Tag Archives: rant

So. Age of Ultron.

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Score: 5.5/10

Disclaimer: I enjoyed the film. I really did. I had a hella good time at the cinema, with only the occasional facepalm moment. Age of Ultron has a high entertainment value. But that never has and never will excuse shitty things, and AoU is no exception.

Also, spoilers ahead (for pretty much the entire MCU). And swearing. You have been warned.


Joss Whedon has one thing down cold: Tricking you into thinking whatever you’re watching is amazing while you are watching it, covering up the, once you think about it, glaringly obvious issues whatever product you’re consuming has. Firefly suffered from this. I watched a few episodes and sort of enjoyed them, then didn’t have time and took a break, and while I had time to think about what I’d watched, I realised that, even without the obvious problem of “I’m telling you that humankind is basically a mash-up of the USA and China at that point but I will proceed to show you mostly white people”, no, the show isn’t all that great. Same for Cabin in the Woods. It was fun while it lasted, if you will, but its supposed subversion and parody of common tropes and clichés was actually just mostly common tropes and clichés.

Age of Ultron has the largest gap so far between the fun I had watching it and the number of things that have been driving me nuts about it since I left the cinema. Now I think the writing wasn’t really that good, the “wit” of many conversations was mostly just bad puns and thinly-disguised insults (mostly directed at poor Hawkeye and Cap), and the most genuinely funny thing was everyone teasing Steve, the eternal gentleman, about being opposed to swear words. Clint, on the other hand, got told that his (allegedly) not having a girlfriend is something that needed fixing, and that he’s supposedly impotent. Hilarious.
The short(est) end of the stick goes to Natasha, though. She gets flashbacks alluding to her training in the Black Widow program, telling us a little more about how and why she became who and what she is. Oh, and that bit about being a monster because she can’t have biological children. Nope, that’s what she says, pretty much a direct response to Bruce telling her that he “can’t biologically have children” and therefore isn’t good enough for her (a notion that’s problematic on its own). Now people argue she’s not referring to the sole fact that she was forcibly sterilised as part of her “graduation ceremony”, but rather means that the entire thing, being trained and basically brainwashed to become a merciless killer, but the way the dialogue is written has the line about not being able to bear children come directly before she says to Bruce (probably paraphrased, I’m translating here) “you’re not the only monster in the room”. There is a direct connection made by the script, and you can’t tell me that’s a coincidence. And Bruce doesn’t react. He just looks vaguely doubtful, instead of, dunno, telling Natasha that she’s not a monster because she had this procedure done to her without her consent that rendered her infertile, maybe giving her a chance to say that she doesn’t think that specific thing makes her a monster, but that she meant the whole ordeal she went through when she was young, making it clear that she was referring to her being an assassin for so long, and that she only told him about the sterilisation to make him see that there are other people out there struggling with their inability to have children, that he isn’t alone with this and that it doesn’t make him worthless as a romantic partner. That the monster comment indeed was meant to make him see that because he becomes the Hulk and possibly hurts innocent people when he can’t control himself doesn’t make the Bruce here and now a monster, just like her past as an assassin killing innocent people doesn’t make present-day Natasha a monster (returning to the red-in-her-ledger theme from the first
Avengers).
Buuut instead of exploring the struggles of both Natasha and Bruce and how they bonded over sharing the burden, if you will, we get a stupid-ass conversation that measures a human’s worth pretty much entirely by their ability to have biological children. It occurs for both Bruce and Natasha, but in Natasha’s case there’s a whole string of issues attached to it, from centuries of measuring a woman’s worth almost exclusively by how many children/sons she had to the stigma women face even today when they don’t have children (by choice or by circumstance), making the whole thing so much worse for both her and the women in the audience who, for one reason or another, don’t or can’t have children (not to mention that this hints at the horrible notion of what defines a “real woman”, and subsequently a “real man”).
Also, there’s this weird romantic subplot between Natasha and Bruce that just came out of nowhere and progressed from friendship to smooching hella fast. Figuratively speaking. Actual smooching did occur, but only because Natasha needed to distract Bruce for a moment so she could push him into a giant hole in the ground to make him turn into the Hulk to fight Ultron, which turned the already weak romance into a hot mess of “wait, so was she pretending the whole time or was she just desperate for the Hulk in that specific moment?” I’m still not a hundred percent sure.

Let’s move on to Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Oh boy.
I like those guys. I really do. And Olsen’s performance was really good. But… can we talk for a moment about how they are basically just Wanda and Pietro by name in AoU, and pretty much nothing else except their superpowers? Sure, they couldn’t make them mutants, but why did they have to go and make two Jewish Roma people into two very white people who actually volunteered for fucking HYDRA? As in, the super-Nazis of the MCU? I mean, if they didn’t know it was HYDRA and they just wanted revenge on Tony Stark, okay, but that never gets mentioned? And neither does their heritage? If you had to be an asshole and cast non-Roma actors because you don’t have the balls to break Hollywood’s unspoken “token and no more” rule (and you already had Rhodey/War Machine and Fury and Dr. Cho, so of course you couldn’t cast any more non-white actors, jeez!), then at least don’t completely erase every part of their heritage? Is it too much to ask for a throwaway line or two to tell us that they are Jewish and/or were raised by Roma parents? I mean, Steve gets his line in Avengers about how there is “only one god, and he doesn’t dress this way”, hinting strongly at a (probably protestant) Christian background, so why not give one of the twins a line like that? Someone mentioned a possible comparison of the old church where the twins first meet Ultron and their old synagogue which “is a lot nicer”. Or maybe have them talk privately in Romani, or give one of them a one-liner about how fighting an evil robot isn’t how they “imagine a quiet passover” or whatever. Anything that hints at their comic origins that doesn’t paint them as mutants would have been possible, you chose nothing at all. Awesome. Another lost opportunity.

