Just Go Ahead Now


Some weeks ago, I was at work and the radio chanced to play “Two Princes” by Spin Doctors. I was in a silly mood and felt the kitsch, was amused by the thing as I went about my labors. Some time after that, I was at home, remembering the song and vaguely recalling the video. My judgment skewed by the afterglow of that moment, I looked it up on youtube.

At work I only heard a bit and at low volume. At home with headphones on, the band in front of me? Something else.

I didn’t last a minute. That song is pisschristing horribad. It is the Abyss, and when you gaze too long, it tips its hat and says “milady.” It shivered my fucking timbers, matey.

Since then, I occasionally have moments when I think about it. It’s tempting to view the song as emblematic of something terrible in the American character at the time.

Grunge was a thing, and it had lessons for the masses. People can’t subsist on music about dancing and fucking. There’s more to life than that, and sometimes it’s best expressed with unpleasant nonsense words and guitar feedback.

But some people took the wrong lessons from that, decided Seattle = cool, expensive coffee, big sweaters, shitty facial hair. Two Princes was the dawn of the Starbucks playlist.

That part of our culture is what I like to call NPR liberalism. It’s about being just progressive enough to feel good about yourself and refusing to look with any depth at the class war, racism, misogyny, and cisheterofascism underlying this whole shitshow.

NPR liberals aren’t always bad people. A lot of them are swell, just obnoxiously blind to important shit.

They give at the church but never look at what the church does with that money outside the congregation. No matter how many times you tell them, yes, your church really is exporting violent homophobia, they will forget that shit like a goldfish.

They’re the moms that misgender you constantly because they will never in their hearts acknowledge your identity. They’re contrite when caught, but will never change because their cutesy memories of how they saw you as a child? More important to them than your real mental and physical health as an adult.

They just can’t remember anything that isn’t somehow nice or cute or reassuring. The extent to which they can remember what the big bad republicans are up to is only the extent to which it can be put back in a box with a sassy soundbite, put on a mug, put on a sweater.

NPR liberals have faith in the “blue wave” and the forward trajectory of history. Just wait, you don’t have to be loud. Go with the flow, have fun.

Two Princes is like “Don’t Worry Be Happy” for white people, but eh, maybe Don’t Worry Be Happy was the Don’t Worry Be Happy for white people. I think Chuck D said something about that once.

So the song puts me in mind of that strain of thought in the USA, and of how prevalent it was in my high school, in media of the ’90s. The dualism of our country then was the liberal sense you should be nice to people, with the anti-PC-flavored chuckles from the bros on the other side. Dharma and Greg were walking hand in hand, apple pie, yellow ribbons and A-10 warthogs.

Because the NPR liberal is committed to making nice, they never offered any opposition to the advance of American fascism. The belly piercing girls and darwin fish boys from my school grew up to be the moms and dads telling you family is more important than politics when you get pissed at grandpa Bruce and baby Braden for chatting holocaust denialism at Thanksgiving.

It’s tempting to look at the dopey grin and scragglebeard on that dude, at the floppy flaps on his shitty hat, to hear the Walmart-friendly “alternative” hootenanny jam, and to see that as emblematic of the blind eye people turn to keep things nice, reassuring, simple, peaceful.

It’s tempting, but surely just overblown nonsense. Mental vomit in response to the overwhelming saccharine smell.

So if you want to call me baby, just go ahead now.


Thoughts on ABC Freeform’s “Cloak and Dagger”

ABC made a TV show off Marvel’s comic “Cloak & Dagger,” and shit it out onto their new streaming service called “Freeform.” The concept was and is problematic (black teen boy with powers of dark hungry void, white teen girl with magical powers of light), but the execution – even in the comic days – was pretty progressive, humanist, not shabby.

The show could be better, could be worse. The kids are alright. One thing sucked tremendous though: It ended in zombies. Really boring shitty nonsense zombies. Can we be done with zombies yet? I heard Walking Dead has flushed all its good will with fans straight down the terlet. Can that be done? Can everything zombie be done?

The worst thing though? ABC Freeform. The only things of any interest at all on there are Cloak & Dagger and re-runs of The Nanny. I kid, I kid, I mean, I could watch Paul Blart on there too, what am I complaining about? Everybody cancel your streaming services of choice and hit it up.

