The Truman Show (1998): Questioning Reality

During the late 90’s there was a spate of existentialist movies, that asked questions about the nature of reality, the self,  and questioned our sense of who we were. Movies like Dark City, The 13th Floor, Pleasantville, The Matrix, Existenz, and yes, The Truman Show, all questioned if the world we lived in was truly real, if we were real, and if nothing is real, does anything we experience matter.

The Truman Show didn’t just question reality. It asked questions about freedom, and self determination, as well. Truman is a man who has been imprisoned in a pleasant middle class, artificial, bubble his entire life, with a pretty blond wife, a non-descript job, one close friend, and a tragic past that’s specifically designed to hold him in place, and keep him from moving forward. His life is comfortable and certain. It is difficult not to see parallels to our own lives in Truman and his circumstances.

Truman has a daily routine. He does the same thing every day, with the same catchphrases, ordering the same food, the same magazines at the newsstand, driving the same route to and from work. Truman is mostly happy with his life, but its not an exciting life, so he fantasizes a lot.

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One of the first images we get of Truman is his childlike fantasy of being an astronaut. Truman longs to do something different, go somewhere else, be someone else, but he is trapped in place, as so many of us are, by our jobs, our circumstances, monetary concerns, our families, and other obligations, that we consider more important than our freedom to do as we please. Like Truman many of us fantasize about being  someone else, someplace else, and for most of us, fantastical visions of riding dragons, or pretending to be a favorite cartoon character, are enough.

Many of us live in comfortable bubbles, occasionally  chafing at our restrictions, and any attempts to break free of those restrictions can get you branded with labels like mentally ill,  mid-life crisis, or hysteria. Your desire to  break free, can often make other people deeply uncomfortable, and can prompt them to deploy tactics that will get you back into your bubble, to be quiet, and complacent, once again.

Truman is a man who has been held in captivity, since he was born, by an avant-garde filmmaker, named  Christof, who adopted him, kept him imprisoned in a fake world, with actors and actresses as friends and family, and put his entire life on live television. Everything in Truman’s life is manufactured, his job isn’t real, his marriage was carefully orchestrated, his best friend is an actor, his father was conveniently killed when he was a child, and he has been socialized with a number of phobias (aqua-phobia) that make it near impossible for him to leave the fake set.  In other words, his world is carefully designed to keep him in place, keep him from questioning it, and keep him from growing, changing , or progressing.

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Many of us live the kinds of lives we are reluctant to leave, it can be difficult for us to grow and move forward because we’ve become used to how our life is. It can be difficult to try new things, or make big changes in our lives, even changes we need to have, because we fear the unknown future. If you’re someone who has a great fear of the unknown, then moving into a future you cannot see, would be very difficult. This is how Truman engages with the world in the first half of his life, until a monkey-wrench called “first love” throws everything he knows into question. He falls in love with a young woman named Sylvia, who wasn’t chosen for him, and she is, rather traumatically, removed from his world. Truman developed such a special longing for her, that she came to represent the one thing in his life he didn’t have, uncertainty, and the unknown.

He begins to question the world he lives in. In other words, he starts to wake up, especially after  he experiences a series of strange events. like seeing his supposedly dead father, chunks of sky falling on his car, a photo of his wife with her fingers crossed behind her back (which indicates that she was lying). Truman attempts to express his nascent suspicions to his wife, mother, and best friend, who only try  to gaslight him, with temporary success. Over time, Truman begins to test his theory, and finally reaches the conclusion that the world he lives in, and the people he knows, is not real.

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Truman only begins to ask the right questions, after he sees the patterns around him, and starts putting those patterns in the correct order. When he sees his dead father on the street, the man is immediately whisked away by a group of strangers. Later that week, there is a radio mix up, where he hears one of the camera men narrating what he is doing. He notices a pattern in the people who cross in front of his house. He notices  patterns and reaches proper conclusions. He begins to see the artificiality.

For example, he suspects that he is being watched, that the people in his world are fake, and  don’t know what to do when he does  unexpected things. So he disrupts his routine in small ways, like walking into a different building, or deciding to accompany his wife (a nurse) to a surgery that was made up in an attempt to explain something he saw earlier that day. By behaving unpredictably, he has introduced uncertainty, and the unknown to the set, which disrupts everyone else’s routine, as well.

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Ironically, many of us suspect that the world we live in is a facade, as we seek to explain the uncertainty of our life, rather than the certainties. This theory was especially popular during the last years of the 20th century, which accounts for the popularity of  films, in which the protagonists question the randomness of their lived experiences. In the Matrix, Neo tells Trinity about a number of events that happened to him when he was unaware he was in the matrix, and asks her what that means. Trinity’s answer is that the matrix cannot tell you who you are. She is in essence telling him that when he lived in the matrix, that he was not his true self.

Since the events that occurred to Neo can be said to have been contrived by computer programs, his reactions to those events were inauthentic, and not evidence of his true self.  Another argument that can be made, however, is that such contrived events are not any different than random events contrived by a god, and if we can accept that our authentic self is in evidence when under the aegis of a mythological figure, than why can we not accept the authenticity of self while under the control of an AI?

One of the reasons that Truman gives for desperately trying to escape Christof’s prison, is that he wants a real life, an authentic life. Christof tries to talk him into staying in his artificial world by telling him that life is no more authentic, in the “real” world, than it is in his fake one. he tells Truman that there is no truth, thereby  illustrating a fundamental misunderstanding of Truman’s motives. Truman is not searching for truth. He is searching for “the real”, which is not the same thing.

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But, as we all must do, if we hope to move forward, to progress in our lives, Truman takes a leap of faith, into the unknown. At some point, if we hope to meet our real selves, we must all walk through a mysterious door, into an uncertain future. Truman has no idea what is on the other side of the door he’s about to walk through, but like Red, from the Shawshank Redemption, he hopes to see Sylvia, and take her hand. He hopes to find himself. He hopes to be happy. He hopes to find love.

He hopes.

And so must we all.

 

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It’s A Black Thang!

I’m not saying that Black people are the only ones who can watch these shows, but this is pop culture that is unapologetically aimed at Black audiences.

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Dolemite Is My Name

Some of us are old enough to have actually watched some of Rudy Ray Moore’s movies, like Dolemite and The Human Tornado, which they don’t show on Tv much anymore ,for…reasons.. Some of my younger readers would have encountered his movies as parodies on MadTV, or Key & Peele. They were often laughably bad in and of themselves but they were groundbreaking because Moore was one of the only Black independent filmmakers of the 70s, and was one of the primary directors in the Blaxploitation era.

The first time I saw a Rudy Ray Moore movie, it was at the Drive-In. I was maybe nine or ten years old, and the movie was The Human Tornado, which I wasn’t supposed to be watching, because I was supposedly asleep in the backseat with my two brothers, and because his movies ARE NOT FOR KIDS!!!! I don’t think I can stress this enough. Well anyway, I watched it and I don’t think my mom ever realized i saw the movie, and I haven’t ever told her. I suspect if I told her this, I’d be subject to this:

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Now couple that information with the return of one of the greatest comedians of the 80s and 90s, Eddie Murphy, who hasn’t been relevant in some time, and this is looking like a comeback role, in a classic film. Actually what it is is the making of Dolemite from Moore’s point of view. There are some other great actor/comedians in this, and even more importantly, this is airing on Netflix in September.

The Black Lady Sketch Show

The Black Lady Sketch Show is now airing on HBO, but you can watch select sketches on YouTube. This is such a great show, and I say that even though I don’t subscribe to HBO anymore. The sketches are soooo funny, and some of them are spot on.

Check out Invisible Spy for example. I’ve always thought that women of color would make exceptional spies, because so few people pay attention to us, especially when we’re doing something stereotypical, like housekeeping! The spy in this sketch is invisible all the time, and thats a commentary on how being fat, and dark skinned, renders a person irrelevant. Even her coworkers don’t know what she actually looks like , even though they’re looking right at her. I got that, as I’m always being compared to some other Black woman that people know, someone they went to school with, a cousin, or somebody’s neighbor.

But one of my favorite sketches is the Ball for Basic Bitches! I’m far too contrary to ever be considered “basic”, I think, but I perfectly understand it, though, and Basic Bitches can be fabulous too, only a lot more quietly, I guess.

Got to Youtube to watch the surreal Dance Biter, which stars my favorite comedian Quinta B, the hilarious Invisible Spy, and a sketch about how obsessed America is with beauty standards, called A Day With No Makeup.

 

 

The Rundown w/ Robin Thiede

Robin Thiede is currently one of the stars of the Black Lady Sketch Show, but if you want to see the kind of work that led up to her starring in the above show, then The Rundown is where you need to see it.

The Rundown aired on BET, and showcased different comedians, although Robin was the star. I never watched the show itself, and only just saw a few episodes because they were recommended after I viewed TBLSS, and frankly, I’m impressed. This first sketch is based on the show Stranger Things, and the character of Eleven, and is what I like to call , uncomfortably hilarious, a style that Key and Peele often specialized in.

My favorite though is this video for the Weak Black Woman, because not everybody can be woke and strong, Some of us are too tired from working on those spreadsheets for the Stevenson account, I guess. Not quite as pointed as the Basic Bitch Ball, but close enough. And the second is a parody of the series Stranger Things, that I laughed waaay too hard at.

Missy Elliott and Lizzo

I’m a huge Missy fan, and have been since that first song. Now I have a new heroine, Lizzo, who is fat, Black, and absolutely, unapologetic ally, who she is, here she teams up with Missy Elliot, and Megan The Stallion, to celebrate some more “Hot Girl Summer”. I wasn’t outraged by the dancing but I was bothered at the idea of these ladies wandering around a public parking lot, at night, in bikini wear. Well, theyre wearing fur ,so I know they won’t get cold, but apparently that was a bridge too far. (See what I mean about me being sort of Basic?)

News After San Diego

Last week was the 50th San Diego Comic Con, and we got  some exciting news and trailers from it. Well, exciting for me, at any rate.

Let’s start with the trailers for forthcoming movies and shows:

Top Gun

I am not a Top Gun fan, because I’m just not into military films, as a rule, but I know some of you guys are really into this stuff, so here’s the new trailer  for it. Its funny but I’ve seen all of Tom Cruise’s movies, but would not call myself a fan of his. He just just keeps starring in things that interest me, like spy movies. Perhaps the word I would prefer to use is “tolerate”.

 

 

Creepshow

I just watched these movies back to back a few weekends ago, and they’re still pretty effective.  The original films were an odd mix of horror and humor, and I hope this new show can hold up to the same standards.

 

 

Picard

After the success of Star trek Discovery, I am cautiously excited about this show. I really like Jean Luc Picard as a character, and I really like the idea of him having more adventures after his retirement, and it looks gorgeous. Buuuuut…. I’m still not as enthusiastic about it, as I think I should be, and I wonder if I have Star Trek fatigue. Nevertheless, I’m gonna check this out.

 

 

The Witcher

Not sure how I feel about this show. I’m not a gamer, and only know about this show, and this world, from reading books about the artwork. I keep having to suppress laughter at Henry Caville’s wig, which is very distracting, and  I don’t know why. On the other hand, this trailer looks fucking awesome!

 

 

Watchmen

This is another trailer that looks really  interesting, but I’m not a huge fan of the movie, beyond thinking it looked pretty, nor am I a fan of the philosophies espoused in it, and I’m not sure I want to watch an entire season of something this intense. I can think of a whole bunch of reasons not to watch this, in fact, but I probably will watch it, because I love Regina King , and I’ve never seen her is this type of role before. We keep asking for these types of roles with Black women, and then don’t support them, so I’m definitely gonna be there, but I’m afraid  I may not actually enjoy it.

 

Preacher

I missed the last season  of this show, but I can see by the trailer, that its as zany as it ever was.

 

 

Star Trek Short Treks

I may have to subscribe to CBS All Access again because they are making more of these little one offs, that look really good. I enjoyed the last three or four they made, which occurred between the season’s for Discovery, and were basically back stories for some of the characters we met last season, or some established characters, and one of them presented an interesting mystery for the future, that had bearing on the end of the last season! So I am looking forward to what I’m going to see here. It looks like fun, and I really did enjoy this version of  Spock, btw.

 

Batwoman

I’m really excited about this show, but only because I saw the a couple of The Legends of Tomorrow episodes which featured this actress. Yes, the dialogue is atrocious, but then the same thing was said about Titans, and I liked it okay. This trailer has been horribly panned by well…the usual suspects really, but I’m past caring whether or not they think something is bad or good, based on whether or not there’s women in it.

I gotta say, that while the MCU may be tearing it up on the big screen, the DCEU is killing it on the small one, ,as far as diversity, and inclusion, with plenty of characters of color (that they don’t always get right, but at least they’re trying, which is more than I can say for the MCU), but also plenty of openly gay and lesbian characters, (of which the MCU has but none), who are not all White people. The DCEU really does need to  work on the  dialogue though.

 

 

Snowpiercer

I watched the original move, and while I got the message behind it, it was still so incredibly depressing that it didn’t even make my favorites list for the year of its release. The trailer looks fascinating, but I don’t know if I want to visit this horrible little world on a regular basis. W’ell see how I feel bout it after its air date.

 

 

Wu Assassins

This looks like pure, campy, martial arts fun! It heavily reminds me of last Power Rangers movie.

 

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And the big news is the upcoming slate of movies and shows from phase 4 of The MCU, including Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2, The Eternals, Guardians of the Galaxy 3, and Blade, and The X-Men!

Now, its been said that the new Blade movie is a reboot, and will star Maharsala Ali who has been wanting to play Blade for a while, and people are very excited abut this, (including me).

Its also been stated that Blade, like Deadpool, and Venom, which are not actually a part of the MCU in the same way as Doctor Strange, and Spiderman, will be a standalone franchise, like the other two, or maybe part of phase 5, or a TV show, or well…its not exactly clear. On the other hand, Blade may actually be part of the MCU, and there might possibly be a crossover with Dr. Strange, as in the comic books, there is a crossover between Strange, Morbius, and Blade. There will definitely be a Morbius movie though, so I’m hopeful that is the plan for these movies.

