We’ll make heaven a place on earth…
The closing credits of Black Mirror’s “San Junipero” episode triumphantly blared Belinda Carlisle’s seminal 80’s hit “Heaven is a Place on Earth.” And with good reason. In a year that littered the television and digital platform landscape with the bodies of queer women left and right, “San Junipero” made the choice to be bold. Not only did Black Mirror gift us with a touching, moving story of two women finding each other across space and time and falling in love, not only did they give us an interracial queer relationship, they gave us a happy ending.
And the kicker out of all of that? They buried the gays. The truly amazing twist “San Junipero” gave us was taking the tragic queer death and not only obliterating it, but transforming it into a moment of wild, transcendent joy. And this from a show that never ends happily, a show for which technology is almost always a thing to fear. Instead of fear, technology became the path that brought two aging queer women a chance at happiness not only in their last days on earth, but forever. It’s the literal definition of “…and they lived happily ever after.” Only in the afterlife, so you know, their happy ending isn’t so much an ending as the beginning of their eternity.
Amazingly, that bright, burning moment of triumph for queer women didn’t stop there. Some of you might have heard, but “San Junipero” was nominated for two Emmy Awards this year. For “Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Drama: Charlie Brooker” and “TV Movie.” “San Junipero” swept not one, but both categories.
Let that sink in.
The episode about two interracial queer women who died and had a happily forever after won the most prestigious award available in the United States for television. The Emmys are also one of the most public venues in the US for the celebration of storytelling and its power; queer women could not have asked for a more powerful validation of the beauty and significance of their stories.
Seeing a story about queer women loving each other, getting their happy ending, and getting to have agency over their lives… that matters. And when those stories are recognized and awarded for their merit, that sends out a powerful message to those in charge. So, writers and showrunners of American media, take note:
We matter. We’re here. We deserve our happy ending.
Image courtesy of Netflix
‘Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween’ Is Terrifyingly Dull
I have never seen a Tyler Perry movie before. If Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween is any indication I probably won’t be seeing another one for a good long while. In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you the screening I saw had projection issues.
Excusing the projection issues Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween is a startlingly ugly film. There’s a laziness and nonsensical quality to the most basic screen compositions. The whole film has a slip shod quality that makes it feel as if Perry literally slapped it all together the night before. The movie feels more like a rushed student project than an actual film.
One particular moment bothered me because of convoluted blocking that could have easily been solved with simple editing. Joe (Tyler Perry) is in the car, in the backseat. Madea (Perry) is outside with Hattie (Patrice Lovely) and Bam (Cassi Davis). She calls for Joe to get out of the car. Madea, Hattie, and Bam are framed in the right corner of the screen. We see Joe exit the vehicle, his face hidden. Joe then walks around the car in the opposite direction avoiding the trio. He then gets into the driver seat of the car and lays his head down on the steering wheel. He remains there for the rest of the scene.
On the left corner is another character. A little girl in a white dress, with damp strongly black hair. She’s a caricature of the girl from the Ringu series. But she’s just sitting there doing nothing. All the action is coming from Joe, so our eyes follow him. But why? Perry is just wasting our time, and his, by needlessly showing us how Joe moved from the back seat to the driver seat.
Of all the genres comedy is the one that both relies the least on a visual style and the most on visual style. Perry doesn’t need to reinvent cinema. He just needs to put the camera down and let Madea do the work.
As the title suggests, this is a sequel. From what I can gather the original was quite funny. I wish I had seen that one and not this dreadfully lazy inconsistent baffling mess of a film. Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween is more padding than story. It would be one thing if the padding was at all funny but it isn’t. There is almost no joy anywhere in this horrible misfire of a movie.
The story, I’m guessing, is roughly the same as the first. Brian’s (Perry) daughter Tiffany (Diamond White) sneaks out on her birthday the night before Halloween with her friends Gabriella (Inanna Sarkis) and Leah (Lexy Panterra). Once again the trio goes to a frat party, only this time the party is held at Lake Derrick, a riff on Crystal Lake from the Friday the 13th franchise. Madea overhears Tiffany plotting with her friends. She enlists the help of Hattie, Bam, and Joe to go out to Lake Derrick to rescue Tiffany and her friends.
Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween is as dreadful and disgusting as any horror movie. At one point Madea hits a small girl; the Ringu caricature. Madea and her friends debate what it was she hit. Madea suggests it was a deer. One of her friends says she saw a white dress. “Well maybe the deer was transitioning.”
