“It’s Okay to Admit That Life Is Terrifying”: Michelle Wolf on Mental Health in the Wake of Celebrity Suicides

Comedian Michelle Wolf had a brilliant segment on The Break with Michelle Wolf about how much our culture of pretending everything is fine and dandy contributes to silence about our own mental health and the stigma around mental illness.

In discussing the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, Wolf makes some hugely valid points about the societal pressure to present your life as being perfect. Wolf notes:

“How can we expect to have an honest conversation about anything if we’re always supposed to seem flawless? Looking at social media, you’d think our lives are just sun-kissed beaches and calorie-free avocado toast, when most of the time it’s piles of dirty laundry on top of piles of clean laundry.”

“All of our selfies are lies,” she points out, but as we watch other people’s lives go past on all we often see are their ski getaways, beaming partners and children, and picture-perfect poses. We forget how often those poses took twenty different photography attempts, and how frequently smiles can mask intense pain underneath. As a culture, we’re used to presenting our best facade for public consumption, while revealing how dark or depressed we may be feeling can be fraught territory.

“We’re all just walking around, answering the question ‘how are you?’ with ‘good,’” she says. Whereas you might actually be filled with existential dread: “No, I’m not good. Haven’t you seen the nightmare fish? Also, space goes on for infinity!’”

Her main message here: “Let’s make it okay to admit that you’re not doing great, and really listen to other people when they admit they’re not either. ‘How’s it going today?’ ‘Well, I’ve been thinking about 9/11 non-stop and both of my legs hurt.’ ‘Oh! I just cried in my car for twenty minutes thinking about how dogs can’t tell you when they’re sick. Also, space goes on for infinity.’

“But if we can admit that we’re not always happy and our lives may not be as perfect as they appear, maybe it will pave the way for us to talk more openly about things like depression,” Wolf says, suggesting a small step forward everyone can take: the next time you’re posting a selfie, “use the hashtag #ifeelalittlebad. Also, in the spirit of being honest, post the number of times you tried taking the photo.”

You know what? I’m going to try it.

(via TV Line, image: Netflix/screengrab)

If you feel you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is a free, 24-hour hotline, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It is a free, 24/7 service that can provide suicidal persons or those around them with support, information and local resources.

The Trevor Project is a national 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth. Call the TrevorLifeline. We are always here: 1-866-488-7386.

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How Black Television Taught Me About Juneteenth

Donald Glover and Zazie Beetz in Atlanta (2016)

June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, is the holiday that marks the official end of slavery in America. I first learned about it on October 3rd, 2017. That’s when black-ish did an episode about it.

Juneteenth celebrates the day that slavery was officially abolished in Texas: June 19, 1865, which was two years after the emancipation proclamation and months after the Civil War’s end, because Texas farmers were not giving up their free labor right before harvest season. Capitalism!

Juneteenth was then initially celebrated by free Texas blacks, but eventually spread to other black Americans. It became an official holiday in Texas in 1979. 42 states and Washington, DC recognize the holiday, but it still does not have the widespread knowledge of other holidays. Black television is slowly changing that.

Just like how years ago The Proud Family helped teach me about Kwanza, the black media of today is teaching everyone about Juneteenth and what a repass is.

Yet it also highlights how incomplete we are as a country that despite the fact that we live amongst so many cultures, and have for generations, it takes having social media and television to really get these holidays portrayed well outside of the news. It is sad and ridiculous that after growing up in a majority black area and living in a place as diverse as New York City, my only recollection of knowing what Juneteenth came a year ago.

In the black-ish episode, Dre laments that the holiday is “a 150-year-old tradition that no one’s heard about, not even my black kids.”

Because of how vast the African Dyaspora (or diaspora) is, many of us, while bound in many ways by the remnants of colonization and the remnants of white supremacy, the “black experience” varies greatly. It depends on where you were born, where your parents were born, and where you grew up. Having been raised in Brooklyn by two West Indian immigrant parents, and in a neighboorhood that was mostly first-generation black, I had no idea what Juneteenth was. I wasn’t brought up in the “black church.” And we didn’t celebrate Kwanza. Our holidays and traditions were different.

Now that we have black shows, written and staring black people that are less concerned with assimilation to ideal and more about telling their own stories, there is more room to learn about each other’s cultures in new ways. I think we all sometimes fall into traps of viewing cultures and countries in a monolith—even though we should know better (this author included), and the advent of having people of color telling their own stories will be the thing that helps change that mold.

