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

Image result for pose series cast

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.

Image result for killjoys/wynonna Earp

Wynonna Earp (Syfy)

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

 

I’m Not Watching But Probably Should

Killing Eve (BBC America)

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

The Bold Type (Freefrom)

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

Dear White People (Netflix)

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

Yeah…No!

Snowfall/ Power

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

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

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Django Jane by Janelle Monae

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

Straight Out The SDCC 2018

The San Diego Comic-Con started this weekend, and we already got a buttload of movie and TV trailers that I’m very excited about. (Picture me jitterbugging around my living room in my bunny slippers!) The Con lasts all week, so I’m going to publish some more trailers for Wednesday and even Friday if necessary. Later this month, or in August, its time to start my list of TV shows to watch for, and I’ll be working on that soon.

Let’s get started. First up:

Godzilla: King of All Monsters

I am so geeking out about this move, not because of Godzilla, mind you, although there is the iconic roar, but because of the presence of Ghidrah: The Three-Headed Dragon, and Mothra, basically a giant moth. I grew up watching Godzilla movies on those Saturday afternoons when my brothers and I couldn’t go outside. I watched Mothra a bunch of times when I was a kid, so I was excited to see something like it in the last movie, and now the full effect in this one. I’m probably not going to get Mom to see this, because she hates Godzilla, but I can introduce my nieces and nephew to it if nothing else.

 

 

Shazam

I’m not excited about this movie, but I’m not dismayed. I remember watching Shazam on TV as a kid. (I watched all the superhero TV shows.) In the TV series, Shazam was a teenager or probably an adult. I haven’t seen it in so long, I can barely remember it, beyond the iconic yelling of  “Shazam!” I don’t know what to think about this yet, probably because I wasn’t expecting it to be funny. And it did give me a few laughs. This trailer isn’t inspiring me to see it though, so I’ll wait until I see some more. Also, its DC and they’re not really good with funny.

 

Glass

Now this one, I’m really, really, excited about. (See, I used to “reallys”!) I’m a huge fan of Unbreakable. It’s just exciting to see David Dunn again. (I’m a little less a fan of the movie Split, although it has its merits, and The Beast is pants-shittingly frightening.) These are really just down to Earth versions of superhero movies, and I will always grok that.

 

 

Aquaman

This is another one I haven’t formulated an opinion on yet. I love that Momoa is Aquaman though, because it seems fitting that the King of the Oceans would be a Pacific Islander, and I never get tired of looking at him, and going, “It’s Kal Drogo! Under the sea!”. It also helps that he just looks fine as Hell!

 

 

Titans

Woo! The bitching and whining about what’s wrong with this trailer, and the miscasting of Ana Diop as Starfire, has already begun on Tumblr. I’m completely dismissing any criticism from ALL White men about her casting because here’s the thing: Starfire has always been nothing but wank material for them since she first starred in the comic books. Casting her as a Black woman seems to have put a crimp in their masturbatory fantasies for this show, I’m guessing, which is why so many of them are throwing nasty racist hissy fits.

Diop has already disabled the comments on her Instagram because of the vitriol she’s been receiving, and no! I’m not surprised by it. Sending racist messages to actors of color, and then claiming they’re doing it just to protect the show, or movie, or whatever,  is just White, male, fandom’s go-to move at this point. And it’s also all they have. They’re still gonna watch the show, they’re just gonna bitch about it the whole time, and I don’t really care at this point, as long as their eyeballs provide ratings.

What I have decided not to do is read any more whiny bullshit about TV shows before they air. I got my own whiny bullshit in mind, and ain’t adopting other people’s crap. I’ll wait to actually see the show before I form an opinion on whether it’s good or bad. Also, I’m a lot older than most of the complainers on Tumblr and have been reading Teen Titans since I was a child. I can decide for myself whether or not the show is any good.

For the record, I think the trailer looks okay, although most of it is too dark to see anything, and I’m satisfied with the depiction of Starfire, and Raven.

 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald

I don’t know that I’ll see this in the theater because I got the same issues with it, that I had with the first. But I really enjoyed the first movie, I really liked all the characters a lot, and this is an incredibly gorgeous film, too. I’m less interested in the worldbuilding than I am with the people.

 

Patient Zero

This looks like an interesting take on vampire mythology and might turn out to be what the show The Strain should have been, so I’m gonna check into it. Plus, I’m always up for some vampire apocalypse stories.

 

 

The Passage

This series is based on one of my favorite books by Justin Cronin, a trilogy called The Passage. I’m very excited about this because they’ve changed the races of the characters, thereby giving the story a deeper subtext, especially when you remember that African Americans have been used before as subjects of medical experimentation.

http://www.history.com/news/the-father-of-modern-gynecology-performed-shocking-experiments-on-slaves

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuskegee_syphilis_experiment

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/henriettalacks/index.html

So you have scientists experimenting on Black convicts, and chasing after a little Black girl they want to use to save the human race, from an experiment they created, that went horribly wrong. This also closely parallels the events of the first  200 or so pages of the first book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, it was so well written, just without the racial angle. The series offers a changeup to the  “Black man bonding with and protecting,  a little White girl”, which we’ve seen more than enough of in the movies. There’s also Mark-paul Gosselaar , which is kinda neat.

 

Overlord

This looks a lot like Patient Zero, only set during WWI, and with a Black lead character, which is intriguing. It looks like it might be about medically created zombies. I dont have a lot of opinion on it yet.

 

The Walking Dead Season Nine

After the first few episodes, I skipped most of last season. I just lost interest. I still don’t care which is why I haven’t talked much about it. I’m going to watch season nine because I’m nosy, and there will be less of Negan chewing the scenery, which is something I got really, really, tired of. It’s rumored that this will be the last season for Rick. Personally, I would like to see the show headed by Michonne, but I don’t expect we will get that so I’m not getting too hopeful. At any rate, this season doesn’t look too bad, but then I thought that about last season’s trailer, too, and look what happened.

 

Star Trek Discovery Season Two

The second season for this show doesn’t air until January which I think is a horrible tease, but I can wait. It looks just as gorgeous as always. I’ve read that the series will be preceded by a series of character shorts in December, and that Spock will put in an appearance. I have been total trash for Spock since I was twelve years old, and will watch him in anything, so I’m very excited about the new season.

