The Handmaid’s Tale Takes on Family Separation in an Hauntingly Prescient Episode

the handmaid's tale

**SPOILER ALERT: This post discusses plot points from Season 2, Episode 10 of The Handmaid’s Tale. TW: Sexual Assault**

When Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale premiered last year, it immediately struck a chord with viewers who were facing a real-life oppressive political regime that eerily echoed the one in Gilead. Trump’s non-stop nightmare of an administration was still in its first few months, but had already made headlines with its xenophobic Muslim ban. Combined with the Republicans’ seemingly endless War on Women and reproductive justice, the fictional series about women enslaved as breeding stock was a disturbing parallel for the current political climate.

In this week’s episode “The Last Ceremony”, the series focuses on family separation in a stunningly relevant and disturbing hour of television. The separation of parents and children has been a major plot point throughout the series. The opening sequence of the pilot episode shows June and her daughter Hannah escaping into the woods before soldiers find them and forcibly separate the two. June is knocked unconscious with the butt of a rifle as Hannah is ripped from her arms. It’s an upsetting beginning that immediately sets the dark tone for the series.

Separating children from their mothers is a common practice in Gilead, where handmaids are nothing more than vessels for life. Season One followed Janine’s pregnancy and birth, after which her daughter Charlotte was renamed Angela, taken from her and given to Commander Putnam and his wife. Janine later kidnaps the baby and ends up on the edge of a bridge with Charlotte in her arms, threatening to jump. The stand-off brings armed guards, Aunts, commanders, and wives, but June is able to convince Janine to give her the baby before Janine jumps off the bridge and plunges into the frozen river.

Season Two has revolved around June’s pregnancy and its effects on the Waterford household. After a failed attempt to escape to Canada and a near miscarriage, June makes a last ditch effort to save her baby by securing promises from both Rita and Aunt Lydia to watch over her child. Their impending separation is all the more brutal when Serena Joy demands that June leaves immediately following the birth, instead of staying on to wean the infant. When June’s contractions begin, the handmaids and wives gather for the birthing ceremony, but it’s a false alarm.

Feeling humiliated by the false alarm, the Waterfords decide to”induce labor” by forcibly raping June as she screams and struggles against them. It’s a horrific and disturbing scene, and afterwards, Commander Waterford gifts June with a “surprise.” The surprise is a clandestine, ten-minute meeting with her estranged daughter Hannah at an isolated mansion.

This is the first time June has seen Hannah since their violent separation in the pilot, and their all-too-brief reunion is profoundly emotional. June is overcome with excitement to see her daughter, but Hannah (now Agnes) cycles through a flurry of emotions during the abrupt meeting. She alternates between being scared, angry, confused, and hurt by her mother’s inexplicable absence.

The scene features on a masterful performance by Elisabeth Moss, who has consistently done amazing work on the series. As Hannah screams for her mother as she is dragged away by her guards, June rushes out and finds the inner strength to comfort her estranged child. She tells Hannah that her parents will always love her, and that she has to stay safe and follow her new family.

The scene is so shockingly relevant in this current political moment, where families are being separated at the border and infants are being placed in custody. In another horrific parallel to the series, Attorney General Jeff Sessions uses Bible quotes to justify the practice, just as the ruling class of Gilead uses Christianity to justify their own hideous system.

Like Margaret Atwood wrote, “The Republic of Gilead knows no bounds. Gilead is within you.” Tragically for us all, Gilead is within us all now.

(image: Hulu)

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7 Comfort Food Films for When the World Is a Dumpster Fire

romy and michele's high school reunion

We’re halfway through the year, and 2018 shows no signs of letting up the breakneck pace of horrific news that we’ve been subjected to since November, 2016. The only thing more brutal than the horrific state of affairs is how quickly we have adapted to it. You know it’s bad when you’re watching The Handmaid’s Tale to wind down from the news. In times like these, it’s easy to feel scared, overwhelmed, anxious, and helpless. Last week, Vivian shared her top seven feel-good TV shows, and it got us all thinking about our pop culture self-care faves. Here’s my list of my top seven comfort films for when the world is a dumpster fire.

1. Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion

romy and michele's high school reunion

This 1997 comedy about two awkward best friends road-tripping to their 10-year high school reunion has become a cult classic, and I’ve always loved it with a fangirlish passion. Romy and Michele features brilliantly funny leading performances from Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow, as well as brilliant supporting cameos from Janeane Garofalo, Alan Cumming, and Camryn Manheim (you can even catch baby Justin Theroux in an early role as Clarence the Cowboy). This film is a must-see for anyone who felt left out or made fun of in high school, and its unabashed celebration of female friendship makes it as heartwarming as it is hilarious.

2. Sense and Sensibility

sense and sensibiity

While there have been countless adaptations of Jane Austen’s beloved novel, Ang Lee’s 1995 award-winning film is considered the gold standard, and with good reason. The film is beautifully shot, the costumes are gorgeous, and the central performances by Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet never fail to choke me up. The script, written by Thompson (who won an Oscar for her work), perfectly captures Austen’s sly and subversive humor with regards to class, marriage, and power. There’s nothing better than curling up with a blanket, a cup of tea, and this movie on DVD.

3. The Brady Bunch Movie and A Very Brady Sequel

christine taylor

If you haven’t seen 1995’s The Brady Bunch Movie and its 1996 followup, A Very Brady Sequel, then you are missing out on two of the funniest, most quotable comedies from the ’90s. Both films lovingly mock the stuck-in-the-’70s family, and the now-dated ’90s setting adds a fun new layer of nostalgia. Plus, both movies are helmed by female directors (Betty Thomas and Arlene Sanford). How can you not like a series that gave us one of the most relevant GIFs of our time? If you don’t believe me, you can take it up with my husband, George Gunther Glass.

4. Tank Girl

lori petty

Tank Girl was ahead of its time. When the adaptation of the cult comic book was released in 1995, audiences didn’t know what to make of a foul-mouthed female anti-hero who drank, smoked, and slept with kangaroos. Hollywood clearly didn’t know what to do with her either, and the movie crashed and burned as a result.

But the film has gained a cult following of ’90s alt girls who swore by the Courtney Love-curated soundtrack and loved Lori Petty’s take-no-prisoners portrayal of Rebecca. This film also had a female director, Rachel Talalay, who has since gone on to direct such geek fare as Sherlock, Doctor Who, and The Flash. Besides, you have to love a comic book movie that stops halfway through for a full-on Cole Porter musical number.

5. A League of Their Own

madonna

Yeah that’s right, two Lori Petty movies in a row. #SorryNotSorry. No feel-good movie list would be complete without Penny Marshall’s heartfelt tribute to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The film is brilliantly funny and features Geena Davis and Tom Hanks in two of their most memorable performances. Even Madonna is good in this movie, you guys; that’s how strong it is. Abbi Jacobsen is adapting the film for a new TV series on Amazon, and we honestly cannot wait.

6. Pleasantville

reese witherspoon

Pleasantville tells the story of a pair of ’90s teens, David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon), who get magically transported to the fictional universe of a ’50s television sitcom. What starts as a wacky fish-out-of-water fantasy turns surprisingly relevant and socially conscious as the teens begin to change the narrative of the fictional town and bring some much needed color (literally and figuratively) to the landscape.

Pleasantville showcases stunningly beautiful special effects and stirring performances from a supporting cast that includes Joan Allen, William H. Macy, and Jeff Daniels. My favorite, however, is Don Knotts’ cameo performance as the sly but sinister television repairman.

7. Singin’ in the Rain

Picking a favorite film is an almost impossible task. How do you compare your favorite comedies to your favorite dramas? How can you stack up an indie darling against a feel-good summer blockbuster? Whenever I’m asking this question, I always come back to the same film. Singin’ in the Rain earns the top spot for me because it is truly joyful to watch.

The 1952 send-up of the Hollywood studio system remains delightfully smart, subversive, and funny 66 years after it came out. With incredible dancing and warm, charismatic performances from Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor, this film functions like cinematic Prozac. Just try to watch it all the way through and not crack a smile at Jean Hagen’s performance; I dare you.