Before the black-ish episode, there was Atlanta‘s episode “Juneteenth,” which came out a year before black-ish and while it was not an educational episode, it still worked to normalize the idea that we can do episodes like this on different holidays. Fresh off the Boat‘s Chinese New Year episode was the first time I’d ever seen the holiday treated in such a normalized way on American television.

Even just watching the newest season of Luke Cage for review and seeing Jamaican culture treated in such a respectful way made me emotional, because there are only so many bad accents and men in Rasta beenies you can watch. Bushmaster even dressed like a Jamaican and it made me smile because I could see that someone cared about doing it right.

So when I watch entertainment made by African-Americans whose culture is steeped in the black American experience of cattle slavery, it is both uplifting and teaching. Uplifting, because we share in the history of slavery, although in different parts of the Americas, and whenever I see a black person succeed, regardless of what they come in the Dyaspora, it feels good. Teaching, because there is still a lot we often don’t know about each other. Geography shapes culture, regardless of race, and so when I hear about traditions of black Baptists in the South, it is a new black experience for me that I’m learning about my people.

And if I’m learning, that means other people are too.

(image: FX)

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10 Star Wars Spinoffs I’d Rather See Than Solo: A Star Wars Story

Donald Glover is Lando Calrissian in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY.

It’s that time of year again! Once again, another braggart is up to bat with a shocking revelation: Lando Calrissian is pansexual. You know, just like how Beauty and the Beast’s LeFou is totally gay because we were told it was so, instead of actually putting it in the movie in a substantive way.

I’m not seeing Solo: A Star Wars Story because I’m sick of feeling exploited by the movies I go out to see.

When Star Wars: The Force Awakens was first announced in 2012, I was as excited as anyone else. (Keep in mind, this was somewhat Pre-Reboot!Boom Hollywood, so the expectations were a little different.) Shortly following the big announcement was a roadmap of release dates for titles paired with a string of directors: J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, Colin Trevorrow, and Gareth Edwards. With the exception of Phil Lord & Chris Miller, it was all folks who had directed these kinds of movies before.

Right out of the gate, the bar was set low. Already, this was becoming just another expanded universe blockbuster gambit directed by men who already did this kind of work.

Here’s what on our plate right now: an Abrams-helmed Episode IX, a full Rian Johnson trilogy, a Jon Favreau TV show, a possible Solo trilogy, a Boba Fett spinoff, and an Obi-Wan spinoff. It’s enough to make me want to plug in that weird Podracing game for the N64 and ram into walls for hours on end while sobbing uncontrollably.

Unless that Boba Fett project is going to be a 127 Hours-esque film about Boba in the Sarlaac Pit, I am very disinterested in what’s to come. Making a movie about Han Solo, a character that does not demand an origin story, is one of the least inspired decisions to come from Kathleen Kennedy’s crew.

Rather than these anthology films expanding the universe, they are contracting it. Year by year, Star Wars crumples into another template for a tried and true formula of action movies. The creators of this film morph into the current creative culture: cishet white guys lounging around at press junkets bragging about how inclusive they are.

The “reveal” of a pansexual Lando feels like such a slap in the face, and that is why I am here. I am going to spit some stories off the cuff to you and weave for a better Star Wars EU.

One that includes such favorite characters as Elan Sleazebaggano and Fodesandbeed.

bea arthur star wars holiday special

Just One More Round, Friends: A Star Wars Story

“Run a tab for the Empire.” -Bea Arthur

Director: Tommy Kail

Everyone remembers the classic scene from the Star Wars Holiday Special where Bea Arthur sings and dances, offering one round on the house to all of her Mos Eisley patrons as the Empire shuts her bar down. Of course, Bea Arthur is no longer with us, but Betty White could fill in! Or Don Cheadle! (He was kind of the replacement of Bea for The Golden Girls’ sequel show The Golden Palace, after all.)

We never actually feel the wrath of the Empire beyond the desolation of random planets … or in the Holiday Special, where the Empire has imposed a curfew on this planet and everyone must leave Bea’s bar.

We need a bad guy, and we need a fight. Bea Arthur would never let the Empire trample all over her, so let’s see it—a Stonewall of sorts. Who threw the first brick? Why Marsha G. Eonosian Jawason, of course!

clones in star wars

The Clone Wars: A Star Wars Story

“We’re not programmed. You have to learn to make your own decisions.” -Captain Rex

Director: Dave Filoni

While the Clone Wars CG show from 2008 often clumsily came to a screeching halt in its socio-political territory, due to its target audience being very young, it still traversed to the war grounds and planets that were surprisingly absent from the Star Wars prequels.

