Westworld Season Two: Kiksuya

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Into The Badlands Season Two: So Far

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

 

Sunny

Sunny

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

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

 

Bajie

Bajie

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

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

Nathaniel Moon

Nathaniel Moon

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

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

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

The Widow

The Widow

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

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

 

Lydia

Lydia

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

 

M.K.

M.K.

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

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

 

Tilda

Tilda

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

 

Baron Chau

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

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

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

 

 

Gaius Chau

Gaius Chau

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

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

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

 

Pilgrim/Cressida

PilgrimCressida

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

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

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

 

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

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Weekend Reading List (The Pocket Files)

Guys! I’ve been horribly slack with the postings this week, but that doesn’t mean I’m not working on stuff. (Actually, I have not been doing anything, really.) I’ve been on a sort of vacay all week, but I’ll be back with more ramblings in June, starting Monday.

Here’s some of the lighter stuff that’s been sitting in my Pocket list for a while. Some of these are not new, but they’re new for me.

I loved this piece from BNP/Facebook writer, Stephanee Killen, about one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek, The Enemy Within. I must have unknowingly taken the episode to heart because I’ve always thought of my less attractive qualities as useful, positive things. Or at the very least tried to turn them into useful things.

Like a lot of people I suffer from anxiety. I don’t take medication for this, but I manage it very well. One of the ways I manage it is by turning it into something useful, like the ability to plan ahead. Making plans within plans is one of the ways I manage anxiety about things other people would probably consider trivial, like driving to new locations. When I have anxiety about something specific, I usually research the hell out of it, and the knowledge helps to alleviate some of the problem. Turning anxiety into knowledge is one of my ways of using a negative quality for good.

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In this particular episode, Kirk gets split into halves, a  passive, lighter side, and a darker, more negative side. The argument, illustrated beautifully in the show, is that Kirk needs his darker half to function competently as a Commander. 

I think the philosophy I most disagree with in Star Wars is the concept that light and dark are two separate things, and that one of them is undesirable. Star Trek’s more nuanced argument is that both these qualities are needed to form a whole, and that taken singularly, they’re both useless.

McCoy tells him, we’re all brutal animals. We all have our dark side. It’s human. The dark side holds strength. The light side holds caring, love, and courage. Spock, who understands duality better than most, indicates that what enables him to survive the differences between his two often-contrary halves is his intellect. Scotty eventually fixes the transporter. Kirk 1 and 2 get put back together, and the question of whether half a man can live is answered: No, he cannot—but thankfully, that’s not required.

http://blacknerdproblems.com/nerd-lessons-star-trek-the-dark-side/

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I am loving this newest season of Into the Badlands, and will have some opinions about that  next week. What I’m finding a hell of a lot of fun is the character of Nathaniel Moon. He’s an important part of the show, with his own story-line, and agenda, and even a love interest. 

I’ve seen this actor there and about, from time to time, but never gave him much attention. I’m gonna fix that right now, cuz Lawd, is he foine!

And do it he has. Since his first film role in the movie Colors (1988), Sherman hasn’t stopped sharpening his craft. With a career spanning over thirty years, he says that the characters, themes, setting and coworkers on Into the Badlands continue to inspire and motivate him.

http://blacknerdproblems.com/sherman-augustus-badlands-talks-film-football-acting-black/

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Here! Have some more Donald Glover think-pieces. It seems that every couple of months there’s some new artistic piece from a Black artist. We just sat through Black Panther, and then came Beychella (which I watched online), and the release of Glover’s video was a nice addition, marking 2018 as one of the “Blackest” years ever.

Jim Crow began as mere pop culture entertainment at the expense of America’s freed slaves and became the means of their oppression. The term “Jim Crow” became so pejorative this country’s apartheid separating Africans and their descendants from white Americans its name. pic.twitter.com/IEwLwfB2i4

http://www.indiewire.com/2018/05/justin-simien-analyzes-donald-glover-this-is-america-1201961450/

http://www.thisisinsider.com/this-is-america-music-video-meaning-references-childish-gambino-donald-glover-2018-5

https://thegrio.com/2018/05/07/this-is-america-5-powerful-messages-that-will-stay-with-you-long-after-your-donald-glover-hangover/

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

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

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Here’s an incredible review of Kaufmann’s 1978 remake of  Albert Finney’s Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. This is one of my all time favorite alien invasion movies, and although I did a film comparison of all the Invasion movies, I have yet to do a complete analysis/review of this one. I got some thoughts, ya’know! 

Like the remake of The Thing, it is a near perfect example of Science Fiction Horror. There’s not one wrong note of dialogue in it, the acting is superb, and the setting is perfect for its message. 

In a more thrilling flourish, Kaufman channels Alfred Hitchcock by cutting back-and-forth between pod people following Matthew and Elizabeth on a city street; as the two speed up, their clacking exaggerated for effect, we see the feet of their pursuers speeding up in unison, until both reach a sprint. 

https://deepfocusreview.com/definitives/invasion-of-the-body-snatchers/

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This has been sitting in my Pocket page just waiting to be deployed. The whole thing just tickled the hell out of me.

Animals That Look Like They’re About To Drop The Hottest Albums Ever

Obviously this is Country music (The chicken, tho’!)

The Up-And-Coming Music Legends

 

He ’bout to drop that hot new Mixtape

 

 

I swear to gob, these two look like Hall &Oates

 

That hot new Norwegian Emo Band, or The Verve. Pick One!

 

This is that new Rock band with the twin guitarists

The Band With The Twin Guitarists

 

 

There’s a whole bunch of these gothic looking pet pictures all over the internet. I’m still finding these deeply hilarious…

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 I actually love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite all my bitching. It is an unquestionably visually stunning place to visit, and even the worse movies in the MCU look gorgeous. They also look all of a piece, as if they really all belonged in the same world.

I grew up reading Marvel Comics. In fact, those were the first comic books I read (starting with Conan and Red Sonja.) I wasn’t thrilled when Marvel started pumping out these movies, but only because I hadn’t read any of the individual character’s books, and wasn’t particularly interested in their standalone movies. I was not a Captain America, Iron man, Ant Man, or Black Widow fan. I knew all these characters because they were in The Avengers, and I read all of those books. I dutifully watched the first few movies, not especially enthused, but cautiously interested. I didn’t get excited until the first Captain America movie, which turned out to be surprisingly good, and The Avengers movie clinched it. 

I still haven’t watched all the movies. I skipped the first two Thor movies, and the first Iron Man. I never cared about Ant Man, and never will, I’m betting, although I am a big fan of  The Wasp (from the comic books), so I might see that movie.

Here are some of the better MCU music videos on Youtube. This was one of the first ones I saw. Not all of them are this good, but the editing on this one, was astounding.

 

I liked this one because it includes everything in the MCU, including all of The Defenders, all except Blade (which really should have been included, along with the X-Men and Wolverine films, even though they’re not part of the MCU. Yet!)

 

 

I skipped the first two Thor movies. I watched maybe the first thirty minutes of the second one before I fell asleep. I did enjoy this last one because I knew the director, Taika Waititi, from What We Do in the Shadows, and I trusted his film making skills.

 

 

This video was pretty good too. The editor of this one was nice enough to include  action parallels from the different films, something which helps to reinforce the idea that these movies all take place in the same cinematic world. I do object to the music of this one. I just dislike the song, and  would’ve chosen something more energetic.

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.

Siren: Season One Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Freeform/Sergei Bachlakov

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

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

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

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

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

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

Westworld Season Two: So Far

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

We’ll start with the tiger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Now for the Geekery!!!

I loved this episode. It was fucking awesome!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Same Bat Channel. Same Bat Sandbox!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geeking Out Recommends:

Thelma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thelma is available on Hulu.

 

Blade of the Immortal

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

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

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

Blade of the Immortal is also available on Hulu.

 

Harlots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Batman Ninja

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

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

It is nothing like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And from I09:

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

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

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

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

 

Full Metal Alchemist

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ritual

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ritual is available on Netflix.

