GORDON: Welcome readers to another exciting installment of [redacted], where we’ll be discussing [censored] and the [undisclosed] surrounding it.
(The topic for today is censorship, for anyone baffled by my oh-so-subtle clues…)
“There is nothing new in art except talent,” words by Anton Chekhov that I was forced to look up because I’ve already cited Ecclesiastes in a prior post. They’re also words that I feel forced to grasp firmly on to as I’m faced with the deluge of television spin-offs soon to flood your televisions and my laptop with more and more of the same. With that being the worst case scenario, of course.
That being said, I’m going to try my best to take the stance I typically take on these sorts of things, which is that ultimately execution trumps everything else. Chances are that you wouldn’t have thought that a movie about a guy with his arm trapped under a rock would be able to hold your attention, but 127 Hours is great. The premise of a work of art does not damn it, though it certainly colours how audiences choose to approach and experience that work. Continue reading →
And needless to say, we’re all just sitting around trying to figure where to go from here. Some people are saying we should just start the series over again.
And honestly, that’s not the worst idea in the world. Similar to Arrested Development (excluding the miniseries), there’s a ton of hidden symbolism and foreshadowing that definitely gives the series plenty of rewatch value. Heck- you could just try tracking down the last few stubborn heretics who haven’t seen the show yet and watch them watch it. Which reminds me- anyone who hasn’t seen the finale should probably tune out now. I’m going to try to avoid spoiling anything, but just to be safe, better add CWR to your media blackout for the next 24 hours or so.
I don’t necessarily identify as a “nerd” or a “geek,” but I definitely identify as a comic book fan. As such, it hasn’t been hard to notice how I and others like me are stereotyped by popular culture, whether it be Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, Kevin Smith and his pals talking about which superheroine they’d most like to bang on AMC’s Comic Book Men, or the gawking crowd of guys in a particular episode of The Big Bang Theory. These stereotypes, like most, are not as true as people think, but every now and then they ring true, much to the shame of those who share in that group.
ComicBookMovie.com is one of my favourite comic news sites, and one that I check on an almost hourly basis. It’s great because it gives a lot of news about upcoming comic book movies, as well as previews of upcoming comic books. One issue the site has, however, is that all of the content is completely user-generated, meaning that certain things may get to the front page that aren’t exactly high quality stuff.
As a little bit of context, the first shots of Woodley as MJ were not met with a great deal of enthusiasm. They depicted what appeared to be a very plain-looking redheaded girl, and not one who was anything like the “super-hot, incredibly bone-able character from the comics,” to quote the CBM contributor Mark “RorMachine” Cassidy. Below is an image I took from the article which shows Woodley side by side with a very popular image of the comic book character.
Upon skimming this article I was disgusted. The four areas that Woodley could work on in her portrayal were listed as “TITS,” “FACE,” “HAIR,” “ASS,” and “ACTING ABILITY,” in that order. I’m going to pull the first, and most offensive, of the paragraphs out to explain exactly why I was so repulsed:
Look at the pic – comic MJ has lovely big disproportionate ones, Woodley doesn’t. Now obviously surgery would be the best route, but that’s highly unlikely so I recommend padding. It’s very simple, just stick a stuffed Wonderbra on the chick, and any scenes requiring actual semi or full (hey, we can hope!) nudity can utilize CGI! It’s a magical age for cinema folks.
To help restore your faith in humanity the article was met by others who were just as offended as I was:
I’m not sure if it was present the first time I skimmed it, but posted at the very bottom was the following note by Cassidy:
NOTE: This article is meant as satire. It’s a response to the – genuine – backlash Miss Woodley received when she was cast in the movie, and then again when set images of her were posted online. No offence to Miss Woodley or anyone else is meant, and I (meaning me, and not the absurd persona I wrote the article as!) genuinely think she is a beautiful, talented actress who will do a great job as MJ
In it she decries the shallowness of complaining an actress isn’t “hot enough,” using some very choice words to address realistic beauty. Rich exhibits just as much, if not more, disgust at the article, but more importantly addresses the topic of Cassidy’s article being a satire. She claims, and rightly so, that:
The “satire” was so close to the real thing that most of [CBM’s] commenters didn’t get the difference, and reading it makes your skin crawl because you just know that’s exactly how a strong handful of fanboys feel, no irony intended.
