Supernatural S14/E02 Review: Gods and Monsters

In “Gods and Monsters,” Supernatural begins a slow reveal of the mayhem Michael (Jensen Ackles) intends to introduce with his experimental creations. While Michael attempts to bring his ghastly vision into being, Nick (Mark Pellegrino) and Jack (Alexander Calvert) explore unacknowledged aspects of who they are. Writers Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming construct the form […]

via Supernatural S14E02 Review: Gods and Monsters — The Supernatural Fox Sisters

I didn’t get to review this episode in time for tonight’s, so I’m just going to put this here, as it makes a lot of my own points. The Sisters are holding it down on the SPN front, really well.

I do want to add: Is anyone else excited about Sam’s new badassedness. I mean he was always like that but it was kinda lowkey most of the time. I mean I love Dean but whenever he steps out of the picture Sam always seems to level up in his demeanor.

And is anyone else worried about Sam’s proclamation about there being no more Kings of Hell. That sounds like a challenge, or the kind of declaration that’s going to put him in the interesting spot of actually ruling Hell himself, which I admit, I’d love to see, and it would be an interesting bookend to Dean’s possession by Michael at the beginning of this season.

Essentially both Hell and Heaven are completely leaderless, with whatever angels and demons that are left, just out in the world doing their own thing. The Brothers Winchester have created  two power vacuums that  makes me wonder who or what is going to take up that slack. Michaels already trying, but no one has stepped up to try for Hell yet (unless you count the possibility of Nick or Sam).

But I’m getting waay ahead of myself here, even though y’all know that sometimes what the guys say and do, at the beginning of a season, may come back to bite them later.

I’ve told you guys I’m not a huge fan of Buckner and Leoming, but they’re actually pretty good when someone keeps a tight rein on them, and that’s the case here, becasue I didn’t see too many problems with the episode, and overall I enjoyed it.

So, for the first time really, I’m going to give these two writers high marks for starting off the season with some nice action with Sam and the demons, an interesting mystery with Michael’s actions, just a touch of pathos with Jack’s, and Nick’s stories, and some intrigue by damseling Castiel this time.

Let’s hope the rest of the season hits the same high marks.

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What I’ve Been Watching: Mini-Reviews Of Dr. Who And Others

TV

Dr Who

I’m hooked! I know I’ve stated that I do not consider myself a Whovian because I’m not as steeped in the history of the show as some other more knowledgeable people might be, but I’ve always liked the show, and watched specific episodes when I was a kid in the 70s. I remember the Daleks from back then, and I know most of the villains on the series, and am familiar with a lot of the Doctors and their companions. I’m not steeped in minute details, but I know enough to navigate my way around a season.

In season 9 I started watching the show in earnest, because of the presence of Peter Capaldi, of whom I’m a big fan. I really loved him as the Doctor and I loved his new companion Bill Potts, and I was sorry to see them both gone.

I didnt actually know what to think of Jodi as the new Doctor at first. I was reserving my opinion on the entire issue until I saw some trailers or something, but after I saw the first trailer, I was intrigued, and I’ve seen her interviews about her new role, and her love and enthusiasm really captured me. I really like the actress herself. She so captures that sense of the Doctor. In fact, she reminds me of one of my other favorite Doctors, David Tennant whose career I’ve been following ever since. The first time I saw Jodi was in Grabbers, playing a drunken cop, and killing aliens, and I liked her in that movie, so when it was announced she’d be the new Doctor, I wasn’t upset, because I kinda knew of her.

Well, I watched the first episode and she is a darling . I really like her and I plan to watch the rest of the season. Now don’t get me wrong, the show isnt perfect, and did some things I found frustrating, but not frustrating enough to stop watching it, or lose interest, and overall, I really enjoyed myself. Some parts of it were a little heavy handed, and it remains to be seen how her companions, three at the moment, two of them PoC, will be treated by the writers. I have it on good authority that there are PoC in the writers room  for the very first time, so I feel optimistic about it.

Her new companions are a Black fellow named Ryan,and  his White stepfather, Graham (which is a dynamic I hope will be elaborated on in the future as their relationship is not an easy one), and a young Asian woman named Yasmin, who is/was a minor detective with the police. I like the relationship between Yasmin and Ryan as they are old grade school chums.