The structural problem of the prequels is that there is no second act. Phantom Menace is no introduction, and the second and third movies merely serve as the beginning and end. Had the Clone Wars been included as the heart of the series, maybe we would have felt something, but it’s too late to return to Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor.

While the clones were merely expendable in the movies, they were individualized in the television show, with their own designs and quirks, despite all being played by the same actor, Dee Bradley Baker. Somehow, the writers were able to create a full cast of characters from the same exact template.

Why did the Clones turn on the Jedi so quickly? What were they feeling?

count dooku in star wars

Twice the Pride, Double the Fall: A Star Wars Story

Your swords please … we wouldn’t want to make a mess of things in front of the Chancellor.” -Count Dooku

Director: Luca Guadagnino

The novelized version of Revenge of the Sith, by Matthew Stover, dug into Count Dooku’s character in a way that the movies failed to approach. He was not just the Padawan of Yoda and Master of Qui-Gon Jinn, but a representation of the aristocracy, and he felt so small leaving his position of power and prestige to be a mere pawn for Sheev. (That’s ol’ Palpy.)

What could realistically turn one from the Jedi way? What is the seduction that would breach the defenses of one so privileged and well-off? George Lucas was attempting to create something of an atypical examination of light and dark with the prequel trilogy, but found his vision muddied by a convoluted story and incredibly racist stereotypes that gutted his commentary on toxic masculinity.

Anakin was seduced by the Dark Side because of forbidden intimacy that he could not let go of. Darth Maul was seduced because, well … he was a scary looking guy, what else was he gonna do?

But Dooku is remarkably unsympathetic. He is motivated by egomania, a lust for power, and a desire for greatness, but he already had everything, so what was it that made him surrender his Jedi Knighthood? Was it not enough? What does the Dark Side of the Force actually offer?

I don’t know. You could ask the same thing of the alt-right out there.

palpatine and anakin in star wars

Have You Ever Heard the Star Wars Story of Darth Plageuis the Wise?

“Not from a Jedi.” -Sheev Palpatine

Director: Ava DeVernay

The Tragedy of Darth Plageuis the Wise is the foundation of Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side, the infamous scene heavily implying that Palpatine manipulated the Midichlorians to create …

… life. Thus making him the Holy Father to Schmi’s Mary.

Luke nearly murdering Kylo in his sleep in The Last Jedi was clearly an echo of the terrible deed Sheev performed that one sour eve to his master, Plageuis.

The Tragedy of Darth Plageuis the Wise is the summation of the conflict between Dark Side and Light. Darth Plageuis could create life and stop death—something the Jedi do not value. The Sith have a sanctity for life that the Jedi do not.

Qui-Gon Jinn and Mace Windu were characters that we hoped to be fun and lively, but were instead wooden and soulless. What was intended to be read as a signal that all was not right with the Jedi instead came off as hilariously bad directing paired with a flagrant misuse of great talent.

This film could save that and dig into the complicated masculine ideals of good and bad that Lucas attempted to dig into.

That and Ian McDiarmid was a nut in Revenge of the Sith, and we gotta get give him foCUS. Make him stronGER.

GOOOOOoooooooooood …

watto in star wars

Watto’s Junkyard: A Star Wars Story

“I’m a Toldarian! Mind tricks don’t work on me, only money!” -Watto

Director: Bong Joon-ho

We all remember Fodesinbeed Annoude, the two-headed announcing guy from Phantom Menace! He’s great!

Jabba the Hutt has a far reach on Tatooine, shows his ugly mug just about everywhere, and demands the utmost respect.

Watto’s Junkyard will be a dive into the capitalism of Jabba the Hutt’s empire and an insight into the unusual world of two-headed announcing. We’ll watch Fode and Beed grow together and bond over their mutual love for shouting names to a coliseum. We’ll see their seedy connection with the criminal underworld deepen over time, as what first seemed like a great gig becomes something more malicious.

But we haven’t even talked about Watto yet! How could I forget?

Don’t you just love this guy? Everyone’s favorite elephantine anti-semitic stereotype. The black market guy. The Toldarian that mind tricks just don’t work on. He’s the guy, our gateway in to the under-dealings of Tatooine outside of Jabba’s Palace.

Watto’s Junkyard is a story about a vile gangster who uses a whole army of entertainers to get his people to turn a blind eye. False promises and systemic oppression. A populous fooled by distraction and lulled into complacency. Plus Fodesinbeed. And Watto.

obi wan in star wars

Dexter’s Diner: A Star Wars Story

“Well … whadaya knooooow?” -Dexter Jettster

Director: Taika Waititi

What would it be like to own a restaurant in the Star Wars universe?

