Well…I Watched It! Lovecraft Country Episode One – Sundown

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A couple of weeks ago saw the debut of the new HBO series, Lovecraft Country, based on the book of the same name by Matt Ruff. In the book, a young black man named Atticus goes on a road trip through the Jim Crow South, with his uncle, and childhood friend, to find his father, who has mysteriously gone missing up North. They stumble across racist cops, sundown towns, Lovecraftian monsters, and occultism, in their travels.

I watched the first two episodes of this series. Normally I would not have watched any show that’s based in the Jim Crow South because that’s just a particularly triggering time period, but the writers and producers are black, so I was willing to give it a chance. Its still a very nerve-wracking show, but in a kind of  good way, because its also surprisingly cathartic, entertaining, and not wholly based on Black pain and suffering. The characters are very likable, and there are other, more personal issues they deal with besides racism.

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I can honestly say I enjoyed this episode. I know that sounds weird, considering how I’ve complained about no longer being interested in shows that are based on black pain and suffering, in different eras, but this show, along with the Watchman series, was very entertaining. For one thing, the plot isn’t necessarily based in suffering. the Jim Crow era in which the story takes place is simply the backdrop, and the way the story is written, the racism of the white characters is just one of the primary obstacles that the protagonists have to navigate, occasionally in the form of harrowing car chases.

It doesn’t hurt that the three main characters, Atticus, the very fine looking lead character, his uncle George, played by the incredible Courtney B. Vance, and the gorgeous Leticia, Atticus childhood friend, played by Journee Smollet, who you may remember as Black Canary, from the Harley Quinn/Birds of Prey movie, released earlier this year, are all immensely likable, and reasonably smart.

Outside of the mystery itself, the series presents a lot of ideas about black people that don’t often get seen in popular culture, which are merely glimpses into the lives of regular black people, in the midst of horrific circumstances, because that too is as important to our representation, as seeing ourselves be heroic, hearing our own stories, or seeing ourselves existing as a culture in the future. We get loving black couples, black people who love books, clothes, and superheroes, ordinary disputes between family members and black people snatching  little moments of joy, even in the darkest times.

Lovecraft Country Jurnee Smollett GIF - LovecraftCountry JurneeSmollett LetiLewis - Discover & Share GIFs

The episode begins with Atticus on his way home from the Korean War. Its 1954, and that particular war (the one depicted in the MASH series) ended around 1953. He’s dreaming of a mashup of all the scifi he’s ever read, Cthulhu, John Carter of Mars, and an ass kicking  cameo from #42 himself, Jackie Robinson.

When the bus he’s riding breaks down, he and the only other black passenger, rather than being allowed to hitch a ride with a local farmer, have to walk several miles to the next town. During their walk is when we get Atticus broad opinions on fantasy stories with racist characters, or written by racist writers, like Robert E. Howard, or Lovecraft himself. Genre fiction, whether movies, books, or TV,  has always been problematic for black people. Most of it was not written with us in mind, and what was, often had negative connotations.

When Atticus gets home, he finds the neighborhood is preparing to have a block party. This is something that really resonated with me, because I remember attending quite a few of these, during my childhood. My family is/was huge, so most of the block party consisted of me, my little brothers, and a seemingly vast number of cousins, uncles, and aunties! Anyway Atticus finds out from his uncle George that his father has gone missing but left a note saying he could be found in a place called Ardham. That’s right, not Arkham, but Ardham House. He, and George are joined by Leticia, a young woman that Atticus knew when they were children, because Letty was the only girl in his Science fiction book club, but who is now a traveling photographer.

Lovecraft Country Jurnee Smollett GIF - LovecraftCountry JurneeSmollett LetiLewis - Discover & Share GIFs

Uncle George offers to come along because he is the publisher of the Chicago based green book. His wife, Hippolyta, offers to come, but George says no, out of a sense of protection. He knows how dangerous it would be for her to do such a thing., considering that he once had both his knees broken, by some racists, while on a previous trip for his travel books.

The travel books, that George writes, (based on the real life Negro Motorist’s Green Book), aided  black people in navigating through the Jim Crow South, listing problem areas, like eating and sleeping places that were safe, but most especially, listed all the Sundown Towns, in both the North and South. At that time, these were all white towns, in which black people would be  either run out, or murdered, if they were found within the town limits, after sundown.

https://www.zinnedproject.org/materials/sundown-towns/

Welcome to the world’s only registry of sundown towns. A sundown town is not just a place where something racist happened. It is an entire community (or even county) that for decades was “all white” on purpose. “All white” is in quotes because some towns allowed one black family to remain when they drove out the rest. Also, institutionalized persons (in prisons, hospitals, colleges, etc.), live-in servants (in white households), and black or interracial children (in white households) do not violate the taboo.

“On purpose” does not require a formal ordinance. If, for example, if a black family tried to move in, encountered considerable hostility, and left, that would qualify the town as “sundown.” Note that some sundown towns kept out Chinese Americans, Jews, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, even Mormons.

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One of the most hair raising, but exhilarating, chase sequences occurs when George mistakenly takes them to a cafe that does not serve black people, and the local firefighters chase them out of town. They are saved by Letty’s well honed survival instincts, her ability to drive like a maniac, and a little bit of hoodoo, from a mysterious benefactor.

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This same benefactor comes to their aid at the end of the episode, after they get stopped in a sundown county by the local sheriff, who challenges them to get out of the county 8 minutes before sundown, but without speeding. This is very  probably the slowest, most nerve wracking car chase in television history, and does a spectacular job of showing how frustrating, and enraging it was to live during the Jim Crow era, in which those who held authority, (yes, the police, but regular citizens were encouraged to get in on the fun), could terrorize black people on a whim, or simply for their own pleasure.

They do follow the cops rules and manage to barely make it out of town, only to be stopped by the police in the neighboring county, who were lying in wait for them. This is an especially relevant point, because it speaks to the arbitrary nature of the rules. It ultimately doesn’t mean anything that Atticus and the others followed the rules. They’ll be killed anyway, because a group of people determined that they should, and no amount of rule following would’ve saved them. However, the three of them  are  inadvertently saved by monsters.

Lovecraft Country' Premiere: 5 Things You May Have Missed in Episode 1,  “Sundown” | Decider

*I want to point out some of the images used in the show, which is rich with detail. This particular image here was based off some famous photographs by Gordon Parks.

Lovecraft Country Ep 1 Easter Egg // Another Gordon Parks Reference :  LovecraftCountry

And here is another, which can also seen in the episode:

Gordon Parks photo 1956, Lovecraft Country 2020 | MLTSHP

*There’s also a famous interview from James Baldwin, which is used in voiceover, before the trio’s second encounter with the police.

1965 debate between Baldwin and conservative author William F. Buckley.

*Hippolyta (George’s wife) is also the name of Wonder Woman’s mother, and George has a daughter named Diana.

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The cops take the three of them into the woods to execute them. This is an especially chilling scene when you think about how many black people might have been murdered in this fashion, who were never missed, or whose bodies were never discovered. In fact there are a host of activities that black people don’t do today, not just because we were discouraged from participating in everyday American life, but because, even today, we are still recovering from the trauma of the constant terrorizing and policing of our actions, which lasted some sixty to seventy years. Activities like road trips, camping, swimming, walking on the sidewalks, or just out enjoying nature, could (and did) get us murdered.

Until the seventies, many state parks were off limits to black people and earlier this Summer a young black man posted videos where he was threatened with lynching, by a white mob that assaulted him in a park. The bottom line is that many of the nature activities that white people took for granted, were enduring traumas for PoC, but especially black people. So when you hear us joking about not going into the woods, or never going hiking, keep this in mind, as one of the factors.

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/americas-national-parks-face-existential-crisis-race/story?id=71528972

“When I’m walking to work with park rangers or with other campers and hikers who treat me in some sort of way that make me feel unwelcome, that make me feel unsafe, that is startling,” Tariq said. “And that goes unchecked because there’s, there’s just no channel for us to be able to challenge that in such remote places.”

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https://bloomingtonian.com/2020/07/05/bloomington-man-threatened-with-noose-during-assault-at-lake-monroe/

As much as white people claim to be afraid of black people because…..crime, or something, I don’t think many of them have ever thought about what it must be like to live one’s life in constant fear of stepping on white people’s toes, at work, or the store, in a park, or just out of doors. Always having to watch what you say, how you look, dress, act, and carefully structure one’s facial expressions, lest you set one of them off, as if they were unexploded ordinance.

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The police take them into the woods to execute them, but before that can happen, they are all attacked by what viewers are calling Shuggoths, but what the characters in the show are calling vampires. They are covered with eyes, shun the light, and can move extremely fast, so they manage to take out the five or six cops rather easily. Letty and Atticus escape to an abandoned cabin, along with two of the cops, one of whom had their arm bitten off. After George joins them in the cabin, they make a plan to get more light from the cars parked at the edge of the woods. Atticus wants to go, but is prevented from doing so by the cops who 1) don’t trust him, and on top of that 2) aren’t very bright, because why would he leave his friends behind just to spite the police? The cops nominate Letty to run to the vehicles.

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Okay, I’m going to have to stop here for another aside. These are the same type of white men who will happily kill a black man for breathing too hard in a white woman’s direction but are perfectly happy to sacrificing a black woman to save their skins. In their minds, black women are not worth protecting. So even though they are armed and can take care of themselves, they insist that this black woman attempt to outrun the monsters, to save their skins. To calm everyone down, Letty does make a case that she is faster than Atticus, having run track as a girl, and off she goes.

And this is the way that people should be running in a Horror movie. Letty is seriously hauling ass! I wonder how many times Journee had to do that scene, because this is not a stunt double, and she is seriously working  out! There’s none of that glancing behind, or tripping and falling shit in your typical generic horror movie. This is also probably the reason black people don’t get to star in too many of them, because they would be boringly short films.

 

Letty makes it to the car, and heads back to the cabin, where the two cops are so busy concentrating on holding those two scary black men in check, that they don’t notice that one of them is turning into a one of the creatures that attacked them, but that’s not what’s interesting . What’s fascinating is  even though the cop next to him is turning into a nightmare that’s going to eat him, he is hesitant to shoot him, despite Attticus’ and George’s warnings, instead choosing to keep his weapon aimed at the two unarmed black men in front of him. See ,this is one of the reasons I don’t trust white people, (no, not even my white friends), with my safety. After decades of fear-mongering propaganda, the majority of them simply do not have good judgment when it comes to what’s actually dangerous, and what isn’t.

Lovecraft Country Jurnee Smollett GIF - LovecraftCountry JurneeSmollett  LetiLewis - Discover & Share GIFs

The cop turns into a monster and eats the other cop, which is a nice conflation of the idea that there are other types of monsters in the world, but the human ones are the scariest. Letty arrives with the car just as the monster turns its attention to Atticus and George, but they still need to hold the monsters off until daylight, or fight them, and that’s when the mysterious benefactor arrives and calls them off using, what else…a dog whistle!

We next see the three travelers arriving at Ardham house, exhausted, and  covered in blood, where they are welcomed and expected by their happy blond host, and yes, I’m immediately suspicious.

So that’s my first impression of the show. I have,  since the posting of this review, watched a couple more episodes, and the show manages to keep that same energy for each episode, which is more like a connected anthology than a serialistic show. The second episode finishes out the first story arc at Ardham House, and the third focuses on Leticia buying a haunted house. Both episodes continue with the same wealth of detail, racist white men, and historical asides, including references to the Garden of Eden, and a chilling cameo from Emmet Till!

There are so many layers to this show, but its also just entertaining, even if you don’t get, or see, all the socio-historical references. The show is fun to watch, with a lot of exciting moments, because its well written, and  the characters and plot are compelling.

Horror’s 10 Weirdest Monsters

I was just looking over a list of of horror movies I made early on this blog, of some of my favorite monsters, and took note of how damn weird all the monsters on that list were. I remember deliberately leaving certain types of traditional monsters off the list, like vampires and werewolves.

I also noticed a trend, from decade to decade, too. Whatever social or economic concerns Americans were voicing in the media at that time, got appropriated by Hollywood to make these movies, although its not quite that simple, as Hollywood didn’t just reflect our fears, but reinforced them, as a lot of these films had a sort of dialogue with one another.

In the fifties, the big theme was nuclear generated monsters because people were still reeling from the use of atomic weaponry during the war. In the sixties, the theme was zombies, and other human related horrors, as people began to question American lifestyles, and there was a great deal of social and racial upheaval. In the seventies, it was environmental concerns, and in the eighties, Hollywood focused on human and supernatural related horrors, like zombies, and slashers.

Here is my top ten list of the weirdest horror movie monsters ever screened. There’s a lot more, these just happen to be my personal favorites.

 

Little Shop Of Horrors – Giant Venus Flytrap

This is certainly one of the strangest monsters ever seen in a movie, (especially considering the sheer numbers of strange monsters in movies), a giant flytrap that is actually from Venus, that talks and sings. It took me years to figure that that’s what Audrey II was, probably because I wasn’t paying attention to the dialogue as closely as I should have, and well…Audrey is certainly distracting. The 1986 movie stars the music of Alan Mencken, was directed by Frank Oz, of Muppet fame, while Audrey was voiced by Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops.

 

Food of the Gods – Giant Mice, Chickens, and Hornets

This 1978 movie was loosely based on the H.G.Wells novel of the same name about a strange substance that bubbles out of the ground near a farm, which gets fed to various animals. This causes the farm animals, and all the nearby woodland  wildlife to grow to tremendous sizes. The audience gets treated to giant chickens, giant hornets, and of course, giant mice. Yes, the acting is terrible, and the special effects are laughable, but there are at least a couple of truly effective scenes, which makes this movie worth taking a look at.

Part of the reason for all these giant and killer animal movies, during the 70s, was America’s new awareness of ecological issues, which prompted Hollywood to try to cash in on these new environmentalist fears. Movies like Squirm, Slugs, Day of the Animals, Frogs, and the many Grizzly films gave vent to American’s fears of humans destroying the environment, which prompted the environment to take revenge on us.

 

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes – GiantTomatoes

In keeping with the theme of ecologically based monsters, this is an utterly ridiculous, 1978 satirical film, whose style is loosely based on the giant nuclear animal movies of the fifties, and The Blob.  The tomatoes even have their own theme song, written by John Dibello. The acting is atrocious, which only contributes to the films very, very, broad humor.

 

Night of the Lepus – Giant Rabbits

This is a 1972 horror scifi movie about a town being overrun by giant rabbits. The special effects are incredibly laughable because the rabbits don’t look especially evil or angry. They just look like rabbits, which is entirely in keeping with the “nature is trying to kill us all” phase of horror that happened during the 70s.

 

Rubber – Killer Car Tire

This 2010 movie is about a rubber tire, named Robert, that somehow becomes sentient enough to psychically kill the people it encounters. It rolls around the desert, exploding the bodies of hapless animals and unsuspecting people. Directed by Quentin Depieux, and starring a cast of nobodies, this film is much more surreal, as it also has a chorus of bystanders, who view the events, while making commentary, and who eventually all contract food poisoning by eating some bad poultry they brought with them for a picnic. Quentin needs help!