As for the Dr., she is her usual obnoxiously intelligent self, but with that little something extra that only Jodi could have brought to the role and something which all the actors who have played the Dr. were chosen for, their unique take on the character. It doesn’t hurt that she’s as nice to look at as any of the other Doctors like Tennant or Capaldi. I love her usual  know-it-all enthusiasm, which can get a bit grating after more than a little bit of it, but that’s okay, because the doctor usually prevails, and that’s also part of the reason I like this show so much.

So I guess this actually does make me a fan, huh?

Supernatural

I’m cautiously excited, and yet dreading, the rest of the season, because I care  so much about all  these characters, and know they’re in for a hard road, and some of them ain’t gonna make it out alive. Well, I’m in it til the end, so there. I’ll give a more detailed review at my other website and link it to this one. But I  really liked the premiere, and I’m going to give it a pretty high rating, and hope the rest of the season continues at that same level.

Charmed

I’ve been trying to drum up some enthusiasm for this show, but it’s been hard. I’m not a fan of the original show. In fact, I pretty much hated it, and that might have something to do with this retread. I don’t dislike this show. It’s only been one episode but I have a couple of objections.

I was really hoping, since the characters are meant to be Latina, that there would be some introduction of Brujeria magic into the show. Instead what we got was more of the European stuff, with Latin, and sparkly lights. It would have been a great idea to introduce Hispanic/Latinx cultural traditions into the show, and I would have liked to have seen that. I’m also against remaking old shows with Brown characters. Just give us a new show with a new name, maybe even the same characters, but an original show.

Now the show isn’t actually bad. One of the minor concepts in the premiere was the issue of sexual assault on campus. There’s a background story about one of the Professors being exonerated of sexual assault charges, who later turns out to be a demon who feeds on women’s strength. I thought that was neat little dovetail connecting the two issues, although occasionally heavy handed.

My biggest issue was the acting and the actresses. I’ve never seen two of them in anything, so I don’t know them, but they need a little work on their skills. And the youngest sister is one of those annoying narcissistic teenagers who doesn’t want to be special because it will ruin her chances to pledge with a sorority. The middle sister is a Lesbian with anger issues. Normally I’d have a problem with that but the writers try to be subtle about it,and it’s implied that the anger is a result of her coping with her mothers death, so this gets a pass. She’s the most intriguing character becasue I don’t know her as much about her, whereas with the younger sister, you feel like you know all you need to know about her.

I did like Mantocks older sister though because I understood her, and she’s just a better actress than the other two. Remember Mantock from Into the Badlands, so she’s got a great deal of experience p,and I liked her on that show. She shows up at the house after the girls mother dies and she’s lonely, and looking for a family. At first the two sisters reject her, and I kinda felt for her on that, but eventually they accept her, and try to bond with her. Mantocks acting is top notch. She almost brought me to tears a coupe of times. She’s also a scientist, which is something that plays out in an interesting way in the show. I liked that the writers combined some of her scientific knowledge with the magic,and it’s also really rare to see Brown women in STEM, so I’m all for it.

I feel like the writers need to spend time fleshing out their characters more, which they will of the show lasts beyond season one. The baby girl seems like she’s the comedy relief, and she can hear peoples thoughts. The middle girl seems to be the hearts and feelings one. She can stop time. The oldest played by Mantock is the brainy, logical one. I forget what her unique gift is though, so now I need to watch it for that.

Well, I don’t hate it, but I don’t dislike it either, and sometimes it takes time for me to determine if I liked something. I’m leaning in the direction of I Cautiously Like It. I’m not in love with it, but there’s the possibility of love, maybe.

Black Lightning

This is another show I’m invested in. I enjoy these characters, and want the best for them and like the dynamics between them. I’m a little tired of Tobias Whale as a villain and hope the season moves on from him, but I get why he’s present. There were a number of unexpected plot turns in the season premiere, so I’m looking forward to how the season turns out. I continue to be impressed by Anissa and even Jennifer. Yes, she’s still a  bratty teen who doesn’t want superpowers, but circumstances will force her to face her issues, whether she likes it or not, so I’m interested in what happens to her.