Those were my biggest issues, but the rest of the film is far from perfect. I remember watching the scene where they try to lift Mjölnir when the teaser came out, and when the scene played in the cinema, I was hella confused. Everyone gets some kind of quip when they try to lift the hammer, and Tony made the hilariously funny “joke” that, when he’d lift the hammer and get to rule the world, he’d reinstate prima nocta: the alleged right of feudal lords to sleep with anyone’s new wife before the husband did. Basically legal rape. Yes, they went there. Even though that right is pretty much a myth (at least in Europe, apparently it did exist elsewhere, in different versions, but it never was a wide-spread law).
The original line was something about him being “firm and fair” – not a rape joke. It was good. Fit Tony’s personality as a megalomaniac with a ginormous ego. Why they decided to make him joke about sleeping with someone else’s wife whether said wife consented or not is beyond me. That’s not even something one could attribute to the playboy side of his personality. He’s a womaniser, not a fucking rapist.
The stupid kidnapping of Natasha by Ultron, that served no fucking purpose at all except to give Bruce an opportunity to rescue her. Literally nothing happens, Ultron has no reason to even keep Natasha alive, so why did you just have to include that? Was Natasha too independent for your taste? Couldn’t you imagine a better scenario to show us that even super-spies sometimes need help, and Bruce can be a hero without the Hulk, too? Something that’s not completely stupid and lazy writing, and actually is grounded in the plot and not a done-to-death trope?
Then the suggestion that the fact Clint is supposedly single is something that needed to be “fixed”. Why? What the hell is wrong with people who think that single people are somehow inherently broken? Screw you, Whedon. Seriously.
Speaking of Clint, he’s married and has a family and that’s good for him. And he kept his family a secret from SHIELD and his fellow Avengers to keep them safe. But his wife’s last name is Barton, according to the cast list? For the love of god, why? That’s about the easiest measure to take to prevent anyone from finding out about your family, dude! I’d say something about masculine insecurities here, but a) Hawkeye is fictional, b) he’s probably the least traditionally macho type of the group, and c) my mum kept her last name, too, and it hasn’t shattered my dad’s ego, either, so there really is no excuse for the secret government agent/superhero to not take this extra measure and ask his wife to keep her last name to eliminate one more official connection to him that could be found.

And the myriad of other things that just didn’t make sense in the larger context of the MCU. How did Steve’s search for Bucky go? How did Natasha become so close with Bruce and so good at calming the Hulk? What’s up with the new heroes we saw in previous films, like War Machine and Falcon, where are they when the killer robot shit goes down in Sokovia? Chilling on Hawaii? Somewhere without cell reception? And didn’t Tony basically retire from being Iron Man at the end of Iron Man 3? Shouldn’t he be way more reluctant to don his suit again? Where is Loki hanging out? Shouldn’t he have a vested interest in getting back his Infinity stone if he wants to be king of Asgard? And where the fuck did Fury find an intact helicarrier that he could just take on a ride to Europe after Winter Soldier?! I’m guessing he actually made an ass pull joke in that scene, going by his line in the German version? But that is not a satisfying explanation! Making random shit happen yelling “Magic!” and expecting people to just swallow it is fucking lazy.
A lot of what happened in previous films just doesn’t seem to matter anymore in Age of Ultron, and the writer in me is really angry that someone so famous can get away with this lazy bullshit, and so many people seem to think he and his creation(s) are somehow immune to criticism. No. No, they are not!

I’m pretty cross with Marvel in general and Whedon in particular right now. I probably wouldn’t feel this way if he didn’t constantly talk about how he’s so much of a feminist, and then mention that declaring one’s alignment with specific political views destroys one’s art (in reference to people telling him that writing lines that shame people, especially women, for making choices he doesn’t agree with is not feminism). He even said that you “change people’s (sexists, in this case) minds” through your actions, not through words, and then proceeds to do stuff that’s 100% not what feminism stands for. He says all these things and then throws us lines like the monster one, or the “single people need fixing” reference, and renders his pretty words little more than lipservice to an audience he wants to appeal to because he likes money, I guess?
I’m glad he’s not doing Infinity War. I hope Marvel get their shit together and learn from the criticism they got for AoU. But I probably won’t go see Infinity War at the cinema. I didn’t go see the last few MCU films, and then went to watch AoU because Winter Soldier pleasantly surprised me. Shoulda stayed home and saved me some money.
For me, it’s just not worth it anymore. I just want a fun ride that has some sort of overarching plot attached to it that pays off in a huge, loud, colourful showdown, and instead get told by the film that I’m a broken human being because I don’t have a partner or kids, other people apparently don’t exist because they aren’t “white” enough, and rape is funny. Sorry, but I’m not giving you money to get insulted. Do better in the future, and I might reconsider. The last scene was a good start, with the “new” Avengers being trained by Natasha and Steve. There’s potential there. But I have a feeling it’s going to go to waste one way or another…

-Ricarda

Of Walkers and Talkers

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Score: 5/10

[Fair warning: This is long, and kinda rant-y. Also, The Walking Dead spoilers for seasons 1, 2 and 3 ahead, thought that might be moot at this point when season 5 just premiered…]

