Alexandra Shipp: Blackish

The Thursday announcement that Disney has acquired 21st Century Fox properties, including X-Men, led to a lot of speculation concerning the future of the X-Men film universe. I shared some of my own thoughts on this, and while sharing the link on Twitter I came across another conversation. There were retweets all over my feed revealing one post after another arguing that Alexandra Shipp, who portrays Storm in X:Men Apocalypse and the upcoming Dark Phoenix, is too light-skinned to play Storm.

I didn’t comment on the argument at the time because I wanted to let it develop more before, so that more contextual info would be available before I shared my thoughts. Two days after the conversation began, it is now easy to trace its inception.

This debate began after a fan asked Shipp if she would like Storm to meet Thor, now that the universes would likely be merged. Shipp’s enthusiastic response was then met with criticism from one fan, “Disney is re-casting the whole team, boo. Sorry. Dark Phoenix will be your last. We getting a dark skinned non-racially Ambiguous Storm like we deserve.”

Shipp then retorted:

Presumably, the debate that I viewed on Thursday originated from this exchange. It is not confirmed if Disney will start fresh with X-Men and recast after Dark Phoenix but that isn’t really the point here.

Maybe Disney will re-cast, and also usher in a jarring tone change (as I suspect). However, I don’t think that Shipp’s skin tone should be an issue central to her potential re-casting. If a darker-skinned actor takes her place I have no problem with that, but I also don’t think that Shipp’s skin tone gives us a bastardization of the character.

Shipp’s response reminds me of statements Halle Berry made concerning her own racial identity. Like Shipp, Berry is mixed and chose to identify as black from a young age, because she knew that is how the world would perceive her. For example, a white guy who says he doesn’t date black girls, would still see Berry as a black girl, instead of a white one.

While Shipp says she has never been “treated white” it is a fact that there is pervasive colourism in the world and in Hollywood. Even in Jamaica, a country that is 90% black, dark-skinned black people are performing skin bleaching to lighten their skin because they realize lighter-skin is viewed as more attractive. In other areas, such as Latin America, South East Asia and the Middle East, lighter skin is inherently viewed as more attractive than darker skin. The preference for lighter skin often coincides with a preference for other features typically associated with whiteness, such as straighter hair, thinner lips and thinner noses. Light skin goes beyond the aesthetic, becoming a marker of status and privilege due to the legacy of slavery or colonialism. For someone like Shipp, she may benefit from this colourism in some situations, while also being subjected to racism like any other black person in other situations.

There is a trend in entertainment- whether it is music videos, television or film- to cast the lightest-skinned black people possible, especially if they are love interests or eye candy. After a while it isn’t simple happenstance that most of the attractive black women in entertainment have “sun-kissed skin”, it is a deliberate choice by casting executives. They can get people who are ethnic without being “too dark”.As Viola Davis says,  there is a pervasive conception that “If you are darker than a paper bag, then you are not sexy.” Of course, Hollywood sometimes graces us with an exception, but the word “exception” means that they are a minority within a minority. I have been over the “best actor for the part” argument, and the slate of talented black actors that seemingly come out of nowhere for productions like Luke Cage and Straight Outta Compton make it clear there is plenty of black talent out there, they just need opportunities for good roles.

Respect to Bad Boys II for its dark-skinned love interest

It is possible that I am setting the bar somewhat low for Storm since I am so used to roles being whitewashed anyway. Even films based on true stories, like 21, are not safe from Hollywood’s attempts to make it more “marketable”. Storm seems like one of the few untouchable characters, and this may be why fans are even more protective when it comes to her portrayal.

There were plenty of users arguing that the discussion of whether a black actress is black enough is divisive and racist in itself. I ignored most of these comments simply because this is the same logic used to shut down any discussion of racism nowadays. You complain about white supremacist marches in Charlottesville? You’re being divisive. You complain about another unarmed black kid getting killed? You’re divisive. You complain about a public figure saying something racist? You’re divisive.

In principle, I don’t think it is racist or “divisive” to complain about an actress’s skin tone. Especially since I am sure that many of the people using this “divisive” excuse routinely defend whitewashing in films, thereby enabling racist practices in Hollywood.

Now, there are also people who understand the implications of whitewashing in film, and genuinely just believe that there is nothing wrong with Shipp’s skin tone. The character is black, and Shipp is black as well. Shipp is mixed, but Apocalypse never states that the character is mixed, and Shipp is a visibly black individual. In terms of skin colour, she may not be Viola Davis or Lupita Nyong’o, but she definitely isn’t Paula Patton or Meghan Markle either.