I didn’t see Siren’s (Tobias henchwoman’s) death coming. She was less likable than Tobias, so I’m not too broken up about her being killed by a sharpened stiletto through the throat. Incidentally, Anissa’s fight scenes are definitely the shit. I love to watch her put her thing down. She’s less conservative than her father. She’s a lot more of a maverick, and it shows in her fighting style, and I like that. When told that she can’t do something, she manages to find a workaround.

Jennifer is losing control of her powers, but that statement implies she was in control of them in the first place. She mostly tried to deny having them. At one point she has to be rescued by her father, when she can’t turn off her abilities. When she’s manifesting, he’s the only one who can make physical contact with her without dying, and from the looks of it, it’s still pretty painful for him. I mentioned to my Mom that in the comic books, she’s basically a sentient  bolt of lightning (or at least that’s how she’s drawn, and that her sleep/ floating is an indication of her flight powers manifesting.)

Lynn is her usual beautiful self. My mom and I had an interesting discussion about Lynn’s statement that Jennifer needed therapy. My mom thinks that’s a crock. What’s a therapist gonna do? But she feels that way about a lot of therapists. Some things she thinks talking about doesnt help at all, but I think Jennifer has been going through some major traumatic events outside of having superpowers, and needs to talk to someone who’s not her dad or sister.

Jefferson outed himself, and Anissa, to the Police commissioner. I didn’t see that coming, and I wonder what that means for their future endeavors as vigilantes. Is it gonna be like a Gotham city Batman type thing, where he quietly calls on Black Lightning to help him out from time to time, or will it be  a Dark Knight thing, where he has to pretend to want to catch him?

The show started off with a young Black man being killed by the police for having superpowers. This event is tied into the Black Lives Matter movement very neatly by a preacher on the show who says that the police are using the presence of superpowers to terrorize and kill young Black men. Now that’s how you do a racism allegory, by tying the fantasy aspect into the actual real life oppression of a marginalized group, and showing how that would affect that group. I talked about how I’m not a fan of racist allegories that don’t include any members of the group that the allegory was appropriated from. Here, it’s been done correctly, in a way I stated I would like to see in a sci fi fantasy show. And since it involves superpowers, this is done in such a way that I don’t too caught up in my feelings about police brutality. There’s a bit of an intellectual remove. If children from marginalized communities were suddenly developing superpowers, how would that affect how they’re treated by the dominant culture, and  their community. How would they react? It seems like the show will be addressing some of this. I hope they elaborate on it a bit more.

I loved the music for the show, too. I think Anissa’s fight scenes get some of the best music and its usually a reflection of her youth and general attitude. Jefferson’s music tends to be a bit more old school R&B, with some Jazz thrown in.

So, yeah, I’m definitely invested. Hopefully, the show will continue at this same high level for the rest of the season.

The Walking Dead

I’m watching it. Things seem okay. It certainly seems less depressing than previous seasons. I understand that this is Rick’s last season on the show, so I’m curious as to what is gonna happen to him and Michonne, and if the show can survive without him. I think it can. The show has built up the other characters enough that it would still be an emotionally compelling show without him.

I’m not a huge fan of intrigue and political gaming shows, though. It’s one of the major aspects that I dislike about Game of Thrones because I’m not interested in watching people fight with each other over who gets to be in charge, and I don’t want to see Game of Thrones during the Apocalypse, which is what this seems to be becoming, as Maggie and the others scheme to …well, I’m not sure what they’re scheming, but it feels bad though. I like these characters, and don’t want to watch them fight each other for power, although I’m always here for watching Michonne beaning somebody over the head when they start acting a fool.

I’m curious about the outcome of this season, but I’m kinda burnt out on the show, as a result I’m less enthused about it then I have been in the past. I’m pretty sure some of that lack of enthusiasm was caused by the death of Glenn, who I really, really miss. The show hasn’t felt right since his death. Without him, the past two seasons have just felt pointless, and depressing, in a way it didn’t when he was on the show. I’m not entirely done with the show, but I’m not making the huge emotional investment that I did in the past.

Also, part of the reason I’m reluctant to become as emotionally involved in the show is that I’m too damn tired to do it. Things are so batshit right now in this country, that I’ve quite used up all my emotions, and don’t have any to spare for a TV show like this. If it were a more intellectual series, than maybe I could, but this show is not Westworld, a show which requires less emotional investment, only a mostly intellectual one. This is actually a pretty draining show, which is part of the reason why I stopped reviewing it.

