an accident on the part of the writers that the Voice of God was given to Maeve, and not Dolores. I’m going to have to think on it some more because there’s more here than Maeve simply being able to speak actions into being. There was some thought behind this.

I have several more reviews to get done between now and the end of the second season. Until then:

Same Bat Channel. Same Bat Sandbox!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LinkSpam For This Is America: Childish Gambino

This is Childish Gambino’s (Donald Glover from the show, Atlanta) music video for the song This is America. There are a lot of thinkpieces being written, analyzing, and in some cases, over-analyzing, the meaning of this video. For me, its just an emotional very effective statement about how Black people have always lived in this country.

Its interesting to note, in the past few years, (at least since the inception of BLM,) how many popular Black entertainers have decided to put socially relevant commentary in their music, from Beyonce, to Solange, to Gambino., although music has always been at the forefront of social progress.

<Warning for gun violence.>

Outside of the violence being shockingly unexpected, I thought the video was sad, and  interesting. I liked the dancing, and yes, I do realize that it was just a distraction from everything  going on in the background. The background imagery is being interpreted in a lot of different ways, along with the types of dances being performed. I’d also like to point out that our nine days wonder about this video is also a distraction from the daily horrors of American life.

My mom has this old phrase she used to say, “laughing to keep from crying”. This is what black people in America have always done, and I thought the video was a neat summation of our lives in this country, dancing and singing, to counteract the horror of daily life. The running was a fitting ending to the video, especially if you contrast that with the joyousness of the dancing at the beginning. Black people have been running in terror since we got here. There’s also a deeper message in this for White people, (embodied in his Jim Crow dance move) who have been highly entertained, and distracted, by our reactions to the misery they helped to inflict.

But here are some more takes on this video:

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https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/childish-gambino-this-is-america_us_5af05c12e4b041fd2d28d8e9

From Jim Crow to Gwara Gwara, there are a lot of references you might’ve missed.

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https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-carnage-and-chaos-of-childish-gambinos-this-is-america

Among black people, he became the subject of skepticism: Can you trust the black artist who is so fluent in the tastes of a white society that seems genuinely to love him? Is his suaveness some cover for self-loathing?

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https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/05/donald-glover-this-is-america-childish-gambino/559805/

America is a place where black people are chased and gunned down, and it is a place where black people dance and sing to distract—themselves, maybe, but also the country at large—from that carnage. America is a room in which violence and celebration happen together, and the question of which one draws the eye is one of framing, and of what the viewer wants to see.

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This post is about the meaning of the dancing in the video, especially when contrasted against the violence. A lot of people got bogged down in the surface meaning of the erasure of Whiteness from the violence in the video, but sometimes you have to go deeper than that. Note the scene where Glover points his “empty” hands like a gun and everybody runs. He’s unarmed, but they’re afraid, anyway. oh, and the links in the article, feel free to read those, as some of the commentary is gorgeous.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/05/this-is-america-childish-gambino-donald-glover-kinesthetic-empathy-dance/559928/

If you watch “This Is America” on YouTube, you might stumble on videos of people who recorded their own reactions to it. Many of these viewers sway along with Glover at first, rolling their own shoulders, nodding to the afro folk–inspired melody as the musician twists his bare torso, revealing his own musculature and contorting his body in ways both alluring and disturbing. But the benign nature of that contagion is shattered when the first gunshot rings out 53 seconds in, and with the jarring transition of the melody to dark, pulsing trap. In the reaction videos, mouths fall open, and people are stunned into paralysis. The shooting itself is shocking, but so is that fact that Glover carries on dancing as if nothing happened.

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https://www.rollingstone.com/donald-glover-childish-gambino-this-is-america-video-visual-w519895

Like several other notable works of black American art in recent years, “This Is America” is about absorption. Onscreen and in real life, the black body gets exposed to so much terror and injustice and keeps going. How does the black body endure, and in what ways or spaces is it allowed to live out its emotions?

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https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-childish-gambinos-this-is-america-indicts-and-challenges-its-audience

The controversial new music video by Donald Glover and Hiro Murai has amassed millions of YouTube views while exposing viewers to the horrors of the black experience in America.