All of this to say that while I don’t agree with the backlash against Shipp in this case, I can understand where the detractors are coming from. If Shipp did a poor job with the role I would probably be more likely to support them. However, I thought Shipp was great as Storm. Maybe I’m not the best person to judge but her accent also seemed a lot more authentic than whatever Halle Berry tried to do in X-Men 1 (2000). Although Apocalypse was a disappointing film I was looking forward to seeing more of this iteration of Storm and I hope that if she is recast, fans don’t share simply because she was too light-skinned for them.

Fox- A Disney Company

Today, Disney acquired 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion. The deal comprises numerous properties, ranging from The Simpsons, to Avatar, but the biggest point of interest for me is that Disney now has the rights to X-Men.  The development is now confirmed but this is something that a lot of Marvel fans have been praying for for a long time, if online discussion is any indication. I remember entire threads on the Internet Movie Database’s (IMDB) forums where people would demand that the rights for the X-Men films go back to Marvel. People would argue that the series needed a fresh start under Marvel Studios because the X-Men films mishandled characters like Cyclops (fair enough) or because they didn’t like the buttons on a costume (seems unreasonable). Like I have mentioned before when discussing the DCEU, when people want something to fail they become more sensitive to any perceived shortcomings.

Aside from the fans that have been praying for this, there are more reasonable fans who simply wanted to see the X-Men in the Avengers universe. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to see Wolverine in the Avengers film, which likely will not happen. Hugh Jackman previously said that he would be open to returning in the role if he got to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) but he has said more recently that the “ship has sailed” for him. The scripts for Infinity War Part I and II are already written and being filmed, so normally I would say that the ship has sailed for seeing any former Fox properties in Infinity War. However, the rushed introduction of Spider-Man in Civil War does make me wonder if the filmmakers might be willing to squeeze something in for Part II.

One of my biggest worries was that darker and/or R-rated properties like Deadpool would be watered down to suit Disney’s “fun” and family-friendly silver screen image. Fortunately, Disney CEO Bob Iger has stated that Deadpool can remain R-rated at Disney. This is a step in the right direction, but it is still aligned with Marvel President Kevin Feige’s proclamation that the MCU will never be dark.

Deadpool had one noticeably dark segment, namely Wade’s time spent being tortured, but for the most part it still fits in with the “fun” tone that Feige is committed to.  In contrast, the X-Men films, especially X1, X2 and Days of Future Past (DOFP), are noticeably much darker than anything in the MCU’s films. The themes of prejudice from the comics are unashamedly fleshed out on screen, showcasing the violence and darkness that mutants experience. The opening scene of X1, where Magneto is separated from his parents in a concentration camp, is still one of my favourite openings in any film. I highly doubt we would see a scene like this if X1 was originally handled by Marvel Studios. Maybe most of the scene would be the same, and then a Stan Lee cameo would be used to alleviate the tension.

Now, the MCU has also given us properties like Jessica Jones and The Punisher, but I am not talking about Netflix here. I am talking about the big screen. When Disney originally acquired Marvel, people argued that imprints such as Touchstone would be used to distribute darker or R-rated material. However, we know now that any R-rated material so far has come from Netflix. Deadpool 3 will likely be the first R-rated X-Men film property that Disney gives us.

I think Disney will be willing to give Deadpool more R-rated sequels because they have already seen how successful his film was. The box office receipts are a testament to people’s love for the character in all his R-rated glory. In contrast, Disney might be more willing to take risks with X-Men since the most recent X-Men film, Apocalypse, underperformed (relative to previous entries) with critics and the box office. Additionally, Logan was a well received R-rated entry but marked the end of the X-Men film universe’s most popular character.

If darkness is viewed as the enemy, then “fun” will be viewed as the saviour. What about the rest of the films? Will X-Men be rebooted to offer more “fun” now? Will the themes of prejudice all be cut in order to make everything more family friendly? Will we get scenes like this one?

Or this one?

I doubt it.

Keaton Jones

I am sure we have all heard about this video by now. Here we see 11 year old Keaton Jones, a Tennessee native whose mother taped his heartfelt thoughts on bullying. As someone who was bullied or ostracized throughout most of elementary and high school, this video resonated with me and truly made me empathize with what appears to be a genuine victim.

The backlash this video has received over the past few days has generated numerous claims, some true and some false. This is why I waited for a few days, biding my time until fact was separated from fiction.

There were allegations that Keaton is racist, and that the bullying he received was a direct result of uttering racial slurs to some of his classmates. This fact is ubiquitous on Twitter but has yet to be verified. The principal of the school said the bullying issue has been dealt with and that no epithets were involved. You can argue the principal is trying to save face but the discrepancy still begs the question: Where is the proof that Keaton is a racist?