I’m probably the last zombie fanatic on the entire planet to discover The Walking Dead. I’ve heard a lot of noise about this show, mostly about how it’s something new and exciting, and is something like the Game of Thrones of us zombie people. I kept putting it off for various reasons, but now it’s on German Netflix, so I thought, what the hell, might as well finally give it a shot. I’ve pretty much run out of shows to follow anyway.
I have purposely avoided ‘spoilers’ before watching; I didn’t even read reviews on Amazon, as I usually do. So all I’ve heard about the show was praise, either from the few media outlets I caught mentioning it or from friends of mine who love the show. So I binge-watched the first two seasons in three days to see what the fuzz was all about.
My own reaction was… uh… how to put it… confused. Yep, that’s pretty much what this show does to me – it confuses the hell out of me, on so many levels. Mostly, though, because still I like it, for some reason. It’s like Supernatural all over again. I like the idea, and the general vibe of the show, but so, so many things make me angry about both of those shows that I just want to scream at the TV sometimes. I still started with S3, but with much less enthusiasm than I had when I watched the pilot.
For SPN, it’s the ridiculously convoluted plotlines since season 3, the metric shit-ton of ultra macho angst in every other episode, and the fact that it’s a total sausage fest and treats its few women in an infuriating way. For TWD, it’s the ridiculously uninspired plotlines (though that might be due to the source material; haven’t gotten that far into the comic yet), the forced drama in every single episode, the total lack of character development (unless you count Rick going from Nice Guy to sociopath in the span of three episodes), and here, too, the fact that most female characters are tropes instead of characters. Most male characters, too, but the show at least attempts to give most of them something more.
Those things in combination with the generally good idea and overall quality of the show (writing notwithstanding) make for a show that managed to hook me and still makes me fume quietly over at least half of each episode.
Let’s dissect this from the top.

 

I. Plot and structure

I’ve said the plot of TWD is uninspired. Allow me to elaborate. Zombies have been used for ages as a vehicle to tell stories about humans, about civilisation versus animal instincts, about individuality versus crowd mentality, just plain survival and whatever else anyone could think of. They are great for that. An enemy that’s not human but somehow still is, that reminds us about the fact that, under the right circumstances, we all can be monsters, and then can be used to explore just how extreme those circumstances would have to be for any given individual.
TWD tries that, and fails miserably. Part of the reason why might be the short lifespan of each season. Six episodes in the first, thirteen in the second. Yet they crammed so damn much into those seasons: The apocalypse itself, naturally; Rick waking up and coming to terms with the new world; Lori apparently moving on; Lori and Rick getting reunited and the resulting tension between not-really-moving-on Lori, Rick and Shane; Carol’s abusive asshole of a husband; the group deciding to move on and splitting up because of conflicting goals; the ‘maybe there’s hope – there is no hope’ CDC plot; Shane slowly turning into a sociopath; Fort Benning; Carl getting shot; Hershel’s farm; Sophia getting lost; searching for Sophia; tension between the groups of survivors; Andrea maybe-or-not killing herself; the walkers in Hershel’s barn; Lori’s baby and the ‘Who’s the daddy?’ plot; the group being allowed to stay at the farm just to get yanked out of their perceived secure ‘paradise’; Rick killing Shane; Rick assuming Shane’s role as the designated sociopath and all-around asshole. And then repeating some of those plotlines again: The Govenor as the nice-guy-who’s-actually-a-total-dick; his keeping his zombie daughter locked up because “maybe she’s still in there”; the safe-place-that-isn’t-so-safe-after-all. Plus all the ‘little’ things, like someone dying all the time for really dumb reasons, people getting in trouble for really dumb reasons, and people arguing for really dumb reasons.
And that’s just the first two-and-a-half seasons. Really? Believe it or not, there is a limit to what you can cram into a single season (especially one that’s shorter than average) without it looking like you’re trying too hard. At some point, it’s getting tedious, then ridiculous, and then flat-out hilarious. In this case, hilarious began with Lori’s stupid car crash. I don’t even… what? How would anyone manage to crash their car on a deserted road like that? Out of sheer stupidity, that’s how. Lori crashes the car by not looking at the road for almost ten seconds and hitting the only lone walker on the whole damn road. This accident should not have happened, especially since it does nothing for the plot, at all. Lori wants to go after Rick (an ex-cop) and Glenn (the guy who, according to the show, is the best at traipsing through walker-infested cities undetected), who went after Hershel, who went to get wasted after his walker-wife was killed. She has no reason to go after them other than manufactured drama. Not to mention that she’s a) pregnant and b) has a son to protect, too, which she frequently seems to forget.
Point is, the show can not maintain tension through anything other than forced drama and surprise zombie attacks that most of the time should not be surprising or, and that’s my favourite, shouldn’t happen at all. An example of the first kind is Rick’s arrival in Atlanta, a city with over five million people in the metropolitan area, and even if you only count the city, it’s still half a million. The walkers swarming Rick should have surprised exactly no-one, least of all Rick, the guy living in the zombie apocalypse. An example of the second variety is the attack that drives the group off the farm at the end of season 2. A heard of zombies heard a helicopter and started following it, even long after it passed, and ended up on the farm. But. In the first episode, there was a helicopter doing exactly the same thing, and the walkers didn’t give a fuck about it then. And if zombies behaved that way, the city would be empty, and huge zombie herds would be walking across the land, because they apparently don’t stop after starting in the direction of the noise. It would’ve also made killing them really easy; just do the World War Z thing, blast some AC/DC in stadiums and then nuke them when they’re full. And even if we are willing to suspend disbelief for this, there’s still the question how a relatively quiet helicopter drew so much attention; there should be ambient noise, wind, buildings crumbling, animals and whatnot being just as loud or louder, so the helicopter shouldn’t have the impact it has.
I’d totally be willing to suspend my disbelief for TWD, really. It’s just that the show fires its drama missiles at a rate that makes it way too predictable. You just know when something is going to happen because there always is something happening; it’s not a surprise anymore after the first few episodes. A good show has suspense, sure, but it allows for quieter interlude episodes, too. I need a chance to calm down, to get used to the way things are, to allow myself to believe that this time, they really are safe, that this time, they made it, before you throw another catastrophe at me. Them. Whatever. I cared about Dale’s death because I had time enough to get to like him. I didn’t care about Amy’s death because I’d seen her for about two episodes before it happened, one of which she spent whining. Sophia’s death was sad, but more because she was a child than because of me genuinely caring about her.
Overall, I feel like the writers just got lazy at some point. The first few episodes were cool, but then it just seemed like they didn’t know how to write actual human drama (I refuse to call the constant squabbling ‘genuine drama’), so they decided to go the ‘shake things up all the time’ route. They keep adrenaline levels in the viewers high with action, but can’t hold our attention with anything else, so they decided to stick to the ALL THE DRAMA! approach. And the only way they try to break up this roller coaster of zombie action is by inserting deep and meaningful (achem) dialogue on a regular basis, where characters talk about things that either have been shown already and don’t need verbal emphasis, or could have been shown better by action rather than by dialogue. It gets to the point where zombie attacks get interrupted for some conversation – one moment, there’s a walker about to eat someone, the next the same someone is waxing poetic about some stuff we could’ve waited to hear until the immediate threat of death by zombie has passed. But there’s always a convenient break in the action for discussions to happen, and that takes a lot of the threat out of for me. Because I just know those two idiots should get eaten while they argue but won’t, no matter what. It’s important storytelling, after all.