I love, love, love, the Blade movies, and have watched all the other versions, but remain unimpressed by those. A lot of people forget that there was a  live action television show, and a cartoon, as well, and Wesley Snipes recently did a brief cameo on the hit TV series, What We Do In The Shadows.

Mahershala Ali is the only Muslim actor to receive an Oscar, for his role as the drug dealing Juan in the movie Moonlight, so I am really looking forward to seeing him in this new version. If you want to see what he’d be most like as Blade, then check out his character in Battle Angel Alita, which looks like he’s auditioning for the role.

 

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More news from the CON is that Natalie Portman will be starring in the new Thor movie, which will be directed by Taika Waititi, and its rumored that she will play the new Thor, like the character from the comics. Creators have clearly stated that Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is the only openly gay character in the MCU, and its possible (at least we hope it is, since Waititi is both the writer and Director) that we will see her get a Queen in the new movie. (This is after Thor has handed over his Kingship to her at the end of Endgame.)

 

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Ava Duvernay is making The Eternals, which will racebend the  white, male, character of Makkari,  to  a deaf Black woman. Lauren Ridloff you may remember from her stint on last season’s The Walking Dead. I’m good with this becasue I just really like this actress.

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There’s also news about the MCU: Shang Chi, about a brilliant martial artist, which has found its lead character actor, and his villainous opponent, The Mandarin, who will be played by Tony Leung, who has starred in Hero and The Grandmaster:

 

And for the rest:

 

 

Also, one more movie I’m really excited about, because I just love this idea of time traveling to save loved ones, and its an opportunity to showcase, yet another, little Black girl in a Thriller, is this little gem, called Don’t Let Go! I thought at first it was going to be a ghost movie, but it turns out to be a little more in depth than that, and I’m here for it..

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten SNL Skits

I grew up watching Saturday Night Live. I would stay up late at night, when I wasn’t supposed to be up, just to watch my favorite comedians. SNL is well over thirty years old now, and its really hard to pick the best ten skits, so I’m just going to stick with my ten favorites. There are definitely more, but I’m limiting this to ten, or we’d be reading all day, because ideally, I could do the top ten of each season, or even each decade. I tried not to pick the classics that everyone else picks, but the ones that especially resonated with my childlike silliness.

 

Samurai Delicatessen and Hotel /John Belushi

This is one of the first skits I remember seeing. I didn’t know who John Belushi was, and I’d never really watched the show that closely, but this one just caught me up, and I was thoroughly tickled. This is probably hella racist, but in my defense I was about 14 at the time, and this is very clearly a parody of Toshiro Mifune’s character from Seven Samurai, rather than a critique of Japanese culture in general. Watch Chevy Chase’s perfectly calm reaction to being confronted with two angry, fighting, samurai.

 

Land Shark/Cast

This skit still makes me laugh uncontrollably to this day. Just the idea of sharks getting smart enough to realize that all the food is on land, and knocking on doors, announcing what they are, and people letting them in! This is of course a straight up parody of Jaws, which came out in 1975, and was one of the biggest movies of the 70s.

 

James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub/Eddie Murphy

I showed this one to my mom, a few years ago, and its the first time I’ve ever seen her giggling, but still kind of outraged, as she kept asking why it had ever been made. I explained to her that its just how the mind of Eddie Murphy works. He had so many great skits, from making himself up as a White man to clock racism, to a parody of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, that it was really hard to pick just one of them.

 

 

The Continental/Christopher Walken

I loved it whenever Christopher Walken appeared on the show, because I hoped for an episode of The Continental, which was about a horndog, who was always trying really hard to get this one women to spend the night with him. She always managed to escape, usually while giving him his comeuppance.

 

 

Church Chat/Dana Carvey

A perfect parody of little, old, chastising church ladies. The Church lady was fearless in her critique of perfectly innocuous things, that nobody else was ever angry about, and you just know she had a purse full of Kleenex, and peppermints.

 

 

Black Jeopardy/Chadwick Boseman

I’m still laughing about this because it was so timely, and  the Black Jeopardy skits are all ridiculous. I could have listed the one from 2016, which featured Tom Hanks,as Doug, because that was one of the more political versions, but I went with this one, because I like the idea of T’Challa, from Black Panther, starring in a game show about African American vernacular, and winning.

 

 

Ed Grimley/Martin Short

Ed is, for some reason, one of Martin Short’s little known SNL characters, and I don’t know why, considering that this character even had his own cartoon show. I like Ed more than any of Short’s other characters because he’s just sooo weird. He also reminds me, not a little bit, of Pee Wee Herman.

 

 

Sprockets/Mike Myers

Mike Myers is probably one of the greatest SNL cast members on the show, and he has a lot of great characters to choose from, from Linda Richman to Wayne’s World , but his character, Dieter, from Sprockets, this Germanic, avante-garde, parody of German art culture in the 80s was the funniest for me. It was really really weird, and being the strange girl that I was I was delighted by it.

 

 

Space: The Infinite Frontier with Harry Caray/ Will Farrell

Will Farrell has so many great characters to chose from, but I wanted to pick this little known fellow, who was this incredibly clueless host of a talk show, who was barely aware of what talk show he was on, let alone what the topic was. He said such bizarre things to his guests, that the most fun part was watching his guests try not to laugh at him. I didn’t know until much later that this was a parody of an actual sports telecaster!

 

 

Buh Weet Sings/Eddie Murphy

This is one of the classic sketches from the Murphy years. I couldn’t leave this without adding a second one from him. I remember knowing all the wrong words to the songs he was singing in this sketch. This was a parody of the little racist Sambo character from the original incarnation of The Little Rascals, called Our Gang, from the 50’s, and that was actually how the character spoke. Was it racist? Hell yes! Was Murphy’s  parody funny as shit? Hell yes!

 

 

Honorable Mention

Billie Crystal’s Clueless Talk Show host of Fernando’s Hideaway, who somehow managed to get a hit song based on this famous catchphrase:

 

Top Five Guest Stars

Christopher Walken

 

Alec Baldwin

 

Jeff Goldblum

 

Justin Timberlake

 

Tom Hanks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yep! I Saw It On YouTube

I’ve kept my posting light this week, because its too hot to concentrate on stuff, and I’d been prepping to do some cooking and grilling for the fam this week. Mom and I have got this thing down, where she does the prep work and I do the grilling and checking.

So here are a bunch of videos that gave me a happy this week, and one that didn’t!

 

The Mighty Grand Piton

I can’t wait to see what this is about! Do you know how many Giant Robo cartoons there are out there featuring little Black girls, set in the Caribbean?

That’s right! None! Plus I just like saying the name Mighty Grand Piton!

So right now, I think this show is only in the pilot or planning stages.

https://www.thelineanimation.com/work/the-mighty-grand-piton

 

 

Eugene Lee Yang (From Youtube’s The Try Guys):Coming Out 

Last week, Eugene Yang came out. I mean we all sorta guessed, but its my understanding that coming out isn’t about our feelings, its about the feeling of the person doing the outing. So this was his big public coming out, and he had some things he wanted to get off his chest about that, so he directed and produced this video, and its just beautiful.

In the following video, he talks about the process of choreographing and designing it.

 

Look Behind You

I’m not gonna say this made me happy, but it was deliciously scary, and I highly recommend Brian Coldrick’s book, on which these images are based. Its called Behind You, and is a great Halloween gift, if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

 

Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep is based on the Stephen King book, of course, and is a sequel to The Shining. Here Danny Torrance, (ewan McGregor) is all grown up, but is still trying to master his psychic visions, while working in a nursing home. He gets  drawn into a psychic battle between a little girl named Abra, and a group of psychic vampires called The True Knot.

I did enjoy the book on this, although I wouldn’t classify it as one of my favorite King novels. The movie looks promising, and the director looks as if he’s taken some care with the adaptation, but I don’t know if I’ll be seeing it in the theater.

 

 

Itsy Bitsy

See, its movies like this that give spiders a bad name. Its just straight up spider bigotry is what it is (said by someone with who does not have even a healthy amount of arachnophobia.)

 

 

Carnival Row

I love the visuals in this, and I will probably watch it. I know nothing about this except its airing on Amazon Prime, sometime this year. I love “Urban” Urban Fantasy, and this looks gorgeous, and intriguing, and, as far as I know, is an original story, starring Carla Delevingne, and Orlando Bloom ( who is looking gritty and unrecognizable). Its a serial killer/detective story, with mythological creatures immigrating to America, to escape some type of war, and looks like its set in the early 20th century.

 

 

Undone

Amazon is getting all interesting and shit this year. I don’t know if the same guys are behind this TV series, but it heavily reminds me of A Scanner Darkly, which was an animated movie about philosophy, which starred Keanu Reeves, and looked a lot like this. Here, Rosa Salazar, from Battle Angel Alita, experiences  some trippy, “timey-wimey”, visions, after a car accident. I will defintiely check out the first episode but I wont guarantee I’ll keep watching it. When TV shows start to get too trippy, , like Legion, I have a hard time mentally processing them.

 

 

Ready or Not

For some reason, I’ve already fallen in love with this movie. The idea that you need to audition to get married into this family, by surviving them trying to kill you, is hilarious. It also has a Cabin in the Woods type feel, in that I think the family members are on a schedule, where they have to kill you, or something really bad happens to them. Also, I just find the idea of killer brides, to be deeply funny.

 

 

Knives Out

This movie has the same flavor as Ready or Not, but with the feel of an Agatha Christie novel, starring all my favorite actors. I once mentioned to a friend of mine that  all horror movies could be boiled down to the plot of Ten Little Indians, which is basically, put a bunch of people in a space they can’t escape from, and start killing them. This looks more like a traditional whodunnit, with humor added, and check out Chris Evans being an asshole, Post-Captain America!

 

 

Jacob’s Ladder

The original Jacob’s ladder ttotally freaked me out, but only because of its novelty. I dont think you can reproduce that feeling here for people who saw the first movie, but the idea of a Black version of it never occurred to me. I guess this is the age of Balck people as the stars of horror movies now, thanks to Jordan Peele. Everyone wants to try to capture that magic of seeing us in new and different roles, and not all of these movies are going to be successful. This doesn’t look as scary as the original. but it does look intriguing. Incidentally, there is a whole thing where movies starring White casts, got remade with all Black casts, so this isn’t a new thing.

The movie does have two things going for it: Michael Ealy, and Nichole Beharrie, who both come with their own, but different, built in, fanbases.

 

Nope!

Charlie’s Angels 

I’m so disappointed I’m not even gonna subject you to this trailer. If you wanna see it, you’re gonna have to punish yourself. I really did expect better.

Instead, why don’t we do a refreshing throwback to some  90s, R&B, with one of my favorite videos from TLC:

Mini Reviews: Swamp Thing; Good Omens; NOS4A2; and “Ma”

Swamp Thing

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I read these comic books like they were religious texts, way back in the eighties, when they were being drawn by Stephen Bissette and John Totleben, when it was called Saga of the Swamp Thing. The books existed before these two artists worked on them (since 1972) but I only read a few of them, sporadically. I had a general idea of the history of the character when I started reading the books, and from the beginning, Swamp Thing has always been heavily based on body horror, with occasional excursions into mystery, dream logic, humor, and  psychedelia, especially during Alan Moore’s run in the mid-80s.

The original story is a scientist, Alec Holland, working on a sort of bio-restorative formula involving plants, for  Arcane Industries. The CEO’s niece is Abigail Arcane, and she develops a relationship with Alec after he becomes the Swamp Thing, which occurs after he falls into the swamp during a murder attempt. Alec spends most of his early years trying to find a cure for what happened to him, and running from the Arcane corporation. Arcane himself is eventually killed, after turning himself into a hybrid insect like creature, in an attempt to reproduce the Swamp Thing effect.

I started reading the books in earnest when Alan Moore started writing the story and his approach changed the entire plot and nature of the story. He crafted a story that was beautiful, majestic, and terrifying in brand new ways. If you’re going to read any of the Swamp Thing books, start a few issues before Moore’s run, (when Len Wein was the writer) so you can get an idea of what the main character was like before that big change. Alan Moore’s run starts with the story The Anatomy Lesson.

That said, the TV show contains little of these qualities. It moves too fast and paradoxically moves too slow, in that we keep waiting for events to happen on screen. Why? Because these are some of the least interesting characters in a TV show. Abby is an earnest, but essentially boring young woman, and a lot of it has to do with the actress who was chosen, I suspect, more for her looks, than any kind of gravity she may have as an actress. The man playing Alec Holland is both unlikable and boring. There a a handful of exciting moments when the plant life in the movie gets a bit rambunctious, and attacks everybody, but those moments are not scary. There is a little bit of the body horror element from the comic books. Why the plant life in the swamp is acting a fool, I don’t know. I must have missed the explanation when I tuned out for a moment.

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I simply could not get into these characters, which is important if I expect to care about a show. I didn’t care about either of these people. I realized this when Abby experiences some pointless drama in the form of a mother figure who hates her for accidentally killing her other daughter, and makes a scene at a party. I tried to care, but this dramatic moment, this pathos, happens too soon, and I don’t know this character enough to give a flying hot damn who does, or doesn’t, like her in the show. Alec likes her, and the two of them flirt a little bit, but since I didn’t like him, and she doesn’t have enough of a personality, I didn’t buy their budding romance. It doesn’t help that the two of them have all the chemistry, and  romantic passion, of a pair of titmice. Nor did I care when Alec gets killed later in the episode and gets turned into the Swamp Thing. I should have cared. I wanted to care. I didn’t.

I feel like the show’s creators put in too many pointless action scenes that don’t actually help the story, or build Abby and Alec’s relationship, or give them much character. We start the episode off with the plants attacking a boat of strangers in the middle of the swamp. The show immediately gets on my bad side, when the only Black man I’ve seen in the entire episode, gets killed in the first ten minutes of the show, and it serves no purpose other than to introduce us to the plants, the only creatures that have a strong personality. I’m hoping that’s the point, and that its a callback to the most famous Swamp Thing story ever written, The Anatomy Lesson. Alec gets turned into the Swamp Thing at the end. I felt that was too soon, and also  that the show had just been vamping to reach that particular moment, because things happened to these characters, and we’re meant to care, but we haven’t spent enough time with either of  them to care about anything that has happened, or will happen to them,  and we wouldn’t want to spend more time with them anyway, because they are  boring. There’s just no spark to these people at all.