Weekend Reading: Pop Culture Edition

On Gender:

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I still have not gotten over how the Ghostbusters was so badly treated by the public, and how we will now never get a sequel. The “feminists ” who are forever talking about how they love these types of movies, where women get treated like people, totally slept on this one. To be fair, the trailer did suck, but a trailer is not a movie, and I’m still a firm believer that most trailers are designed to make you hate a movie before its release. Some of them are successful at that, some less so.

http://www.unleashthefanboy.com/movies/analyzing-10-common-criticisms-of-ghostbusters-2016/140340

http://www.indiewire.com/2016/07/ghostbusters-reboot-backlash-1201705555/

 

My biggest criticism of the movie was this though:

https://www.polygon.com/2016/7/21/12239704/ghostbusters-is-still-haunted-by-negative-racial-tropes

https://www.salon.com/2016/03/04/the_new_ghostbusters_and_race_why_it_matters_that_leslie_jones_isnt_playing_one_of_the_scientists/

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But despite my strong misgivings, I did like the movie, and  Leslie Jones, who endured so much abuse about her character, Patty Tolan, has a great defense for the criticism of her character. MTA workers apparently get paid more than college scientists, and she’s a regular person who helps save the world, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/mar/07/ghostbusters-leslie-jones-defends-remake-racial-stereotyping-criticis

Incidentally the scene above is one of my favorite one-liners in the entire movie. Patty gets some of the best lines in the movie, despite the fact that the trailer made it seem like she got the worst ones. in the director’s cut Holtzman answers that by calling her mouthy, and I’m really glad they left that line out of the movie.

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I thought this was an interesting read about how the  Coen Brothers movie, Fargo, is really a discussion about toxic masculinity:

https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/how-fargo-captures-sad-realities-toxic-masculinity

 

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I liked this article about how WoC never get to have happy endings, as the friends and sidekicks of their White co-stars. It seems like we always have to suffer (I’m looking at you Handmaid’s Tale.)

1201705555/https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/film-tv/a12022020/how-women-of-color-portrayed-tv-film/

 

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I skipped the second season of Jessica Jones, because I hated the first season so much, I couldn’t even finish it. To give you some indication of how important that is, I watched all of Iron Fist, after I talked a lot of shit about that show.  That I’ve said almost nothing at all about Jessica Jones, says a lot about my attitude towards the show.

http://www.anathemamag.com/jessica-jones-doesnt-care-about-men-of-colour/

 

On Dystopia:

For some reason dystopias where regular, middle-class,  pretty, White people get treated the way they’ve always historically treated marginalized people, seems to be a popular sci fi trope. So popular in fact that even MadTV had a skit related to it:

 

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When I was a teenager, I used to theorize that White people liked to sit around watching a problem fully and completely develop, and then, instead of fixing the problem,  fix the blame. This also brings the to mind the idea that Black people don’t envision dystopia as an exciting future, because we’ve already been there. We have nowhere to go but forward, and nothing to have but hope. Dystopia is a White people thing.

http://blackyouthproject.com/white-liberals-stay-predicting-dystopias-caused-by-whiteness-without-doing-anything-about-it/

In a recent discussion, my friend Preston Anderston posited that white people “can understand the destruction of the planet before the destruction of the white world,” and perhaps nothing exemplifies this better than their dystopian imaginings. To them, there is no world without whiteness, so even if they acknowledge the hell whiteness necessarily brings, there is no other future possible than that hell.

 

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I found this post by the writer, Cory Doctorow, really interesting. Why does there need to be a dystopia at all? We’ve seen plenty of instances where crises  didn’t end in some kind of Mad Max free for all, and we need more stories that reinforce the idea that we can get through a disaster with our humanity still intact.

https://www.wired.com/2017/04/cory-doctorow-walkaway/

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 On Disability:

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I found a series of articles about how Hollywood approaches the topic of disability in film and TV. 

https://byrslf.co/its-time-for-hollywood-to-rethink-disability-e1dfc4142c9b

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https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/tv/at-the-heart-of-hannibal-respectful-treatment-of-mental-illness/

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http://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2015/05/28/disability-in-the-dystopian-future-of-mad-max-fury-road/

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

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https://serfbazaar.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/furiosa-disability-representation-and-empowerment/

 

On Fandom:

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The discussion of Fandom misbehavior continues tonight on:  Tumblr Calls Shit Out

There a a lot of fans who change, misrepresent, or just straight lie about the source material to justify White prioritization of the characters. As I’ve said before, most White audiences have no other template, and in many cases will do these things to  reproduce a dynamic with which they’ve always been  comfortable: Poc as side narratives that support the White character’s primary story.

princeescaluswords answered:

Because the disregard or misrepresentation of canon is frequently used as a foundation of fandom racism.  We live in a time of change, where Hollywood is oh-so-slowly beginning to understand that primary stories and primary characters don’t always have to be entitled white males.  This stands contrary to seventy years of television history, which has taught the audience that the only thing that matters are the emotions and interests of those same white males.   Unfortunately, the viewing audience has learned the old lesson well and so expects the canon to support their predisposition.  When it doesn’t meet their expectations, when the emotions and interests of characters of color are given priority, their need to see white men on top can be met by getting rid of the canon.

Take the most popular ship in my fandom (This is not an attack against shipping. Shipping does not have to be inherently racist or inherently demeaning.   Early in my fandom days, I thought so, but I do not any more).  This ship and its fandom which put together two white males whose purpose on the show was to serve as the main character of color’s foils. The ship itself is not in question for me.  What is in question is the way that the fandom demanded that this ship become the center point of the show, and when it became clear that no matter how many nods that the powers that be were going to give to the ship, the show wasn’t going to make it canon, canon was discarded in the most hostile and negative way imaginable.   This wasn’t just in my (or others’) imaginations.  When the star of the show and the executive producer have to comment on the impact of this canon erasure, it’s pretty serious.

Canon misrepresentation doesn’t stop with just shipping.  Attacks on the importance of characters of color and their role in the show are frequently aided by simply pretending parts of canon don’t exist. For example, in my fandom, Scott is frequently vilified for a single act of perceived hostility towards Derek (the famous Gerard-neck-grab-bite), and it is used as a way to delegitimize him as a main character, ignoring the fact that not only was it a necessary evil to save Derek and those he cared about by disabling the enemy, it was a direct parallel to the very actions that Derek took against Scott previously. For fandom, those actions are dismissed as “yeah, Derek was an asshole, but it was for Scott’s own good” but that same excuse is not sufficient. Or, when the idea that Scott ditched Stiles for Allison continually is used to delegitimize the central relationship of the show, when ditching never happened in the show, but is treated by fandom as if it did.    If you ignore or manipulate canon in order to keep a character of color from being the focus of the show, why shouldn’t I add the tag?

People get rid of canon as a way of dealing with the fact that their white characters are not the center of the story, even though their favorites have important roles.  It’s easier to just get rid of canon rather than let a character of color share the spotlight.  It’s easier to dismiss writing as a ‘trainwreck’ even when that writing gives you the characters you enjoy, and thus delegitimize the whole story because that focuses on a character of color.

I must admit that I have considered that maybe this is all my own perception. Maybe Teen Wolf’s canon is so bad that they have every right to ignore the parts that don’t favor their white faves.

But then, I take a look at other fandoms.  I look at the Star Wars fandom, where the canon has been Death Star-ed as hard as Alderaan in order to celebrate genocidal white fascist man-children.  I look at the Shadowhunters fandom.  I look at the Flash fandom.  I look at the Supergirl fandom.  And another fandom. And another fandom.   And another fandom.

In the words of my favorite show, “three times is a pattern.”  What do you call too many times to count?

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I feel like I have to specify that when I say I hate Reylo I don’t mean people shouldn’t be able to ship whatever the hell they want, because I honestly could not care less. When I say that I hate Reylo what I mean is that there is an extremely vocal and offputting majority in the Reylo fandom that consistently puts forward meta-analysis of Star Wars–and more succinctly, Kylo Ren–that I find abhorrent, disgusting, delusional, and at worst regressive. I also mean, when I say I hate Reylo, that I hate the idea of Reylo being canon, because it would be shitty, stupid, regressive writing if it does.

Ship whatever you want and anyone who’s on you for it probably needs to get a life. But if you start openly advocating for abusive actions to be considered “romantic,” handwaving real critique of the source material, and posting “meta analysis” that’s deeply problematic you should probably be prepared for some backlash.

I do not care what you ship. Go, be free, write your beautiful fic and draw your beautiful fanart. But you can’t tell me not to care about toxicity in fandom and regressive writing in canon.

 

It’s also a sector of fandom that mimics one of the worst traits that fandom can have – the “big name” Reylo bloggers are the arbiters of all info that gets through to their followers about Star Wars, to the point where the Reylo fandom en masse believe things are canon that were literally just made-up fanon, but the BNFs who made it up dig in their heels because admitting that they aren’t all-knowing, or that their “analysis” of SW is insanely biased, would give their followers cause to doubt them and start thinking for themselves, looking at and listening to outside sources.