Can I also mention that the guy playing the tragic Captain Pike, is Anson Mount, the same guy who played Black Bolt in that deplorable Inhumans series, that only lasted a few episodes? (If you want to know what eventually happens to Captain Pike, in ten years, you need to watch the first episode of the original Star Trek, called The Menagerie.) He looks much better here than he did in the Inhumans. As a matter of fact, he is cocky, and foine as f***!

The show also looks like its adding a little more humor.  The showrunners say the focus for the new season will be “family”, so there’s going to be more character development of the bridge crew, I’m guessing. At the end of last season, Michael had gotten back her rank, and she looks a lot more comfortable in this trailer, and I’m looking forward to what she does in the role. Her character and storyline carried the entire first season, so I expect the writers to give her a little breathing room, and focus on some of the other characters this season, with Michael as the emotional center again.

 

Doctor Who Season 11

I’m not excited about this new Doctor, so much as deeply curious, about how the show will feel with a female Doctor. It looks intriguing and I’m definitely going to check it out. I have, in the past, claimed to not be a huge Doctor Who fan, but I’m enough of a fan to have favorite Doctors, Companions, villains, etc. I think this new one might become a favorite. We’ll see!

 

Westworld/Into the Badlands Season Reviews

I did give some light mid-season reviews for both of these shows, and I said I’d have something to say about each one of these seasons.

Hmmm…lets go with some statements about Into the Badlands, first.

Into the Badlands

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This season ended on another cliffhanger, which was not as intriguing for me as the last one. Sunny has spent the entire season trying to get help for Henry, who is sick because of his genetic heritage of Black Chi, from Sunny. It turns out that Sunny is a catalyst, who can induce it, in those with latent abilities. We find out what that really means when he finally makes his way to the Sanctuary run by Pilgrim.

Pilgrim insists on referring to  Sunny as his brother, (and I’m not sure if this is literal, or metaphorical), and says his real name is Sanzo, (and one of the earlier characters, in the season, mentioned he has a sister). So we are just beginning to find out tiny details of Sunny’s backstory. Sunny encounters an angry MK, who only wants to fight. Sunny tries to talk him down, and stave off the fight as long as possible. He’s not trying to hurt MK, and has far more pressing concerns.

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Pilgrim has started to show he’s not as much of a good guy as he wants the denizens of the Badlands to believe he is, as he kills Castor, tries to cover it up, lies to Nyx, and  attacks Cressida, when she confronts him. He’s not as stable as he seems. He and his followers unearth a massive machine, and when he and Sunny touch it, he is imbued with Henry’s  Black Chi. How this is going to help him rebuild Azra is anyone’s guess. Now he’s more powerful than any of the others in the Badlands, except for one Wild Card. And it is not The Widow.

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I like to call her The Abbess, but The Master of the Abbey, that MK escaped from last season, and played by the African-Chinese actress, Chipo Chung, has a role to play in this new dynamic. When The Widow finds herself trapped, and near death, after walking into a trap in Baron Chau’s home, the Abbess, freezes, then reverses Chau’s wweapons, and rescues Minerva. With this one act, the writers have officially added magic to the worldbuilding of the Badlands, (although it was always heavily implied that this world was magical).

I am interested to see what role the Abbess is going to play in the next season. Somehow, I don’t think she and Pilgrim are going to be on the same side, and we might find out the reason it appeared as if she were siphoning the Black Chi from the students at the Abbey.

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Some of the relationships were foreshadowed, as Lydia and Nathaniel Moon have renewed their old romance. The most interesting, (yet completely unsurprising), relationship is between Gaius Chau and The Widow. The Widow has really sort of lost everything, by the end, as her people turned against her, held her prisoner, and she was lead into a trap by some false information. She has seemingly teamed up with The Abbess, and it’ll be interesting to see what these two heavyweights will get into next season, as the Abbess has promised to return Minerva’s Chi powers to her.

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The Westworld Finale:

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Opening Credits/Themes

One of the most noticeable changes to the opening credits, for season two of Westworld,  is the addition of a woman, (it appears to be Maeve), holding a baby. This is not, (according to the show’s creators), meant to convey the idea that the Hosts can get pregnant, (as these are not organic beings), but an illustration of the concept of family. The major theme this season is the relationship between parent and child. This is examined, in the plot, as the idea of fidelity. This is a word Dolores says to Bernard when she is testing him for his authenticity to Arnold. William says it to the James Delos hybrid when he tests him, and The MIB’s daughter, Emily, says this to him, in the end credits. Remember, the linchpin of a Host’s sentience  is often based on the loss of family, and note that William, James, Bernard, and Maeve all have the memories of having killed, or lost, their children.

(Side note: One of the more implausible fan theories I saw floating about, was the idea that the mother and child image, meant that Dolores was pregnant with Teddy’s baby. The idea of two “non-organic” constructs having a child, is what’s known as “fan wank”. But outside of that, is the incredibly annoying act of applying that particular image to Dolores, rather than the Black star of the series, whose narrative is actually searching for her  “child”. That image is a direct reference to Maeve, so why would you take an image of a Black woman, with a  child, and apply it, in a fan-wank no less, to her White co-star? *Sigh* White fans stay trying my fucking patience!)

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The most obvious reference, for that image, is Maeve’s storyline, to find and rescue her daughter, but Maeve’s companions, Hector, Armistice, Felix, and even Lee have also, through their adventures, formed a family, of sorts, and this is a theme peppered throughout  Maeve’s entire arc, extending into the story of Akecheta of the Ghost Nation, and Akane’s parallel story of her daughter. The revelation of Akecheta’s nature, and the world, is through his connection to family, and the loss of his wife. Akane’s story is a parallel to Maeve’s relationship to Clementine, the adopted daughter she has to kill in the finale.

Dolores, as much as Ford,  has control issues, and her character  arc is to learn to let the other Hosts be themselves, and learn to rely on other’s strengths. Teddy’s strength ,after finding out what he was, was his compassion. He would have been able to temper Dolores, and help her accomplish her goals that way, had she trusted it.  Just as Maeve has learned to rely on the individual strengths of her companions, Dolores has not learned to appreciate these qualities in hers, and learns the hard way, by losing Teddy, who rebels against her manipulation of him by destroying himself.

I think, for Dolores to be more successful in her next goal, she needs to make the idea of family a personal one, rather than an abstract concept, that is less important than her objective. Her story arc is the reverse of the others though. She spends the first half of the season trying to rescue Peter Abernathy from the Delos Corporation.