It seems like nearly half of the characters are either Jedi or Rebels or Soldiers or Bounty Hunters. Especially in the prequel trilogy, where it’s a hyper-capitalist and amoral place where death is a commonality. That would have to mess you up, but we don’t really see that world very much in existing movies. They’re mostly about the action stars. Everyone else is background, obliterated by Death Star boom boom beams in a matter of seconds—set decoration, really.

Enter Dexter Jettster, famed manager at Dexter’s Diner. An alien in ill-fitting clothing, Dexter comes across as a buffoon. We wonder as Obi-Wan marches in: Why Dexter? What is it about this creature that warrants visitation, Obi-Wan?! Come on, get to work! Don’t sit down and get a Jawa Juice.

But Dexter held the key to Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones; he knew about the Clones. Not even Yoda knew about the Clones.

Dexter has surely seen it all: chancellors, generals, surveillance droids, Hutts, Obi-Wans. What is it like to be that guy? I would love to watch Dexter’s staff grow and develop with the changing tides of the Republic as it morphs into the Empire.

rancor in star wars

Call of the Rancor: A Star Wars Story

“*sob*” -Malakili

Director: Werner Herzog

Remember when Luke murders the Rancor in cold blood? Tossing a stone into some button on the wall, the metal gate slams shut on the Rancor’s head, the mighty beastie’s final thoughts surely regarding the buffoonery that led him to this? Adding insult to injury, we as viewers are forced to endure the sight of Malakili the Rancor Tamer looking on in shock and dismay. Tears fall from his eyes as he wraps an arm around one of those pig guys.

The Rancor was a creature many of us might frame as a generic monster in a long line of insidious beasties, but nay! The Rancor had a friend. George Lucas included this scene to say that everyone loves someone.

We are in a time of political turmoil. Our current administration is somehow less subtle than Emperor Palpatine. It’s easy to forget about blurred lines and to fall into our polarizing binary of good and evil. Call of the Rancor is a film that takes two standard, run-of-the-mill baddies and tells us a story about love. Training the Rancor must have been no easy feet after all, and something transpired at some point in their relationship that led to the weeping shirtless man we saw in the first act of Return of the Jedi.

greedo in star wars

Who Shot First: A Star Wars Story

“Going somewhere, Solo?” -Greedo

Director: Jean-luc Goddard

A film that requires a little bit of a retcon, but hey, Maul is already back from the dead and everything, I guess, so … yeah. We’re all okay if we bring Greedo back for a bit, right?

That’s right, Greedo, the ill-fated alien used as a prop to demonstrate the badass gusto of Han Solo in A New Hope. And this time, he’s back from the dead, baby.

But he doesn’t know how—or, more importantly, who shot first?

Who Shot First: A Star Wars Story is a meta-film about the infamous special editions that tarnished so much of what was historically classic. Stuff like …

  • Obi-Wan Kenobi scaring the shit out of some Sand People by screaming like death itself—or, rather, a Krayt Dragon.
  • Jar Jar Binks having the last line of the Original Trilogy, shouting “Weesa free!” during the celebration.
  • Ghost Hayden Christensen taking the place of … some guy we haven’t really seen before, in the final celebration scene. (Yes, I know it’s Sebastian Shaw.)
  • Darth Vader shouting “NO!” in a bizarre panic while Emperor Palpatine electrifies Vader’s son.

This film would be a meditation on the relationship between art and artist. Lucas made these changes not to taint his work, but to bolster it. Yes, he made a few bad calls, but ultimately, he did it because he was probably unable to sleep at night otherwise. He did the thing any artist with a modicum of hubris and endless resources would have done. Perhaps throw in a meta, Lego Movie-esque framing, and you’ve got yourself a picture.

And who better for the job than the French New Wave himself, Jean-luc Goddard?

vader house mustafar in star wars

The High Ground: A Star Wars Story

“What? How can you do this? This is outrageous, it’s unfair! I’m more powerful than any of you. How can you [have a Jedi Padawan] and not be declared a Master?” -Anakin “Annie” Skywalker

Director: Hideakki Anno

Ahsoka Tano is Anakin’s Padawan from the Clone Wars TV show, and while she takes some getting used to, she’s one of the highlights of the series. She works on that hyper-emotional and rebellious model of Anakin Skywalker, but is able to convert her passion into good. Things don’t work out so well for her with the Jedi, and by the end of the series, she’s exiled from them.

The concept of Darth Vader having an apprentice from his old life who wants to change him would be a fantastic story to set up the themes of Return of the Jedi. One of the few things that I actually liked about Rogue One was the imagery of Darth Vader’s fortress, seated on top the infamous “High Ground” on Mustafar from Revenge of the Sith. Vader draws power from the home of his greatest pain.