There’s a deep vein of misogynistic patriarchal nonsense running deep through Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween. The young women in this film are forced into the most form fitting and curve displaying outfits while Perry and the movie loudly remind us they are eighteen. The frat boys ogle Tiffany’s chest, even as she is dressed as a schoolgirl because she has just left school.
At one point Leah is hiding in Madea’s Cadillac, alone with Joe. Joe, in the driver seat begins to ramble a string of obscene come ons while she squirms in the back seat clearly uncomfortable. Joe stops and asks if Leah is eighteen. Leah, who we know, is a year older than Tiffany, lies and says no. It’s a moment that made me laugh but it was an uneasy laugh.
Perry recognizes that Joe is repugnant, recognizes that Leah is smart enough to have to deal with men like Joe and can handle herself, but somehow doesn’t recognize he puts the onus on Leah for rebuking and not on Joe for being a dirty old man. Yes, Joe being a dirty old man is the joke, but it’s the type of joke that enforces and shrugs it’s shoulders as if to say “Well if she’s going to look like that and dress like that what do you expect?”
Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween so misses the point that in a scene where Gabriella is being groped by a frat boy and offered beer she cries out “I don’t drink. I’m a Christian.” A woman is being grabbed and touched against her will and Perry seems only concerned with telling us she won’t drink and that she is a Christian. Little is said of the unwanted touching.
There are moments within the film where Madea riffs and Perry’s voice is dubbed over to edit out the cursing. Places where Perry clearly says ‘damn’ are dubbed to ‘darn’. This is a cheap and cynical ploy to get the rating to PG-13 but it’s even more bizarre when there is a string of ‘darn’s’ immediately after Joe has just said ‘mother f*****’. Combine all of this with the vitriol Perry seems to aim at Madea by Joe’s constant mis-gendering of her and you have one of the more uncomfortable comedies I’ve had to sit through this year.
There’s a war going on in the very center of the film. The war of what it wants to be. Does it want to be a Tyler Perry moralistic sermon drenched in the sort of patriarchal patronizing he’s famous for? Or does it it want to be an absurd silly comedy that just allows it’s characters to live and breathe, foibles and all?
I’ll admit to laughing here or there but that’s because despite all the flaws, Tyler Perry is not untalented. Perry has charisma and Madea is a genuine comedic invention grounded in both reality and absurdity. Diamond White has presence and charisma, but her body is given more to do than her character. The movie has no teeth or spine.
Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween is a woeful excuse of a comedy. There’s a meanness and lack of focus that makes for a deeply boring and unsettling experience. Rarely have I complained about projection issues, had them fixed, and then spent the rest of the movie contemplating if I did the right thing.
Image Courtesy of Lionsgate Films
Inhumans Muddles with Morals
“Somthing Inhuman This Way Comes..” is the 5th epsiode of Marvel’s The Inhumans. Things finally picked up last week, so let’s see if the show can keep it up.
Karnak and Jen reminisce about the night before. As they exit their tent, Reno shoots at them. Karnak blocks the bullet, but Jen gets hit. They run away, and hide in a ditch with Reno in pursuit. Reno receives a call and heads back to the pot farm to meet the caller.
Louise is driving while Medusa and Black Bolt cuddle in the backseat. Black Bolt asks Medusa about what happened to her hair. Reluctantly she opens up, but states it doesn’t change anything and that finding their family is more important. A banging is heard from the truck. Louise pulls over to let Locus out. Locus uses her powers to locate Karnak in the jungle. She makes a comment about the Royal Family’s behavior towards their people, and Medusa commands her to do her job. Louise objects to her treatment of Locus; Medusa replies that she was sent to kill them.
As they trek through the jungle, Locus’s communication device goes off and Medusa takes it from her. Maximus is on the other end. He lies to Medusa about Crystal’s locations. Black Bolt has Medusa tell Maximus that when they get back they will have words, and Maximus says he looks forward to the family reunion. Black Bolt then crushes the communication device, much to Louise’s dismay. Maximus summons Tibor.
On Dave’s farm, Audrey observes that Lockjaw is doing better. Revealed, Crystal is ready to find her family. Audrey protests, saying Lockjaw isn’t ready to run around. Crystal says that’s okay, they’ll just transport. Audrey doesn’t believe any of Crystal’s story until she and Dave are transported away.