You may have heard Jones’s mother, Kimberly, is a racist. That is definitely possible. The picture of her posing with a Confederate flag is genuine, and she argues that she posed with it to be “ironic” or “funny” but that just seems like the desperate plea of someone who has been exposed. For those who need a history lesson, the Confederate flag is about state rights…to continue slavery. Kimberly has also criticized kneeling in the NFL, a practice which I have already discussed and defended.

Kimberly seems like another one of the people living in a post-racial utopia, brandishing a Confederate flag while complaining about the minorities who acknowledge racism and its damaging impact on their communities. Maybe she raised her son with the same naive mindset, instilling the belief that minorities could solve all this supposed racism if they just worked harder.

Who knows. Chris Evans already invited Keaton to the Avengers: Infinity War premiere and a host of other celebrities were quick to jump on the pro-Keaton bandwagon. I like to think Captain America would have hesitated to invite Keaton if he thought the boy’s mother might be a racist.

The internet has accelerated the pace that we produce and consume news but sometimes it appears there is still a delay in getting the fully story. Fake Instagram accounts spring up like weeds, showcasing a slew of racist comments supposedly uttered by Keaton or his mother.

I initially backed out of doing this article. Its direction seemed unclear to me. While I agreed that the rumours of Keaton’s use of slurs represented a lack of journalistic integrity and a mob mentality, I also disliked the mob mentality present in quickly rallying behind a bullied child whose mother started a GoFundMe for her son, as opposed to donating that money to anti-bullying organizations. One side tends to attack the other, thinking they are right. What Keaton Jones shows is that we both need to look at ourselves. The side rushing to defend and rushing to vilify both need to avoid emotional responses. They need to both examine facts, context, history in order to paint a complete picture on the internet’s canvas.

Why I Quit Instagram.

I’ve lost track of how long it has been, but a while ago I created my personal Instagram account. It was something I started mainly as a way of staying in touch with friends and family overseas. While Facebook is still a popular option, one could say that Instagram is one of the fastest growing apps and one that people my age (26) gravitate to the most.

I rarely posted to my personal account, but I did spend time scrolling through the black hole of the explore page. I was presented with cat videos and “instamodels” galore, but my interests also led me to search for movie and comic-book related material. Soon enough, I started following a diverse group of actors, authors and artists. I wanted to avoid the narcissistic side of Instagram, with its selfies and workout videos, and take in the real talent that the platform had to offer. I also knew that I wanted to share my own thoughts on comics and movies, just like I did on my blog and my other social media accounts.

I have never been the kind of person to get 30 likes on a facebook profile picture, so I decided that I couldn’t pursue my interests through my personal Instagram account. Thus, @moviegrapevine was born. I enjoyed the freedom to embrace my geekiness in all its glory, attracting other like-minded people and becoming part of a community that was an audience for my writing and also motivated me creatively. I later followed up with a second account specifically for my creative writing, @wmoviegrapevine.

The purpose of the Instagram accounts was to direct more traffic to my blog and my YouTube channel. I became hypnotized by likes, and the odd comment, thinking that this surely equated to more readership and more views. It was actually Twitter that made me realize the truth. I have posted links to articles before. Three likes, so I must have three views on the article. I then check the article’s stats, and the article has no views. Even with a less visual medium, people still like or even retweet material that they have not truly engaged with. A like on Twitter or Instagram does not equal another view of your base: the blog, YouTube channel etc. that Instagram is intended to be a funnel for.

Of course this seems obvious now, and I was never naive enough to think that everyone liking my posts was also reading my blog. However, I had a small group of followers who consistently liked my posts and there was the assumption that they must be reading my material. However, the analytics for my site made it clear that wasn’t true. That harsh truth also made me look at my own behaviour on Instagram. There were plenty of accounts I followed, and consistently liked, that had their own related sites or videos. I always said that I would check out their content, and then I never did. This wasn’t due to any apathy or malice on my part, it was simply due to the abundance of books, websites and videos that already take up my time. Speaking of time, I was spending more of it scrolling through my explore page, spending twenty minutes on Instagram when my intention was to log on and post within five minutes.

All of the above realizations led me to realize that Instagram was only a big distraction. I had to analyze if my extra data usage, and the associated costs, were really worth it. I had a few hundred followers, which was still paltry in the grand scheme of things. Additionally, the followers I had weren’t actually engaging with the material on my website or my YouTube channel. Ultimately, my accounts were not meeting their goals. All they succeeded in was giving me validation. I could post art or a picture that I liked, and have other people express their approval. I could post a short poetry piece or an excerpt from my book and have people compliment it. None of this meant they would be interested in anything I shared outside of Instagram, but for a while that didn’t matter. Ignorance was coupled with bliss and I lived under the illusion that my distraction was a sign of productivity, and that it actually meant something. It took me too long to realize that it didn’t. It was a diversion; from my other works and my other platforms.