We are sorry, Shailene Woodley. We are sorry, comic book fangirls. We are sorry, women that came across Mark “RorMachine” Cassidy’s “satire”. He doesn’t speak for all of us.
We are not all mysoginistic pigs. And in the light of the recent The Amazing Spider-Man 2 announcements, I couldn’t be more excited to watch Shailene Woodley start her journey to bring Mary Jane Watson to life.
I’m mildly excited about TASM2 [I’m way more pumped for this May’s Iron Man 3], and at this point I don’t have any solid opinions on Shailene Woodsley being the girl to deliver the classic line “Face it, Tiger, you just hit the jackpot!” [or some variation thereof]. What’s more important to me is that, as the title of this post suggests, comic book fans stay classy. That the people who love this medium as much as I do conduct themselves in a manner that’s, at best, not reprehensible. The public has a general view of what comic book fans are supposed to be like, and it doesn’t benefit anyone to play to that stereotype even in jest.
Let’s be honest, porn is not the highest art form to begin with. That being said, it’s 2013, people. It is the 21st century and I expect better from all of us, even those in San Fernando Valley [lovingly dubbed “Porn Valley” by those in the industry].
Now, I’m going to assume that most of you are familiar with AMC’s The Walking Dead [I’d be surprised if you weren’t, really]. If not, what you need to know is that it features among its core cast Glenn, who is played by Korean-American Steven Yeun]. A cast member of the original comic book series, Glenn makes his entrance by saving Rick, the protagonist of the series, and goes on to be an all-around successful human being [which, in a zombie apocalypse, equates to being a badass]. So that’s what you have to know about that.
What you also have to know, if you weren’t aware, is that porn studios churn out parodies like nobody’s business. They’ve parodied everything from beloved childhood cartoons [The Flintstones: A XXX Parody] to a 1976 DC/Marvel comic books crossover event [Superman vs Spider-Man XXX: An Axel Braun Parody]; nothing is sacred. It should come as no surprise, then, when they decided to take a stab at adapting AMC’s The Walking Dead [if you watch it, you’d know why I have to write it out like that].
Porn star Danny Wylde was cast to play Glenn in the as-of-yet untitled film. In it, he will be appearing as follows:
I recently had a chance to see The Man with the Iron Fists, a gritty Kung-Fu-Spaghetti-Western-70s-Exploitation mash-up film presented (of course) by Quentin Tarantino. I say presented by Tarantino; the creation of the film itself is owed largely to The RZA of the former (and still awesome) Wu-Tang Clan. In addition to co-writing and directing the film, the RZA stars in the epic slug-fest itself, serving as the narrator and titular character.
Now I went into this film simply suspending my disbelief. I assumed all the nonsensical elements in the film would simply be loving jabs at the old-school kung-fu and action movies that Tarantino and Roth grew up on. That’s why Russel Crowe’s character has a gun-scissor-knife weapon, or why (and here’s the big thing) the blacksmith in this fictional Chinese village is black. Much to my surprise however, the movie began offering explanations (though not to the gun-scissor-knife). The blacksmith is, in a flashback, shown having grown up on a plantation and receiving his freedom from his dying master. Despite having papers declaring him a free man, he is continually treated as a slave- in one scene he is told by a couple of dandies that there’s no way he can read, and therefore understand what’s written on his documents. The two men crumple up his paper and proceed to slur and shove him until he fights back, inadvertently killing one of them. He flees west, and after his ship is wrecked, finds himself in China.
Now obviously that whole last bit about him running so far he winds up in the far east is obviously just the movie shifting back into fantasy, but what really got me was the depiction of slavery. Not prejudice, not segregation- slavery. When’s the last time you can actually say you saw a film deal with that? Glory in 1989? Some Little House on the Prairie episode sometime in the 70s? It simply isn’t done (and that one episode of The Boondocks doesn’t count).