Reylo, like some other toxic ship fandoms – many of which aren’t even about ships that are themselves toxic! Reylo is, but like, there are toxic ship fandoms based on perfectly benign ships, too – is more about the shippers being venerated than the characters they claim to love. (Their complete disregard for Rey as a human person and protagonist is p much proof of that, but that’s not even the point here.) It isn’t a coincidence that almost every Bad Reylo Meta either was OP by, or based on a meta by, a handful of “in crowd” bloggers, and it DEFINITELY is not a coincidence that Reylos are obsessed with the idea of Being Right and the idea of Casting Out the Other, more than they are about actual fucking Star Wars.

There is a huge aspect of Reylo fandom that, like their OTP, is based on manipulation and gaslighting more than anything to do with actual content, and that’s 100% wrong and also deserves to be called out whenever it’s seen. 

Like, part of why combating Bad Reylo Meta is a thing that needs to be done is not for the characters’ sake, but for the sake of younger and/or more vulnerable fangirls who worship the Big Reylo Bloggers and think that they’re genuinely smarter/more enlightened/“the only ones who really understand.” It’s absolutely fine to make up fanon about your ship. It’s absolutely normal when ships have cliques. I can even understand the normalcy of ship wars, even if I think they’re dumb as soup. But the way that Big Name Reylos rewrite the entire schema of the franchise and twist both SW canon and actual reality wrt the behavior of Kylo Ren – an INTENTIONALLY WRITTEN NEO-NAZI METAPHOR WHOSE FIRST INTERACTION WITH REY WAS STATED BY THE DIRECTOR TO BE A RAPE METAPHOR – is not normal.

It is not normal to care more about “Proving Antis Wrong” than just liking the thing you like. It’s not normal to be so virulently fearful and aggressive towards people who just don’t agree with your fave blogger’s bad meta made up based on nothing. And it’s not normal for a handful of bloggers to have such a stranglehold on not only their followers, but public discussion of the entire fandom.

Almost none of the SWST has actually unfolded, in canon, the way a handful of Big Name Reylos told their fans it did, but their version has spread like flat earth theory. And that’s not a coincidence, either. Batshit conspiracy theory and charismatic leaders who willfully mislead their followers go hand-in-hand.

Make that your Shitty Snoke Theory™. (Who, by the fucking by, DID NOT BRAINWASH KYLE FROM THE WOMB. THAT’S FANON.)

 

Yup. All it took was a couple BNF reylos to say that TLJ made the ship canon (contradicting the movie and everyone else who had seen the movie, even those who thought the force skype stuff was “sexy”), and a disturbingly large number of fans carved it into stone. There are fan spaces not meant to be dedicated reylo shippers spaces where you can not even have a conversation about Star Wars that isn’t centered on Reylo, because so many fans are 100% convinced that the entire trilogy is Kylo’s story and Kylo’s story ONLY, with Rey as an object belonging to him, whose purpose is to redeem him and fuck him. They 100% believe this is how it’s written, and any conversation about the ST that isn’t about Kylo/reylo or anything that can be used to prop it up is irrelevant and off-topic. Which is why talking about Rey’s relationship with Finn is seen as irrelevant to the story (contradicting the canon), but so is talking about Finn as an individual, developed character or speculating about his story independent of Rey.

More to the point, the fandom hyperfocuses on Kylo because he’s the one they can empathize with, even though he’s awful and has done shitty thing after shitty thing to Rey. The intensity of that empathy only spotlights their blatant lack of empathy for Finn, who the fandom by and large aggressively believes is only in the series as a comic relief (not true, even in TLJ, where the clear comic relief was Hux) and general buffoon. That empathy gap is a facet of systemic racism, so I don’t know why fans often hesitate to criticize Kylo Ren’s disproportionate popularity, not as a villain, but as the “real protagonist.”

It’s not only harmful, it drains a lot of the fun of the SW movie fandom, which was never about one character. Fans used to talk about every creature in the Cantina and Jabba’s Palace, every member of the Jedi Council. You could go on about Kit Fisto (a personal favorite from the prequels), and no one would get pissed that you weren’t paying attention to Anakin and Obi-Wan. This isn’t nostalgia, it’s noting the difference in the fandom’s behavior when the films were predominantly white and there was no need to aggressively insist that a white guy was at the center.

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Honestly? i’m pretty sure nazis have infiltrated this fandom. Just straight up.
given all the behaviours and the way they line up I feel this goes way, WAY beyond white prioritization, as disgusting as that behaviour alone is.

 

Nazis haven’t infiltrated the fandom. These are very mainstream attitudes that can be found in every fandom, as well as in irl communities, businesses  and schools. It lets too many people off the hook to imply otherwise.

 

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In my last post on forthcoming films, I forgot to add Crazy Rich Asians. I’m almost as excited about this film as I was about Black Panther because I know how much Asian Americans have been looking forward to this. This is notable because its a  film with a primarily Asian cast,that isn’t about the martial arts, or nerds.

 It looks really cute, but the plot isn’t something to my taste, as I generally dislike romantic comedies, but I probably will watch this at some later date. Ultimately this film  isn’t aimed at me, but I hope everyone likes it. if it does well, we may get more of this type of movie.

 

 

 

 

 

Westworld and Into The Badlands – Season Two Premieres

I watched the season premieres of both shows live, thankfully, as they don’t actually air at the same time. They air back to back, and are immediately followed by Last Week With John Oliver, another news show I have an addiction for. The overriding theme of Into the Badlands wont become explicitly clear until some time mid-season but the overarching plot of Westworld was stated by the characters.

 

Into the Badlands

In the opening sequence The Widow fights Nathaniel Moon to a draw, in order to make him her new Regent, after Waldo and Tilda left her last season. It’s very nice to see Moon actually survived his encounter with Sunny and that he’s back. He was one of my favorite characters from last season, and I hope he gets better treatment this season. He does at least get a new hand, having had the original chopped off by Sunny. He might also  be feeling some type of way about that during the season. To their credit, the writers have acknowledged the mistakes they made with the Black characters last season, and have said they will try to do better. I hope so, as that was one of my main criticisms . (Also, I like that they didn’t give some bullshit excuse for their mistakes.)

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I have a much more solid idea of what The Widow is trying to do this season,  Remember how we said that the basic storyline of the story Jounrey to the West from Chinese lore. Well The Widow’s storyline is also based on Chinese lore, as she is attempting to unify the Badlands all under one rule. We see her standing in front of  the map we saw last season. She and Baron Chau are the only two Baronys left, and her task this season is to bring that Barony under her rule, unify the Badlands and institute social reforms. This is a reference to the Qin Wars that unified China.
I loved the scene where she first meets Moon at a lighthouse. (And can I just point out that it’s still  kinda awesome watching  The Widow kicking ass in her three inch heels. I never get tired of that.) Now Silver Moon has been taking down any headhunters who come after him, and planting their swords in the soil near the lighthouse. At first he thinks The Widow is just another bounty hunter, and the two of them fight all the way up the stairs of the lighthouse. There’s a lot of flight in these scenes, and the Western mind is prone to think of the ability to fly as a sign of the goodness of the person doing it. Since both the Widow and Moon are very gray characters, their ability to fly is not an indication of their morality, but of the purity of their resolve, and the conviction of their beliefs. Sometimes the ability to fly  indicates that a person strongly believes whatever they believe.

This is not a fight to determine the rightness of a certain point of view, as the two of them have just met and have no past history to fight about. The two of them also fight to a draw, with Moon proving that he would make an excellent Regent for The Widow. We start to get a better idea of her ambitions for the future of the Badlands, and although I’m still mad at her for her shitty behavior last season, I’m actually agreeable with her ultimate goal. With the Badlands unified, they can much better fend off any rivals for power from outside the Badlands, like Pilgrim, (although we’re not certain how good or bad that character is yet.)

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Qin’s wars of unification were a series of military campaigns launched in the late 3rd century BC by the Qin state against the other six major states — HanZhaoYanWeiChuand Qi — within the territories that formed modern China. By the end of the wars in 221 BC, Qin had unified most of the states and occupied some lands south of the Yangtze River. The territories conquered by Qin served as the foundation of the Qin dynasty.