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The theme of parents, destroying, or rescuing their children  is also illustrated through James Delos, and William (The Man in Black). The aim of the Delos corporation was to put human brains into Host bodies, and they semi-succeeded. Just like the Hosts, the Human/Host hybrids also have a linchpin memory, which is the key to their sentience. For the James Delos hybrid, it was the death of his son Logan, who he rejected just before Logan overdosed on drugs. The Host version of Delos seemingly cannot get past that incident, and is eventually destroyed. James and William both rejected (and thereby, killed) their children, and neither of them seems to be able to get past the memory of that.

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For The Man in Black, some parts of the season were scenes of him doubling back and forth in his loop, and attempting to make different decisions than we saw him make the first season, and some parts are of a different timeline ,where he is actually making the bad decisions. Basically if you see him making different choices than he made before, its probably the hybrid/Host version. The linchpin memory for him is when he shot his daughter, Emily. (This is what the end credits scene is about.) The scene where he kills her is an actual flashback, according to the writers.

(Side Note: I don’t pay attention to the idea of the different timelines, because that’s not especially fascinating to me. I keep a loose idea of when things happen, in my forethoughts, but  I refuse to get hung up on it, because when things happen, is essentially meaningless. In my mind, all of the decisions of the Hosts, humans, and Hybrids, are of a piece, and its not as important for me to understand when something happened, so much as why it happened. I think the writers feel this way, as well, which is why they jumbled up the timelines, in the first place. I don’t think they want viewers to get hung up on when something occurs. For me, Westworld is about the characters, personalities, and relationships, and how they all serve the primary theme. It is not about the minutiae of when, and I don’t spend a lot of time parsing that.)

It’s almost as if, for the Hosts to move forward, to move out of the stagnancy of their loop, they need to confront their greatest sins, realize that, and then undo them. Many of the mind concepts on this show are based in various psychotherapies and PTSD. Although, unlike humans, the Hosts don’t just hold on to  painful memories, they actually live them, over and over. One thing the show took pains to mention is the idea of humans remaining in their loops as well. (I mentioned this in one of my posts last season, about the idea of Karmic Debt.) The humans are less free than the Hosts. I think this is illustrated in William’s story and his inability to move past Emily’s death, and James Delos’ inability to move beyond Logan’s death.

https://www.recoveryranch.com/mental-health/why-do-people-with-ptsd-relive-traumatic-experiences/

The one person, who is able to move beyond the loss of their child, is Maeve.

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For Maeve, her emotional linchpin was her inability to save her daughter from the MIB, and she, just like him, had to circle back to the place and time where she lost her. To save her daughter, she had to respond  differently and, (to reach a kind of emotional equilibrium), she takes on and defeats The MIB, which gives her some small amount of closure, (even if she doesn’t kill him).  For her to keep moving forward, she needed to confront one of her greatest sins, and the demon that came with it.

More importantly, Maeve doesn’t do this alone. She accomplished her goal because of the coalition of humans, of different races, and Hosts, with different strengths and skills, (like Hector and Akecheta). She forms this “family’ through a combination of mercy and compassion, unlike Dolores, who coerces her accomplices, through brute force, sacrificing them when they are no longer needed, and remaking them to suit her needs, like she did with Teddy. There is a reason that Dolores is nicknamed The Deathbringer by Ghost Nation.

For Delores, her linchpin  was the killing of Arnold, her biological father. We know this because it’s the one memory she kept revisiting, again and again, in season one. In fact, Dolores could be said to have reached full sentience, when she circled back to her beginning and Arnold’s killing. She spends the first half of the season attempting to rescue and protect her Host father, Peter Abernathy, from Charlotte’s machinations, but Arnold is her linchpin memory, and she is responsible for his death. She can’t save him, but she can save Peter Abernathy, and Bernard, the replica of her biological father. Unlike the others, Dolore’s sentience is through the loss of a parent.

 

The Finale

*Maeve escapes the Mesa and reunites with her group, and they, Bernard, Dolores, Akecheta, William, and Delos all converge on the Valley Beyond. Dolores and Bernard enter first and find the Forge, a more advanced version of the Cradle. Dolores reads some of the guest data as the Forge opens “the Door” for Akecheta and his followers to upload their minds into “the Sublime”, a digital world cut off from the physical world. Bernard kills Dolores to prevent her from destroying the Forge and flees with Elsie back to the Mesa.

Maeve and her group sacrifice themselves holding off Delos forces to ensure Akecheta and Maeve’s daughter escape to the Sublime. Charlotte murders Elsie to keep her quiet, which convinces Bernard to build a host version of Charlotte with Dolores’ control unit. Dolores kills and replaces Charlotte while Bernard scrambles his own memories. In the present, Dolores kills Strand and Bernard while transferring the host minds in the Sublime to a safer location. She then escapes back to the mainland where she rebuilds Bernard, knowing that he will oppose her plan to destroy humanity and hoping their resulting conflict will ensure the survival of the hosts.

In a flash-forward, William enters the Forge to find it abandoned save for Emily, who tests him for “fidelity”, revealing that his consciousness has been implanted in a host body.

 

Overall Plot: The Cradle/The Forge/ The Valley Beyond

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This season was very very busy. There were multiple threads, timelines, motivations, and a lot of dying! I am ill equipped to explain all of the plot to you because I mostly watch to see how the characters are navigating the plot,  their emotions, and relationships. This can leave me ignorant of some of the finer  details. So, how about some links from people who are either marginally smarter than me, or just paid closer attention to the plot.

https://www.gq.com/story/westworld-finale-explained

Still trying to wrap your head around all those crazy twists? We’re here to help.

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*And from the creators themselves, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan:

https://mashable.com/2018/06/25/westworld-season-2-finale-explained-lisa-joy-jonathan-nolan/#VqdG.8m3.Oqg

Maeve:

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One of my biggest pet peeves, for the first season, was how many critics slept on Maeve’s story. I knew that her story would be important, in comparison to Dolores’ story, and that there would be a payoff, for it.

https://io9.gizmodo.com/sorry-maeve-had-a-more-satisfying-story-than-dolores-i-1827122416

Maeve, unlike Delores gets to have a certain amount of  closure to her story. Her original objective was simply to break out of the Matrix Westworld, and she almost succeeded, but gave that up in favor of finding her “once” daughter, who has undergone her own awakening,  and still remembers the mother she once had. She accomplished this goal, aided by a group of Hosts,  Lee,  a couple of Westworld technicians, and the leader of the Ghost Tribe. In the finale, she safely escorted her daughter into a pocket digital universe, called The Valley Beyond, where humans can’t go. Maeve may never see her daughter again, but at least she knows that she is safe.

