Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Disparate Things All in One Place

It's the blog post title that sounds like a Noah and the Whale album!

So you know when you decide to get a plant, you buy the tiny plant, get a pot for it, buy that bag of soil and all the plant-monitoring things you need (I don't have any plants, BTW) and you find a perfect place for the plant? You water it, and then you forget about it because a plant isn't a cat who sits by his dish and demands food. A plant just suffers in silence. So the plant starts to wilt. The leaves turn yellow and start to fall off. And then you go, "Oh shit, my plant!" And you water it. The plant is all "THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR TAKING CARE OF MY MOST BASIC NEEDS ASSHOLE." You forget about the plant, and the whole thing starts over again.

This blog is like a plant. I am watering it right now. Topics by number:

1. Cgeye wanted the link to my post about the Star Trek movie and it is here. The new trailer was released and true to form, THE INTERNETS ESSPLODED. Because let's judge an eyeblink of a movie and know whether or not it's going to be good. Of course, the enraged folks aren't going to like it anyway. They'll see it, because otherwise they won't have specificity for their rage. So that will be fun.
2. Much has been written on the whole geek girl thing but what's most surprising to me is how surprising it was to everyone that there's an unfortunate segment of the fanboy population that despises and is threatened by women entering their man caves. I mean, that's pretty much just society. Is it primarily shocking to the sane guys working in or enjoying genre? Maybe that's it. Because I can't imagine any women who are surprised by this. What's interesting is that Slave Girl Leia or Hot Wonder Woman or Sexy Green Star Trek Alien used to be welcomed with open arms (FAR TOO OPEN ARMS) by fanboys at conventions. They used to stampede after these girls and then, true to form, call them whores when the girls rejected them.

But now ANY women in costume at conventions are being called whores before they even give the guy a chance to be rejected.

An addendum for men: Women generally do not like being treated like the animatronic Pirates of the Caribbean women being sold at an animatronic auction, just for future reference.

Anyhow. It's easier for these fanboys to focus in on the costumed women than the non-costumed women, but make no mistake. There is an unfortunate fury directed at all female convention-goers because the fanboys see women as having invaded their turf, as if it's a zero sum game. The fanboy gets to decide who is welcome and who isn't, because the fanboy has decided that he owns genre. Fanboys are pretty conservative, when you come right down to it. They do not like change. And they especially don't like change when it directly affects them. For decades (they think), they've been the ones who've decided what is Authentic and what isn't. Fringe entertainment was appropriately judged in the Supreme Court of their minds. But there's no longer a lock on that door and now anyone can walk through.

How appalling for them.

It was easy for them to make fun of Twilight because who wasn't. They thought that when the last Twilight movie opened, that would be it. No more irritating girls at conventions. But then it became obvious that Twilight was just a coincidence. Things were changing anyway. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THINGS DO. What they should be aware of is that the original Star Trek fans are now grandparents, and kids who saw Star Wars in the theater have kids of their own. It was inevitable that from a tiny nerdy acorn, a big tree would grow. But again, change is their enemy. And awareness for people who re-catalog their comic book collection once a year isn't really in the cards. It's like they were fifteen and then they looked up and suddenly girls were on panels.

So now we have these vitriolic trolls (STILL) but we also have the Internet, and a whole lotta people - male and female - who won't stand for this shit. Women are still going to be harassed (that's not going away anytime soon) but it's nice to know that there's an awareness out there, and that some guys don't mind women actually being afforded equal rights in the Marvel universe.

3. It's interesting how much discussion there is about Homeland versus how much discussion there is about Scandal. It's about two to one, and I'm being conservative there. Scandal, I suppose, can't be considered a relevant show because it's on a broadcast network, whereas Homeland is on classy Showtime, also the home of Dave's Old Porn. Homeland gets nominated for tons of awards. Scandal does not. People who make a living as television critics can feel good about their thoughtful, scholarly Homeland articles.

Well, enough with that. Scandal has been great. It's the only show I've seen recently that gets better with every episode. This is a show with a huge conspiracy that actually involves the characters on the show and not some anonymous, unnamed white guys sitting in a room who show up halfway through the season. I recently read an article about how conspiracies and mythology is screwing up television because we have come to expect these shows to keep topping themselves so much that they wind up ridiculous. The impetus for the article was Homeland, which has certainly had its share of conspiracies and mythology. But blaming a show's problems on the audience expectation is silly, especially if you've ever sat in a writer's room (the overwhelming majority of television critics have not).

