Tag Archives: Lost

Fame Day: American Horror Story

americansdoghasdToday, I’d like to tip my hat to one of my favorite shows, a young series by the name of American Horror Story.

Now it’s no secret that the horror genre is universally despised, being seen by many as being lower on the totem pole than even toilet-humor comedies or the most saccharine romances out there. I could probably spend an entire post speculating on why exactly horror flicks are treated with such little respect (a lot of it is probably due to the genre’s inbred cousin, the “teen scream” flick), but that’s another topic for another time. I’m here to simply showcase the series and highlight a few of its key strengths and accomplishments that I think make it worthy of a Fame Day.

Each season of the show (the second has just concluded, and a third has been greenlit) is a separate story, made up of the horrific lives of the characters as they struggle with their pasts, their inner demons, and some ever-present terror always lurking just beyond the shadows. It essentially cashes in on the initial charm that LOST had before it jumped the polar bear.

Guilt and shame are themes that play heavily into the series as a whole (or at least, the past two “stories”), giving even the most heinous characters a degree of sympathy. Again, similar to LOST at its best, the constant shifting of the story from one perspective to the next prevents the series from ever being boring. Granted, the madcap pacing doesn’t always work (especially in the first story), but for the most part, the audience is always kept interested.

And that brings us to the first key accomplishment of the series:

Popularity

As I stated above, horror is simply not popular- at least, not in any mainstream way. Tim Burton’s lighter works are really the closest most people get to anything remotely macabre, and the fact that the series has continually drawn in high ratings (to say nothing of critical acclaim) is nothing short of amazing. And we’re not talking about a series that is eerie or has a handful of jump-scares, we’re talking about truly unsettling elements here. I’m certainly not alone in hoping that that AHS‘s continued success serves to begin building bridges between mainstream entertainment and horror subculture; heaven knows both could benefit from some fresh perspective.

And even in the subculture, AHS is playing a pretty major role. It’s…

Raising the Bar

As a result of the genre’s (comparative) isolation, quality in horror is typically pretty rare. When you can’t secure funding for special effects, good equipment, or even B-level actors, chances are your product isn’t going to be all that good. Of course, when you have a built in audience who would pay money to watch Dwayne Johnson protect an orphanage from chupacabras, why would you even bother trying?

I would actually probably watch that…

I’ve seen my fair share of (decent) horror movies, and I can count on one hand the films that had even passable cinematography. AHS, as a series that actually has some decent funding and actually puts effort into creating tense atmospheres and believable effects, is raising the bar for the entire industry. When AHS is the basis for most people’s experience with the genre, there’s going to be pressure on the rest of the industry to meet and excel the expectations the mainstream audience is going to have. Furthermore, AHS‘s star-studded cast (including Zachary Quinto, Ian McShane, James Cromwell, and, I kid you not, Adam Levine) is hopefully going to make the horror genre more inviting to high-caliber actors who can actually sell the audience on the direness of the situation and maintain interest without having to drag in a bunch of fornicating teenagers.

The series is actually one of the few I’ve ever seen that actually gives teens any credit or respect…

And perhaps most importantly, it comes down to this:

Depth

While the stories are good, as are the actors (Jessica Lange being easily more frightening than the goriest bits of the series), it’s some of the basic discussions held during the stories that really hit home. Oppression of women and the dark history of psychology are topics repeatedly brought up, and dealt with both in a historically accurate and totally visceral manner. Perhaps the most disturbing thing I’ve yet seen in the series hasn’t been any of the monsters or murders- it’s been a demonstration (scaled back for TV, even) of the psychological “treatment” given to people “suffering from homosexuality,” seen at the time as a mental disease. Those five minutes alone were more frightening than anything else in the story- and it was amazing. Amazing to see some serious and deep social commentary made, and to see the brutality and insanity some people had to undergo actually presented in a way that’s going to resonate with the audience. You will be a better human being for having watched that scene.

Though in the spirit of honesty, your view of nuns will probably diminish a bit…

When’s the last time you could say that about a rom-com?

American Horror Story, keep up the good work.

A final note. I would’ve included more gifs, but (1) I didn’t want to spoil anything and (2) easily 90% of all AHS images are of Evan Peters, who is apparently just the bee’s knee’, if the series’ female fans are to be believed.

Advertisements

Fame Day: Geek Love

It took me some time to think of a Fame Day topic that also intersected with Valentine’s Day [which is today, if you didn’t know], but once I came up with it there was no doubt in my mind that it was the right one.

Featured on the IGN YouTube channel START, Geek Love tracks individuals as they take part in Sci-Fi Speed Dating at New York Comic-Con. The show originally aired in full-length episodes [focusing on more than one person] on TLC, but never got past the first two episodes.

In the pile-on of proper nouns that was that last paragraph, I’ve neglected to define what exactly Sci-Fi Speed Dating is. Sci-Fi Speed Dating is regular speed dating, but at a comic convention, meaning that most of the participants are cosplaying [in costume]. Everyone must involved must be single and interested in members of the opposite sex [they can be interested in the same sex as well, but it must be in addition to that], and, since I don’t want to go through every single rule, it’s hosted by a very large man dressed up as a Jedi; he is hilarious.

