Tag Archives: twilight

Jessica Jones Was Good, But It Should Have Been Great

When I saw the trailer for Jessica Jones I immediately decided it was going to be my new favourite show… until I watched it.

A lot of elements in the trailer suggested that it would resemble Netflix’s Daredevil series, which made me really excited. My love for Daredevil was a slow burn. Unlike Evan (who regularly reviews comics, like Ms. Marvel, for the blog), I’m not a comic aficionado. For me to really invest in a comic-based series I have to actually like it as a stand-alone. I’m also not a fan of dark dramas. I get depressed enough from real life, so my first choice for TV is lighthearted comedy. When John (my husband) finally convinced me to watch Daredevil with him it was a really hard sell. I was critical of the lack of diversity, the lack of interesting roles for women (although this got better as the season progressed), and the general lack of lighting in most scenes. What finally won me over was some of the best fight choreography I’ve ever seen on TV, and writing so solid that some monologues actually gave me chills.

When I saw the trailer for Jessica Jones I thought it would only perfect the good thing Netflix had already started with Daredevil. Not only would we have a dark and thoughtful plot, but we would have a much more diverse cast and more nuanced relationships between female characters.

How could anything possibly go wrong?

Apparently several things could, and did, go wrong. I’ve outlined a couple of the most frustrating aspects of the series below.

It had mediocre fight scenes

I get that it’s hard to make things look super realistic when you have a 90 pound woman throwing men around like ragdolls. I also get that choreographing these scenes would have to reflect Jones’ extraordinary strength. But is that really an excuse for scenes to look like something straight out of the 70’s?

Generally speaking, the fight scenes in Jessica Jones felt lazy. There are so many other ways you could demonstrate super strength beyond just throwing people, but for both Jones, and often Luke Cage, throwing seemed to be the primary mode of defence.

I mean, wouldn’t punching them in the face just be easier? Continue reading

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Write Off, Write On

I’ve read all four Twilight books. Would have checked out Midnight Sun, a retelling of the first novel from Edward’s perspective, but a copy was leaked online and Meyers never ended up releasing it. My plan is to read a minimum of 52 books this year, and my hope is that 50 Shades of Grey makes it onto that list somewhere.

No, I’m not a middle-aged suburban mom who’s been catfishing you all these past two to three years. All of that was just a little background to set up today’s topic, which is our right to write about, well, anything. Continue reading

A Few More Thoughts on Fan Fiction

Gordon and I only just talked about fan fiction two days ago, but in debating its merits managed to avoid much conversation about its place in our world today. To begin with, the topic was first brought up by Marilyn in her comment on our reactions to easy-money shows, and she specifically mentioned Anne Rice.

For those of you who don’t know, Anne Rice became famous for writing vampire novels decades before the Twilight books came out [and a few centuries after Bram Stoker’s most well-known work]. She also had a very particular stance on fan fiction, which I have pulled from an old archived version of her site:

“I do not allow fan fiction.

The characters are copyrighted. It upsets me terribly to even think about fan fiction with my characters. I advise my readers to write your own original stories with your own characters.

It is absolutely essential that you respect my wishes.” Continue reading

Apocalypse Wow

There is, if sources are to be believed, going to be a rebooted Left Behind movie coming out sometime next year.

Your reaction should be as follows:

If it isn’t, then you probably aren’t familiar with the series (and should count yourself truly fortunate), so for you blissfully innocent, here’s the basic run-down.

The Left Behind series is based on the book of Revelation in the Bible, as well as certain (delectably) apocalyptic verses in Old Testament books. I say “based on”, but that’s more to demonstrate the authors’ intentions. Left Behind is “based on” the book of Revelation in the same way that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is based on Vasari’s biographies of Italian Renaissance artists.

In the sixteen-novel series, all true (cough, Protestant, cough) Christians have been “raptured” (removed from the world and taken directly to the after life), leaving behind the unsaved protagonists of the story who find themselves contending with the oncoming “tribulations” (the host of hardships and catastrophes marking the end times) and the rise of the antichrist, who walks the earth in the form of a Romanian politician who takes control of the UN (because, you know, there’s no one more powerful than the UN).

Things more powerful than the UN:
The Student Government of MLK Jr. Middle School,
A Junior Sales Rep from Prescott Pharmaceuticals,
Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua

Needless to say, I don’t think very highly of the series. But hey, if we’re looking for badly written fan-fiction, why not haul Twilight to the guillotine?