Well, I can always keep abreast of the show through the Talking Dead show which airs right after. I’m not a fan of the host of the show, since he tries too hard to be funny, but the guests discuss their characters and the plot in depth, and I can get an idea of what’s going on without having to sit through an entire episode.

Mr. Mercedes

This series is based on the trilogy by Stephen King, which I really enjoyed. The first season was based on the first book, about a serial killer, named Brady who plays cat and mouse games with the retired cop, Hodges, who assigned himself to capture him. He’s accompanied by a young black kid, named Jerome, his love interest/neighbor Donna, and a young woman on the autism spectrum named Holly. (Hint: I’m a huge fan of Holly.) The first season, and the book, ended with Brady in a coma, being kept in a special hospital.

The new season skips over the second book, which doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Brady, and skips to the third book in the series, called End of Watch, and chronicles Brady’s mental superpowers that result from his doctors experiments with drugs, and Brady using those powers to target the people who put him in his condition.

Since I didn’t finish the first season of the show, I missed out on the fact that there are a lot of PoC in this show. Sure Hodges is the center of it but not completely. The other characters get major screen time and are shown to have lives and family outside of Hodges. Especially Jerome, whose father is going through some financial issues, while his little sister seems to be going through some emotional ones. I already like Jerome, but his family members didn’t make a good impression on me because the plot requires them to be assholes to Jerome, and I didn’t care for that.

I’m going to stick around for a bit and see if what happens on the show lines up with what happens in the book, which I think was the best book in the trilogy.

Mr. Inbetween

I’m not a huge fan of shows which sympathize and humanize incredibly violent men but this show is intriguing because it does some unexpected things with the characters and I liked the mood of it. The show is out of Australia and that may have something to do with the approach which, while kind of light at times, is not played for comedy. The humor arises out of the dialogue and decisions characters make on the show. The violence is not played for laughs.

The lead character is named Ray, a hitman, and an ex-con, who gets into various misadventures while trying to juggle his relationships with his loved ones, and attend anger management classes. The most poignant relationship is with his young daughter, who is really cute, and so far as I’ve seen, does not exist to be put in danger, and his relationship with a young woman he just met. The show is unremarkable beyond the acting and dialogue. The plot consist of Ray getting into and solving crazy situations while being harangued by whatever criminal employers he’s with that week, while sorta keeping things secret from his family. The Typical “hitman as lovable rogue” type plots really.

AHS Apocalypse (Ep.1)

I’m going to put this here first. This is just these two, very nice guys discussing the events in the show, and giving their opinions. This is about twenty minutes long, and afterwards I’ll discuss what I thought about the show, my feelings, and my suppositions about what I think is actually happening, about which I may be totally, and completely, wrong.

Okay, so my thinking on this is that a lot of what we saw was faked. At least, I think their lives, after the apocalypse, was faked. I think maybe there was a limited nuclear exchange, and its possible it may even have been bigger than that, but I think the rest of the world is still there and  these people were brought to this place for the express purpose of harming and torturing them.

One of the biggest tenets of my personal belief system is: always question what I am being told, especially if it’s by someone in a position of authority, or power, over me. None of these people bother to do that. They’re  the kind of people who have unquestioningly gone along with the status quo their whole lives, and that has continued here, and I believe that’s why they were specially chosen to be in this place. None of them question anything they are told, no matter how nonsensical, or how much it conflicts with what they’ve been  told before.

A lot of the rules they live by just seem designed to be pointlessly malicious and make them unhappy and scared. For example, one of the first things the newcomers see when they reach the Outpost is an execution that I feel was timed and staged just for their arrival. I think the execution itself was probably real, although it serves no purpose to be killing off the members of your survivor group because they had sexual relations with one another, and if that was true, then why was Stu and his partner allowed to be a couple at all, before Stu’s probable death.

During the episode, there were a number of instances where I thought the two lead characters were engaged in what I call “harrowing”. They are basically there to make sure the participants suffer. There’s the possibility that the Coperative, or whatever, is simply a cult of some kind ,and this is the closest they will  get to willing participants.