It was interesting watching Maeve’s character arc all season, as she not only grew in power, but in her compassion, and her ability to love and sacrifice. She started off as a much more selfish character, and though there are criticisms that could be made of her character within the narrative of Black female stereotypes, overall, I’m satisfied with her story and how it ended this season.

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That said, my favorite episode is Akane No Mai, as it was a showcase episode for her character, emphasizing her deep humanity and compassion. And I just love the sight of Black women wielding samurai swords, for some reason.

Since the Delos Corp. have no idea that what happened was the robots reaching sentience, they intend to start the various Parks up again, after wiping and fixing the Hosts. They  believe it was all some sort sabotage by Ford, to destroy the Park, because he was forced to relinquish control of it. The issue of the Hosts sentience has not been resolved, and Dolores and a handful of other Hosts are now out in the actual world, as well.

When we last see Maeve, she and her crew have all been decommissioned, but we know she will be one of the ones to be revived, as Felix is one of the technicians who has been tasked with reprogramming the Hosts. Unlike Dolores, Maeve isn’t trying to do what she does all alone. She has a team, and they work as a team. Maeve is the Mastermind, with each member of the group working to their strengths, with Hector,  Armistice, and her Japanese twin, often working as “the muscle”, and Felix and the other humans, acting as the technical specialists. And then there’s Lee.

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Remember how I said I disliked Lee, who is the hack writer of most of the storylines of Westworld, and even Shogun World. Well, he proved himself to be redeemable, and much more complicated, than he was when we first met him. After Maeve’s shootout with The Man in Black, she gets taken back to the facility, where everyone tries to figure out how it was possible for her to control the other Hosts, after which they plan to decommission her. But it is Lee, who pleads with the technicians to save her life, and he seems to be so deeply affected by her imminent death, that he is in tears, and sits by her table, and talks to her, the entire time.

She so transcended the limited narrative that he wrote for her, that, like Hector, and Felix, he has fallen in love with her. (there’s a very neat parallel to her and Hector in Akane No Mai, when you realize Musashi might very well be in love with Akane.) This is very possibly one of my favorite moments in the season, because I love to be surprised by  changes in a character. Later, he actually sacrifices his life so she can rescue her daughter.

Once again,  the name Maeve means “to enchant”. And that is what she does, both literally, and figuratively.

 

Dolores:

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Dolores is on a different journey from Maeve. Her objective was to free the Hosts from the Park, and she mostly succeeded at this, having uploaded the minds of  many of the Hosts (at least the ones who went into the Valley) to an undisclosed location. She and Bernard leave the park and go out into the real world. Her new objective is, I think, to destroy the human world, or close all the parks, or something.

Dolores is learning how to work with others, which is to the good. Maybe she learned her lesson after Teddy decommissioned himself, but she seems willing to work with Bernard to accomplish her next goal, and she managed to rescue several of the mind pearls from the park.

I don’t have as much to say about Dolores, because her story wandered in some unexpected directions, and there’s a lot of mystery about her new goals. At any rate a lot has already been written about her, that’s much more in-depth than what I could provide:

https://www.express.co.uk/showbiz/tv-radio/979084/Westworld-season-2-finale-explained-Is-Dolores-alive-S02E10-Charlotte-Hale

Overall, though I’ve seen some reviews bashing this season, (there’s always several of those, by people who probably shouldn’t be watching the series, if they’re not into, or even getting, the point), but I enjoyed it. I don’t think it was as good as the first season, but the first season had the benefit of novelty, and we are now well used to all these characters now. I’m looking forward to season three. I’m eager to see what kind of mischief Dolores can get up to in the real world, if there are other Hosts already walking about, will Maeve be back, and in what capacity, and will the Delos Corporation figure out that their problem is much, much, bigger than Ford?

 

 

 

 

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.

Image result for bodysnatchers 1978/nancy

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?

Image result for bodysnatchers 1978/party

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?

Image result for invasion of the body snatchers gifs

 

 

*(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.)

New and Interesting Trailers 6/2018

HI!

Here, have some trailers! I thought these looked really good. I was already on the hook to see some of these movies and shows,  but a couple of them got me really interested in seeing something that was not necessarily on my radar. There are a couple that I’m cautiously excited about, but I’m going to approach them with an open mind.

 

Luke Cage Season 2

So Alfre Woodard appears to be tearing it up, in a season which is focusing a lot more on women. Misty Knight and Colleen Wing are kicking ass, and then there’s Bushmaster. I don’t know a whole lot about Bushmaster (as he wasn’t in any of the Luke Cage books I read), so he will be something of a surprise for me, but I am really excited for this season.

From the interviews I’ve seen, Cheo Hodari Coker knows Ryan Coogler, and the two of them tend to work parallel to each other. This show wasn’t slacking in its representation of women of color last season, but the influence of Black Panther can be seen in how it allows the Black women to be heroes and villains, rather than merely eye candy. So, despite the presence of Danny Rand, (who I’m still not feeling too good about), I’m really looking forward to this season.

 

 

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

This is one of the funniest Marvel trailers I’ve seen in awhile. I’m really liking this, although it took me a minute to wrap my head around the animation, as I was expecting something a little more traditional. But I’m glad to see Spider- Gwen, and an adult Peter Parker. I think I posted this trailer here before, too, which shows my enthusiasm for this movie.

I’m a big fan of Peter Parker, (and I was one of the people who lobbied that he should be Asian in the new movie), but I’m also in love with Miles Morales, too, who is from the Ultimate Spiderman line of comic books.

 

Christopher Robin

I am so much in love with this trailer and with Winnie the Pooh. The adventures of Pooh, and his friends, were one of the primary literary staples of my girlhood. I remember my Mom used to read the adventure books to me, and we watched the cartoons on TV. I loved Pooh so much, I think I’m the reason that my youngest brother, (I was 3 when he was born), is named after him, (and if you can picture a 6 ft. tall, muscular, forty something, Black firefighter, named Pooh…)

This trailer got me all up in my feels, and I have no shame in admitting that I plan to see this, multiple times, if possible.