We don’t need to hear James Earl Jones’ rockin’ voice to tell us this story. Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side was a very ambitious project to take on. While Hayden Christensen’s line delivery was lacking, he sold us the story on his physicality. His stiff body told us the story of a little boy scared of the powerful titans around him. His soft voice crinkling into abrupt hatred was powerful, but wasn’t entrusted with telling the whole story.

Rather than using Vader as Rogue One did, it would be wise to tell this war on Anakin’s soul through visual motifs like the tower and pathos of Ahsoka.

obi wan death sticks

Going Home and Rethinking My Life: A Star Wars Story

“I don’t want to sell you Death Sticks. I want to go home and rethink my life.” -Elan Sleazebaggano

Director: Lynne Ramsay

The planet Coruscant, in the prequel trilogy, represents a dark underbelly to this galaxy far, far away. It’s home to the Jedi Temple, but why there? While the Temple is regal and rife with legacy, the city below is suffering. We never see the good side of Coruscant, a scummier and even more villainous domain than Mos Eisely. Is the Jedi Temple’s position there an act of performative allyship?

Enter Elan Sleazebaggano, the Death Stick salesman who’s warded off by Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Through his redemption arc, we will be intellectually challenged and captivated through his struggle to shatter the expectations of the high society that holds him down. It will remind us of who we can become if we dare to try. Or find ourselves under a helpful Jedi Mind Trick.

But then, hark! The Senate crumbles as it shifts into the first Galactic Empire. Times are so hard that Elan reverts to selling Death Sticks and such. It’s sad. Heavy and then—hark again!

Walking through the dirty streets of Coruscant past curfew, Elan stumbles into an old fan-favorite, a character that faded from the prequels very quickly.

Jar Jar Binks! Everyone’s favorite washed up Delegate to the Galactic Senate. Used up and tossed aside like every other frog-eyed idealist, Jar Jar finds himself in big doo doo again, and ends up as a street performer. (And that’s canon.)

His mobile arthouse becomes the perfect venue for Death Sticks, and then—connection.

Jar Jar and Elan. The Gungan and the Balosar. Can these two knuckleheads redeem themselves? I think so.

(images: Lucasfilm)

Katrina Jagelski is a Star Wars-loving memester, writer, and LGBT rights activist based in Los Angeles.  She’s been getting a lot of mileage writing about her high school bullies for the past year and has shown no signs of stopping. You can read more from her on her WordPress blog: Unapologetically Meatwad.

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Greg Universe, Uncle Iroh, & More: 9 Great Father Figures in TV Animation

StevenUniverse_Greg

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and Chelsea wrote an excellent post about the bad dads in sci-fi and fantasy. All in all, dads sort of get a bad rap in most mediums, but there are, without a doubt, some good ones out there, even if they don’t always know what they’re doing. I tried to pick a collection of men who are fathers, sometimes not biologically, in the sense that they help their children on their path to growth in loving ways.

Greg Universe (Steven Universe)

greg universe

I’m new to the world of Steven Universe, but I love Greg so much. He’s a great dad, knowing when to step aside and let the Gems take the lead in Steven’s life, and while he has weak moments of insecurity, because he’s human, he works on those flaws. He wants to be the best father to Steven, in whatever form that may be.

Uncle Iroh (Avatar: The Last Airbender)

(via: Nick)

Excluding a few Fire Lords, the world of Avatar is filled with a lot of great and well-meaning dads. However, Uncle Iroh takes the cake. From season one, Iroh has worked to soothe the anger inside his nephew, Prince Zuko. He lost his own son in the war and, as a result, understands loss and works to correct the mistakes of his nation.

Bob Belcher (Bob’s Burgers)

(via: Fox)

Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin … they have moments of being “okay” dads, but with their flaws so exaggerated for the sake of comedy, it’s hard to call them “good.” Bob Belcher, however, has always been an awesome dad, and despite sometimes being underappreciated by his kids, he loves them fully and will go to extremes in order to make them happy. As the son of an emotionally distant/abusive father, he no doubt works to avoid his father’s mistakes, and it shows.

Hollyhock’s Dads (Bojack Horseman)

(via: Netflix)

Hollyhock, who we’re introduced to in Season 4 of Bojack Horseman, is suspected to be Bojack’s biological daughter. She’s really on a search for her mother, because as she reiterates, she already has eight dads. While they don’t get much screen time, they make the list as a group, for being supportive of their daughter’s desire to find her biological parents.