So while  I don’t know how to feel about The Widow, right now, I find that I do still believe in her goals, but find  her methods  deeply questionable. She is still holding MK prisoner in her mansion, as the two of them try to find a way to re-introduce him to his superpowers. MK has become a  suicidal  opium addict, and this is probably going to have some type of effect on his abilities. I still like him though, as he’s full of piss and vinegar towards her, giving zero fucks about her feelings. This is a gorgeously shot scene,  as slow motion  clouds of smoke pour out of MK’s nose, giving it a very forties film noir feel, picture Rachel’s Voight-Kampff interview in Bladerunner.

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There are a lot more blues and purples this season, (along with more jewel tones in general). I love the color compositions in this show. The creators put some real thought into it.

Bajie has also returned, having not actually died last season in the tower. Unfortunately, his rogue-like manner has not changed, and he continues to get himself in trouble, becoming prisoner to yet another group of people. Tilda first saves him by accident, and later in the episode, he is saved from execution by Sunny. I’d say Bajie is more trouble than he’s worth, but I like him, and he’s  a font of useful information on the goings on outside the Badlands, and one of this show’s few sources of humor. Oh, yeah, he’s also possibly responsible for bringing Pilgrim and Cressida to the Badlands, as the signal he sent  out into the world in the last episode has now, seemingly been answered.

Tilda has adopted a kind of Robin Hood persona, that she uses to procure goods, and people, for Lydia, who runs a refugee camp for people displaced by the war, and this is where Bajie, Lydia, and Sunny meet. According to Bajie, its been six months since Quinn’s death.

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Pilgrim and Cressida arrive through the massive gate that we saw separating the Badlands from the rest of the country. They approach one of the forts manned by Baron Chau’s people ,who are easily defeated by the two black eyed ,super powered teenagers who work for him.Pilgrim’s intent is to rule the Badlands, as he believes himself to be a kind of prophet. Cressida seems to perform much the same function for Pilgrim that a Regent does for a Baron. She offers him advice and support in his endeavors. This is an intriguing role for one of the few Black women in the show.  (I hope to see the Abbess from last season, played by Chipo Chung.)

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As for Sunny, all of his concentration is on Henry. He has gone into hiding to raise his son, and there’s a very Lone Wolf and Cub vibe\ there There are still people looking for Sunny, and he finds that it will be impossible for him to stop killing, because now he has to protect Henry from harm. When Henry develops a fever one morning, he takes him to see a healer who discovers that the child is one of the black-eyed super powered people randomly populating the Badlands.

One of the major themes this season may be people finding out about Henry, and trying to kidnap him, along with The Widow and Baron Chau’s war. Last season we saw Sunny coming to terms with his former life as a Clipper, but as Moon told him in the second episode. there’s always going to be people who want to challenge him, and make a name for them self, by killing the most legendary Clipper in the Badlands.

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Westworld

Here’s the very funny Vulture review of this episode:

http://www.vulture.com/2018/04/westworld-season-2-premiere-questions.html

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We pick up the show two weeks after Ford’s murder by Dolores, and  the massacre of the Delos Board in the park. We get introduced to new people, re-introduced to all the major characters again, and we get to see what they’ve been doing since the event. Apparently Ashley Stubbs was not killed by the Natives, which is what we all thought happened, although frankly I would not be shocked to discover that Ford took Ashley’s competence into account, and had him duplicated as a Host. What better person to have in charge of security than someone you can totally control, just like Bernard.

The episode moves aback and forth in time from the immediate aftermath ’til two weeks out. Two weeks later Bernard is found lying on a beach in the park by soldiers, who have been called in to investigate what happened, and subdue the Hosts. The rest of the episode is about events leading up to when Bernard was found on the beach.

Directly after the massacre Dolores and the other Hosts are hunting down any and all humans in the park and taking great satisfaction in executing them. I found myself unable to feel an ounce of sympathy for the humans they shot and in some cases lynched. Dolores wants revenge for all the atrocities committed against the Hosts by the Guests, and the slave/revenge allegory is made explicitly clear, when she references human slavery. It is an all out war between the humans and the Hosts.

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I can’t help but feel some type of way considering that the Hosts were treated by human beings in the same manner that Black Americans were treated by White people for some three hundred years (and seem reluctant to give up.) Dolores words are an echo of a post I wrote, about how the first season of the show specifically references real world slavery. (For the record, the show is written by an Asian American woman, Lisa Joy, and Jonathan Nolan, the brother of Christopher Nolan. Previously, Joy worked on the shows Burn Notice and Pushing Daisies.)

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/westworld-revisiting-the-slave-narrative/

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

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When we last saw Maeve she made the decision to go back for her daughter. To that end, she teams up with Lee, the hack writer for Westworld, and he immediately tries to betray her to the security team, stalking the halls of the Delos Corporation, hunting down stray Hosts.I’m all for her killing him, and I guess the show must have some purpose for him, as he’s still around. Maeve gets reunited with Hector who forgives her for leaving him. He vows to follow her no matter where she goes. Remember Maeve’s name means “to enchant”, and she seems to have definitely had that effect on Hector.

Bernard in the aftermath of the massacre, is in the company of Charlotte Hale. He’s suffering from some type of corruption of his system programming, and is desperately trying to keep that a  secret from Charlotte. Charlotte must find the Host in which she secreted a special code last season, if she expects to be rescued from the park.

When Bernard is found on the beach, he isn’t very forthcoming about what has happened in the park. Later he and the military come across the bodies of dozens of  Hosts who have drowned in a previously unknown lake in the park. Bernard admits he may be responsible for what happened to them, and his time with Charlotte may be the key, because by the time he’s been found on the beach, Charlotte is nowhere to be found, but since the military is there to rescue what guests are left alive, we can assume her mission was successful.

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Dolores ambitions involve more than simply freeing the Hosts from one park, she intends to free all the Hosts from all the parks. To that end we may get to visit the other four parks, which consist of Samurai World, Future World, Medieval World, and possibly Roman World.

The Man in Black is in heaven as he has finally gotten exactly what he wanted from the park. he wanted the stakes to be higher, to actually have some skin in the game. he is enjoined by Robert Ford’s little boy avatar to a new mission. To try to make it to the other end of the park alive.

So not a whole lot happened beyond introducing the two major character arcs for the season: Dolores ambition to free all the Hosts, and Maeve’s search for her daughter. The two of them have not yet met, and I’m looking forward to that. I will be disappointed if they are written in a stereotypical female manner of rivals and enemies, but there is a woman helping to write these characters, and she has shown so ability to think from an inter-sectional standpoint, so I feel hopeful she may get that right.

I love stories of Westerners  in Japan, so I’m really looking forward to when Maeve gets to visit Samurai World.

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Forthcoming Movies 2018

Hey there! Here’s my list of movie trailers  I found interesting for this Summer (and one in Oct.). I left out some of the biggies, like Jurassic World, and Infinity War, although my Mom and I do have plans to see those. I know for sure I’m going to see Deadpool and The Incredibles. I’m less certain about The Cured, and Upgrade, but I still liked the trailers.

Deadpool 2

I will probably go see this movie alone, becasue I’m not sure its entirely appropriate for a 13 year old niece. or watching it with my Mom. I don’t think she wants to see this anyway. I was a bit dubious, at first, about Zazie Beetz as Domino. I only knew her from the show Atlanta, and Domino is a White woman in the comic books. I didn’t know if her character would be anything like the comic book version, but she looks great here. I’m not a big fan of Cable from the comic books, but Terry Crews is in this and I just can’t resist seeing him on the big screen, and I genuinely like Ryan Reynolds, who seems to have found his perfect role.The movie also just looks like a helluva lot of fun.

 

Incredibles 2

The first movie is, hands down, one of my all-time favorite Disney movies, so yeah, the Potato and I are going to see this. I like that Frozone is playing a slightly larger role in this one, and that it’s  Elastigirl who gets to take center screen. I loved her relationship with Edna in the first movie, and of course I’m glad to see more of Edna, and the Baby.

 

Venom

I do plan to go see this. I don’t know that I will see it, but I plan to. It looks disgusting, btw. I have a thing about sentient snot, so this plays as a horror movie for me. Plus despite some other people’s inexplicable distaste for Tom Hardy, I actually really like the guy and won’t miss a chance to see him onscreen.

I’ve read maybe three or four graphic novels about Venom, and I did read the  origin story,  from the first Secret Wars books, when it attached itself to Spiderman. I’d say this is a pretty faithful rendition of the monster. Although, I suppose now in the comic books Venom is more accurately called an anti-hero.