I can’t say it’s Instagram’s fault, it is the fault of my attention span. Now I want to redirect that attention span to my Facebook and Twitter, while I continue to blog and work on my fourth book.

Memory Slave

I have been working on my fourth book, Alive: Part II, on and off the for the past six months. The past few months have seen more progress and I am not about 40,000 words in. However, I have now reached a part in the story where I am trying to decide where I will take the story next. More brainstorming and a clearer idea of my goal for my characters will give me a better sense of the path I want them to take. With that in mind, I took a break from writing that book but I didn’t want to avoid writing altogether. Along with the grandma piece I posted last, I wanted to delve deeper into a concept that has been on my mind for the past few weeks.

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Memory Slave

She couldn’t remember how she got here, but she wasn’t supposed to. Her name, her place of birth, her family, was all lost to her. Sometimes she came close to remembering, seeing slivers of her past life cut through the memories forced on her. Those slivers, whether good or bad, were hers and she cherished them for seconds at a time. There were other memories drowning her real ones, parasites controlling their host.

The parasites were injected by people whose faces remained hidden: Doctors experimenting on a lab rat. There were no windows, no night and day. The lights in her room always shut off at some point during the day, announcing her bedtime. Yet days still lost their meaning without dates or the seasons. She measured time with her memories, counting the moments between a new one being added.

She knew the memories weren’t really hers, but they were the only complete ones she had. She was still attached to hundreds, feeling all of the pain that was forced on her. Her mind was a bounty of misery and insecurities. Some people wanted to be rid of the memories that crippled their lives in some way: the unrequited love, the betrayal by a friend. Others were hiding from something truly traumatic, trying to erase violence they did to others or violence inflicted on them.

These memories were a gateway to pain, but they were also a gateway into the mind of the hosts. She knew their friends, their neighbourhoods and sometimes she even saw their faces. She knew their class, their race, their sexual orientation. These central parts of their identity were an anchor for most of the memories in her mind. Most of the memories were tied to something private that became public.

There was another class of memories, usually reserved for the wealthier hosts. They had the luxury of purging the most trivial things from their mind. One rude encounter was reason enough to remove a memory. Funny enough, they were usually the bully in these encounters.

She couldn’t remember truly meeting anyone. The masked doctors were her only gateway to the outside world. She tried to speak to them, but they never responded. She started with threats, hundreds of memories ago. Her will became weaker with each memory and soon enough she longed to simply hear one of them greet her, or answer if she asked them how they were doing.
She now had to accept that she was only a tool. No different than a hammer that a worker used and unceremoniously disregarded. There was a time when she thought she must have done something to deserve such a fate. Perhaps this was some sort of prison sentence? Time erased that thought from her mind. What was the point of punishment if you didn’t know what it was for? Was there some sort of lottery to pick the lucky winners? Was she just one of many selected from a certain area?

The white walls seemed to mock her. Promising answers beyond, but unwilling to yield. Some unseen force pinned her to the floor before the doctors came in. A distinctive hum always accompanied the increased gravity, as if some giant machine came to life beneath her. The doctors arrived, ignored her words and injected the latest memory. When they left they made sure to open the door just wide enough to squeeze through, preventing her from seeing anything beyond. When the door opened, no other sounds crept through. Even with the door closed, she always saw the doctors before she saw them. Wherever she was, it was soundproof and isolated.

There was another world out there, where she could find friends, family and happiness. She wanted to see that world again, to see herself. Her room had a small shower and sink, but no mirror and no reflective surfaces of any kind. She knew her skin was dark brown and that her hair was black, a contrast to everything around her. Her nose was broad, her lips full, and her knowledge of herself died there.

The remnants of her past life didn’t reveal anything more. She saw an older woman’s face, with dark skin like her own, perhaps her mother. She saw a small red bricked house, surrounded by cracked sidewalk and weeds. Perhaps her home. There was no way to truly tell that these memories were hers, she only assumed they were because they weren’t tied to something negative.

She heard the humming this time before she was pinned. Her pacing came to a halt as her feet stayed rooted to the ground. The pressure on her knees forced her to kneel, planting her hands on the ground as well. Her cot was to her right, looking like it was on the verge of imploding. The springs were squealing in protest, almost constricting one another by the time the doctors entered.

The gravity didn’t affect them, allowing them to move swiftly to either side of her. White pants, white shirts, white surgical masks. Their clothes almost seemed to glow under the light. She had to keep her head facing the floor, trying to turn it was too painful. The syringe came from the doctor to her left, piercing a spot just above her right ear. The memory wouldn’t come to her immediately, it would take some time. She guessed it usually took a few hours, but there was no way for her to be sure.