At his lab, Declan performs an autopsy on Sakas (Matt Perfetuo), who died in the explosion caused by Mordis. Declan notes that he has a venom gland in his neck. Declan’s Assistant (Joseph Kingsley) looks to Auran, and wonders that her powers are.
Gordon wanders in the jungle tracking Karnak. In a flashback, Gorgon impulsively steals the Lunar Flag. Karnak tells him to put it back, because the humans will notice if it’s gone, which could jeopardize Attilan. In the present, Reno meets up with his boss, who asks to see Ted’s body. His boss then has him shot. He then commands some lackeys to take care of Karnak and Jen.
On Attilan, Maximus wants Tibor to choose the best Inhumans to go after the Royal Family. Tibor questions if this is forceful conscription, but Maximus tries to justify it by saying it’s to secure the peoples freedom, which must be earned.
Back in the Jungle, Karnak tells Jen that he must remove the bullet. Using his Inhuman strength he pushes the bullet from the back through the front. Karnak patches her up. Jen wants to call the police, but he thinks that’s a bad idea. Karnak wants to go back to camp to ambush Reno.
Declan and one of his assistants study Auran’s and Sakas’ DNA. His assistant worries that the Inhumans will turn on the humans. Declan states this is why it is important to understand them. Suddenly Auran’s body jolts. Declan thinks it’s just postmortem spasm, but then Auran sits up and begins to heal herself. Declan stares in awe. Auran then grabs Declan by the throat, ordering him to tell her where Black Bolt is. Declan’s assistant tries to attack Auran with a scalpel, but she ends up killing him with it.
Jen and Karnak arrive back at the pot farm. Karnak isn’t sure how to proceed because he can’t see a clear outcome. Jen remarks that doubt can be helpful. In a flashback Karnak states that he and Gorgon are polar opposites. He is rational, while Gorgon is impulsive. Gorgon asserts that at he is at least doing something, while Karnak just sits around. In the present, Karnak decides to take a chance, so he and Jen head into camp.
Back on Attilan, Maximus tells Auran not to hurt Declan and not to tell him whom she is working for. Maximus tells her Declan’s research is important and to keep him safe. He then commands her to finish her mission and that he will be sending her help soon. Auran then contacts Mortis, who, with Flora (Krista Alvarez) is holding Sammy captive. Auran tells him to bring Sammy to her.
Karnak and Jen notice someone else has been at the camp. The lackeys arrive, and Karnak tells Jen to hide while he takes care on them. Across the island, Lockjaw, Crystal and Dave arrive at a secluded beach. Dave is amazed by how they’ve traveled all over the island in the blink of an eye. Crystal is frustrated that they can’t find her family. Dave tells her to let lose and not be afraid. Later that night, Karnak fights the lackeys, but is overpowered and captured.
Elsewhere Locus uses her powers and says that they are close to Karnak. Louise wants to know how her powers work, but Locus can’t explain it. Medusa explains that Terragenesis decides all. Louise remarks that she doesn’t like that idea, and Locus mentions that before Terragenesis she wanted to be a healer. Louise doesn’t see why she can’t both, but Medusa objects, saying echolocation is Locus’s one true calling. Locus retaliates that this is why she choose Maximus, and brings up Medusa’s parents. Louise thinks it ironic that Medusa and Black Bolt were thrown out for not wanting to change the caste system, while her parents were. Medusa says the law in Attilan wasn’t perfect, but they try to do what’s right. Locus declares this is why she supports Maximus, because he will change things. Medusa points out that he forced Locus here.
Tibor gives Maximus a list of potential recruits, noting that many weren’t happy to be drafted. Maximus repeats that you have to earn your freedom, using himself as an example. Tibor warns Maximus that some might think he is only acting in his own interest, and not Attilan’s. Angered, Maximus orders him to leave.
Gorgon finds Karnak and Jen. Together the fight and escape, but don’t make it far because of Jen’s injury. They hear fighting and gunfire in the distance, then someone approaching. It is revealed to be Medusa and the others, who have just fought the drug dealers. They share a long awaited reunion, and Gorgon shows some interest in Louise. Jen decides that she’s going to call the police and suggest that they all disappear before they show up. Karnak doesn’t want her to leave, but Jen says this is the way things are sometimes, but she had a good time.