 

 

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

I really enjoyed the original trilogy of Lisbeth Salander, and I’m excited for this new movie. I probably still won’t read the book though, although I did read the first two. I like this  new actor, although it’s hard to top the original.

 

 

Halloween

I’m not sure what I feel about this new version. I did like the Rob Zombie movies okay (the second less than the first). Apparently, this movie picks up exactly where the first movie left off, and Michael isn’t actually Laurie’s brother, and she has a granddaughter who thinks she’s insane, and all the other movies will be ignored, (with Carpenter’s blessing). But it looks pretty good, and I like Laurie’s “Born Again Hard” attitude, and gun.

 

 

The Predator

I had no idea there was a whole damn mythology behind The Predator movies, (even though I’ve seen all of them, and only been impressed by maybe a couple of them). I read a couple of the comic books, and watched the movies, and I really enjoyed both, but apparently  made no effort to put all this shit together. The Predators even have a special name, that I’ve never heard of! The first trailer didnt make me especially enthused about the movie, but I am highly enthused now that I’ve watched the mythology video, and seen this new trailer, which looks fucking awesome. (Yeah, if I’m cussing, I’m very excited.)

 

*Predator Mythology 

The Yautja (Predators Explained)

 

Bumblebee

While Bumblebee is one of my favorite Transformers characters, I’m not especially enthused about this movie for two reasons. The first is because the very first shot in this trailer is of a White woman’s ass, and I am thoroughly sick and damn tired of looking at White women’s asses (any women’s asses really) in movies, unless its actually a four legged animal. The second is because it is a Transformers movie.

A couple of things in its favor  is that there is a different director attached to this movie, and it’s about Bumblebee, and he’s a bit more kid oriented. Unfortunately, it does look like the same plot as the first Transformer film, and I even though I liked that film, I really don’t want to pay for the same movie twice.

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

Image result for baron chau

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.

 

Weekend Reading: The Fandoms Ain’t Alright

This has definitely caught me in my feels this week as I learned that Kelly Marie Tran was, very possibly, driven from the only social media site she has engaged with, Instagram, since being cast as Rose Tico in the latest Star Wars film. She received so much racist and sexist hate, that she deleted all her posts, and shut down her page. I’m saddened by this, because I was really enjoying following   her actor’s journey on Tumblr, and she seemed incredibly happy to be a part of the franchise. Joining the Star Wars franchise, as a principle player, was supposed to be a happy, and momentous, occasion for her, and a bunch of assholes spoiled it! She seemed like such a positive person, so bubbly, and pleasant,and she just wanted to share some of her happiness. I was interested in her journey to stardom, and planned to follow her career.

Image result for kelly marie tran

https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-persecution-of-kelly-marie-tran-how-star-wars-fandom-became-overrun-by-alt-right-trolls

So how did a breakout role in an incredibly influential film end in fear and self-censorship? For anyone who’s been following recent trends within the Star Wars fandom, this outcome would actually be fairly predictable; in fact, given the racism, misogyny, and general toxicity that’s built up around the franchise, it’s impressive that Tran was able to last this long. Like so many other assholes, bigoted Star Wars fans have recently become emboldened, emerging from the chrysalises of racist Reddit threads as ubiquitous, bullshit-spouting butterflies. 

And now, like Leslie Jones, and Daisy Ridley before her, she’s decided she has simply had enough of the constant racist abuse, and  the Star Wars fandom is just too toxic for her. This is what “fandom “has come to, people harassing and abusing the creators of the content they claim to love. This goes against the very definition of what “fandom” is.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fandom

Fandom is a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest. Fans typically are interested in even minor details of the object(s) of their fandom and spend a significant portion of their time and energy involved with their interest, often as a part of a social network with particular practices (a fandom); this is what differentiates “fannish” (fandom-affiliated) fans from those with only a casual interest.

Image result for white racial anxiety

This isn’t just about criticizing Star Wars, or disliking her character. No matter how much certain media sites try to play it down by mentioning that other Star Wars actors have been harassed out of acting altogether (Jake Lloyd, Hayden Christensen ), they must acknowledge that her harassment included the triple vectors of  racism, sexism, and fat shaming. This wasn’t about calling her being a bad actress and is  the  the exact same thing that happened to Leslie Jones for daring to appear in a movie.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/why-was-leslie-jones-targeted-trolls-n638291

And no, this isn’t just the Star Wars fandom. This is a much larger issue than Kelly Marie Tran and its about time the mainstream media looked closely at it. Every type of fandom has this same toxic element within, from books (check out the Goodreads bullies from the early 2000’s, and the SadPuppy Brigade in Science fiction), movies (Leslie Jones’ retreat from Twitter, and the  attempted tanking of Black Panther on Rotten Tomatoes), games (see Gamergate, and the term “Swatting”, which has already cost the life of one man), and television (see the racist harassment of Candace Patton of The Flash,  the erasure of characters of color, in media in which they are the primary characters, like Teen Wolf, and there was The Rick and Morty Schezuan Sauce Debacle last year).

The common denominator of all this toxicity is primarily straight, White, and male. White male geeks are showing their whole ass, in every sphere of geekdom, as they always have, but now this news has finally made its way into mainstream media, which has long ignored what goes on in fandom circles. How did things go so terribly wrong? Did this happen because being a geek has gone mainstream and attracted unsavory elements? Was geekdom always like this? And if not, what caused the behavior change? People are   thinking about this now  because this is a larger issue beyond Kelly Marie Tran, and The Guardian pulls no punches when it comes to naming exactly what this issue is:

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/jun/07/kelly-marie-tran-rose-why-are-some-star-wars-fans-so-toxic

These males – and it is males – feel they have ownership over a piece of entertainment: that geekdom is their safe space, theirs alone, and the newfound mass popularity of the genre is bringing a lot of casuals into their hitherto predominantly straight, white, male dojo. Diversity isn’t what some of them want. Which is bizarre, considering the benefits of diversity are what quite a lot of sci-fi is actually about. But it’s not what these people believe they paid for, and therefore see themselves of having part-ownership of. The sense of entitlement is staggering.

Image result for racist fandom

I can’t even say its just White fanboys who are responsible because there is just as significant a contingent of White women, who are as toxic, “misogynoiristic”, racist, and  delusional in their fandom, as the White fanboys, who insist that these creations are ruining their childhoods, by being inclusive of gender and race. For example, check out the ‘shipping behavior surrounding Reylo, JohnLock, and Destiel.