 

II. The characters

Oh boy. Where do I start?
Right. Main characters. I think that’s Rick and his family, with Shane and Dale being close second, and the rest are supporting characters. So far, so good. I don’t expect a specific kind of character; nice protagonists, mean protagonists, criminal protagonists, sociopathic protagonists, I can handle all of those. But the show should a) be somewhat consistent in the portrayal of its main characters and b) give me something, anything, that makes me care. TWD makes it really, really difficult to like or root for any of its main or supporting characters (with the exception of Daryl, maybe; he’s kind of a dick, but at least he’s an honest dick, and he gets a nice character arc later to make up for that).
Rick starts out okay. Confused guy trying to deal with the shithole the world has become and searching for his family, then trying to keep them alive and get them to safety. His primary antagonist, apart from the zombies, is Shane – they compete for group leadership (open, more encompassing conflict) and Lori’s affection (private, human conflict). Shane is set up as a violent, narcissistic sociopath who, in the end, has to die for the good of the group. Good, I can dig that. But then it’s a shit move to make Rick turn into the exact same person Shane was and not just letting him get away with it, but trying to make me like him that way. That is so, so weird and so, so wrong. You can’t give me an antagonist who dies for a certain ‘sin’, and then have the protagonist commit that same sin as well, but since he’s the hero, it’s okay. Shane is criticised for his violent temper, but when Rick tortures Randall, it’s okay because he’s just trying to keep the group safe. Shane tries to decide for everyone, regardless of their opinion and gets shit for it, but when Rick says, literally, that the group isn’t a democracy, it’s fine because he just wants what is best for everyone. And that’s not even touching on the inconsistencies in Rick’s character: Searching for Sophia for days even though logic says she is either dead or safely somewhere else at this point, but then dismissing Andrea as ‘dead anyway’ after the attack in the season finale. Insisting on saving Merle and later Randall, but then torturing Randall for… information, I guess? The show is rather vague about that. Before that, Rick is adamant they give Randall a fighting chance by dropping him off at some place where he’s relatively safe and can get some supplies, but when the guy mentions something about going to school with Maggie, Rick takes him back (presumably because maybe Randall isn’t so bad, then?), only to decide then that Randall will be executed because he’s a threat. Rick is doing so many 180s in the second half of season 2, I’ve just given up trying to understand it. I wish he’d just kick the bucket and let Michonne take over as the protagonist.
Then there’s Lori. She’s either an annoying, angsty bitch, or simply a vehicle for Rick’s angst; either way, she’s a horrible character, and I was relieved when she bit the dust in the prison. She’s supposed to be a caring person and awesome mother who just happened to have banged her presumed-dead husband’s best friend for comfort, but I don’t see much evidence of either. She frequently is selfish and reckless, and she keeps losing track of Carl in critical situations, like, you know, zombie attacks. The same Carl she is supposedly so worried about, but who somehow manages to wander off and end up in danger all the time, whenever it’s needed for the plot. Beyond those supposed traits, which get mentioned a lot, but aren’t really seen on-screen, there isn’t much else about her. I know her as ‘Rick’s wife’ and that’s it. No backstory, no relationships, no nothing. I didn’t really pay attention to it, but I’m not sure TWD at the end of season 2 has passed the Bechdel test (Edit: Wait, it does, with the laundry scene in episode 2 or 3). And that’s another reason why I have a beef with TWD: In a world that has gone to hell (and then come back trying to eat your face), where the top priority is surviving for another day, the roles are distributed like a bad 1970s post-apocalypse film – the men protect and gather, and the women maintain the camp and keep an eye on the kids. This is mentioned once, the question isn’t resolved and then it’s never brought up again, in a show that is supposedly ‘not about zombies, but about what humankind becomes when the old structures disappear’. The whole misery is excellently highlighted by the various characters’ priorities in Lori’s baby situation. Maggie goes ballistic over the ‘abortion pills’, Lori frets about whether or not she even should have a baby in this world, and Rick and Shane go all macho over who’s baby it is. Gender stereotypes at their finest.
Let’s move on to Carl. I’m still not sure if I’m even supposed to like him. He’s a mini-me of Rick, sometimes, then he gets all sensitive, and then it’s suddenly ‘Let’s shoot my dad’s dead best friend!’ again. Not to mention that he should have died of stupidity ten times over by the end of season 2, but magic and plot conveniences keep saving his ass. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t have many aspects beyond ‘Rick’s and Lori’s kid’. ‘Sophia’s friend’ maybe, but that’s more the other way around. He never asks about grandparents, friends, or whatever else he could possibly care about other than shooting things with guns he shouldn’t have. He gets a little better in season 3, but barely.
That’s what irks me about the supporting cast as well. They have so little backstory in addition to what they do on-screen, they might as well have none at all. Dale is an exception, he’s got a consistent backstory that ties in with what we see of him in the show itself. Daryl is okay, too, but only gets his story told in season 2. The rest? Not so much. There’s Ed, the abuser, and his wife Carol, the abuse victim. Andrea, who is angry. Merle, who is a racist asshole. Amy, who is young and blonde. Glenn, who is the group’s doormat. T-Dog, who is… black, I guess? Seriously, he barely has any lines, and the longest dialogue so far has been with Merle about his being black and Merle’s racist bullshit. Glenn gets a little more personality after they arrive on the farm and takes up a relationship with Maggie, and in season 3, these two are actually my personal favourites. But that takes way too long to happen for my taste.