It’s because of the fan part. That’s what really gets me. We’re not talking about someone fawning over the idea of stalker-veggie-sparkle-vampires, we’re talking about someone fawning over the idea of millions- billions– of human beings undergoing agonizing deaths. Think I’m reading into things? Take a look at this passage from the series:

The riders not thrown leaped from their horses and tried to control them with the reins, but even as they struggled, their own flesh dissolved, their eyes melted, and their tongues disintegrated. As Rayford watched, the soldiers stood briefly as skeletons in now-baggy uniforms, then dropped in heaps of bones as the blinded horses continued to fume and rant and rave.

Seconds later the same plague afflicted the horses, their flesh and eyes and tongues melting away, leaving grotesque skeletons standing, before they too rattled to the pavement.

You might say “Sure, that’s violent, but that isn’t exactly glorifying it, is it?”. Let me continue on.

…Jesus nudged His magnificent white charger and descended to the top of the Mount of Olives.

As He dismounted, Carpathia shrieked out his final command, “Attack!” The hundred thousand troops followed orders, horsemen at full gallop firing, foot soldiers running and firing, rolling stock rolling and firing.

And Jesus said, in that voice like a trumpet and the sound of rushing waters, “I AM WHO I AM.”

At that instant the Mount of Olives split in two from east to west, the place Jesus stood moving to the north and the place where the Unity Army stood moving to the south, leaving a large valley.

All the firing and the running and the galloping and the rolling stopped. The soldiers screamed and fell, their bodies bursting open from head to toe…

So much for turning the other cheek, eh?

And here’s what gets me about the series. It’s not the generally bad writing or the twisted theology- it’s just how freakishly popular the series is. Popular enough not to spawn just one movie attempt, but two. It’s hard enough for good stories to get a second chance at something like that, let alone this junk. And it’s the implication of that popularity which gnaws at me. There are people out there- a lot of people- who genuinely look forward to this supposed apocalyptic scenario, or an apocalyptic scenario, anyhow. People who fully expect the end of the world to be a plague and hellfire ridden Armageddon, complete with WWIII and genocide of unheard of proportions. People who look forward to this- and not in a “in the sweet by and by” way, I’m talking about a “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” kind of way.

You can’t deny that this blood-thirsty anticipation does exist. If you’re even only vaguely familiar with the Christian (American-Christian, more on that in a second) subculture, you’ll almost have certainly run into this. There’s plenty of other lousy Armageddon fantasies out there.

And what makes it all the worse is just how utterly undeserved all this hidden vitriol is. This vengeful glee isn’t coming from people who have been mercilessly persecuted for their faith. This isn’t coming from the families of martyrs or the congregations of assassinated priests and pastors in the third world. The churches of Africa, Asia, and South America have enough problems combating war, poverty, and disease to be drooling over prophesied war, poverty, and disease. No, this is the bitter vindictiveness that only comfort and safety can breed. All this body-bursting leering isn’t a result of imprisonment (not that it would be justified there either), it’s a result of being snubbed by Bill Maher or portrayed as yokels on some sitcom.

That’s just messed up.

Now this isn’t Shame Day, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all gather ’round and ruthlessly mock something that so richly deserves it, and if this drivel doesn’t deserve it, I don’t know what does.

The Horror, The Horror

Today, I’m going to talk about horror.

Not “frightening stuff,” mind you- horror. There’s a distinction, you see.

Fright is the simple biological jolt you get when something startles or surprises you- a door being slammed, a discordant note blaring out of nowhere, and so on. Tragically, the title of “horror” gets slapped on things (typically movies) that merely have “jump-scares.” Horror on the other hand, is anticipation and dread at the perception of something threatening on a fundamental level.

So why talk about this? Because despite the outcry of some, horror- especially horror movies- holds a special place in our culture. Indeed, horror holds a special place in all cultures, and has since the first Cro-Magnons huddled around some arctic fire and whispered about strange and terrible things lurking just outside the circle of light. What we’re afraid of tells just as much about us as what we admire; a perfect example being Evan’s post on the remake Red Dawn. Evan cites that one of the reasons the new version doesn’t work is because the concept of the US being invaded is today laughable (especially by North Korea, whose entire population could fit into LA county with room to spare), whereas in the 1980s, the fear was far more realistic, or at least, believable.

Now I’m not here to analyze the past decade’s better horror movies and tell you what it is that we seem to be afraid of (not right now, anyways). In this post I’ll just be breaking down the three basic kinds of horror we seem to be responding to.