“Fuck Batman”

When said by a justice-minded critic looking at the implied meanings behind a story of a white cishet patriarch beating up poor people with no due process, whose enemies are mostly ableist caricatures: Cool.

When said by an edgelord Robin reboot with blood spattered across his chin before he kills seven dudes in an alley: Not great.

The always lovely and amusing SungWon Cho has this take:


Cinema Day Shout-outs

Got to see Antman & the Wasp and also Sorry to Bother You today, very nice. No time for big reviews, just wanna give a couple of shout outs.

Shout out to Ant-Man for acknowledging the MCU continuity in its way, and for being a gentle movie. The bad guys weren’t so bad, the stakes weren’t too grandiose, it was all just easy comedy, easy drama, easy action. Just lovely. I know the box office wasn’t what they’d prefer, but I’m sure it’ll make money for years to come on syndication, digital, and all that.

Shout out to Boots Riley, director of Sorry to Bother You and commie rapper from The Coup. Seems like the public forgot you blowing up the World Trade Center on that album cover, at least enough for you to score a wide release for your commie movie. Commie props, man. I love your shit.

Shout out Lakeith Stanfield for being a beautiful man and a damn superstar. Not sure when you’re getting Oscars and fan kids on internet, but congrats in advance.

And shout out to my boyfriend who went in for a follow-up on his surgery without my company. Hey, I’m sick with some kinda respiratory thing. Total excuse. No, I pretty much sucked today. Sorry about that.

And lastly, most importantly, big shout out and apology to the person sitting next to me at the 2 PM showing of Sorry to Bother You at the mall theater in Federal Way, Washington on July 16 2018, I think seat D6 or D7? I tried to avoid looking at you even though we were next to each other in a fairly empty place, propriety and all that, but I feel like you may have been a mature woman, my age or more?

Anyhow, I may have infected the air around you with this respiratory crud, even though I didn’t cough much. Also, I had to piss so I loosened my belt to try to put off going to the bathroom about halfway through the movie, and you ran out, never to return. Maybe you thought I was about to whip it out and start jerkin’ in the public-ass theater right next to you, but I swear I wasn’t. Sorry to fuck up your day.

Shout-outs.


Agents of Shield Wimps Out

OK, the status quo of the MCU is a bad joke between Infinity War and the next one, but it’s a joke that should be affecting the plots of Agents and all those Nutflex shows and so on. Agents of Shield should’ve disintegrated half the cast. It didn’t do that to a single one of them.

No big deal tho, right? If I was in the position of creating one of those shows, I wouldn’t want to kowtow to silly world-wrecking ideas implemented on other people’s projects. But I see in this a big missed opportunity.

See, Coulson was revealed to be terminally ill this season, definitely gonna die. If, as in my last post, we suppose Thanos’s victims enter the soul gem, then this could’ve been a real slick way to cross over again. See, the movies have been ignoring Agents because they saw Coulson’s death as dramatically complete, no need to fuck with it.

But if Coulson showed up in the Soul Gem (because he got disintegrated right before he died naturally) the movie could’ve played it off like he was there because any dead person could be, and never have to acknowledge his life on the TV series. And in reverse, if the series wanted him back in full health, they could have him escape the soul gem by the same means as Dr. Strange and the others.

If they’re at all serious about keeping the crossover with the series as an idea, I know how they’ll write it off. Whatever mulligan happens in Infinity Boogaloo will cause the lost to be restored as if nothing happened, and with no knowledge they had been lost in the first place. Ipso facto yadda yadda, their adventures will not seem to have been affected by the event at all. The end.

I just think that’s Dullsville. If they were gonna go big like this, they should’ve had the huevos to stick with it and make the disintegrations happen everywhere. Raspberries to you, Marvel. Raspberries.


John Woo on Netflix

Manhunt! New John Woo joint on Nutflex. Extremely poorly reviewed. I watched it. Don’t feel up for a full review, but here’s the short version:

The plot’s too complicated, the melodrama sometimes seems to be channeling Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, and there are a million and one glaring technical issues with the filmmaking. Sometimes it seems like they didn’t have all the footage they needed so there’s a jarring cut or failure of the action filmmaking – which is what you come to John Woo for in the first place. The Japanese / Chinese cast used strained English as a common language and that was hard on the ears. And I’m not used to the look of ultra-high-def high frame rate digital action movies yet. It looked better on my little monitor than my big TV.