I've always thought that reality shows have taken the place of serialized dramas, which is why crime shows became so popular. Close-ended crime shows became the purview of drama. But the pendulum seems to be swinging back a bit, in part to the serialized cable dramas like Homeland, The Walking Dead and True Blood. And it's the cable shows that are getting all of the critical attention. Scandal and Fringe, a show that's doing something no show has ever done on television, get relegated to the "guilty pleasure" pile.

But Scandal keeps growing its audience. Complaints about serialized shows involve the inevitable sensationalism, where the show must top itself and in doing so unmakes its characters and premise. Scandal is doing the opposite. The more the show unspools, the deeper and richer the characters become. What they do and who they are crystallizes and makes even more sense. And when they throw something at you that's completely unexpected, they don't back away from it. They don't change the characters. They deepen the mystery. And Scandal is doing something for conspiracies that I didn't think anyone would do anymore. They're making conspiracies thoughtful again, by putting their main characters at the forefront.

What Scandal did this past week, after a shockingly sensational ending the week before, was really impressive. They didn't just ramp up to a shocking event and then rest on their laurels while they moved the characters meaninglessly around on a giant chessboard. They did something even MORE shocking, but even MORE about character. They're making me care about EVERY character, because they don't throw anything away. All the characters do things that come out of who they are. I really don't think this show's going to fall apart when we find out the total truth about everything because they haven't just made it about the secret. They've made it about the characters, and I'm damned well going to still care about them after the reveal.

Scandal is my must-see show right now.

(clearly, I don't want to give anything away but if you guys aren't watching this show, then you deserve to be spoiled)

4. Because of recommendations from you, gentle readers, I've been watching Community. I'm almost done with the first season. I no longer watch comedies for a few reasons. One, they are no longer funny. Anti-humor has to be super well done for me to engage and mostly, I just think today's anti-humor is just hipsters afraid to actually try to be funny for fear people will find out they aren't funny. Not interested. Secondly, what goes hand in hand with anti-humor is ironic distance, and enough already. If you're too cool to be funny, then I'm too cool to watch your show.

So I never watched Community because it seemed like all those other shows and it's so nice to see that it isn't. I love how the show constantly comments on Jeff's ironic distance. Jeff repeatedly giving in to the goofy, funny, big-hearted characters really makes the show work. Also, it's just really fucking funny. Thanks for the recommendation! BTW, I tried watching Parks & Recreation, but no can do. I lumped them together. They are not the same.

5. Also along the lines of shows that aren't distant and cynical, if I had to choose one reality show to watch it would definitely be The Voice. Guys, I can't help it. I love that show. Because snarking and making fun is reserved for shit like American Idol, which actually takes itself MORE seriously in a weird way. As if finding the American Idol, the SAVIOR OF POP MUSIC, is the most important thing in the world. Alongside the terrible singers, of course. Because who doesn't love twelve weeks of terrible singers?

(me, that's who)

From the get-go, The Voice was about finding GOOD singers. Sure, it's got those cloying aspects that these competition reality shows apparently all must have but at its core, it's a positive show. Even Carson Daly comes off as authentic and warm. The interplay among the coaches is fantastic, and the fact that they're called "coaches" and not "judges" should tell you something about the show. It's a remarkable thing to make me like four people whose music just isn't up my alley, but The Voice showcases the coaches' skill and talent as musicians and survivors in the music industry.

The gimmick of The Voice, that the coaches can't see the singers and have to choose contestants based solely on voice alone, grounds this show in a way American Idol will never be. I still remember watching early seasons of that show, and one of those fucking worthless judges would say to someone that they didn't look like a pop singer. American Idol is interested in the package. The Voice is interested in the talent.

My absolute favorite thing about The Voice, though, is that it isn't about finding someone who's an awesome "sing along with the radio and kick ass in karaoke" kind of singer. There are so many sore losers on American Idol, because the show teaches people that all they have to do is hit the lottery. Has any American Idol asshole who's looked into the camera and said, "America, you haven't heard the last of me" been heard from again? It isn't about working hard, paying your dues and just needing a leg up once in awhile. That's a terrible lesson, and being Americans, we celebrate it. Not so, The Voice.

