17. Blade

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/17-blade

BLAAAAAAAADE (R) – 1998
54% Rotten Tomatoes

I don’t know HOW this movie only has 54% on rotten tomatoes. It’s inconceivable, but I suppose there’s no accounting for taste.

It’s safe to say that Blade was responsible for my sexual awakening. This was my first introduction to vampires. I knew of them, of course, but I had never read any vampire literature or seen any other vampires on TV, unless you count The Count from Sesame Street. One: ah, ah, ah. If I’m remembering my Nikki history correctly, yours was Lestat?

Let’s look at some of the different types of vampires out there. I’m going to summarize from an article in Wired.com called “The Wild Evolution of Vampires, from Bram Stoker to Dracula Untold” which deals mainly in film and television vampires, and I’m going to add a few of my own observations from modern literature. I ain’t touching video games with a ten foot pole – let’s just leave it at boobs and guns. I may have played around with some of the category names, but I’m essentially summing up Devon Maloney’s points:

The Original: Count Dracula (1897)

It’s not actually the original, but it’s definitely the most popular, and is the origination for how we think of vampires. The cold-blooded, paper-skinned creep Dracula first appeared in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dracula has been tied to a few different origins, but who cares at this point. Vlad Tepes has his own grisly mythology, even without vampirism in the picture. What Stoker’s original work gives is the core elements of vampire: creepiness, alluringness, eccentricness, sex stuff, and a vaguely threatening pall cast over the whole thing. Well, sometimes overtly threatening. The more I think about mid to late 19th century literature, the more parallels I see with our current times. Everyone was afraid of everything – outsiders, a changing moral code, advancements in science and technology, epidemic diseases, the crumbling class structure. GEE sounds familiar. Maybe that’s why vampires made such a resurgence in the last fifteen years.

The Lesbian Vampire: Carmilla

The actual original! Never heard of this one, but apparently in 1871, this was a “safe” way to explore homosexuality, since vampires aren’t real, and Stoker had already established them as immoral and wicked. The Wired article calls the tenor of the time “moral terror”, and if you’ve spent any time at all reading Victorian literature, you recognize this. Picture our current obsession with celebrity reality TV, now replace it with an obsession over evil, powerful creatures bent on influencing the innocent into a life of sin. I suspect this kind of anxiety had to do with the weakening power of institutionalized religion, but in the late 19th century, no one was even burning witches anymore! Science and medicine were burgeoning into respected and trusted fields, and were just starting to be seen as a source of truth about the world; a position previously held only by philosophy and religion. What’s surprising about Carmilla (apparently) is that it’s not a denunciation of homosexuality – Carmilla is bad, but the text doesn’t condemn the lesbian relationships.

The Classic Film Vampire: Bela Lugosi’s Dracula (1931)

This is notable for being the first horror movie and also for Bela Lugosi’s precedent setting portrayal of a vampire. This movie really freaked people out, and a few years later the movie industry started enforcing the Hays Code (basically the morality police for movies), and so the horror movie genre was watered down almost as soon as it was created. Luckily for us, by the 60’s the Hays Code had become unenforceable and was abandoned. Take that, people who force others to live by their own particular set of religious hang ups. Naturally, chaos ensued, and in the 70’s the rating system we’re familiar with was created, so that people could choose their level of explicit and debaucherous content. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_Picture_Production_Code)

The Fancy Vampire: Christopher Lee’s Dracula (movies from 1958-1976)

“Hammer movies” was a term I heard often but never understood. If you are like me and had no idea what movie buffs were talking about but didn’t want to seem ignorant so kept your mouth shut, I am here to help you. http://www.hammerfilms.com/about-hammer/ Hammer Films is a movie studio founded in 1934 that chugged along, making all kinds of movies. WWII pretty much shut down operations, but post-war England (and America) saw an increase in prosperity and for the first time in a long while, people had pocket money and could indulge in entertainment. The movie industry blew up and Hammer thrived. In 1955 they released a movie called The Quartermass Xperiment, a horror movie about alien viruses or something. People lost their shit; they loved it, and so Hammer decided to really go for it in the horror genre. They spared no expense on gore, which pissed of the censors, but titillated audiences. Cornering the market on horror, they produced movie after movie featuring big theatrical baddies and full of gratuitous everything, and also sequels to their features, which all became their stamp on the genre. The golden age of Hammer was over by the 70’s when television became commonplace fixtures in homes. Moping around for a decade, Hammer finally figured out that television was also a thing they could do, and so they were back, baby, but as a TV house now, instead of a movie house. That changed again in 2010 with Let Me In, and they have resumed making horror films once more. We should consult a horror nut to see if they’re as good now as they were then. Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Dracula represents this era of campy and overdone yet marvelously enjoyable horror.

The Teen Dreamboat Vampire: Dark Shadows (1966-1971; 2012)

Dark Shadows was a supernatural soap opera marketed to young people, and from what I can gather the first time vampires were shoved into the pants of pre-teen and teenage girls. As Wired points out, this is the Vietnam era, and a time of relentless political unrest, so this seems like a safe way to work out some anxieties about young people’s experiences with horrifying situations, made light. Armies are made up of young men (true at the time), and those young men knew other young people that stayed behind. Reading letters from soldiers and trying to understand what was happening to them was likely a difficult and emotionally taxing process, so you can see how it would be appealing to a young woman whose lover was suffering an affliction she couldn’t help him out of (being subjected to the horrors of war). She could easily relate to a governess stuck helping a family with a lot of big, unmanageable problems.