I cannot recommend this show. I’m going to persevere  because there’s the possibility of improvement, and the rest of the season may have better tone and pacing than the premiere. The show has since been canceled, so I have all the time in the world to  get around to watching these episodes. I don’t think it was canceled because it was bad. There was some kind of internal fight going on between the creators, the networks, and the producers.

 

+

Good Omens

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This is the total opposite of Swamp Thing. It helps that I’m a fan of David Tennant, who always plays somewhat the same character in everything, but since he’s so charming, and funny, he can get away with it. I even like Michael Sheen, although I’m not as familiar with his career as I am with Tennant’s. The two of them star as an angel and a demon who are trying to prevent the apocalypse because they love living on Earth.

The show is heavily based in Christian mythology, but you don’t need to know all of that to like the show, since a lot of things get explained to you, even as you get thrown in the deep end. There’s a lot of information that gets thrown at you, in voiceovers, and characters speaking their thoughts, but it never feels overwhelming, because the imagery is so much fun. This show doesn’t take any of itself seriously.

Keep in mind that although I’m familiar with the book, I haven’t ever read it. I’m a Neil Gaiman fan, and I’ve read a little bit of Terry Pratchett, and I can’t think  of two more interesting people to write a biblical mythology story together. I like to think of this as a love letter to Christian mythology, sort of like the biblical version of Galaxy Quest. None of this story is done from a place of hate or disrespect. Its an irreverent show, naturally, but its not mean-spirited.

The two celestial entities were both responsible for trying to bring about the End Times, but end up botching the whole thing by losing track of where they put the Anti-Christ. The two celestial entities eventually find the Anti-Christ a week before the apocalypse is set to begin, having been working with the wrong boy who was suspected to be the Anti-Christ, but wasn’t. Just the whole lead up to the two of them losing the Lucifer’s son is hilarious, involving various dim witted and jealous demons, a sect of Satanic nuns, and the pregnant wife of some nobody from a small town in England.

God is portrayed by a woman (Frances McDormand), Adam and Eve is played by a Black couple, and Benedict Cumberbatch is Satan, (but we already knew that). I loved all the colorblind casting going on in the show. The demons are played by every race of humanity, including an Asian woman, and a Black man with a tiny lizard living on top of his head. I’m still unsure if the lizard is the demon controlling the man, or if he is just wearing the lizard for decoration. We get the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse on motorcycles, some of which are women, and the gateways to Heaven and Hell are the escalators in  the local mall. I love the dialogue, and the acting here. The show is just fun to listen to, and watch, and its utterly ridiculous.

But the highlight of the show is the relationship between the demon and the angel. The two of them are meant to work together to bring about the end of the world, and have known each other for centuries, having developed a great deal of affection for one another. Neil Gaiman himself says that its a Romance. Since both of them are asexual beings, they have to express their love and affection for one another in different ways, and they often do. The actors have such great chemistry and its a joy to watch them interact.

I have not finished watching all the episodes, but I don’t think you need me to say that as wild as that first episode was it just gets zanier. Good Omens airs on Amazon Prime.

 

NOS4A2

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Yeah, I was gonna write this long thing about how I loved the book, but was disappointed in this show, but Imma be frank. I fell asleep on it. Zachary Quinto is his usual creepy, yet excellent self, but the lead actress is bOOOOOring! And it is definitely the actress. On the other hand, the show looks great!

NOS4A2 is written, not by Stephen King, although I can see where people might get that idea.  It was  written by his son, Joe Hill, who I’m a big fan of. Charlie is a young lady with the ability to find any object. She discovers this power by riding her bicycle through a magical covered bridge. This draws the attention of a vampire like creature named Charlie Manx, who for decades has been abducting children, and feeding on their innocence, which  turns the child into  a cannibalistic vampire-like creature not unlike himself. All of these feral children live in what Manx calls Christmasland, a perpetually wintry land decorated like Christmas.

Now, I do like to give shows the benefit of the doubt, when the premiere does not inspire enthusiasm, and give the rest of the season a cursory glance at least, but I really don’t want  to sit through that actresses’ lackluster acting for the rest of the season. There’s also the possibility that the show is just too complicated to be written for TV. So, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna try again, and see if it gets any better, because I want to like the show as much as I liked the book.

*

I have watched a couple more episodes of the series, and I’m starting to actually like it. The acting is better, I like the lead actress more than I did in the pilot, there isn’t any less of the family drama that I cared so little about in the pilot, but I understand a little more of the family dynamics in the show, and the villain is suitably creepy. Zachary Quinto is his usual elegant self. I could really do without the Magical Negro though.

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

The Magical Negro is a trope created by white people: the character is typically, but not always, “in some way outwardly or inwardly disabled, either by discrimination, disability or social constraint”. The Negro is often a janitor or prisoner.[7] The character often has no past but simply appears one day to help the white protagonist.[8][9]He or she usually has some sort of magical power, “rather vaguely defined but not the sort of thing one typically encounters.”[8] The character is patient and wise, often dispensing various words of wisdom, and is “closer to the earth”.[6] The character will also do almost anything, including sacrificing him or herself, to save the white protagonist, 

This character definitely fits that trope. We know nothing about her personally, and she shows up right when the lead character needs her,  so she can talk her into fighting the villain, which she knows all about, but seems unable to fight herself.  This actually is a character from the book, although I don’t remember that she was a Black woman. I wouldn’t be surprised because Stephen King has always had this problem of adding Magical Black people to his stories, and Joe seems set to follow his father in that regard. It ‘s also very distracting that she looks like one of my favorite YouTube,  makeup tutorial, personalities, and that’s all I can think about when I see her.

In one of the season previews there’s a scene of that character, being beaten up, and I’m not here for that, because I’m just fucking tired of watching Black pain on TV right right now, no matter how necessary the writers think it is. On the other hand, I suppose I should be grateful that at least her story doesn’t involve police brutality.

I don’t know that I want to watch the rest of the season. The show has gotten better, since that first episode, but my enthusiasm still isn’t up there yet.

 

 

Ma

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I had no plans to go see this movie. It wasn’t even on my radar, but my Mom managed to talk me into watching this with her after I abruptly lost interest in watching Godzilla. I’m a Godzilla fan, but I was just too tired to sit through two hours of Kaiju fighting. I thought Ma would be a bit more relaxing, in the excitement department, and it kind of was, but it was also kind of emotionally wrenching. Ma is a very sad movie. There’s also a few moments of graphic violence, and one full frontal scene of Luke Evans, but I can guarantee you will not enjoy it.

Octavia Spencer plays a woman named Sue Ann, who works at a veterinary clinic, in a Podunk little town, that people desperately want to escape from. She is a lonely, and put upon woman, and one of the few Black people who live in the town. The movie doesn’t have an obvious racial message, but as I’ve said before, there is a racial component, simply because they cast  Octavia, rather than the White actress the role was written for. So, because Tate Taylor cast a Black actress, there’s an element of racism in how she is treated by all these White people in the story, and there is a tiny bit of awareness of this when Sue Anne attacks the only Black man in the movie by slathering his face with white paint. She is condemning his “go along, to get along”, attitude with his White friends, by  whitewashing him. I think that particular moment was added by Spencer, because it is so specifically a Black condemnation. In the Black community, one of the worst insults you can give someone is to say they’re a “Wannabe White”, or that they are “acting White”, and that is her way of showing contempt for him.

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Sixteen year old  Maggie is moving back to the little town with her mother, Erica, played by Juliette Lewis, after her parents divorce. Luke Evans plays the town’s local hottie, Ben Hawkins, who all the girls lusted after back in high school, and who owns a small fleet of vans for his small security company. They all have children, and Sue Ann runs into them while they are trying to buy beer at the market. She get them the beer, but the makes them promise to only drink at her house. After a while, all the local teens are partying at Sue Anne’s house, and Sue Anne is getting to experience what its like to be liked and popular in a way she didn’t get in high school. The original teenagers, sensing her neediness, start trying to avoid her, which pisses her off. driving.

This is one of those little towns where everyone grew up together, and everybody knows everyone, because they all went to the same school.  A lot of what happens in the movie arises out of events that happened when Erica, Ben, and Sue Ann were kids. Sue Ann and Erica were supposedly friends, and both of them had crushes on Ben. Ben thought nothing of Sue Ann, who became emotionally disturbed after he orchestrated her sexual humiliation in front of the whole school. Sue Ann has a host of issues, and yes, she is mean, and she is a killer, and while her  long standing need for revenge against Luke, and the others,  is completely out of proportion,  you get why.

You’ll probably hear a lot about how insane this movie was and there are elements of crazy in the movie, but its really not all that wild. Its been advertised as a Horror/serial killer type of movie, and while  there are some horrible elements, its mostly a Thriller, a campy movie with moments of uncomfortable laughter, because a couple of the characters are a little over the top in their performances, and there’s just a tiny hint of subversive humor. This movie doesn’t take itself completely seriously.

I have to take a moment to  scream about the performances. Octavia Spencer tears it up wonderfully. You can tell she was having sooo much fun making this, but just manages to miss chewing the scenery. Its a fine line, which she just manages to skirt. Her performance is phenomenal, and scary, and surprisingly sympathetic. There’s one scene where she is in a rage, sitting in her car, and some teens drive past and throw a can of beer at her, and she breaks down and cries. She has been mistreated by lots of people up to that moment, but apparently that was just one time too many, and she just loses it. She very cold-bloodedly kills at least three people in this movie.

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It’s rare to see a movie villain in a vulnerable moment, though, and its not until a little later that you understand why she’s like that. Sue Ann is a sad, angry, little woman, desperately seeking the love and attention she was denied as a teenager, and after you see her back story, you have some idea why the town folk treat her the way they do. She just wanted what any ordinary teenager wanted, which was to be the  popular girl, and get the popular guy, and that guy betrayed her trust. By hosting the teen’s parties at her home, she gets to relive her teenage years, the way they should have been, and she gets addicted to that.

Make no mistake, she is a villain and what she is doing is absolutely wrong, but like Eric Killmonger, you feel for her, and her story resonates with you, although you can’t agree with any of her tactics. Now, this is what I mean about what happens when you change a single component of the story. You end up with some deeper moments than you thought you would, because in the hands of a White actress, this would have become your run of the mill, crazy, killer woman story, but changing the race of the lead character only, adds an uncomfortable racial component, that wouldn’t otherwise be there. This same thing happened with the movie Alien, whose principal role was written for a man. At the last moment they cast Sigourney Weaver, and inadvertently made her a Feminist icon in doing so, without being an overtly Feminist film. Ma isn’t in that league, but it is a more interesting movie than it would have been, because of Octavia’s casting.

The second best actress in the movie is Juliette Lewis as Erica. I really feel that Lewis is one of the finest actresses in Hollywood, but because of the kinds of characters she plays, she really doesn’t get enough love and/or recognition. She is one of the few White actresses I stan, but because she always seems to play working class, and poor women, people tend to equate her with her characters, and think of her as not being especially bright. I would love to see a movie with just her and Spencer,, because together, the two of them are awesome.

Here, Lewis plays a newly single Mom, who is feeling some amount of guilt for leaving Maggie’s father, and moving them back to her home town, which  she was so desperate to leave. There’s an element of shame in her return, as well. None of these things are explicitly stated. Its all in her performance, and her interaction with the other characters, and their thinly veiled contempt of her. There’s also a certain amount of guilt in her seeing Sue Ann again. You can see the tension between the two of them, when Sue Ann visits Erica at home, and Erica acts relieved, as if she’s glad Sue Anne doesn’t hold a grudge against her. Erica never came to her aid, or did anything to help, after Sue Anne’s humiliation.

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Later in the movie, Erica drops the civility mask  between her and Maggie, who she has been coddling since the divorce, even though you can sometimes see her disapproval  at Maggie’s decisions. She puts her foot down, and gets her daughter in line, to try to save her life, and my Mom loved the moment she stopped trying to be Maggie’s friend. One of the rawest moments in the movie is when Sue Ann is threatening Maggie, and Erica pleads for Sue Ann’e  forgiveness, in an attempt to save her daughter’s life. Lewis really sells it, and you feel for both these women, who still feel as if they’re paying for mistakes they made decades ago, but nobody will allow them to forget.

I’m still not sure how how I feel about this movie two weeks later. I should say I liked it. I can’t say that. I didn’t hate it though, and its not a bad movie, and the performances make it worth watching.

My Favorite MadTV Characters

Now for something a little more fun.

MadTV was one of my all-time favorite comedy sketch shows, and it was definitely for the characters, who were often as nerve-wracking as they were funny. You wanted to punch them just as much as laugh at them, which certainly makes for memorable characters.

I was, and still am, a huge fan of Mad Magazine, which this show was loosely based on. It aired for 12 seasons on the Fox Network, with a brief revival for its 20th anniversary, in 2015. From the beginning, the show was inclusive, with a number of Black female comedians, something which SNL, a show I genuinely liked, had never done. Some of the most notable comedians were Keegan Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Orlando Jones, Phil Lamarr, Nicole Sullivan, Debra Wilson, Will Sasso, and  Michael McDonald.

The Vancome Lady – Nicole Sullivan

The character most people remember, and the woman voted most likely to get the shit slapped out of her at a party, she was just mean for no fucking reason. She  had an evil, snide, or  sarcastic, comment for everyone she met. It wasn’t just her sarcasm that endeared her,  watching her occasionally get her comeuppance was always fun, too.

 

Ms. Swann – Alex Borstein

For all the clueless characters created for this show Ms. Swann was the most. Or was she? Every now and then, she would show a sly sense of humor, as if to say she knew what she was saying, or doing, was ridiculous, and why are you even paying attention to her.

 

Bunifa  Latifah Halifah Sharifah Jackson – Debra Wilson

What was so funny about this character, wasn’t just the multiple names, but that I actually knew women like this.  They were funny as hell, great to have as friends, horrible enemies, great at parties, and habitual liars.