Did your favorite feel-good film make the list? Share yours in the comments!

(image: Touchstone Pictures)

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Is There a Good Argument for Banning Supers in the Incredibles Universe?

Incredibles

**Spoilers for Incredibles 2.**

The Incredibles was a very important movie for me. It was the first movie where I ever understood a sex joke, and it was the first movie that made me think about the realities of living in a world where people with superpowers exist.

The opening of the first Incredibles is, on one hand, a perfect homage to the golden age of superheroes, but much like its darker cousin, Watchmen, it does dabble in the idea of what the reality of living in a superhero-filled world would look like.

Mr. Incredible is being sued over injuries sustained by one of the men he saved, along with people whom he saved in a train crash who were also harmed. While the people filing the lawsuits are not painted as sympathetic, we are meant to empathize with Mr. Incredible and the supers because their existence has been outlawed, but it also raises questions that every superhero franchise has to deal with at some point: Who holds them accountable?

In the world of The Incredibles, it looks like individual governments. However, does that mean that the government pays out to all the people who are injured? How do you file a claim? Do the citizens have superhero insurance? While the movie ends with the Parr family saving the day, it needs to be noted that, as soon as they come on the scene, that’s when the Underminer strikes.

When Incredibles 2 opens, right after the events of the last movie, the family and Frozone do a lot of damage to the town, without catching the bad guys or saving the money. The movie brings up that they would have done less damage by doing nothing, and it’s treated as an absurd statement, but it is ultimately true.

Superheroes do as much damage as they do good, but there are always going to be casualties. The medium of superhero stories usually allows us to not think about those issues as heavily. The number of people who might inadvertently be killed when Batman speeds through traffic blowing up stuff? Don’t think about it. Every time Superman crashes into a building and people are struck under falling rubble? Don’t think about it.

With The Incredibles, while it also has that same shield, it does invite the question to be asked through its premise, which is why their choice of villain in the sequel is so unsatisfying. Evelyn Deavo (voiced by Catherine Keener) wants to keep superheroes illegal because she feels they make people weak and complacent, so she undermines her brother, Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) in his attempts to change the public’s opinion on superheroes.

Her resentment comes from the fact that their father, who was a huge supporter of the heroes and had his very own phone line to them, was murdered by burglars because, instead of going into the panic room, he attempted to call his superhero friends. At the time, superheroes were illegal, so no one came, which caused the death of both of the Deavors parents’.

Now, not to speak ill of the dead, fictional character Evelyn Deavor, but it sounds like your dad was an idiot. It’s such a weak motivation because of course the right thing to do would have been to go to the panic room. I get that it could be explained that she’s taking out her rage against supers because she hasn’t coped with her parents’ death. Still, it’s the kind of motivation that just falls flat.

What would have been interesting, is if the person working to stop supers from coming back was someone who’d actually been hurt by supers, or a child of that person. Then the argument wouldn’t be “superheroes make people lazy,” it would be “superheroes aren’t held accountable for the damage they do.” That’s even touched on when it’s explained that they want to test out this new superhero PR initiative with Elastigirl, instead of Mr. Incredible, because her powers allow her to do less damage.

We know that those kinds of injuries happen, and having a super’s action be directly responsible for the death of someone during a mission would be a much more interesting conflict than what we got in Incredibles 2.

It’s still an awesome movie, though.

What do you guys think? Did you like the villain in Incredibles 2? And has any storyline ever sold you on the idea that heroes should be outlawed and/or regulated?

(image: Disney/Pixar)

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Comics Artist Gorgeously Depicts the Heartbreaking Aftermath of Avengers: Infinity War

Stephen Byrne's After the Snap

Stephen Byrne has created stunning comics panels that imagine what might have come to pass post-Infinity War. My heart hurts.

Byrne, a London-based artist who has worked on titles like Mera: Tidebreaker, Green Arrow, and Justice League of America, uses his skill to explore the Infinity War story in some hugely painful directions with his creation “After the Snap.”