All that said, it wasn’t just a sad ghost of John Woo’s old talent. This was the first thing I’ve seen in ages that looked like he was able to put some of that spirit into it. I’m not sure what he needs to take it all the way home. More producer interference? Less? A trusted assistant with strong chops? A better editor?

The good news: For the first time in a while it feels possible to get the old John Woo back. I hope whatever went wrong here can get fixed next time out.


Spoiled Infinity Yak

I saw Avengers: Infinity War, and agree with Scalzi and others who found the drama of the big character deaths extremely weakened by the knowledge they’re gonna get a mulligan. There wasn’t even a hint of a moment of feeling shocked or bad about the deaths. There would have been more feeling if in the film we spent more time with the survivors, got to feel their reactions, but they didn’t do that. It made sense in terms of pacing to skip that – the deaths came super late in the film. But it still fell flat as drama.

A movie that’s an obvious two parter should leave you wanting and wondering about the second, but not because the first ended feeling a bit like a bad joke. Nonetheless, I do think it was competently done, gratifying explodey action 5eva. Just not as good of quality in storytelling as many other MCU joints.

Anyhow, if you wanna talk about the movie with someone without fear of spoiling, I put the word Spoiled in the title, so feel free to be completely open here.

What else do I wanna say? OH YEAH. The stuff from the trailers that didn’t end up in the movie at all! The Hulk running in Wakanda. An entire Thanos speech (one doesn’t consider fun when balancing the cosmos…). That shit feels reeeeally weird. Like we were lied to about the movie. Just a strange experience.

Also, the reason the Hulk wasn’t running in Wakanda – Banner couldn’t hulk out in the movie and I could think of zero reason why except for budget. Was he literally left in a cage to make way for Purple Man Group? If so, W the earthly F?

Also watching Agents of Shield with its half-assed tie-in moments, and shit isn’t adding up there. Thanos attack was supposed to be what precipitated actions leading to the destruction of the Earth, but Thanos wasn’t about destroying the earth, leaving the idea as a depressing wacky temporal comedy of errors.

The season has been hella weak by comparison to the last few, the aliens feel like B movie versions of the Guardians movies aliens, which puts them on a continuum of bad towards the Inhumans show. Yikes. And the show has no choice but to have half the cast members disintegrate, because its finale airs long before we discover the method of Mulligan in the movies.

Then there’s the Netflix shows. They try to tie in but that’s also feeling pretty flimsy at this point. None of those characters got to be in the movies, even in the background. And how will they deform their plots to account for where the movie ‘verse has been left hanging? They just can’t. It’d be ridiculous.

Ant Man and the Wasp has the advantage of being able to bump their plot back in time farther than Agents of Shield can, but I’d like to see the end credit scene be the entire cast disintegrating, just as a way to keep the goof going. Why not?

Mmm, sequel thoughts. I’d love to see a few long conversations between Nebula and Tony Stark, with them stranded on a distant world, tragedy all around and nothin’ to do. That would be an interesting bit of drama. I’d like the dead to stay dead for a good chunk of the beginning.

So how does the Mulligan work? I knew even before I watched the movie what they were going to pull, so I thought maybe they could give the reality stone to the Scarlet Witch and have her pull an Avengers Disassembled or non-mutants-referring House of M style plot. MCU Scarlet Witch hasn’t been shown to have powers on the level she did in the comic, but getting an infinity stone could make the difference. But they killed her, so that’s out.

In the original Infinity Gauntlet story, if I recall, the souls of the dead are, in a sense, inside the Soul Gem. Adam Warlock leads Gamora and Drax back to the land of the living (along with another character who hasn’t appeared yet, and if I’m remembering this right – it was years ago & I don’t feel like researching). If the movie verse is similar, Dr. Strange could take that role. And it would make sense of his action of giving the time stone to Thanos. Like, why would he ever have done that, especially to spare fucking Tony Stark? Only if he was counting on dying to get a peep inside the gem and come up with a better plan.