 

The UPS Man – Phil Lamarr

This was one of the first characters I remember seeing on the show, and he was so weird, that I was intrigued enough to keep watching, week after week. I was just awed by the physicality of the actor. Incidentally, the actor who plays this character is Phil Lamarr, the voice of Samurai Jack, and  John Stewart/Green Lantern.

 

 

Java Man – Mr. McNer – Pat Kilbane

Java Man was not as easily remembered as some other characters, but he was one of the first characters I looked forward to seeing in each show. This man put other coffee addicts to shame. He was a coffee junkie, and it showed in all his twitchy glory. A lot of the comedians for the show were wonderful at physical comedy.

 

Leona Campbell – Stephanie Weir

Not a lot of people remember Leona, but she was one of my favorites. She seemed like she didn’t know what was going on,  but often questioned the ridiculousness of the American lifestyle, and always  managed to be entirely on point. Leona visiting the movie theater is one of my favorites. Stephanie Weir also played a lovely and imaginative little 8 year old girl named Dot, who loved tiny mittens and gum, and who was hated by her parents for not being a genius, like her twin sister.

 

Lorraine Swanson – Mo Collins

Lorraine is another one of my favorite characters. MadTV had a knack for creating some of the funniest, most annoying, characters that ever appeared on television, and Lorraine was at the top. She had some kind of throat clearing issue, that was constantly making her cough,usually in someone’s face, and was an indecisive know-nothing, know-it-all, that her foils always had to explain everything to.

 

 

Stewart Larkin – Michael James McDonald

Wow! This was very probably MadTV’s most famous character. The comedians of MadTV were utterly fearless, and they had no problems thoroughly humiliating themselves for a joke. If you remember nothing else about this show, you remember Stewart, and his hapless Mother, lamenting the fact that she was single, because his father left them on Tuesday. I just recently saw Mr. McDonald in the Ghostbusters reboot as a hysterical theater owner, so yeah, he’s still up and about..

 

Yvonne Criddle – Daniele Gaither

Yvonne was very possibly one of the most vindictive women on the planet and she was proud of it. Be careful if you slighted this woman, because her revenge would be totally disproportionate to anything you’d done. Accidentally throw leaves in her front yard, and you might find Child Services called to take away your children. Take her parking space at the Home Depot, and she would try to run you off a cliff afterwards.

Sitcoms Have Always Been Political

 

This essay was inspired by a conversation on Tumblr, where an anonymous poster opined that sitcoms were too political these days, and that he wanted to watch them without politics.  I found this declaration to be not just deeply funny, but  disgracefully ignorant of the history of sitcoms. There are plenty of sitcoms that have existed, and air today, that have no political message to them, but many sitcoms have always had political components, and social messages and comedy have always been good bedfellows, from Saturday Night Live, to In Living Color, to Key & Peele.

There are those shows where not every episode deals with social issues, but plenty of sitcoms addressed specific issues during their run, and some of them were political, not because they discussed social issues, but because their very existence was a political act.

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The most famous political sitcom, that didn’t appear to be about politics, also had a somewhat disingenuous title.  All In The Family aired from 1971 to 1979. It starred Carrol O’ Connor, as Archie Bunker, a close-minded and racist bigot who liked to wax nostalgic about the good ol’ days, with his sweet tempered wife Edith, his more emotionally evolved daughter, Gloria, and her counterculture husband, Michael Stivic, who often butted heads with Archie’s ignorance.

While the show didn’t appear to be a political or social justice show, it managed to  disseminate a lot of social concepts through Michael and Gloria’s arguments with Archie. Archie gave voice to a lot of the status quo bigotry of the time, and Gloria and Michael’s job on the show was to refute his ignorant statements about gays, blacks, and women.  The show often put Archie in situations with gays, Blacks, and women, that would require him to question his long held beliefs, or realize the falsity of them. Over the course of the series eight year run, Archie slowly begins to change his views on a lot of issues. But this is not a show about redemption. The point was to show how people evolve in their thinking over time, and to provide counter arguments to a lot of the types of discussions that were actually happening in people’s homes at the time. All in the family gave birth to several spinoffs, including the openly feminist show, Maude, which starred Bea Arthur, of Golden Girls fame. Maude discussed every social issue of the time, from homosexuality, to women’s rights, as Maude spent the bulk of the show butting heads with her apathetic husband, and openly bigoted neighbor.

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SOAP aired for three years, from 1977 to 1981, and included in one of its many storylines, the  life of one Jodi Dallas, an openly gay man, played by Billy Crystal. The show was groundbreaking because this was one of the first times a gay character had been prominently featured in a sitcom, where the humor wasn’t centered around making fun of his sexuality. In fact, Jodi’s “gayness” was handled very sensitively. His character was treated with a certain amount of respect by the writers, and while some of the characters disrespected Jodi, the other marginalized character in the show, a butler named Benson, always treated Jodi with respect. The bullying of any of the other characters was always met with disapproval, and Jodi knew how to defend himself, thereby getting the best lines, and often, the last word.

The show Benson was a spinoff starring the butler of SOAP, played by Robert Guillaume. While not, specifically, a Black show, there was no doubt Guillaume was the star of the show, which declared its liberal status by showcasing Guillaume’s great comedic timing, with Bensons’ sarcastic remarks to his clueless employers.

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The Mary Tyler Moore Show came right on the tail end of the first feminist movement,  and the cusp of the second, and aired from 1970 to 1977. Mary Tyler Moore, fresh off her fame on the Dick Van Dyke show, starred as herself, while navigating life as a single working girl in Minneapolis. The show was groundbreaking in showing an unmarried, woman without children, who was focused on her career.  The show tackled such issues as pre-marital sex, homosexuality, women’s working conditions, sexual harassment, and low wages , and did so while being realistically down to earth, and very funny.

It produced two spinoffs, Rhoda, about Mary’s upstairs neighbor, and Lou Grant, Mary’s boss. It also paved the way for other feminist shows about women tackling life in the big city, like Golden Girls, Designing Women, Maude, Laverne and Shirley, and Murphy Brown, all shows that had political components, and tackled many of the same issues that had been discussed on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Few of the shows relied  on wacky situations for their humor, but on realistic situations, while putting wacky, and irreverent characters together to see how they’d interact. Sitcoms aimed  at and about only women became a staple of the genre, and the creators would take full advantage of that to discuss the pressing issues of the day.

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If The Mary Tyler Moore Show was about a young single girl in the city, Golden Girls looked at the opposite end of the spectrum, with four retired, single senior citizens sharing a house together in Miami. The show  lasted from 1985 to 1992, and tackled such topics as homosexuality, aging, and living and loving as a senior citizen. It won several awards including a number of  Emmys, Golden Globes, and People’s Choice awards. Not every show was about being old, but the show was political just by existing, since it was a rarity at the time to have female senior citizens as stars in their own  shows then.

The list of feminist shows was not limited to White women. There were plenty of shows that had feminist messages which starred women of color. Shows like Living Single, about a group of Black women living single in the city, which was the template for Friends, and the forerunner to Sex and the City, Moesha which starred Pop singer Brandy, A Different World, a spinoff of the Cosby Show, about the eldest daughter’s adventures at a well known HBCU, and even shows for teenage girls, like Disney’s That’s So Raven.  These are shows that would have been considered political without the feminist messages, as they were about Black women’s lived experiences as Black women.

No list of politics in sitcoms would be complete without mentioning  M.A.S.H., based on the 1970 movie of the same name, (about the Vietnam War), the series was set during the Korean War, and understood by both the audience, and its creators, that all of its ideology was about Vietnam, and war in general. The series aired from 1972 to 1983. One of the creators of the series, Alan Alda was an out liberal, and made that clear in his character, Hawkeye, who often disparaged the war, and occasionally spoke on issues of feminism, race, anti-semitism, and religion, and was not above being called out on his own prejudices, like sexism. The show was nominated for over 100 awards during its run, and is still, decades after its final episode, one of the most beloved sitcoms in American television.

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By their very nature, just about any show that has a cast of color will be a show about politics, or contain social messages. Not all of the episodes on the show are political, but sometimes, just showing people of color going about their daily lives, living, loving, laughing, and working, will show that the personal is sometimes the political. For people of color, and other marginalized identities, our very existence can become a social justice issue. Shows like The Cosby Show, Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire, and Living Single, were groundbreaking in the 80s and 90s because of their rarity. How rare? Julia, starring Diahanne Carroll, first aired in 1968, and was notable for having a Black actress, as the lead, in a non-stereotypical role. She played a nurse, who was a single Mom,  two years before The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and like a lot of other shows starring people of color, it was appropriated to be consumed by White audiences, since it was believed that White audiences didn’t want to watch shows with an all PoC cast, even though the popularity of The Jeffersons, a spinoff of The Archie Bunker Show, and The Cosby Show, during the 80s, made that belief to be false.

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In fact, almost all shows which starred PoC as the leads in the cast, tackled social justice issues, at one time or another, and managed to do so, while being fun and funny,  without becoming too heavy handed about it, although they did occasionally get a little preachy. In the 80s, The Jeffersons, which was a spinoff of All In The Family, the theme was  the upward mobility of the Black Middle Class, which was a turnabout on the theme of Black poverty in the shows Good Times and Sanford and Sons, in the 70s, which later evolved into  the working class themes of Whats Happening. All of these set the stage for the comfortable, Middle Class respectability of The Cosby Show. Surprisingly, a lot of these early show were written by a White man, Norman Lear.

The Cosby family didn’t sit around talking about the important issues of the day, but just showed their lives, as the family lived it. They were  fully immersed in Black culture, often discussing books, music, and movies, that were of interest to their Black audience,  thereby giving the White people who watched the show little glimpses into what the ordinary life of a Black family might be like, while dealing with universal issues like navigating the family/work dynamic, and sending the kids to college. In fact, the Cosby Show was a kind of corollary to Roeseanne, which addressed a lot of the same issues, but from the point of view of a working class White family, a viewpoint which is also a rarity in sitcoms.

There are also all the shows that may not seem as if they are political, but because they star people of color, they become political by association with some current issue, such as Brooklyn 99, which has tackled the issue of bisexuality by having one of its lead characters come out on the show, stars a gay Black cop and his White partner, and even addressed police profiling; One Day At A Time, about the life and loves of a Latina single mother, her lesbian daughter, and the daughter’s non-binary love interest; Fresh Of the Boat, which deals with issues in the Asian immigrant community; and Insecure, a callback to the original Julia, about the love life of an awkward Black woman living in the big city. There is Black*ish, Grown*ish, Speechless, Dear White People, She’s Gotta have It, based on Spike Lee’s movie of the same name, and Bob’s Burgers, all shows told from a different viewpoint than the usual.

For someone to complain that sitcoms never used to be political is evidence of a profound lack of knowledge about the history of the genre. Sitcoms have always addressed the politics of the times in which they were created. To be sure there are plenty of sitcoms that have nothing to do with politics, which are quite popular, and there’s nothing wrong with liking them. There’s a sitcom out there for everyone, from the deeply political Veep, to the blatantly silly Archer.

But some of us enjoy the politics, which is why so many of  these sitcoms are incredibly popular.

New And Exciting Trailers (May 23rd)

Terminator: Dark Fate

This movie actually looks very exciting, although I don’t know how it fits in with the rest of the franchise. I think Miles Dyson’s son Danny is in this one, there are several different timelines, of which this is but one of them, and Sarah Connor survived in this one. Remember, she didn’t survive in Terminator 3, and the World War happened in that one. The “terminators” look pretty cool too. I guess we have to keep upgrading in every film.  James Cameron is a complete, whole ass, but the man does know how to make an action movie, and the Terminator films (that he actually worked on), are some of his best work.

It’s nice to see Linda Hamilton kicking ass again, even if she is looking a little worn. Saving the world, time and again, will do that to a person, I guess.. I’ve never  been a really huge Schwarzeneggar fan, although I like him okay. I’m still I’m not greatly impressed by his presence here, (although he has been doing some  superb dramatic work in the last ten years. Check out the movie, Maggie. Its awesome, and he’s great in it.) I have had a huge crush on  Gabriel Luna, ever since Agents of Shield,  and I hope one day we get to see that Ghost Rider movie, with him as the star, although I just heard there will definitely be a TV show, on Hulu,  about Ghost Rider and Damon Hellstrom, starring Luna as The Rider. I like him as a terminator. He’s not as pantsshittingly scary as Robert Patrick, but he’s alright.

 

 

Star Trek: Picard: (CBS)

I’m cautiously excited about this show. I was a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I liked Picard, although I thought sometimes that he was a bit of a stick.But I am a big Patrick Stewart fan,and he always brings his Shakespearean A- game to everything he does.

This show takes place in the 18 years after Star Trek Nemesis, after Picard has seemingly retired from Starfleet, and is said to be less action oriented, with more drama. The trailer looks a little melancholy, though. I wonder if it will tackle some of the themes from the movie Logan, and how much diversity there will be, because the new Trek Discovery is tearing it up in that department.

I also like the idea of the individual stories of different characters in Star Trek. I’d watch a show about Worf’s early life, or Data’s life before he joined Starfleet. Picard will be airing on CBS All Access sometime later this year, and I will consider signing up for it again.

 

 

Downton Abbey

My best friend at work is a huge Downton Abbey fan. I’m a fan too, but I don’t know if I wanna watch a two hour movie about it. Anyway, she’s trying to get me to see it at the theater with her, and I’m considering it. She and I rarely get to watch movies together because we have such widely different tastes in what we consider entertaining. I’ve told her  many times that if no one is being horribly killed, eaten, or having their ass thoroughly kicked in the movie, I’m probably not going ot see it in the theater.

But I really do like the show, the trailer is alright, and it’ll be one of the few opportunities for the two of us to hang out at the movies together.

 

 

Crawl

This is the movie my Mom is trying to get us to go see next. I have no objection to watching this in the theater. This is what I call a safe scare, in that its fairly predictable. People gonna do stupid shit, and die, and some of ’em gon’ get ate. Those are the kinds of things that happens\ in giant killer animal movies ,and I’m cool with that. Its a nice, easy, popcorn movie, that’s not too intellectually taxing.