 

Upgrade

I was deeply confused when I first saw this trailer, becasuse the guy in this movie looks suspiciously like Tom Hardy. In fact, I still want to see Tom hardy when I look at him, even knowing for sure that it’s not him. It turns out he’s the asshole who  gets killed by The Vulture in Spiderman: Homecoming.

I see this as a kind of superhero type movie. The one drawback I have is the vigilante angle, where his wife, or his girlfriend, gets fridged, and he responds by beating up some Black guys, and this is supposed to be funny, I guess. (Not when  I can watch Black guys get beat up by the police, for free, on the internet, without the one liners.)

On the other hand I like movies where people transform into other things, so I’ll check it out at some point, but probably not in the theater though.

 

The Meg

My Mom and I already made plans to see this because Hey! giant shark! I despair of her ever getting out of her Sharknado addiction, and gong to see this with her may be enabling, but I’m gonna do it. I know she’ll love it. I am surprised that she knows who Jason Statham is though, and when I asked her about it, she said she saw him in The Transporter. I find it less disturbing that she knows who he is, than that she sat all the way through The Transporter.

 

Equalizer 2

I have tried to get my Mom to watch the first movie but so far, no luck. I did like the first movie but I could have done without the sex worker angle, which seems to be a staple of these type of vigilante rescue movies. Denzel does a really good job of playing an older, retired man, who is just tired of killing, but keeps having to do it, because people need help.

I feel like not enough people realize that this  movie is based on a TV show. I remember watching a few episodes as a teenager. The main character was played by an older White man, and I feel like the only way they got away with race-bendng this character, is not  many people know about the TV show and, of course, its Denzel.

 

The Cured

I think there was a British TV show loosely based on the concept of zombies who have been reclaimed, or cured, and are being slowly integrated back into society. This looks much more intriguing than that show.

Weekend Reading (On Gender And Race)

Here’s a roundup of some of the articles I’ve been  reading about gender related issues regarding Race and Intersectionality. 

*The first one is about how oppressed people are required to do the emotional labor of teaching their oppressors what oppression is, and  how not to do that.

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https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a19480416/women-changing-mens-minds-feminism-steven-crowder/

Audre Lorde perhaps put this best when she wrote, “Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.”

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*On how movies about Black pain are only viewed by White audiences as a substitute for the actual work of eliminating White Supremacy, and how Black lives would be better served, if we stopped using up all our energy on appealing to White people to actually care about their fellow human beings.

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http://blackyouthproject.com/the-stories-of-our-struggles-are-not-for-white-people-to-consume-in-an-effort-to-do-better/

Think of all the possibilities that exist should we invest in one another and divest entirely from the practice of curating white “empathy”

-@arielle_newton

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  *Feminism is not about liking other women, and supporting  their bullshit, no matter what. That’s not the definition. If you call yourself a feminist and you hold some shitty non-intersectional views, or are just a moron, you’re going to get called on it.
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Because feminism does not dictate that you are required to like every stupid woman you encounter. Feminism isn’t a hot air balloon designed to lift already privileged ladies to new joyful heights. Those women are thinking of “girl power” or “bootyliciousness” or “domestic feminism”—some other term that was intended to act as a milquetoast substitute for actual feminism.

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*In this review of Get Out, the author discuses Black people’s reactions to  danger in movies, vs White people’s reactions to the danger.

 

Well, Too Bad We Can’t Stay

As I write this review, it has been five years since the horrific and cold-blooded murder of Trayvon Martin. When a car ominously pulls up alongside André and stops, we — people of color and horror fans — collectively hold our breath because we recognize the signal for danger. But for white audiences, that frisson is the delicious fear of the unknown. For POC, it’s precisely the opposite — the threat we see is all too well-known. It’s for that reason that Andre’s abrupt turnaround with a “No. Not today. You know how they be doing motherfuckers out here!” is so satisfying.

 

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*Til this point, I have largely been ignoring The Purge films ,because the first movie was such a poorly executed idea, that I couldn’t get past that. But now, the movies are starting to explicitly address the gender, class, and racial issues that I found dis-satisfyingly absent from that first movie.

In The First Purge we are given the racialialized backstory of the first three movies. The Purge movies turn out to be  not so much about purging society’s urge to commit evil, as it is about rich White people purging society of  marginalized  people.

Here, in this review of The Purge Anarchy, some of the details of this world are fleshed out a bit more, and they are, quite frankly, horrifying.

http://efbresearch.blogspot.com/2014/08/race-and-class-in-purge-anarchy.html

Both of these scenes highlight for me the interrelationship between class and race and the exploitative powers of a system that only reifies the lasting order and undervalues the lives of poor and minority bodies. In this film, both the rich and the government specifically target and kill blacks, the homeless, deviants, and youth in an attempt to eradicate and “purge” the society of perceived evils. This movie asks us all to reflect on who is in power, what oppressive acts are they committing, and who does society really serve. Both the murderers and the white families who can afford to lock up and hide are complicit in the exploitation and eradication of people deemed unworthy of life… Who gets to define who is worthy of life? Who gets to define how punishment is laid out? Who is in control of our streets, our livelihoods, our identities as targets or as civilians?

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  *The abuse of Asian women in popular media continues. I really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy 2 , a lot, but what I couldn’t get behind, was the treatment of Mantis. It was just wrong. I know the writers thought it was funny, but that’s how I know there were no Asian people in the writing room, because they would have pointed out what the constant abuse, of this stereotypically submissive Asian woman, looked like. for the record,  I loved the character, because she’s just really sweet, but her treatment by the other characters made me very, very, uncomfortable.  
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 There are also other issues with how Asians are portrayed in media. First, if seen at all, Asian characters are almost either Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Indian. There are forty-eight different countries in Asia, so it is unfair and inaccurate to assume that all Asians are east Asians or Indian. Next, as Thai-American actor Pun Bandhu stated about Asian characters portrayed, “We’re the information givers. We’re the geeks. We’re the prostitutes. We’re so sick and tired of seeing ourselves in those roles.” Asians are associated with certain roles, so as a result, it is very hard to see change in the roles Asians play.
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There is no nuanced relationship between Ego and Mantis — just a master who demands his servant ease his pain of loneliness by helping him fall asleep. She dutifully does as she’s asked, because she does not know that there is another way of life.
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Mantis’s journey to joining the Guardians can be credited mostly to her “friendship” with a character who takes advantage of her innocence. Although Drax protects her from physical harm and Mantis helps Drax to access his buried pain about his lost wife and children, it isn’t enough to lessen the impact of his verbal abuse. Mantis’s past is a blank slate: She is an orphan, possibly the last survivor of her race, trained to be the companion and servant of Ego…Ego’s evil “expansion” plan is imperialistic, only adding to the subtext that Mantis is a colonized figure and one of his first casualties. She is educated by him, molded into, as she puts it, “a flea with a purpose.” Much of her character in the film is centered around her subordination; even though part of her storyline is breaking free from Ego’s control, that her friendship with Drax—the relationship that incites her rebellion against Ego—is built upon him insulting her isn’t much healthier.

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*Another invisible thing in movies, is how different types of characters talk, and what they talk about, based on race. I thought this article was fascinating, and I’m surprised that someone tracked this, because it never occurred to me that characters of different races talk about different things, and that what they talk about adheres so closely to stereotypes about that race!

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They found that the language used by female characters tended to be more positive, emotional and related to family values, while the language used by male characters was more closely linked to achievement. African-American characters were more likely to use swear words, and Latino characters were more apt to use words related to sexuality. Older characters, meanwhile, were more likely to discuss religion.

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*I’m a little dubious about reading this book because I don’t know if WoC will be characters, and how they’ll be treated. Since this book is written by a White woman, I’m  pretty sure that the treatment of men of color, by White women, who now have the power to harm them, is not going to be addressed, and for some reason that makes me very nervous about reading it.

White authors have a very long history of not addressing White racial resentment, or including it as a factor, in  fantasy and science fiction narratives. White feminists generally never mention it at all. This book references male oppression but White feminism refuse to acknowledge that men of color are not the ones oppressing White women, and in fact it is White women who already hold the power in that dynamic. I’m also certain that the point of view of Black women (who actually are oppressed by men of color) won’t be addressed either.