The doctor’s footsteps were almost drowned out by the hum as they left the room. Her face was nearly pinned to the floor by the time the gravity subsided, causing her to nearly jump off the ground with the force of her exertion. There were usually at least three light outs before another memory was injected, and she knew that she guessed that she carried hundreds now, some fresh and others lurking beneath the surface. It seemed like almost a year may have passed, but she never got used to the enhanced gravity. It was as if they increased its strength a little more with each visit.

Grandma

My grandma passed away in July of this year and I completed a small piece earlier this morning,  putting together some of the thoughts swirling in my head following her death. I am still open to expanding on the thoughts below, and perhaps turning it into a short story. For now, I wanted to share it as it is.

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Maybe to someone looking in from the outside, her favourite grandson seemed insensitive to her death. He was laughing and drinking with his family, people he knew from childhood and people he was meeting for the first time. He did the eulogy, but his voice shook from stage fright more than grief. Perhaps her death was only a vacation for him, a retreat to a tropical island. That was what onlookers thought, and the grandson started to question himself as well.

He had yet to shed tears. Maybe the death wasn’t real for him yet. He saw the body but reeled away from it, feeling his stomach turn as he viewed Grandma’s face. She seemed so much smaller, shriveled. Her skin wrapped around her bones like plastic wrap.

The grandson felt his stomach turn again as he entered Grandma’s room. He looked to the bed, where his grandma usually laid. Then he looked to the couch beside, where he spent hours talking and watching television with Grandma whenever he visited. The room was familiar and carried so many good memories, yet the grandson couldn’t bring himself to enter it. Her presence still lingered here, adding weight to the air ahead of him. She threatened to suffocate him.

The grandson felt like something malevolent lingered here now, a perversion of the woman he loved. His dad suggested he sleep in her room, like he used to when he was a child. That suggestion was ignored and the grandson continued avoiding the room, feeling like something was lying in wait for him there.

Her death stayed with him when he returned across the sea. One of his favourite songs became a cruel reminder. “Grandma’s Hands” was now a reverse lullaby- threatening to make him cry when its words rang out.

He had a bookmark with her face on it, and a prayer dedicated to her memory. It was the only one he’d used since the funeral, finding comfort in the picture of his grandma as he remembered: smiling and healthy. Sometimes it was just another bookmark, with its content forgotten by the user and scrutinized by strangers on the bus. Other times, the bookmark was his own talisman, giving him access to a multitude of good memories from his childhood.

Bates Motel Finale

Spoilers for Bates Motel

I started the fifth and final season of Bates Motel soon after its premiere in February but just finished the last episode this weekend. The delay was not due to a lack of interest in the series itself, but more of a lack of interest in Kodi. I used the streaming service for any show that either wasn’t available on Netflix or didn’t have its latest season there. After dealing with the crash of one Kodi add-on after another, I grew sick of Kodi and then retreated exclusively to Netflix offerings for a long time.

Since I finished watching the first season of Hemlock Grove and Big Mouth, I finally made time to wrap up one of my favourite shows. This piece isn’t necessarily a review, it’s just an offering of some of the things on my mind after finally finishing.

Bates Motel was marketed as a “contemporary prequel” to 1960’s Psycho, and like some intended prequels I didn’t expect the events to line up exactly. The original film doesn’t give us too much about Norman Bates’s background, except the fact that he killed his mom and her lover out of jealousy. Seasons 1-3 were untouched territory in terms of Norman Bates’s development, and his relationship with his mother and other women.

While I detested some of the subplots in these seasons, mainly due to the terrible acting on display from the high school girls, especially Nicola Peltz as Bradley Martin. This woman has the ability to ruin anything she touches, whether it’s bringing down Bates Motel or adding to the misery of The Last Airbender.

Pictured above: One great actor, along with a black hole of charisma and screen presence.

I digressed.

While Peltz’s acting was awful, Norman’s relationship with her actually explained why he would grow even closer to his mother. After pursuing a girl he liked, he was rejected and used. Then Norma was quick to take advantage of that and reinforce all of the negative ideas swirling in Norman’s head about other women. While Norman had a good relationship with Emma Decody, she became his “good girl” in a sense: The sweeter girl who he ignored. By the time Norman moved on from Bradley, Emma was moving on from him.

Seasons 3, 4 and 5 got us closer to the formation of the Norman Bates we see in Psycho. While it was always implied that Norman’s blackouts were another personality taking over, season 4 gave us our first real glimpse of Mother taking over Norman. When Bradley dies, Norma isn’t represented as a figure alongside him. She literally embodies him. This is similar to a moment where Norman confronts his uncle, Caleb, in season 2, but Bradley’s death actually shows us Vera on camera in Freddie’s place.