The Blaxploitation Vampire: Blacula (1972)

Oh, the 70’s! If you haven’t watched any Blaxploitation, you’re missing out. May I suggest Coffee, starring Pam Grier. I watched it in college in a film class, and I loved it. Speaking of Pam Grier, she was in the sequel to Blacula. Wired suggests that Blacula may be somewhat responsible for inspiring Blade, so we owe him a huge debt of gratitude. But seriously – Blacula, and Blaxploitation films in general, served to point out just how very white movies were. There were no other black vampires in the movies at the time. The vampire genre is still overwhelmingly white, but Blade did establish a solid cultural reference to a vampire of color.

The Genteel, Self-Loathing Vampire: Lestat (1976 (Interview with the Vampire: 1994))

As mentioned earlier, it seems that every time the world experiences a scary change, we also get a rise in supernatural or sci-fi media? I will assume these genres have a built-in helplessness against a big bad enemy of undue proportions. The big baddies in the 70’s was war, civil rights, and feminism. War is never bad for the establishment, but upsetting the balance of power by granting access to women and people of color is absolutely terrifying. Anne Rice, being a woman, contributed some new vampire attributes. They were more powerful, more charming, more able to fit in with society. Lestat and company were not relegated to a creepy cave mansion where they lured innocent victims to seduce/prey on them – they mingled with high society. They could fly, heal, and make do on animal blood when necessary. They didn’t have any of the ridiculous and arbitrary vampire weaknesses like garlic and crosses. In short, they were well-suited to survive and thrive. There were vampires coming out of the shadows and into your face, and maybe they weren’t sooooo terrible. Just like women and black people! Wired points out that Anne Rice’s vampire archetype is more heavily borrowed from in subsequent depictions than Stoker. This marks the beginning of the era of more glamorous vampires. It was only a matter of time before glitter was added. Side note – I think the Vampire Diaries fits into this category as well.

The Angsty Teen Vampire: The Lost Boys (1987)

The 1980’s was undoubtedly the era of John Hughes – teens were very much at the center of the film world. We were all obsessing about the plights of the almost-adults. The Lost Boys preyed on the fears of parents – what if we lose our children? To drugs, to gangs, to predators, to theatre school. Also, this gives the popular kids the malevolent nature that all misfits feel exuding from them. It also speaks to misfits because you have a group of teens living outside of polite society, as well as never having to reach adulthood and deal with grown up life (the title is a Peter Pan reference). It’s a movie for everyone, and helped bring the genre even closer to teens.

The Feminist Vampire Love Interest: Buffy (movie: 1992; show: 2007-2003)

WE GET A LADY HERO?? WHAT?? Oh wait, she falls in love with the bad guys. Siiiiiigh. Way to be a stereotype, Buffy. But it’s not all bad. Buffy is a competent, intelligent young woman who we can take seriously as a heroine. Rather than being an overconfident buffoon who gets in too deep and has to be rescued from her own stupidity, this woman has the skill and ability to carry out her duties. Even though she’s blonde and pretty! GASP! And Joss Whedon is great, so the writing and production were good enough to be taken seriously as well. Much like Blacula, Buffy gives us a female entry in the genre. While she’s not a vampire, she is a presence.

The Human Protector Vampire: Blade (1998-2004)

Blade is half-vampire, called dhampir. He is a Marvel character, and frankly should get more attention all the time. I think he’d work perfectly in the Defenders. Get that bratty privileged Iron First out of there and give us Blade.

So, the comparisons to Blacula are obvious – they’re both black. But Blade is a little more serious. Okay, a lot more serious. I don’t think he smiles throughout the entire movie. He has an incredibly well-constructed back story (I guess vampirism is a virus that crosses the placenta?), the full emotional gamut for his motivations and world view, and he has sophisticated weapons and chemical warfare gadgets.

Even though he’s a halfling, his vampire nature seems to define him more than his humanity, though it’s a struggle he’s been locked in his entire life. He deeply resents his vampire thirst, and has an unmitigated hatred other vampires, which granted, are uniformly evil. He’s cleansing the earth of evil in a subconscious attempt to save his mother. The self-hate coming off of Blade in waves is masterfully portrayed by Snipes – he’s not mopey or pitiful like some Cullens I know. He’s pissed, and channeling all that rage into a productive purpose. And wearing a badass trench while he does it.

The Sexy Progressive Vampire: True Blood (books and movies: 2001-2014)

This universe that Charlaine Harris has created, is pretty much an alternate universe where vampires/werewolves/witches/fairies/etc are a stand in for non-straight, non-WASP societies. The main threat of vampires, eating humans, has been removed by a synthetic blood substitute – essentially tofu for vamps, so now they can re-enter society and confront the prudes with all kinds of not subtle societal issues: vamp/human relationships stand in for bi-racial relationships. Using vampire blood as a way to get high stands in for the opioid addiction epidemic. The politics, my god the politics, stand in for the party politics we all have become so passionately in hate with. All this is set in the deep south, noted for it’s progressive and accepting attitude of a changing moral compass and upsetting of the status quo. So instead of just being a show about shredded vampires, it’s really a story about people treat other people, just with fangs and lots of white makeup.

Also, RIP Nelson Ellis, you magnificent man. You gave us Lafeyette beyond when the books killed him off because you made that character AHMAZING.

The Innocent, Self-Loathing Vampire: Twilight (2005-2012)

So, we’ve seen a lot of rebellion against social norms and mores in vampire culture, but Twilight turns that around. These are super beautiful vampire people, but our heroic Cullens are basically a sweater set and and Volvo in humanoid form. Ultra conservative, Edward refuses to have sex with Bella before they’re married, despite Bella’s insistent and repeated attempts to change his mind. Also, the family is very much patriarchal. Dr. Cullen created this family against their will, and then demands that they live according to his strict moral code, which is horrendously difficult as it goes against their nature. Nothing like being set up to constantly disappoint your parents.