Phil Shortman (Hey Arnold!)

grandpaphil

(via: Nick)

Arnold’s parents are missing throughout the series, but you don’t feel the loss because Arnold has his fantastic grandparents, who provide him with all the love and care he could need. Grandpa Phil is always there with advice and a good story, not to mention he supports his grandson’s creativity and altruistic nature.

Dale Gribble (King of the Hill)

(via Fox)

Dale is a mess, but one of the things that has always endeared me to his character is how much he loves Joseph. One of my favorite episodes is when Dale tries to stop aliens from taking his son. Dale may be too oblivious to realize Joseph isn’t his kid, but that doesn’t stop him from loving and protecting his son. They are also so much alike it could be a case study in nature vs nurture.

Piccolo (Dragon Ball Z)

Everyone’s favorite black dad. But in all seriousness, the relationship between Gohan and Piccolo is one of the best familial relationships on the show. Goku, though I love him so much, is a deadbeat dad to the degree that even Vegeta is better. Vegeta. Gohan and Piccolo have a great bond, and despite all the flaws of GT, the scene where Piccolo “mind calls” Gohan before his death is one of the best scenes in the series. Piccolo is the Yondu of Dragon Ball.

Stu Pickles (Rugrats)

(via: Nick)

Stu is just a solid guy and a solid dad who works hard to provide for his family, but still ends up getting emotionally abused by his niece.

Bob Parr, a.k.a. Mr. Incredible (The Incredibles)

(via Disney/Pixar)

While we mostly stuck to television cartoon dads, we couldn’t help but add in Bob Parr. He was a great dad in the first Incredibles and really grows as a father even more in the second film.

Who are some of your favorite cartoon dads?

(via: Cartoon Network)

(image: Cartoon Network)

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Incredibles 2 Has the Biggest Animated Film Debut of All Time

Incredibles 2 review

Incredibles 2 has been getting great reviews (like this one from our own Vivian) and viewers say it’s worth the wait. Apparently, viewers couldn’t wait to watch the family in action again, as the 14-years-in-the-making sequel reportedly earned approximately $180 million this weekend, overtaking the studio’s Finding Dory, which earned around $135 million its opening weekend two years ago.

It’s not surprising: the film is a much-anticipated Pixar sequel, a superhero movie, a summer release, etc. Incredibles 2 is also the third largest opening this year, just behind two other superhero movies: Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther!

There is, however, a demographic that didn’t likely make it to the theaters last weekend. A memo has been going around in theaters about how the film has scenes that’ll be dangerous for those with photosensitive epilepsy. While it’s great that theaters are taking note, a fact that’ll hopefully make them more aware of this in the future (there are plenty of other films or even trailers with triggering lights that don’t give warnings or consideration), it’s very telling that the warnings were mostly spread by concerned viewers and not the studios first—more broadly, the industry needs to be more conscious towards those with epilepsy. It’s considerate, but also just a better business practice!

(via Vulture, image: Disney/Pixar)

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Last Week Tonight Tackles the Separation of Children and Parents at the Border, Kim-Trump, & China

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With the week we’ve had, it’s no surprise that yesterday’s Last Week Tonight had a lot to touch on: the episode went through everything from Chuck Schumer’s go-to graduation speech to Trump’s relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, to the main story, which talked about Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

To begin with Trump’s friendliness with Kim, John Oliver says, “I’m not going to say that part of Trump’s admiration for Kim is that he wishes he could be a dictator. I’m going to let him say that.” The statement is followed by clip of Trump talking about Kim at the White House. Trump calls the dictator, “the head of a country, and I mean he’s the strong head…He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

Yes, that was an incredibly ominous and terrifying statement. In case you missed it, “the President of the United States expressed the wish the people of the United States would model themselves after the malnourished population of North Korea,” says the host.

The show also addressed one of the most dire, upsetting, and urgent stories in the United States news now: the separation of children from their parents at the border. Oliver talks about the new policy put into action by Jeff Sessions, and the excuses Trump has made about democrats giving them the laws. “There is no law that suddenly requires separating parents from their children”, sys the host, “This was the result of a deliberate policy choice by Jeff Sessions. A man so small, and this is true, that he can wear a raspberry as a hat.”

He also takes Sessions to task for citing the Bible, which is not a government document, and his use of a passage commonly cited to justify slavery. (“I know, you’re probably thinking he wouldn’t align himself with slave owners, not even accidentally – not Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of Alabama!”)