Followed by Bradley’s death:

With Bradley’s death at the end of season 3, one of the worst actors in the show is removed and more importantly, we get closer to Psycho. Norma and Romero get married in season 4, starting off for financial purposes and then developing into real love. At this point, I wondered if Romero would be the lover that drives Norman to commit a double homicide.

Later in the season we find out that Norman doesn’t kill Romero and Norma at the same time, but mother dearest does meet death at her son’s hands. This was a change from the movie mythos but one change I did not expect was Norman’s death at the hands of his brother.

From the beginning I assumed that any character not referenced in Pyscho would be dead by the time the show ended. I imagined that Norman would remain the only main cast member alive, managing the motel by himself as the show ended. This theory got thrown out when a character from the original film, Marion Crane was introduced. Crane, the infamous 1960 shower victim, was the series’s biggest callback to the film. While Crane didn’t serve as the victim in the show, she still played a part in events that sent Norman into full on Psycho territory.

Crane is replaced by Sam Loomis, another person that I was very happy to be rid of.

As I mentioned in a previous post about Bates Motel,  I was happy the show didn’t use the iconic score from the film (good quality uploads are hard to find online). Episode 5.6 became one of my favourites simply for how it handled this scene and for all the possibilities it gave us in future episodes.

Like the movie, Norman has unearthed his mother’s body and brought it back home. He is starting to wear his mother’s clothes and wig when her personality takes over, and for a part of the season it looks like he might avoid punishment for any of his crimes. Norma’s downfall is all tied to a moment of self-awareness and empathy that allows him to confess to his crimes, forcing the police to look into the whereabouts of his victims. By the time Norma takes the reins again it is too late.

Romero dies, mainly because his grief causes him to turn his back on Norman. One of the toughest characters on the show ends up bludgeoned and shot by a kid who’s neck he should have snapped when he had the chance. It is actually my favourite character, Dylan, who ends up being the hero and delivers the biggest shock of the show.

Bates Motel branches off, carving its own path and killing off Norman Bates. Norman gets to be reunited with his mother, while Dylan is reunited with his family. While it was still sad to see Norman die, it was the only way to end his pain and to stop him from harming anyone else. If he was constrained to a mental institution away from his mother for the rest of his life, he would have been miserable. If he remained free, with periodic killings of any woman that “Mother” viewed as a threat, then other people would end up suffering.

The relationship between Dylan and Emma was strained following the confirmation that Norman killed Emma’s mom, but I was happy to see that they remained a couple. Perhaps it would be more realistic that Norman’s actions drove a wedge between them. Then again, it is not like Emma met Norman due to Dylan. It was the other way around. Dylan can’t be blamed for bringing Norman into their lives and he can’t be blamed for what Norman did. Norma is more to blame for refusing to get help for her son, but Emma’s visit to Norma’s grave shows that she still loves and respects Mother.

It’s been a long time coming but I am happy to wrap up one of the few shows that actually continued to get better with each season.

Avengers: Infinity War Trailer Thoughts

Yesterday I wasn’t that excited for Infinity War. Perhaps it was due to a case of MCU fatigue, or maybe the decision to change a doomsday story into a comedy left a bad taste in my mouth. One of my friends advised that I would enjoy Thor: Ragnarok if I treated it as a comedy, instead of a Thor movie. Hence my decision not to see it.

After seeing the trailer for May 2018’s biggest release, I am now firmly aboard the hype train. Simply seeing all of these Marvel characters on screen is its own treat. Captain America is back, with the beard that has been teased via concept art for quite some time now. Along with Cap comes the return of the Winter Soldier, with a new metal arm. I remember watching the Infinity War promo many months ago and hearing Kevin Fiege say that it was important to break the Avengers apart before introducing a threat like Thanos.

“Get this man a shield,” says T’Challa. It could be clever editing but I am sure that this line is directed to Captain America and this makes it likely that Cap and his fellow anti-registration heroes are still in Wakanda when Thanos invades.As a result, it looks like Black Panther and Wakanda will have a central role in the film.  This would make sense since they would still be fugitives of the American government and still at odds with Iron Man. Even though the relationship appeared to be healing at the very end of Civil War it was clear that Cap and Stark weren’t going to reunite as drinking buddies just yet.

Speaking of Iron Man, his gift to Spider-Man looks glorious.

I have been stalling on watching Spider-Man Homecoming, mainly because I was put off by the Iron Man 3.5 vibe. From what I understand Tony Stark has relatively little screen time but I didn’t like the fact that Spider-Man was now tied to Iron Man because of the latter’s rushed introduction and exit from Civil War e.g. “We just got the rights to Spider-Man so we’ve got to add him to the movie somehow.”