You should follow Byrne, who was kind enough to give us permission to post his work here, on Twitter and Facebook in the hopes that he’ll give us more heart-wrenching gifts like this.

In the first “After the Snap,” which made me gasp, we see the remaining Avengers, Okoye, and Rocket returning defeated—and approaching Shuri, who reads from Okoye’s expression what has happened to her brother T’Challa. It destroys me how everyone is bent under the weight of their losses—even Bruce seems to slump in the Hulkbuster armor.

Do you enjoy pain? Then let’s hop on over to the Spider-Man ‘verse, where a grieving Aunt May is left without even full knowledge of what’s become of her nephew Peter Parker—the TV on behind her has the headline “SPIDER-MAN LAST SEEN PULLED INTO ORBIT.” In the next panel, Ned Leeds looks mournfully at the empty chair in the school cafeteria where his best friend should be.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in New York City, Miles Morales watches in horror as his uncle Aaron Davis (played by Donald Glover in Homecoming) turns into dust. Miles quickly leaps into action.

Carol Danvers, our very own Captain Marvel, is fighting in space when her Skrull foe vanishes before her eyes. Then a confused Carol notices an alert, and she picks up a matching cosmic beeper to the one Nick Fury used to send for her help in the post-credits scene of Infinity War. Carol receives the S.O.S. from Earth.

Traveling into other pockets of the Marvel realm, Byrne shows us Wolverine and Jean Grey finally enjoying a moment of romantic peace—that is until Jean disappears into nothingness as she reaches desperately for Logan. The last panel shows Logan, tears in his eyes and claws out, ready to face whatever has taken her from him.

I got sad chills just writing out the text to go with Byrne’s incredible creations. It’s one thing for us to speculate on the Infinity War aftermath—it’s another to see it rendered in such a beautiful, realistic fashion.

A Twitter user on Byrne’s original thread summed up my emotions nicely:

Which image knocked you over the most? I think for me it’s Shuri, eyes full of tears and hands over her mouth in shock.

(via Stephen Byrne on Twitter, images: Stephen Byrne)

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Which Movies & TV Series Influenced Your “Feminist Agenda”?

Movies & TV That Influences Your Feminist Agenda

The first real movie I ever saw was Beetlejuice. I was five years old and visiting my father at the electronics store where he worked. While he dealt with customers, I sat on the carpeted floor of the showroom and stared up at the big screen for sale. I had never seen anything like Beetlejuice before. Honestly, I don’t even think I had ever seen a movie that wasn’t Big Rock Candy Mountain (by the way, who else remembers that gem?) or some Disney flick. I couldn’t be torn away from the screen. I was immediately taken by the whole feel of it. The dark humor—looking back, most of which went over my head—the way the house looked, Alec Baldwin’s miniatures. Everything was fabulous.

Then Lydia came on the screen, and all I wanted to do was be her friend. Since that first viewing, I’ve seen Beetlejuice at least 100 times, and each time I learned a little more about my “womanhood” through Lydia. During my early childhood, she represented something different. I spent my elementary school years in an all-girls Jewish school where fitting in meant conformity. But Lydia showed me that girls didn’t have to be overtly feminine or dressed up in flowers. Contrary to the pile of Disney VHS tapes in the corner of my bedroom, Lydia showed me that the guy who comes to sweep you off your feet isn’t always a prince, but it doesn’t matter because you don’t need one anyway. 

Winona-Ryder-Lydia-Beetlejuice

Lydia is where it all started for me, but then came films like Matilda that taught me it’s important for little girls to have access to an education, and one of the sharpest tools we have is knowledge. There was also Reggie from Rocket Power, who made me feel okay about wanting to run around with the boys, or ditching my skirts and Mary Janes for red pants that made the most annoying swooshing sound and an array of sneakers. Pepper Ann taught me the same and let me know that there’s more than one way to be a girl and still fit in, if that’s your thing, whereas The Craft taught me that I didn’t have to, it was okay to standout.

Together, these characters not only shaped me as a person, but really shaped how I view feminism—which is that being a woman doesn’t have look any certain way. 