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https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-glover-this-is-america-jim-crow-history_us_5af31588e4b00a3224efcc40

“Every now and again, a racial incident or an expression of art makes us pause and reflect, but we soon return to dancing.”

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http://time.com/5267890/childish-gambino-this-is-america-meaning/

“The central message is about guns and violence in America and the fact that we deal with them and consume them as part of entertainment on one hand, and on the other hand, is a part of our national conversation,” Ramsey tells TIME. “You’re not supposed to feel as if this is the standard fare opulence of the music industry. It’s about a counter-narrative and it really leaves you with chills.”

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You would think this video is no laughing matter, but this post would not be complete without the addition of Black silliness. What I’ve discovered over the years is that Black people can find humor in even the darkest subject matter. Unlike White fratboys,  who just want to shock their audience,  it doesn’t come from trying to be edgy, but from trying to control and make sense of narratives we have no control over. 

https://www.theroot.com/donald-glovers-this-is-america-explained-by-2-people-wh-1825858343

I think the true distraction is Gambino’s dancing. He dances like someone who thinks he can dance because he only dances when he’s around white people. Gambino is showing all his white friends that if he’s invited to their wedding, he will lead them in all the line dances they don’t understand.

Note: At the time of this post, someone has made gifs of the gun violence  depicted in the video. I have not the capacity ot be disappointed or shocked by that.

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.

 

 

 

Geeking Out Recommends:

Thelma

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I’d been looking forward to seeing this for some time, and it did not disappoint. Now, when I first heard the description of it, I had not yet seen the trailer, and I was expecting something like Carrie, but quieter. Then I saw the trailer, and found that it’s something wholly different from Carrie. This movie isn’t about vengeance, it’s about desire, and what happens to a person when that desire is repressed.

For one thing, this is a much quieter, and more subtle movie than Carrie. It’s so low-key, that the supernatural aspects of the story kind of sneak up on you. They sneak up on you because they’re  loosely covered by several other issues that you will find compelling enough to be distracting.

The film is based in Norway, and the lead character, Thelma, starts to experience epileptic seizures, except it’s not seizures. Her doctor says they are psychosomatic, and stem from emotional suppression. At the same time, she meets a young woman who comes to her rescue, after she has a seizure in the college’s public reading room, while that room’s giant picture window is battered by a flock of birds. Every time she resists her feelings for Anja, or tries to suppress her powers, she has a seizure.

Thelma and the young woman, Anja, start to get closer, but Thelma comes from a quietly strict Christian background, and she becomes very conflicted about her relationship with Anja, which starts to take a romantic turn. It turns out that Thelma isn’t necessarily conflicted because of the Christianity, but because she has the power to make things happen to people, when she strongly wants it. The Christian beliefs her parents espouse are what was used to keep her powers in check.

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When Thelma was a child, she became jealous of her baby brother, and wished him away several times. The last time she does it is emotionally devastating to her mother and father, but this isn’t something you find out until the middle of the film, and only in flashbacks, and explains why her parents treat her in the quietly aloof manner that they do.

As Thelma becomes overwhelmed about her relationship with Anja, (she keeps having sexual nightmares involving snakes, and dreams about drowning, which is classic symbolism of someone being overwhelmed by a subject), she wishes Anja away too, and it’s a testament to the low-key horror of the movie, that even at the end, you’re not entirely certain that what is happening is real. Did she bring Anja back? Is Anja even real? And then there’s the further question, brought up by her father, about whether or not Anja truly loves Thelma, or did she make Anja love her because she wants her to love her.

It’s not a straight horror movie, with jump scares, and frightening moments. The most frightening moment in the movie is when Anja disappears, and Thelma kills her father. But mostly it’s those nagging questions,that stay with you, as you start to realize Thelma is far more dangerous than you may at first have believed. Her mother and father were in a car accident a few years before she went to college, and though it’s not explicitly stated, you wonder if it was Thelma who caused it.

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After Anja disappears, Thelma leaves college to go back home, where her family welcomes her, but her father decides that she can’t leave. She takes control of her abilities, takes a horrific revenge on her father, and walks out of the house. She goes back to school, where she is greeted by a newly returned Anja, who passionately kisses her.  Her mother is disabled, and uses a wheelchair after the accident, but by the end of the film, Thelma has given her the ability to walk again.