From the many reviews I’ve read, the book does address power imbalances, and how the women who are now in potions of power, simply replicate the old power dynamics that men created, bullying, torturing, and killing others. It is not mentioned if the women fight among themselves, since women are not a monolith, and even now, there are women who will fight to uphold  patriarchal systems. I do not know if transgender women, (or people who identify as non-binary) are taken into account in the story.

http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/02/26/imagining-violence-the-power-of-feminist-fantasy/

Rage and the desire for revenge against male oppressors, however, has emerged in women’s dystopian writing during periods of feminist protest and uprising. We can see it during the first wave of the suffrage movement. Inez Haynes Gillmore, an American writer and suffragist, wrote, “When the first militant in England threw the first brick my heart flew with it. Thereafter I was a firm believer in militant tactics.” In principle, Gillmore believed, militant women should use the actions that had always worked for men: “rebellion and violence.” Yet she was also thinking about suicide as a suffragist tactic in practice:

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http://blackyouthproject.com/feminist-triumph-action-thrillers-always-white-women/

Here we are now, in the wake of Wonder Woman, and we find ourselves amidst these familiar conversations once again, and once again we are reminded that feminist realizations in major U.S. action films thus far have largely been for and about white women…

…And the ease with which Wonder Woman fans are able to ignore healthy critiques of the film and its star reflects how mainstream feminism and feminist solidarity have always been for and about white women.

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*I’m a big fan of Kim Coles, both as an actress and a comedian, and it was a lot of fun to read this interview, so many years after her star turn in the show Living Single.

https://theundefeated.com/features/90s-token-black-actors-phil-morris-bianca-lawson-kim-coles/

… in the 1990s, the wealth of black representation on television could lull you into thinking (if you turned the channel from Rodney King taking more than 50 blows from Los Angeles Police Department batons) that black lives actually did matter. But almost all of these shows were, in varying ways, an extension of segregated America. It’s there in the memories of the stars below: There were “black shows” and there were “white shows.” If you were a black actor appearing on a white show, you were usually alone.

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https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/film-tv/a12022020/how-women-of-color-portrayed-tv-film/

A diverse writers’ rooms matter as much as the show’s cast. It is imperative that we continue to critique both the shows and movies we love until they properly reflect the world we are living in—and the people who live in this world. The fictional characters I love shouldn’t have to eclipse their sun to shine.

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*The styles of oppression and stereotype faced by White and Black women are just different. so we require different ways of addressing them.

https://thenerdsofcolor.org/2016/09/26/why-it-matters-when-women-of-color-play-love-interests/

Women of color have emphatically not been flooded with images of being treated as princesses and beloved love interests. The emotionally resilient, invulnerable, no-nonsense woman is all we are often allowed to be in media. We’re used to seeing roles where the women of color are expected to stare death and torment in the face with nary a single tear shed. We’re used to being expected to shoulder some great burden with no complaint. We often see ourselves play stoic bodyguards, hardened leaders, and calculating assassins who will do whatever it takes to survive. Rarely do women of color — particularly Black women — get to see themselves portrayed as precious, beautiful, and in need of protection. Rarely do we see films where we aren’t automatically expected to save ourselves.

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*Michael Burnham, of Star Trek Discovery, has become my new favorite hero.

https://mediadiversified.org/2018/03/06/normalising-black-women-as-heroes-star-trek-discovery-as-groundbreaking/

Discovery normalizes a black female hero in space. Evading the extremes of paragon and pariah, the show gives us a nuanced figure and places her at the very centre of the story. Few SF shows have ever tried to do this. The only example that comes to mind is the short-lived Extant, which also aired on CBS. But Extant was never really a space show and it never gained traction with audiences. So until Discovery came along, the primary model for black women in space (even empowered black women) was a sidekick. Shows like Doctor Who, Firefly, and Battlestar Galactica include wonderful black female characters but always as secondary players. By casting a black woman as the lead, Discovery is unprecedented in the Star Trek franchise and extraordinary for SF television.

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*An interview with the Author of Where No Black Woman Has Gone Before, discussing how WoC are treated in science fiction media.

As an associate professor of English at Denison University, Diana Adesola Mafe makes her stride in the resistance where she teaches courses in postcolonial, gender, and Black studies. Her newest published endeavor is described to include “in-depth explorations of six contemporary American and British films and shows, this pioneering volume spotlights Black female characters who play central, subversive roles in science fiction, fantasy, and horror.” We were able to steal her away for a moment from her busy schedule where she is currently teaching a few classes to pick her brain about Where No Black Woman Has Gone Before and how it came to be.

Black Nerd Problems: Diana, thank you so much for making time in your busy schedule for us! First things first, presentation is everything. I love the book cover art and the title! The cover features a Black woman in a sci-fi type setting, centered in the middle of it all. I’m a visual learner so this image speaks to me before I even read a single page. Centering a Black woman is a very deliberate step in analyzing different collective portrayals of Black women especially when we are subjected to not being a leading lady in many mainstream projects. And it doesn’t go over my head that she’s a beautiful dark skinned Black woman, as European beauty standards have really amped up colorism. What input did you have on your cover and why was imperative to have imagery that aligns with who you are and your book’s content?

Diana Mafe: I’m so glad you mention the book cover! Despite the old adage about not judging books by their covers, book covers are an entry point to a text (much like titles) and they can send a powerful message even before you flip to the first page. I’m pleased to say that I had considerable input on the cover, which speaks to the flexibility of the University of Texas Press. I chose the image and filled out a questionnaire that allowed me to weigh in on things like design and color.

I remember spending several afternoons and evenings combing through online images in an attempt to find something that captured the spirit of the book. This meant doing keyword searches by combining terms like “Black women,” “science fiction,” “space,” “superhero,” “Afrofuturism,” and so on. Eventually, I happened upon a photograph of a black female Iron Man as portrayed by the Liberian model Deddeh Howard. As soon as I saw it, I thought, that’s it—that’s the cover. Having a Black woman literally front and center is important because that, in many ways, is the point of the book. To do otherwise would (ironically) perpetuate the very erasure of black women that I’m trying to interrogate.

BNP: I’m also very much in my fangirl feels because I’m assuming your title, “Where No Black Woman Has Gone Before” is a nod to Star Trek’s “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. Granted your introduction is titled, “To Boldly Go” and you mention Nichelle Nichol’s pioneering Lt. Uhura as one of few early gateway representations of Black women.

I think this is totally appropriate as stunningly revolutionary as her presence was (and how rightfully she is an icon), I love how you also dig in deeper critically and mention the shortcomings of Star Trek to her character. In your final chapter, you dutifully return to Uhura’s more recent portrayal in the rebooted Star Trekfilms. I really like how you come back to speaking about the male gaze regarding Uhura, especially in her newer portrayal. How do you think this critique can serve as food for thought for Uhura’s next portrayal in the future whenever that happens?

 

DM: Your assumption about the title is correct—a definite nod to Star Trek. The same goes for subtitles like “To Boldly Go” and “Final Frontiers.” Because Nichelle Nichols’s Uhura is such a pioneering figure, the first Black female science fiction icon, it was appropriate to begin and end the book with her character. And since she has been rebooted in the new millennium, her character offers some insight into how far we have come in terms of black female representation onscreen.

But as I discuss in the book’s conclusion, the “new” Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is not especially radical. The Eurocentrism and phallocentrism of the original show carries over into the reboots. Of course, there are understandable limits to rebooting classic science fiction television and cinema—if you change the original too much, it becomes unrecognizable and thus defeats the point. So along with returning to and revamping classic narratives that we love, we also need to continue imagining entirely new narratives in which old molds are not merely stretched but broken.

For Uhura, that means more screen time, more dialogue, and more agency. The key is to preserve this beloved Black female character without also preserving her constraints. At the same time, it’s vital that shows like Star Trek create fresh characters. Here, the franchise has made a “giant leap for Black womankind” (I couldn’t resist one last space cliché) by debuting Star Trek: Discovery, which gives us Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), the first Black female lead in Star Trek history.

Read on here[x]

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And just because these are hella cute! Shuri would definitely be Bubbles, while Okoye would be Buttercup.

Just Geeking Out About It!

 

This is just a fun post where I can geek out about some of the shows I’ve been watching. I have been watching shows, but haven’t been posting many reviews about them, and then there are the shows I’m greatly looking forward to this month, such as, Into the Badlands, which looks awesome as always, and Westworld, which, naturally, airs the exact same night, and time ,as Badlands.

