stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
A few years ago, Archie Comics unveiled with fanfare Kevin Keller, the first gay character in their comics universe.  There was some backlash, but overall the character proved enormously popular.  So popular, in fact, that he was given his own comic book.  Take that, right wing freakazoids!

So naturally, Archie Comics' very popular character was given a slot on CW's RIVERDALE.  And I've been watching.

First, I'm glad to see Kevin is there.  A gay teen with a major role.  Cool!  And he has a dating life.  Also cool.

However, on a show filled with hyper-masculine male characters (even the morose, artistic Jughead is a boy's boy), Kevin is the feminine gay guy.  He dresses overly stylishly, the actor's lipstick and rouge are redder than the other males' on the show, his hair is heavily moussed and overly styled (instead of artfully tousled, like every other teen male on the show), and he speaks half a hair below the "you GO girl!" register.  And he's the Gay Best Friend of one of the female leads.  Although we've only had two episodes to work with, we've seen no hobbies, no family, no background, no nothing for Kevin.  He exists pretty much to give Betty someone to talk to.  In other words, he's a stereotype.

On the other hand, we have Moose.

In the comics, Moose was a big blond bully who in the early days beat Archie up for his lunch money.  Over time, Moose evolved into a big lunk with a secret big heart.  The bully thing faded and he and Archie became friends.

On the show, Moose has a sort-of girlfriend, but the real object of his affections is Kevin.  He pursues Kevin with a fair amount of single-mindedness, in fact.  Kevin, however, isn't so sure about this.  Kevin finds Moose attractive, but Moose insists he just wants a . . . physical relationship, no strings, no emotion.  "I'm straight," Moose stoutly maintains.  Kevin refuses to believe this. He thinks Moose is gay, but he doesn't want to get involved with someone who can't admit he likes guys.

Moose himself is as hyper-masculinized as the other males on the show.*  We also don't have the neutered-gay-boy problem I've mentioned elsewhere on this blog, which is great.  I'm interested in seeing how this plays out.

*I'd prefer that NONE of the males were hyper-masculine, really, and instead represented more realistic teenagers.  However, if we're going to have a show filled with chiseled everything, I'd rather not have the gay character be the only one standing out as different in that regard.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I've been watching RIVERDALE.  I want to know how they managed to negotiate this with the owners of Archie Comics, really.  The show is dark and moody and focuses quite a lot on the sex lives of the characters, quite the opposite of the original comic, which pretended no one had heard of sex.  I'm trying to imagine how they got that past the licensor.  "So yeah--in this awesomely cool update for TV, Archie is a hot teen who's sleeping with his music teacher.  One of his classmates is murdered over the summer, and Arch gets dragged into it because he was a sort-of witness, right?  Meanwhile, Betty is trying to please her perfectionist mom and Veronica gets into a queen bee bitch war with another girl at school.  And Moose is trying to get into Kevin's pants.  Whattaya think?"

At any rate, the show is "shut your brain off" interesting.  The overarcing plot is that last summer, one of the Riverdale teens died in suspicious circumstances, and lots of people have Dark Secrets about it--and other things.  Like any CW show, this one displays generous eye candy of both sexes.  A sweaty, abbed-up Archie takes his shirt off at least once per episode, and cheerleaders bounce about like lingerie-covered rubber balls.  Something for everyone!  It's kind of fun to watch the show, with a certain amount of self-awareness, wrestle cartoon characters into a semblance of reality, while at the same time it uses bright colors and garish sets to remind us that this =is= still an outlandish cartoon.  It's a soap opera in the mold of DALLAS and FALCON CREST, but set in a high school.

I do have trouble watching chunks of it.  Hollywood just can't bring itself to get high school right.  I know it's a TV show and reality sometimes must be glossed over for the sake of the story, but so many details DON'T need to be glossed over, and when they're wrong, they remind us we're watching a TV show and yank us out of the story.  For example:

--The cheerleading squad tryouts. Where was the cheerleading coach?  Cheryl (Miss Queen Bee) runs the entire thing and railroads our poor Betty and Veronica, but this simply isn't how it works.  Ever.  The coach runs the tryouts and decides who's on the team, not the cheerleaders.

--Queen Bee Cheryl wears too much makeup.  I know she's supposed to be a mega-bitch, and her mouth--the source of her power--is highlighted by four pounds of lipstick, but I'm gonna tell ya that any female who showed up to school wearing that much makeup would be ostracized by the very girls she's trying to control.

--This one shows up in every TV show and movie: bells.  THERE ARE NO BELLS IN SCHOOL.  Schools use computer tones to dismiss class.  That brrrrrrrinnnnggg bell hasn't been used in thirty years.  But Hollywood uses it in every single school setting ever.  I don't know why.

--PA mics.  Schools these days have long, long ago dispensed with the microphone on a stand in the principal's office to address the school.  The PA system is hooked through the phone system so that the secretaries and parapros can call for students, too.  Showing the principal making a PA announcement with a stand mic is like showing someone driving to school in a Model T.