 

 

IT: Chapter II

I have no particular investment in this movie, but I know some of you guys are big fans. I was unimpressed by the book, and the original made for television movie ,and I wasn’t too keen on the first Chapter of this remake, which kind of bored me. But, this is a Stephen King movie, so I hope it does really well. I always hope his movies do well in the theater, because that means we’ll get more Stephen King movies.

 

 

Judy

Wow! I don’t think you guys understand just how much this movie means to so many people. I’ve loved Judy Garland since I was a little girl, when I first saw her in The Wizard of Oz. Over the years, I’ve watched her in a lot of movies (most of them starring Mickey Rooney), with one of my favorites being Easter Parade. 

This is a grand trifecta of “I’m gonna need a box of tissues-itis”, because I love the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow,  I’m a big fan of movie musicals, and ITS RENEE ZELLWEGER AS JUDY- FUCKING-GARLAND!!!

 

 

Batwoman (CW)

Batwoman is probably one of the worst trailers ever released by the CW, but I’m gonna give most people’s opinions on this show the side eye because Youtube says this about every single trailer about any show with a woman at its helm, and comic book fanboys, who have never read any of the books, are known to be complete hysterics. This is the CW. Its not a show aimed at guys (not that they can’t enjoy it) but squarely aimed at the kind of women who watch Supergirl, a show I find deeply annoying.

That said, I’m also giving the trailer the side eye, not just because it is distinctly cringeworthy, (Yeah, it stinks), but  unlike a lot of people, I understand that most trailers are not created by the same people who created the source material, and quite a number of them have been designed to make a person not want to see the film or show. I’m long used to parsing what bits and pieces I can from trailers, to determine whether or not I want to watch a thing, and I’m actually excited about this show. I’ve loved a lot of shows, and movies, that had shitty trailers, so a shitty trailer doesn’t necessarily mean anything to me. This trailer is just the latest thing for people to be outraged about. All I know is that I have every intention of seeing the show and will probably like it. Maybe.

I actually have read the comic books though,  and I really enjoyed them. I got no problem with the feminism angle, as the feminism shown on the CW has always been very White, ham-fisted, and more than a little cringey. For me, this trailer is just more of the same. I also really, really, like that actress, and this show is groundbreaking in ways the MCU has not even tried to be. It is the only superhero show on TV where the title character is gay! There are other gay characters in superhero shows, but none of them are the  leads, so this is a first, and I suspect a lot of people (especially the ones who are unsatisfied with gay representation in the MCU) are going to tune in for the  premiere, just for that reason.

Also this character isn’t new to me. I’ve seen her in Legends of Tomorrow, which is another cheeesy superhero show, that I happen to actually like, and I was impressed by the character.

 

 

His Dark Materials (HBO)

I’ve not been a big fan of the series this is based on,  by Richard Pullman. I can’t say much about it, other than it looks faithful to the movie, The Golden Compass, which came out a few years ago, so if you remember that, then this is a TV series based on that movie, and you may like it. In this universe, people have familiar-like companions that accompany them everywhere and look like different animals. This is HBO hoping to hit it out of the park again, with a follow-up to Game of Thrones. Hopefully, there will be fewer rape scenes, in this show.

I had not the intention of watching this, because I’m really not a fanatic about Fantasy series and movies, although one might get the impression that I was, based on the things I’ve reviewed on this blog. In fact, my taste in Fantasy shows is entirely arbitrary, depending on a number of unexplainable factors. What is more likely to happen is that I’ll skip the first couple of years, pick it up somewhere in its third or fourth year, and then really enjoy it.

But who knows?

 

 

The Dark Crystal

I saw the original movie when I was a kid, and I remember being terrified of the Skeksis, and enchanted by all the other creatures in the movie. If you haven’t watched the original film, please find a way to stream it, or get the DVD. It really should be as much of a classic as Labyrinth. In fact, if you liked Labyrinth, you will probably like this too.

 

 

Border

I started watching this on Hulu, and will probably not finish it any time soon, but I thought I’d mention it here, because its a very odd and beautiful movie, which  heavily reminded me of  Thelma, which I also watched on Hulu. I like odd and melancholy romances, and this one has been classified as one of the weirdest movies of the year.

Let’s Go Waaaay Back

Now and Again (1999-2000)

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I remember this show aired for one magnificent season, waay back in the 90s, before its very abrupt cancellation. I was totally in love with this show and it was my first huge disappointment in standard network TV. This was a little while before Firefly ever happened. At the time we didn’t have the vast internet systems in place to save worthy shows, so while there was a bit of an uproar, the show didn’t have that vast following of teens and twenty year-olds, with social media accounts, because this was before Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Interestingly enough, the show also has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so somebody’s heard of it, and been watching it. I do know that several of the episodes are available on Youtube, so check them out.

The first episode stars John Goodman, as Michael Wiseman (get it?) as a tired businessman, who gets killed on the NY subway one night, leaving behind a wife and daughter, played by Margaret Colin, and Heather Matarazzo. He’s given a brand new bionic body (sort of like Steve Rogers) in the person of Eric Close. He is now an asset of the US government, his handler played by Dennis Haysbert.

The show ended on a cliffhanger, as it was abruptly (and by abrupt, I mean absolutely no fucking warning at all) canceled, after Michael Wiseman had, illegally,  teamed back up with his wife and daughter, and would have been on the run from the US government. Its been twenty years, and I still feel some type of way about getting burned like that. I learned a valuable lesson from that, and to this day, I keep my distance from most of network TV.

I was initially interested in the show solely because of the song from the trailer. A couple of years earlier, Janet Jackson had a hit song, using the same melody that was used in the trailer, and since I loved that song (I played the hell out of that song all year), I loved the show, and I made sure to tune in to watch the opening credits, since I didn’t have a DVR back then. The opening credits are gorgeous and I think the lyrics were specially written for the show.

The best parts of the show are the dialogue, and acting, although the plots were ridiculous. It doesn’t hurt that Eric Close is a fine looking White man, and Haysbert is just icing. Somewhere somebody is shipping these two characters. I just know it! The weakest part of the show are the uneven characterizations of some of the characters, and the occasional weird plot points, that raised more questions than were answered.

I loved the show for the interaction between the characters. Haysbert’s Dr. Morris, and Michael, had the most interesting and volatile relationship, as Morris, the head of the program that created Michael, was alternately threatening and very protective of his subject. He tried desperately to keep a tight rein on Michael, but Michael insisted on interacting with his past friends and family. The Wiseman ladies are the real heart of the show, especially Margaret’s Lisa Wiseman. Colin had to carry a lot of the episodes, sometimes entirely on her own.We spent a lot of time with her, and her relationships with all the other characters is key to the mood of the show.

There’s something about all these shows that aired before Buffy that is incredibly shippable, often consisting of two handsome men, of any race, and usually  opposite  personality types, who got on, either very well together, or not so well, but with great chemistry. The two men usually spent a lot of time together, often living with each other, so that a certain level of intimacy was expected. For some reason this happened in a lot of  the less well known SciFi /Horror type shows, and this show was no exception. At any rate, you cannot convince me that at least some of these shows weren’t trying to have LGBTQ representation, in a kind of low key manner, during an era where Gay and Lesbian characters were  forbidden to be out on mainstream TV.

It was the abrupt cancellation of this show that made me start examining the making of TV shows, and start looking closer at which shows got made, which ones, got renewed, and which ones got popular, and why. I also never fully trusted the Fox network ever again, so by the time that shows like  Firefly and Sleepy Hollow were getting  canceled, I was mostly calm about it, while for other people, this was their first time getting burned by that network.

 

The Others (2000-2000)

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I’ve been looking for this series forever, having only memories of the basic plot. I remember that I liked the show, but I couldn’t remember the names of the characters, or the dates it aired, or even the title. Well, I went on an all out search recently (I really just googled the plot and linked it to IMDB) and finally stumbled across the title.

The Others is about a small group of psychic individuals that get brought together to fight some nebulous evil that eventually takes human form, and approaches them in the form of a red-eyed woman, who confronts them with their worst fears and insecurities.

The group consists of a young girl just coming into her psychic abilities, played by Julianne Nicholson, an older gentlemen, who tries to be her mentor and teacher, as he’s an old hand at interpreting psychic phenomena, played by Bill Cobbs, a handsome standup looking guy, with formidable mental powers of his own, played by Gabriel Macht, Kevin J O’Connor plays the groups resident unstable flake, and a pretty young thing played by Missy Crider, who is the only character whose name I remember, Satori. The group, which most of the time acts as a kind of support group for psychics, is led by John “Neelix” Billingsley, who, I don’t believe, had any mental powers, at all.

I clearly remember liking this show, and I was fortunate enough to find all the episodes on Youtube. The show only aired in the year 2000,  lasted for 13 episodes, and then it was quickly forgotten.

*Sigh* I seem to remember a lot of forgotten shows.

 

Wild Wild West (1965-1969)

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The Wild Wild West is another show that originally aired before I was born, from 1965 to 1969, but that didn’t stop me from watching the re-runs of the show when it aired on weekend afternoons during the 70’s. I told you about how I used to watch Westerns with my Mom, like Bonanza. This wasn’t a show she watched, but I was inspired to watch it, because I liked TV westerns, and by the time I started watching it, I was into my SciFi phase, and this show had gadgets, (and funky theme music), like Lost in Space.

It starred the very handsome, Robert Conrad as Jim West, and his smarter and less handsome partner, Artemis Gordon, played by Ross Martin. It also starred the little person, Michael Dunn, as the villain Dr. Loveless. For me, one of the highlights of the show was the technology and gadgets created by Gordon and Loveless. Jim West had clearly been modeled after James Kirk, because his job was to finesse his way out of the various traps created by the show’s villains, and romance various female characters, who showed up to distract him from his job.

In hindsight, this show is clearly in the  Steampunk genre, and yet another one of those eminently slashable shows where all of the proper elements were there but, for some reason, the show didn’t get the Spock/Kirk treatment. You’ve got two handsome White guys living together, and  a merry go round of female characters, who have no intention of ever becoming permanent, but something about this formula was just a little bit off, possibly the show’s timing in the aftermath of the cancellation of Star Trek, and the show never really took off, even though it lasted four years.

I do remember that though Loveless was the villain, none of the things he did was ever alluded to his size, and for some reason that stuck with me. He wasn’t a villain because he was  a dwarf. He was just a man  who kept coming up with  nefarious plans that Jim West kept getting in the way of.

 

 

Millenium (1996-1999)

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Chris Carter isn’t only known for having created the X-Files. He created a couple more shows that were X-Files related in the sense there was a thematic dialogue between all of them about paranoia, state cover-ups, and government conspiracies. Millennium was more along the detective show spectrum and aired during the end run of the X-Files, when Carter’s star had reached its highest point.

Millennium aired in 1996 and lasted for three years. It featured one of my all-time favorite actors Lance Henriksen of Aliens fame, as a forensic profiler, with an uncanny ability to suss out paranormal conspiracies and serial killers. This uncanny ability is presented as the ability to see though the eyes of serial killers. He was retired from the FBI and worked as a consultant for his friend, played by Terry O’Quinn, who worked in the local police department. He had a beautiful wife, and a maybe psychic daughter, named Morgan.

I remember watching the show ,and I even liked a few episodes. I was mildly upset at its cancellation, but I wasn’t too put out, as the show really had run its course, and there were times when the show was a little too grim, and dark, and gloom-filled. Since it was something of an offshoot of the X-Files, this was to be expected. America was going through a specifically angst filled moment.  Some shows are only meant to run for a specific length of time, and then stop, and it was clear that in the third season the show was trying to figure out what to do with itself.

I think one of the shows biggest drawbacks was the acting of the side characters. Henriksen’s acting  was okay, but his wife and daughter were especially cringeworthy. Everyone on the show was deeply, deeply, serious, and dedicated to never smiling about anything. Also, that whole angst filled era, in the 90s, of dark conspiracies and government cover-up-itis, was starting to wind itself up, and seem less urgent. Millennium is one of those shows that, unless you were a huge fan of the X-Files, you didn’t even know existed, or you forgot about, the moment the show was canceled.

The most memorable moments for me was a brief crossover with the X-Files ,and the show opening credits which were suitably creepy, and the shows theme song. I have a head full of theme songs from long extinct shows, and this one is at the top somewhere in my mind. The creepiness factor is something that permeated the entire show, and every character interaction, no matter how light hearted the actors tried to be.

Frank’s interactions with his wife and daughter rang false, and a lot of the characters seemed weighted down by the show’s heavy gloom. This is not a show that was ever going to last. I think audiences just eventually got tired of that level of grim and gave up on it. I gave up in the second season, only tuning in to catch the occasional episode that hinted at Frank’s daughters psychic abilities.

Frank’s denial of his abilities, by the way, were the only funny highlight in the show, as he kept insisting to people that he was not psychic. In fact, I do wonder if the creators of Hannibal the TV series borrowed heavily from this show. Frank’s abilities were never illustrated,  so I’m not sure how they worked. It was only shown that he had a strange ability to encounter killers, which he did in nearly every episode of the first season. By the second season, the conspiracy stuff starting creeping in, and by then I think the audience had simply had enough of Carter’s doom and gloom. That doesn’t mean it was a bad show. It’s definitely worth watching, but  maybe not a weekend binge-watch. Small doses is  the key here.

 

Brimstone (1998-1999)

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This show had one season and during that time made quite an impression on its fans despite its low ratings. People loved the show, and wanted more of it, but there just weren’t enough of us watching it. Satan walking around and interacting with people is clearly a very popular concept, or we wouldn’t have shows like Lucifer or Sherlock, and if this show had aired anytime in the past ten years, especially during our current social media boom, it would have taken off like a rocket.

The show’s major claim to fame was its secondary star, John Glover, who was a really hot actor in the 90s, and who played a very laidback and snarky Lucifer. The lead character was played by Peter Horton as Ezekiel Stone, a cop who ended up in Hell for killing the man who murdered his wife. When 100+ evil souls somehow manage to escape from Hell, Zeke gets suckered into hunting all of them down, in exchange for a second chance at life on Earth, and the potential of getting into Heaven. The Devil is powerless on Earth, but seemingly has no problem harassing Zeke at every opportunity, and watching Zeke grow ever more irritable, and flustered, at his interference, especially since he and the viewers are the only ones who can see him. The two of them had great chemistry, and watching their interactions is  really the best part of the show. Plus its always fun to see John Glover just be snarky. It wasn’t always snark though as the two of them would have some fairly deep discussions about Heaven, Hell, Good and Evil.

