Judging from user ratings and critics alike, I’m in the minority of those who think the new original Netflix series Stranger Things is just okay instead of the Coolest Thing Ever. Look at any review and you’ll find a handful of references to ’80s movies such as E.T., Firestarter, The Goonies, and Poltergeist. The problem is, the show doesn’t add up to much more than an homage to such films, a loving pastiche, but a copy nonetheless. It’s like a cover song of an ’80s tune rather than a new song that uses ’80s sounds to make unique music. In our reboot culture, it’s somehow closer in tone and story to those films than an actual reboot with the same characters, despite the fact that the show’s story is original (in the most basic sense). Everything from the score and pop songs to the neon red title, promotional images, casting, and story elements is an ode to ’80s pop culture.
A hilarious takedown of a certain kind of poem published in a certain kind of literary venue. (Also a great exercise in tone.) This made me feel better about the fact that any given poet friend of mine writes more interesting stuff than what typically gets published in Big Name Magazines via “connections.”
British detective show Marcella recently began streaming on Netflix, and I quickly signed on: I love a good mystery, and I love a competent woman solving a case. Unfortunately, there’s a bit too much mystery going on, and I was confused for far too long of the series.
This volume felt like a quickie transitional one, with its final chapter presenting a fun standalone story featuring the characters readers voted as their favorites (fandom, please explain all the love for Charles Grey and Vincent Phantomhive; I don’t get it). We see the gang at Diedrich’s, followed by a return to London where the “emerald witch” (Sieglinde Sullivan) must be schooled in how to be a lady before she’s brought to meet the queen. At first I was side-eying the goings-on; I mean, this is a girl who can’t walk because her feet were bound for so long. But eventually Lizzie arrives to save the day (after a perfectly understandable misunderstanding), making Ciel join the lessons as well.
We also see a bit of Wolfram’s background, and a touching scene or two between him and his charge. Finally, we learn how reapers are made (no storks involved), or, I should say, what “qualifies” one to become a reaper; I don’t think this is information we’d already been given, but we’re at volume 22, so there’s a chance I forgot.
As usual, this volume could use 200% more Snake and Finny (and why is Mey-rin on the cover when she’s barely present?), but there’s some Undertaker at least!
I’ve been excited about Paul Feig’s all-women Ghostbusters since I first read about it. I say this as a fan of the original, which came out when I was a kid, as a fan of Feig’s since Freaks and Geeks, and as a fan of the funny ladies who make up the new team–Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon, in case you’ve been hiding under a rock. Of course, I couldn’t just be excited as a fan; immediately a minority of butthurt fanboys felt the need to spend effort trashing a movie they hadn’t seen before it was even released (and continue to do so now that it has been). Because there aren’t worse things in the world going on.
Reading a King novel has become an annual thing for me the past few years. Previously I read a couple gigantic “classics” (It and The Stand). This time I went for something more recent: the first book in what’s become the Bill Hodges trilogy, Mr. Mercedes. A detective thriller rather than horror, the book maintains suspense while shifting between mostly Hodges’s pov and the killer’s. It’s a dance where sometimes the ex-detective is in the lead, and sometimes the “perk” (as the latter mistakenly terms a perp).
As always, the characters and story were engaging, and you can count on King for humor and an interest in contemporary popular culture. A key scene is set at a fictional boy band concert, clearly a One Direction nod. I love that despite the killer’s nasty take on the scene, we see a mother, daughter, and friends enjoying the experience.
When I’ve come across reviews of this series, the lead characters are always mentioned as a draw: Hodges and his unofficial partners Jerome and Holly. They’re an odd, interesting trio: an old ex-cop, a super-smart and charismatic black teenager, and a neurotic, middle-aged womanchild just coming into her own.
Sometimes Jerome’s intelligence and middle-class background are highlighted a bit too much, as if to say, “He’s black but not poor or a criminal! Aren’t you surprised?” And the killer is not only that, he’s racist, misogynist, ableist–every kind of -ist–to boot, like we needed those things to really find him awful. I’m not saying it’s unbelievable that such a sociopath would hate people generally, but it’s a bit of an anvil dropping on your head.
I do wish Holly had shown up or become involved sooner. I struggled to care about Janey, a victim’s relative, and actually hoped she’d be killed; I don’t think I was supposed to feel that way. 🙂 Janey feels like she exists to help Hodges get on his feet again and to give him motivation to get the killer (in other words, she feels like a plot device, not a person). Holly has an actual arc despite not being present for about half the book.
Despite these couple caveats, I’ll definitely read the next book in the series when I’m in the mood for a thriller and eager to spend more time with these characters.
(Forgive the silly title; for some reason, every time I watched an episode, the Rolling Stones’ “Miss Amanda Jones” came to mind, and then the movie Some Kind of Wonderful. It was a whole thing. #associations)
Some things to know about me that are relevant to these thoughts on Marvel’s Jessica Jones: The whole superhero explosion exhausts me. I’ve essentially abstained from watching the endless parade of adaptations and sequels, movies and TV both (the last superhero thing I willingly watched and enjoyed was Guardians of the Galaxy). Also, my reading of superhero comic book canon is light. You won’t see complaints about the show as an adaptation. Even if I did read more, I believe that every version of a text needs to work on its own as whatever it is (a book, a movie, a TV show, etc.). Easter eggs are cool; assuming my knowledge is not (nor the unnecessary crossover, as when Claire from Daredevil shows up).
One last thing: it’s not just–or even really–the saturation. It’s the lack of women superheroes put center stage.
When Jessica Jones arrived on Netflix, I thought, Okay, I could check that out. When I read it was not like other superhero fare, I moved it up the queue. When I quickly understood that it was TV noir, I was on fucking board.