--Blackboards and chalk.  These have vanished from all but the absolute destitute of schools.  They've been replaced with white boards and markers.  In many places, we have Smart Boards.  Chalk is as dead as carbeurators.  Does Hollywood figure chalk, PA mics, and bells are some kind of setting shortcut that tell us we're in school?  If so, they're failing at it--the generation these shows aim at have never seen a chalkboard, heard a bell, or listened to a PA mic in their lives.

--Cheerleader moves.  Cheerleaders don't bump and grind and move like pole dancers.  They also wear skirts long enough to cover their asses.  (At least the ones in RIVERDALE don't show cleavage, like some shows I could mention.)  Put a sixteen-year-old into a Hollywood cheerleader outfit and have her grind her hips or look like she's screwing her poms, and you'll have five dozen screaming parents on the phone within ten minutes.

When I can shut my brain off long enough to ignore the above, however, RIVERDALE is an interesting watch.

And hey!  We have a gay-couple-in-training.  More on them later...
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I watched the first episode of LUKE CAGE.  I found it . . . intriguing.  But slow.  Very slow.

DAREDEVIL and JESSICA JONES hit the ground sprinting.  CAGE's first episode starts with a long, loooooong conversation in a barber shop, and another conversation in a club, and another conversation in a laundry room, and . . .

You get the idea.

I was about ready to dump it when things finally started heating up.  The heating up started with a new trope that's already worn thin: the scene of unimaginable violence set to inappropriately cheery music.  However, the story started to come together by this point and I kept watching to the end.

My thoughts:

There were no white faces in the first half of the show, and when we did see white faces later, they were background characters.  The entire cast is black, Hispanic, or Asian.  The show doesn't shy away from minority issues, either, like whether or not the N word is acceptable within the black community, and minority-on-minority violence.

We have some interesting music choices, from Harlem jazz to disco-esque to soft porn percussion, all of them influenced by black movie music of the 70s, when the Power Man (Nicholas Cage) comic book first came out.

The episode spends most of its time exploring Harlem and setting up character arcs.

Overall, it was slower than I would have liked, but I'm willing to watch a little more to see if it gets better.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
I'm pleased to announce the Great Deadline Project: a novel based on the TV show THE BLACKLIST.

The novel is for Titan Books , and we even have a cover!

The novel is due to my editor in June, and publication is tentatively set for November, 2016.  Watch here for more details!
stevenpiziks: (Hypnotoad)
Look, I like superhero movies and TV shows.  I'm willing to go along with a lot of impossible stuff and write it off as comic book "science" or just fun.  But you can only take so much.

You can have an impossible universe, but you still need to follow a FEW rules, and your smart people can't. Be. Idiots.

I've been following THE FLASH, but I'm probably going to drop it soon. Why?  Idiot plots.  An idiot plot is a story that depends on the main characters acting like idiots, and the whole thing falls apart if anyone acts with basic intelligence. Yes, everyone does stupid or foolish things now and then, but to qualify as an idiot plot, the people need to do stuff that doesn't even qualify as the "what was I thinking?" kind of idiocy.

Case in point is the latest FLASH episode "Out of Time."  Lots of spoilers follow, and I'm assuming you've seen the episode.

Early in, Barry Allen and Joe West are sitting in Joe's car when Mark Madron (who they work very hard not to call the Weather Wizard) pulls up behind them in his truck.  Madron conjures up a thundercloud and destroys Joe's car with a bolt of lightning.  Fortunately, Barry is so fast that he notices the lightning bolt when it's halfway to the car and he spirits both him and Joe to safety nan-seconds before the lightning strikes.  Neither of them is hurt.  And yet it doesn't occur to Barry to sprint after the Madron in his nice, slow truck and grab him?  But if Barry catches Madron now, the episode ends, so Barry has to be an idiot.

Later, Madron, still intent on killing Joe, shows up at the police station.  (Here, the villain is being an idiot for doing this in a roomful of cops, but we'll give him a sort-of pass on the assumption that Madron figures his powers make him immune to anything the police might do to stop him.)  Barry shows up just in time to stop Madron from killing Joe, but the police chief is badly injured.  Barry has to rush the chief to the hospital while Madron just strolls away.  Barry is so fast, he zips the chief to the hospital in a couple seconds, but he can't get back to the station in time to catch up to Madron?  Or, better yet, he can't spend half a second to punch Madron out and THEN rush the chief to the hospital?  Half a second won't make a difference.  But of course, Madron has to get away or the episode will be really short.  Idiot plot.

In both cases above, the writers could have easily have had Barry fight Madron, but given Madron the ability to neutralize Barry's speed.  They showed Madron create a force field out of air--a great way to stop a speedster.  WHAM!  Barry runs into it, and Madron gets away.  They've also shown Madron with the ability to create ice.  Madron creates an ice slick which flummoxes Barry just long enough for Madron to exit.  There!  No one has to be an idiot.