BUT – Twilight did serve to introduce vampire lust to an even younger generation of girls. With PG content, it’s not exactly inappropriate, though it is problematic. Edward is essentially a possessive, controlling stalker. Bella is entirely too eager to give up everything about her life and let Edward completely consume her (both literally and figuratively). It’s quite a step down from Buffy, but being an adult woman with an already mature brain when I first read it, I still liked it. But as an adult, I understand the purpose that the fantasy of books serves. I can only hope that young girls know the difference between fiction and reality as far as relationship goals.

The Philosophical Vampire: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013-2014)

This one I have never seen, but from what Wired told me, we are to be sympathetic to the vampires in this. The story is told from the point of view of a vampire couple, always on the run from the humans out to get them and also removing themselves from the temptation of eating them. It’s an interesting idea, and speaks to how long the vampire genre has been around that we’re now feeling bad for the poor, misunderstood monsters.

The Warrior Vampire: Dracula Untold (2013-2014)

This is supposed to be the origin story for Dracula, and by extension vampires in general. And again, we were supposed to be sympathetic to the vampire, and to empathize with him. This movie sucked, and not even Wired has that much to say about it.

Those are the categories of vampires that Devon from Wired identified. Ima add some here:

The Ancient Religion-Affiliated Vampire: Dark Hunters

This is a series of books written by the prolific Sherrilyn Kenyon. They feature an army of immortal revenge-seekers, turned so by the goddess Artemis to fight Daimons, a race of demon-type guys who eat the souls of humans so they don’t expire and die. While dark hunters don’t need to drink blood to survive, they can if they want to, though they would be outcast if they did so. They share most other vampire traits – the sun is deadly to them, though it’s because of Artemis’s feud with the sun god Apollo; they’re pale, and they have super strength and sexiness, gifts bestowed on them by Artemis so they can get the job done.

Most vampires are turned by a bite or some other fluid exchange. The selection process is a little different for dark hunters. If you suffer a terrible betrayal and then die because of it, Artemis will come to you at the moment of your death and ask you if you want to stick it to those that did you wrong. If you agree, her price is your soul and your freedom; you’ll be in her service until such time as you die (for real this time), or you negotiate for your soul back after a few hundred or thousand years of service, which is a difficult and risky prospect not offered to many. If you say yes, you have 24 hours to maim some mother fuckers before you officially report for Dark Hunter duty.

The I’ve Accepted My Fate and Am Cool With It Vampire: The Mortal Instruments

Cassandra Clare has a couple of loosely-connected series set in her delightful universe. She’s got quite a cast of characters; there are nephilim, demons (of ALL shapes, sizes, and substances), warlocks, vampires, werewolves, mermaids, selkies, faries, and on and on. What I like most about her series was the emphasis on individuality. Each type of being has their own community and culture, but they’re as individual as any human. Being a vampire doesn’t make you bad, just as being a nephilim doesn’t make you good. There is a lot of bigotry; those on both sides that would rather an entire species (or all but their own) be wiped from existence than have to continue tolerating them. The vampires in the story have a complicated hierarchy of leadership, but otherwise are no different from humans except for the fangs and the blood and the sun avoidance. It’s aimed at young adults, but Clare’s writing is incredibly thoughtful. Even within the different groups there are characters struggling with LGBT issues, childhood abuse, drug addiction. She doesn’t shy away from anything, and treats all of her subject matter with respect while still being funny and an excellent story teller.

The Detective Vampire: Samantha Moon

Written by J.R. Rain, the Samantha Moon novels are about a former federal agent who was attacked and turned into a vampire. Her marriage crumbles, she nearly loses her children, she struggles to figure out how to manage to still be a parent while coping with the lifestyle changes now necessary. She lives in terror that she’ll someday harm her children. No longer being able to go out during the day, she becomes a private detective so that she can set her own hours. Her psychic abilities and strength definitely come in handy while she’s solving cases.

Rain’s story is different because this woman is a mother, and instead of going off and starting a new life full of drama and adventure, she is firmly tethered to domestic life. This creates a lot of opportunities to reflect on what life would be like if you WERE turned into a vampire since it’s somewhat more realistic.

Vampire literature provides a lot of variations on the theme, but the most common traits that show up in an individual afflicted are: a very strong thirst for blood and harm (of some sort) from the sun. Other traits which vary by author: garlic allergy, no access without RSVP, harm from crosses, holy water, sacred ground, fangs, shape-shifting, super strength, mind control, psychic abilities, healing abilities, coffins?, grave dirt from their homeland… am I missing any?

The blood thing I totally get – these are dark magic creatures, technically dead, and so you can make the logical leap that blood sustains their life force. And by logical leap, I mean within the confines of the supernatural horror genre. But the sun – I don’t get it. I get why Superman has a strong reaction to our yellow sun (which actually isn’t yellow, btw); he’s an alien and his genetic makeup is different. I guess with vampires, it’s to emphasize the “creature of the dark” aspect of vampires and give a physical framework to the social and emotional alienation they experience. And it gives them an excuse to be super creepy. Also, sexy stuff happens in the dark, so I think for writers, everyone wins.

Consent, or Why Being Turned Into a Vampire is Often Rapey

Occasionally we will see people who beg to be turned into vampires. Based on some of the later depictions, it actually sounds like a pretty sweet deal if you don’t mind avoiding the sun and slurping pig blood. There are times I have thought those are perfectly reasonable sacrifices to make in order to gain strength, beauty and healing. Plus all vampires seem witty, if they’re not mopey. But the vast majority of vampire shows and books and movies are people who are desperate NOT to be turned into a blood-thirsty ghoul. Similarly, most depictions of vampires turning a human are of women. Now, we know that men are turned vampire, because… well because there are male vampires. But we choose to depict stories of women being forced to submit to the big strong man with the teeth. Or we see a woman desperate for Mr. Teeth to turn them into a vampire. The act of biting is often a metaphor for sex – seemingly the forbidden kind. “Oh nooooo, society doesn’t want us to be together, this is so hot!” or “That girl left her house after dark, of course she was abducted and bitten.”