Fear For Self

First, we have the fear that attacks our egos- not “egos” as in pride, but “egos” as in the psychological term for you. This fits into the greater psychological element of “external anxiety,” meaning the stress we feel as a result of outside factors, such as school, our jobs, hunger, pain, and so on. When we’re afraid for our safety, or empathizing with characters in a movie or TV series who are fearing for their physical safety, we’re looking at this “fear for self” kind of horror. A good example would be any serial killer or monster movie- Psycho or Jaws being the best examples. Now usually we tend to botch this kind of horror, because the protagonists in movies or stories do things we would never do (blonde female college camper running through the woods at night, I’m talking about you). However, when it’s pulled off well, it leaves a noticeable mark on us. It has been said that Jaws created a significant drop in beach-goers after it was released, and you are a dirty liar if you say you’ve never once looked behind the curtain when you go into the bathroom.

Fear Of Self

Just as we have anxieties that stem from external factors, we have stresses and fears that come from within us: “Internal anxiety.” It was theorized by early psychologists, Freud in particular, that our mental issues were a result of us denying or repressing elements within us, most notably the “id”- that part of our mind with all the bloody, vicious, sexual animalistic drives that typically didn’t mesh well with Victorian (or any) society. As with the ego, horror works on this pathway as well- our fear of ourselves. All that madness and evil that we, for the most part, pretend isn’t there. The most obvious examples of this would be werewolf movies and vampire movies (obligatory “**** you, Twilight“) and most any film depicting a change or evolution the protagonist- see Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Wolfman, Dorian Grey, etc.

Fear Of No Self

Lastly we have stress and anxiety attacking (or coming from, depending on how you look at it) the “superego”- that element of our mind consisting of our real or imagined nobility, propriety, decency, etc. Here we encounter “existential horror,” more often called “cosmic horror.” This particular form of horror can be found in movies where the protagonists are fighting a losing battle against some massive, all powerful being- typically otherworldly in nature. Alien invasions and zombie uprisings are both good examples. Here we’re confronted with the fear that we are, in spite of all of our strength, morality, charity; in spite of our humanity, we are actually inconceivably small and insignificant. Ants who have just become aware that there are beings in the universe of incomprehensible magnitude whose simple existence negates everything about them. That unique feeling of powerlessness is separated from “ego fear” in that this form has a distinct hopelessness, rather than helplessness, attached to it.

Of course, every horror story has all three of these elements in it, but what kind of horror story it winds up being depends entirely on what is emphasized. Take AMC’s The Walking Dead– you’ve got your physical fear of the zombies, your id-based fear at what this new world is bringing out in you, and the general horrific despair at the absolute hopelessness of your situation, both in the face of zombies and the truth of human nature. What you wind up being afraid of depends on which element really gets pushed (survival, rationality, hope) and of course, what you individually, and we as a society, find most terrifying.

So what do we fear as a society right now?

Well, with the rampant popularity of zombie stories, and “disaster” films such as Cloverfield, Skyline, and even the whole “Slenderman” craze; it seems to me that we’re torn between physical and existential horror. And perhaps in an economic depression, that’s understandable- after all, we’re confronted with the physical job of keeping afloat in a rough time, and as the crisis drags on and on, the general feeling of hopelessness with regards to our general situation. We respond to characters whose immediate needs are threatened and characters who are struggling to maintain themselves in the face of cosmic nothingness.

At least, that’s my take on it. Feel free to debate me in the comments, and stop by tomorrow for another Shame Day installment.

Bad Influence

Last night, I watched Brideshead Revisited, and let me tell you, it is one festering pile of garbage.

Seriously, **** this movie…

Now before anyone launches into a tirade- yes, I am aware that Brideshead was originally a novel and, from what a lot of critics have said, one that was infinitely better than the movie, the later of which reduced all of the author’s points on culture, religion, and relationships to a couple hours of pretty set design and not much else. Simple fact of the matter is Everyone Poops could have been adapted for the big screen and still have been better than this confusing mess.

Michael Bay was going to, but the book was too cerebral for him…

Look- I can’t speak to either the novel or the author. People who have read the book say it was better than the film, and while I have difficulty believing that, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m not hear to address that- I’m here to address the fact that someone at some point did actually think that what they presented in the movie was somehow not only worth watching, but worth paying for.

It aint- in case you haven’t gotten that message yet…

I’m not a fan of British period-pieces; if I wanted to see eloquent people with miserable lives, I’d talk to English majors.