 

Attack of the Killer Shrews – Giant Shrews

This 1959, black and white,  giant animal movie revolves around a boat captain and his crew, who get stranded on a research island, with a mad scientist, his daughter, and the staff. The mad scientist believes shrinking human beings to the size of party snacks is a way to solve world hunger.  He should have stuck with enlarging plants, because naturally, he gets to be one of the first people eaten by the shrews. Its also a monumentally stupid idea.

This movie has the distinction of being one of the few movies, on this list, that scared the living beejeezus out of me…when I ten years old, and watched it on some idle Saturday afternoon. its always those childhood fears that stick with you, because I saw this a couple years ago, and yeah, I laughed at it, but it was, lowkey, still effective.

 

From Hell It Came – A Tree Stump/Zombie?

In keeping with the theme of murderous, sentient, wildlife, this is a 1957 scifi horror movie, about what appears to be an angry,  nuclear generated, tree stump, on yet another desert island. This movie has the rather unique plot of having  a witch doctor and human sacrifice involved, as well. As usual, there is the demonization of some sort of African pagan religion, which I’ll be speaking on later.

 

Black Sheep – Sheep

Black Sheep is a 2006 movie from New Zealand, about a brother who accidentally zombifies a flock of sheep, by performing genetic experiments on his father’s sheep farm. Just one bite from one of these fat, and perfectly normal looking sheep, is enough to transform a man into a horrific man-sheep monstrosity. The humor is that all of this is played completely straight and the actors really sell it.

 

The Crawling Eye – Giant Loose Eyeball

Originally called the Trollenberg Terror, this is a 1958 British, black and whit,e film. This one of the few films where the monster’s origins are not a result of nuclear something or other. The location is isolated, scientists are involved, and the monsters seemingly have a form of mind controlled.

 

Squirm – Worms

This is another movie I remember watching as a kid where  I wasn’t so much terrified, as disgusted. This movie, released in 1976, was one of the worst of the ecologically based horror movies, if only for the acting, but I still found it intriguing, because…worms. During a thunderstorm, a farm full of worms get struck with electricity from downed power lines, and decide they like the taste of people. There’s some greatly ridiculous scenes of screaming worms, and houses being swarmed by regular sized, bloodthirsty, worms.

 

Honorable Mentions

The Swarm – Killer Bees

This was apart of the great Swarm! of killer bee movies that we all got inundated with in the 70s, thanks to the media horror stories about the Africanized honey bee, the most hostile and aggressive bees on the planet because…Africa! taking over America.

 

Frogs – Frogs

This movie released in 1972, is a rather slow moving thing that doesn’t contain monsters so much as deeply stupid people. A wealthy family has a reunion on their private island, so they can fight among themselves in private, but are inundated by swarms of frogs, and other wildlife, that apparently hate them. The frogs and other animals,  aren’t grown to large sizes, or are even especially malevolent. They pretty much just act like snakes, birds, and lizards, while the family members act like accident prone ninnies.

 

So hey everybody, have a happy weekend, and watch out for the trees!

Hannibal: Season Three…And the Beast from the Sea

[These last reviews of the Red Dragon arc were originally published after the end of the series in 2015. I’ve edited these  reviews to reflect new thoughts and information.]

The last episode I reviewed was about the different character’s perceptions, as has been the theme for most of the series., but this episode is about Agency, how each of the characters have it, take it, and/or employ it. Agency is the ability to affect change over the environment by one’s actions. One can affect change oneself or use proxies to do so.

We pick up the narrative where we left off in the last episode.

Graham is outlining the situation for Crawford. Crawford is incredulous that Dollarhyde ate a painting. Graham surmises that Hannibal knows who Dollarhyde is, and that he was once a patient. He’s only half wrong. Dollarhyde is Hannibal’s current patient through secret phone calls, after Dollarhyde masquerades as Hannibal’s lawyer. We flashback (not really) to Hannibal telling Dollarhyde to save himself by attacking Will and his family. This is about Dollarhyde taking and using agency, regarding his relationship with Hannibal, the Red Dragon, and Reba, but he is also Hannibal’s proxy.

Look Ahead At The Red Dragon.  GIF | Gfycat

Hannibal is using Dollarhyde to get back at Will for rejecting him. Lecter does, as Bedelia states later,  have agency in the world, even though he is locked away. The difference is that she attributes this agency to the wrong person. She thinks the person executing Hannibal’s agency is Will Graham, when its really Dollarhyde. This is Hannibal, once again, playing his old game of I love you/I want to hurt you! Will may be tired of it, but Hannibal always finds this game amusing (except when Will enacts this particular game against him.)

Oh yeah, the flashbacks aren’t actually flashbacks. They’re conversations that Lecter had/is having, with Dollarhyde, over the phone, but are imagined from Lecter’s point of view, and usually from inside what he calls his mind vault. Being given Lecter’s POV is often done without any warning for the audience, an effect with which I’m not entirely comfortable, as nobody really wants to be in Lecter’s head, and is probably equally disconcerting for people who are “first watchers” of this series.

Richard Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde and Rutina Wesley as Reba ...

As the next full moon approaches, Reba and Dee (as she calls him), spend some quality time together. I don’t see a whole lot of chemistry in their relationship, (that’s just my inability to see romance between characters, in general), but these are both very good actors, who convince me that they’re in the beginning stages of a relationship. Dollarhyde wants to, but can’t let the Red Dragon go, not even for Reba’s sake, not even as he fears for her. While she cuddles with him on the sofa, he watches home movies of his next possible target, Molly and Wally.

Will’s wife is at the vet because the dogs are sick. She doesn’t understand that the Red Dragon always kills the pets  first. I know this from reading the books, but she believes she poisoned the dogs with some  food from China, because that was a thing going around in the news at the time this show was written, and Fuller, who absolutely loves dogs, was so incensed by that, that he put it in the script.

Top 30 Molly Foster Graham GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat

Graham goes to Lecter to beg for the identity of the Red Dragon, but Lecter would rather tease him. This is one of the quietest, and most sinister arguments, I’ve ever heard, conducted almost entirely in sharp whispers. This may also be the reason I can’t  understand what the hell is going on. I managed to get around this by remembering to turn on the captions.

Dollarhyde tries to murder  Will’s family, hunting them through their house, and injuring Molly. Both she and Wally survive, but Will, naturally, feels incredibly guilty about what happened. He has a conversation with Wally, about the killer’s mental illness, which forces him to divulge the time he spent in a psychiatric hospital. The conversation does not go well. Incidentally, we don’t see or hear from either of these characters again, and no end is written for Molly, as Will seemingly forgets all about her.  Make of that what you will because the fans certainly did.

and the woman clothed in the sun | Tumblr

Will, incensed, confronts Lecter, who readily  admits to giving Dollarhyde Will’s home address. Crawford, and Alana threaten Lecter into cooperating with Crawford’s scheme to capture Dollarhyde using drop boxes.

Because he failed to kill Will’s family, Dollarhyde imagines himself getting beaten by the Red Dragon. Reba walks in on him just after this event, and there’s a very tense moment where he is probably contemplating killing her, as he has not quite come back to himself, and the Red Dragon, having been deprived of the other kill, wants to be satisfied.

Fans of Interracial Romance - Movies & TV: Hannibal - Rutina ...

This scares Francis because he genuinely cares about Reba, and in an effort to be proactive, to save her from himself,  shows up at Reba’s job and breaks up with her, saying that he’s afraid he might hurt her. Reba, not knowing or even suspecting any of this, (she is a true innocent), is understandably angry, and tells him to get out. It looks bad no matter what he does. From her point of view, they slept together a few  times, and now he suddenly doesn’t want to be with her, having given no indication  that he’s no longer interested.

These are both fine actors, who really sell this scene. I am touched by their conversation, (even though I hate romance movies). I suddenly realize that Francis isn’t as much afraid of hurting her, as he is also afraid of being in love, and being loved. In the flashback sequence with Lecter, he talks about how she makes him feel, and believes himself to be completely unworthy of the level of happiness he feels with her, or her desire for him. Love can be terrifying, especially for someone unused to giving or receiving it, and who has some deep self esteem issues due to child abuse.

I would also like to commend the show for showing an inter-racial relationship as if its no big deal. I like it that the show treats the characters, especially the women, like people, and doesn’t feel the need to change the dialogue to reflect the  character’s race or gender. The same dialogue spoken by a White man in the movie, is the exact same dialogue that’s spoken by a Black man or a White woman on the show. In fact the only major recurring  characters to remain unchanged are Graham, Lecter and Dollarhyde.

Francis watching Reba touch the tiger/the beast in Hannibal 3.10 ...

Dollarhyde calls Lecter, not knowing that their conversation is being overheard. Lecter gives him a quick warning, because that’s the kind of shit he does, and afterwards is duly punished. Alana keeps her word to him, by having all of his amenities taken away, including his toilet seat. He also gets restraints and the famous Lecter mask, first seen in Silence of the Lambs, (but was also seen on Will Graham in the second season).

Will talks to Molly at the hospital and she nominally forgives him for what happened to her. She’s not really blaming him, but yeah, she’s still pretty pissed that the man Will was hunting, tried to kill her, and her son. Will then goes to see Lecter in his new accommodationless accommodations. The story is not over. Normally, after the attack on Will’s family, the films end with the restoration of the status quo, and Dollarhyde dead, but Fuller has a lot more story to tell.

This is one of television’s strengths. It has the ability to tell complicated, interwoven, long form stories that cannot be done in a two hour movie. It has the ability to flesh out characters and plot in a way that’s more difficult on the big screen, (unless the movie is totally dedicated to a specific person or subject.)

Latest Hannibal 3 X 09 GIFs | Gfycat

On TV, the writers can create a tapestry of a story, using multiple threads, and deeper characterization, and I think this is where TV has really gained momentum as a  storytelling medium, especially in the last ten years. TV didn’t always take full advantage of its serial nature. In fact it always tried to do what movies did, but in  less time, as it would try to wrap up it’s mini- stories in the space of 45 or 50 minutes. Fortunately, its starting to break away from this model somewhat, and watching a series requires a certain level of dedication, if a viewer wants to understand the entire story.

None of that however, is going to help the casual viewer to understand whats going on in this show. I love this show, but this level of complexity, always just slightly out of grasp, may be the reason this is the show’s last season. You know there’s more depth to the show then you understand, but its ten o’clock in the evening, your mind is gone, and there’s a lot of urgent whispering that requires you to turn on the captions, so you can find out just what the Hell is being said.

Hannibal: Season Three …And the Woman Clothed in Sun

“ And behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth. ” Revelations 12:3-4

I was a teenager the first time I read the Book of Revelations, so naturally,  I found it pretty terrifying. Mostly because of some incredibly lurid imagery, I just wasn’t expecting the Bible to have. Reading it when I got older, I was less afraid, and struck instead, by the incredible beauty and poetry of those chapters.

Most people don’t know this, (Hell, I didn’t know it and I went to art school), but the painting featured in the movie version, but which I’ve not seen in the show, is one of a series of paintings by Willliam Blake, about the Book of Revelations, and his interpretation of the Rise of the Antichrist. The one featured in the  Red Dragon movie is the painting  titled The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed IN the Sun.

The second painting in the series, and  that of the first episode of  The Red Dragon arc of this series, is titled …And the Woman Clothed WITH the Sun. There are two other paintings in the series, which are also the titles of the next two episodes.

Hannibal and The Tooth Fairy are clandestinely discussing Francis’ transformation into the Red Dragon. This episode is sort ofabout how characters perceive themselves, vs, how others perceive them, and each character discusses who they are, which is contrasted to the reality. For the first time, we hear Francis declare himself to be the Dragon. This is how he perceives himself,  but what we see in Hannibal’s imagination is the two of them sitting in a room together, while Hannibal looks at an ordinary man, but Hannibal responds with a line from Blake’s poem, The Tyger, in expression of the awe that Francis craves.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright, 
In the forests of the night; 
What immortal hand or eye, 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

The Great Red Dragon And The Woman Clothed With The Sun GIF | Gfycat

 

Bedelia, Lecter’s psychiatrist, is giving a public speech about the nature of her relationship with Hannibal the Cannibal, and how she managed to escape him. She is trying to create the public perception that she was one of Hannibal’s victims. Will Graham is there, and  calls her out on her bullshit. Will’s perception of her is very different.

The two of them have a long meeting, and I have come to the conclusion that not only is Bedelia batshit-insane,  she is also pretty terrifying. Not violent, so much as completely disassociated from what makes a person human, and while I want to think Lecter is responsible for that, this is most likely all her, and may be the reason he liked her so much.

 

A Plethora Of Fandoms. Sticker GIF | Gfycat

 

Now contrast Will’s scene with Bedelia, with my favorite scene, which is when Francis takes Reba to meet the tiger.  This entire scene is about perception. Francis views himself as the beast. It’s not quite obvious, but Reba has kind of caught on to that, and seems to  know what he’s thinking. Apparently Reba can frame “thy fearful symmetry” just fine, of both the tiger, and Francis. I think this perception of what Francis may be thinking is what informs her actions towards him, later. Even Fuller states that this is a deeply sensuous moment between the two of them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lady,_or_the_Tiger%3F

Francis describes the tiger’s color. Is that helpful to her? Depending on when and how she lost her sight (as we are never told), does she remember colors? In the book, Reba lost her sight as a child, and jokes to him about what animals she remembers. I can’t imagine this Reba knows what he’s talking about, if she’s been blind since birth. This scene is shot to perfection, as we see Reba’s skin tone against that of the glowing yellow fur of the tiger. She listens to its heart, while Francis stands there, barely able to contain his depth of feeling.

reba mcclane | Tumblr

Francis takes Reba to his home. She is impressed by his home, and his thoughtfulness in arranging the thing with the tiger. They drink wine, listen to music, and Reba makes the first move.  This is a woman who doesn’t believe in  letting an opportunity to enjoy herself slip away. (Rutina Wesley appears to have these huge man-hands, which is deeply disturbing, and distracting. Her hands are as huge as Francis’ head.)

Their love scene gets the slo-mo treatment, interspersed with shots of Frank’s dragon tattoo. Francis envisions Reba, as the Woman spoken of in Blake’s painting, floating and goddess-like, in liquid gold, the same color as the tiger. Its almost like he’s worshiping her, but without the context that in the Book of Revelations, the Woman clothed with the Sun, is the Dragon’s downfall.

Later, while Reba is sleeping, he uses her hand to touch his face, but it’s not sexy, at all. It’s deeply sad, that he’s so lonely, so removed from normal people, and so starved for affection, and all of it self imposed, as he has deep self esteem issues, because of his disability. Reba is probably the only woman to ever touch him, in a very long time, with any form of love, especially his face, as  he’s very self conscious about his cleft palate.