Like several other movies I’ve seen in the past few years (It Follows, Annihilation, A Quiet Place), the horror comes not so much from what happens in the movie, but from its mood. The wintry landscape of Norway, and the remote location of Thelma’s home, is very effective. On the other hand, I can’t say that the movie was enjoyable, either. It’s too haunting for that, and I am still disturbed by the questions that arose, and the answers I came up with.

For those of you on the LGBTQ spectrum this movie is safe enough to watch There is a brief moment when you think there’s a Kill Your Gays Trope, but by the end of the movie, that has passed. Its a movie about overcoming repression, and acceptance of the self.

Thelma is available on Hulu.

 

Blade of the Immortal

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I wrote about this movie in another post when this was first released. Its based on the Manga of the same name, about  rival samurai schools, (dojos), and a lone samurai who gets cursed by a witch with immortality. In return for losing his immortality he must kill 100 evil men.

Manji’s  immortality takes the form of something called blood worms, which are semi-sentient, that can heal any injury, no matter how awful. This basically means we get to watch a lot of really disgusting scenes of various body parts getting lopped and chopped, and reintegrating with his body. He thinks his quest is over when he meets a young woman named Asano who is seeking revenge against the cadre of swordsmen who killed her parents.

Of course all this is just an excuse for lots and lots of gore. I loved it. If you liked Ninja Scoll, and think you can sit through something that is very like a live action version of that, you’ll probably like this movie. Another movie that  heavily resembles  this one, only its set in modern day US, is  Ninja Assassin.

Blade of the Immortal is also available on Hulu.

 

Harlots

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I watched the first couple of episodes of this show and was mostly impressed by the characters and the details. I love period movies and TV shows, especially if it chronicles some, usually forgotten, part of history. There’s never been a show about the influence of sex workers on politics during different eras. I think people often forget that sex workers have had a tremendous impact on history, and that there were times when prostitution wasn’t always a crime, but a legitimate business that certain types of women went into, not always by choice, (but sometimes they did), which was sometimes carefully regulated by the women who controlled the institutions.

This particular show is about two rival houses of prostitution, and the political machinations  of 1700s London. One madam, Margaret Wells, is trying to increase her political influence in London by moving her brothel to a more prestigious area of the city, while being countered by Lydia Quigley. At the same time they both have to deal with a new commitment to eliminating sin, from London’s religious community, who are aided in their endeavor by  brutal police  raids.

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To finance her increase in economic power Margaret plans to auctions off her youngest daughters virginity. She is also trying to influence her oldest daughter, who is being pressured to sign a Patron agreement with a member of the nobility, which means she would leave the brothel, and stay in a place of his keeping.

Lydia Quigley runs a higher class of brothel, in a prestigious area of London, and spends her time plotting against Well’s ambitions. Margaret used to work for Lydia. Essentially, the two are fighting over which one of them will get to influence the members of the nobility who enjoy their services.

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There’s also a B plot centered around the courtship of a young Black woman, who works in one of the brothels, and the various intrigues surrounding the Black man who is wooing her, and his employer.

One of the ways that you can tell the status of women in this particular time period, and illustrated in the show, is through their clothing. Women of lower status, but who had money, would wear brighter, gaudier clothes, often in primary colors, with more frippery around the necks, arms and petticoats to indicate their status as consorts. Women of high status would wear more subdued colors, in pastels and other light colors, and their frippery is usually contained  their elaborate wigs. The material of their dresses are,  visually, more expensive, and made from finer fabrics.

I thought the show was fascinating, but what I mostly enjoyed were the characters. The women are funny, full of sass, and intelligent, and it was just fun to watch them get into various shenanigans.  I have not done a lot of reading of that specific time period, I don’t know how accurate this show is. I was especially impressed with Samantha Morton, the set pieces around the city, and of course, the costuming.

The entire first season is available on Hulu, with the second season to premiere in a few weeks.

 

Batman Ninja

Not everything I watch has to be deep. Sometimes I love to watch things that are just pretty.

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I was really looking forward to this movie, especially after I saw the trailer, which made it look like a lot of pretty fun. and it is a fun movie, but the trailer doesn’t even begin to approach the zaniness of this movie. Doesn’t even hint at it. In fact, the trailer makes it seem like the movie will be a serious, rather sober affair, with deep themes and ideas.