Just as Jen leaves, Locus falls over, divulging that she was fatally wounded in the fight. With her last breath, Locus pleads with Black Bolt to change and become the king they deserve. She then tells Medusa that Crystal is on the island. Medusa asks where, but Locus dies before she can say.
On Attilan, Tibor is surrounded by the Royal Guard. He believes they’re there to kill him for speaking out against Maximus, but actually they want his help to overthrow Maximus, calling him a false king.
Similar to last week’s episode focusing on Medusa, this week’s episode focused on Karnak, who, like all the supporting characters, needed some development. The flashbacks with Karnak and Gorgon felt a bit repetitive, but it gave their relationship some longevity. When they are forced to think like the other in order to survive, it highlighted how much they have impacted each other. Plus, it was nice seeing Ken Leung get a chance in the spot light.
A bit of this feels undermined by Karnak’s relationship with Jen. Even if Jen states in the episode that they were just having fun, their interactions weren’t framed that way. I understand Jen’s character is meant to play into Karnak’s arc of becoming more impulsive, but it felt more that the narrative was suggesting she healed him with the power of sex, which is a terrible trope. Speaking of which, it seems Crystal and Dave’s relationship is headed in the same direction, with the exact same plot. Right down to romantic rendezvous on a beach, with a swim in the ocean. That’s just lazy writing.
The trouble with Jen, or any of the other human companions, (besides Louise) is that they aren’t well written, and do little to serve the actual plot besides to drop some words of wisdom and then disappear. Jen literally leaves this episode, which is honestly a better outcome than I thought she’d get. When it was first hinted that she would be Karnak’s love interest, I though she might get stuffed in the fridge.
While Karnak got his groove back, questions of morality were (finally) being discussed in the subplots. Locus, who, unfortunately, did get stuffed in the fridge, brings into question the effectiveness of Black Bolt and Medusa’s rule, stating her frustration for having her fate chosen for her. Louise gives us more insight into her character and others by questioning Medusa and Black Bolt. Medusa is proving to be more of a morally grey character by believing herself to be in the right. While it is interesting to see that Attilan has deeper issue with individuality within it’s system, this is a topic that should have been brought up sooner. It doesn’t help that this episode is nearly over by the time this matter is addressed and answered.
Locus states that she followed Maximus because he would change things, but then changes her own mind in the end by telling Black Bolt to become the king they deserve. What prompted this? Medusa says that Maximus forced Locus to come to Earth, which is trying to play off Maximus’s forced conscription plot, but that doesn’t make sense in the context of the scene. Locus was a part of the Royal Guard, and was just following orders when she came to Earth. Really there isn’t any logical reason for her change of heart besides the writers wanting to prop up Black Bolt. If there was any doubt in her mind about Maximus’s intentions, it should been set up sooner. In these circumstances, it was completely underserved.
Further undercutting any moral nuance was Maximus’s plot on Attilan. Up to this point, Maximus has been a sympathetic villain. He did horrible things, but the audience understood his motivations. This episode eroded that by having Maximus develop a non-voluntary draft on the lower class Inhumans to find the Royal Family.
Now, this isn’t horrible character progression. However, combine Maximus’s plot combined with Locus’s sudden turn-around, and it felt more like the writers trying to manipulate the audience’s opinions. They’re basically saying ‘Hate Maximus because he doesn’t really care about the Inhuman people. Love Black Bolt, he truly cares.’ But we haven’t seen why Black Bolt is any better than Maximus yet, so the argument doesn’t hold up.
There’s the plot with Auran and Declan who continue to be puppets in Maximus’s schemes, but theres nothing new to add. However, it is becoming unnerving to watch Auran die in such brutal ways, only to come back to serve a man she has no clear motivations to care for. Auran, honey, you can do better.
So, once again, Inhumans continues to frustrate me. This episode posited some interesting questions and character development, but it all feels too-little-too-late. The season has passed the midway point, and as a result, these developments are all rushed. Maybe there should have been more episodes. Or maybe they should have hired a better showrunner.
Until next week, stay awesome.
Images courtesy of Marvel/ABC Television Studios
We’re All SAD: Broad City, “Abbi’s Mom”
Hello, dear Queens. This week on Broad City, Abbi’s mom comes to town and Ilana is sad, as well as SAD. As in, she’s very depressed, and it’s not just the winter.