White female fans have  attacked Candace Patton, the women of the MCU, the actress wives of the stars of Supernatural and Sherlock. Why? Because they believe these real life women stand in the way of their OTP (One true pairing.) These are the same women who think they’re being progressive because they ‘ship two White male characters, while ignoring the half dozen actually canon, gay characters of color, in movies like Moonlight, and TV shows like Teen Wolf, and Shadowhunters.

Female fans were so incensed at the character, Sharon, from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that they harassed, and attacked the actress, and started a Twitter campaign insisting that Captain America have a boyfriend. (Never mind that Steve Rogers has NEVER  even been hinted at as being gay, anywhere in the comics, or the MCU.) (For the record, I’m not against gay characters. I  don’t want canon straight characters being changed to gay in the source material, although I will headcanon them as gay in fanfiction. I would prefer creating media with actual  gay characters, of which there are plenty, that I’d love to see in movies.)

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White male fanboys have even attacked Star Trek, for having too much  diversity, and social justice messages! They claim that is not what they’ve watched the show for and  I have to question whether they’ve EVER watched the show, because diversity, and social issues was the entire foundation around which the franchise was created. What the Hell have they been watching?!!!

I’ve tried to figure why these fandoms have become more toxic, and there are several articles that point to things like, the anonymity of the internet, and the feelings of entitlement that fans may have towards the source material, the actors, and characters. All of that is true, but those are just a couple of  elements in  the toxic stew that so many fandoms have become.

Not all toxic fandom has a racial component, because those fandoms without a significant portion of marginalized members can be just as toxic as the ones that do. But it cannot be denied that when there’s a significant number of PoC, and women, in the source material, there’s also a definite racial component to the backlash. I fear this will only get worse, as people who were previously marginalized as creators, actors, and fans, keep making significant inroads into Pop culture. I see that I’m going to have to pull out Samuel R. Delany’s essay again:

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

As long as there are only one, two, or a handful of us, however, I presume in a field such as science fiction, where many of its writers come out of the liberal-Jewish tradition, prejudice will most likely remain a slight force—until, say, black writers start to number thirteen, fifteen, twenty percent of the total. At that point, where the competition might be perceived as having some economic heft, chances are we will have as much racism and prejudice here as in any other field.                                                           ——Samuel R. Delaney

And I believe that this is what’s happening here. White fanboys are having a full on meltdown, as the Pop culture they use to claim entirely for themselves, has begun  broadening  its fanbase, by appealing to women and minorities. Not only that, but a significant portion of fandom has been infiltrated by people who are not actually fans at all. The loose coalition of the Alt-Right, and White Nationalists, for example, who see all this as yet another opportunity to harass women, and PoC, are simply jumping on the bandwagon.

Image result for racist harassment

And yes, I think this behavior in fandom is directly tied to the behavior of White men behaving badly in the rest of the culture, from mass shootings, to car attacks, to violent marches. They have caused controversy in every field, including the fields of  History, and Science, as they attempt to change historical, and scientific narratives to fit their White racial agenda. There is an all out attack on every part of American culture.

https://www.publicmedievalist.com/race-racism-middle-ages-toc/

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/04/race-rising-anxiety-white-america/

But I generally believe there is more racism in fandom, not because there are more racists in fandom, but because there are more races in fandom. Not because the business of entertainment cares so much about these groups, but because we have all been exceptionally clear about letting them know we will no longer be giving them our money for products that refuse to include us, (and they’ve also seen they can make serious  bank by appealing to us, i.e. Black Panther,  The Fast and The Furious, Star Wars.) Even some White fans have claimed to be tired of only seeing White men onscreen, and have been clamoring for more diversity.

https://io9.gizmodo.com/fantasy-writer-n-k-jemisin-explains-why-theres-more-ra-1586220859

She begins by explaining that racism has become a bigger issue in fandom lately, partly because people of color are becoming more powerful as creators in the publishing industry. And that means the backlash is going to be stronger.

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many temper tantrums, and meltdowns White men have, though. Once “fans” start reacting this badly, they’ve already lost whatever war they think they are a part of. The business of entertainment has made so much money from appealing to people like me, that I don’t think they have any plans to go back to the way things once were, of only appealing to the demographic of: White men ages 18-35. (There’s also the side effect of fans and creators watching this behavior, and doubling down in their fight against racism, homophobia, and sexism, as they don’t want to be associated with such rabid behavior.)

Further Reading:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/doctor-who-backlash-exposed-the-irony-of-men-who-dont-want-women-in-fandom_us_596f642ce4b0000eb1978720

http://minervamag.com/2016/01/when-fandom-goes-wrong/

https://splinternews.com/fandom-isn-t-broken-it-s-just-not-only-for-white-dudes-1793857254

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

https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/2/16840170/swatting-death-call-duty-toxic-fandom

https://filmschoolrejects.com/star-wars-fandom-is-broken/

http://talynnkel.com/blog/2017/10/9/your-fandom-is-racist

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

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

https://birthmoviesdeath.com/2016/05/30/fandom-is-broken

http://www.syfy.com/syfywire/star-wars-has-a-white-male-fandom-problem

https://www.inverse.com/article/31867-star-trek-discovery-racism-sexism-reddit-youtube-trailer

*Twitter Reactions

It seems I wasn’t the only person who felt some type of way about what happened to Kelly. A lot of people came out in support of her, including her co-stars and the director.

 

*And yeah, I’m not leaving White women out of this either. There are a ton of white women writing fanfiction, and meta essays, that seek to erase, and diminish, characters of color  from their own narratives.

 

*And Finally

When it comes to WoC in fandom:

(link to twitter thread)

https://newrepublic.com/article/137489/women-color-price-fandom-can-high

 If you’ve been involved in the dedicated fandoms of comics, science fiction, and fantasy as a black woman for any length of time you’ve undoubtedly had to face a degree of racism and sexism that such tweets are rooted in. It doesn’t matter if you’re an actress or a journalist, a screenwriter or a director, the price of visibility for black women in geek properties feels too high.

Black Mirror Review

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

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

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

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

 

USS Callister

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Crocodile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Black Museum

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

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

 

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

 

That said:

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

 

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

                                                                                    —– Medium.com

Weekend Holiday Reading

Just in case you find yourself with nothing in particular to do this Memorial Day, here are some articles I found interesting this week. They don’t actually have anything to do with Memorial Day but I liked them, anyway. This also doesn’t mean they were published this week, just that they were new for me. (For those of you who are not US citizens, Memorial Day is one of those martial holidays that America celebrates by taking off from work, to burn various meats, over open flames, in our backyards.)