Now that I’ve shared with you, let me know the bits of entertainment you grew up with that shaped your view of feminism or taught you a lesson about following your truth!

(image: Warner Bros)

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The Erasure of Gay Characters Continues in Jurassic World: Fallen Franchise—I Mean Kingdom

Chris Pratt in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

I really don’t know many people who are excited for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. There have been video essays explaining how the Jurassic movie series has failed to live up to the perfection of the first film. Now, I don’t think that every sequel needs to be a perfect film, but it doesn’t mean it has to be so poorly thought out. Even the hilarious “Alan” scene cannot save Jurassic World 3. We got some dope memes though.

Alan Jurassic 3

Still, with all the disappointments that were already being expected for the movie, i09 did the favor of sharing another one: erasing their token gay character’s sexuality from the narrative. The new character is Dr. Zia Rodriguez, an ex-Marine turned paleo-veterinarian, played by Daniella Pineda.

Dr. Rodriguez is brought in with the team to help evacuate the dinosaurs from the island, which is about to explode because—for some reason—they built this park on top of a volcano. Sure, Jan.

According to reviews of the film, it seems like Zia gets to be a very active heroine, which is a good thing. In bad news, we now know that at one point during the movie, she was supposed to confirm being a lesbian—except the part of a scene containing that dialogue was sliced from the final cut.

Danielle Pineda spoke about the scene in an interview:

I look at Chris [Pratt] and I’m like: ‘Yeah, square jaw, good bone structure, tall, muscles. I don’t date men, but if I did, it would be you. It would gross me out, but I’d do it.’ I love that I’m looking at Chris Pratt, the hottest guy in the world, and I’m like, ‘It would gross me out, but I guess I would do it!’ It was also cool, because it was a little insight into my character. But they cut it.

Now, in all fairness, that piece of dialogue is bad. Not only because of how awkward it sounds, but why is the way she’s confirming being a lesbian by talking about the sexiness of a man? I mean Bryce Dallas Howard, with her glorious face and hair-cape, is right there. But I guess it might be offputting to have lesbians exist without at least acknowledging penises. 🙄

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom joins many other films in the “gay on the press tour” faction that includes Solo, Thor: Ragnarok, and others. It’s really annoying that in 2018 (during Pride month no less) that the best creatives can think to do about including queer characters in their series is the old “if I were into dudes” line, which is so pointless that of course it gets cut. I mean, considering Zia is going to an island where all the dinosaurs are female, I’m sure a fun quip could have been made about that.

With all the outrage that has been going on about this ongoing erasure, I’m hoping that Disney, Marvel, Universal, Warner Bros., et al are listening. We don’t want LGBTQ characters to only exist in “gay” movies, especially when they want to share with us Lando was pansexual after the fact. The fact that Deadpool 2 gave us the first MCU gay couple, while still not confirming that Wade is pansexual, is a reminder that it’s one step forward, two steps back.

There is only so long Hollywood can keep blaming China for their choices.

Alan Jurassic 3

(via i09, image: Universal)

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The Incredibles 2 Delivers an Incredible Takedown of Toxic Gender Norms

incredibles 2 poster

When it comes to portraying straight married couples with kids, TV and movie comedies leave a lot to be desired. Too often, women are presented as “do it all” supermoms, and husbands are presented as childlike buffoons, incapable of being responsible parents, more willing to be “fun” than to set limits on their kids. As a result, the moms come off as overbearing, but desperately necessary, and the dads come off as another one of the children (think Modern Family’s Claire and Phil Dunphy in their most broadly drawn moments).

As a teacher of feminism and a straight working mom, I worry about balancing work and home life, about sharing the load with my husband, and about what kinds of messages these portrayals of parenting and marriage are sending to us and our kids about “the way things are.” I teach my students to critically analyze both the “Lean In” exhortations of Sheryl Sandberg and Ann-Marie Slaughter’s famous conclusion that women simply cannot “Have it All” and must learn to make sacrifices.

