Reviews, Recaps, and Personal Thoughts on All Things TV

Posts tagged ‘essays’

Why ‘The Walking Dead’ is Still Unwatched on My DVR

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SIGH. I’m starting to really get tired of The Walking Dead’s shit. Over the past 6 seasons, the show continuously got better and better. And yet, it was getting better at telling the same damn story. That story being: Who are we after the world collapses? And, also, this is the world we live in now, you have to adapt to it.

Well, fuck, I’m bored as hell with that! The first half of the current season was spent introducing us to a slew of new characters that we all know are gonna die eventually and probably pretty soon. All of these characters have had the privilege of living behind the walls of a neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia, where some temporary geographical circumstances had the worst of the zombie mobs kept away from this pristine little place. All of the people inside are, obviously, totally oblivious to how the world works now. In marches Rick and his merry band of badasses who have seen some truly horrific shit, and now they have to co-mingle with a group of doofuses and, boy, do they butt heads! lol

Except, you know what? I already saw HOW many seasons of people accepting this new world? I’m over that. I got it! It sucks and you either die or you live. I don’t need to see the character development of some rando Joe Schmo who’s going to die in the next 30 minutes anyway. I don’t even need new characters! Stick to the main characters you still haven’t killed, they’re the only ones we care about.

I also really don’t need characters like Morgan believing that there is still redemption to be  found in all humans, and that killing is a mistake. Nobody has time for this shit, Morgan. I know you’re plot point one, but see plot point two: This is the world we live in now, adapt to it!

Not only am I just generally bored with the storylines, but the show gives us so much awful and hardly any relief. I know it’s a show about zombies eating people and people killing people. But the audience does get invested in these characters. Not only are they consistently killed, but we’re also hardly ever given some happy moments or satisfying ones.

Take the shit this season pulled with Glenn and the dumpster–we thought he was dead (which was awful), now he’s alive (but the reason is bullshit), and for most of this season, we’ve been waiting for Glenn and Maggie to be reunited. It happens, but WE don’t see it. I briefly saw Glenn walking toward Maggie in the infirmary after the zombie shitshow was over and all the annoying characters got eaten. I thought I was going to punch something. You put me through all of those hours of agony, and then you don’t even give me anything in terms of a reunion? Nothing? You couldn’t give me Glenn’s hand on a baby bump, or a simple kiss? Am I machine without feelings?

And people die now just to die. Their deaths don’t add anything to the story. Hershel’s partial beheading was the last death to really mean something to me on this show. His character was important. He had become a voice of reason and a leader. He was a good man. And killing him pushed the show’s storyline ahead.

Beth’s death? EFF. THAT. That was ridiculous. And what is Maggie going to do if Glenn dies? She’ll be sad. The end. What intriguing storyline can there possibly be with that? They’ve run out of character arcs for these people, so now they’re just doing cheap tricks (like pretending to kill Glenn) and recycling old storylines with new people.

And now I hear all of this talk about Negan, from the comics. I hear that he’s a horrendous person. I hear that he kills a beloved character by bashing his brains in with a baseball bat. So Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead is sitting unwatched on my DVR. Because here’s what I’ll find when I hit play: Boring overused storylines, death and pain and no satisfaction or gratification, and the promise of terrible things to come. I just don’t know if I can do it anymore. Nah, you know what, I’ll probably just go watch it.

No, wait, there was a moment of satisfaction recently. When that weird kid got eaten by the zombies. Finally. Yeah, that part was great.

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Tiptoe through the tulips indeed, Sam.

 

#TBT Completely Valid and Legitimate Ramblings about ‘The Bachelor’ (from 2 years ago)

It’s been a long time since I posted and I very much want to get back into writing about things. So I’m sharing with you thoughts on The Bachelor that I posted to Facebook on this day 2 years ago. Remember the season with Juan Pablo? Yeah, me either. Timehop had to remind me.

February 26, 2014

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Douchebag alert, douchebag alert.