Ah, life.

Favorite Quote: “There are worse things out tonight than vampires.” – Eric “Blade” Brooks

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

16. Stranger Things 1.1 – The Vanishing of Will Byers

(The Stranger Things series of podcasts is not researched or prepared in advance the same way as our regular podcasts. Because of this, our accompanying blog posts will not contain notes/transcripts.)

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/stranger-things-11-the-vanishing-of-will-byers

Episode 1.1 “The Vanishing of Will Byers” – original air date July 15, 2016
Netflix

Nikki and Sher launch another sub-series! We’ll be reviewing all the episodes of Stranger Things, beginning with seasons one and two, which have already aired. We’ll continue reviewing episodes until the end of the series!

Nikki and Sher talk 80’s nostalgia, the lovely heft of old technology, and .

*Warning – this episode, and all others in the series, will contain SPOILERS. You’ve been warned!

Favorite Quote: “Mornings are for coffee and contemplation.” – Chief Hopper

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

14. Outlander 1.4 – The Gathering

(The Outlander series of podcasts is not researched or prepared in advance the same way as our regular podcasts. Because of this, our accompanying blog posts will not contain notes/transcripts.)

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/14-outlander-14-the-gathering

Episode 1.5 “Rent” – original air date August 30, 2014
Starz network

Nikki and Sher launch a sub-series! We’ll be reviewing all the episodes of Outlander, beginning with seasons one and two, which have already aired, in honor of droughtlander. We’ll continue reviewing episodes until the end of the series!

Nikki and Sher look up Angus’s kilt, talk about camping, wax nostalgic about their horsey days, invoke Chris Hardwick’s hypothesis of age divination, discuss advanced modern feminism (and its paradoxes, re: bloody men) and accidentally thought-stalk an unwitting man.

*Warning – this episode, and all others in the series, will contain SPOILERS, both for the television series and for the books. You’ve been warned!

Favorite Quote: “The highlands are no place for a woman to be alone.” – Geillis Duncan

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

13. Outlander 1.3 – The Way Out

(The Outlander series of podcasts is not researched or prepared in advance the same way as our regular podcasts. Because of this, our accompanying blog posts will not contain notes/transcripts.)

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/13-outlander-13-the-way-out

Episode 1.3 “The Way Out” – original air date August 23, 2014
Starz network

Nikki and Sher launch a sub-series! We’ll be reviewing all the episodes of Outlander, beginning with seasons one and two, which have already aired, in honor of droughtlander. We’ll continue reviewing episodes until the end of the series!

Nikki and Sher bring you commentary on “The Way Out.” We talk about the absurdity (or not) of Claire’s immense borrowed wardrobe, the intricacies of horse grooming, and Geillis’s weird clothes, among many diversions and much laughter.

*Warning – this episode, and all others in the series, will contain SPOILERS, both for the television series and for the books. You’ve been warned!

Favorite Quote: “Why are you two drunkards still takin’ up space in my kitchen? If you’re not workin’ here, be gone wi’ ye!” – Mrs. Fitzgibbons

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

11. Outlander 1.2 – Castle Leoch

(The Outlander series of podcasts is not researched or prepared in advance the same way as our regular podcasts. Because of this, our accompanying blog posts will not contain notes/transcripts.)

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/11-outlander-12-castle-leoch

Episode 1.2 “Castle Leoch” – original air date August 16, 2014
Starz network

Nikki and Sher launch a sub-series! We’ll be reviewing all the episodes of Outlander, beginning with seasons one and two, which have already aired, in honor of droughtlander. We’ll continue reviewing episodes until the end of the series!

Nikki and Sher are super jealous of the gorgeous view in “Castle Leoch” (both topographical and manly), talk about bear attacks, get incredibly hungry, and discuss a few of the quirks of smaller characters.

*Warning – this episode, and all others in the series, will contain SPOILERS, both for the television series and for the books. You’ve been warned!

Favorite Quote: “Just try not to get flogged or stabbed today.” – Claire Randall

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

15. Outlander 1.5 – Rent

(The Outlander series of podcasts is not researched or prepared in advance the same way as our regular podcasts. Because of this, our accompanying blog posts will not contain notes/transcripts.)

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/15-outlander-15-rent

Episode 1.5 “Rent” – original air date September 6, 2014
Starz network

Nikki and Sher launch a sub-series! We’ll be reviewing all the episodes of Outlander, beginning with seasons one and two, which have already aired, in honor of droughtlander. We’ll continue reviewing episodes until the end of the series!

Nikki and Sher discuss the ways in which knowing the future SUCKS, how sisterhood was such an important commodity in the 18th century, and how hard work really makes your day.

*Warning – this episode, and all others in the series, will contain SPOILERS, both for the television series and for the books. You’ve been warned!

Favorite Quote: “I’ve never heard a woman make a joke!” – Rupert MacKenzie

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

12. The Fifth Element – Kinda Transcript/Kinda Notes

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/12-the-fifth-element

The Fifth Element (PG-13) – 1997
72% Rotten tomatoes

Directed by Luc Besson, a Frenchman. He also directed Leon: The Professional and wrote on the Transporter and Taken movies. Plus a ton of others. This fella is prolific. And perhaps a prodigy. He wrote an early draft of The Fifth Element as a teenager. By all accounts he was an extremely creative child, and found film as a way to express all aspects of his creativity. This skill may have come from his early years travelling the world with his parents, avid scuba divers. All that aquatic exploration may have shaped his imagination from an early age. His latest venture is the space opera, Valerian, which I’m frankly not too excited about, but I’ll guess we’ll see.