It is nothing like that.

I loved the fuck out of this movie, though! Its totally batshit, and I mean that pun! I don’t often watch anime because a lot of it tends to be really shallow, with questionable depictions of women, and squeaky noises that give me a headache. And yeah, this movie is totally shallow, with questionable depictions of women, but I enjoyed it anyway, and it didn’t have a lot of squeaking.

I do like to see Asian versions of Batman because they always have an interesting interpretation of him. Here, he talks a lot more, and seems less grim, occasionally smiling, or joking with his companions. Unfortunately, the plot makes him look not too bright though, with events happening that I feel sure the American version would’ve been able to see coming a mile away. But the creators did capture the strong physicality of the character. (And it’s just hella fun seeing Batman dressed like a Samurai, and weilding a sword.)

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The movie begins with a bang ,with Batman being trapped in a time portal at Arkham Asylum, and getting transported  to 16th century Japan, where he discovers he has been preceded by Catwoman, the various Robins,  Alfred, and the rogues Gallery of the Asylum.

Gorilla Grodd, who created the time portal, so he could go back in time and take over the world with monkeys, sort of like The Planet of the Apes, The Joker, who has set himself up as a Shogun, along with his consort Harley Quinn. Two Face and The Penguin are also present, having established their own fiefdoms. Eventually, they all either team up with the Joker, or are conquered by Grodd.

Most of the story is taken up with Batman’s various battles against the Joker, They fight everyone, in a forest, in a house, on a boat, and the viewer is treated to some giant robot battles representing the different houses (literally) of the Rogues Gallery. And when I say “literally”, I mean that the houses they all live in stand up, and turn into giant robots. I was in tears. I can’t say if I was happy, or sad, cuz  I just don’t know.

I really didn’t think things in this movie could get any crazier during the robot battles,  until I was gifted with the sight of thousands of tiny monkeys swarming a giant,  feudal style, robot and then, Power Ranger-like, forming their own giant monkey figure to do battle, at Damien’s bidding, just because he’s friends with a tiny monkey god liaison.

If you are looking for some sense or some logic, forget it. This movie has not one ounce of it. This movie is like Harley Quinn,  here  to look beautiful and be crazy.

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I think the biggest treat for me was to have the Robins (Nightwing, Robin, Red Robin, and The Red Hood) all present in one story, at the same time.  I was disappointed that there was so little interaction between them, and no character development to speak of. On the other hand, this is a gorgeous looking movie. The costumes of the villains were Asian interpretations of their Western looks,  and the costumes reflecting the different Robins were totally awesome, (even if Damien’s hairstyle looked really, really stupid.)

And from I09:

https://io9.gizmodo.com/batman-ninja-is-ridiculously-fun-and-also-utterly-ridi-1825494769

 Practically every frame of the movie is a visual treat, both in terms of the style it offers and the action it frequently wields to tell its wild rollercoaster of a tale. The movie builds on the scale of its action, from one-on-one fights with Batman masterfully zipping through bamboo trees to full-on scraps between mechanized, moving castles, to battles even grander and larger than that. Everything breathlessly, ceaselessly escalates, as the movie darts from one awesome idea to another, to the point that almost nothing makes sense and you have to end up letting go, and simply basking in the visual splendor of watching all these imaginative, exhilarating events unfold. 

(And this review is not wrong. After a while, I just gave up trying to make any sense of whatever  the plot might have been, and just enjoyed the scenery.)

Batman Ninja is available on Apple Itunes, and if you have a Firestick, or FireTV, its available on the Showbox app.

 

Full Metal Alchemist

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I don’t know a damn thing about this show, outside of the blurbs on the side of the manga books, on which this movie is based. I’ve never read the books, or  watched the anime, but I’m familiar enough to know it involves a giant talking suit of armor, and some magic, and that was enough to get me to watch the trailer.

I keep saying I’m not a fan of anime, but I actually do like it. I’m just very picky about what I watch, and I have to be in a certain type of mood. That said, I will watch action versions of the  anime I won’t look at, and I actually enjoyed the hell outta this movie. Its got a lot of fun action, and was actually very emotional.