Then, they go home and learn through television comedy that moms carry all of the mental load and that makes them slightly neurotic, while dads carry none of it, and are hopeless goofballs. As an antidote to this message, The Incredibles 2 stands out as a surprisingly nuanced treatise on the difficulties of balancing childrearing and a career, the strains it places on both partners, and also the joys it can bring even in the midst of strain. The Incredibles 2 gets it right.

When Elastigirl goes back to work full-time, she assumes she is indispensible to the family. She worries about Violet navigating her blossoming adolescent social life, Dash’s academic struggles, and Jack Jack’s need for constant attention. We see her navigate a realistic and difficult choice: She wants to return to the career she finds so fulfilling, but she also wants to be there with her kids, for the trials and the joys of growing up. She assumes her husband cannot fulfill her role at home, and to the movie’s credit, she turns out to be wrong, and she acknowledges her mistake.

Also to the movie’s credit, it never tries to portray her as a “do it all supermom,” even though she is a literal superhero. Instead, it shows her disappointed to have missed a crucial moment at home (“I missed Jack Jack’s first powers?”) and unable to be as present for her kids as she would like (“Mommy can’t talk right now, Dash,” as she’s flying through the streets on a superbike trying to stop a runaway train). She never gets “shrill” or “hysterical” or turns into one of the many familiar “mom” stereotypes. She’s good at her job and also loves and supports her children. Through her character, we see the realistic struggles a mother faces when returning to work, including the necessity of truly relying on her partner and trusting his competency as a parent.

If Elastigirl is a huge improvement on comedy moms, Mr. Incredible is, as Violet so charmingly puts it, a “super” depiction of a dad. He is ambivalent at best about watching his wife head off to do hero work, something he, too, finds personally fulfilling, but he understands that, in this situation, he needs to step in and shoulder the domestic load for the good of the family and their marriage. As we watch him struggle with these new responsibilities, the film walks a beautifully fine line—it gives us plenty of comedy as he works to figure out his new role as primary parent, but it never shades into portraying him as an incompetent buffoon.

Right from the start, he knows to feed his son the non-sugary cereal, he makes sure everyone’s backpack is packed for school, and he understands that each child needs a different kind of support and tries to offer them what they need. Best of all, like all real-life parents, he screws up sometimes. In one of the most realistic moments in the film, he tells one of the kids, “I’m used to knowing what to do,” but now admits that he isn’t sure.

That, in my experience, is parenting in a nutshell. The film doesn’t leave him in this state of uncertainty, though. Instead, it shows him figuring out how to manage Dash’s math homework, apologizing to Violet when he screws up her love life, and—a crucial development in the presentation of TV parents in general—relying on others for support when he needs it. We see him longing to return to his career but also loving the time with his kids. He’s a great dad, he’s a great husband, and his children and his wife acknowledge that.

The Incredibles 2 isn’t just fun, it’s important. It shows one extraordinary family navigating ordinary, everyday struggles, and it does so in a way that is realistic and balanced. It provides a more nuanced discussion of work-life balance and mental load, of parenting and marriage, than most of the seminal texts on this issue, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny.

(image: Disney)

Becca Burnett teaches English, gender, and media studies by day and watches far too many super hero shows by night.  She is the mother of two children whom she hopes to raise with the same critical, savvy, thoughtful outlook on life that she enjoys reading on The Mary Sue.

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Things We Saw Today: You Wanted More Star Trek? Oh, You’re Getting More Star Trek.

picard, patrick stewart, star trek, new

The showrunners of Star Trek: Discovery recently exited the show over allegations of verbal and emotional abuse, but if you were worried that would hinder your Star Trek intake, you need not fear. Producer Alex Kurtzman has taken over not just that series, but he’s also signed a new deal with CBS that could result in multiple new additions to the franchise. According to Varietythose include:

  • A series set at Starfleet Academy from creators Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz. The duo most recently developed the CW’s reboot of “Dynasty” and previously created shows like “Gossip Girl” and Hulu and Marvel’s “Runaways.”
  • A limited series whose plot details are being kept under wraps.
  • A limited series based around the “Wrath of Khan” story. Khan’s full name is Khan Noonien Singh. He was famously portrayed by Ricardo Montalbán in both the original series episode “Space Seed” and again in the film “Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan.” Benedict Cumberbatch then played the character in the 2013 film “Star Trek Into Darkness.”
  • An animated series whose plot details are being kept under wraps.