The elements (https://www.homesciencetools.com/a/four-elements; http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/webprojects2002/tubb/elements.htm)

The fifth element referred to in the title is life. It’s a combination of the four classic elementals: earth, water, fire, and air. These elements were designated by, like so many other things, the ancient Greeks. They decided that these elements made up everything in the universe, and these four things were all essential for life. Aristotle, always a rebel, argued for a fifth element, one he called aether, that supposedly composed stars. The elements led scientific thinking for millenias. All four elements were present in everything, but in different proportions. A good example of this is taken from a bunch of ancient Greeks arguing this theory, courtesy of http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/webprojects2002/tubb/elements.htm:

You take a stick and burn it.

  • Since the stick burns, it obviously contains fire.
  • A dirty residue is left behind once the stick has burnt, so the stick also contains earth.
  • The residue is damp, so water must be present.
  • The burning stick gives off smoke, and thus air is in there too.

When the Middle Ages rolled around and people couldn’t box everything into these four properties, alchemical science was founded, which added three more elements to the original Aristotelian four: quicksilver, brimstone, and salt. Alchemy is a real shit show, and never did anyone ever good, but it makes for entertaining reading and script writing.

Back to Aristotle and his dusty cave. The elements were also used to describe the different temperaments of people. This is where Hippocrates got the principle of the humors, the forces of the human body responsible for health and well-being. Balanced humors meant a healthy person; an imbalance resulted in illness or disease.

This all sounds like malarkey, but the Greeks turned out to be kinda sorta right. The modern states of matter are solid, liquid, gas, and plasma, which if you stretch you can say equate to earth, water, air, and fire, respectively. They also thought the nature of change was due to compelling and repelling forces, which is kinda sorta what happens at the atomic level, buutttttt it’s another stretchy one.

Enough about bad yet historically important science. Let’s fast forward to the future science fiction! There’s a lot of futuristic stuff going on in The Fifth Element. We have flying cars, gnarly weapons, a boat load of aliens, suspicious architecture, flashy clothes and weird half masks, and lots of space travel. I have a favorite on that list. Yep. The weapons.

Racism

I don’t know if you remember, but when we did Big Trouble in Little China, we discussed some racist characters that often show up in movies. One was the cowardly/incompetent black sidekick, and the example given was Chris Tucker’s character in The Fifth Element.

It’s a pretty pervasive problem in Hollywood. This is no surprise. Straight white men have been dominating the screen since the beginning. As a matter of fact, one of the first films ever, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) is extremely racist. The movie depicts black people as animalistic: violent and hyper-sexual, and it’s overtly sympathetic to the Klan and seems pretty pro slavery. It depicts anti-miscegenation, which also came up in Big Trouble in Little China, not surprisingly, because it’s a predictable result of a racist system. The point is, racism in entertainment is not a new problem. But you would think that 100 years later we would have come to our senses, right? OF COURSE NOT. The #oscarssowhite was in reaction to predominantly black movies not being given consideration for Oscar nominations, as well as men and women of color not receiving acting nominations at nearly the same proportional rate as white actors, especially for the biggest categories. In 2015 and 2016, there were NO people of color nominated in the four biggest Oscars categories. Hopefully this Twitter campaign will have helped to bring awareness to diversity in Hollywood, and the 2017 award for Moonlight, Mahershala Ali, and Viola Davis (who won in the supporting categories) won’t be just an empty placation gesture. According to The Guardian, Halle Berry is still the only non-white woman to have won for Best Actress, and only 7% of the Best Actor winners are men of color.

So what does this have to do with Chris Tucker? Well, he’s an example of how people of color are pigeon-holed into particular roles. The same Guardian article lists the stereotypical roles typically available to people of color. Some of these overlap with the cracked.com list we used in Big Trouble, but there are some new ones here.

  1. The magical Negro – again, John Coffee in the Green Mile, Whoopi’s character in Ghost, etc.
  2. Thug – these are either aggressive characters (Boys in the Hood), or they’re the kids with potential that live in a bad environment (Dangerous Minds)
  3. Superhuman Athlete – Typically found and nurtured by a white guys: Cool Runnings, Jerry Maguire, Creed
  4. Super rich evil Arab sheikh – always out to nab white women. Or kill them.
  5. Awkward de-sexualized Asian – Kal Penn in Van Wilder, any movie with nerds
  6. Mammy – This is a woman who is a servant in a white family’s home, who appears to have to life or ambition of her own except to counsel and nurture these white idiots and their drama: Gone with the Wind, The Help, It’s a Wonderful Life
  7. Jaded older police office – Like… any movie where Morgan Freeman is a cop. Or Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon.
  8. Eternal sidekick – “limited usefulness” and whose help is often accidental, this character’s only purpose in the movie is to entertain the audience, often at their own expense, while they move the white lead forward.
  9. Sassy confidant – basically the black friend in any romantic comedy.
  10. Terrorist – We all know what this is.

The thing I find most interesting when I’m watching a movie that has a mostly white cast is WHY. Nothing about Leeloo’s character makes it necessary for her to be white. Same with Korbin. Same with many, many, many characters in many movies and TV shows. Why is there such a preference to cast white actors? I think it has something to do with the idea that white movies are for everybody, but if you have a “black” movie, then only black people are going to go pay for a ticket to see it.

Feminism?