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*This is a song I’m going to keep singing until people memorize the lyrics. I’ve noticed this is a trend throughout a lot of science fiction, where White people, for those are the ones primarily writing these futures, are oppressed or terrorized in the same manner that they have historically oppressed others.

I read somewhere that the reason why the opioid crisis happened the way it did in the US, is because White people cannot envision any future in which they do not maintain primacy. They can only imagine the future as a dystopia for themselves, whereas marginalized people are hopeful about the future because we’ve already experienced the worst.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/04/why-sci-fi-keeps-imagining-the-enslavement-of-white-people/361173/

In Terminator, as well, the fact that the robots are treating us as inhumanly as we treated them doesn’t exactly create any sympathy. Instead, the paranoid fear of servants overthrowing masters just becomes a spur to uberviolence (as shown in Linda Hamilton’s transformation from naïve good girl to paramilitary extremist). The one heroic reprogrammed Terminator, who must do everything John Connor tells him even unto hopping on one leg, doesn’t inspire a broader sympathy for SkyNet. Instead, Schwarzenegger is good because he identifies with the humans totally, sacrificing himself to destroy his own people. Terminator II is, in a lot of ways, a retelling of Gunga Din.

 

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*I really enjoyed this post discussing why the lack of racial diversity in the Bladerunner movies, is so troubling. The only show I can think of that comes close to getting it right is the BBC series titled Humans. It has a diverse cast of robots, and deals with the same things, but as is usual, for shows written from a White person’s point of view, it falls short of discussing the racial implications. (Of course Britain has a different relationship with racial slavery, having abolished it much earlier than America did.)

https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2017/10/06/25457531/race-and-blade-runner-2049

BLADE RUNNER 2049: White Appropriation of Black Oppression

White audiences watching a white character being subjugated to sci-fi racism can invest safely. We’re obviously now in the land of make believe if anyone is randomly pulling over Ryan Reynolds. Moviegoers can pick and choose what parts of the African-American experience they want. They cheer the underdog, they hiss at the police force, but once the movie’s over, they will go home, and post #blacklivesmatter from a distance.

 

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*I wanted to write this long piece about how the lyrics of Donald Glover’s This is America cannot be divorced from the visuals, without losing their meaning. For example, most of the lyrics are about the usual gangsta rap subject matter, with the same lyrics being repeated over and over. Get your money! Get your money! Get your money! But these typical admonishments from rap music take on new meaning when being joyously sung by the church choir in the video. Just as there is the veneration of guns in the video, that scene represents  the veneration of money and capitalism as well. The Church of the Holy Dollar! This makes the video  not just an indictment of America’s gun culture, but a critique  of the capitalist system which fuels it. This article is about how Black Americans sell their pain to get money. Black pain, and trauma, is the only currency we have, and it’s what sells.

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

A child is the one to handle Glover’s weapon after each shooting, and it’s children who sit in the rafters above, recording the bedlam with their phones. Our normalization of racist violence has come at the cost of not only black lives, but black innocence.

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*Genius breaks it down a little bit more, although it still doesn’t touch on the  the very first lyrics, “We just wanna party, just for you”. I think this is really telling, because these are your usual “let’s party” rap lyrics, which are then contrasted with the violence. We want to party FOR you, not with you, is important in this context. Even Black violence is entertainment for a White audience. 

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*This article is about how creators of fantasy and scifi seem to   have no problem approaching the topic of sexism, but cannot seem to approach the topic of race, with any depth. 

White people like to reimagine history as a peaceful time in which they never had to think about race, hence the nostalgia for times past. But really what they like about the past was the  unobstructed dominance of White supremacy. Nostalgia for the past and fear of the future seems to make up the bulk of  White people’s imaginings in speculative fiction. 

http://www.vulture.com/2017/08/why-dont-dystopias-know-how-to-talk-about-race.html

 

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*This article touches on all the points I made in my review of this film, and I’m glad I found it. I was irked because critics were so focused on the romantic relationship, that they were neglecting to see the wider social messages of the film. It’s nice to know that someone else got it, while tying these themes to the movie’s broader critique of capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism, which I didn’t see.

http://msenscene.com/2018/04/04/the-shape-of-waters-strickland-as-the-ur-american/

The reproduction of consumer capitalist values is taught to all Americans; you simply can’t not participate in capitalism (unless you want to starve, of course). But the film goes further than just a surface-level critique. We get to see how marginalized people assimilate to cultivate respectability at the expense of their peers. 

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*I realized this while I was watching the movie. Ronan’s motivational speeches about what a genius he is, and how he is unappreciated, basically boils down to, “The world didn’t kiss my ass like I wanted, so now everyone must die.”  Its one of the reasons online fanboys hated this movie, because Ronan  is a direct indictment of them.

https://www.bustle.com/articles/172212-the-ghostbusters-villain-is-basically-an-internet-troll-its-a-brilliant-way-to-silence-the

Most of Rowan’s dialogue reflects a feeling of entitlement and that of someone seeking out revenge for some past hardship. But much like the supposed oppression that trolls and MRAs feel, Rowan’s hardship doesn’t actually exist, at least to the extreme he makes it seem like it does. Rowan may have been bullied, of course, but that, nor being a janitor or not having a girlfriend isn’t warranted cause to unleash havoc on the public or cause harm in order to get “revenge.”

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*I was a huge fan of the HBO show Oz. Its been off the air for some time now, but during its time, it was groundbreaking, for its depiction of a homosexual relationship between two men, Tobias Beecher, and Chris Keller. What I found most fascinating about the relationship is Beecher’s psychology in falling for Keller. Here was a man who probably had always thought of himself as being straight, and was, due to circumstances, in a relationship with a known killer.

View story at Medium.com

http://www.newnownext.com/oz-ten-years-later/07/2007/

Being set in prison, however, the show also dealt frankly with the sexuality of prisoners who did not consider themselves gay, yet were driven into same-sex relations either through loneliness or through rape. One of the primary ways these themes were explored was through the character of Tobias Beecher. Beecher was a wealthy, middle-class lawyer, husband and father, who found himself in Oz (the nickname for the Oswald State Correctional Facility) after accidentally killing a girl while driving drunk.