In season 3, we get Michonne, who I really dig, but gets very little backstory since she doesn’t really talk. She’s still one of the more level-headed and sensible people around, given the circumstances, and would make for a much better leader than Rick. But I suppose since she’s a woman, that won’t happen, ever. Also, she’s black, and TWD has a disturbing track record of axing its lone black character when the next one comes along. T-Dog dies for Big Tiny, Big Tiny dies for Oscar, that guy dies for Michonne, and now there are actually two more black characters, and I’m waiting for the next one to snuff it. Not a good sign.
Aaand season 3 also got us the Govenor. What. The. Hell. That guy is as cliche evil as they come, but of course, nobody but Michonne notices. How? How in the world does nobody know that, or then calmly accept it when it shows (as with the zombie fight club thing)? Is everyone at Woodbury nuts? But the show says no, those are normal people who want a normal life, but are somehow okay with this? The Govenor also isn’t a very logical character. He does everything he does for his own gain and judges people by their usefulness to him. But when he could gain some very skilled allies with the soldiers, he just nonchalantly has them killed for… what reason again? Because he wanted what they had? Which he could’ve gotten by letting them stay, plus their skills in potential fights? And then he does the same with the prison. He literally wants to kill everyone there just because. Because he doesn’t want another group so close to Woodbury. Which shouldn’t be an issue, since apparently, the way between the two locations is dangerous and requires a car to safely get from A to B. They probably wouldn’t know the other group was there. Yet he plans on killing all the people to… not move into a much more secure location? Because he can? Because he’s a dangerous and violent sociopath who somehow still manages to appear charming despite being clearly out of control and delusional? Nevermind that there’s about fifty people living at Woodbury, and even if we assume half of those can and will fight, that’s not ‘severely outnumbered and outgunned’, especially when the smaller group resides in a freaking fortress. I’m so not buying this character and this plot.
The rest of the (still) living minor characters are people I don’t really care about, mainly because a lot of them rotate very quickly, with lifespans of a few episodes tops. I already mentioned that I’m rather fond of Daryl, Glenn and Maggie, but those three aside, I couldn’t care less of any of the others died. I fact, I keep laughing when ridiculous stuff happens, like the ‘walker bomb’ when the Govenor attacks the prison, or the zombie heads in fish tanks. If that’s not intentional, it speaks tons about the writing, and it’s not compliments.
Who’s left? Well, all the people in fridges. Morgan’s wife; Amy; Hershel’s wife; Michonne’s boyfriend and child (I think); the Govenor’s daughter; Dale’s wife. Though the latter gets some semblance of a character when Dale tells about his life with her, and how she wanted to travel but couldn’t anymore before she died. And while some of those people gets fridged for a woman (Amy for Andrea, Michonne’s family for her), all of them are female with the exception of Michonne’s boyfriend.
In any case, TWD would really benefit from a few more fleshed-out, less stereotypical characters, both in leading and supporting roles. And if the protagonist has to be a psychotic dickwad, at least make his actions more consistent with the world around him and his own characterisation. He doesn’t have to be likeable, just understandable.

 

III. The pacing

I mentioned this before, when I said that I find it hilarious how there’s always time for talking, so long as it’s ‘relevant’ (your mileage may vary) to the plot, no matter how dire the situation is. That illustrates nicely how skewed the priorities of both the writers and the characters are. Sure, sometimes, it’s good to slow things down a bit to talk about issues, but not in the middle of being overrun by zombies. And certainly not several times per episode. It gets tedious, and if it happens in the middle of an action sequence, I get so distracted by it that I forget that I should be on the edge of my seat. There’s not logic to these interruptions, either, and so they happen and confuse me and more importantly anger me, and I skip ahead to when I see the next zombie being decapitated. I started doing this recently, but after enduring so much talking for no good reason, I have my doubts that the scenes I skip are any more important.
The same weird structure is applied to the rest of the show, too. The season typically starts out with some action, then slows down a little, and then starts jumping from ‘quiet’ to ‘hectic’, plot-wise, really frequently. If there is a single episode that’s mostly action, or mostly quiet, day-to-day life, it’s a miracle. The individual episodes don’t have a consistent tone; it’s not that I can’t handle multiple plots at once, or some jumps from someone running through the woods to someone huddling around a fire. But it happens so often, I have hardly enough time to focus on one thing before the next one gets thrown at me. Hence the ‘I don’t give a shit’ attitude. I have so little time to get acquainted with the characters before my attention is required elsewhere that I don’t have time to develop ‘feelings’, if you will, of any sort. Very few characters get enough screen time for that. Of course, with a cast this large, that’s hard, but then don’t give me dramatic danger/death scenes for the minor characters and expect me to care. Because I don’t.
If the show could linger on individual scenes or situations for a wee bit longer, I’d be so, so happy. I don’t mind spending an entire episode or two watching the group clean the prison and figure out how to make it liveable; I see that anyway, just in little chunks scattered through the season. And if the ‘rebuilding society/creating a new one’ aspect is supposedly so important, it shouldn’t matter whether or not those episodes don’t have breathless chase scenes or whatever. But they do, and I suspect the only reason is ‘don’t make it too boring’. Well, if you think one of the main themes of your show is boring, then maybe you shouldn’t have made that theme a focus in the first place.
Basically, I wish the show wasn’t so erratically jumping around the playing field. Moving the pieces slowly, but consistently, to set up a big confrontation, works better in my opinion for a show that prides itself on being ‘not just about killing zombies’. Because for that, you sure are killing a lot of zombies, whether it’s necessary or not.