And that’s what I want to talk about. Our depiction, or lack of depiction, of slavery. For all our grand talk of freedom, liberty, and American “exceptionalism,” we do tend to gloss over the uglier elements of our history, such as Manzanar, Wounded Knee, and perhaps most notably, slavery. It brings up all sorts of uncomfortable, and frankly unresolved conflicts. It throws a dark shadow over all of our self-reported greatness. Nevertheless, we really can’t shove it under the carpet, and it looks like, at long last, it’s starting to all come out.
AMC’s Hell on Wheels takes place during the years following the close of the Civil War, and like The Man with the Iron Fists is one of the few depictions of slavery I’ve ever seen on film or TV. In addition to its frank depiction of slavery, I want to take a moment to give the show some applause for the historical accuracy it had in general, depicting Northern racism towards the ex-slaves, as well as the racism inflicted to (and by) the Irish immigrants- another nasty little thread in American heritage you won’t find in most history books.
Of course, beyond that, there’s the highly anticipated Tarantino film Django Unchained, which we’re all expecting to be jaw-dropping in how good or bad it turns out to be. Unlike the previous two examples, which depicted slavery only briefly, this is a movie set completely in the antebellum South. That’s another hefty jump, though again, how well this is going to be executed is still very much up in air.
Now I’ve been struggling all night to come up with a conclusion for all of this, but I’m really not sure what to say. I can’t say why we’re suddenly interested in a subject we’ve been ignoring for the past century and a half. I can’t quite figure out if this is some little trend or the awakening of some part of our culture that’s been dormant so long we’ve forgotten it. I can’t pinpoint what’s causing this. I can’t tell you where it’s all going. I can tell you, however, where I hope it goes.
I hope this is the beginning of something that might pass for maturity in our culture or our generation. I hope that movies depicting the reality of slavery become a thing. I hope that they open up the doors for the rest of our small-pox-infected, witch-burning, Japanese-interning, waterboarding history. I hope we can actually learn something from all of this once it’s out there, and hey, maybe we can actually get some racial diversity in our movies for a change.
P.S. I haven’t seen Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter or Lincoln yet, so I can’t say how they deal with it in there.
GORDON: Ladies and gentlemen devoted readers and people who found our blog by googling “dokata fanning playboy.” We’re were to have a frank and open discussion about “The Walking Dead,” both the critically acclaimed television series and Robert Kirkman comic books of the same name.
EVAN: I’d like to issue a fair warning to those who haven’t read the comic series or caught up on the show that there will be SPOILERS. You have been duly warned.
GORDON: Indeed. I’d like to kick things off by talking a bit about how the books and the television series differ, and whether or not that’s a good thing.
EVAN: I think there’s a firm answer there. The show differs a lot from the books, and that’s definitely a good thing.
GORDON: How so?
EVAN: Sticking to the book means that there aren’t any surprises for loyal fans of the series, and keeps them guessing. Furthermore, it allows AMC and others involved to play a little bit more loosely with the way the show is going, without feeling too tied down.
GORDON: I thought about that.
GORDON: At the same time, I feel there’s definitely a lot lacking from the series as a result of their pretty strong (and ever increasing) departure from the source material. Take some of the deaths, like Dale’s and Shane’s, for example. It’s like knowing you’re gonna go get Chinese food versus being surprised that you get some potato chips with your nasty sandwich.
EVAN: I agree. Both deaths were undeniably very well-written and powerful moments. I just think there’s something to be said for not being slavishly dedicated to one vision of the show.
And as far as Dale’s death is concerned, I can easily see his key line being spoken by some other character some ways down the road.
GORDON: I guess my point is that while the show does keep you on your toes, the changes it makes are typically just less impressive than the story itself. I think loyal fans of the series would be just as cool seeing a faithful show as one that goes its own way.
I mean, look at it this way: The books are dark. Really dark. I’m talking Laurie’s comic-book ending dark. It pushed the envelope in ways I just have yet to see the show do. That was a lot of the charm of the books- how unflinching it was. I’m just not getting that same power with the show’s spin.
EVAN: It’s obvious that fans are going to want a show that is as close to what they originally experienced in the comics as possible. I also agree that the comics are undeniably better than the show.
My point is that I think the deviation is good and realistic. Having the Governor both physically and sexually assault Michonne is probably not something we’re going to see. Neither did I think we were going to be witness to a woman and her baby being brutally gunned down.