The next morning, he is summoned to the attic by the dragon’s  voice, where he and his alter ego argue about what to do with Reba. The outcome of the fight is …uncertain, but I think Dollarhyde wins this round. He then takes Reba home.

Hannibal manages to  get Graham’s address and home number. This does not look good.

Hannibal' Seeks Revenge in '...And the Beast From the Sea'

Will and Bedelia are still talking. Will tells her she deserves to be eaten by Lecter. I’m as disgusted with her as he is, and I see why he’s so pissy with her. She was wholly complicit in Hannibal’s crimes, but claims it was curiosity that kept her with him. She’s as much a sociopath as Lecter, but couches it in  a veneer of professionalism.

Zachary Quinto is guest starring in this episode. That man is everywhere. (Fortunately, I’m in love with him, so I can watch him anywhere.) Lecter used to be his counselor, and he claimed he got worst under his care. This scene switches back and forth between Graham and Bedelia, and her session with Quinto’s outraged patient. He starts having a seizure. Something that was subliminally planted by Hannibal.

To her credit, Bedelia does try to help him, but she botches the job by reaching too far into his mouth, in an attempt to reach his tongue, which she believes he is swallowing. This was apparently before she became inured to death. Now, she could probably watch him choke, with all the compassion of an insect. This is the event that gave Hannibal leverage over her, to coerce her to travel to Italy with him.

The elephant in the room is this deeply intimate relationship between Graham and Hannibal. It’s no secret that fans are shipping the Hell out of these two, and Fuller is well aware of this, and likes to play it up. Will asks Bedelia if Hannibal is in love with him and she tells him her perception of their relationship. From the beginning of the series the primary theme has always been about perception. How Will perceives the world around him, how Hannibal looks at the world ,and how the supporting characters view the two of them.

For Everyone Who Has A "Thing" For Hannibal And Will Graham | Will ...

Will approaches Lecter with the Red Dragon symbol he found at the Leeds’ home, and Lecter informs him of its meaning, mentioning that the full moon is in eleven days, so Will better get a move on, before the next family dies.

 

At the Brooklyn Museum, Francis goes to see the the main Blake painting, and just as in the book and film, he eats it. This is probably his attempt to stop killing by ingesting the painting’s power, or so Will guesses. When Graham shows up, they finally meet face to face, which doesn’t work out too well for Graham, and Francis tosses him through the air like a kitten. Its easy to forget how large the actor is who plays Dollarhyde, next to the rather diminutive Graham. In a prodigious show of strength, Francis picks him up and throws him across the room, before making his escape.

Since the show hews so closely to the filmed version, (which is not unlike the book), this really plays off the difference between television and film. In every respect, this particular part of the series is just like the film, only with a depth of detail that movies simply don’t have time for, in the space of two hours. It’s really like watching an alternate universe version of the same story.

This is also one of the reasons that television is in the midst of a kind of renaissance of storytelling, right now. The creators of these shows, informed by social media and digital streaming, can take full advantage of the medium, take serial storytelling to its ultimate conclusion, and respond to fandom critiques of their shows, almost in real time. As a result, movies are just a very different medium of storytelling,  and simply can’t do what a series does, in providing the depth of  character detail that fans crave.

This leads to one of the differences I noted between Transformative fandom vs Curatorial fandom. Curatorial fandom is most often concerned with the minutiae and plot detail provided in movies, which have characters and relationships as less of a priority. It’s not that movies don’t have either of those things, its that its more difficult to get deep into such issues, in a two hour genre movie, that has more pressing concerns, like advancing the plot. However, you can get more in depth character development, and relationships in a ten or twenty hour series. In fact, the success of a series depends on how invested the audience can get into the characters.

Hannibal Season Three: The Great Red Dragon

Amazon.com: Red Dragon (Hannibal Lecter Series) (9780425228227 ...

We have conculded with the portion of the Hannibal/Will Graham story that began in season one, when they first met over the body of Abigail  Hobbs, and ending with the capture/surrender to the authorities of Hannibal Lecter. This is one of the first episodes that doesn’t have a reference to food or dining in its title.

The story has moved forward three years, to begin  The Red Dragon storyline, from the book of the same name, along with two films, one from 1986, titled Manhunter, starring Brian Cox as Hannibal, and the other directed by Brett Ratner in 2002,  starring Edward Norton. This last part of the season follows the book, and the two films, closely enough, with Will Graham coming out of retirement to catch a serial killer called  The Tooth Fairy, or as he calls himself, The Red Dragon. But there is also a lot of new stuff added as we find out what the other characters have been doing.

Hannibal "The Great Red Dragon" Season 3 Episode 8 | TV Equals

Alana Bloom  has become the Administrator of the asylum which houses Hannibal Lecter. As she says, she is holding all the keys, and has him exactly where where she wants him. She was the surrogate mother to her and Margot’s son,  who is also the heir to  the Verger fortune, and she lives with Margot, who we don’t get to see this season. Jack Crawford is still doing his thing at the Criminal Minds Bureau, and has not remarried after the death of his wife.

Crawford’s old forensic team, (Price and Zeller), have  moved on, achieved promotions, and gone their separate ways, and we don’t learn anything new about him. Chilton stepped down from his position at the hospital to become a true crime author. He wrote a bestselling book that  absolved Hannibal of responsibility for his murders, which Hannibal rebuts in a popular psychiatric journal, just to spite him.

Hannibal: "The Great Red Dragon" Review - IGN

We do get to see Hannibal too, and when we first meet him, he is sharing some Blood Pudding with Chilton as they discuss their past together. Hannibal has entered a state of mind where he has zero fucks to give about being a cannibal, as he cheerfully needles both Chilton and Alana about how he adulterated the foods and beverages he gave them.

Chilton then Hannibal by claiming that he is old news, and that nobody wants to hear about him anymore, because a new star has risen, The Tooth Fairy, so named because he likes to bite his victims. If you’ll remember, that is a callback to a speech, that Alana was giving to Will’s profiling class, in the first season.

Hannibal recap: The Great Red Dragon | EW.com

The greatest change has been to Will Graham’s life. He has moved on from Lecter and married  a woman named Molly, with a son, Wally. The three of them live on a farm with their stray dogs, while Will fixes boat motors, and tries to ignore any news of The Tooth Fairy. After the Tooth Fairy’s latest killing, Jack Crawford  shows up to pull Will back in, desperate for his help in capturing  him. Molly doesn’t like this, but realizes that Crawford will take Will anyway.

Crawford makes the same futile promise to Molly that he made to Alana several years ago, that he would keep Will safe, so he has not learned from that time period, it seems. But Molly relents, actually encouraging Will to leave his family, and go help Crawford. Crawford hands Will a letter from Lecter, who has been writing to him regularly. Wil lreads it and the press clipping of Dollarhyde’s most recent muder ,and burns both in the fireplace.

Hannibal Season 3, Episode 8 Recap: "The Great Red Dragon" | Collider

And I just want to talk about this moment, because one of my biggest pet peeves, in a lot of series and shows, is the depiction of wives and mothers. They are often depicted as clingy and disapproving of their husband’s work, especially in crime and cop stories. The movie version of Molly is exactly like that, but it is a cliche I’ve seen across a lot of media, so its very refreshing to see that Molly understands Will’s talent, knows the good he has done, and knows that he is saving lives, and encourages him to do so. Its very refreshing to see her give her approval here, rather than nag him for leaving her, or endangering himself.

 

We get to do a profiling walk-through with Will, as he tours the home of The Tooth Fairy’s latest victims, the Leeds. I just want to point out one more time that this is not anything like the way actual profiling gets done. Profilers rarely get to visit the actual crime scenes and touch stuff. They normally work from photographs and investigative reports.

I find it difficult to believe that Will can do any profiling since he never turns on any lights in the house. For some reason, Hollywood has decided that profiling needs to dramatized by having it be done in darkened rooms, with flashlights, since this is the exact approach that was used in the movie.

Behold the Great Red Dragon! : “Hannibal” Season 3, Episode 8 ...

Price and Zeller return after a long hiatus from the series. Price’s character is now an agent, and Graham, Zeller, and Price  pick up their dynamic right where they left off in their forensic investigation of the Leeds’ homicide. Price and Zeller had long gotten used to Graham’s interruptions of their analysis with insights into the killer’s mind.

Unlike the police procedural versions of the  first and second season, we spend a not inconsiderable amount of time in the presence of The Tooth Fairy, aka The Red Dragon, aka Francis Dollarhyde. Fuller doesn’t dwell on showing Francis committing his crimes, focusing instead on Francis’ mental illness, motivations, and private life. The end result is not the  sensationalism of the murders, but the mindset of the perpetrator, resulting in the profile of a man who, as Will Graham says, with his usual level of empathy, later in the season, was not a freak, so much as a man with a freak on his back.

SEASON 3 EPISODE 8: "THE GREAT RED DRAGON"Francis Dolarhyde's ...

 

We are introduced to Francis, and I’m assuming this scene is set sometime around, or just before, the time that Hannibal was captured,  as Francis sits in the cafeteria at his job, contemplating an issue of Time magazine, in which there is an article about Blake’s painting of The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun. He is so enamored of the painting that he gets one of the paintings tattooed on his back. He also has a great deal of admiration for Hannibal  Lecter, and  like a lot of serial killers in movies, has a murder scrapbook filled with press clippings of his and Hannibal’s murders.

As we will discuss in a later post, the Red Dragon painting is actually a series of watercolor paintings, based on Blake’s images from the Biblical Book of Revelations. This has the effect of bringing a religious element into the discussion of this season.

francis 'the great red dragon' dolarhyde | Tumblr

 

The reason we know this scene happened several years ago, is that it takes about that long for someone to get the kind of full body tattoo, that’s displayed on Francis’ back, at the end of this scene. Tattoos of that size, with such photo realistic detail, are often called “Full Suit” or “Body Suit” tattoos, and can take upwards of a 100 hours to finish, especially if the recipient has never had experience with tattoos before.

Francis then has a set of specially made dentures that are copies of his grandmother’s dentures. In the book, he simply used his grandmother’s old dentures, and they were ill fitting. This is definitely  giving me some Psycho/Norman Bates vibes. According to the book, (and only shown in some of the episodes), his grandmother was emotionally and physically abusive, and one could argue, she was sexually abusive as well, as she regularly threatened his manhood, for urinating in bed. We learn this during a scene where Francis hallucinates in her voice, which is also a callback to the movie Psycho, with Norman’s mother berating him in a voiceover. All of this has to be put in the perspective of serial killing, as two of the markers for it is childhood abuse, and bedwetting.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_killer#Development

After Will does his walkthrough of the crime scene, he feels he’s not in the correct mindset to be able to solve the crime. He thinks he needs Lecter to help him get there, and tells Crawford he’s going to see him at the Hospital. Crawford agrees.

At the end of the episode is  Hannibal’s  long hoped for reunion with the man Freddy Lounds referred to as his Murder-Husband. This too is a callback to the last episode of the first season, when Hannibal approached Will’s cell, after he was falsely arrested for the murder of Abigail Hobbs, as the same melancholy music plays in the background.

Hugh Dancy Hints To When 'Hannibal' Could Return

ehl Irs GIF | Gfycat

 

Notes on: The Old Guard

 

The Old Guard Tog Sticker by NETFLIX for iOS & Android | GIPHY
Joe and Nicky

The Old Guard has totally blown up on Tumblr. The movie, which aired on Netflix last month was a real treat for women who love action movies, so much so, that there has been a lot of great meta writing and fanworks on the site.The movie is based on the Graphic Novel, by Greg Rucka, about a team of four immortal warriors, Andromache of Scythia,(Charlize Theron), Nicky, Joe, and Booker,  living in the modern world,  fighting a pharmecutical CEO ,who wants to use them for medical experiments. In the meantime, they need to find and recruit a brand new immortal, named Nile Freeman, and deal with a betrayal within, and outside of, their group.

Its one of those big idea movies, where the rules are all laid out beforehand, and  doesn’t stint on the development of its characters. It has some truly lovely scenes between Nicky and Joe, and Nile and Andy. I thought the movie was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed the characters and their interactions. I think its really worth a watch if you like action movies, with strong, ass kicking, smart women, who interact realistically with one another, along with a well illustrated, found family dynamic. There’s also a strong philosophical thread that runs through the movie, which asks questions about the purpose of living, and what its like to be alive for hundreds of years.

The Old Guard Tog Sticker by NETFLIX for iOS & Android | GIPHY
Andromache of Scythia aka Andy

The Old Guard is a fairly predictable film as far as the plot. What makes it groundbreaking however is its Black female director, Gina Prince-Bythewood, the well executed action scenes, its racial diversity, its Black female co-lead, and the presence of a canon gay inter-racial couple, who both survive to the end of the movie.

I read a lot of meta on this movie and was moved by how much fans seemed to really embrace this movie, especially Nile, since fandom hasn’t always been any good about its approach to black female characters. Its true that some fans tend to infantilize her, but that’s somewhat understandable, since the character of Nile is a brand new, baby-immortal, just learning about her powers, and the actress who plays her, Kiki Layne does have a kind of sweet baby face.

The story makes an effort to set up the knowledge that the characters are immortal, but that their survival is not a guarantee, so the tension about who will survive, remains really high, no matter how many fights we see them get into in the film

The Old Guard Nile Sticker by NETFLIX for iOS & Android | GIPHY
Nile Freeman

One of the things I loved about this movie is that the stakes never were less than. You would think, because the characters are unable to die, that there’d be nothing for them to lose in the several firefights, but there are many intangible things they can lose. They can lose their freedom, they can lose their trust, or their friendship, for Nikki and Joe, they could lose each other, or even their sense of purpose, or self, the way Andy did.

 

Another love of this film was the character arcs. We find out at the beginning of the movie that Andy has been retired from fighting for over a year. She’s given up, she’s cynical, and has no hope that she has done anything useful for the world, and we watch as her character gets back her reason for fighting and Nile is the key to that. Andy doesn’t just go out and save Nile. Nile saves her too.

Even their treatment of Booker’s betrayal comes from a place of compassion. Yes, they’re very angry with him, but they don’t permanently exile him either. They think a hundred years of being separated from his family is punishment enough. They’re not out to physically harm him, or cause him emotional damage, but there have to be consequences for what he did. They know being alone however is horrible for him (it’s the reason he betrayed them in the first place) but it’s the only consequence they have available.

The Old Guard Tog Sticker by NETFLIX for iOS & Android | GIPHY

 

For male directors character development and emotions, may be a 3 or 4 on the scale of priority in a movie, and I normally don’t have a problem with that manner of filmmaking. I’ve watched enough action movies to be able to glean the emotions in them, but usually that’s not a male director’s focus. I’m mostly thinking of movies like Winter Soldier, Inception, and Fury Road, (and quite a large number of Asian action films,) where the focus is on the plot and action, with character development as more of an afterthought.