 

All in all, I’ll probably keep watching TWD, since it’s on Netflix and we have that anyway. But I probably won’t buy any DVDs or go out of my way to catch the new episodes the day they are released. It’s just not worth the effort and money, and frankly, if the quality keeps declining like this, season 3 might be the last for me. We’ll see.

 

-Ricarda

Edit: Wooo, this is post #100 in this blog. Go me! I think…

Weee, technology!

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Or… not?

Looked up the Republic Commando series by Karen Traviss on Amazon. There’s 1, 3 and 4 for the Kindle, and 2… isn’t? What? Whose bright idea was that?

Seriously, I’m having a hard time giving anyone money when I feel like I’m being ripped off while fat businessmen bathe in champagne and light their cigars with hundred-dollar-bills, laughing at those stupid customers who paid for this decadence… -.-

And here I was thinking that my hoarding books wasn’t necessary anymore… I’m a collector, I hatehateHATE switching editions mid-series. It’s gone as far as me buying books twice because I didn’t pay attention when I bought them the first time around and got different layouts or somesuch nonsense. So now I’m supposed to buy three books for my Kindle and put the fourth one on my shelf anyway? Can someone explain this “business strategy” to me? Because making me buy the books used so I have them all in the same form while not paying myself stupid for the paperbacks doesn’t seem very clever to me…

 

– Ricarda

Romantic crap that’s not romantic. At all.

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Okay, I give up. Is there some secret I don’t know about? Some sort of… life-changing, meaningful insight I don’t have? Magical fairy dust?

How do people write romance?

I don’t get it. I’m working on a marriage proposal. Except I seem to have no idea what I’m doing.  Might be lack of personal experience, I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem… right.

I write a sappy scene. I write a comical scene. I write a sombre scene. I write it public, I write it private, I write it all over the freaking place, and it always, ALWAYS seems weird. Sometimes because it just is weird, but mostly because I think “No, that’s not the way he’d go about it, and that’s not a proposal she’d accept!”. But when I do write it the way I think it’d happen, I read it again and then go “But this isn’t romantic! No-one would want it to happen like that! That’s not how it goes down in a properly written romantic subplot!”.

Jesus Fried Chicken, I know why I hate romantic subplots, even the tiny ones. At least when I’m the one writing them. I’m not a romantic person, and I happen to have written two rather un-traditionally romantically involved characters. So it’s either sticking with the “logical” proposal (for them), or the “romantic” one (for the readers), which would be SO out of character it would look like it’s from a different novel -.-

How does anybody write a good romantic subplot without smashing half a dozen keyboards on their forehead?

Writing is hard T_T

 

-Ricarda

Humans suck

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Well, not all of them, and probably even those who do don’t suck all the time, but still. The internet frequently manages to shatter my faith in humanity almost beyond repair T_T

I love being part of a fandom. Fandoms are great. You share something you love with a lot of people (most of whom are awesome), you get to enjoy what you like outside of the original show/book/game/obscure asian film, and you have something to obsess over and discuss in the middle of the night with your best friend who is just as crazy about the show as you are, possibly even crazier.

But then there are the days when I facepalm, headdesk, and do every other possible gesture that expresses an equal amount of embarrassment and “whhhyyy?!”. There are days when I am close to denying every connection I might have to the fandom in question, and pretend I don’t even know what XYZ is. Those are the days when I make the mistake of reading the comments to a fandom-related press release. (Yes, I should know better T_T)

Case in point: An article concerning John Hurt’s role in the next episode of Doctor Who (€dit because d’oh: Of course I mean the 50th anniversary special. Silly me.). Now, if you don’t want to hear, see, read or get signed by a deaf chimpanzee anything about the upcoming series finale, the special, or the series in general, stop reading. Now. I’m serious, go away now, or you will read things you might not want to know. You still here? Okay, I did warn you, don’t blame it on me if your fun gets spoiled.

 

:O

:(

:|

:)

:D

 

Okay, that’s the best I can do. From now on, this is a minefield of possible spoilers.

The article basically states that actor John Hurt (you know, that guy who played Ollivander in the Harry Potter films? Yep, that’s him.) will be in the 50th anniversary special, and he’s going to play the Ninth Doctor. Yes, that’s right. Rumour has it that Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor wasn’t Nine at all, but actually Ten. Which would make David Tennant Eleven, and Matt Smith Twelve. A fact that doesn’t sit well with a lot of fans. Outsiders wouldn’t believe the outrage in the fandom upon this news. Suddenly, the beloved, wonderful show isn’t wonderful at all, canon gets screwed and Steven Moffat is a jerk who has gone mad with power. There is so much hate directed towards him I’m wondering how he can stand going online anymore. People suddenly complain about everything he has ever done with Doctor Who, rant about how he has no right to do all this and that there is a canon to stick to, and even demand he give up his position as a showrunner. All because they don’t like this particular plot twist that might not even happen (after all, this could be a red red herring and not true at all).