So, you would think that in the 2200’s things would change a bit. Well, they have. Cross dressing seems to be totally acceptable, but it’s combined with stereotypically flaming behavior, and this gets Ruby Rhod alllll the … ladies? So it seems that acceptable gender norms for men have expanded. What about the ladies??? Oh. They’re still reduced to sex objects. Cool. Speaking of stereotypes, we have a few here. There are the sexy secretaries, the nagging mother, the diva. Leeloo is the female that breaks the mold, and she is supposedly the perfect woman. But what does that mean? Thigh gap. Gorgeous. Preternaturally intelligent and athletically gifted. Empathetic. Speed reader. Polyglot. Looks good in orange. But…. also treated and depicted as a child, as Sarah Hensel points out. She’s infantilized at every turn. Granted this is complicated, since technically she is kind of a newborn. But she’s also sexualized. It’s a little gross.

Favorite quote: “Bzzzzzzzz. Bzz bzz bzzz.” – Ruby Rhod

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

 

10. Highlander – Kinda Transcript/Kinda Notes

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/11-highlander

Highlander (R) – 1986
70% rotten tomatoes

Yet another movie that has us questioning ourselves, because we’re more attracted to the feckless bad guy than the steadfast hero.

Other things we questions – why is Sean Connery playing a Spaniard? Is his costume ANYWHERE near accurate? The second question is hard to answer (for me at least) because most articles I found were either focused on English fashion or women’s fashion. If any readers out there know the answer to this question, we would love to hear from you!

A fellow by the internet handle S John said it best in his Westeros thread called “Things I Don’t Understand About Highlander,” “It’s a bit jarring that Sean Connery, an actual Scottish guy, is cast to play a Spanish/Egyptian guy while a dude with a vaguely French accent is cast to play the Scottish guy.”

Also a fair point by S John – why can there be only one? To which I add: In which case, why were there ever more than one? How did multiples comes about if the magic dictates that there can be only one? Were a certain number of immortal souls just plopped onto the earth, scattered, and told to destroy each other? By whom? For what purpose? Who orchestrated this “prize”??

S continues pointing out the logical fallacies by questioning why on earth James Bond would be training someone he SHOULD be (based on the rules of the magic we’ve bought into) compelled to kill. Another commenter pointed out that Connery is I guess devoting his life to training other “good” immortals so it will be more likely that an “evil” immortal (like Kurgan) won’t win. But still – it seems like it might be a better use of his time to organize better.

I interject here with another logical fallacy – if they are immortal, why are they all different ages? Is aging not arrested at some set point for immortals? If you’re going to tell me that they just age incredibly slowly, then I will call bullshit because that means they’re just elves. And if the prize is mortality, aren’t they all winners in reality? Cause the end game of mortality is death.

Not to arrest the aging of this line of questions, but another commenter, drawkcabi, put it best saying, “I find it’s best just not to ask questions about Highlander, it just is and let it go at that. The more questions you ask, the more questions they lead to, and I’ve always been afraid that you can pick this scab so deep you start unraveling the threads of the universe.” Hear, hear. This thread devolves quickly into questions about the specifics and logistics of what constitutes decapitation (and how would regeneration work if sliced through the torso), queries on the actual accent McLeod has, and the physics of Kurgan’s sword. It’s a nerdly beautiful thing that you should check out if you get a minute. Or hours.

So from here, I’m going to follow some of the threads we’ve just pulled, instead of pulling ever more.

Let’s talk about immortality – mostly in terms of Western lore and characters. Immortality is a fickle bitch. When we see pursuit of immortality, there’s always some type of hidden consequence. When we see immortal figures, they always have baggage associated with it, such as a loss of humanity, or a yearning to be mortal again.

LiveScience compiled a list of the top ten immortals, and I think some of these are good examples of archetypes or tropes of immortals.

Arwen (representative of elves) – she’s a force of good and innocence, and ultimately gives up her immortality for her mortal love.

Grail Knight – an immortal? who guards the vessel of… just healing? Immortality? I was never sure of it’s actual purpose, or whether the grail just kind of fit whatever situation. In this case, the immortality afforded did not seem to altogether stop the atrophy of aging.

Highlander – DUH

Dorian Gray – A moral cautionary tale against pride and vanity. A handsome young man manages to transfer his aging process to a portrait of himself, while he is sustained physically ageless in the way a portrait is.  Essentially a “real beauty is on the inside” tale.

Tithonus – A human lover of the goddess Eos turned immortal by Zeus himself. This is a real “gotcha” in line with tricksy manner of the gods. Tithonus is turned immortal, but not ageless. So while he lives on, he also ages on. Horrifying to contemplate.

Nicolas Flamel – Dumbledore’s friend who supposedly created the Sorcerer’s Stone, which granted eternal life. But apparently only so long as it was in existence, because when the stone was destroyed, so too was Flamel’s immortality.

Methuselah – This one is kind of playing fast and loose with the definition of immortal. Methuselah is a biblical character purported to have lived to over 900 years of age. I’m 100% certain that age was measured exactly the same literal way in the bible as we do now.

Lazarus Long – A character from science fiction, Lazarus is again more of a super long living fellow rather than actually immortal. His 2,000+ years are the result of selective breeding and science.

Dracula (representative of vampires) – The father of the vampires, those who cease aging (and living, technically) once the vampire condition is transmitted to them. This happens in a multitude of ways and means throughout literature and media, but the most common mode of transmission is the bite.

Peter Pan – Is this non-aging because a feature of being in Neverland? It seems that way since one of the movie versions shows a Peter Pan who’s grown up in the time since he left.

I looked through a few other sources and ultimately decided to exclude aliens (yes, this includes the Doctor), gods, and superheroes from the list, because so are immortal as a given that it’s not worth listing individuals.