Musicians - working musicians - come on the show. The two finalists this year are working musicians who've had record deals and bands in the past. While people on forums whine about how UNFAIR that is, it's not. Certainly not if you've ever worked in any speculative business. Along with talent, people who dedicate their lives and careers to the arts have to have a pretty massive amount of luck to succeed. The Voice celebrates those artists, people who just won't give up because they can't conceive of any other way to make a living. These musicians may be frustrated at the setbacks they've had, but they're not cynical. It takes a staggering amount of belief to keep going. All three finalists are wicked talented. Hell, the entire top sixteen are wicked talented. The Voice gives them sorely needed exposure and I hope they all take full advantage of it.

It's something to remember for anyone pursuing an artistic endeavor, IMO.

Fuck, I think that's it for now. If I don't see you before the apocalypse, have a great one!!!


Little Miss Nomad said...

The first season of Parks & Recreation is terrible. The second is when it got excellent.

cgeye said...

I suspect the reason why SCANDAL doesn't get the love is twofold: A romance-friendly perspective, and miscegenation taken seriously.

Yes, I'm using the ancient word, because it's a show about a black, female powerbroker who got her position because of her participation in a coverup, after propelling her white politician lover to power, in the socially-segregated town of DC. Everyone acknowledges her competence and right to sit with the big boys, but the love affair is, after all these centuries, still transgressive.

We're not one generation removed from the majority of White House servants being black, so, damn skippy, race matters. SCANDAL's genius is letting us see that race doesn't matter in the exact same way, save erotically.

As for the show's perspective, it has this lovely scoring and costuming that lets us know that if Ms. Rhimes could have gotten a showrunner credit whilst but a tot, hells yeah she'd cast Pam Grier in the lead, and Redford (if she could lure him back to TV) as the Prez. The hope of that civil rights emergence is the rhythm section, while the melody of realpolitik becomes deeper, more complex, reflective of our jaded, faded times.

It's one heck of a balancing act, and if folks tuned out after last season's finale, I didn't blame them -- I almost did, until the S2 opening bombshell. (It doesn't hurt that the conspiracy is not only plausible, but rivals LEVERAGE in its social-justice tang, which is why, yet again, HOMELAND rules among the critics -- red meat for those who wanted a more character-driven 24, but without all that icky jingoism, or at least jingoism of the 'having and eating cake' variety.)

But, overall, romance (not just boy-friendly crazee-girl sex) is something critics shy away from, cause, you know, cooties. SCANDAL believes in it; HOMELAND can barely tolerate foreplay.

cgeye said...

One other thing about STAR TREK (and other SF media fen): They were also ostracized for being kid-and-girl friendly. The worst thing you could call someone was a non-ironic Irwin Allen fan....

In fact, referring to the first non-fiction books about ST, the fandom from the early cancellation-mobilization days was majority femme, which pissed off truefen (boys who loved the pulp mags because SF pulp writers catered to boys' interests, with bits of smut influence from the mags they also wrote for) to no end.

I'm not saying classic SF was only for boys, or that it was porn-friendly, but it was misogynistic according to the psychoanalytic tenor of the times, as was Mailer, Roth and the big names in legit literature. ST was different because of its delivery system, its beauty (candy colors... the Lucille Ball Lens Treatment, for the ladies...), and its accessibility to adult women fans who liked its relationships.

Slash fanfic started in SF fandom for a reason, and it pissed 'straight', 'hard' SF fans off, who had (and still have) so many masculinity-police anxieties that they still try to act like soldiers in search of a gang rape, when they know that goal constantly recedes in front of them.

Real men don't read books; real men don't use their imaginations, except to kill or fuck. Because they pause, to read, to think, some male SF fen never will be hard enough. So, they take it out on anyone softer -- racefail, genderfail, abilityfail.

Now we see that these stratifications only serve marketers, since the studios soon owned the publishers, and everything went synergistic. There's no difference between being a TWILIGHT or CALL OF DUTY or Vernor Vinge fan, since our money eventually falls into the same corporate pockets. Conversely, that probably makes exclusionist fen even more rabid, because if the culture no longer makes distinctions between cosplay fen, blockbuster fen and Hugo-bait fen, they *must*.

I'm not seeing a solution other than figuratively slapping boys upside the head, and reminding them that back in the day, *any* profession of TV or movie fandom meant that a fan was inferior, and they should be grateful that fandom has expanded to include their tastes, and to include new people without seizing up and dying. That could have happened, if it weren't for the franchises that sustained their precious SF/F publishing houses in the first place. Kids today....

cgeye said...

"Slash fanfic started in *ST* fandom for a reason" -- oops.