We open on Abbi and Ilana making frantic preparations for Abbi’s mom’s visit. (Her name is Joanne, so we’ll go with that from now on). Joanne has always been what Abbi calls “conservative.” Abbi likes to keep it surface-level with her mom—light, fun. She plans a day of museum-ing, visiting Santa at Macy’s, and eating at Ilana’s new workplace, Sushi Mambeaux (apparently Sushi Mambo is a real place in NYC, and it looks exactly like the fictional version). The pair clean the apartment, make a fancy cheese plate and hang a garland.
While they go about prepping and Abbi is explaining the details of the day she has planned with Joanne, Ilana starts to flop over on the table. She doesn’t laugh at Abbi’s “thanks for cutting the cheese” joke and looks a little sick. She stumbles over the counter and switches on her SAD lamp. (SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder, classified as seasonal sadness or depression mostly due to lack of sunlight). Ilana seems to fill her tank very quickly on this light and be back to normal. She insists that her depression is due solely to the winter (and fall, and late summer) weather/lack of light, and has nothing at all to do with the fact that she has steadily cut back on her antidepressants and now takes none. Abbi is a little worried.
When Joanne arrives, she reveals to Abbi that earlier in the year she found a benign lump in her breast, an experience that gave her some perspective on life. Abbi is taken aback and unhappy that her mother never told her this, but listens as Joanne goes on to say that what she really wants to do is have a wild night out with her daughter. (Which, okay). So before they head out to dinner, she dons Abbi’s iconic blue dress of multi-episode fame, which just sets things up perfectly.
At the restauranterie, RuPaul has declared Spring Cleaning night. This means whoever gets the most tips gets everyone else’s tips too, and whoever gets the least amount of tips gets fired. So, there’s that.
Ilana seems okay at the top of her shift, and gleefully seats Abbi and Joanne. But the sad/SAD is getting stronger, and she needs to sneak into the storage room to juice herself up on light again. Soon the light isn’t enough, and she implores Abbi, from a fetal position on the floor, to find a higher-wattage bulb. Abbi has the idea to reflect the light off of a sheet of tinfoil. As the night progresses, Ilana has lined the entire storage room in sheets of tinfoil and is bathing in this extreme light, with ever-weakening results. Between stints in the light-room, she’s unable to upsell her customers or be cheery. She sits at her customers’ tables and lays her head down, claiming that life is meaningless.
At first, this approach to a depression storyline rubbed me the wrong way. It’s utterly ridiculous (but that’s what Broad City is) and seemed belittling to the experience of depression. But the more I think about it, the more I actually think it’s a decent commentary on the stigma associated with medication (Ilana didn’t want to take it anymore) and the drive to be happy all the time (hence the extreme light dependence). In the end, Ilana goes back on her meds, and specifically calls out the futility of shame and stigma around antidepressants.
ANYWAY. Back in the restauranterie, Joanne has been taking shots and drinking martinis while confessing all kinds of things to Abbi. She’s only had sex with 3 men (as opposed to Abbi’s 32), hasn’t had hard liquor since the night she got pregnant with Abbi, and generally wishes she had “fucked up more.” While Abbi is horrified, she’s also empathetic and a little amused, so she takes her mom outside and they smoke some weed together. Back inside, Abbi tries to help Ilana again with the Power Light, but they blow a fuse and the power cuts out. When it comes back on, they find Joanne standing on the table, shouting that her daughter fucked 32 guys, before falling into the indoor koi pond and heading outside to make out with Owen the terrible rich waiter.
Meanwhile, Ilana tells RuPaul to take all of her tips and fire her, but she can do no wrong with him. He says her depression is “making his dick a little hard” and that he hopes she never gets better. YIKES. Another joke that didn’t land with me was when RuPaul’s child Parker, who has been working at this restauranterie without revealing their true identity, confronts RuPaul about his parenthood. RuPaul fires Parker, cackling as he claims he doesn’t work with family.
The episode ends on a high note, though, as Abbi and Ilana take Joanne shopping at a sex shop. They seem like they’re at home there. When Joanne decides she wants to get a Shinjo, there’s a very funny callback to season 2 when Abbi put Jeremy’s Shinjo in the dishwasher. Hand wash only, mom.
Overall, I give this episode 3/5 sake-rosé shots. Tune in next week for the recap of “Witches.” I have no idea what it’s about, but the title has me pretty psyched!