Immortal/Invulnerable

Immortality is vexingly defined as unending existence or living forever. Applying this concept to humans takes a little bit more work. For instance, let’s just say that there is an immortal human wandering around. (Let’s go ahead and assume for the time being that this person is also invulnerable). What happens when the sun burns out in a few billion years? Or what happens when a runaway greenhouse effect turns the earth into a place uninhabitable by mortal biological creatures? What does an immortal do, wandering an in turns scorched and frozen wasteland, devoid of vegetation, water, air, and animal life? Does he suffer in unending agony? When an asteroid turns the planet into a giant claymore, does he float in space like a rogue satellite for all eternity? It seems that as humans, we still have to put limitations on immortality, lest the overwhelming prospect of continued existence beyond what we can conceive of bring us to our existential knees.

Invulnerability is the inability to be hurt or get sick. Think Luke Cage. These folks may still age normally (or maybe a little left of normal); invulnerability is not the same as immortality.

Favorite quote: “I apologize for calling your wife a bloated warthog, and I bid you good day.” – Connor MacLeod

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

9. Outlander 1.1 – Sassenach

(The Outlander series of podcasts is not researched or prepared in advance the same way as our regular podcasts. Because of this, our accompanying blog posts will not contain notes/transcripts.)

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/website/9-outlander-11-sassenach

Episode 1.1 “Sassenach” – original air date August 9, 2014
Starz network

Nikki and Sher launch a sub-series! We’ll be reviewing all the episodes of Outlander, beginning with seasons one and two, which have already aired, in honor of droughtlander. We’ll continue reviewing episodes until the end of the series!

Here we bring you the first episode (“Sassenach”) in which our unwitting heroine finds herself thrust two hundred years in the past. Leaving the 1940’s, she find herself in a boatload of danger, knowing next to nothing about the 18th century (expect all the bad parts), and having no resources or acquaintances. Will she find a way back home? Will she figure out the underwear? Will she being accustomized to semi-regular bathing?

*Warning – this episode, and all others in the series, will contain SPOILERS, both for the television series and for the books. You’ve been warned!

Favorite Quote: “I’ve never heard a woman use such language in my life.” – Dougal MacKenzie

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

8. The Beastmaster – Kinda Transcript/Kinda Notes

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/8-the-beastmaster

The Beastmaster – 1982
PG Rating
42% rotten tomatoes
Budget was $8M, and didn’t gross much more than that.

Rip Torn is in this movie!!!! – Full disclosure – I haven’t watched this yet, so my commentary may be somewhat lacking tonight.

Okay, so apparently Rip Torn magically takes an unborn fetus out of this lady and puts it into an ox… giving him some witchy ESP that works on animals and making him a hunted outcast. I’m sure this will all make sense as I’m watching, and that Rip Torn has completely plausible motives and this was not just an overly elaborate way to do something that could have been accomplished by much simpler means.

To start off, the cover makes it totally look like this chick is one of the beasts that The Beastmaster masters. She’s crouching down there by his feet with the panther, and has a similar look of generic ferocity.

So, not knowing anything about this movie, I have focused on this animal ESP thing. The Beastmaster is not the only cult hero that can commune with animals. An article in Screen Rant has listed fifteen superheroes can “talk to animals,” but in some cases it’s really more cooperating with or manipulating or having an affinity for animals. We shall commence!

  1. Catwoman (DC; Villain) – so, cannon does not give her any ability to talk to cats; she just enjoys a mutual affinity. A few of the movie and TV incarnations have played with this though, giving her magical cat herding abilities.

 

  1. Professor X (MV; Hero) – this kind of feels like a cheat since he can psychically override just about anything with a brain.

 

  1. Vixen (DC; Hero) – this seems like a fairly racist one; she can channel animal powers, but mostly African animals, since she was born there, but maybe not, since the amulet that gives her this power was stolen from one of the African gods. I’m not sure how that one shakes out.

 

  1. Circe (DC; Villain) – Okay, this one is fairly deep. She based on the Circe from Homer’s Odyssey, who was the witch that turned the sailors into pigs. Supposedly she can communicate with real animals, but mostly controls the humans that she has turned into animals.

 

  1. Moonstar (Marvel; Hero) – She seems to be able to connect telepathically with animals, rather than control them, to see through their eyes and feel what they feel.

 

  1. Beast Boy (DC; Hero) – He can shapeshift into animals (the result of an experimental medical treatment), but cannot communicate very articulately to them.

 

  1. Hawkman/Hawkgirl (DC; Heros) – These two have really complicated and conflicting storylines, and so the ability to communicate with and control birds is erratic, but stems from their alien technology.

 

  1. Koi Boy and Chipmunk Hunk (Marvel; Heroes) – Ummmm. Yeah. Pretty much what you would think.

 

  1. Chat (Marvel; Hero) – The ScreenRant article describes her as a Snow White figure – animals love her and happily do her bidding.

 

  1. Nature Girl (Marvel; Hero) – She can communicate with and command animals, and even plants and demons.

 

  1. Wonder Woman (DC; Hero) – This is an ability based on her being an Amazon – she can easily communicate with and control animals, and is depicted as actual speech instead of empathy.

 

  1. Animal Man (DC; Hero) – This fella has a complicated backstory involving reanimation and an alien force field. He’s got it all – he can shapeshift, control any animal, take on their abilities, and communicate with them.

 

  1. Ant-Man and Wasp (Marvel; Heroes) – Ant-Man uses his helmet to communicate with ants; he doesn’t control them exactly, but they seem to like him and play along. Wasp’s powers come from genetic modification.