I think there are a number of male action directors who do bring emotionalism into their work, and manage to be successful at it, but I think the difference is for male directors their priorities are simply different than female directors. For women directors though, the priority on relationships, character interaction, and character development, may be at a one or a two, thereby making the plot much more character driven than in male directed films, where the plot is more situational, but that’s just an observation I’ve made with my limited sample size.

There really aren’t a wealth of action movies out there directed by female directors ,and the ones that do get made, are  either always being trashed as the worst movies ever, or lauded as the second coming of Jesus. There seems to be no in between, reasonably thought out, reviews or critiques. Everything is either the best of times or the worst of times.

And yes, I am geeking out over the addition of a Black female character as an action heroine. There really are not enough female action heroes, but there are almost no Black or Asian ones. This is why I’ve become a lot more discerning about the kinds of shows and movies I watch now. I’m thoroughly spoiled for diverse content, that has depth and at least some meaning, and  very dubious about sitting through any more all white, all male productions of shows and movies. I’m definitely not willing to sit through any of the lazy, sorry, excuses PoC have gotten in the past for not having diversity both in front of, and behind, the camera.

The Old Guard is a lot of fun, with just a touch of melancholy. Its just deep enough to be satisfying without getting too heavy. The plot isn’t really all that remarkable, and very predictable, but what the characters and director do with the plot is worth watching. It’s got some great action sequences, and although there are a couple of moments of cringey dialogue,  and the music is sometimes overwhelmingly blase, its not too bad, and doesn’t stray very far from its comic book origins, as the script was written by Rucka. Theron carries most of the emotional heavy lifting in the story. In fact, she almost overpowers the story, but that gets nicely weighed by the other characterizations, and action scenes.

Fans are clamoring for a second season ,especially since there was a ice set up for it, in the last 30 seconds, but the word isn’t out yet on whether or not there will be one.

 

The Old Guard Tog Sticker by NETFLIX for iOS & Android | GIPHY

As for what Tumblr thinks:

This was a beautifully written examination of the movie’s characters. Please visit their Tumblr site for more insightful observations of their newest obseesion.

fuckyeahisawthat

 

the old guard: loneliness, connection and immortality

 

APPARENTLY I am writing a thing about The Old Guard today.

 

(Bear in mind that I haven’t read the graphic novel, although I’m eager to now, so this is solely based on the movie and some things I’ve read about the comic in articles about the movie.)

 

Under the cut for spoilers, although the discussion is fairly general.

 

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THE OLD GUARD (2020) — Sleeper Awakened

fuckyeahisawthat

the old guard and moral uncertainty

One of the things I love the most about The Old Guard, which I haven’t seen discussed much, is that there is no why to their powers. There’s no origin story, either via destiny or accident. There’s no prophecy, no curse, no ancient god, no super-serum, no lab accident, no mutant spider bite. If there is a reason why these people, in particular, are like this, we don’t know it and they don’t either. Where their immortality comes from, and why it fades when it does, is a complete unknown.

 

In other contexts I could see this coming off as a frustrating lack of clarity in worldbuilding. In The Old Guard I think it works as an essential piece of the philosophical landscape in which the story operates.

A parallel and interlocking component of this landscape is the fact that the immortals exist in a world where there are very few, if any, other superpowered beings. There are no pre-ordained forces of darkness, no aliens to fight, no neatly-arranged supervillains that only they can defeat. There are only humans.

 

This means they have to create their own framework of meaning for their actions, the way the rest of us mortals do. The mythology of their world doesn’t provide any built-in delineation of good guys and bad guys and What We’re Fighting For. There’s no easy certainty of purpose or moral clarity to be had.

 

 

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The Old Guard Kiki Layne GIF - TheOldGuard KikiLayne Action ...

fuckyeahisawthat

Let’s talk for a minute about how The Old Guard shows Nile as a character who’s worthy of protection and caretaking without infantilizing her or minimizing her agency.

I’m thinking particularly of the scene when Nile wakes up from the nightmare about Quynh, which honestly might be one of my favorite moments in the whole movie. The three guys are all sleeping in the same room as her and they all immediately wake up and reach for their weapons, ready to throw down. Like, at least a couple of them look like they’re sleeping on cots. They could have spread out around the space, but all three of them are sleeping in the same room as her, armed. Only Andy has chosen to separate herself and is not-sleeping in the next room.

 

And their reaction isn’t just an ingrained response from a very long life of combat. They’re all very clearly focused on Nile and whether she’s safe, and once it’s clear that there’s no physical threat, they want to make sure she’s okay emotionally and help her understand what she saw in the nightmare.

 

This is one of those moments where context sensitivity matters a lot. Because we can easily imagine a scenario where the exact same scene would play as overprotective, condescending or downright creepy. But when the focus of the scene is a Black woman, a moment that says this character is worthy of both physical, bodily protection and emotional support reads very differently.

 

We already know Nile is a tough and self-sufficient character. She’s an elite soldier who grew up in the inner city, raised by a single mom who pushed her to succeed. She has excelled in a dangerous, physically demanding, male-dominated career. She is, in many ways, the template of the Strong Black Woman, and a lot of movies would have left it there. But with this scene, and all the other little moments of care and attention she receives, the other characters are saying, hey, we know you are tough and self-sufficient, but you don’t always have to be.

 

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Dorothy Surrenders: Guard Up

grizvser is writing some very nice meta about this show, especially the two lovers, Joe and Nicky. Please check out their Tumblr site for more astute observations about the show and characters.

grizviser

Okay, so I’ve seen a lot of people say that Joe and Nicky were way too hard on Booker and that it’s out of character for them to have reacted so harshly to his betrayal, but y’all gotta remember (and I say this as someone who loves Booker): Joe and Nicky paid the heaviest price for Booker’s betrayal.

 

They were the ones who were kidnapped and tied up. Nicky had to watch Joe get stabbed repeatedly by Merrick. The two of them were the only ones who got experimented on, poked and prodded at and sliced into, and who knows what could have happened to them if they hadn’t been saved so soon. They had to deal with the trauma of possibly being kept there for god knows how long. When Booker and Andy were captured, they were only trapped for a little while before Nile came and rescued everyone. They never had to deal with any of that trauma.

 

Not only did they suffer the torture themselves, but they had to watch the person they love suffer too. If Booker hadn’t betrayed them, none of the events of the movie would’ve happened. Joe had to watch Nicky not only get tortured, but get shot in the damn head. All of this is because Booker sold them out.

 

Combine that with the fact that the two of them are clearly very loyal, honourable men, who are undoubtedly devestated that someone they trusted and thought of as their family would sell them out just because HE didn’t want to live anymore? Joe and Nicky are happy to be alive because they have each other, but Booker put that at risk because of his own feelings of grief. Even though I understand Booker wasn’t motivated by any malice and I’m empathetic to his struggles and feelings, it’s understandable why Joe calls him selfish. Joe is willing to live for eternity because he has Nicky (and the whole guard too, of course), and Booker’s actions could have taken that away from him.

Nile forgives him quickly because she’s new and doesn’t fully understand the weight of his actions, meanwhile Andy is more sympathetic because she, too, is a little bit tired of living, yet Joe and Nicky, the ones who want to live, bear the brunt of a lot of the suffering that came along with Booker’s choice.

 

Now, I do think they will get over it sooner than 100 years, but right now, the betrayal was so raw and the impact of what happened so fresh in their mind, I understand their reasoning.

 

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yusuf al kaysani | Tumblr

grizviser

One of the best things about Joe and Nicky in The Old Guard is their sexuality/relationship is a very important traits of both of their characters, but it’s not their only trait.

 

So many times when I hear people talk about gay/queer characters in media, I hear, “their sexuality isn’t an important part of their character” or “they just happen to be gay,” and I’ve always thought that was bullshit and a cop-out. Sexuality and romance plays a HUGE part in people’s lives. People spend a lot of their time looking for “the one”, looking for romance, looking for a relationship or sex or both. Think about classical male heroes and how often they bed women (think James Bond, James Kirk in Star Trek, etc.) Wouldn’t you say sexuality is a huge part of their characters? Yet with gay characters it’s said to be “not important.” It’s just a cop-out.

 

Joe and Nicky’s sexualities are very important because their relationship is so incredibly important to both of them. It’s portrayed to be the reason they’re both still happy to be living while Andy and Booker have grown jaded and suicidal due to loneliness. They are the most important thing in the world to each other. They aren’t “badass but just happen to be gay.” They are badass AND gay.

 

They’re incredibly competent fighters who can brutalize an entire army but when they go home they flirt, they wink at each other, they snuggle, they kiss, they talk about their love for one another. They’re no less masculine when they’re expressing their love for one another than they are when they’re massacring an army of soldiers.

 

Yet still, their characters are not reduced to just the token gay guys who are also tough. They have their own distinct personalities. Joe is impassioned, quick to anger, protective, playful, romantic, vengeful, but with a soft heart full of deep love. Nicky is quiet, reserved, compassionate, loving, and sweet, but also calculating and sarcastic and a force to be reckoned with in a fight.

 

They’re both such distinct, powerful personalities and it’s portrayed through their individual actions as well as through their love for each other. It fills me with so much joy that these characters were allowed to be so unapologetically, textually gay without it being an afterthought and also without it becoming the centerpiece of the story.

 

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And these aren’t all. Visit Tumblr and type in The Old Guard to find whole blogs devoted to the topic, fanart, and various headcanon, and fictions.

Fall Series and Films 2020

Okay, I was initially just going to post only those shows I was invested in watching, but decided to add at least a couple of shows that, while I might not be especially enthused about them, I’m sure someone reading this, is.

So, here’s a thoroughly incomplete list of new Fall shows that someone, who is not necessarily me, might be interested in watching in October.

 

Walking Dead: World Beyond

This is one of the shows I’m not terribly enthused about, because I’m not really in much of a mood for apocalyptic fiction, right now, it’s based off The Walking Dead series, which is now in its 1,000th season, and I refuse to get attached to any of the characters I see here, just in case they die horribly in the first two episodes.

Pretty much the only thing I got out of The Walking Dead, was not to care about any of the characters, because they’re  all just gonna be horribly killed at some point, and since characters are how I get invested in a show, well…

On the other hand, it does look intriguing, because it answers some questions about those helicopter people who approached Rick that one time, and what happened to Rick after his supposed death.

One theme in zombie fiction, that I am seriously tired of, is the travelogue narrative ,where, as soon as the world goes into lockdown mode, someone decides to take a road trip to find some lost loved ones, sometimes with neighbors, or a dog in tow, and they have harrowing adventures, and this seems like more of that. *Sigh*

 

Utopia

I want to like this but I’m just not feeling it. I will look at the pilot though, and maybe I will want to see more of it. yeah, I have no idea what it’s actually about ,and I don’t even care, which is how I know I probably won’t be jumping on this.

 

 

Lovecraft Country 

I have mixed feelings about this show. On the one hand it is directed by a Black woman, and I’m just now coming off The Old Guard, which was also directed by a Black woman, and I’m feeling confident. Its also produced by Jordan Peele, and the original story was written by Matt Ruff, and I read and liked the book okay. It also has monsters in it, and I like to think the racistly racist Lovecraft is rolling over in his grave at having his universe adapted to serve Black characters. Its about a Black family that take a road trip and encounter a mystery and some Lovecraft style monsters.

But…I’m not at all in the mood to watch any more oppression narratives that are rooted in Black pain and trauma. I don’t want to watch any more shows, or movies, set in the Slave era, or Jim Crow South, where we get to watch the characters suffer, and I’m strongly inclined to pretend this doesn’t exist, and will not exist any time in the future.

 

 

Project Power 

Unlike a lot of other whiners on Youtube (and other media), I’m not yet tired of the superhero genre, especially if they keep putting interesting versions of it onscreen, but then, I’m a person who much more carefully chooses these movies and shows, rather than rushing to watch every single thing with a superhero in it, and I also tend to like non-superhero, superhero movies like Unbreakable, The Old Guard, and this vehicle here.

I really like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jamie Foxx ,and I’ve never seen the two of them in a movie together, and it looks like fun, I guess. I think I read a book that had something of the same premise waaay back in the 90s, and I think there’s been a least a couple of comic book stories, where gaining superpowers through drugs, was an idea.

 

Truth Seekers

I really like Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. Ive seen most of their movies together, and I loathe the paranormal investigation reality show genre, so I’m actually looking forward to this parody.

 

 

The Good Lord Bird

That thing I said about Slave era narratives is still true, but I find myself greatly intrigued by this movie, because its a comedy that stars Orlando Jones, an actor I love, and Ethan Hawke, who, as John Brown, looks unrecognizable in this movie, and who was great in The Magnificent Seven remake, and Daveed Diggs, who plays Frederick Douglas. I also like it because it is a comedy where the plot isn’t rooted in the consumption of Black trauma.

It actually looks really, really, funny ,and the young girl we see in the trailer is actually a young boy who has  disguised himself as a young girl because he found his life easier that way, and he sort of accidentally falls under Brown’s care.

You guys have got to read the book on which this movie is based, because Brown is a real hoot. Brown himself is a trigger happy abolitionist, who guns down any slave owners, and slave patrols he happens to encounter, making no effort to protect himself from harm, because he believes he is doing God’s will and that he is already protected.

 

 

Star Trek: Lower Decks

I’m not sure this is the best use of the money we gave these people for those last couple of Star Trek movies, so I’m just gonna leave this here.

I mean, I’m not opposed to an animated version of Star Trek, but I am opposed to an animated version of Star Trek. Heck, I didn’t even watch the original animated Trek, from the 70s. But you know what, I’m not gonna act like one of those fanboy purists who refuse to watch something just because its radically different from whatever came before, and I loved that Spiderverse movie. Not that this is, in any way, Spiderverse level entertainment, but I might be surprised.

 

An American Pickle

At first glance, this doesn’t seem much like something I’d watch, but I Seth Rogan okay, I like time travel movies, it looks funny, and I like the initial setting of Victorian New York.

 

Haberdasheries and Hemoglobins On Youtube

Today, I have decided to laugh.

Okay, maybe its not all sweetness and light, but I find Youtube amusing and interesting, as I carefully curate the things on my dashboard, to minimize bullshit. Here’s a list of ridiculousness that I stumbled across, and a short list of Youtubers I subscribe to. This is maybe half of them, but its a pretty good snapshot of the subjects that most interest me.

 

Tony Baker Voiceovers

From now on, I’m going to use the word “The Skibbity Pap”,  every time I love smack one of my nieces or nephews on the back of the head. These Tony Baker videos have been around for years, but they’re new to me, and I just love them. Whenever I need a quick pick me up, I just put on one of these, and I’m soon crying for a completely different reason!

Also “skibbity pap” just sounds like the kind of thing that cats would call those love smacks they enjoy giving to anyone, or anything, that wanders into their orbit.

 

 

Two things that are  deeply funny to me, are how the animals love to sing R&B songs to themselves, when they’re alone, and continuing adventures of Rudy, and his dogs.

 

 

The Patriot Act

ASMR: signifies the subjective experience of “low-grade euphoria” characterized by “a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin”. It is most commonly triggered by specific auditory or visual stimuli, and less commonly by intentional attention control.