Every week Zeke would hunt down some new bad buy, the most memorable of which was the soul of the man he killed, just before the series end. There were a handful of complaints  read on a few message boards about how he was only hunting evil men, most of whom had been serial killers in the world, and some viewers wondered if there were not  female serial killers. Well the writers had to have thought of it because later in the season there was an evil female who, according to my memory of these events ,was eiter a Bonnie and Clyde type character, or some form of a Typhoid Mary. Let me look it up…

Okay, there were several women souls that were hunted and returned to Hell. One of them was a partner in a Bonnie and Clyde type situation, and the other was a Typhoid Mary type, who caused diseases and pestilence. There was also a young French girl who killed the men who raped her in 1458.

That’s another thing. The souls spanned all of history. I particularly remember Richard Brooks being in an episode as a Roman soldier, and some of the souls had backgrounds that were not dissimilar to Zeke’s, in that they were sympathetic, and did not believed that they belonged in Hell because they were righting some wrong that had been done to them, like the French girl. And there were some who were just evil.

At any rate someone put a lot of thought, not just into the interaction between Zeke and the Devil, but into the creation of these one time character’s backstories, and I thought that was pretty cool, as I wasn’t expecting that. I expected the characters to just be one thing. I didn’t expect to care about any of them. If any show that’s ever been on TV is rife for a remake, or re imagining, its this one, but as I said, it may already have been done in the show Lucifer, which also mixes crime investigation and detectives, with the Devil.

Daenerys Was Always Bad

In the past few days since the last episode of Game of Thrones there has been much discussion/fighting by fans of the show about Daenerys Targaryen. I’m not going to go over that entire character’s history here because her history is explained in the articles I’m going to link to, but suffice to say, I do agree with them.

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Daenerys has always been a bad actor, and I have never trusted the things that came out of her mouth about what she was trying to do. Then again, unlike some people who were set on her being the good guy in this show, I’ve been looking at her actions, and not listening to her spoken intentions. Daenerys has always been a tyrant, who rules through fear and punishment. The only difference between her and Cersei was Cersei was upfront abut what she was, and never hid it. Technically, Dany was upfront about herself too, but her fans, who are claiming that her actions this past episode came out of left field, and are a complete turn of personality for her, just didn’t want to see it.

Now, there is an argument to be made for the sloppiness of the writing this season, as the show runners rushed through the making of this season so fast, that they left all manner of incongruities all over the set, like modern day coffee cups,  in one scene with Dany. The writing of Dany this season was definitely  hamfisted, and over the top, but its still consistent with her character.

I speculated on Tumblr about how so many of her fans dismissed Dany’s evil  because they were taken in by her being a conventionally pretty White woman, with long blonde hair. There is precedent for such attitudes about her, since pretty White women have always gotten the benefit of the doubt in American culture. The people who follow her, want, and need, to believe in her goodness and innocence. I used the example of the actress from the movie Get Out. She says she still has people who approach her who want to make excuses for her character being complicit in her family’s evil activities. She has to  tell them that her character was not innocent, and was in fact, evil the entire time, but they don’t want to hear that, wishing instead to believe that character was coerced somehow, thereby maintaining her innocence.

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https://afropunk.com/2017/04/how-the-narrative-around-white-womens-innocence-taught-me-to-let-them-get-away-with-violence/

Dany was bad the entire time. Her actions are NOT new and were unsurprising to me, and a lot of other people. Her actions were only a surprise to people who had been as delusional as she was, about her innocence.

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https://www.rollingstone.com/tv/tv-reviews/game-of-thrones-review-bells-sepinwall-834528/

Dany’s descent into genocidal madness didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. Throughout her travels across Essos, her preferred solution to problems was to burn them and all the people associated with them. She’s impetuous, narcissistic and one of the last members of a bloodline with a history of doing things exactly like what she did to King’s Landing. 

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40 Times ‘Game of Thrones’ Foreshadowed Daenerys’ Mad Queen Transformation

https://www.inverse.com/article/55831-why-did-daenerys-burn-kings-landing-game-of-thrones-season-8-dany-mad-queen-foreshadowing-40-examples

38) In Season 2 Episode 4, Dany decrees, “When my dragons are grown… we will lay waste to armies and burn cities to the ground.”

Sounds about right.

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And from Medium.Com:

Daenerys Targaryen Acts In Character

There are a lot of complaints about last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, titled “The Bells.” The primary complaint seems to be that Daenerys suddenly becomes the “Mad Queen” when she torches everyone — citizen and soldier alike — in King’s Landing. Practically everyone has come to believe that Dany was going to be a benevolent dictator, an enlightened despot — but what I saw last night was completely consistent with what Dany has done for all eight seasons.

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The Breaker of Chains Is a Narcissist, Not a Hero

Mark Ptak

It’s notable that for all her talk about “breaking the wheel”, there was never any subsequent talk about what that would mean. Many believed the show would end with self rule for the people, and that they might play a part in an uprising against Cersei — that, like in our world, feudal monarchy and god-given birthrights would be supplanted with democracy. Never was that even considered for the former slaves she freed. And as far as we can tell, Dany’s idea of breaking the wheel in Westeros simply means the same thing it did in Essos — that she’ll be the one to control which way it turns. A benevolent dictator is, after all, still a dictator.

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This post is about how viewers have always given Dany a pass on her behavior because the people she was killing were seen as bad people who deserved to be brutally murdered by her. They were able to make excuses for her brutality because her killing them  was framed as ridding the world of evil. And where before have we heard that kind of rhetoric?

A (probably) unpopular Game of Thrones opinion …

When Daenerys Targaryen rose from nothing to be a queen in the East, many people cheered. We saw the character suffer brutally at the hands of men, including her own brother. When we saw her exact revenge, over and over, on people who wronged and betrayed her, it was easy to root for her. She had good intentions, she was a decent young girl who suffered, and the people she fought against were evil. They were rapists, they were slave masters, they were murderers. When her evil brother, who had threatened to stab her in the belly, was brutally murdered in front of her eyes, we understood why she was so cold in that moment. Viserys deserved it. We agreed with her.

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This post speaks specifically about how Game of Thrones is not a happy ending type of show and never has been. That is has almost always been about the Stark family family attempting to survive theirs and others worst impulses. It also explains in detail why Daenerys made the decisions she made in the penultimate episode.

The Trauma of Daenerys Targaryen

As the show crashes towards its tragic conclusion, I notice more and more outrage about where the story is going. The notion that characters are making bad decisions, or that their hallowed “character development” has somehow been betrayed. And if this were a Marvel superhero movie following the trope of heroism, I might agree. But it’s not.

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Here’s the problem in believing that Dany was a good person after freeing the slaves. Dany rules them now. They simply  live under one tyrannical leader, instead of many masters, and are not any  different from the population of King’s Landing in that way. Dany never actually freed them.

Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, Torcher of Innocents

 

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I often wonder if some people are watching the same show as everybody else. A lot of people are “big mad” over Dany’s characterization in the last episode, and I do ask why are they so surprised, and is it really just that they’re just so horrified by what she’s done. This was never the “Dany the Hero” show, with a happy ending, where she gets to sit on the Iron Throne.

The Mad Queen Was Always Inevitable

These fans are, simply put, wrong. Daenerys’s character arc has landed right where you should have expected it to if you spent the last decade watching the show. To quote by far the worst character ever on the show — “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention”. 

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But Then There Is This

I actually have seen a bit of this on Tumblr. people who heavily identified with Dany’s  character feeling betrayed because, for their own deeply personal reasons, they needed her to be The One, as trauma victims themselves, they were watching this show through a very different lens than a more casual viewer, like me.

Game of Thrones Daenerys fan fury, explained by a clinical psychologist

https://www.cnet.com/news/game-of-thrones-episode-5-daenerys-fan-fury-explained-by-psychologist-janina-scarlet/

Clinical psychologist Janina Scarlet says Game of Thrones has functioned as a kind of refuge for trauma survivors who were able to feel and establish a sense of connection with characters who endured suffering from physical disfigurement to the loss of multiple loved ones. 

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And Finally:

game-of-thrones-season-8-episode-5-arya-horse

Whats going to happen in the next episode, and is Arya going be the one to destroy Dany? I don’t know if that will happen, but there is a lot of foreshadowing that points to it.

Has Arya Added a New Name to Her List?

https://www.theringer.com/game-of-thrones/2019/5/13/18617922/game-of-thrones-arya-daenerys-kill-list

Melisandre did portend that Arya would shut brown eyes, blue eyes, and green eyes. Walder Frey and the Night King fill the first two categories of that prophecy. Some fans previously believed the green eyes Melisandre spoke about belonged to Littlefinger, who has green eyes in the books, but it now seems more likely that she was referring to Dany. 

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I’m probably one of the few people who is not angry about what happened in episode five. I’m horrified at what I watched, but not angry, probably because I’m not as emotionally invested in the show, in the same way, as a lot of other people. I like the show, despite its many, many, issues, and I really liked quite a few of the characters, and it had zombies! but I’m not super-invested in who is going to sit on the Iron Throne, and since I didn’t particularly care about that, I was able  to sit back and see Dany’s weaknesses, the same way I saw the weaknesses of all the other characters. I’ve always been horrified by her behavior, she was never my “hero”, and she never endeared herself to me. In my mind, she was always a delusional narcissist, and last weeks episode was just confirmation of that fact.

Oh, and while we’ve all been paying close attention to Dany, it may turn out that the person we were supposed to be watching, the entire time, was Arya, who has experienced just as much trauma as any other woman on the show, and the entire show may turn out to be about Arya’s journey.

Since next week is the series finale, I’m going to talk about it , because everyone else will, and I will probably have some thoughts about it, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Am I Watching

Here’s a list of shows I’m actually watching and ones I plan to watch. Here are also some shows I’m interested in watching but may never get around to for some time, as I’m afraid my dance card is quite full.

Gentleman Jack (Sun.9P/HBO)

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I had only recently heard about this show when I saw the ad on HBO, and I watched the first episode and now I’m hooked. It was so much fun watching the lead character, that I watched the next two encores.

The show is set in the mid-1800s, and is based on a true story about a woman named Ann Lister, who lived her life openly as a lesbian at the time. The show is based on her diaries that chronicled everything about her life, including the women she loved, and the one she actually married. Like a lot of Queer people, I’m off the Tragic Gay Stereotype. I really don’t want to see any more gay and lesbian characters in pain or getting killed just for fun.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/28/anne-lister-blue-plaque-lesbian-marriage-church

“She never experienced any difficulty in reconciling her lesbian sexuality with her Christianity,” said Helena Whitbread, who has studied Lister’s diaries for 35 years and is writing a biography. “Her firm belief was that as God had endowed her with her sexual nature, it would be wrong to act against it.”

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I loved her character immediately, especially  her outfits. In the first episode, Ann comes home to find her father too ill to collect rents from their tenants, and sets out to do it herself. This is a lot of the reason why I liked her. She is always being admonished to behave in a womanly manner, but she is the kind of person who sees that something needs to be done, and when no one steps up, simply does it herself. When we first meet her, she is recklessly driving a coach through the streets of the nearby town after the driver was injured.. When she was asked why she did it, she just says that no one else stepped up to do it, and she didn’t want to wait for the injured driver to get better.

She discovers that a  coal seam has been discovered on her land, and she decides, against everyone’s judgement, that she wants to mine it, so she can make that paper. She is having an affair with a local woman, whose husband leaves her alone too much, and yes, there are sex scenes. The show is not shy about it, and its filmed very matter of factly, rather than in some kind of soft porn type of way. Her future wife (yes, there is a happy ending) is a shy young woman, who lives in the nearby town, and Ann makes a strong play for her affections. It also doesn’t hurt that the woman is very wealthy.

I actually liked most of the supporting characters, except for her harridan sister,who keeps telling her what she can’t do. Ann usually just explains things, or waves her away.  She lives a very open life, and everyone knows her business, and her aunt and neighbors try to set her up with eligible young women, especially after they find out about her recent breakup with a young woman who loved her, but bowed to tradition, and  chose to marry a man.

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I can see the show is setting up some interesting issues for later. She has a bi-racial, Ladies Maid, who is secretly (or maybe not) pregnant, and one of the house servants keeps giving her significant glances, which makes me think that Ann maybe dallied with her once, or twice, and the servant is jealous to see Ann in relationships now. From time to time, Ann breaks the fourth wall ato address the viewer. She is very bold, and charming, and brash, and I liked that about her. The show packs a lot of information into that first hour, becasue the series is  only about eight  episodes long, and is written by Sally Wainwright.

There’s  some brief discussion of social issues like voting rights for women, and some of the show is taken up with plotlines that have her come fact to face with men seeking to thwart her aims, and her finding ways around them. At one point, she almost comes to blows with one of her tenants, who is trying to cheat her out of her rent money.

https://www.indiewire.com/2019/04/gentleman-jack-hbo-review-anne-lister-1202126654/

So, if you’re looking for some wlw representation, then you need to check it out.

 

 

What We Do In The Shadows (Wed. 10P/FX)

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This show is, hands down one of the funniest vampire shows on TV. Of course it helps that there are only a few of those on TV, at any one time. It’s based on the movie, What We Do In The Shadows, which stars Jermaine Clement, and Taika Waititi (the director of Thor Ragnarok), and centers around four vampires, who are  living as flatmates in Wellington, New Zealand, and are being followed by a film crew. This is the second spinoff from the movie. The first one was called Wellington Paranormal, and centered around the police, and a film crew, dealing with supernatural creatures and events in the city.

This second spinoff from the movie repeats that formula, but makes some significant changes, centering around four vampires, who  live on Staten Island. The characters are rough equivalents to the ones from the movie, except that the writers learned from their mistakes from the rather low budget film, and added a female vampire, who is one of the smartest and funniest of the group.