 

  1. Squirrel Girl (Marvel; Hero) – Again, it’s all there in the name.

1. Aquaman (DC; Hero) – He can communicate with sea life, and his pet companion is a frickin’ kraken.

So clearly the comic books characters have various and varying abilities as regards animal manipulation. So what comes to mind when you think of animal communication in the real world? Perhaps the most badass talent – snake charming!

Funny story – I recently got into a debate with my husband about snake charming and whether or not it was a real thing – I was convinced it was one of those overblown racist misinterpretations of a foreign culture during the time that the British Empire was trying to take over the world. We know snakes don’t really hear, and music always factors greatly into portrayals on TV (that same damn tune, which is actually a song called “The Streets of Cairo, or the Poor Little Country Maid”, and is also often associated with the hoochie coochie belly dance (which is often provocative in nature) – partial lyrics are as follows: “Soak your ass in the tureen/If it’s hot it burns/If it burns it’s that it’s hot!” other variations: “There’s a place in France/Where the ladies where no pants/But the men don’t care/’Cause they don’t wear underwear”)

I found a Popular Science article explaining that the music is actually just there for entertainment value; what controls the snake is the charmer waving the flute thingy in the snake’s face. The snake interprets it as a threat and what we see is the snake rising in a defensive pose. The snake sways in response to the swaying of the flute thingy. So, essentially the charmer is using his flute to pick a fight with a snake. Which is still a pretty cool display of evolutionary defensive instincts if you think about it, but it still seems kind of mean. As for my husband, I’m calling this one a draw. The snakes are not charmed so much as they’re provoked, but it is a real thing that happens, so I guess we’re tied.

Sadly, NPR reports that snake charming is a dying art. I’m ambiguous on this one because perhaps the snakes aren’t really having a great time here, but this is also a cultural art with a lot of history, and it’s always sad to see something like that go away, especially if the snakes are treated humanely, which I have no way of knowing. Animal rights activists are venomously opposed to the practice (har, har), but the charmers themselves seem to respect the snakes, the good ones, anyway. There are some terrible people out there who apparently mutilate the animals to make sure they aren’t dangerous, but some insist that their taming methods are humane and the snakes are eventually released back into the wild.

There is a wildlife group in India that is trying to re-purpose remaining snake charmers so that they would be employed removing dangerous snakes from populated areas and relocating them to wilder areas. I feel like that’s a win-win – the snakes are no longer in danger of exploitation, and these artists don’t lose their livelihoods. The article hits it on the head though, and states that the real loss is the charmer’s flute, which the snakes don’t even hear anyway.

So what else, Nikki? What have we personally been exposed to semi-recently? In a giant castle that looked like it was made of Lego blocks? That’s right! Falconry! And horsemanship!

So, when I think of falconry, I automatically think of Samwell Tarly and his ravens, or the Owlery in Harry Potter, or carrier pigeons, sending spy messages during WWII. The reality isn’t quite so sexy, but it’s still pretty cool, albeit extremely nerdy. According to the North America Falconers Association, it takes at least seven years to become a master falconer. There is an apprenticeship involved (as with all awesome trades) and the daily time commitment is intense. You also have to have access to an adequate amount of land. This is not a hobby for apartment dwellers. Falconers are also required to be humane and eco-responsible.

Speaking of carrier pigeons… they have a long history of carrying message for us earthbound humans. There are references to pigeon mail in the bible, and they’ve been used to convey messages during war all over the world throughout much of history, up until recently. And guess what! You can still have messages sent via homing pigeons. Well, sort of. There’s a company in Texas that will take your message, have a homing pigeon fly around with it, then attach it to a letter of authenticity and mail it (via conventional methods) to your recipient. Their website is pigeongram.com, if anyone out there is interested. It’s not terribly expensive, and it’s fairly adorable. Frighteningly for me, there is no statement of humane treatment on their website, but I’m trying not to jump to conclusions. I’m sure their pigeons are very well cared for.

Alright, moving on to horses, my personal soft spot. Tween-age me was 100% Tina from Bob’s burgers. I had horse posters everywhere – a horse Trapper Keeper, horse books, notebooks, I even managed to get myself a job at a stable when I was 12 so I could work for my lessons (cause we was broke as hell) and during that time all my best friends were horses (I’m not even joking). PBS did an article about horse whispering. This really boils down to people who are really good at communicating with horses through non-supernatural means. Just as some people have an uncanny ability to hit a ball speeding at their face with a stick of wood, some folks have a great talent for sending and understanding cues with certain animals. Animals have personalities just like people, and like some people are able to get along with anybody, some people seem able to get along with any horse. The article states that often this understanding is the result of a lot of work, and a compatible partnership between human and horse. People that put a lot of time and effort into learning how to decipher cues from their horses, and send cues the horses can interpret, earn the title of horse whisperer. I think this is true for any animal, and in some cases these skills may translate across different types of animals, but that’s just my opinion.

In the storied comic tradition of heroes or villains rallying animals to help them, we some real world, though less dramatic, examples of that as well. Therapy animals! Animal therapy is one of my favorite things that exists in the world. I always had animals growing up and I’ve always had a love and respect for them. I benefited a lot from horse friends – I had a lot of low self esteem as a kid; we moved around a lot and I was always the outsider. But when I was with our dogs, or with the horses at the stable, they didn’t care about any of that crap. They were affectionate to me without me worrying that it was a cruel trick or pity or a social project. My dog doesn’t care if I get fat or don’t wash my hair. It’s very liberating and a warm, furry emotional band-aid.

Therapy animals have been found to be helpful in everything from rehabilitation to PTSD to social disorders and physical disabilities and depression. http://www.equestriantherapy.com/ claims that horses are the most utilized species of therapy animal, but of course dogs and cats commonly fill this role as well.

Favorite Quote: “I’m Dar.” – Dar

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!