This is one of the weirdest/funniest videos on Youtube, as Hasan Minhaj, from Patriot Act, gets in on that whole ASMR experience, by helping you relax while you’re doing your taxes. Watch the whole thing!

 

 

Beau of the Fifth Column

The first time I stumbled across one of Beau’s videos, I did what maybe a lot of people did, and skipped past it, because I really didn’t want to be bothered by yet another opinion video, from a straight white guy, about social issues that didn’t affect him. I’ve had my absolute fill of white men, “objectively” playing devil’s advocate on  social issues.

But his videos kept being recommended to me, so I gave one a try, and was pleasantly surprised by how open and level headed he is. I don’t always agree with the things he says, but he always clearly, and honestly explains what, and why, he believes it, in a way that doesn’t talk down to the viewer, or occlude the issues with erasure and lies.

The titles of the videos are often misleading, but once you start watching, you realize that he is someone who thinks very differently from most people (even me) about a thing.

 

 

 

CinemaWins

I am more than a little tired of this idea, that more than a few people deeply believe, that criticism must be negative. I keep trying to tell people that any opinion, whether its positive or negative, is actually a critique of whatever  you just consumed, because that’s what “criticize” means. Yes, loving something, and stating why, is a perfectly valid critique.

This critic says he originally started this channel as a rebuke to the Cinema Sins Channel, (which I hate). I chose this particular video because I love this movie as much as he does, and for all the same reasons.

 

 

Jesse Dollamore

I knew what I was getting into when I stumbled across Dollamore’s videos, because I started watching him back in the days when he was taking down the low hanging fruit that is Tomimo Laurencias stupid ass. At least part of the reason I like his videos are the incredible insults he levels at trump and his cronies, because they’re almost poetic. Feckless moron, and googly-eyed nitiwt, are what come to mind. I love a good, and well delivered, insult.

 

 

La Guardia Cross

Papa La Guardia says:

New Father Chronicles began in November of 2014 when my daughter Amalah was 1-week-old. I had no idea what I was doing, so I decided to chronicle my journey on YouTube and make fun of myself along the way. Our 2nd daughter, Nayely, was born in April of 2017.

My channel is filled with the silly adventures I have with my girls, infant and toddler interviews, my interpretations of their babble, silly skits, and the things I’ve learned or unlearned as a parent. Sometimes Leah and I mix it up a bit and share some pretty personal moments as well. Why? Well, we’re far from perfect and we’ve learned a lot from our mistakes.

This was one of the first videos I ever saw, and its at least a couple of years old as his baby girls are about three and five now, and I’m not sure where I heard of it, or what I’d watched, that this was recommended to me.

 

 

 

Renegade Cut

Okay, these are just really good reviews, and the critic makes an effort to make his critiques relevant to real world events, like this one about how Black peopel have always been talking about police brutality, which has permeated almost all of our tele-visual arts.

 

 

 

Sir Stevo Timothy

I’m not sure how this video got recommended to me. I thought it was funny, but still  wasn’t quite  sure what to think, when I saw the first one, so I did a little research to figure out who the hell this guy was. it turns out that this character is a parody of a certain type of racist, loud, old, ignorant, Irish uncle. He manages to make the things he says so stupidly ridiculous that you cannot possible take his opinions seriously, and even manages to slip in  some progressive thoughts, if you pay attention.

This video is one of my favorites because no matter how hard he tries, he is simply incapable of ignoring that his passenger is a Black man (from Dublin).

 

I’m probably not supposed to laugh this damn hard at these videos.

 

 

 

The Fish Locker

This video doesn’t seem like it fits anything else on this list, but  its surprisingly soothing to watch this guy combing the rocky beaches of Scotland for seafood, with his wife and son.

This is like ASMR beach combing.

 

 

 

Tkviper

And here are the real ASMR videos of Tkviper just walking the many different streets of Japan, while its raining different types of rain.

 

 

 

Aeon Flux

Does anybody remember these cartons from MTV’s Liquid Television, in the 9os? I remember watching hte hell out of these at the time. I think I still have the full DVD set.

Black Culture 2020: 101

This post is primarily for any of my readers who are not based in the US, who may have heard these things being referred to on Facebook and Twitter, but don’t know the meanings or origins.

 

What is a Karen?

You have probably been seeing this term everyhwere. White people keep trying to appropriate this term and diffuse it by using it for their own ends, because they don’t like the way its being used against them. It is a specifically Black term. We invented it, and it needs to be understood in that context.

This vlogger even goes into the different manners in which the term Karen is being misused. Its not about snitching, or acting irate, or someone with whom you politically disagree, and  is not meant to apply to ALL white women. Its meant to specifically be applied to  an incident involving a white woman that has a racial component.

 

Types of Karens - coolguides

 

 

What is cultural appropriation?

There is a thin line between Cultural appreciation and appropriation. I generally subscribe to the idea that there must be some kind of social cache, or  monetary benefit, for the people doing the appropriating, and vilification and discrimination on the end of the people who produced the terms or  items.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/black-slang-white-people-ruined_n_55ccda07e4b064d5910ac8b3

From “the bomb” to “holla” to the very short-lived “YOLO,” black slang words often go through the cycle of being used by black people, discovered by white people, and then effectively “killed” due to overuse and a general lack of understanding of how to use these words.

 

 

 

What is Black Twitter?

I kept seeing this question all over the internet, and I think I briefly addressed this before in another post. Black Twitter isn’t actually a place on Twitter. You don’t sign up for it, you simply participate in it. Its basically a collection of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Black people (mostly African American although others in the diaspora are free to chime in) of all walks and persuasions, having conversations, sometimes innocuous, sometimes important, sometimes deeply funny or political, in a loose chain of followers and retweets.

Anybody can join in but if someone tries to join in with some racist drivel, they will not just get blocked, they will get dragged for filth. Their wigs will be snatched, tea will be spilled, virtual hands will be thrown! Black Twitter is not afraid to call out individuals, international corporations, and even each other and has officially changed the dialogue on dozens of important issues in globally.

 

Trust me when I tell you, Black people know Black people, and we can always tell when someone is being inauthentic. There have been and continue to be, lots of attempts to infiltrate Black Twitter to introduce misinformation to the Black community, but one of the big things about Black Twitter is if you’re not a part of Black culture,  you can’t. (I am not currently on Twitter, but being deeply embedded in the culture means I can probably jump in anytime.)

 

What is A Hotep?

Answering one question can often lead to whole new questions. I briefly mentioned this before in another post. I’m gonna be nice and call the Hoteps, “Black Enthusiasts”, and they are sometimes called the Ankh -Right, but you can trust me when I say that they are, quite possibly some of the most exasperating Black people on Earth, because they are deeply homophobic, transphobic, patriarchal, and sexist. Incidentally there are female versions of the Hotep, called the Hertep!

 

 

What is Juneteenth?

This Friday is Juneteenth, a holiday which holds a special significance, in the Black community. It’s usually an opportunity to showcase Black achievement and joy, and there are still attempts being made to make it a National holiday.

 

What is Black Girl Magic?

This is probably another phrase you’ve seen on Twitter.There’s a reason that this phrase is trending in the Black community. From Karens to Black girls…

Here. Kendra Thomas gives a brief history of the mistreatment and rise of Black women in America. As I mentioned before, you can’t find information on some things unless you know which questions to ask.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Marion_Sims

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ida_B._Wells

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

 

This has been a cultural 101.

Next up: Black women in music, you probably never heard of!

 

 

Coming Soon!

I don’t know when I’ll ever feel safe sitting in any enclosed space ever again. If I do, I definitely will not be inviting my mother with me as she is severely immuno-compromised. Technically, so am I, but beyond that, I wouldn’t want to bring anything back home to her. In all likelihood, Dune and Tenet may be movies I’ll have to admire from afar. I hope not because I’m really excited to see them in a theater. If there’s a way t do so safely, while observing social distancing rules…

 

 

Tenet

This is the only movie that would possibly get my ass into a theater seat (which is never gonna happen, btw.) Nevertheless, I am very excited for this. I’m a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s work anyway, so that was gonna happen. This is the second trailer for the movie, which is aiming for a Fall release. This trailer strongly implies that its about superpowers and time travel.

 

 

 

The Old Guard

I always enjoy watching Charlize Theron kicking ass, and I like the idea of this young black female apprentice, to a kind of immortal being. I’m always for black female characters being shown as beloved, and delicate, flowers in need of being saved, we first need to get our feet in the door, and one way to do that is playing to our strengths in action films.

So far, the Hollywood idea of a strong black woman is measuring how much pain and anguish we can endure, how much abuse we can take and still keep ticking. We need to begin showcasing other versions of black women’s strength. Fortunately we are getting movies and shows like this.

I am told this is based on a comic book, and though I like the authors of the book, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before, so I’m going to be looking out for it. The Old Guard airs on Netflix in mid-June.

 

 

 

Da Five Bloods

I always say I’m not into certain types of movies. What I actually mean is I’m not normally attracted to such films, not that I don’t watch them, or have never seen, or liked them. Like War movies. I do have a couple of favorites, (Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket), but most of them I dislike for their reliance on spectacle with no message beyond glorifying life in the military.

I will watch this one because I like the director, the actors, (Delroy Lindo, who I’ve been in love with since Romeo Must Die), and because it’s basic premise, of a close group of Black men returning to Vietnam, so they can find the body of their commanding officer, just sounds appealing to me. I like remembrance stories, or more accurately, anti-nostalgia stories, and there aren’t a whole bunch of war movies which prominently feature men of color, telling what it was like for them.

This is also airing on Netflix in mid-June.

 

 

Gundala

Here’s a superhero story, I’m moderately excited about, set in Southeast Asia, which I’m going to check out soon. I saw the trailer for this months ago, but only recently got the opportunity to see it. This very much reminds me of the Black Lightning TV series, because it’s basic premise, a man of color, with electricity powers , who trains himself to protect his little piece of the world from corrupt government forces, is appealing to me.

 

 

Code 8

This is another one of those gritty superhero stories that sort of chronicle what life would be like if superpowers existed. I kind of like these downbeat superhero movies like Unbreakable, Chronicle, and yes, I include the Carrie movies. I am, however, not always in the mood for such downbeat material, so whether or not I see this ,depends entirely on how I feel that day. I may decide to watch another John Mulaney stand up instead.

 

This one is based on a short film, I saw last year, with the same name. I didn’t care for the Short that much, but the actual movie looks a little better.

 

 

Dune 2020

I’ve been a Dune fan since I was a teenager, and used to the read the first book in the series about every couple of years. It’s one of my few favorite SciFi stories. Yes, I did see the 1984 movie starring Sting. It’s okay, and I really liked it, but it’s not my favorite, and I’m going to pretend the TV version doesn’t exist.

Next year we’re supposed to be getting a remake of this movie by one of my favorite SciFi directors, Denis Villaneuve. I’ve enjoyed quite a few of his movies, including the Bladerunner sequel, so I’m really looking forward to seeing this, as this too is one of the few films that would actually get me into a theater.

The director has been sending out pictures of the cast and crew, and whooo yeah, I’m definitely excited for this version, which looks a lot more like I imagined it from the book. I hope it does well, but I still think y’all should be prepared for a lot of hate because there are PoC working in this movie, and y’all know how white fandom behaves when they think an entertainment product is the exclusive province of white people. There’s also the fact that it is a very loved book. I do plan to stay away from any Youtube videos talking about this movie because already there are a wave of people who are ready to ream it a new asshole before the movie has even been released.

That said, there have been some changes that some people will lose their shit over, and one of the bigger changes is that Liet Kynes is being portrayed by a Black actress. If you remember from the book, Liet is the father of Chani, but is not actually one of the Fremen, and Villaneuve says he changed the role because he wanted to portray a mother /daughter relationship, and the movie was getting very male-centric. Now, if you’ve read the book, you know what role Liet plays in the story and what happens to him ,but I’m still very excited to see what this actress is going to do, and how she will interact with the other characters. In the original film, Liet Kynes was played by Max von Sydow. Jason Momoa is playing Duncan Idaho, who is not one of my favorite characters from the book, but I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with this role.

Enjoy These Dune Images in Glorious HD, Especially Oscar Isaac ...
Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides
2248x2248 Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Liet Kynes 2248x2248 ...
Sharon Duncan Brewster as Liet-Kynes
Dune photos give fans their first look at Jason Momoa and Zendaya ...
Zendaya as Chani
Enjoy These Dune Images in Glorious HD, Especially Oscar Isaac ...
Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck
timothee chalamet dune | Tumblr
Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho
HEAT WAVE          Timothe Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in Jordan. Filming in the landscape was really surreal says...
Timothy Chalumet is Paul Atreides, and Rebecca Ferguson is Lady Jessica
pThe House Atreides Left to Right Timothe Chalamet as Paul Atreides Stephen Mckinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat Oscar...
 House Atreides
Behold Dune: An Exclusive Look at Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya ...
Javier Bardem as Stilgar

The Strong Black Woman

At The Take, they’re examining the movie trope of the Strong Black woman. This stereotype is a conflation of The Mammy and Sapphire stereotypes, always angry, telling it’s like it is, emasculating, and strong beyond reason, in her ability to overcome suffering. The Strong Black Woman is a stereotype created by black women as a way to counteract the nastier stereotypes, but it has backfired, because it is often the only recognized narrative of us.

What the stereotype ignores is that our ability to be strong is often based on our ability to endure suffering, whereas for white women, it’s often an ability to act like white men do in movies, kicking ass, shooting guns, and not needing a man. Often, when Black women protest this stereotype, it’s because so much of it consists of not needing a man, which is often used as an excuse to not write romances for Black women. The SBW isn’t a bad thing, but when it’s the only image that’s presented onscreen, it becomes an issue.

One of the side effects of this superwoman stereotype is that so many people have bought into it, that it affects our lived experiences, and our vulnerabilities are ignored. Suicide rates among black woman are never discussed, we receive less medical care because it is actually assumed that we don’t feel pain, our strength is often exploited as a benefit to others, our mental health, and inner emotional life is never explored.

This is slowly starting to change, with more nuanced portrayals, especially in TV. We’re finally getting the message out to all women, that it’s okay to be vulnerable, to be soft, to cry, how hard it is to live up to this impossible stereotype, and that taking care of our emotional health isn’t a selfish act.

This is why diversity in storytelling is so important, because with more Black female representation, the lone black woman, who don’t need no man, doesn’t have to stand in for all Black women, in the way that Scarlett Johansson had to be a stand-in for every white woman, in the MCU.

Favorite Songs About Vampires

I’m feeling a bit of Pop Culture nostalgia this week, so here, have some of the vampire songs that are always on MY playlist!

 

Gordon Walker - Super-wiki

Black Vampires Through the Years | Black vampire, Eddie murphy ...