There’s Nadja, her husband Lazlo, and their flatmate, Nandor the Relentless, who is relentlessly obtuse. There’s also a new type of vampire, an emotional vampire named Colin, who is both incredibly funny, and tremendously boring,  but that’s his superpower. There’s  also the addition of  Nandor’s long suffering, put-upon, familiar, Guillermo, and a recurring character, the several thousand year old Baron, who has come to oversee the group’s takeover of NY.

I don’t think I can express how much I love this show. Almost as much as I love Brooklyn 99. I usually get into a show through my attraction to the characters, and I was immediately drawn to, of all people, Colin. This is probably because I work in an office space, and have met plenty of Colins.

All of the characters are well drawn.. The each have their own adventures, which is the hallmark of a good multi-cast show. Nadja gets restless and occasionally cheats on her husband, with various humans she finds attractive. She turns a young woman she is attracted to, and at some point this is something that’s going to come back to bite her in the ass, as Nadja and the others are unaware this has happened.

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Nandor seems to think he’s actually in charge of things. He’s neat, fussy,  and detail oriented. He’s the one who comes up with ideas to do certain things, or go certain places. Sometimes he remembers to be nice to his familiar, Guillermo, who he’s been stringing along for ten years. His most recent adventure involves losing his Witch’s Hat, which he refuses to believe is cursed, and a fight with a local werewolf pack, who are every bit as lamely funny as they are in the movie. Nandor enjoys trimming the shrubbery around the house into various animal, and erotic, shapes, and  is constantly hypnotizing their neighbor into not noticing the things going on at the vampire’s house.

Lazlo is the most hapless and clueless of the group. He’s completely devoted to Nadja, who was the one who turned him. Lazlo is not the brightest vampire. His most recent adventure involved turning into a bat, and being unable to change back, so he gets captured by animal control, and locked in  a shelter. The other vampires have to go rescue him, while Nadja decides to ignore the whole thing, and go off to have an affair with a parking garage attendant, that she believes is the reincarnation of a past lover.

Colin Robinson is a non-descript vampire that feeds off other vampires. He’s incredibly boring and also kind of petty. He openly delights in the other’s misfortunes, actually feeding off their unhappiness. The subjects he uses to drain people of their vitality are boringly hilarious. He drains other vampires, so the others always try to avoid him, or disavow knowing who he is. He loves to tag along on their adventures anyway, often just inviting himself. He mostly feeds at work, or goes to public civic meetings.

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Colin’s latest adventure involved meeting another psychic vampire. At first they try to drain each other, but then have the great idea to team up. and  end up draining the entire office too much. Its a testament to the writers that she is a different type of emotional vampire than Colin, Colin just drains a person’s will to live, while she feeds on sympathy, by  being pathetic. Something horrible is always happening to her, like dead grandparents, a dog with autism, getting kicked out of her apartment… In some ways, vampires like her and  Colin are the most ruthless, as they are completely opportunistic, and will feed on anyone, at any time, anywhere.

One of the most recent episodes was groundbreaking, in that it featured vampire guest stars from other shows and movies. Those vampires that didn’t show up in the show were name checked by the others, in a kind of Vampire Council, headed by the three actors from the original movie. The three primary actors used their character names, but the other actors just used their regular actor names, Wesley, Tilda, Paul, Evan Rachael Wood, and Dave Bautista. Once again we get to meet some more familiars, and its always funny when they all get stashed in a room together to talk about their particular vampires.

I like that the show remembers that other types of vampires exist besides the White ones, and its hilarious how they call attention to/call out, the different types of tropey modern  vampires, including two sisters who aren’t actually sisters, and a hip-hop Asian vampire, who only talks in rhymes. The trio also meet other types of supernatural creatures, including the werewolves, and of course they have a fight.

The show has just been renewed for a second season.

 

Of Interest

Now Apocalypse (STARZ) is a show about various pretty, gay, people having adventures in LA, while trying to avoid the coming apocalypse, that only one of them can see coming.

 

 

Barry (HBO) is about a former assassin who is attempting to leave that life to become an actor. He takes acting classes, but keeps being drawn back into his former life by his classmates, and the people he used to work for.

 

 

Shrill (Netflix) is about an oversize young lady, along with her Black, lesbian, roommate,  having various love adventures. The show is surprisingly positive about her size, and actually, pretty funny and uplifting.

 

 

Killing Eve (BBC) is a show I keep meaning to watch, but never actually getting around to, outside of a single episode a season. I love the two lead characters, and Sandra Oh absolutely deserves her Emmy. She is incredible in the show. This show heavily reminds me of a female version of the show Hannibal. There’s  a love/hate/fear relationship, developing between the two leads that’s fascinating.

 

 

Santa Clarita Diet (Netflix) just got canceled after two seasons. I had been meaning to watch it, but never got around to it, about a woman who becomes a flesh eating zombie, who gets aided and abetted in her hunt for human flesh by her husband. In the meantime, they deal with perfectly mundane neighborhood and household issues.

 

Good Omens (May 31st/Amazon) is something I’m really looking forward to at the end of this month. It stars David Tennant.  I’m always up for watching what he’s getting up to, and the original story was  written by Neil Gaiman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Gods Season Two: Finale

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This season simply wasn’t as strong In its narrative as the first season, but the first season had the benefit of a single creator with a vision. This season there are two or more creators, so the fact that we had some kind of narrative cohesion is pretty good. It wasn’t a bad season though. I liked the character development, and the visuals are always strong, although, once again, this wasn’t as strong as the last season, which had the benefit of novelty. It also seemed like the writers didn’t know what to do with some character, like Bilquis and Anansi, but their presence was not undesired either..

I’m not going to talk about the plot as much as I’m going to discuss characters and their development. We lost two of the gods, or four, depending on how one sees it. The first god to die was the eldest Zoraya sister. Her brother explained that there is a resurrection ritual for her, but without any believers, the ritual wouldn’t work, so currently there are only two sisters left. i’m a big fan of Cloris Leachman, and I hope she makes her way back to the show. She as great as the eldest sister.

We also lost Old Media and the old version of Technical Boy (whose origin we also got to see). Media, which was first played by Gillian Anderson, was resurrected and is now played by Kahyun Kim. I have tried really hard to like New Media, but I don’t, and I think that’s a very interesting point. She exists as a form of Media that I’m mostly bored and exasperated by.. Her general  demeanor is annoying, and after I gave it some thought, I figured out why. She is every bit as annoying to me as actual new media. She prances around as a sexy anime chanteuse, squeaking, and breathless, in that way that I hate in actual  anime, so I think she’s meant to be annoying to people like me. I’m usually cringing when I see her on screen for any length of time, it also doesn’t help that she is hypersexualized and kind of useless, exactly like actual new media.

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Mr. World was starting to get a little bit frustrated because his gods (Argus, Technical Boy, and New Media) were not coming through in the pinch, and getting him the results he wants, which is to find, and kill, Shadow Moon, and capture Wednesday. However, in the season finale we see the final iteration of New Media, who has truly just come into her power, and it is scary as Hell.  I certainly fucking respect her now!

The old Technical Boy was destroyed this season, but he was resurrected by his original creator as a kind of God of Surveillance, taking the place of the Argus Array, and working once again, in tandem with New Media. The original  God of Surveillance was killed by Laura, and the new Technical Boy has much to do  with computer hacking, surveillance, and spying and also has a brand new, sleeker, look, and attitude. (Incidentally, the first God of Surveillance was an old god, named Argus, that had made a deal with Mr. World.)

Needless to say, almost none of the things that happened this season, took place in the book. There’s a broad correlation, but otherwise…Shadow gets kidnapped, gets free, meets Sam Black Crow, makes his way to Cairo, works at a funeral home, and then Mad Sweeney dies. Everything else in the season was an add on, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the add ons. I especially liked the episode where we got to see Shadow Moon’s and  Mad Sweeney’s real backstories, which I’ll get to soon enough. One of the side effects of this is that the series contrasts badly with the book. Gaiman may just be adding stuff to this show that he’d always wanted to add to the original story. There are a lot of things in the series that should have been in the original story, like Bilquis, and Mad Sweeney, and Laura’s activities.

I do want to talk about more of the mythology presented this season, and a few of my favorite character interactions, something with which this season excelled. From the beginning we met a lot of new /old gods, and caught up with Shadow’s backstory, and a little bit more of Wednesday’s past.

 

We get to see Shadow’s backstory, which answers a few questions about why he is the way he is, but also opens up more questions about exactly who his mother was. Was she the spirit of America, and did she die of cancer because of 9-1-1? We’re getting closer and closer to Shadow finding out he is Shadow Odinson, and we also met Odin’s other son, Thor, and saw their falling out with each other. Thor eventually commits suicide, and it becomes apparent, through his statements to Shadow, that Odin was devastated by that and still misses him. He often refers to Shadow as “Son”, or “My Boy” and at one point said Shadow reminded him of his son. Now in the mythology Odin has a lot of children but another of his most famous children was Baldur,

He’s loved by all the gods, goddesses, and beings of a more physical nature. So handsome, gracious, and cheerful is he that he actually gives off light.[1]

https://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/the-aesir-gods-and-goddesses/baldur/

…and there are a few things about Shadow that echo Baldur’s story,

https://norse-mythology.org/tales/the-death-of-baldur/

…right down to Baldur’s prophetic dreams about his death, as mentioned in the Prose Edda, and that he is seen as a being of light by everyone who encounters him. It is his death that precedes Ragnarok, the war of the gods. Shadow Moon is also another name for an eclipse, and he radiates light, which is how Laura sees him. In the book, Laura refers to him as a beacon of light in a dark world. In the series, his mother mentions that he is a being of light, too. Its my theory that Shadow is what was once mentioned by Wednesday, although he did it in jest, as The King of America. In the book, two of the powers, that Shadow possessed, was knowledge, and the ability to see truth.

We’ve been watching Wednesday’s machinations all season, but we have  also been witnessing Shadow’s journey to self. We watched his journey to knowledge of the gods in season one, and in this second season, we are witnessing Shadow’s journey to realizing who and what he may be.

If he believes.

In season one, he was constantly chided to Believe, because if he didn’t, he would not survive what was to come, his imminent death at Wednesdays machinations. Next season, his task is to believe in himself. There is a reason that Shadow was allowed to join in the congregation of the gods, at the beginning of the season, because he is a potential god himself, and a relatively new one that has been raised in ignorance of that life.

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Yes, Shadow!

The end of the season also leaves a lot of questions. We got to see the full unleashing of New Media who is kinda terrifying. She starts a fake news siege against Shadow, so that Mr. World not only doesn’t have to look for Shadow, but so that in all likelihood Shadow will be killed when he is found, since New Media tells several lies about him being a heavily armed terrorist, who has killed several cops. Shadow manages to elude capture at the end of the episode,which opens another mystery. Did that event happen, and Shadow removed the police from the premises in the same way he created snow in the first season? Or was it something he saw before it happened and he just moved out of its way?

Shadow gets snagged by the miniature Yggdrasil tree growing in Mr. Ibis greenhouse and pulled into it s branches, where he begins to have visions. During the entire raiding scene he has flashbacks of Shadow as a young boy playing with police action figures, and overhearing snippets of  conversations between him,  Wednesday,  and others. At one point the child sweeps his arm across the action figures, knocking them all down, and removing them as obstacles. At the same time, the police outside the funeral home all vanish, and so does the tree, taking Shadow with it. We then see Wednesday in a diner, smiling about how his boy is going to be okay.

The ending is quite surreal with Shadow having visions of being back in the Bone Orchard at the beginning of the series, because it always comes back to that initial vision. Its hard to say if these were prophetic visions , or actual events, as the rest of the gods on the premises seem unperturbed, and Anansi seems actually happy. Once again, Anansi seems to be the one character who know more than anyone what’s going on, including who Shadow is, Wednesday’s motivations, and even the final outcome.

People don’t understand why Anansi keeps being so mean to Shadow, but part of being a Trickster god is pushing on people, so as to engage them  into committing  some kind of action. His bullying of Shadow is meant to goad Shadow into doing something he is supposed to do, instead of being so passive about his circumstances. Notice how he is constantly attacking shadow’s intelligence. This is meant to anger Shadow, and goad his ego into trying to prove that he is not stupid. It will prompt Shadow to ACT, because Angry get shit done, and it is one of the few vulnerabilities Shadow has, because in  the other areas of his life, he is very competent. I think he is cheering for Shadow to be the Wild Card in Odin’s plans for the war, because Trickster’s love that kind of thing.

My one regret with Anansi is that we still have not gotten the story from him of The Tiger’s Balls, which is one of the best short stories in the main book, but otherwise this character has been good, but not great, this season.

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The reason why Anansi gets all of the best speeches on the show is because its part of his mythology. Almost all of his stories are part of the oral tradition in Africa, and he is the god of storytelling. When we first meet him he is goading a ship’s hold full of captured slaves into angrily rebelling against their captors. Anansi does not like passivity, which is why all his speeches are so incendiary. He is a fire being that prefers action, and that’s what almost all his speechifying is geared toward, because, “Angry gets shit done!”. And in his speeches to Ibis and Bilquis he tries to get them angry enough, about the plight of African Americans, to join in Wednesday’s war, but is unsuccessful. Ibis and Bilquis continue to keep their distance from Wednesday’s plans, and what’s interesting is that Anansi seems okay with that.

… Anansi was often celebrated as a symbol of slave resistance and survival, because Anansi is able to turn the tables on his powerful oppressors by using his cunning and trickery, a model of behaviour utilised by slaves to gain the upper hand within the confines of the plantation power structure. Anansi is also believed to have played a multifunctional role in the slaves’ lives; as well as inspiring strategies of resistance, the tales enabled enslaved Africans to establish a sense of continuity with their African past and offered them the means to transform and assert their identity within the boundaries of captivity.

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Bilquis has been something of a mystery this season She too is in the process of upgrading and adapting to  the modern world, by seeking worship from human beings, in some other manner besides sex, and I think she hopes to rid herself of her reliance on Technical Boy’s aid in the recovery of her godhood. If she becomes her own woman, she no longer needs to abide by any agreement she  with him, and can then do as she pleases. She attends one of the funeral services, where she gets the congregation all hot and bothered,  even though she says nothing that’s overtly sexual. At this point, she is just testing her new role and how to receive worship of some kind.