Later this week will see the airing of Orbiter 9 on Netflix, a Scifi love story of some kind, which I may or may not care for; Troy: Fall of a City, yet another retelling of the legend of Troy; the return of The Expanse, in its 3rd season (one day I’m actually going to watch this show); and the remake of Lost in Space, about which I feel some type of way, since I didn’t particularly care for the movie remake, and there’s a random, token Black woman attached to this cast, which feels kinda weird.

This week I’m also  watching  Black Lightning, The Crossing (this is new), Siren ( I have a lot of good things to say about this ),  and The Terror.

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* Introducing: Thunder
AKA Anissa Pierce, the daughter of Jefferson Pierce, who is also known as Black Lightning. Thunder has the ability to increase her body’s mass while preserving volume, which effectively increases her density. In this state she is near-immovable, almost completely invulnerable. A mob enforcer once suffered a compound fracture after trying to punch Thunder in the face. Notably, she can make her skin strong enough to withstand bullets. Just by stomping the ground she can create massive shockwaves. —Wikipedia
She is also the ONLY out, gay, Black, female superhero, in the entirety of the DCEU (and the MCU, too.)
 
Oldest daughter Anissa is a medical student, activist and part-time teacher at Garfield who is fed up with police brutality and corrupt gangs. She takes a hands-on approach to dangerous situations and reminds her father that little has changed despite years of Black peaceful protest. Every MLK and Fannie Lou Hamer quote from Jefferson is met with Anissa’s rebuttals about everyone being “sick and tired” of no results. She’s the quintessential older sister—a bit overbearing and fiercely protective of her younger sibling Jennifer. Their relationship can be argumentative, but there is love and respect amongst the pair. 

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*Siren

 You have to watch this show just for the novelty of seeing the only Black mermaid in existence. (More on this show later.) Siren airs on the Freeform network, on Thursdays.

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 *The new season of Into the Badlands looks tight! The creators have promised that the world is going to get a lot bigger this year. We’ll see more of the Badlands, and the areas outside the Badlands as well.
This is Pilgrim and Cressida, who have come to bring the Badlands to heel, by force, if necessary.
This is Baron Chau’s brother played by Lewis Tan.
Aramis Knight returns a M.K.
Tilda is on her won this season, having separated from her mother.
Sherman Augustus returns as Nathaniel Moon, now in the employ of The Widow.
Ella-Rae Smith is a very powerful young woman who was adopted by, and is working for Pilgrim.
 Baron Chau returns and kicks off the war in the Badlands.

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*Let’s have a Grace Jones Interlude, just because…

Here she is from the 1987 movie Vamp, where she plays the almost totally silent, Queen Katrina, whose circumstance have been reduced to working in as a stripper, in a divebar, in the red light district, of some unnamed city.

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*Troy: Fall of a City is not getting good reviews, but that may have something to do with its depiction of Zeus, Achilles, and Patroclus as Black men (something I’m here for). The show is also doing something else rather radical, by showing Achilles and Patroclus as lovers, as had been alluded to in Homer’s Iliad. So, we have a canon gay, Black, male relationship in this show.

Now that television has starting pushing for diversity in all manner of roles, we’re seeing that Samuel R. Delaney’s Quota Rule has begun to kick in.

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

As long as poc numbers remained below a certain level ,white people seem to be okay with that, and can claim there is no racism is such and such industry. But once poc start starring in unconventional roles, roles their not used to seeing us in, and/or actually being the stars of shows and movies, they’re going to start showing their whole ass. (Not half their ass.  Not a quarter of their ass. But the whole ass.)

This era of pushback is not going to be over soon. We have an entire generation of people who are only used to seeing us serve the needs of White people in the narrative, as sidekicks, main character support, and the help. They need to get used to seeing us doing other things, and being in the narrative just for ourselves,with our own stories. (Black Panther is a huge leap in that direction.)

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 13/02/2018 - Programme Name: Troy - Fall of a City - TX: n/a - Episode: Troy - Fall of a City episode 1 (No. 1) - Picture Shows:  Zeus (HAKEEM KAE-KAZIM) - (C) Wild Mercury Productions - Photographer: Patrick Toselli BBC, TL

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*I love this interview with the actor who plays Zeus in this show. Unlike American actors, British actors, as a general rule, have zero fucks to give, and absolutely no patience, for foolishness and stupidity, from movie and TV show fans, and do not mince words when interacting with them and  I find that refreshing.

http://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2018-03-10/troy-fall-of-a-citys-hakeem-kae-kazim-calls-out-deep-insecurity-of-blackwashing-critics/

 

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And on a more serious note

On TV’s return to nostalgia for shows of the 90s, only the show’s are specifically about White people. Notice that none of the dozens of shows about PoC, that were hugely popular during that time, are getting reboots.

The ‘90s were a heyday for black sitcoms, but you wouldn’t know it based on the reboots and revivals currently in development.

No one can blame A-lister Will Smith for ruling out a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion or Jaleel White for his disinterest in donning Sally Jessy Raphael frames once more in a Family Matters comeback. But why aren’t we reading about deals to bring groundbreaking, fondly remembered hits like MartinLiving SingleA Different WorldSister, Sister and countless other beloved black comedies back to the air? A few breakout stars — like Smith, Queen Latifah and Tracee Ellis Ross (whose beloved Girlfriends just missed the ‘90s cut-off date by debuting in 2000) — are keeping busy, but most cast members are not. So the time has come to ask: Is there something problematic in the industry’s embrace of Roseanne, Will & Grace and The X-Files, but not the iconic black sitcoms that also made the Clinton years an exhilarating time of experimentation and representation?

Given that TV’s nostalgia projects now number in the dozens, it’s worth asking if the trend has yielded any unintended consequences. The intended ones are evident enough. Netflix has generated staggering amounts of press — and apparently pleased many a viewer — by footing the bill for new seasons of Arrested DevelopmentGilmore Girls and Full House (now Fuller House). Twin Peaks: The Return seemingly inspired more think pieces than any other series in Showtime history. And Will & Grace and The X-Files’ attempts to retake their perches atop pop culture were met with much hoopla and huge ratings, at least for their premiere episodes.

But it’s hard not to interpret the current iteration of nostalgic programming as a backlash to TV’s increasing diversity — a throwback to the days of Friends and Frasier when people joked that “NBC” stood for “No Black Characters.” Yes, these reboots and revivals comprise only a handful of the hundreds of scripted shows on the air, but many of them tend to be TV’s highest-profile projects. The fact that, in their totality, they inadvertently re-entrench the normalcy of all-white casts while erasing women of color and queer people is notable and worrisome.

[…]

There’s no denying that spending time with old friends feels good. But it’s also important to observe how the past is being misremembered now, and why. Some ‘90s stars are collecting paychecks again, while others are not. Certain families are presented once more as “all-American,” while others are not. There are those who have the luxury of remembering the past fondly, and those who do not. Never has it been clearer that our nostalgia has consequences.

But it’s important to remember that sometimes our memories fail us, and that our ’90s friends — except for the ones on Friends — never looked as monochromatic as TV is telling us they were.

Read more

#Metoo Issues and the White Male Panic About False Accusations

*Warning for graphic images of lynching.Image result for paragraph dividersThis is one of those conversations that is not being had in mainstream media, and I don’t ever expect that, considering who owns the media. The idea that maybe there’s a reason White men are panicking about being falsely accused of sexual assault. Would that reason have anything to do with being participants in the false accusations against men of color? White man after White man has written article, after article, and endless op-eds, calling for the end of this movement, praising the backlash against it, and calling it an extremist movement that seeks to destroy all men.

 

From a historical perspective, it is only men of color who can have a this legitimate complaint against this movement, but they don’t own the newspapers which keep printing op-eds about the movements destruction, or own the media conglomerates that give air time to White men in a panic over whether or not they will face accusations from some virulently  man-hating contingent of women.

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For decades now, White men have witnessed (and been participatory in) the vigilante attacks that occurred  whenever  a Black or Brown man was accused of rape or sexual assault, by a White woman. They have been the strongest advocates for the incarceration, terrorizing, and brutal killings of Black and Brown men, simply for the crime of existing near the White women, over whom they claimed ownership. Do they really think they’re going to be on the receiving end of such behavior from women, or are they just protecting the “good name” of those who have historically been the perpetrators of sexual assault against everyone: Black men and women, White men and women and  children, both girls and boys?

The Real Reason Why We Can’t Just Believe All Women

Carolyn Bryant. It’s a name everyone should know.