 

Bite Me! Top 10 Hottest Black Vampires | Vibe

I was on Tumblr, and I noticed a trend of people recommending vampire songs that 1. I didn’t recognize, and 2. Were all by white people and groups, as if PoC had never had any interest in vampires, and never made any songs about them. I really hate lists of music on there anyway. I have pretty wide ranging tastes, but these lists always seem to have the most obscure musical groups these people can find. Why these people can’t ever seem to listen to just regular songs, that maybe more than five people have heard, is a mystery! At any rate, there was one list I found, I listened to a couple of the songs and I think that person just has bad taste in music, because they were fairly bland. I mean if you’re gonna go through the trouble of making music about vampires, the least you can do is be EXTRA, like all the artists on this list.

But I’m often exasperated by the rather “twee” musical tastes of Tumblr patrons, who can be somewhat limited in their musical tastes, and helluva lot younger than me. Vampires are a global mythology, in that nearly every continent has one, so I’m also pretty sure other parts of the world have songs about them, but I’m Black, and American, so this is my focus. Maybe, at some point, I’ll do some research to find songs from other countries.

 

 

Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Bauhaus ( The Hunger 1983)

Cinematic Black Women Vampires | 1970's-2000's | Black vampire ...

This is the classic Gothic vampire song, used in countless movies, and shows, that feature vampires. The first time I heard it was in the 1988 movie, The Hunger, which starred Catherine Deneuve, and David Bowie, as modern day vampires. If you haven’t seen that movie than check it out, as it’s an interesting snapshot of a very specific musical period (Goth) in the early 80s. The music, fashion, cinematography, and acting are all artifacts of that particular time, and the movie was groundbreaking, in that it was a mainstream movie, that featured an openly lesbian relationship, as Deneuve’s character puts the moves on Susan Sarandon.

Remember, that in 1983, this movie was the coolest shit we’d ever seen, because American culture hadn’t yet been saturated with Gothic imagery. In fact, I blame this movie for it!

 

 

Love Song For A Vampire – Annie Lennox (Bram Stoker’s Dracula 1992)

This is one of my favorite songs, and I believe it was specifically written for the movie, in which it was featured during the end credits. I was a huge Annie Lennox fan in the 80s, otherwise I’d probably have never paid any attention to it. It helps that Annie Lennox always looked suitably vampiric since the beginning of her career, which had been going for ten years strong, by the time she made this song. It fits the film perfectly, in that it has this deep throbbing heartbeat sound, just underneath the listeners perception, the instrumentation, and singing is lushly romantic and overdone, just like the movie, and still gives me chills so many years later.

You really need to hear this with headphones to get the full effect.

 

 

Moon Over Bourbon Street – Sting (Interview With The Vampire 1994)

This song was also written in the late 80s by the newly solo lead of the British rock band, The Police. Sting wrote this after reading Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, so I was expecting this song to be in the movie that was made in the 90s, but no luck. It wasn’t in it. But this isn’t my favorite version of this song, I prefer the Wozniak Club version, which I liked to jam to in the car, on my way to work. Of course, this is exactly the type pf song that would be played in the vampire club!

 

 

No One Believes me – Kid Cudi (Fright Night 2011)

https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/African+American+Vampires

Vampires have made only infrequent appearances in African American folklore, and, similarly, African Americans have been largely absent from vampire movies and novels through the twentieth century. 

When people recommend vampire songs, everyone seems to forget that Black artists make songs about vampires, too! I came across quite a few of them when researching this. This was the feature song for the Fright Night remake made a few years ago. The remake was not especially successful, and didn’t feature this song anywhere in it, which may account for why so few people know about it, but this video was, and remains, one of my absolute favorites.

 

 

After Dark – Tito and the Tarantulas (From Dusk Til Dawn 1996)

This is the song that plays when Satanica Pandemonium does her dance, for the two brothers, at the Titty Twister bar, featured in the movie. It’s not my favorite, but I like Tito and the Tarantulas other songs, and just want to recognize that Mexican people got vampire songs.

 

 

Seduction/Surrender – Grace Jones (Vamp 1987)

Images of THE VAMPIRE BITE | Vampire bites, Vampire pictures ...

 

 

For some reason, all vampire movies must have a Club scene. We got vampires walking up in there, vampires owning clubs, dancing in clubs, hunting for a meal in the club, or all of the above. In 1987, Grace Jones owned, danced, and hunted, in the Club featured in this nearly forgotten movie. This song was specifically adapted for her strip scene.

The Hunger opens with a club scene, Interview with a Vampire has a club with actors, From Dusk til Dawn is set in a bar, Near Dark gets a bar scene, so do both Fright Nights, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, most TV shows feature clubs owned by vampires, and yes, the Blade movies have nearly famous club scenes!

 

 

Fatal – RZA (Blade 3)

20 Years Later and 'Blade' is Still Singular and Relevant | Black ...

 

As far as I’m concerned, despite the groundbreaking first film, it’s the second film, directed by Guillermo Del Toro, that’s the best of the Blade movies. This is Blade’s song, from the third, thoroughly awful, film. The song is every bit as badass as he is, and featured in the end credits, and it’s by the f*cking RZA, from Wu Tang! C’mon! How does anybody miss listing this song in any recommendations of vampire songs? On the other hand, the third film sucked, so that might have been the reason people simpy don’t remember that the RZA made a vampire song.

 

 

 

 

Cry Little Sister –  Gerard McMahon (The Lost Boys 1987)

The Lost Boys' Cast: Where Are They Now? - Biography

I’m putting this here because this is my favorite song from this movie. If you haven’t heard the soundtrack, it still holds up after some thirty years, and has a lot of great songs, including the title song.

 

 

System – Linkin Park (Queen of the Damned 2002)

Descendants of Sophia | Queen of the damned, Vampire queen ...

This is the song from the movie, where Alaska walks up in the club, and literally sets the roof on fire.

 

 

Confusion Dance Theme Remix –  New Order (Blade 1998)

This is the song from the film’s iconic opening scene, called the Blood Rave, where we’re introduced to the Blade character, and what he does for a living: killing vampires! This is very probably one of the most famous intros in vampire filmdom (is that a word?) The song itself doesn’t actually have anything to do with vampires, but every time I listen to it, this scene is what plays in my head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teeny Tiny Reviews From April

Here’s a incomplete list of movies and shows  I watched in April. For the most part, I liked all of these. I can tell I liked them because I finished watching them. I’m one of those people that feels absolutely no obligation, whatsoever, to finish consuming something I can’t stand. That’s a “young person whose got a lot more years ahead of them” type of thing! I’m also not one of those people who think you can’t have an opinion on something you didn’t finish. I mean, I won’t finish a cup of sour milk, but I can still know I didn’t like it. I feel like it’s the same for books, movies, and shows. I mean, you ain’t got to suffer your way through some shit, to know you’re wading through a pile of shit. You know what you like.

I have been watching tv shows, but most of it’s stuff that already aired, since there’s no new stuff being released right about now.

 

Unnamed Korean Drama

(Close-Knit 2017)

You may notice a trend of Korean, Japanese, and Chinese movies. Yeah, I’ve been watching a lot of those since I can now access Japanese Netflix, thanx to my IPVanish app.

Wel, this one didn’t have the  title in English, so I had to research it. A lot of the shows don’t have English titles, or translations, but I’m really used to figuring out what’s happening in Asian movies, after decades of watching this kind of thing. This one did have translations in English though, so I didn’t have to figure it out too much, otherwise I would have been deeply, and I mean, deeply, confused about this movie.

This is about a little girl who goes to live with her uncle, and his common law wife, after her mother temporarily deserts her. She is often bullied at school, but there’s a little boy, often bullied himself, who keeps trying to reach out to be her friend. Her uncle lives with his transgender girlfriend, and after some initial confusion, she and the little girl start to bond, to the point where the girlfriend considers suing the mother for custody. This movie is the game Japanese director’s attempt to tackle a controversial lgbtq issue in Japan, so it’s a little heavy handed in some places, frustrating in others, and sometimes, it’s just vague, but I’m a sucker for found family stories.

It’s a beautiful story, though,  and I really liked it. The little girl is unwilling to get close to people because she keeps experiencing the instability of being abandoned by her mother, every time her mom gets a new boyfriend. She is also reluctant to get close to her uncles gf, but it isn’t until the two of them bond over knitting, and the gf’s transgender status (she is pre-op) that the girl allows herself to open up to the little boy who’s trying to be her friend. Unfortunately, her friendship with him doesn’t work out, because his mother is deeply transphobic, and makes the girls living arrangements her personal business, to the misfortune of this lovely found  family.

Without the translation, the most confusing part of the movie, are the knitting scenes. We get a backstory on the gf, from when she came out to her mother. Her mother, while initially confused, became deeply supportive of her daughter, going so far as to knit her a pair of tiny breasts. I mention that she is pre-op, because part of the plot is that the gf spends a lot of time knitting penises. When she finishes making exactly 108 of them, she will burn them in effigy, and that will be when she is ready to have her bottom surgery.

She teaches the little girl to knit by making these penises, and that’s how the two of them bond. At one point the gf allows the little girl to squeeze her breasts, because of her intense curiosity about her gender status. She becomes less confused, but the girlfriend’s breasts are still a focal point of their relationship, because the little girl begins associating them with the warmth, comfort, and motherhood she wasn’t getting from her own mother, especially since the gf is the one who cuddles her against those same breasts, when she gets afraid in the middle of the night. The girlfriend becomes a figure of maternal love and stability for her, but even though they have chosen each other, they cannot be together, as mother and daughter, because society will not allow it.

I though this was a beautiful little story, not too emotionally taxing, with an open ending, that was somewhat bittersweet.

 

 

Birds of Prey: The Fantabulous Life of Harley Quinn (2020)

I had so much fun watching this movie. Sometimes you really can tell the difference between a movie directed by a man, and one directed by a woman, and that seems to be the case with this movie. The story itself isn’t all that different from what would appear in a film made by a man, but it is definitely a comedy, and the emphasis is on different parts of the story, over others, and the story beats, and pacing, are different, and the tiny details can mean a lot to a female audience. Still, you can sort of tell a woman did this movie, because it feels like most of the kinds of art made by women, in which the relationships between the characters are what’s  of primary importance, and that’s what’s going on in this film.

You’ll hear from a lot of male critics that the movie was bad, but really it’s that the movie is simply made with a different audience in mind, and so there’s an emphasis on different things in the movie, the kinds of things that might not appeal to male viewers. Since personal relationships are of deep importance to women in the real world, movies that emphasize that can be greatly appealing to a female audience, and we don’t consider such movies to be a failure. As women, we may be looking at the film through a different lens.

Another appeal for women is how the women interact, and I think that was this movie’s greatest appeal. The women in the movie aren’t at loggerheads just to have drama. They’re at odds with each other for real reasons, based on the plot, and they’re brought together through the plot, and learn to get along to survive the plot. The biggest problem I had was that the movie isn’t pretty. I’m not used to comic book movies looking like this, expecting a much more anti-septic, and polished, look. It looks kind of dirty and grungy, and the cinematography looks really different than a Christopher Nolan film, or anything in the MCU. Harley definitely lives in Gotham’s armpit, as do all these characters, and it shows.

Funnily enough, my favorite character turned out not to be Dinah Lance, but The Huntress. She was such an delightfully odd character, and showed some aspects of Spectrum behavior, although her uncertainty about her social skills might have had something to do with either her unconventional upbringing, or that she’s a loner, who has never had any friends. I liked Harley, but Huntress turned out to be an unexpected fave.

I really enjoyed this movie, though. It’s the complete opposite of everything in the movie Joker, so if you are any of the many women who hated that movie, then try this one, because it’s a helluva lot more fun. It’s hilarious to point at both these films and even say they are about comic book characters, let alone set in the same DC universe. The story arrangement is a little different than I’m used to, since it’s told from Harley’s point of view. There’s a lot of pausing, and back and forthing, and a couple of side issues, because Harley is a somewhat disjointed storyteller, who is mildly unreliable as a narrator, but she is zany and energetic, and a likable anti-hero, and we can see the faint seeds of the real hero she will eventually become. The movie isn’t deep, but it’s a helluva lot of fun, and I want to talk about it later in more depth, because there are a lot of fun and interesting things to be said about it.

 

 

Joker (2019)

Despite all the controversy surrounding this film, I genuinely liked this movie, as an interesting piece of filmmaking. It’s true, that it’s not an especially deep film, but that isn’t always required to like a film, and so I let that pass. I also didn’t care much for its message about yet another white guy feeling disgruntled about his life, and going on a killing spree. There are far, far, too many of these types of shows, and movies, in pop culture, and this is another one that presents the same theme, and yet, asks no questions about it.

On the other hand, it is a gorgeous looking movie, although I did think it was much too derivative of Martin Scorcese’s early works, Taxi Driver, and King of Comedy. Joachin Phoenix turns in a splendid performance though, and there were moments where I was greatly moved by the pathos and beauty of his character, his acting, and the cinematography. I’m tired of this sort of plot,  but  the director did a superb job of evoking sympathy for this character. Was this an Oscar worthy film, I don’t know, but in my opinion, it was worth watching. And I will probably watch it again, at some point, for the acting, and aesthetics.

 

 

Memories (1995)

This is a 90s animated anthology, from the maker of Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo. It consists of three stories about technology gone wrong, and people’s interactions with it, but I’m only interested in the middles story in particular, Stink Bomb. I thought it was hilarious, and kind of sad. There’s a message in it, but I’m not quite sure what that message is. Nevertheless,I really enjoyed it.

The Big Stink is the middle story, about a down on his luck office worker, who gets infected with a kind of biological warfare gas, that kills anyone within a certain mile radius of him. He, of course, doesn’t know this. All he knows is that people keep dropping dead around him, as at first, he tries to make his way home, and then attempts to outrun whatever is killing the people in his vicinity. For some reason, I found  this part, deeply funny, although if you think about it too long, it’s pretty horrifying. The attempts by the police, and the military, just get more and more outrageous, as they escalate from guns, to tanks, and then to missile strikes, in an effort to stop him from reaching the city. The ending of this one was very satisfying, though.

 

 

Roujin Z

This is one of my favorite little known Katsuhiro Otomo movies. I love the premise of it, which just thoroughly tickles me. It’s got a good strong story, and like his segment in Memories, Stink Bomb, there’s a deeply hilarious idea gliding just underneath the surface story of a rogue robot destroying a large city.

This was the movie that made me think about the different attitudes towards AI between the East and the West, which I am really going to have to have a deeper discussion about. I think I mentioned before that Japanese culture doesn’t have the same type of fears about automata that the US does. If you go by the types of books we write, the movies we make, and the types of discussions we have surrounding technology, then Westerners have some kind of deep atavistic fear of dolls, and robots. We are forever making stories about rebellious, or angry, simulacra that want to destroy their makers, and I want to examine this further.