As if those pitches weren’t exciting enough, The Hollywood Reporter is offering some additional details, relaying a rumor that Patrick Stewart might be onboard to reprise his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. To which we say …

Engage!

  • Ever wonder how a proposed troll boycott actually affects Star Wars creators? It’s not exactly dire. (via Twitter)
  • Speaking of, this is super interesting: Viewing Westworld’s Man in Black as a stand-in for toxic fan culture. (via Den of Geek)
  • Revisiting the complete canon of Octavia Butler. (via Portalist)
  • Because I cannot contain my excitement for the upcoming adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, here are just some pictures of Amy Adams, looking great. (via Go Fug Yourself)
  • Michael B. Jordan is amazed he won the MTV Movie Award for Best Villain, considering Roseanne Barr exists. (But I suppose she’s in television anyway.)

  • I haven’t owned an American Girl doll since my 1990s Molly, but I think I need this in my life:

What did you all see out there today?

(image: CBS)

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What Actual Fresh Hell Is This Review of The Incredibles 2 in The New Yorker?

Incredibles 2

Hey everyone! I found it, the worst thing that you will ever read!

On Twitter, background artist Amanda Wong read New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane’s review of Pixar’s animated smash hit The Incredibles 2 and was kind enough to excerpt it for more mass consumption. “Kind,” but also I can never unsee this.

Here is what Lane had to say about this fun family film in that magazine of record:

Now, you know what, there’s nothing wrong with being attracted to animated characters. This isn’t intended to be a shaming of that. No, what’s mind-bogglingly head-scratching here is why Lane apparently felt the need to include these highly sexualized observations, which have nothing to do with the quality or plot of the film, in his review.

Wait, wait. It gets better, by which I mean vastly, incredibly worse. Here is Lane’s opening sentence of his review:

As a rule, any marriage in which one partner can willingly cry out to the other, “Trampoline me!,” inspires only envy and awe.

Um, okay.

I would remind you that this film is rated PG, Mr. Lane—I’m not sure why your mind keeps going here:

I’m disappointed to report that the action in question is merely the manic pursuit of a gigantic drill that is whirring through a crowded city and demolishing everything in its path, rather than a lazy afternoon in the marital boudoir with the door discreetly shut.

And why you feel the need to tell the reading audience of The New Yorker about it.

At least he doesn’t refer to Elastigirl as wasp-waisted, I think to myself, at least not wasp-waisted, but oh, I thought wrong. For then I continued to read the review.

He is strong and she is stretchy; he is no more vexed by being pummelled by rocks than he would be by stubbing his toe, and she can flatten herself into a human pancake or, though normally waspish of waist, spread her torso into a handy parachute.

Lane goes on, after this auspicious beginning, to wax rhapsodic about his love for the original Incredibles—his attitude toward that film “resembled that of an ancient Egyptian toward the sun god, Ra,” and he manages to use the word “concatenation” and the phrase “sylvan hillside” within the next few paragraphs. This is, you are given to understand, an Intellectual High Brow Film Critic Who Knows Art.

The review continues on apace and somewhat more normally until Lane once again returns to his obsession with Elastigirl and her assets, which allows him to write the words “choked our yearning” (Lane is the first to have used this particular combination of letters, according to google) and to comment on the heroic super-mom’s skintight outfit:

First came “Mad Men,” which boasted its own range of period accoutrements, but which choked our yearning for the suits, the smokes, the frocks, the whiskey tumblers, the Sinatra albums, and the rest of the gear by reminding us of the society that they once adorned, with its oppressions both casual and institutional, and its half-concealed despairs. “Incredibles 2” can scarcely own up to those, not with young children in the audience, but what it can do, even without stating the dilemma, is to offer a solution. Hence the sight of Helen, accelerating off to work, away from her justly abandoned man, in her black mask, her long tall boots, and her empowering outfit, as tight as a second skin.