The writing is weaker, but I don’t think that faults the direction to not stick to the book, it faults the current writers.
GORDON: Interesting, but it seems that the logical solution to that is to try to get closer to the hard-hitting story the books gave us. Here’s what I’m hearing from you:
“The books are objectively better, but the fault is with the show’s poor writing.”
Seems like you either just start trying to write a better zombie story while trying to stay within sight of the original material and characters (which kind of kills the point), or just stick to the material to begin with.
EVAN: I don’t think they’re not trying to write better stories. I’m saying they’re not succeeding. I don’t think they set out to do a bad job.
GORDON: Fair enough. So what needs to be done then?
EVAN: As with most forms of media taking into account constant feedback from fans and acknowledging their mistakes. Season 2 at the farm really dragged on, and was low on the zombie killing. At the very least, this season has given us plenty of “walker”-eviscerating action.
GORDON: No argument there . . . no complaint either. But I don’t think it’s a solution; just something to help ease the need for something more.
EVAN: You do get that not everything in the comics can make it on TV, though, right?
GORDON: Of course. And I wasn’t going to say that. I mean, ever since the season began, I’ve been like: “How the **** are they going to show a baby being shot on national television?”
The rest I could imagine, but not that.
EVAN: Okay, how about we move on to something most fans of the AMC show can relate to: How horrible Andrea is all the time always.
GORDON: That bugs me. I like Andrea. Andrea gets it.
EVAN: Andrea is horrible. Andrea almost shot Daryl in the face. Because she couldn’t listen to people telling her to hold the **** up.
GORDON: That was messed up. But otherwise, I think the criticism of her is all just BS.
I mean, everyone’s like, “Gah- I hate Andrea! Why can’t she see that the Governor is evil?”
And I’m like: “Please. If you had survived as long as she had, which you wouldn’t, you would be groveling at the man’s feet for a bowl of warm soup, let alone a flippin’ suburban paradise free from living corpses.”
EVAN: She only survived because of Michonne, who I don’t like all that much at the moment. And for the most part, I agree with you about the Governor not being a bad dude.
GORDON: Let’s not turn this into my twisted/completely reasonable sense of morality. What I think the show is really lacking is the eeriness. You got that in the first season, when Rick was on his own, that feeling of isolation. Upping the action doesn’t solve that problem, especially as more an more characters come in.
EVAN: What I really want to see is the whole idea, which has been communicated but could be better, that it’s not the zombies you’re afraid of, it’s the people. Two kids die, and everyone things it’s the huge black dude who did it. Turns out it’s the mild-mannered white guy who decapitated these two little girls.
GORDON: Very unexpected. Dang, there was so much good stuff there that we’ll never get to see. . .
EVAN: The theme of the books, if I could sum it up in three words, is “People Are Monsters.” I think that’s really what needs to come out of AMC’s Sunday evenings.
GORDON: I agree completely.
EVAN: We’ve got a little bit of time, do you want to share with the nice people why, barring slaughtering a few US Army men, the Governor’s not such a mustachio-twirling villain?
GORDON: In their defense, that version was pretty over-the-top; like a living Snidely Whiplash.
EVAN: In the books, you mean?
EVAN: What I meant, though, is that as you said people are yelling at their screens, crying “Andrea you dumb blonde, can’t you see you’re making out with the devil?”
GORDON: They are, and without cause (barring knowledge from the book). I mean, people suspect because they’re the audience and can see the big picture. But if we’re talking realistically, they would be more eager than Andrea. I’m just saying the criticism of Andrea as being blind is utter nonsense.
EVAN: And furthermore, what has he done to have anyone assume he’s a bad dude? Taken away their weapons in a peaceful town. Shown them tons of hospitality. If anything, we’d all be telling Michonne to chill the eff out and stop glaring at everyone/thing.
GORDON: Exactly. People need to chill out.
EVAN: And, even though I’m sure we could’ve gone on for another hour, that just about concludes our time. Any topics you have in mind for next week? Probably not something television-related, to avoid the hat trick.
GORDON: True. Let’s talk about food. Let’s hypothesize the greatest food show of all time.