To give you a fuller understanding here’s the first episode, “Brony Friend Zone (Alex)”:


It paints a picture of the stereotypical nerd/geek, a bespectacled pudgy young man with chops who lives with his parents. A show’s got to have some variety, though, and Episode 3 stars a girl named Brittany:


For the record, I would go get coffee with this girl in a heartbeat. I don’t even like coffee, but I would order some and drink it if it was something she was into.

Brittany is a person who “likes video games, particularly BioWare, comic books, Marvel, [she likes] the shows Once Upon A TimeLost, Doctor Who,” in case you missed that. She’s also, by most people’s standards, not a physical representation of what a nerd looks like. She’s also friendly and personable, exhibiting none of the tendencies we’ve been expected to observe thanks to shows like The Big Bang Theory.

The reason I’ve decided to spotlight Geek Love today is because it highlights the diversity within the growing community of people who identify themselves as “nerds” or “geeks.” Episode 4 features a guy who cosplays as Jimmy Olsen [“Superman’s Pal”], and basically no one he talks to recognizes him. As a comic-lover it was hard for me not to get upset at them and scream at the screen, “You call yourselves nerds?!” They were, though. They just like different things. Episode 6 follows Mary, who’s primarily a movie buff. That differentiates her from someone who is very into anime, but doesn’t discourage her from “looking for love” at this convention.

As a show Geek Love also serves as a means of discussing how important your personal likes, passions obsessions etc. are in finding a significant other. Over on his blog Mightygodking discussed this in reaction to a story arc of popular webcomic PvP, and while I may not agree with him 100% his discussion on the necessity of shared interests in a relationship is a good one [be sure to check the comments section, too!]. Clearly the people on this show are looking for potential girlfriends and boyfriends at Sci-Fi Speed Dating because finding another person who loves the same things you love is important to them. How high this should be on your personal compatibility list is up to you, but for them its rank is up there.

Geek Love is a pretty fantastic show for people who are interested in comic books, video games, science fiction, and finding a person to share all of that with. It’s also arguably a good show for anyone who wants their perceptions of that particular sub-culture to broaden their views.

YouTube Channel Playlist Page: Geek Love – YouTube
Updated Every Thursday

Evan and Gordon Talk: Racially Accurate Casting

EVAN: Today’s topic is something that I hold very near and dear to my heart. Years of research on the topic has made me witness to all of the arguments that can be used against needing to have racially accurate casting, and because of this I’m going to propose something a little different

GORDON: Namely?

EVAN: That I switch sides for this conversation, and speak out against it.

GORDON: Intriguing. Mind starting us off with the first salvo?

EVAN: Statement: Racially accurate casting is not important. The most talented actor should be the one who gets the role.

GORDON: Doesn’t appearance play a key role in what makes an actor good? Peter Dinklage is good, but you wouldn’t really find him believable playing Abraham Lincoln or Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

EVAN: In this case his stature, not his race, is what would keep him from playing either role in a convincing manner.

GORDON: But isn’t that essentially the same issue? Imagine the great Denzel Washington playing Lincoln- you’d be sitting there the entire time, no matter how much of a powerhouse Washington would be, taken out of the film because you have to deal with a black guy playing a white guy during the height of the civil war.

In any piece of film where you’re expecting realism, you’re going to expect the actors to conform to the styles and facts of the time. If you portray Georgia in the 1960s, you’re obviously not going to have a largely black cast portraying the upper class  or if you were to set the scene in early 1900s Ghana  you wouldn’t have a cast comprised of Caucasians. It wouldn’t make sense, no matter how good they are.

EVAN: If anything, Cloud Atlas at least proves that a talented actor can portray whoever they like, given an adequate amount of makeup. Halle Berry plays a Korean Man in the film, and does so in a convincing fashion that doesn’t at all take viewers out of the film in the least.

GORDON: I haven’t seen that film, so I can’t speak to the use of the actors for the parts they play. From my understanding that was a work of fantasy (or science fiction, I’m only going off what I can gather from the trailers). And in one or two movies, it’s probably not a big deal. After all, Cate Blanchett played Bob Dylan.

But imagine this applied to each and every movie, it simply wouldn’t work. Realism would deteriorate- and this would be especially detrimental in a film trying to deal directly with race relations.

EVAN: I personally feel that allowing any race to play any other speaks much more in terms of race relations. That’s a world where colour is a non-issue  because it shouldn’t be.

EVAN: I’m dying, Gordon. My life force is seeping out of me.

GORDON: Try to stick with it…

GORDON: And while it’s true that race ought to be a non-issue, that’s simply not how things are or have been in the past. Using black actors to play black characters and white actors to play white characters is fundamental to demonstrating past inequity and injustice with American racism and segregation. And that’s just one element.