After that, he launches into the paragraph that Wong highlighted above. I call your attention again to this:

Because Mommy just leaned over to Daddy and whispered, “Is it just me, or does Mrs. Incredible kind of look like Anastasia in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey?’ You know, the girl in the Red Room, with the whips and all?” And Daddy just rested his cooling soda firmly in his lap and, like Mr. Incredible, tried very hard to think of algebra. As for how Daddy will react later on, during the scene in which Helen and the husky-voiced Evelyn unwind and simply talk, woman to woman, I hate to think, but watch out for flying popcorn.

You know what, there’s debate about what this last sentence even means amongst the Mary Sue staff, but none of the options are great. Is Daddy doing something inappropriate with the popcorn? Is Mommy throwing popcorn at Daddy because he’s so aroused by the mere sight of two women speaking together onscreen that he must be castigated? I feel like I need to douse my eyes in bleach. I’m sorry for making you consider these questions.

I have a few more quick questions for The New Yorker: what in the actual fresh hell is this review, and how are Lane’s comments remotely appropriate or related to Pixar’s The Incredibles 2? How did this get published without revision in what’s supposed to be one of the most scrupulously fine-combed and finely edited publications around?

I need to go lie down.

(via The New Yorker, image: Pixar)

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Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Review: Kindness Shouldn’t Feel This Subversive

WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR, mister rogers, documentary

For more than three decades, Fred Rogers brought kindness and compassion into children’s lives through his television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. As one of the millions of children watching, I know I was deeply affected by his presence, but I, like so many other young people, couldn’t possibly have realized just how profound, and even how subversive his work was.

That’s the message of the new documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor, which is almost remarkable in its simplicity. It doesn’t seek to make any big revelations about its subject. Rather, it retells a story we all already lived through, for an audience that is now able to appreciate what that experience and the man behind it truly meant.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor tells Rogers’ story starting from his struggle over the decision between joining the seminary vs. this newfangled television thing he was so drawn to. At that time, in the mid-1960s, children’s programming wasn’t really a thing. It’s powerful to watch Rogers describe in his own words what it was he thought he could provide to children, not sure if the ideas made sense to anyone but him, with us, the audience, knowing what the next 30+ years of his career would look like and just how right he was. This moment, like so many others throughout the film, reads like a love letter to Rogers. But for its entirety, the fawning manages to stay genuine, never forced or cloying or saccharine.

Like many biopic documentaries, a central question that keeps coming up, and one that much of the audience is likely hoping to have answered, is “Was he the man he appeared to be on television?” Could a man really be that kind, that patient, that invested in the emotional wellbeing of every individual child he’s never met? The answer is a firm yes. While that may sound like an unexciting premise for a movie–just a kind man expressing gentle love–that’s the exact story of the TV show. As we hear in the film, “If you take all of the elements that make good television and do the exact opposite, you have Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Rogers wasn’t interested in cashing in on the ideas that so many others thought were necessary to hook children–the action, the clowning, the dumbing-down or over-stimulation–and neither is the documentary.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor is the story of Fred Rogers’ television career, told by the people who worked alongside him. There are a couple of celebrity friends (like Yo-Yo Ma, with some great stories), but mostly, we hear from his family, his producers, his co-stars, and the like. Again, the point isn’t so much to expose any hidden realities or even to “humanize” Rogers, but more to confirm that he was already as human as can be. If he seemed too good to be true, maybe we’ve set our standards too low.

For fans of Rogers, who have fallen down internet rabbit holes of his life stories, the anecdotes told here will likely already be familiar. The film touches on some of the corners of Rogers’ lore, addressing the fantastical stories–stories of full-sleeve arm tattoos and a military background–made up out of disbelief that a man could really be this wholesome. And not every story contributes to the overall portrait of perfection. (One in particular about his refusal to allow a gay co-star to come out publically hits especially hard.) But those incidents reinforce his humanity. Because he wasn’t perfect. But he was good and kind he loved you, even if he’d never met you. This movie’s ultimate message, like Rogers’ himself, seems to be simply that that shouldn’t be so hard to believe.

(image: Jim Judkis / Focus Features)

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