Roujin Z is about a newly invented, healthcare,  AI robot, that is given custody of an old man with dementia, who thinks the robot is his long dead wife. The robot, which is a kind of mobile care vehicle and bed, begins to take on the persona with which he treats it, and decides  to care for him in the way his wife would have. He expresses an interest in visiting the beach, which is several miles away, and the robot decides that’s a good idea, and sets out. This causes complete chaos, as officials try to stop the robot, without hurting the old man, and the robot knocks down anything and everything in her path, to accomplish her goal, like houses, street posts, and cars. It wasn’t built to be so powerful, but it was built to modify itself to the needs of its patients, and that’s where the problem lies. Remember, the officials have no idea why the robot bed has gone rogue, and keep speculating that it is abducting the old man (which it is, but with good intentions). This is the case of  an AI that isn’t actually malevolent, but as in a lot of Japanese films, creates havoc while doing its job too well, which is an attitude not often seen in American made movies of the same type.

 

Ajin

This is another one of those Manga movies I never read, but I enjoyed this live action version, about a private war between these two immortal mutants, one of whom wants to destroy humanity for experimenting on his kind, and the other trying to protect humanity from him. Or that’s what I got out of the plot, because I watched a version of this that had no English translation. It’s got a lot of the old ultra violence in it though, which I appreciated.

Since there were no subtitles, I didn’t catch any deeper themes in the movie, but I loved the special effects, where their bodies reconstituted after their deaths, and they produce these ghostlike creatures (which look like they’re made of ashes) which battle each other kind of like Pokémon, which was fun.

 

 

Monstrum

If you are a fan of the Kingdom series, and Train to Busan, than you should check this movie out, if you can find it. It’s very much in the same sort of vein as Kingdom, in that it’s an historical monster movie, with gorgeous costumes, clever swordplay, and elements of class warfare. Where Kingdom and it’s cinematic counterpart (Rampart) contain zombies, this one just has a random giant monster.

The movie it most reminded me of was Alien 3, actually, but with more likable characters, and a more streamlined plot.  The king receives some sort of dog like pet, which soon grows to tremendous size and becomes untrainable. The king keeps it locked up in his dungeon, where it’s gone more than a little feral, but some bright soul sets it  free, presumably to destroy their enemies, the creature goes on a rampage through the capitol, and must be stopped by a hero with a bad reputation. It’s not an especially deep film, but it was a really good, straight up, horror movie, with lots of suspense. If you liked Bong Joon Ho’s The Host, then you’ll like this one, too, which is like an historical version of that film. 

 

 

Tokyo Ghoul

This was another movie I watched without subtitles. What I got out of it was this young man who discovers he’s a creature called a ghoul, which feeds on human beings, and he spends most of the movie having tentacle battles with the other ghouls. There are a lot of tentacles in this movie. That’s mostly what I remember. That, and I thought the movie had some truly disgusting scenes, which were, well, mostly just disgusting. It wasn’t particularly scary, or even fun, but it was fascinating in a “The Thing”, kind of way.

There’s a sequel to this movie which I’m debating whether or not I should watch since I didn’t get much out of the first movie beyond “ewwww”.

 

Kipo and the WonderBeasts

I’ve also been watching a lot more stuff that’s fun, stress free, and animated. Kipo definitely fits those criteria. This cartoon was sooo much fun! All the characters, outside of the Wonderbeasts are PoC, one of which is gay, it’s funny, has a lot of adventure, is reasonably intelligent for kids. I’d also like to add just one more thing to make you watch this:

‘ Drum & Bass’ Bees

or Giant Disco Bees, as I like to refer to them.

The story takes place far into some Earthlike future, where most humans are living in underground cities. After a horrible incident, Kipo gets separated from her father, and the rest of her community, and stranded on the surface, where she has to make friends and allies, to help her find her way back underground. It’s also a found family story as we watch these very different characters, with different attitudes and agendas bond, and have adventures.

if like me, things are just too stressful to watch horror movies, or thrillers right now, then series and movies like Kipo are well worth the watch. 

Also Watched:

Penny Dreadful (New show)

What We Do in the Shadows (Second Season is off to a hilarious start.)

Brooklyn 99 Finale (This was a great season! Jake and Amy’s baby is born in the final episode. Holt’s arch-nemesis, Munch, dies. We get a Halloween Heist episode, and we get an episode focusing on Cheddar, and Kevin.)

Schitt’s Creek Final Season (This was such a great show. It’s deeply funny, really sweet, it has great characters and character arcs, and moments of real pathos. It had a beautiful finale, culminating in the wedding of one of the lead characters, to his husband, after two years. It’s not too emotionally taxing, and a lot of fun. One of the most underrated shows on Netflix.)

Let’s Go Waaay Back to the 80’s

Bosom Buddies

Image result for bosom buddies

Way back in the 80’s, this little gem starred Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari, and lasted for two years. I do have to admit, there is no way in hell you could get this on TV right now. In this environment, this show would be a massive mistake. But I loved the hell out of this show when I was about thirteen or so. There was just something about the goofy  humor of this show that just appealed to me, and Tom Hanks had incredible comedic timing.

The show is about two ad agency illustrators, working in New York city, who cannot afford an apartment together, so their friend Amy suggests they dress up like women to get in to the much more affordable all women’s apartment building that she lives in.They take on the personas of Buffy (Hanks) and Hildegard (Scolari), two sisters from some podunk town in the midwest.

A lot of the humor came out of the logistics of their double lives as men at work, and women in the evening, and navigating Buffy’s crush on his pretty blond neighbor down the hall. But it wasn’t all funny, sometimes the show liked to get serious by addressing the bigotry experienced by their glamorous Black neighbor, or discussing fatphobia, as Amy dealt with being a large sized woman, and along the way the guys got to know first hand what it was like to experience New York social life as women.

This show used to air on Hulu, but now the only place  can find it is on Amazon for pay. Its unlikely to experience a revival any time soon. We’ve grown in maturity, and awareness  since then, and you couldn’t do a show like this now  without making a lot of changes. This is another one of the many hundreds of shows and movies that has done the work of associating transgender women with the idea of deception, associating it with men in women’s clothing, and has helped to contribute to transphobia.

Another interesting note, is that in just about every single famous actors or comedian’s background, is a show or movie, which puts them either in drag, or has them play flamboyantly gay characters. These cross dressed characters, and flamboyant gays were ALWAYS meant to be laughed at. One of the other side effects of constantly having straight men mock lgbtq characters for laughs, is that real life lgbtq people simply didn’t get taken seriously as real people. The height of this show’s popularity was also the height of the AIDS crisis, which was ignored by the Federal government, because it was believed by them, that God was killing the correct people.

 

 

 

Knight Rider

Image result for knight rider

I never developed the great love for David Hasselhoff that Dean Winchester did from watching this show. I liked the show when I was a teenager, but I think I mostly just loved the car, and wished I had one just like it. In fact, they used to produce these as toys when I was a child, and when my brother got one as a gift, I appropriated it for myself (i.e., I stole it), to use for my Barbie dolls.

As far as I was concerned, K.I.T.T. was the star of the show, voiced by William Daniels, and quite frankly, I thought the car was smarter than uh…whoever that guy was driving it. A few years ago there was an episode of Supernatural that referenced Knight Rider by having Sam Winchester get turned into the classic car. Y’all don’t know how much that whole thing just made me giggle like a complete fool. Even the theme song is a classic. If you were a teen when the show aired, you know how hugely popular it was, even to the point of having copycat shows, that tried to have cool classic cars that solved problems.

 

 

Designing Women

Image result for designing women

 This was very probably one of the most progressive feminist shows on Tv, and one of the templates for feminist shows that came after it. A group of white women living together, with different sexual morals, and ethics, arguing about them, while working. The only drawback I had to shows like these were there were never any women of color, lesbians, or poor, or disabled women involved in them. This was First Wave Feminism, which meant it was almost exclusively about white working women. There was no intersectionalism at this point.

The two stand out characters were Julia, and Suzanne Sugarbaker, who were meant to be direct contrasts to one another, and Suzanne was every bit as regressive in her politics, as her cousin, Julia, was progressive in hers. Suzanne was open in her sexuality, but often treated everyone around her as if they were her personal servants, which gave Julia plenty of opportunities to give speeches, show disdain for her behavior, or teach her a lesson in how to be less judgmental. In fact, Julia’s, breathlessly, outraged performances, were often the highlight of an episode. A lot of the shows messages were pretty heavy handed, but it was the kind of stuff a teenage girl needed to hear.

Meshach Taylor also managed to get some good one liners and quips as a kind of business handyman, sort of like the character of Benson. He was the transportation and heavy lifter, doing the kinds of physical work that these four, upper class, Southern white women certainly weren’t going to be doing for themselves. He was often put upon by Suzanne, but most of the time, he managed to get the last word, without coming across as threatening. In fact his character was so non threatening I assumed, in my uninformed teenage mind, that he was gay! But at that age I had not reckoned with the social dynamics of the modern southern bigotry of white women interacting with black men. He had to be nonthreatening, and couldn’t possibly be depicted as any kind of sexual being in the presence of four professional white women. Nevertheless, I do remember liking his character.

This is another comedy, like Bosom Buddies, that didn’t age well. You could make a show like this today, but it would be bland, yet at the same time, polarizingly heavy handed.

 

 

Accents in Movies: Depicting Class

In the 1991 Jonathan Demme film, Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter, in one of the film’s most cringeworthy scenes,  properly deduces that Clarice Starling is “poor white trash”. Working from his own collection of  stereotypes, the observation of her good bag, cheap shoes, and Appalachian mountains accent, he correctly guesses that she’s not more than one generation out of the coal mines. Clarice’s accent, as much as her womanhood, marks her as “other”.

Everything about her, from the opening running scene, in which she is ogled by a pair of classmates, to the elevator scene where the height differential between herself and her classmates makes her stand out, to the soft Southern accent, with which she replies to her supervisor, it is shown that Clarice does not belong there. Although later, Clarice uses her accent to gain the trust and compliance of a roomful of rural professionals, who are suspicious of her presence, as a woman in an all male environment, and as a member of the Federal government. She uses her accent to show that she is actually one of them, from the culture in which the idea of the Wise (or Conjure) Woman is important, and respected.

When you watch that scene again, take note of the strength of the accent, and her use of words. She says to the men, “We’ll take care of her. Just go on now. We’ll take care of her.” And they unquestioningly obey her request, much as they would, if their mothers, or grandmothers had said it. She has successfully conveyed to the men, that she is one of them, a member of their social class, who knows how these things are done.

Image result for clarice starling gifs/elevator

Clarice is a pretender to social class, which is a nice parallel to the film’s antagonist, Jame Gumb, who pretends at being a transgender woman. The only person who is not fooled by Clarice’s  pretense at urban sophistication, is  Lecter, who has a distinct, upper class, European accent, reminiscent of the Lithuanian nobility, from which he came. To  less discerning characters, like Chilton, or the room full of cops that she orders around, Clarice can pass as a member of the middle class. The moment she speaks, people assume she isn’t, but to someone like Lecter, her lack of breeding is clearly evident. Both her, and Gumb’s, (his is Southern Californian), accents mark them as outside the mainstream. Except for the three primary characters, Lecter, Gumb, and Starling, all of the other characters in the film, including Clarice’s Black roommate, played by Kasi Lemmons, all have the  Standard American accent.

The American Standard is the king of American accents, it is the default, so common it goes unnoticed, and the most well favored. It’s also called the Central Midwestern accent, used in places like Northeastern Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan to the far north, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, and is the accent most often heard from news anchors, public announcers, and even AI programs like Siri, and Alexa. There are other accents in those regions, that coexist along side it, but the American Standard is the one which is preferred.

 

https://www.stagemilk.com/american-accent-guide/

It is also somewhat of a constructed concept. What I mean by that is that nobody grew up in Standard America. The sound we’re talking about is what is called a prestige dialect. Most countries (and most languages) have a prestige dialect which is exactly what it sounds like: the speech sounds most commonly identified with status within a given society. Linguistically it’s not simply status but also clarity, intelligence, socioeconomic influence and general power. 

Image result for decorative scrolls

Unlike Clarice, I have this privilege. I call this Accent Privilege, in the sense that my regular speaking voice doesn’t have an accent that is noticeably different from that of the mainstream, Midwestern accent. This happened by sheer luck. I just happened to be born into one of the regions where this is the most prevalent accent. People often judge others on how they speak, and if you have no noticeable accent,  that judgment is favorable most of the time. My accent marks me to others as being intelligent, educated, and/or middle class. My words are treated with either trust or suspicion, based on who I’m talking to. White people consider me “safe”, and are reassured by my ability to be clear and articulate, but I was often asked by my Black classmates, why I spoke like a white person, as the Midwestern accent is heavily associated with Whiteness. I did not grow up as a member of the middle class. Like Clarice Starling, I’m pretending to a social class I was not born into, but which people assumed I did, and my accent helped to sell it, because, like her, I’m barely one generation away from the cotton fields.

But I do also engage in what is known as “Code Switching”, where people from other cultures, or just different regions of the country, speak differently, in different spaces, often “switching” back and forth, between their normal speaking voice, and American Standard.  Why? Because many people are often uncomfortable with, and disrespectful, and suspicious of other languages, and vernacular English, like AAVE (African American Vernacular English). When I’m in my home, I speak the way my family speaks, and since the majority of them are from rural Mississippi, we speak AAVE, but I don’t speak at work that way. For one thing, my job involves answering phones, and a certain mode of professional speaking is required for that type of job. It would be considered “unprofessional”, and in the minds of some people, low class, for me to answer the business phone, as if I were at home. I don’t talk to my supervisors, the way I talk to my mother, for example, (and neither do most people, regardless of whether or not they have accents.

Now, when I’m talking about accents, for the purposes of this post, I mean the entirety of a person’s manner of speaking, including word usage, because only certain types of accents are associated with the use of certain types of words, for example, the use of the word, “y’all”.

 The mainstream Midwestern accent is the default accent used in almost all of American television, and movies. Having a Midwestern accent means a person gets treated as trustworthy, their words are given more weight,  given the benefit of the doubt,  assumed to be educated,  to have a good job,  and to be non-violent. In America, sounding like an American, means having  “no accent”, but that wasn’t always the case.

In the early part of the 20th century, the Mid-Atlantic accent was what was used, until it fell out of favor, in the fifties, for a more “natural” sounding speech pattern.

 

Of course this is an accent, too, in the same way that “White” is a race, but this “lack” of accent (just like whiteness) is so ubiquitous, that most people don’t  notice it.

The way someone pronounces their words, is used in movies and shows, not just to reinforce stereotypes, but as a  form of shorthand, to show a person’s character, and social class. Filmmakers use accents to show audiences that a character is good,  evil,  smart, gullible, suspicious, or trustworthy.  Turn on any American TV show, watch any movie, and chances are, those with Midwestern accents will be the majority of the characters, and probably  will be  the protagonists, heroes, or in positions of authority. They will also almost always be White.

You will not find  a lot of characters in mainstream media with deep Southern accents, Western twangs,  Texas Drawls, Valley Girl speech, Arabic, Southeast Indian, or Caribbean  accents, unless they are also shown as poor, incompetent, corrupt, or played for comic relief. In other words, characters never just have accents. There is always a reason for the accent, and some  point about that person is being made.