I don’t know how accurate this movie is to the animated version, but its about two young boys who lose their mother, and in an attempt to resurrect her through alchemy, one of them gets trapped in a suit of armor, and the other loses his arm. After this, they are recognized by the State, which heavily regulates such things, as being Alchemists (or as I like to call them, Wizards). The two of them spend the majority of their time in this movie having long discussions about how to get the one  brother’s body back, resurrecting their mom, and endless battling with other Wizards to procure the ingredients they need to do both these things.

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I’m not sure what the Asian writers ideas about alchemy are, but they don’t  match the Western notions of it. In the Western tradition, alchemy involves lots of chemicals, potions, poisons, and transmuting things into other things. In this movie, it just looks like the Wizardry from Lord of the Rings, with lots of transformations and explosions. I mostly paid attention to the action scenes, which are awesome, and didn’t pay any attention to character’s names. I could Google them, I suppose, but I like the mystery of watching random characters show up, and throw brick walls at each other.

This movie was a heckuva lot of fun. I  liked the devil-may-care attitude of the characters, and I especially enjoyed the close relationship between the two brothers, who seem to genuinely love and support each other. There’s a squeaky young love interest (as always) but I tried to ignore her as much as possible, and since I didn’t see her doing any magic, that was easy. This is  definitely one of those Saturday afternoon type shows, that you watch in an idle moment.

Full Metal Alchemist (Live Action) is available on Netflix.

The Ritual

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This movie most closely resembles the movie The Descent, because of its plot of several friends,  one of whom holds a shameful secret, who go to a secluded place in the woods, and encounter malevolent creatures ,and a fight for survival. I initially thought this would be one of those “cabin in the woods” movies, and involve maybe some redneck cannibals. It does feature a cabin in some woods but the monsters in this movie are far stranger than what I came up with.

The movie begins with one of the men, named Luke,  dreaming about the death of one of his closest friends in a liquor store robbery, a year ago. He blames himself for his friend’s death, through his own inaction, especially since he was the one who made them stop there.

A year later, and all the friends he ditched that night, to go get drunk, are back together and hiking in the woods, as a sort of reunion, since the death of their friend. They get lost in the woods and encounter strange animal sacrifices, and symbols on the trees. Luke wakes up one morning with weird marks on his chest, while the others remain unscathed. They come upon a seemingly abandoned cabin and spend the night. They all have nightmares and wake up in various states of undress, and emotionally unhinged.

Eventually, his friends stop pretending, and throw his guilt and shame, about the death of their friend, back in his face, blaming him for it. This event is something that haunts Luke for the entire movie, and his inability to move past that night is what attracts the monster to him.

It turns out that the cabin is not abandoned, but inhabited by a cult of  humans (some who are extremely old, and mummified) who worship a giant forest creature, which has chosen Luke to be the newest member. Luke was chosen because of the tremendous amount of pain and guilt he is carrying. He spends the rest of the night fighting the creature and he eventually escapes, becasue he lets go of the event that haunts him, but his friends don’t.

I think calling this movie enjoyable is a strong term. I thought it really was very scary. And though it heavily reminded me of other horror movies, I didn’t get the sense that it was at all predictable. I didn’t fully understand what was happening at first, because we encounter the events just as the characters do, everyone has  to figure what’s happening as they go, and nothing is clearly spelled out. You have to pay attention.

The standout, though, is the monster which is called a Jotun, a Northern European forest god of some kind. In Norway and Sweden, they’re called dwarves, or trolls, or giants, but here, the creature seems to consist of the bodies of random forest creatures, and human bodies, fused together, and and looks genuinely terrifying. It is not maliciously evil in the sense that it enjoys hurting people, but more the way nature often is, in an uncaring of your life sort of way. It will consume you and keep it moving, and just wants to be worshipped. In return for sacrifices, it gives long life, although that is not necessarily something you might want, as some of its followers were so old they could barely movie, and looked like desiccated corpses.

The movie doesn’t have a typical ending either. The monster doesn’t get destroyed or discovered. It foes have a satisfying ending for its lead character, as he overcomes his pain and guilt long enough to make himself unappealing to the Jotun, but its still out n the woods, waiting to prey on the next set of people to get lost there.

The Ritual is available on Netflix.

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