The special effects for some shots could use some work but we still have some time for post-production so I’ll reserve my judgment until then.

Despite all the eye candy on display one of my favourite parts of the trailer is actually right near the beginning, with the different members of the Avengers saying “There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people to see if we could become something more. So when they needed us, we could fight the battles that they never could.” This brings us back to a similar phrase being uttered by Nick Fury in the Avengers trailer in 2012.

Thanos’s few lines in this trailer leave me thinking that he can hopefully be a memorable villain for the MCU, in addition to Kilgrave and Loki. I have to say that Thanos looks better with the helmet. In my humble opinion, he simply looks incomplete without it. The lack of the helmet stands out more since we already saw the helmet in Guardians of the Galaxy.

In the comic, the conflict was focused on the heroes vs Thanos himself. The trailer shows the heroes also facing an army of minions and I am hoping that Thanos still has room to stand out and that this doesn’t end up as another situation where a sub-villain detracts from the main one e..g X-24 stealing Donald Pierce’s thunder in Logan.

I hate the Marvel/DC talk but I will say that Marvel’s format of having solo or even multiple solo films prior to a team up film can make the final product much more satisfying for fans. I was excited for Justice League as a fan of the comic books and tv shows, but Infinity War is now anticipated by the casual fans who probably still make fun of comic book readers. Additionally, we don’t have to worry as much about characters lacking development since they already got the bulk of their development from their solo films.  The majority of characters are not being introduced here. They are only being developed further as they adapt to a new situation. With that said, the film still runs the risk of having some characters fall by the wayside since there are simply so many. Another risk is handling the switch of tones between characters who are coming off of different storylines. The cast of Civil War had a relatively dark storyline, while Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Thor: Ragnarok  were full on comedies.

Despite these worries, I am a believer again. The Winter Soldier is my favourite MCU film and I am hoping the Russo Brothers can bring all of these characters together for something that has the “fun” so many people crave these days, while also giving us something that is truly epic.

Jason Isaacs and Free Speech

I have previously discussed the phenomenon of people who don’t believe that celebrities are allowed to have opinions. Any political comment, whether it is in an interview or on social media, is derided as inappropriate and a breach of some supposed social contract.

I don’t despite this mindset simply because it has resulted in some actors I like being vehemently criticized. I despise this mindset because of the inherent hypocrisy in it.

The most recent example I will use is a tweet I came across from Jason Isaacs, who expertly called out a Star Trek fan who said his political views are alienating the Star Trek Fan base.

 

So here we see a fan who feels like Jason Isaac’s political views are affecting “the fan base”, which we can translate to “me”. This fan is not speaking out on behalf of others, he is speaking out on behalf of himself. Isaacs previously criticized Trump via tweets and retweets of anti-Trump videos, so this *whitegenocide believer felt the need to call Isaacs out. It is obvious that someone who repeatedly uses the hashtag #whitegenocide doesn’t believe in the value of diversity and is likely to support the President who said Mexico “doesn’t send its best” to America and who also wants to keep Muslims out. So, instead of saying that he disagrees with Isaac’s political views, this twitter user simply tries to say that entertainers as a whole are not allowed to express political opinions.

It looks like @Eye_of_Empire has deleted some of the tweets in the thread since, but his original response to Isaacs appealed to the principle of free speech. So after criticizing someone for exercising their free speech, this user says his comment is appropriate because it was his legal right. Isaacs has that legal right too. Fine, maybe you want to argue that Isaacs is an actor so it is different. It shouldn’t be. Actors are real people too, with their own fears, values and political beliefs.

The real question here is if @Eye_of_Empire would be as upset with Jason Isaacs if Isaacs repeatedly proclaimed his love for Trump and his belief in White Genocide. I doubt that would bother @Eye_of_Empire as much. The idea that actors shouldn’t have opinions is a smokescreen for “actors shouldn’t express views different from mine”. If I disagree with an actor’s political views I say that I disagree, I don’t pretend like my anger is about the principle of actors discussing politics.

I was tempted to pursue another topic for this post but I decided to continue with this one because the irony is a godsend. Diversity and acceptance have always been themes of Star Trek, where people of different races (human and alien) look past their differences and work together. Star Trek even has the distinction of having tv’s first interracial kiss between Uhura and Captain Kirk in 1968. So we have this apparent longtime fan of the show who is disgusted by an actor who speaks out against the bigot in Chief. Welcome to America.