You should know that I only watch The Bachelor during Fantasy Suite episodes and for purely sociological reasons. I’m being serious when I say I don’t watch for entertainment value (though I’m not proud to admit that I do laugh at it). I don’t like the way it portrays women, nor glorifies a man who is a self-important douche, and I understand even less how all of the women proclaim to “fall in love” with him. Most of all, I just do not understand how this show happens. Last night, one of the women was a pediatric nurse, and the other an assistant district attorney. These are intelligent women, with a lot going for them.

The Fantasy Suite episodes are the most fascinating of all though because it’s the episode where each woman in turn gets to publicly decide whether or not she’ll have sex with the guy by spending a night in the “Fantasy Suite.” I was appalled last night that all three women chose to have sex with Juan Pablo (single most ridiculous Bachelor name ever) after the conversations they had with him. Every time one of the women would try and talk to Juan Pablo, he would say, “You’re doing a lot of thinking tonight,” and then start to kiss them. (Because thinking would definitely lead to the obvious conclusion that Juan Pablo’s a piece of shit, and he can’t have that.)

One woman said, “I’m in love with you” and when he said nothing back, she quickly said, “I understand that you can’t say anything right now!” and started kissing him before deciding that, yes, she would go to the Fantasy Suite with him. The self-consciousness it must take to be on this show. The fear of rejection so vast that she would rather end all conversation and have sex with the man, than maybe hear that he doesn’t love her. It’s delusional and it’s sad and I think it’s how many women in America approach and react to love, or the desire to be loved.

Another woman said, “I’m in love with you,” and Juan Pablo said, “I didn’t know that. I…..like you. Like……” and then kissed her and then SHE had sex with him. These women delude themselves into thinking they are in some kind of relationship with an emotionally unavailable man who wouldn’t even be available if he was dating ONE woman. But the women just can’t or won’t see what’s in front of their face.

The MOST frustrating thing in last night’s episode, though, was Andi. Who did go to the Fantasy Suite but woke up the next morning proclaiming to the cameras that it was a “nightmare” and that she was “Not in love with Juan Pablo, and never will be.” And I’m sitting on the couch like, “All right! Finally! Bring it, girl!” But THEN, when she confronts JP about it, he simply says, “Okay. If you don’t feel it, you don’t feel it. I respect you.” Which I thought, okay, that’s legit. But then Andi started to get ANGRY because Juan Pablo wasn’t upset that she wanted to leave. And she started to get into an argument with him, trying to get some sort of emotion out of him when it was clear that he didn’t care and wouldn’t ever care. I mean, it was her own damn fault for sleeping with him, I’m sorry it took her so long to open her freaking eyes.

I instantly started to lose respect for as she pathetically tried again and again to get him to feel sorry that she was leaving. She got hung up on the semantics–she claimed he said she was in the top 3 by default, but he claimed he never used that word and told her she “BARELY” made it to the top 3. Which, in my opinion, is WAY more offensive. She just kept bringing up, “You SAID ‘default.’ You said it.” And I think this is what’s happening to these women on the show. They get so caught up on a tiny, trivial thing that they fail to see the huge picture (in this case, that he actually said something way more offensive than what she was offended about).

Glaring communication errors aside, I think the reason the women act the way they do (participating at all, catty competitiveness towards the other women, agreeing to share a man with 27 other people, claim that they are “falling in love” with this man–and maybe even believe it, agree to have sex with him, desire a proposal from him) is most closely related to the cognitive dissonance theory that is used to explain why normal, intelligent people who also have a lot going for them would participate in crude and violent hazing rituals (either as the one being hazed or the person doing the hazing) to gain acceptance and entry to a fraternity or sorority.

In these women’s desire to find “love,” what we’re really talking about is the desire to not be rejected. To have validation. They’ve come to the wrong place. Because the very act of appearing on The Bachelor–manipulated and edited to portray the worst about women–gives you a huge audience. And everyone in it is judging and rejecting you. Not just Juan Pablo.

Another Year, Another Controversial Rape Scene on ‘Game of Thrones’

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Some things come around every year. Birthdays. Holidays. Paying your taxes. Uncomfortable rape scenes on Game of Thrones. This most recent rape scene (yes, these are sentences we write now when talking about Game of Thrones) occurred in the 6th episode of season 5, entitled, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.”