The main story on China (“the place Trump has been ranting about for years”) is a dive into some of the “head-spinningly” fast changes the nation has gone through in recent years: economic growth, the overturn of presidential limits, Xi’s cult of personality (and paranoia revealed under the surface, notably in his sensitivity about being compared with Winnie the Pooh), a crackdown on human rights, and the ambitious Belt and Road project.

Taking a page from China’s propaganda book, the episode ends with a musical parody of the Belt and Road children’s song (“Kommunist Kars 4 Kids”) that includes lyrics like “He’d rather shield from you/The shitty things they do” and a rap break about human rights violations.

(image: screencap)

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AMC, NBC and San Diego Comic-Con Distance Themselves from Chris Hardwick in Response to Assault Allegations

The fallout of Chloe Dykstra’s Medium article continues as networks and brands continue to distance themselves from alleged abuser Chris Hardwick. AMC has pulled the second season premiere of Talking with Chris Hardwick and has cancelled his upcoming appearances at next month’s San Diego Comic-Con.

AMC released a statement in the response to the allegations, saying, “We have had a positive working relationship with Chris Hardwick for many years. We take the troubling allegations that surfaced yesterday very seriously. While we assess the situation, Talking with Chris Hardwick will not air on AMC, and Chris has decided to step aside from moderating planned AMC and BBC America panels at Comic-Con International in San Diego next month.” Hardwick, a Hall H staple, was set to moderate several panels, including the first Comic-Con panel of the first female Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker.

Hardwick himself has responded to the allegations, saying:

“I was heartbroken to read Chloe’s post. Our three year relationship was not perfect—we were ultimately not a good match and argued—even shouted at each other—but I loved her, and did my best to uplift and support her as a partner and companion in any way and at no time did I sexually assault her.

“When we were living together, I found out that Chloe cheated on me, and I ended the relationship. For several weeks after we broke up, she asked me to get back together with me and even told me she wanted to have kids with me, ‘build a life’ with me and told me that I was ‘the one,’ but I did not want to be with someone who was unfaithful.

I’m devastated to read that she is now accusing me of conduct that did not occur. I was blindsided by her post and always wanted the best for her. As a husband, a son, and future father, I do not condone any kind of mistreatment of women.”

In addition to AMC, NBC is also distancing itself from Hardwick, who hosted the game show The Wall for the network. NBC released a statement saying, “Production on The Wall does not begin until September, and in the meantime we are continuing to assess the situation and will take appropriate action based on the outcome.”

While Hardwick’s wife Lydia Hearst has remained silent, his mother-in-law Patty Hearst, the famed kidnapping victim and heiress, has released some cryptic posts on her social media accounts.

(via Deadline, Hollywood Reporter, image: Jesse Grant/Getty Images for AMC)

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Gal Gadot Debuts First Image of Her Wonder Woman 1984 Costume

Gal Gadot released the first image of herself in the Wonder Woman outfit on the set of Wonder Woman 1984 today on Twitter. The outfit looks very similar to the one she rocked in the original film, only shinier, but that may be a trick of the light. Or maybe Diana is partaking in that wacky modern invention known as dry cleaning.

There seem to be only the subtlest of difference in the costume, which seems mostly identical. Gadot is even rocking the leather hand wraps from her time in World War I. The sequel to the smash hit film is currently shooting in Georgetown, where the streets are filled with extras in 80’s garb. Filming also took place at the infamous Watergate Hotel, lending credence to the theory that 1984 will be more of a spy thriller than a war movie.

Speaking of Wonder Woman fashions, the internet nearly lost its damn mind over Chris Pine rocking a fanny pack in early images:

The film also stars Kristen Wiig as famous Wonder Woman adversary Cheetah, as well as Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) in an unnamed role. Wonder Woman 1984 is slated to be released on November 1st, 2019. While it’s a long time to wait for the highly anticipated sequel, it’s still delightful to see the cast and crew enjoying themselves on set. Especially Chris Pine in that fanny pack.

(image: DC Entertainment)

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The Queer Eye Guys Explain Why They (Mostly) Don’t Talk Politics on the Show

In season one of the Queer Eye reboot, the Fab Five met men of Atlanta and the surrounding suburbs in an effort to improve their lives. While I’m sure many viewers were able to see this as apolitical entertainment, for others, the elephant in the room was the knowledge that a number of these men and their families were likely staunch Republicans who had voted for Trump and support an administration that has actively targeted the LGBTQ and other marginalized communities.

In a recent video interview with Vulture, featured above, the guys say they’re “not good at keeping [their] opinion to [them]selves,” but they also explain why you don’t see them asking these men about their voting records.