Lastly, reiterate what I said at Nate’s, they removed Thanos’s original motive — pining for the embodiment of death itself, killing half of everything to impress her. That’s especially weird, given the end credit scene of the first Avengers heavily implied that was his still his thang. Also, it just made a LOT more sense as a motive than this half-assed overpopulation is bad gimmick.

So bad move, and also one that shows the MCU is willing to throw its own foreshadowing in the garbage. The end of Guardians 2 foreshadowed the birth of Adam Warlock, but they might never use him, and certainly it would be weird for him to show up new in the next Avengers joint.

The deaths of Spiderman, Black Panther, and the Guardians means they can’t make any movies for those guys until after the next Avengers movie, so I really don’t know quite what to expect here. It’s a silly state of affairs. I guess we can have fun with it. Oh noes, I’m ded. x_x


Jessica Jones Problem

Content Warnings: Rape Mention, Abuse, Horror

Jessica Jones is a Netflix original series based on a problematic-ass comic. The premise: A woman with super strength falls under the control of a villain with mind control powers. He rapes her and uses her to abuse and kill others as well. Somehow she escapes his influence, and in an ensuing accident thinks him dead. But he returns, and she has to find a way to defeat him without risking falling under his control again.

It’s an intense psychological horror in that premise, that plays out very well in the hands of appropriately sensitive writers and directors during the first season. But as the premise is so based on the “sensational” nature of a hideous sex crime, it would be reasonable to suppose that the elimination of the super-rapist would kneecap any further storytelling with the main character.

I wanted that to not be true. A rape survivor’s story shouldn’t have to be defined by her rapist, in fiction or otherwise. I believe better things could be done with this character, and the second season was their chance to do that.

They failed. At the most basic level of writing, it was all about the hook. The first season had an extremely powerful hook. They were never going to be able to match it, in terms of its potential for horror and intrigue. The hook for the second season? Not as compelling.

But as writers and directors, there are ways to make up for the weakness of a hook. Play up the intensity of local situations and scenes, put in a character arc people will really love even if they don’t care that much for the premise. It’s doable. But they didn’t pull it off, not at all.

Frequently throughout the season, it seemed like they were intentionally trying to draw the drama and events smaller, make them less important, or make things less powerfully felt. Bad guys were soft-pedaled and good guys tarnished to where they were indistinguishable, presumably in the name of artistic complexity, but with the effect of draining all sympathy and interest from the audience.

At its worst, it felt like the budget constrained writing from Inhumans. And the dialogue between Jessica and the big bad in the last two episodes felt almost as repetitive and trite as Luke and Vader’s exchanges in Return of the Jedi. The worst part is that two good guy / sympathetic characters from the first season were turned into sleazy assholes with NO resolution to their arcs of descent.

And in the end? It looks like Jessica is angling toward an ultra-heteronormative domestic situation. My feminism shrank three sizes that day. The show was anticlimactic and just tired.

THE TAKE-AWAY
This season had to potential to show that you don’t need a sensational story of sex abuse to make a compelling narrative about a survivor. It failed to do so, and disappointed my shit out. Three thumbs down. I blame no one but the writers, directors, producers. Better luck in your future endeavors, actors.

In Praise of Marvel’s Flops: Inhumans

So Marvel just finished airing the safe-to-say series finale of Inhumans, their most panned production to date, and it got me feeling like, hey, somebody oughtta stick up for anyone that is getting crapped on that hard. So. Marvel’s Inhumans.

In a moment of perfect timing during the last episode, the words “Created by Scott Buck” appeared on the screen just as the villain of the show was saying, “You realize this is all your fault.” But was it? Must we assign blame? Can we accept this moment, this thing as it is, and move on without recriminations? I dunno. Just sayin’.

Inhumanoids is the story of the inhumans, who are a race of superheroes resulting from the work of Ancient AliensTM. They live on the moon. A lot of them have short foreheads, which makes me think the casting director has a short forehead, and just thought, hey, these people look good and normal. And they do, I mean, my head looks like the comic version of Karnak, so maybe it’s a matter of perspective. Even so, it gets a song in my head.

The faces of Anson Mount, Serinda Swan, and Iwan Rheon crudely photoshopped onto monchichis.
Mon chi-Chi! Mon, chi-chi.

Stop: Spoiler time.

The title of this post isn’t a lie. But I have to mention the bad before I can get to the promised praise…
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