The Punisher Review

After introducing the character in season 2 of Daredevil, Netflix was kind enough to give us a series dedicated to war veteran Frank Castle. The Punisher was my favourite part of Daredevil‘s second season, with the script and Jon Bernthal’s performance helping to humanize the character while also showing how deadly he is.

Before I can review the series itself I have to mention one aspect of this Punisher’s origin that I had a problem with when it was first explained in season 2 of Daredevil. Depending on the line of comics, Frank Castle’s family is either murdered by the mob because they happened to witness a mob hit (e.g. Year One) or because they were collateral damage from a shootout between rival gangs in Central Park (e.g 2004 Punisher Max).

Daredevil reimagined their deaths as collateral damage that was due to a shootout, but a shootout that was the result of a failed sting by District Attorney Samantha Reyes. Frank’s story then became tied to a government cover-up that dominated the plot.

This season continues with more government cover ups, making the plot line seem somewhat stale in comparison to all the material that myself and other comic readers were hoping to see on screen. There are references or nods to characters and arcs from the Max and Year One comics, and we even get a version of Agent William Rawlins from the comics as well. However, anyone hoping for more than that may be disappointed. This is another rendition of The Punisher where the villains are tied intimately to his past, instead of offering a new threat. Now, on with the show.

After killing all of the gang members tied to the Central Park Massacre, Castle fashions a simple new life as construction worker, Pete Castiglione. Frank burns his Punisher vest early in the first episode, symbolizing the end of his war, but it is obvious something will drag him back in. The Punisher’s re-emergence is a short, but bloody and glorious fight that is enhanced with the accompanying music. Speaking of music, Tyler Bates did a masterful job for the show’s soundtrack and the show’s opening is narrowly beaten out by Daredevil’s in my opinion.

Like the first season, this season further explores Frank’s mental state and his view on the world. Like the comics, I am happy to see the show didn’t shy away from being political at times. Some people on YouTube, the bastion of online intellectual discourse, are complaining that the show should “stick to entertainment”. Firstly, these people don’t realize that all shows aren’t obligated to be mindless entertainment. Secondly, the “stay away from politics” talk is usually code for “don’t express views I disagree with”. Final point, people who complain about The Punisher being too political have clearly not read any of the comics.

Frank was a former soldier and the military does play a part in many of the 2004 Max comics. While Frank respects veterans as a whole for their service and sacrifice, he does not respect the institution of the military.

“Fighting for the people who run the world gets you stabbed in the back. You fight the wars they start and feed. You kill the monsters they create…. I’m not going back to war so colt can sell another million M-16s.”

Frank Castle- Punisher Max, Issue #4.

If you think this is a “liberal talking point” as someone else put it, then the character isn’t for you.

The season deals with issues ranging from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to the US involvement in Afghanistan, just like some of the comics do. While Frank re-emerges as the Punisher, Homeland Agent Dinah Madani also begins digging into Frank Castle’s past as a way to investigate the death of a policeman she worked with while stationed in Afghanistan. “Agent Orange” also develops an interest in Castle since Castle was involved in an illegal military operation that a mysterious hacker named “Micro” has video evidence of.

Jon Bernthal joins the Marvel stable of actors who excel in their character’s skin. He is joined by a capable cast, with Micro (Ebon-Moss-Bachrach) being the standout since the relationship between the two forms the backbone of the story. In this continuity, Micro’s family is still alive but Micro was forced to fake his own death after being framed by Homeland Security. When Micro attempts to reach out to Frank, Frank finds Micro’s family as a way to gain leverage on him. The interactions between Frank and Micro’s wife, Sarah (Jaime Ray Newman) were interesting at first, since they both lost loved ones and bonded over that. Then the interactions continued, and included more screen-time from Sarah’s bratty son who is also one of the weakest actors in the show. A love triangle quickly developed and this entire subplot was one of my biggest gripes about the show. The chemistry on display between Frank and Karen Page was far better and didn’t leave me wanting to skip certain scenes.

Fortunately, this season also gives us some more memorable villians such as Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) and Lewis Wilson (Daniel Webber). Barnes’s role in Westworld showed that he can play a smug douche pretty well but he gets to do more with the script here, playing a friend turned foe who has profited off his evils.

The action itself integrates good hand-to-hand choreography (looking at you Iron Fist), gunfights and stealth kills that would make Batman proud. The fights weren’t actually that plentiful but the show does a great job of building the tension between the bursts of action (minus the Lieberman house visits).

Overall, I will rank the punisher third among all the Marvel Netfix seasons, behind Jessica Jones and Daredevil Season 1.

Current Ranking.

  1. Daredevil
  2. Jessica Jones
  3. The Punisher
  4. Daredevil Season 2
  5. The Defenders
  6. Luke Cage
  7. Iron Fist