The victim was the unfortunate and forever-tormented Sansa Stark, whose storyline throughout the show takes her from bad situations to worse ones. The rapist is her new husband, Ramsay Bolton, whose onscreen time has been used to demonstrate how sick, twisted, sadistic, sociopathic, and cruel his character is. The additional uncomfortable element added to this scene is that Theon Greyjoy (also named “Reek,” the man who Ramsay tortured, imprisoned, and psychologically broke) was forced to stand and watch it happen.

I have to say, I was really surprised that this particular rape scene elicited any sort of controversy. What did viewers think was going to happen? That Ramsay—who cut off Theon’s penis, who literally hunts the women in his life down and kills them because they’re boring—would marry Sansa and suddenly be a loving and gentle husband?

Game of Thrones has always been pretty liberal with their rape scenes. The show has been criticized heavily in the past for its gratuitous depictions of sex and women’s bodies, and for its numerous (numerous!) depictions of rape. And in the past I’ve been on board that ship, at the helm, with my arms flung out wide like, “Jack, I’m flying!” with my opinions on the problems with these particular scenes. However, the rape of Sansa Stark made sense narratively; it wasn’t gratuitous, and it had a purpose to the character’s arc and this season’s overall storyline. Did I want to see Sansa raped? No. But it certainly made sense to the narrative. And besides, was there any doubt that’s what would happen upon seeing Ramsay’s “I do” face?

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Of course, though, I do have teensy problem. As Sansa is getting brutally raped, the camera zooms in on Theon, who was forced to stand there and watch. We, as the audience, can’t see Sansa’s rape, we can only hear it and interpret it in the horror, anguish, and turmoil on Theon’s face.

I’m down with this scene portrayed as it is but I do take issue with rape being used as the catalyst for a man’s storyline and personal character growth. Because watching that scene, we are to assume that the show is leading Theon toward some kind of redemption story, one in which he takes revenge on Ramsay, or at least tries SOMEWHAT to help Sansa. Either way, the focus of that scene was not on Sansa’s pain, but on Theon’s.

And this is always how it seems to go down when it comes to rape on Game of Thrones. Rape or almost-rape are used on this show in one of two ways: It happens but we all just pretend it didn’t, or it is a catalyst for a male character’s story development. And that really grinds my gears. As if I’m not sick enough of male narratives, they also get to have a better storyline than a woman because she was raped? Games of Thrones has often been criticized for using women’s bodies as props and set dressings, and to use violence against women as a backdrop to a man’s storyline is…ugh, just ugh.

Let’s look at the evidence. In season 1 of Games of Thrones, Daenerys is consistently raped by her husband, Khal Drogo. How does this plot progress? It finds Dany having a pretty girl-on-girl moment with her handmaiden in which she is instructed on the ways to please a man. During the next rape session with Khal Drogo, Dany tells him, “No,” while getting on top of him and taking control of the situation. Drogo then falls in love with her and then it was like, “Hey, she was never raped, Drogo was just doing sex all wrong lol!” Ah, love.

In season 2, Sansa is almost raped during a riot in King’s Landing, but in swoops the Hound to save her. The Hound is mean, and terrifying, and just so complicated, and his rough exterior seems to soften only for the beautiful and innocent Sansa Stark. What will happen with the Hound next? I mean, he saved a girl from getting raped! He has depth!

In season 3, Jamie lies to his captors that Brienne is very wealthy and will fetch a handsome ransom price, so no one should rape her. Brienne is the strongest woman in Westerns, hands down, but she is never given the chance to take control of a situation in which she is victimized, because Jamie is always there to save her. He ensures she does not get raped while they are being held captive, and he also risks his life by jumping in to a bear pit to save her life (though she was probably capable of saving it herself, but I guess we’ll never know). Am I saying I want female characters to be raped? No. Am I saying I don’t want male characters to stop a rape if they can? No. I’m just saying I’d like female characters to be able to command their own storylines for once. Jamie going out of his way to help Brienne is a huge part of his redemption storyline. It’s where we finally see that he is a good person inside, even though he’s done terrible things. Seemingly, in the books, Brienne exists just to propel  Jamie’s story forward. (Mercifully, the show is giving her her own independent storyline this season.)

