Showing posts from January, 2010

Chuck vs. Half the Human Race

For about a year now I've been toying with the notion of a blog post about the show Chuck and the way it treats its female characters and viewers.  I kept putting it off because I could never quite convince myself that Chuck --whose title character, a nerd with a dead-end job, somehow ends up with a CIA supercomputer in his head and is recruited to fight bad guys--is worth my, or your, mental energy.  Chuck is a silly show, but not in a good way--not in the deliberate, meticulously crafted way of shows like Pushing Daisies or The Middleman , which commit wholeheartedly to their silliness and create an alternate world in which it is the norm, nor in the breezy way of frothy confections like Leverage or Castle , which skate by on charm and sharp plotting[1].  Chuck is silly because so little about it actually makes any sense--not its premise, which relies on a definition of spying that out-Bonds Bond for unreality but continually denies its own campness, insisting that the spy c

The Living Dead: Two Novels

The zombie craze has been burning steadily for the better part of a decade, and for the most part I've let it pass me by.  I enjoy them in small doses--the occasional Resident Evil film, Jonathan Coulton's "Re: Your Brains," John Langan's short story "How the Day Runs Down" --but I'm not committed to the notion, as fandom in general often seems to be, that zombies make everything better and are inherently fun and interesting.  I seem to have reached a point in my reading life where killing off all but a minuscule portion of humanity in order to give one's heroes a planet-sized playground to run around in seems not only callous but unimaginative (in much the same way the new Star Trek writers opting to suck an entire planet and most of its inhabitants into a black hole in order to give one of their characters angst was quite literally overkill), and as a joke zombies strike me as a one-note gag (see, for example, the general consensus on Pride

Ah, L'amour

I don't know why there's been such a tizzy about the messages that the Twilight films pass along to their young, female viewers.  Or rather, I understand the tizzy; I just don't know why the people at the center of it are treating Twilight as if it's in any way anomalous instead of a mere intensification of an industry-wide process.  At the same time that more and more energy and talent are being poured into romantic comedies for and about men (which seem to invariably treat women as killjoy moms whose job it is to force the man-child lead to grow up), the ones Hollywood produces for women just keep getting more toxic.  In the last year alone, we had films whose messages can best be summed up as 'women!  Isn't it hilarious how they desperately want a man and yet no one will ever love them!,' 'if only you file away every last bit of your personality, wants and desires, you too can land an obnoxious misogynist!,' and 'a WOMAN?  Proposing to a


As with Star Trek , the conversation about Avatar is loud but not particularly broad. It seems to center around the divide between those who like the film unreservedly and those (like myself) who appreciate its visuals but roll their eyes at its script and underlying message (and, on the one site where I've followed such a discussion, devolved so quickly into the former accusing the latter of cynicism and snobbery that I'm not sure it's an avenue of conversation worth pursuing).  These, however, are some of the more interesting comments I've seen on the film, which try to extend the conversation beyond this debate. More on the film's racism: Scott Eric Kaufman considers the film's presentation of humans and Na'vi, and concludes that its message is a variant on the "black quarterback problem": This is not a vision of a racially harmonious social politic: it is an inversion of the logic of passing that seems acceptable only because it imagines