But the writers aren't content with just Barry being an idiot.  Joe has to be an idiot, too.  Joe says he's going after Madron alone, and that Barry can't go with him because Joe doesn't want anyone else to be endangered.  And BARRY AGREES WITH THIS.

Let's look at this again.  Joe, an ordinary guy with no powers, is going to square off with a supervillain . . . by himself . . . and he doesn't want his superhero foster son to come along because he's afraid the SUPERHERO will get hurt?  And the superhero agrees to this?  Now they've passed the idiot event horizon.

The conversation should have gone the other way around.  Barry should have told Joe to stay out of it because Joe has no powers.  Joe, not wanting this young punk of a kid to deal with Joe's own problems and overconfident that he can handle this Madron guy anyway, goes after Madron and gets himself kidnapped.  Joe's idiocy is actually believable.

And then we have the big reveal--Barry is on the beach with Iris and he tells her he's the Flash.  He does this by changing from civvies into his costume in a small tornado.  In public.  With lots of other people walking around them.  You can see them in the background, in fact.  What the heck?  Idiot.

The last part I had trouble with is something the show may have gotten themselves out of.  The police chief, who is gay, is so badly injured in the fight with Madron that he'll probably never walk again.  Whether or not he'll be able to continue as chief is up in the air.  And then Cisco figures out the true identity of Professor Wells, so Wells kills Cisco.

So the show has these two minority characters: a gay man and an Hispanic man.  And in one episode, they cripple the first and kill off the second.  No straight white people were injured or killed in the filming of this episode.  Fuck you, guys.

However, they sent Barry back in time a few days at the very end of the episode, which may mean they intend to undo these problem.  We'll see if the fuck you stands.

And none of this excuses the characters--and the writers--acting like idiots.
stevenpiziks: (Jar)
There is a template for every Doctor Who episode that Steven Mofat is has his hands on.  It goes like this:

PROLOGUE: A bunch of people we don't know about are rushing madly about trying to deal with a completely incomprehensible situation. (This is meant to intrigue us, but usually we only find it confusing.)

1. The TARDIS arrives at the prologue place.

2. The Doctor and his companions are swept into the completely incomprehensible situation.  Very often, this incomprehensible situation involves a bad guy we can't see or a set of bad guys with no faces or faces that don't move (such as dolls, robots, flat-faced children, or mannikins) because these things are scarier than something with an expression.  (Apparently, British people find emotional villains too difficult to film or to watch.  And the Brits are especially terrified by children.)

3.  Someone dies and/or the companions are endangered in some dreadful way.  In fact, they are endangered so badly that any person with a decent psychology would be sucking his thumb in the corner for PTSD after it all ended.

4.  The Doctor, talking very, very fast and using words that having nothing to do with any kind of science, advances a number of solutions that make no sense, then finally hits on one that's probably on the right track.  He tries to implement it and gets a partial victory, but abruptly the situation becomes WORSE (cue evil music).

5.  Worse things happen to the companions and/or to the people around them.  The faceless/expressionless villain gains in power.

6.  The companions are forced into some Enormous Emotional Moment.  However, because every episode has some kind of Enormous Emotional Moment for the companions, the impact is rather diluted for the audience.

7.  The Doctor makes some kind of sacrifice. Sometimes it's personal, but usually it's by hurting or endangering one of his companions. Mysteriously, the companions continue to adore him anyway, much like abused people continue to adore their abusers.

8.  The problem is solved.  The Doctor makes cheerful, pithy comments about how great humans are (presumably so his companions won't leave him).  Just as the audience is beginning to relax, the camera focuses on a final sinister image.

9. End credits.

I very much fear Mr. Mofat has turned into Joss Whedon at the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when you could predict what was going to happen because you knew the show.

And while we're on the subject, I'm very much bothered by the way River Song's origin was handled and continues to be handled.  Amy's baby explodes in her hands and moments later, she abruptly learns that the adult River Song, with whom they've had regular contact for months, is actually her semi-timelord child grown to adulthood away from her.  Yet Amy and Rory have no trouble with this?  We see no grieving from the two of them.  I mean, NONE.  And I'm sorry, abruptly learning that your splody-baby is alive and was actually one of your best friends while you were growing up doesn't come anywhere close to making up for losing your baby in the first place.  I could buy the plotline if Rory and Amy reacted realistically, but they don't.  Yeah, I know it would get tiresome to have them grieving for their child in episode after episode.  Easy to get around--instead of having a stupid, incomprehensible prologue, show the Doctor picking Rory and Amy up from a live-in grief center and them saying something like, "We spent six months here, and nothing will replace our baby, but at least we can move on now."  You could even write an entire episode with the theme "hurting but moving on."  There.  Done.

This is why I don't track down Doctor Who live, and wait for it on Netflix instead.  The show is cute, but only worth it when I run out of other stuff to watch.


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