Seriously, fandom? -.-

I understand how someone can feel let down by this, even gets a little angry. I mean, come on, I think George Lucas should have left well enough alone and never started “remastering” the original Star Wars trilogy (Han shot first! :P). But they are his films, and he has the right to do with them whatever he wants. Whoever created a piece of art has the right to change it as he pleases whenever the hell he feels like it. No-one can dictate the rules the artist has to stick to (well, unless the artist is paid to deliver a specific piece, but that’s beside the point here). That’s kind of the very definition of art – it comes from the heart and follows no rules.

And now this shouldn’t apply anymore because some condescending pricks don’t like what they get? Being a writer, there is no other answer for me to give than “What the fuck are you douchebags thinking?!” Just because you are fans you think you have the right to expect the creator to be at your beck and call and do exactly what you tell him to do? That’s not how it works, that’s not how it should ever work! Listen up, you may like what you get or not, but that doesn’t give you any right to pressure the creator into making what you think is a “better” and “more logical” decision. The latter one is especially true for Doctor Who. There IS. NO. LOGIC to this show. Whatever canon we think there is is vague at best and most of the time not canon at all. As far as I know, the Doctor never went and announced “I’m the eighth Doctor, don’t you forget!” He doesn’t count at all. I don’t think I ever heard anyone in the show address the “Which regeneration are you? Six or seven?” issue (haven’t seen all the classic episodes, though, so I might be wrong here). So any number we assign to a particular Doctor is purely to keep track of where we are in the Doctor’s life (and that might not even be true, since he could very well have an infinite number of regenerations; we don’t know). So bringing in John Hurt as the real Nine, making the current Doctor Twelve already (and confusing everyone with the whole “fall of the eleventh” thing, which doesn’t make sense anymore if that rumour is true…), is fine, doesn’t go against canon and doesn’t “screw up other writers’ work”, as some people put it. Doctor Who as a show is best summed up by the Doctor’s own words: a ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff. There is virtually no way to defy canon, because there is no canon (other than the Doctor is a renegade Time Lord traveling time and space… yep, I think that’s about it). Hell, the whole regeneration thing was added on a whim because William Hartnell left the show! Talk about double standards here; apparently, “screwing with what came before you” is fine when it’s done before you were even born…

 

This whole thing kind of scares me a little. I usually think it would be really cool to be somewhat famous, have a fandom and all that stuff. But on days like this, I’m not so sure. You are constantly being judged by those people, not just as a writer, director or whatever you are, but as a human being. By people who never even met you. That’s just lousy behaviour. I’m fine with being judged as a writer based on my writing. I’m not cool with people judging me based on the fact that they don’t like what I write. Sure, there will always be people who are not happy with what I can give them (provided that I ever get published), who will call the book they read crappy and move on. But that’s fine, and that’s the mature thing to do. Move on. Don’t cling to your formerly-favourite-I-hope-it-will-be-again show (or, y’know, whatever) like a child and whine about how bad it is nowadays, don’t insult the writer just because he didn’t write a bunch of episodes tailored to your taste, and don’t think you are in a position to actually demand changes in the show just because you are such a loyal fan. If you don’t like it anymore, stop watching. That’s what I did with a couple of shows, with a couple of book series, and even with a few bands I used to love. I didn’t whine and scream and tell them to do what I like because I’m such a huge fan.

 

Sometimes I wonder if creators like the Moff, J.K. Rowling, George Lucas or Stephen King ever look at their fans and are appalled by what they see: A crowd of manic, rabid hatemongers who worship their own version of the source material, denying even the original creator the right to make even the smallest of changes. I think they do. And that’s really sad, if you think about it.

 

I have a great idea for all those idiots out there: Go and make your own show/book/film, get a fandom and watch it turn against you once you do something different than before. Maybe getting a taste of your own medicine will get that notion of fandom omnipotence out of your thick heads…

 

Yes, this was very rant-y. And I do know I did get kind of abusive towards that part of the fandom. But there are days when I don’t feel polite. This is one of them.

Also, you can’t reason with those people. They only respond with more insults. Might as well get a head start on those.

 

 

-Ricarda (now getting dinner and a glass of wine to calm down a bit)

Things You Shouldn’t Do

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Well, not as in “Never, ever do it or you’ll get your face eaten by a rabid grizzly bear”. Although there are things you should avoid in order to escape that particular fate… like hugging rabid grizzly bears.
Nope, this is just a list of my personal Don’ts when it comes to writing fiction. It’s not so much about style and rules and stuff, but about content. Like, what should NOT happen in your story if you want me to read it.

 
1. Teenage Protagonists Acting Like Adults

I already ranted about this one before, so I’ll keep it short. Basically, when the protagonist is seventeen, I expect them to act like they’re seventeen. Certainly NOT like they are actually thirty-five and just look seventeen to better sell it to the adolescent audience.

 

2. Love On First Sight and The Love Triangle

Okay, seriously, what’s with all the instant romance in fiction? How often do you see that kind of thing in real life? It might happen, maybe, sometimes, but it seems like every single romantic relationship in the books I read lately has some kind of instaRomance. Even Divergent, which in comparison took forever to introduce the actual romantic relationship, did this. It’s not that noticeable when you read it, it happens later in the book, but looking back, the whole story happened in about… three weeks? And the MCs didn’t spend that much time together. And when they did, the guy mostly yelled at the girl (for good reason, but still). What the hell?