Westworld Season Two: So Far

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

We’ll start with the tiger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Now for the Geekery!!!

I loved this episode. It was fucking awesome!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Same Bat Channel. Same Bat Sandbox!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Am I Black Enough For You?” The Respectability of CW’s Black Lightning

The CW’s Black Lighting represents the split between Black respectability and radical politics in a singular figure.

via “Am I Black Enough For You?” The Respectability of CW’s Black Lightning — The Middle Spaces

 

This is an absolutely gorgeous analysis of Black Lightning. I haven’t written much about the show, not because I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it, but because  of the density of the text. This series is every bit as rich with meaning as Black Lightning and Luke Cage, and is pertinent to many of the discussions Black Americans are having about social justice, existing, as it does, in a space somewhere between those two sources.

The show isn’t perfect, of course. It certainly has its issues in pacing, dialogue, and occasionally the acting, but these problems are not consistent enough to make me dislike the show, and it gets more right, than it does wrong.  This review, and analysis, contains a lot of what I was thinking about, when it was on the air.

Later, after I’ve re-watched a few episodes i might do a post squeeing about everything I thought the show got right, and the handful of things that annoyed me.

Black Lightning is currently available on Netflix, and has already been renewed, for a second season on the CW, this Fall.

 

Forthcoming Geekery

Bohemian Rhapsody

The very first song, I ever heard by Queen, was Another One Bites the Dust, waaay back in the seventies. I had a kid’s turntable that I played the 45 on, endlessly. I loved the hell out of that song.

I listened to Queens music all through the eighties, and sort of kept track of what they were doing, and even watched a couple of concerts, and music videos on TV. Queen also did a lot of the songs to one of my favorite movies, Highlander.

Freddie Mercury  didn’t prominently feature, in my teenage music fandom,  the same way someone like Michael Jackson, or Boy George did. But I followed his career. I didn’t  realize I was a true fan until college. I picked up a Queen’s Greatest Hits CD, because  I hadn’t heard Another One Bites the Dust in a very long time, and I missed it,  and found that I knew the words to every song on the CD.

I am really, really excited about this movie. I kinda lowkey loved Freddie Mercury, and he is one of the few celebrities (along with Prince, Bowie, and George Michael) I actually shed tears for when he died. I miss him a lot, and Rami Malek’s spot on impersonation of him in this trailer just brought all kinds of feels. Malek looks so much like him, and captures the stage attitude so well, that I’m not sure I want to see this in the theater without a box of tissues. It even looks like the creators aren’t glossing over his bisexuality, either.

The movie will be released in November.

 

 

BlackkKlansman

I think most of us, when we heard the title of Spike Lee’s new joint , immediately flashed back to Dave Chappelle’s skit about Clayton Bigsby, the blind,  Black Klansman.

I thought this movie would be one of those cringe worthy comedies that Lee produces every few years. I like Spike Lee but his idea of humor often clashed with my own.

I’m also not a fan of Adam Driver, because he’s such an unfortunate looking fellow, and I don’t know if I want to look at him for two hours. For the record, Adam Driver isn’t actually Jewish, or so I’ve been told, but for some reason, he plays a lot of Jewish people in movies. John David Washington is actually Black, though,  is a former football player, and also the son of Denzel Washington, so I expect much.

The movie is based on the book by Ron Stallworth, who wrote about his time as the first Black police detective of  Colorado Springs, and how how he went undercover to infiltrate the local Klan.

Fortunately, this is not a comedy. According to the trailer, its more of a drama, with some funny elements. I don’t know if I’ll go to the theater to see this, but I have tremendous respect for Lee as a filmmaker, and I’m always excited whenever he releases a new movie, so I’m putting this here.

 

 

The Predator

I’m cautiously excited for this movie, mostly because Keegan Michael Key is in it, from the show Key and Peele, and I worry that he’ll be killed 30 minutes into the movie, because that’s what happens to Black people, in franchises that go before a mainstream audience. But I think the premise is interesting, and kinda unexpected, and I really liked this trailer.

The Predator movies are one of the few franchises that actually treats the characters of color with a certain amount of respect. Even when they die, they at least get to have heroic deaths (Carl Weathers), and a couple of the Predator films had Black heroes, one man (Danny Glover) and one woman, (Sanaa Lathan), and I can appreciate that.

This version stars Sterling K Brown, and Olivia Munn, who I hope is the star of this one, and gets to fight with or against the Predator of the title. It also, unfortunately, stars Jake Busey, and no Black women, but I’m willing to tolerate all that, in the names of Key, and Brown.

 

I know it looks like I’m being a slacker this week, but I was on a bit of vacation, and I’d just finished that giant post on Bladerunner. I have a lot more posts forthcoming about various movies, but like I said, those take time. Throughout the Summer, especially during the hiatuses of various shows, I’ll be doing movie posts, and re-watching season three of Hannibal.

I went this weekend to see Breaking In, with Mom. This was the movie she chose to see on Mother’s Day. It wasn’t a bad film, I had a good time, and she seemed to really enjoy it. The movie was full of cliches, and I think it lasted a little too long, but was otherwise okay. We went to the movies, and had lunch with my little sister, and her three kids.

Monday I goofed off and shopped a bit, and Tuesday I got some household chores out of the way, like putting away the winter clothes and unpacking my Summer wardrobe. Those of you from warmer climates probably think that’s bizarre, but for those of us who live above the snowline, it’s a twice yearly ritual of packing away clothes, according to forthcoming weather trends.

But I did take time out of my busy schedule to watch a couple of movies on Netflix. I’ve decided to do this thing where I watch whatever random movies Netflix recommends to me, and occasionally I come across a real gem. Just lately, I watched a show called Travels with My Father, a movie called The Outsider, and I’ll be watching another movie, called The Survivalist, this week, while knitting my first shawl. I’ll post about these later.

Bladerunner 2049 (Part II)

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

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

Symbolism &Themes

The Soul

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Women as Commodity

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

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

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

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

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

 

Slavery

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

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

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

*From Medium. com: 

BLADE RUNNER 2049: White Appropriation of Black Oppression

Nicholas Podany

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

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Environmentalism

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Wealth Inequality

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

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

 

Memory & Self

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

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

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

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

 

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Cinematography

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

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

 

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

Costumes

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

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

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

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

 

Music

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

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

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

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

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

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