For example, the accent, in mainstream media, is used to indicate if someone is considered an American citizen. For the past twenty plus years, the Simpsons,  has had the running gag of an immigrant named Apu, a stereotypical character from India, who has  a strong accent,  is the father of a small multitude of babies, and runs a convenience store. This character is meant to be funny because of how he speaks, not necessarily because of anything he does, as his very existence in Springfield, (the setting of The Simpsons), is meant to be comedic. His accent also paints him as a perpetual foreigner. Asian Americans are especially susceptible to this stereotype, as no matter how many generations they’ve lived in America, they are often still assumed to be from somewhere else. And if they have an accent then doubly so.

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

The perpetual foreigner stereotype is a racialized form of nativist xenophobia in which naturalized and even native-born citizens (including families which have lived in the country for generations) are perceived as foreign because they belong to minority groups.

I spoke, in an earlier post, about the use of accents in the movies of the Coen Brothers, where everyone’s speech patterns and accents are used as indicators of people’s socio-economic status, the status they aspire to be, or simply framed as comedic.  In The Ladykillers, Tom Hanks broad Southern  accent is associated with television conmen, corrupt religious authority, and the Antebellum era of Georgia.  His accent gives the audience ideas about the  type of man he is. The audience doesn’t know he is a grifter and conman by his deeds. We know this by the long association, that has been made in mainstream media, between his accent, and untrustworthiness. All we  need is to hear is his caricature of a Southern accent, to understand that he is unreliable, and also that  the movie is meant to be a comedy.

 

In Raising Arizona, Hi, a criminal recidivist,  his two  best  friends, both prison escapees, and a murderous biker, all talk in what I call “downspeak”, where they talk as if they were  college educated, but with the Southern twang that is meant to indicate their social class, and criminal status. This is what I meant by the association of word use and accent. The humor comes from the incongruity of Hi, and his companions, using words not normally associated with their accents. Not only that, but Hi’s word use can also be seen as aspirational. He talks the way he wishes to be seen by others, which is smart, educated, middle-class, and therefore a reliable narrator, but we  laugh at the way Hi speaks, because his accent marks him as a member of the trailer park class, no matter what words he uses.

Accents are especially interesting  when it comes to Black characters. Blackness, throughout most of film history, has been  almost always associated with buffoonery, poverty, criminality, and a lack of education.  So  it is interesting that even though the largest population of Black people in the US, live in the South, Black people in Popular media, rarely have Southern, Californian, or even Texan accents, and those times when they have  a Southern accent, it represents childlike helplessness, that they have wisdom above their station, or in the case of Black women, that they are deeply religious.

In the 1986 movie, Crossroads, starring Ralph Macchio, and Joe Seneca, we can contrast Willie Brown’s poor, Mississippi Delta accent, with Eugene Martone’s middle-class, New York accent, something which Willie never lets Eugene forget throughout the film. They’re both musicians who specialize in playing the guitar, but one of them was born into poverty and plays the Blues, a style of music that is dismissed as “primitive” by Eugene’s music teachers, and the other was born in one of world’s most cosmopolitan cities, and plays Western European Classical music, which is sneered at by Willie, as not being “real music, that comes from the heart”. In this movie, it is Eugene who is out of place, as his accent is commented on by the other characters in the film, and marks him as being from a different socio-economic class.

The Northern Blaccent, where a person speaks AAVE, but speaks it with a Midwestern accent, is often representative of  the “thug”, or gang banger stereotype, and appears to be a universal Black accent,  not closely associated  with any particular region of the US, which means that no matter where the movie or show is set, the accents of Black characters in Popular media, tend to remain consistently Midwestern. Once again, this is not a hard and fast rule, as exceptions can be found, but it is a pattern, and the idea that Blackness alone, is so associated with criminality, violence, and unreliability, to such a degree, that none of those qualities need be further indicated by a strong accent, is disturbing.

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When a Black character speaks SAE (Standard American English) onscreen, without an accent, then it connotes all the same qualities that it does in the real world, respectability, and safety. A decade after the demise of the Mid-Atlantic accent, used by White actors, Black characters were still using it. The use of AAVE in movies and shows, did not reach full use by Black characters until the mid seventies, after which it became associated with Black youth culture, and the Blacksploitation movies of that era. The use of AAVE, in mainstream media, came about as a result of the resurgence in Black Pride, when young Black people dismissed respectability politics, in favor of more natural manners of speaking.

Actors like Sidney Poitier, and other actors during, and after, the Civil rights Era, had a distinct, clipped, educated,  Mid-Atlantic accent, which was meant to show that he was a fine, upstanding Black man, to be respected. The purpose of this manner of speaking was meant to counteract the “Coon” manner of speaking that had been heard in most mainstream films, featuring Black characters. His tone, and speech, are meant to convey authority. This was a man who could be liked and trusted, and  this was illustrated in the 1967 movie, In the Heat of the Night, in which a Black Philadelphia cop, Virgil Tibbs, is sent to a small town in Mississippi,  and works with the town sheriff to solve a murder.

Poitier’s voice is deep, firm, and commanding, because sometimes, the tone and timbre of a person’s voice are important, as well. In this scene, notice the difference in his voice, compared to that of the white sheriff, whose voice is of a higher register, and a more casual tone. The Sheriff’s accent is a soft Southern drawl, his tone holds just a touch of ambiguity, because while he is assured of his own authority, he is uncertain of Tibbs, but like the plot of every cop film of the 80s,  the two men begin  to respect each other, as they are forced to work together.

 

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In Hollywood films, the accent that receives the most negative depictions, outside of the Northern Blaccent, is the  Southern Twang. White people with Southern twangs from places  like Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and the Appalachians, are often depicted in films as toothless, criminal, incestuous,  “rednecks”, “trailer trash”, and “hillbillies”. They are often shown as uneducated, overly religious, violent, poor, and gullible members of the lower classes, (they often populate Horror movies set in rural America, like The Texas Chainsaw massacre, and Deliverance, which is something I’ll be speaking about in a later post.) We are meant to laugh at them, disdain them, be afraid of them, or disgusted by them. The audience is almost never meant to think of such individuals as their equals. Contrast this attitude with that of earlier in the twentieth century, before television, when such people were often held up as admirable examples of Americans, who were the “salt of the Earth”. They weren’t respected, but at least were not blatantly denigrated in most media depictions of them. They were shown as ignorant, but level headed, uneducated, but sensible. Over time, with the advent of television, which was aimed at a middle class audience, the depiction of white poverty became almost entirely negative.

Also on The Simpsons, there is another recurring character named Cletus, The Slack Jawed Yokel, and his theme song and  vignettes are every stereotype of rural poverty, which pretty much sums up how this character is meant to be seen, but because this is a white character, no one thinks of it as being especially mean-spirited, despite the fact that the people writing the show, don’t share the socio-economic background of the character. We are meant to laugh at him, and his antics, not sympathize with him. (TBH, many of The Simpson’s recurring characters are  collections of various tropes.)

We can more clearly see this stereotyping at work, in the 1993 movie, Kalifornia, between  two couples who share almost nothing in common, beyond having white skin. The don’t share income levels, background, or education. Early and his girlfriend, Adele, both speak with a Twang which, outside of their dress and demeanor, indicates their low social and economic status, compared to Brian and Carrie, who speak with the “accentless” accents of the Midwest. Brian and Carrie are both urbane, educated, middle class, and look down on, and mock Adele and Early as “poor white trash”. When the two couples meet,  Carrie expresses reservations about Early and Adele, and finds them funny. Throughout the movie, she regularly expresses disgust, and embarrassment, for the couple’s mannerisms, speech, and lack of boundaries.

Early is a murderer, with a long criminal background, and  on parole, while he and Adele inhabit a trailer, they cannot afford. Adele, while sweet, and good-natured, is also  dimwitted,  gullible, and easily manipulated by Early, who is physically abusive towards her. Adele is  more open with her sexuality. She isn’t slut-shamed in the film, but her manner and dress is distinctly different from the cool, modestly dressed, and sexually aloof Carrie, who Early covets as being beyond his ability to acquire. Carrie’s hair, makeup, and clothing, all indicate that she is a member of the middle class, while Adele’s childlike hairstyles, and lack of makeup, indicate her lack of sophistication. This is actually pretty typical of Hollywood versions of White people with strong Southern accents, but there are at least two exceptions to this, as well.

 

The Texas Drawl, for example, which is commonly given to hyper-masculine, and  heroic White men, like John Wayne, and the Southern Belle, a white woman of at least middle class status, who is  depicted as either  a simpering, or  fiery, damsel in distress, like Scarlett O’Hara.

In genre movies that take place in Fantasy and Science Fiction settings, the Midwestern accent is still dominant, even if there is no reason why a story set in Medieval England, or Outer Space is filled with Midwestern American speaking people, outside of being the actors hired for those roles. Most of the lead characters in Game of Thrones have either staunch Midwestern, or upper class British accents, when there is no reason for such a class station to be alluded to at all, in such a setting. If the characters in a world based on Medieval European history, can have modern British and Midwestern accents, and not be argued as historically inaccurate, than why not any of the many twangs, drawls, Indigenous, Asian, or even Eastern European accents? Why are posh British accents always used to denote the upper classes and nobility even in fantasy settings?

In the Lord of the Rings movie franchise, Viggo Mortensen is a multilingual actor, of Danish heritage, who speaks with a pronounced American accent in the movie. Of all the accents he could have chosen to use, why use that one? The Hobbits all use a variety of English, and Midwestern accents, that are meant to sound casual, but are still “low class” English, or Midwestern standard (and sometimes both in the same character). Although the movies are shot in New Zealand, none of the primary actors have Kiwi accents, which for the Hobbits would be just as valid as the English and Midwestern accents they’re using.

All of the members of the nobility, for example, including the fantasy creatures, regardless of the region of Middle-Earth, or the culture they’re from, like the elves, and dwarves, have English accents. Now I do understand that many of these accents are the natural voices of the actors hired for the roles, but what is never taken into account by audiences is that, that too, is a choice the creators made. The creators of the movies took the time to have the actors speak invented languages, and they could have easily taken the time to make up accents, but chose not to, which probably means, just like the audience, they didn’t hear it either. They could have taken the time to use different accents, for different cultures, or regions of Middle Earth, but didn’t.

Contrast that decision with the accents used in the movie Black Panther. Yes, the accents are all over the place, but according to some of the countries referenced by dress and custom in the movie, the actors accents are not the real accents of any particular region, or tribe, and as a result, many Africans found the accents funny. The Wakandans do speak something like the real language called Xhosa. The bottom line is someone thought about how the characters should sound, and made a deliberate choice that all the members of the fictional nation of Wakanda, would have a certain accent, while it seems no particular thought was given to the accents of the characters from Lord of the Rings. The actors just all used their natural voices there.

When The TV series The Witcher was announced, there was a great deal of argument about adding people of color to the cast, saying that they didn’t belong in a story based in  Polish folklore, because that would not be “Historically Accurate”. This is an argument I’m getting especially tired of hearing,for stories set in Fantasy settings, that involve elves, dragons, and magic, especially since none of those same  people complained about any of the characters lack of Medieval Polish accents, or the lack of any of the languages of Poland. It’s not accurate for any of the characters to have either American or British accents, but no one complained about them. No one complained, because they are not meant to notice that the  “accentless” accent, of Midwestern America, is actually a very specific, and just as contrived,  accent, aimed at a specific audience the films.

Would we take any of these films as seriously as we do, if all the characters spoke like Cletus, from The Simpsons?

In Star Wars, most of the characters (even robots) have either British or Midwestern accents, as well, and there is no particular reason why no one has a Blaccent, or speaks like they’re from Georgia, Pakistan, or Indonesia, although in Science Fiction, this is changing, as in some of the films, most notably in Rogue One, the actors of color all kept their original accents, from places like Mexico (Diego Luna), and China (Donnie Yen).  At least part of the reason we don’t often hear other types of accents in genre films is those types of actors are rarely chosen for those roles,  the disrespect and mockery of accents outside of the Midwestern standard, and  the fact that British accents are the only accents that generally don’t receive mockery in American culture, (although men with such accents are sometimes coded as villainous gays.)

Asian accents on television and in movies are often subject to ridicule and satire. Starting with Mr. Yunioshi, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to Long Duk Dong, in Sixteen Candles, Hollywood has a long, and sordid, history of mocking Asian accents, often using White actors. Asian characters may be stereotyped as  smart, or  “model minorities” in comparison to Black characters, but they are still shown as being less American, through depictions of broken English, ignorance of American culture, and mock languages, like the sing-song noises directed at Asian Americans, even if they were born in America.

Any non-American accents will receive mockery though, no matter what the the race or culture. I’ve caught myself mocking the Australian accent of Steve Irwin, Michael Caine’s Cockney accent, or laughing at fake Irish and Scottish accents. All accents that are considered by mainstream media to be comedic, or just of the “lower classes”.

All this means is that all accents are unworthy, and that the only one that should be respected (or just never noticed at all) is the accentless accent of the Midwest. And let’s be absolutely honest, not even all Midwestern accents are considered equal. The Northern Midwest has its own distinct sound, and is often used in movies as a form of comedy relief.

Here, Amy Walker talks about some of the more common American regional accents.

 

Essentially, the Midwestern accent  is as  ubiquitous, and invisible as whiteness. It is an accent without an accent, it is everywhere, and because its so pervasive, no one can hear it.

Hi Everyone!

I am currently, like a lot of people, in a lockdown city, here in the US, due to the C- 19 pandemic, and I’m not working. Unfortunately, now is also the wrong fucking time to have either the flu, or allergies, both of which are currently kicking my ass, but I am otherwise okay. I live in a predominantly Black neighborhood and although we rarely panic about anything, yes, people are buying lots of toilet paper.

My Mom and I went shopping this weekend, and while there was a very mild air of excitement, kinda like what’s felt before a National holiday, most people were quite calm, and polite. I saw only one woman wearing a face mask, and one guy with rubber gloves. The handful of white People I saw had amassed lots of toilet paper, while the Black customers seemed like they were just buying food for their unexpectedly early, out of school children. Schools will be closed here to the end of the school year, but the kids are still going to be fed, because otherwise the school lunches, that were bought in advance would go to waste, so that’s good. Voting has been postponed til Summer, movie theaters are closed, and I have no idea when I’ll be back to work, although thankfully, I’m one of those people with fully paid leave.

I’m thinking of donating to people without paid leave, so if anyone knows any organizations that will do that, then please hit me up on Tumblr with the details.

I have no intention of talking about the pandemic on this blog, mostly because reliable information can be found everywhere else, and I really don’t have strong feelings about what’s happening. It is what it is, I’m gonna roll with whatever happens, and my white noise about it isn’t going to be helpful. I’m going to continue to post what’s in my queue, talk about movies and shows, and try to be entertaining, with an occasional deep thought.