To know her story is to know why women of color do not have the luxury to just #BelieveWomen without question. To know her name is to know that we live in a world where sexual assault is both real and politically weaponized. To know her name is to know that the boundaries of sexual morality are drawn so that white men are able to claim that all accusations made against them are false, while simultaneously asserting that no accusation made against a person of color go unpunished.

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The #metoo movement was started by a Black woman named Tarana Burke, but has slowly been taken over by White women in Hollywood, like Rose McGowan, who has promoted herself as a spokesperson for it. A lot of the people standing up for this movement are White privileged actresses. I can’t help but see in them the kind of women who, historically, have most benefited from lobbing false accusations of rape at men of color, to cover for the  assaults perpetrated against them by White men, in order to protect them, or to cover up their own duplicitous behavior.

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Its also exceedingly precious to me that White men are in such a clear panic about being falsely accused of rape and sexual assault, since historically, those men have been the ones most likely to have engaged in it, while laying the burden of that  sin onto the backs of Black and Brown men. I’m not claiming that Black and Brown men never commit sexual assault, but that it is White men who created the racist stereotype  that they’re the only ones who do.

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https://thedailybanter.com/2018/03/white-lies-matter-when-black-men-are-falsely-accused-of-rape/

One of the many horrors of American racism has been the persistent effort to criminalize black men and the convenient utilization of this racial narrative by some white women to cover up their personal failings or to incite white male rage… Texas is the latest example of a white woman inexcusably putting black men’s lives at risk for violent retribution, incarceration or death.

According to a hundred years of popular media, at least since the release of D.W. Griffiths Birth of a Nation in 1915,  it is only Black and Brown men (and Indigenous men) who are willing, and capable of the sexual assault and rape of White women. Naturally, Black and Brown women, Asian women, indigenous women, transgender women, they’re victimization isn’t considered in this discourse, because they do not matter to such men.

http://melanoidnation.org/while-we-are-discussing-cosbycan-we-also-talk-about-all-the-black-womenraped-by-white-men/

They are considered, by the White men who rape and assault them with impunity, to be un-rape-able, because of convenient stereotypes that have been created about them, by White men. These stereotypes, and accusations, that Black women are hypersexual, Asian women are submissive, Latinas are hot and spicy (and all these women are just begging for it) has regularly been espoused by a White male owned media, in movies, TV shows, books, and song, in order to absolve White men of their sexual improprieties towards them. (It is also interesting to note that the stereotype of the “Angry Black Woman”  has reached popular prominence only after the prolonged period, from the 70s onward, in which Black women felt they could sexually refuse White men.)

Image result for white men and rape

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5723655/

https://spssi.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/josi.12248

According to mainstream media, no crime is too awful, too atrocious, or too heinous, for a Black man to commit. And the prevailing thought is that once a man of color has been accused that he should be thoroughly punished for it. Such is not the case with White men, who have developed a variety of  strategies to help them escape the consequences of any crimes they commit.

https://theundefeated.com/features/being-black-in-a-world-where-white-lies-matter/

Whether it’s a woman in Michigan falsely claiming that a group of black men kidnapped, beat and raped her; another woman claiming a black man kidnapped her 3-year-old and 14-month-old sons(whom she actually killed); the infamous Amanda Knox accusing a black man of the heinous murder she was initially convicted of; or even a man claiming that black men stabbed his wife to death (whom he actually killed). In each instance, the initial story was believable because of the troubling belief that a black man is capable of such a thing.

White men have lead a very successful propaganda campaign of equating rape and sexual assault with Black and Brown men, and the mainstream media has always aided and abetted this, since it is, in fact, owned by White men, who have a vested interest in not having their race be equated with any of the criminal sexual behavior in which they have historically  engaged.

https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2015/04/09/racial-bias-and-media-coverage-of-violent-crime/

Where does the cognitive belief that black people are dangerous come from?

Partly, it comes from the media. A new study by Color of Change found that, while 51% of the people arrested for violent crime in New York City are black, 75% of the news reports about such arrests highlighted black alleged perpetrators.

Image result for trump and rape

Even now, Trump is a perfect example of this phenomenon, in microcosm, a media mogul who attempts to portray  an entire culture of Brown men, (Mexicans) as violent rapists, in order to deflect public attention away from the sexual assault accusations that have been dogging his footsteps for over two decades.

https://journalisms.theroot.com/how-media-have-shaped-our-perception-of-race-and-crime-1790885677

“Many media outlets reinforce the public’s racial misconceptions about crime by presenting African Americans and Latinos differently than whites — both quantitatively and qualitatively,” concluded the report, “Race and Punishment: Racial Perceptions of Crime and Support for Punitive Policies.”

“Television news programs and newspapers over-represent racial minorities as crime suspects and whites as crime victims. Black and Latino suspects are also more likely than whites to be presented in a non-individualized and threatening way – unnamed and in police custody. . . .”

In 1915 the movie Birth of a Nation was released. Directed by D.W. Griffith, it is one of the  highlights of cinematic history, but one of the horrific side effects of this film was the equating of Black men with miscegenation, and the rape of White women, (even though it had been largely White men who engaged in both). That stereotype has been the foundation of the demonization of Black and Brown  men ever since. Suspiciously,  it was not until after the Civil Rights Act was passed, that the idea of Black criminality (equating the word “thug” with Blackness, for example) became firmly cemented  in mainstream media and popular culture. The word “crime” became synonymous with Blackness, in a way it had not before the Civil Rights Act was passed. People can’t say n****r without pushback, but they can call Black men “thugs”, and mean the exact same thing. They can’t call Black men rapists without censure, but they can call them”super-predators”, and have that mean the same thing, thus  has such a successful connection been made between Black men and sexual assault.

Related image

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_stereotype_of_African_Americans#History

According to Marc Mauer however, although African Americans have been consistently stereotyped as “biologically flawed” individuals who have a general tendency towards crime, the depiction of African Americans as criminals became more threatening only in the 1970s and early 1980s- with the evolution of the stereotype of African American males as “petty thieves” to “ominous criminal predators”.[22] 

I will say that I do not trust White women to be the head of this new movement. For far too long they have historically not called out (and even in some cases, been complicit with) white men who have been accused of assault. 68% of White women voted for Alabama representative Roy Moore, who had been accused of sexual misconduct against teenage girls.

https://www.usnews.com/opinion/civil-wars/articles/2017-12-14/roy-moore-donald-trump-and-white-women-voting-for-misogyny

In fact, women who regularly interact with misogynistic men are frequently praised and rewarded by those men for their complicity. When they ridicule other women who take to the streets to challenge inequality, they’re praised for being “real” women. When they brush off vulgar comments about other women as mere “locker room talk,” they’re praised for knowing how to “take a joke.” When they question the veracity of sexual assault allegations made by other women, they’re praised for sending a clear message that they stand by and with the men in their lives, no matter what. When they openly support candidates like Trump and Moore who seek to silence women, they earn praise for their ability to see past trivial “women’s issues.”

This is just one of the  problems with this movement which no one is discussing:  The racial implications to Black men, and White men’s reasons for panicking at the thought of the movement’s success. The White female proponents of this movement are not taking into account the effect this particular movement would have on men of color, and that it could be weaponized to victimize Black and Brown men, even more.  Or that what this movement appears to be doing from the point of view of panicky White men, is move the burden of sexual assault, and rape accusations  onto those to whom it truly belongs: White, cis-gender, straight men.

https://www.rainn.org/statistics/perpetrators-sexual-violence

5 circle graphs that represent the percentage of perpetrators by race or ethnicity. 57% of perpetrators are white, 27% are black, 8% are of an unknown ethnicity, 6% are other, and 1% are mixed.

 

 

 

On The Table: Items For Discussion

On Race and Gender

Image result for race and gender gif

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for gender bias gif

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

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

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

@

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

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

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

Image result for white feminism gif

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

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

@

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

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

Whitney Reynolds

@whitneyarner

new twitter challenge: describe yourself like a male author would

Lilly Beth Chung@LillyBethChungx

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

@

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

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

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

@

Image result for living single gif

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

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

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

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

@

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

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

@

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

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

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

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

 

@@

On the Female Gaze

Image result for female gaze gif

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

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

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

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

And in the responses:

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

View story at Medium.com

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Image result for cultural appropriation gif

On Cultural Appropriation

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

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

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

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

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

 

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On Harassment Activism

Image result for angry internet typing cartoon  gif

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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