Bilquis is also playing both ends against the middle, but we don’t know if she’s there for Mr. World, there for herself, there to prevent the war, or there to serve Odin, who she also seems to hate as much as she does Mr. World. She approaches Shadow and gives him an apple, (I think it came from Yggdrasil), which is a callback to the story of Adam and Eve, but really it just represents the idea of  temptation, and knowledge. She is essentially offering him the temptation of knowledge, but of what is unclear. She tells Shadow that their futures and destinies are entwined. We do know that at the end of the episode, Shadow is sitting on  the knowledge that he is Wednesday’ s son. How clear on that he is, is a matter of some debate.

Laura’s actions are also another mystery. Sweeney died in the last episode, in his final fight with Shadow, echoing the very first fight the two of them had in the first season, but that was when  Sweeney had his gold coin, which he lost to Shadow. In their last fight, Shadow loses Gungnir, (Odin’s war spear), which he had been tasked to protect by Wednesday, to Sweeney who, with his dying breath, transfers Gungnir to the golden hoard, where his phantom coins come from. Laura finds Sweeney’s body laid out in the funeral home and steals it. What her plans are, are unclear, but its speculated that she is taking him to Louisiana to be resurrected, so he can help her kill Wednesday. She asked Bilquis for aid, but she turned Laura down, and Laura still has that vial of blood that was given to her by Baron Samedi, who told her that it can be activated to resurrect her full humanity, with an act of love.

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This is a callback to a conversation, earlier in the season, that Laura has with Mama Ji, who she tried to strong-arm her into helping her. Mama Ji will have none of her sass, and gently reminds Laura that she is also the Lord of War, as well as the Divine Mother, and she  is unimpressed by Laura’s zombie strength. Laura also receives advice from Bilquis, when she goes to her to request her aid in killing Wednesday. Bilquis denies her, but does admit to hating Wednesday.

The most charming character in the series is Salim, because he represents the every-man in this scenario. I’m glad he’s still around, and that he is still committed to his relationship with the Djinn, and what’s more, the Djinn is just as committed to him, although he has been questioned by the other gods about having a relationship with a mortal. As we get closer to the idea that Shadow is himself a god, we need a regular person, through whose eyes we can see the other characters, the one normal human being who can express the audience’s feelings about what’s happening, and with whom the audience can identify, now that we are moving to a place where we cannot identify with Shadow, the way we did in the first season.

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This is groundbreaking because not only is our every-man of Middle Eastern descent, and a devout Muslim, he is also a  gay man. Salim is essentially taking the space that I argued about Shadow, in the first season, before he became totally entrenched in Wednesday’s plans, and his scenes are utterly hilarious. His reaction to what’s happening, especially after he gets named as an enemy of the state by New Media is priceless, actually questioning whether or not he committed the crimes he’s been accused of, and being blandly reassured by Mr. Ibis that he’s been in the house watching television the entire time. I’m happy to see that nothing happens to either of them and the two of them manage to walk away unscathed.

At the end of the episode, we get some idea of the next chapter in Shadow’s life. When his bus is stopped by the police, as they are searching for him, he escapes their notice because the name on his ID card has been changed.  In season three, he will get a chance to ruminate on everything that just happened to him as he spends a quiet  interlude in the small town of Lakeview, where he’ll encounter a creature called a Kobold(?), that is feeding on the town’s young women. In the book, this is part of a long period where Shadow is hiding out at the behest of Wednesday. In the show it has been orchestrated that he is hiding out from the authorities.

It will be some time before we see a third season of the show, possibly as long as a year. In that time, I expect to have re-read the book, and probably will have some new insights into the characters by then. Until next time:

TTFN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts for the Weekend

 

The Media

This article talks about why one of the reasons people think the world is  going to hell. It is the prevalence of negative news. The very nature of the news, the tagline being, “If it bleeds, it leads.” accounts for the greater and greater amounts of negativity we see in the news. Each story has to be sensational, outrageous, and/or gory.

A couple of years ago, my habit, like thousands of other people, was to get up each morning, and turn on the news. I stopped doing that. When I get up in the morning now, I watch something light and fun, that doesn’t require too much thought, like a comedy I recorded the night before, or favorite episodes of old shows. I’ve found that I feel more positive throughout the day, I’m less angry, I’m nicer to my co-workers, and generally more cheerful, at the start of the day, than when I watched the news.

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The media exaggerates negative news.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/17/steven-pinker-media-negative-news

Whether or not the world really is getting worse, the nature of news will interact with the nature of cognition to make us think that it is.

News is about things that happen, not things that don’t happen. We never see a journalist saying to the camera, “I’m reporting live from a country where a war has not broken out”— or a city that has not been bombed, or a school that has not been shot up. 

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Game of Thrones

If you do nothing else this season of Game of Thrones, you have to read the weekly rundown of the show, by the fans at The Root. Even if you hate the show, don’t watch the show, or know nothing about the show, you should read them anyway because they are, hands down, some of the funniest reviews of anything on the internet. At this point, reading the weekly review becomes part of the show. For those of you with real stamina, you can try reading the show’s live tweet on Black Twitter.

I am always amazed that so many Black people love this show, including many non-geeks. It took me years to really get into it, because I just wasn’t interested. I followed the show off and on for the first three seasons, but didn’t become any kind of fan until season five, after the episode Hardhome, which I understand was the turning point for a lot of people.  Last weekend was the culmination of that particular episode, so there are plenty of spoilers in the post.

I want to point out that Arya Stark is one of my all-time favorite characters on the show, and has been my go-to Baby Badass since season five.

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Arya Stark Forces Night King to Drop Out of Presidential Race

Although he has not issued a formal statement, representatives for Walker—also known as the Night King—confirmed that the blue-eyed devil will not take part in the upcoming primaries, citing the fact that he had lost support among a key group of supporters—namely, the Arya Stark demographic.

 

#NotToday: The Night King nor Kim Kardashian Could Stop Us From Keeping Up With The Battle of Winterfell

With five or six tea lights lighting the battle scene on our screens, The Red Woman came and did what the fuck she had to do and said let there be light and lit the field with fire. Too bad the fire didn’t do shit for our screens our Daenerys’ vision from the sky.

 

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 Robot Fear

This is a very interesting article about how Western nations view robots vs. how cultures in the East view them. The Japanese, for example, have a very different attitude towards robots than Americans. The article credits part of that to the Western attitudes towards systems of chattel slavery. The East had slaves, but the systems there were not set up the same here, or perpetuated throughout that country’s other institutions, either.

I also think part of the issue is not just our attitudes about the treatment of slaves, but the Western religious ideas behind them, and the idea of karmic retribution that has attached itself to those ideas. We need to add decades of movie and TV narratives in which robot slaves turned on their owners. I wrote before about how a lot of futuristic fiction involves imagining what White people have done to other cultures, happening to White people, usually by beings once held in bondage, like robots. The term “robot” was invented in the West, and violent retribution by them, is one of its earliest Pop culture themes, as in the 1927 Metropolis.

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WHY WESTERNERS FEAR ROBOTS AND THE JAPANESE DO NOT

https://www.wired.com/story/ideas-joi-ito-robot-overlords/

It’s not that Westerners haven’t had their fair share of friendly robots like R2-D2 and Rosie, the Jetsons’ robot maid. But compared to the Japanese, the Western world is warier of robots. I think the difference has something to do with our different religious contexts, as well as historical differences with respect to industrial-scale slavery.

 

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Yarn Industry Diversity

Here’s a short list of Knitting designers, and Dyers of Color in the industry.

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Black Yarn Dyers and the case for Purposeful Support

https://theyarnmission.com/black-yarn-dyers-and-the-case-for-purposeful-support/

It’s not about tokenism.” Rather, we insist that folks support artists simply because they are Black. Especially for their Blackness we recognize that for so many it would mean “in spite of their Blackness.” This is what pro-Black looks like to us since we are working towards a liberation in the face of rampant, engrained, and internalized anti-Blackness. 

 

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Comedy

I’m still not over Nanette, which is still airing on Netflix. It just floored me. I’m guessing it floored a lot of people, since so many wrote think pieces about it. I do believe Hannah Gadsby is the future of comedy, while people like Bill Maher, Jerry Seinfeld, and Louis C K, are comedy’s past. I noticed that when women do comedy, (any marginalized people, really), they are as as liable to cause tears as much as laughter. The only male comedian I’ve ever seen who captures that particular vibe is Patton Oswalt, in his stand-up, Annihilation, )where he talks about the death of his wife).

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Bill Maher Is Stand-up Comedy’s Past. Hannah Gadsby Represents Its Future.

https://www.vulture.com/2018/07/bill-maher-hannah-gadsby-stand-up-comedy.html

Nanette is also a deconstruction of stand-up specials, as well as several generations’ worth of straight male–crafted opinions on what “good comedy” is and what “great art” is. Gadsby poses a question which, if answered affirmatively, would validate her stated wish to quit doing stand-up: What if “funny” is the enemy of “honest,” or at least at cross-purposes with it?

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Reverse Racism Claims

Recently Jordan Peele came into the cross hairs of the White Bigot League, when he stated that he wasn’t looking to hire White men for any of his lead roles, as that had all been done before, and he wants to try something different. I think this article perfectly captures all my thoughts on this issue.

For the record, he never said he wouldn’t  cast any White people in his movies. What he said was he wasn’t going to cast them in the lead roles.

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There’s Nothing Wrong With Jordan Peele Not Wanting to Cast White Male Leads

https://www.thewrap.com/jordan-peele-no-white-male-leads-nothing-wrong/

But racism becomes a social disease when it systematically and systemically places one race at the top of a hierarchy at the expense of other races. That is why the N-word stings so much more than any word blacks ever coined to denigrate white people. It’s why blackface hurts in a way that whiteface doesn’t. There are centuries of brutal history to back up the sting.

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Black Romance

I thought this article was especially interesting. I do not read Romance novels, as a general rule but I used to have a disdain for them. At some point, I realized my disdain was contributing to an atmosphere in Pop culture that devalues the interests of women, and if the hobbies and interests of women aren’t considered important, then imagine how denigrated Black women’s interests must be.

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Fifty shades of white: the long fight against racism in romance novels

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/apr/04/fifty-shades-of-white-romance-novels-racism-ritas-rwa?src=longreads

Some booksellers continued to shelve black romances separately from white romances, on special African American shelves. Accepted industry wisdom told black authors that putting black couples on their covers could hurt sales, and that they should replace them with images of jewellery, or lawn chairs, or flowers. Other authors of colour had struggled to get representation within the genre at all.

 

 

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US

I promise this is the last article I’m going to post about this movie. Its just fascinating how much (and how many) meanings people are finding in this movie.

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https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/us-movies-hidden-meaning-black-identity-explained-1196687

Jordan Peele may have crafted the first horror movie to truly dismantle the MAGA era and how African Americans fit into it.

 

 

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Poverty

Hollywood has crafted a lot about how we think of the world, its situations, and the people around us. I think many of us would be surprised at how much of our “knowledge” of the world comes from movies.

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Perpetuating the poverty myth: How Hollywood gives us the wrong ideas about poor people

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/perpetuating-poverty-myth-hollywood-gives-us-wrong-ideas-poor-people-210440365.html

Pimpare believes that at this time of deep divisions in America, movies that accurately portray modern-day poverty are more important than ever. “We are geographically so segregated, racially segregated, and we are very much economically segregated — so it may be that for growing numbers of people, the only opportunities they have to gain insight into lives of poor and low-income people are through mass media,” 

 

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Representation Matters

Yahp!

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https://the-orbit.net/progpub/2018/12/26/representation-matters/

For myself and many African-American moviegoers, one film has stood out from the rest. Not because the others listed (or those absent) are sub-par movies, but rather, because the Black Panther was the kind of movie we have long thirsted for. The first Black superhero of Marvel Comics got to headline the first Black superhero movie from Marvel Studios, with a Black director, a predominately Black cast, diverse presentation of Black bodies, an Afrofuturist aesthetic, complex nuanced characters largely devoid of stereotypes, a rich backstory, and a massive budget. A monumental box office hit, the movie shattered record after record on its way to a final global tally of roughly $1.3 billion. 

 

‘Love, Death & Robots’ suffers from blatant sexism

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/netflix-love-death-robots-review/

Short films can find it hard to attract a wider audience, so it’s cool to see Netflix promote a big, splashy showcase of animated sci-fi shorts. Sadly, Love, Death & Robots feels much less cool and boundary-pushing when you take a closer look. Curated by Tim Miller (Deadpool) and David Fincher (Fight Club), this anthology is full of gratuitous onscreen sexism—and blatant gender discrimination behind the camera.

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I did watch this on Netflix,  and I actually enjoyed a few of the shorts featured as they were written by one of my favorite authors, John Scalzi. John Scalzi is not known as an especially “edgy” type of writer. In fact, he’s very progressive, so those shorts seem incongruous next to some of the other, more violent, shorts in the anthology. But this article is correct in stating that in every short that featured violence, female sexuality and nudity was associated with it, and in every instance of female nudity or sexuality, there was an extreme amount of violence involved in that story. In some of the stories the two occur simultaneously.

In all fairness though, not all of the short films feature either topic, and some of them are actually worth watching. Most notable were:

The Day the Yogurt Took Over was written by Scalzi from his anthology titled Miniatures. It’s hilarious.

Ice Age was very interesting. I enjoyed it a lot.

Fish Night is a story I remember reading, in another anthology, a couple of decades ago, and the story just stuck with me.

Lucky 13 was one of the better Scifi stories, and has a Black woman as the lead character.

Three Robots was really cute and it has cats, so some of you will definitely like it, and Suits was frantic and suspenseful.

But the story that affected me the most was Zima Blue, which I consider one of the best stories in the entire anthology. It was emotional and though provoking.

 

The Wired is a lot more damning of the show than I am though:

Netflix’s Love, Death & Robots is sexist sci-fi at its most tedious

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/love-death-and-robots-review-netflix

It’s not just a male gaze that ruins Love, Death & Robots, it’s an adolescent male gaze. The sex scenes are so bad they’re funny. At times, the dialogue is borderline farcical. All too often the series leans precariously on visual tricks – and while the worlds created here are vast and vivid, the plots are often non-existent.