And there was season 4’s rape of Cersei Lannister. This one was the worst rape scene because the showrunners insisted that it wasn’t even rape, c’mon. The problem that I had—well, the BIGGEST problem that I had—with this rape scene was that it was purposeless. It didn’t happen like that in the book. And while the scene we saw on television was exactly the same scene from the book, the exception was that in the show Cersei was raped and in the book it was consensual. To change just this one factor was very jarring and it challenged the integrity of the character of Jamie as a whole, and destroyed all of the character building that we had to have Brienne almost get raped like 12 times to get! And for what? That scene made no sense, and then it was never brought up again.

And just this past week, we had yet ANOTHER attempted rape. Sweet Wildling Gilly was almost raped at the hands of two brothers of the Night’s Watch. But poor, sweet, weak Sam stepped in and saved her (but not before getting the crap beat out of him). As Gilly nurses Sam back to health, she admonishes him for trying to save her and makes him promise that he will just be sure to take care of her baby should anything happen to her (anything being, we can assume, rape followed by death). And then, as a reward for Sam’s bravery and character development, she climbs on top of him and has slow, awkward, fully clothed sex with him. The story here wasn’t about Gilly at all. The story was about Sam showing his strength and courage and how that should be rewarded.

And see, it’s just a damn shame. The females of Game of Thrones have great stories in them. But the show seems determined to have them resigned to the reality that they might get raped, and to exist mostly to drive a man’s story forward.

As I said before, I support the narrative choices the showrunners have made in having Sansa be raped by Ramsay Bolton. I’m just crossing my fingers real hard that the story be Sansa’s to tell, and not Theon’s or anybody else’s.

Check back for next week’s essay: Even More Objectification on Game of Thrones or, Why Did That Sand Snake Take Off Her Clothes? C’mon.

My Cat From Hell and the American Dream

Guys, I recently fell down this weird rabbit hole where I watched like 7 hours of My Cat from Hell. For anyone unfamiliar with this gem, My Cat from Hell is a show on Animal Planet starring Jackson Galaxy (real name Richard Kirschner): a cat behaviorist by day, and a musician by night.

So when does he find time to groom his beard like this?

So when does he find time to groom his beard like this?

Jackson travels across the United States of America in his pink convertible ­­­to the homes of people with rambunctious and problematic cats. Once there, he assesses the situation with his calm demeanor and knack for just really getting along with cats. Cats act like dicks for all sorts of reasons: their environment, the people in their lives, sometimes even feline illnesses. Mr. Galaxy won’t give up until he figures out why your cat attacks you and pees on your stuff.

Jackson will calmly and without fear enter the room where the cat has been corralled and spend some quality one-on-one time with the alleged demon, where he usually discovers the cat is actually pretty nice.

Then the real drama begins. If this cat can get along with a chap like Jackson Galaxy, then what the deuce is going on in this home that’s making the cat go crazy? See, this show isn’t just about how Jackson can unite a cat with its owners; it’s about how Jackson can really get to the root of a familial problem and solve it together, as a team. You’ll see such telenovelas as the guy who kicked the cat ONCE but only gently with one toe, or the woman who doesn’t want to get rid of her cat even though it attacked her child. Jackson Galaxy is a level-headed, unbiased presence who just wants people to enjoy these majestic creatures, damn it!

However, his job doesn’t seem hard. After the third episode I was like, “Okay I could have figured that out.” There’s not what you would call a wide range of stories going on here, or even moderately entertaining drama.

But I love the dream behind My Cat from Hell. That you can just reinvent yourself into a pseudo-intergalactic musician with a guitar case full of cat elixirs and be successful. This is the American Dream, people! You love two unrelated things? Why not be both of them? Jackson Galaxy is unafraid of who he is and that’s why he’s compelling. That’s why I can’t turn off the TV when there’s a show on that marries the concepts of cats and perceived outcasts, which is really just the internet on Animal Planet.