What we have in this movie is a group of extremely rich youngsters lounging about an elegant mansion, downing enough alcohol to make newyears in Vegas look like a Baptist ice-cream social, and whine and wail for over half an hour about how miserable their lives are. Not in any existentialist sense, mind you- these characters aren’t disillusioned with luxury, they’re just frustrated that they can’t have everything that they want when they want it the way they want it. This is essentially Walden without any redeeming qualities- just pasty, entitled brats with delusions of insight, giving trailing speeches about their long “suffering”.

And I’m not bringing this up just because one movie sucked- this seems to be part of a greater problem in our culture. I’ve seen the same kind of problem in the film I Love You, Man.

Back in college, my housemates loved this movie. Suggested it every movie night just to see me shiver with horror and disgust. In case you’re not familiar with the plot line, let me break it down for you:

Peter’s getting married. Peter simply doesn’t have any guy friends outside of his brother (played by Andy Samberg, who was the only good part of the movie), and he one night overhears his fiancee’s vile, harpy collection of friends gossiping that it’s weird Peter’s not going to have a best man at his wedding. Peter, who apparently bases his self-esteem on the idle chatter of obnoxious strangers is filled with self-doubt and embarks on a quest to get himself a male friend- because, you know, what will his future wife’s evil friends think of him if he doesn’t?

If you’re trying to jump through the screen, grab this guy, and slap him across the face while screaming quotes from Nietzsche- don’t worry, that was my first reaction too. How we’re supposed to sympathize with this self-pitying sadsack is beyond me- the guy makes Ted from Scrubs look like Teddy Roosevelt by comparison.

I’m not trying to say that every character in a movie- or even every main character- has to be someone admirable. Just look at American Psycho. I’m not saying that these characters have to be ultimately successful. Just look at Goodfellas or The Godfather trilogy. I’m not saying that the characters have fit a classic/stereotypical form of “manliness” (in the case of male characters, anyways)- just look at Zombieland, Superbad, Napoleon Dynamite, or Scott Pilgrim vs the World.

Between movies like Brideshead Revisited, I Love You, Man, and pretty much every romance movie that ever has or ever will be made, there’s this common attitude of entitlement, self-pity, and melodrama.

Ok, you could kill yourself or- OR– spend some time working at a homeless shelter, petition on behalf of political prisoners, overthrow corrupt dictatorships since you are, y’know, immortal…
Just say’n…

Now I know you must all be saying “But Gordon, you charming devil- what’s the big deal? So what if a section of film is dominated by this lousy message of egocentricity, ignorance, and impotence?”

Let me show what the big deal is.

See this guy here? This is goth shock-rocker Marilyn Manson. If you’re not a fan, chances are you’ve still heard of him- in the days that followed the Columbine Shootings, Manson was argued by many conservative and religious critics as having been responsible for influencing the shooters. And obviously, that’s just a single example- whether it’s true or not, we’re all familiar with the outcry against violence in the media- be it anything from video games (see any GTA game) to music (Wu-Tang Clan aint nothin’ to fornicate with) to movies (just take your pick).

Let’s assume, just for a minute, that this is all true. I’m going to discuss the whole “does-violence-in-media-cause-more-violence?” question later in the week, but for now, let’s just say that the answer is “yes”. If these things have a serious negative effect on the views- especially young viewers- and deserve to be censored or even banned on that logic, surely the same can be said for the equally detrimental attitudes and actions (or lack thereof) found in movies like Brideshead Revisited and the like. What do these things teach us?

I was going to say “Stalking and manipulative relationships are romantic”, but I really didn’t have the stomach to slog through countless Twilight posters looking for Edward crouched in the window- enjoy this picture instead…

Again- the problem isn’t with romance as a concept or a plot device or anything like that. I’m not a sensitive guy in even the loosest use of the word, but despite my callousness, I really don’t have a problem with romance- it’s just that romance, as a genre, tends to produce these awful, reprehensibly selfish attitudes, and at the same time make the actual relationships pretty dumb as well. Though no one is ever going to admit it, couples like House and Cuddy or Scully and Mulder are both more believable, moving, and inspiring at their worst moments than any Romance film couple at their best.

Obligatory “Still a Better Love Story Than Twilight”…

What else can I say? Romance movies, and indeed, all media that promotes this whiny, entitled message seems to be just as harmful- if not more- than the bloodiest action flick or the most violent rap or rock. I’d be just as worried about the effects of such media on young minds as I am about the most car-stealing-liest-prostitute-beating-iest video game ever made. Allow me to leave you with this brilliant tweet from comedian Dave Chapelle to drive my point home.