Let’s talk about Indians playing Arabs. It happened in Lost and it happened in Community (with multiple actors), but Arabs look nothing like Indians. Indian actors are used simply because they fit the stereotype of what most people think an Arab looks like. It perpetuates an inaccuracy.

EVAN: Isn’t the fact that the role is an Arab important a large enough step? This is a minority with a major role on a TV show, and an opportunity for minority actors to step up, which they have in both cases.

GORDON: Barring Monk and Arrested Development, when’s the last time you saw an Arab actor? I’m not trying to argue against Indian actors, or actors of Indian heritage getting roles, but for the purpose of portraying the world as it is (or at least with some realism) we should have actors with some vague resemblance to the people they’re portraying on film.

After all, would you not be thrown off by guys with German accents playing French resistance fighters during WWII?

EVAN: If they had German accents then they simply wouldn’t be right for the role, which brings me back to my first point.

GORDON: Which, by proxy, brings us back to my first response. Ethnicity (depending on the situation) is just as valid an element of a guy’s candidacy for a role dealing directly with ethnicity as accents, or height, or any other factor (actual talent, of course, being the most important).

Vincent Cassel should probably not play Malcolm X. Adrien Brody should probably not play the Queen of England, though that would be pretty funny.

EVAN: If we’re going to stick with believability, than why is it so important that Indians not play Arabs? No one has ever made a big deal out of this, so clearly people believe that they are what their role calls them to be-

Likewise a Korean can to play a Chinese person can play a Japanese person. Audiences can’t tell the difference and believe that they are whatever the role is, and that’s okay.

GORDON: But Koreans do not look Chinese, Chinese people don’t look Japanese, and Arabs and Indians certainly don’t look like each other. The only reason this happens is because most people either don’t know (partly due to this inaccurate casting) or don’t care (in other words, all non-whites are basically one homogenous mass.

If all your life, you had seen black men and been told “these are Uzbekistanis,” then you’d go your whole life simply assuming that Uzbekistanis are, in fact, indiscernible from guys from Benin.

Your ignorance should not dictate which actors get which parts. Further, no Uzbekistan could really ever get a chance to play and Uzbekistani because of the years of misinformation.

EVAN: But there is a huge difference between a black person and an Uzbekistani. The examples I made have similarities that the example you used clearly does not.

To be such a stickler for accuracy is the other extreme, and just as wrong. You wouldn’t get someone with mental problems to accurately portray a character with mental problems, that just doesn’t make sense. Race should matter if it is noticeable, and like I said in the case of shows like Lost it is not.

EVAN: The logic above was used against me by someone in a thread on Reddit  You can check out our exchange here.

GORDON: Granted, my example was extreme, but that doesn’t change the point. Even though a Thai guy and a Japanese guy share more similarities than a Beninese guy and an Uzbekistani guy, there are still distinct differences between people from Thailand and people from Japan.

With regards to being a stickler- I admit, as I have previously, that you don’t have to have an exact replica of the character you’re trying to portray. Jet Li, I imagine, is doing pretty well for himself, and I still wouldn’t doubt his ability to portray a poor man very well. However, while you don’t need to be point for point, you do need to have some general similarity. That’s why we don’t have Emma Stone portraying Fidel Castro.

EVAN: I feel like the extremeness of your examples is damaging your point. If we’re sticking with race we should do that, and not bring in gender.

GORDON: It’s to demonstrate the underlying point in all of this: Verisimilitude. Realism. Accuracy.

EVAN: And since you said “you don’t have to have an exact replica of the character you’re trying to portray” why isn’t it okay to have Naveen Andrews play Sayid Jarrah on Lost?

GORDON: But the distinction is great enough. The accent is Indian, not Iraqi. Naveen does not look Iraqi. When an actor neither looks nor sounds like the character he is meant to portray, we have a problem.

EVAN: So if Jarrah had managed to sound Iraqi, would that have helped?

GORDON: It would’ve added to the realism and accuracy, yes. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s very clearly Indian, not Arab.

EVAN: Clear to a very select few. As mentioned, people didn’t seem to notice for the most part.

GORDON: Clear to a very select few. As mentioned, people didn’t seem to notice for the most part.

Most people don’t know what an Arab looks like. Do they know that Monk is Lebanese? That Cousin Maeby is Iraqi? Most do not. Ignorance is not an excuse for inaccurate casting.

EVAN: And that brings our exhausting exchange to an end. Trying to argue for something I so strongly disagree was one of the more difficult things I’ve ever done. I hope that in reading this you were able to see the holes in my argument and the truth in Gordon’s.

GORDON: Booyah.

The past few paragraphs alone have had the same effect on Evan as that life-sucking device in the Princess Bride. Commend him for biting the bullet.

And as for our discussion next time, your options are: What do we make of the upcoming Star Wars sequel?

EVAN: And. . . how about . . . How much artistic merit is there in a show like Adventure Time?

GORDON: I like it.

And to our beloved and devoted followers (who would organize into a vicious and unholy army of darkness if we ever were to ask it of ’em), feel free to suggest your own topic down in the comments section.

EVAN: And, as usual, thanks for reading.