My Cat from Hell knows exactly what it is: A slightly absurd show that capitalizes on the fact that it’s sometimes really funny when cats are jerks. God bless America.

LOST Can Still Be Great, Despite Its Short Comings

“I can’t go play a rock concert after this! This…doesn’t matter. None of this matters. All that matters is that we felt it.” –Charlie Pace (Sideways world), 6×11 Happily Ever After

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LOST was one of the most creatively ambitious, epic, and polarizing shows on television. Debuting in 2004, it was an immediate hit that, over its six seasons, developed a rabid cult following of people who both thought it was great and people who felt cheated by the entire series. With a large, international cast, LOST told the story of a plane of people who crash-landed on an island (also known as the Island, a character unto itself) that possessed, among other things, mysterious smoke monsters, magical healing properties, remnants of a sociological experiment gone wrong, and the actual manifestation of the demons of the past that haunted each character.

Season one was very deeply about the characters themselves, with every episode focusing on a different character and the audience learning, through flashbacks timed perfectly to parallel with events on the Island, who these people were before their plane crashed, and just how broken their lives had been. The mysterious happenings of the Island took a backseat to the ways in which these characters began to wipe clean the slate of their existence with the fresh start they had been given in this place.

Season two delved much further into the mythology of the Island, focusing centrally on the existence of a hatch that was opened at the end of season one, that housed secrets of people who had been there before, and also introduced a creepy clan of Others that shared the Island with the survivors and appeared to worship some benevolent god-like man named Jacob (who is introduced much later).

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Over the next four seasons, the show attempted to balance its storytelling between Island mythology and character development, and it didn’t always work. Many, many questions were asked and never answered. The final season, which finally introduced Jacob and suggested that he was, all along, the very central key to the show, chose to go back and centralize the kind of excellent character storytelling that they did in season one, to the frustration of many (including myself) who just wanted answers. Jacob was only an idea for five seasons, until suddenly he was everything the show was supposed to be and apparently held all of the answers. Only Jacob’s character served to further confuse the mythology of the show without actually answering any of the questions before him or after. The concept of Jacob had thrilled me for five seasons but when we finally got him, I was disappointed that he wasn’t what I thought he was going to be nor was I even sure what he was at all. And the most disappointing part of all is that Jacob didn’t even really seem to fit into the story lines told throughout seasons one through five, when I thought he would close the circle of the show and bring everything together.

Full disclosure: I was obsessed with LOST. When I was in high school, my parents bought me the first season for Christmas because they thought I would like it, and so I sat down with the DVDs and a bowl of clementines and marathoned the first season (my first ever binge-watch!), which hooked me almost instantly. It then became a sort of hobby through the second half of high school and all of college. I would watch the episodes, and then I would re-watch them and devour them. I would go online and discuss it with strangers. I would read theories and form my own. I would research philosophy, religion, freaking quantum physics (though with that last one “research” is synonymous with “Wikipedia”); anything that I thought could help me better understand and appreciate the depth of what I was consuming. I would quote the show constantly. I had to create a website for a Digital Publishing class I took my junior year and I created a fan website for LOST. I had to give a speech once and I chose to talk about “Fate vs. Choice” because of the themes I studied while watching LOST.

I was obsessed, but not maniacally so. I just loved it. It was so much fun to me to take part in those things, to become more intelligent overall because I could take one show I was watching and branch out from it to learn things about the world, and myself. I felt this way growing up with Harry Potter, too. You better understand other things you’re learning in school because you can see those things applied in media you love and admire. In loving LOST the way that I did, and assigning it value in my own life, LOST made me a better student, a better writer, a better consumer of media, and a better person and friend, because that’s just what healthily engrossing yourself in things you love can do to you. And when LOST was over, I very seriously asked myself, “Well…now what am I going to do with my life?” There has never been a show before nor after that was so central to what I chose to do with my time.