As Jonathan Van Ness puts it, “When I’m in there trying to talk to you about your receding hairline or how you’ve never worn your hair in a different way or whatever, I will not probably take that opportunity to address the fact that you are probably a rabid Republican.”

Still, one of the most memorable scenes from season one was the discussion between Karamo Brown and their white police officer makeover subject about his experience with the police, in an episode where the audience witnessed him being pulled over. He says his experience on the show is the opposite of Jonathan’s.

“For me,” he says, “being the culture guy, I leaned into those moments. It was like, ‘How can we have a culturally relevant conversation in this short amount of time?’ So if it was about religion, race, politics, I didn’t mind going there. Because if you can’t get to the core of what someone’s feeling and say ‘I hear you, I see you and I respect you. Now I need you to see and hear and respect me,’ then there would have been no point in us being there.”

Food guy Antoni says they all “balance each other out” in that way. And, after all, as much as many of us would want them to use their platform to condemn the issues being pushed by a party some if not most of their subjects identify with, that’s not what the show is about. And it can be argued that the compassion they practice as five gay men reaching out to offer assistance to those people is in itself a subversive act.

The second season is now out, and my viewing party isn’t until tonight but word is it’s even less ostensibly political than the first season. However, from the sound of it, it is still all about people learning from each other’s experiences. And that goes both ways, as this season, the gang will makeover their first trans man, something that some of the guys admit they don’t have much knowledge of.

I’m beyond tired of the sympathetic Trump voter profile—all the major news outlets trying to understand this mysterious figure. But in the case of Queer Eye, the olive branch approach might actually be the best line in to having these learning experiences on both sides. Especially because it doesn’t erase those doing the extending.

“It’s about trying to see what makes you similar as opposed to what makes you different,” Jonathan says. “So I’m not going to go in and talk about what I know are going to be opposing views off the top. I’m going to look for how we can try to connect. And then after you build that connection and get to know someone, eventually I can try to have that conversation with you if I need to. But in general, when we’re trying to communicate with each other in this polarized environment, it’s like look for what you can connect about as opposed to picking a fight. Who wins by immediately going into a fight?

Food guy Bobby Berk adds, “One of the things I learned the most is to listen. When you go in there and you’re like ‘How do you feel? What do you think?’ their defenses kind of come down and they’re much more open to listening to you once you’ve heard them.”

(via Vulture, image: Netflix)

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New Aquaman Images Surface, Featuring a First Look at Black Manta

jason momoa

In an exclusive with Entertainment Weekly, the team behind DC Entertainment’s upcoming Aquaman shared some new images from the upcoming film as well as some details about the film’s plot.

Aquaman, aka Arthur Curry, was introduced in Justice League, and quickly garnered a warm reception thanks to Jason Momoa’s imposing presence and playful sense of humor. In fact, Momoa’s casting is one of the shrewdest moves that DC/Warner Bros. has made. Aquaman and his powers have been a source of mockery for decades (the orange and green uniform doesn’t help), but Momoa’s long-haired, tatted-up take on the character gives him a fresh look and distances him from this classic Aquaman look:

Director James Wan (The Conjuring, Insidious, Furious 7), promises an underwater spectacle, saying “The water world my movie takes place in is so separate and so far apart from previous DC movies it’s like I’m making my own sci-fi fantasy film. This is a whole new underwater world nobody has seen before in live action.”

Warner Bros. head Toby Emmerich has said of the film, “James has done an incredible job with his team. The film is taking you to a different place and imagining the underwater world in a way you haven’t seen before.” The storyline features Aquaman going up against his half-brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson) over control of Atlantis. They will be joined by Princess Mera (Amber Heard) and Nicole Kidman as his mother Queen Atlanna.

When early footage of the film was shown, viewers praised its bright colors, humor, and fantastical underwater world. The film will feature the seven undersea kingdoms, giant octopi, and Atlanteans riding great white sharks into battle. Former DC President Geoff Johns said, “The underwater stuff has never been executed like this before. The visual effects shots coming in are just beautiful. James can switch modes from horror to big bright colorful action to really emotional scenes. He’s so able to hit all these different genres.”

Color and humor would be welcome qualities for the DC universe, which has spent far too long in the gritty, greyed out world of Zack Snyder. We also get a first look at Black Manta aka David Kane (called David Hyde in the comics). Played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (The Get Down), Kane is described as “part mercenary but full-time pirate who in his suit will look like some crazy alien from outer space.”

Aquaman hits theaters in December, and will be the only DC film released this year. Maybe it will be the one to turn this ship around (pun intended).

Are you excited about Aquaman? Let us know in the comments.

(via Entertainment Weekly, image: DC Entertainment)

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