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The food cubes  are to keep them miserable and distracted by hunger, so they don’t think to ask proper questions. After one of the participants goes on a long rant about why there isn’t any food, when they paid so much money to be there, it’s awfully coincidental that the two women just show up with stew, possibly, or not, made from Stu, a moment I found hilarious, and may itself have been staged. Notice that Stu’s partner is the first one who jumps to that assumption. It’s possible that Stu is dead, but I don’t think they made food out of him.  Turning a human being  into hamburger is a very labor intensive activity, and we haven’t seen either of the two women involve themselves in any activity more strenuous than changing clothes. And besides, that’s what the conveniently hierarchical  slave system is for, which is also designed to make the less rich participants just as miserable, too.

Everything in this setup strikes me as being just a little too pat, and a little too well thought out. How convenient is it that they know there are mutants and whatnot trying to infiltrate their borders? And then there was the pigeon. This is what clued me in that all of this might just be a huge farce designed to keep these people trapped. They ration the food pellets again, and then say their border was infiltrated…by a messenger bird from another Outpost. One of the women asks if they could eat the bird, and the attitude is that the bird is inedible because it’s been irradiated by the environment. Then there’s this huge thing where they claim someone is irradiated and could contaminate the others with it, so that person needs to be found and ferreted out.

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Yeah, that’s not how radiation works. I know something about this topic from having watched hundreds of Scifi movies, and that is the one topic such movies always get right. Radiation isn’t contagious. It’s not a virus or bacteria. You can’t pass it on to someone, although there can be contact transference. It mostly just causes sickness. Radiation poisoning is only dangerous to the person who has it, not to people who happen to be in their orbit.

Yet, the two leaders of the group act like radiation is this horrible sickness that they can all catch, so the person who has it needs to be sorted out.

They freaked out about one of them being contaminated. But bringing that irradiated pigeon ( its too poisonous to eat) inside is okay. Those two things directly contradict each other.

None of the participants in this charade are quite smart enough to figure out that all the rules are a pointless mess designed to keep them so miserable they can’t think straight about their circumstances.

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Another clue, for my theory, is the horrible music played on a constant loop, over and over, for months, only to be arbitrarily changed to another horrible song, for several months. The point of it all is to make everyone deeply miserable, thereby making them all more easily managed.

When they are visited by the so-called leader, at the end of the episode, he rides in on a carriage with Black horses, which are subsequently killed. Now I can understand not wanting to eat irradiated horses, because imbibing it is one of the few ways a person can get radiation sickness, but really, why kill the horses? He doesn’t plan on leaving, that’s why. And why bother to travel on horses at all, if their borders are constantly being violated by irradiated mutants trying to get their stuff.  And once again, bicycles are readily available everywhere, and anywhen,  but no one ever thinks to ride those after the apocalypse.

I think the whole story is bullshit, including the story about the other fallen Outposts, is designed to keep the participants scared and trapped. They can’t be allowed to know that the rest of the world is still out there, or they would try to leave. These are people too lazy and soft to ever leave their comfort zone. They didn’t leave their comfort zones even when they were back in the world, and they need to remain in that hellish place, for the “Cooperative’s” agenda.

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And remember, the two women in charge of the Outpost are both unreliable sources of information, and we only know about the world what they have chosen to tell their prisoners. None of the things they’ve said, about the rest of the world being gone, might be true.

The bottom line is, I don’t trust any of this.

Or I could get up off my lazy behind, watch the second episode, and find out I was completely wrong about all my assumptions…

Now I also want to point out how much I loved seeing Joan Collins, and what a thoroughly bitchy delight she is as a character. This is the kind of woman, after being told she may be eating human flesh, shows she seriously doesn’t give a fuck, and says  that it tastes great. Cannibalism doesn’t bother her at all.

I also thought the scene where the Black guy declares they’re eating his boyfriend was hilarious. It’s just so incredibly over the top and ridiculous. Stu is Stew!!! Omg!

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I lowkey thought that Paulson’s and Bate’s characters were in a lesbian relationship. They still might be, but I thought that was what we were going to see, for a moment there. it turns out that the two of them are simply up to no good together, is all.

Adina Porter is her usual awesome self, and I’m glad to see her again.  Actually, I’m having a few gleeful moments, as I watch these rich twats get treated like shit, and made miserable. They were such unlikeable people, when they were out in the world, that it’s really a lot  of fun watching them have these meltdowns over their lack of food, and freaking out about the music, which I also find lowkey hilarious.