ImageLOST still remains one of my favorite shows of all time, but four years after the series finale, I do see its flaws in a way I didn’t when I was so much a part of it. I still find the show absolutely brilliant, but I also can’t deny my disappointment with much of it. Like how it never really seemed to choose what it really wanted to be about, which left the series as a whole feeling a bit lopsided and all over the place. This also contributed to the opening of storylines that the writers could never devote proper time to, because they had to continuously introduce new story lines that were apparently more focused on where the show needed to go. (I’m looking at you, mysterious painted woman holding a rat from Ben’s past. Like, what?)

When fans demanded answers to these questions, the ones the writers gave seemed to be afterthoughts and were wholly unsatisfying. (The Numbers were really just Jacob writing a chalk list on a wall of potential candidates to replace him? What? I read a way better theory online two seasons prior where the Numbers were an equation that was part of a Chaos Theory. And I loved that fan theory so much more, because it made the Numbers intriguing and important without really needing to be explained or a part of the story beyond that they existed on the Island and suggested something terrible was coming. That’s so much better! Chalk list??? CHALK LIST? But I digress.)

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So yes, the show went off into a million directions, many of which led nowhere. Again, things either weren’t explained (like, um, WHAT IS THE ISLAND?) or were explained poorly and to nobody’s satisfaction (the whispers are the voices of dead souls trapped on the island? I would have preferred you left that one unexplained). By the time LOST was to its final season, there was no way everyone could ever be satisfied. There were too many doors (hatches?) that had been opened, that they couldn’t possibly ever shut all of them, even if they wanted to or tried. I understand the biggest angers among fans, I do. I wanted to know what the Island was, too. But I have a feeling that if they answered it concretely, I would be disappointed (much like the Numbers), and as someone who spent a large amount of time enjoying dissecting the mystery myself, I thought, “Isn’t it better to speculate about something long after it ended than be disappointed in the moment? Isn’t it more satisfying that way?”

I think many would say no. But what I have come to decide about LOST is that it shouldn’t be about the big picture. From the beginning, LOST was a story of a group of people who were figuratively lost in their lives, who then crash landed on an island and then were literally lost in the world. But the core of the show, and the show at its absolute best, was these people. Who they were before the Island, and who they became after it. How they changed each other. And when you make that the most important idea that the show could explore, what the Island was doesn’t matter, really. The only thing that matters is that it’s where these people found redemption. (Which I believe is what Christian is telling Jack, in this scene.)

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All of the other sci-fi stuff, that was cool—the Others, the Hatch, the Numbers. It was cool and I liked it and I don’t know if 4 years later I really feel particularly cheated that many of those questions weren’t answered either. For me, LOST has always been about how it made me feel. I think it’s possible to have profound scenes throughout a series with arguable flaws, and the series can still be great, because those scenes made you feel something at all. When John Locke has a crisis of faith over the meaning behind pushing a button in a hatch on an island, I don’t necessarily need to know what that button means or why it’s there or how it fits into the story. That stuff doesn’t matter to me! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still desperately wanted to know. But my desire to know wasn’t greater than or equal to the emotions I felt when I realized the button was a metaphor for faith, and the way that fit into John Locke’s life as we knew it through flashbacks and his time on the Island.

And it’s the scenes like that that make LOST a great show. Is it flawed that the catalysts they threw at their characters to incite amazing scenes like the Man of Science, Man of Faith conversation ultimately led nowhere? Perhaps. But LOST was so ambitious, with such a deep and sprawling story and it’s not surprising that they maybe couldn’t get it all right. (Also of note, season 3 of LOST—widely accepted to be its worst season—was a victim of the infamous 2007 writer’s strike. All shows suffered.)

The ending of LOST was the most polarizing moment of the series. But I found it absolutely breathtakingly perfect. And I still do. Four years later, the moments I recall when I think about the end of the series aren’t the answers, or the showdown between Jack and Locke/the Man in Black. The thing that I remember is the emotional moment of all of them reuniting in the church, and how that made me feel.

ImageIn the end, LOST became a series of striking character studies. I’m not sure if the Island was ever supposed to make sense, or if it just existed to propel our characters towards their destiny, or if the writers just screwed up. I can understand if you needed it to end a different way. But to me, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that I felt it.

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