By the time you read this, the second episode will have aired and I haven’t yet watched that. Depending on what happens,  I’ll have more about the show later. But this season looks to be fun in a way that last season was not, as it was hitting a little too close to home. I think Ryan Murphy is the one of the only showrunners who can infuriate me, keep me in a state of outrage, and still keep me laughing so hard, and glued to my TV, at the same time.

Next Week Hiatus

I won’t be doing my usual weekend reading post. I’m taking a bit of time off until next week so I can work on my long form posts. I’ve got about 5 or 6 long form posts Ive been working on for the past month, and life (illness) and work (full-time) keeps interrupting my publishing of them.

I have been watching what shows I can, when I can . I watched some episodes of Iron Fist, but was ultimately disappointed, despite actually liking a couple of episodes. I’ll have more on why later. I watched The Mayans, which wasn’t bad, but didn’t hold my interest much. I generally do not watch crime shows involving PoC, and it’s about Mexican bikers, so I kind of knew I wasn’t going to fall in love with it, but I didn’t hate it either. I just watched an episode of some show on HBO, called Random Flyness, which was really, really weird, unabashedly Black, and kinda soothing, like a freeform version of the show Atlanta crossed with an episode of Key and Peele. I want to write about that.

I’m most excited about American Horror Story Apocalypse. I did watch the first episode and I have a lot to say about it. I don’t know that I’ll post a review every week on it but that first episode deserves its own post so I’m starting work on that.

Right now I’m working on a post about landscape as an essential narrative element, and my highly ambitious second and third posts about White Male Pandering in Entertainment, along with a couple of review anthologies where I write about multiple shows.

Since the racist cartoon of Serena Williams was released, and the man who drew it claimed to know so little about a profession in which he fully takes part, I’m thinking of doing a post on the history of racist caricature, to explain exactly why what he did was racist as fuck to anyone who knows anything on the subject, and even a few who don’t. Beyond the drawing itself, I’m livid at the idea that this man claims to know nothing of the history of his craft of political cartooning.

I’m an artist. I’ve been a visual artist since I was a pre-teen. I was considered a talented draftsman, and even won local awards for my skills. I’m no cartoonist but even I know enough about the history of political cartooning that I would know a racist caricature if I drew it. I made it a point to learn about the history of my craft and improve, improve, improve. You cannot improve in your craft if you don’t know the history of it. I’m incensed because the man is being lazy and stupid (or just lying) about what he did. Either reason is equally shameful, and I have something to say about that, not just as a Black woman, who felt incredibly attacked by that image, but as an artist as well. Here are some other people who felt some kind of way about what happened:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/11/opinions/racist-serena-cartoon-mark-knight-rebecca-wanzo/index.html

 

This article may sit behind a paywall so be aware. Some of it is about the racial history of Australia, and how these images of Black people have contributed and enabled racism in Australia and the US..

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/09/12/what-the-herald-suns-serena-williams-cartoon-reveals-about-australias-racial-history/

 

Warning: This website is an archive of racist cartoons. I wanted to add this for informational  purposes, for those who haven’t really seen such images before, and you can contrast and compare the image in the Australian newspaper, to the historical caricatures of Black women.

The two articles above reference some of the Australian imagery like “The Golliwog”, and the Jim Crow Museum has images of this doll on the site. It also discusses the racial history of Australia, and why and how the doll was created.

There is also a drop down menu under The Museum, which goes into the details behind many of the images, what the various images are called, and the history of their creation, like The Mammy, The Jezebel, and the Black Brute.

https://ferris.edu/jimcrow/cartoons/

 

 

TA Ta until next week.

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.

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.
Related image

 

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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Image result for robots and racism

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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

 

Related image

 

*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

Image result for fandom gif

*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,  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 rebellious activities of the white female lead, trying  to free them. The lone black male character is forced to speak in Af-Am 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, as well.

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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 this 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 of 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 by confessing to the police, is never one of them. At every step along the way, Mia could have stopped, but she is too cowardly, and self involved,  and cries because SHE is the one in pain, while she causes pain to others.  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  these episodes, I’m inclined to give the critics of The Verge (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.

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Tin Can Knits

modern seamless knits for the whole family

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