The love triangle scenario makes this even worse. We are just expected to believe that the innocent, average, clumsy heroine suddenly holds the interest of not one, but two flawless hot guys. Said guys would very much like to maim and/or kill their rival, but don’t for the heroines sake, because she likes them both so much (she just doesn’t know whom she likes more). What makes this completely ridiculous is the fact that, no matter what, the girl will always, ALWAYS end up with the dude she first fell in love with, even if #1 runs off (or gets seemingly killed or something) and the girl actually got over him and found another guy who is actually much nicer than the first one. The whole point of The Love Triangle is to show that your first love is also your One True Love, no matter what. Really? How many people actually stick with the first person they dated? God, had I done that, I’d be pretty much screwed. (Well, not in the good way. Or maybe I would, I don’t know, we never did it. Anyways.) The point is, the fact that it always ends like that makes this scenario boring and predictable, so even if it weren’t overused, it would still be a huge turn-off for me.

 

3. The Mary Sue In Disguise

I assume we all know what a Mary Sue is by now (random fact: a male Mary Sue is called a Marty Stu or Gary Stu; I prefer the latter. It rhymes :P). It’s basically a no-no for every fiction writer. Even in fanfiction, where you generally get away with a lot more, Sues are frowned upon. So why on earth are published books full of them? I’m not going to talk about Bella Swan here (although she IS a fine example of Sue-dom). I’m talking about the MCs who don’t seem like the perfect, pretty and skilled Mary Sue, but if you look closer, all her flaws either turn into “endearing quirks” or just plain vanish because the heroine (or hero, but in the books I read, Sues are more often the MCs than Stus are) learned her lesson and got over them. Again, how often does that happen in real life? I mean, yeah, you can get rid of annoying habits, but our real flaws, the facets of our character that make life harder for us, won’t go away that easily. If I were a run-of-the-mill YA heroine, I’d be described as “socially awkward (but in a very cute way, and talking to The Guys That Matter isn’t a problem)”. In real life, I’m more of a hermit crab than anything. I used to be afraid of people! It got better over time, but it’ll never entirely go away. Same goes for that tendency to yell at people and run off fuming when I get into arguments I obviously can’t win, or for my habit of getting all teary and whiny and close to giving up when I screw up, even if it’s just a stupid test at uni (doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it’s bad).

The Sues in the books don’t seem to have that kind of traits, ever. There is nothing about them that will stay with them all their lives, that will be a constant obstacle and make life harder every single day. When they encounter something that poses a problem, they miraculously find a way to make it go away with very little effort, or they find out they have a hidden skill that just now comes in handy. That. Doesn’t. Happen. So please don’t mock me by making it seem like it does – just not to me. How can I possibly relate to someone who never has to struggle, when I have to all the time?

 

4. The Chosen One

Let me clarify: This is not about actual Chosen Ones, like the Harry Potter kind, or King Arthur. It’s about those characters who aren’t all that important, or charming, or smart, or whatever, but somehow turn out to be the one single person without whom The Rebellion (or any big event, really) couldn’t happen. Sometimes it’s well done, like in The Hunger Games, where Katniss doesn’t even realise what’s going on until someone tells her, and even then, she doesn’t play her role all that well right until the end. And she kind of does set the events in motion with her berry stunt. But then there are the Chosen Ones who clearly aren’t all that important – the author just makes them important to justify their status as protagonist. One example are all the ladies in the Immortal Brotherhood series. Basically, some viking dudes are cursed to be immortal weres (not the good kind), and only love can break the curse. Interesting enough, it’s not the good old “true love”, it’s merely “a woman who loves them even knowing what they are”. So it could be any woman who really loves one of them. And you’d think after a couple centuries, at least a few of them should have found a girl who truly loves them, right? But no, it’s another chosen one scenario: There is only one woman for every guy, and no other will do the trick. Hell, the leader of the group has to wait eight-hundred years for his woman, simply because she won’t reincarnate any sooner (or something like that, we’re just at volume three, but it’s strongly implied).

I just find it hard to believe that there should be no-one else in the entire world suitable for the job. That’s just so totally unlikely…

 

Well, that turned out way wordier than I intended oO

Also, sad news: Otfried Preußler is dead :´( He wrote some of my favourite books from when I was little…

 

*achem* Right. Now, for some lighter mood at the end: random randomness!^^

 

Underrated fantasy WHAT

Well, I was going for “novels”, but apparently, a bazillion others before me had a different idea…

 

And I still find it incredibly funny when a TV show references Myspace as THE hottest website where everyone has to be^^

 

 

-Ricarda

 

 

€dit: Also, I would so watch this XD

Fake Geek Girls and why this whole debate is bullshit

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A warning beforehand: This is going to be a rant, and it probably won’t be coherent. You have been warned, now carry on :>

 

Not sure if this so-called “fake geek girl” thing is even popular enough to be widely known. Basically, it’s about girls who call themselves geeks and subsequently get called posers by the so-called “real” geeks. Yep, it’s like kindergarten, but that’s the fun of the internet, right?^^

So yeah, maybe I’m kinda behind on this, but I just now realised how much this thing escalated. Honestly, I didn’t really expect this level of hostility from those who got ostracised as kids for loving what they love. C’mon, shouldn’t you know best how that feels?

Only we are not children anymore, and apparently, adult “geeks” are free to insult everything and everyone they consider a “fake”. So far, I haven’t been able to determine the exact amount of knowledge about [insert random part of geekdom here] that separates the poser from the true geek. Doesn’t seem to matter anyway, since pretty much everyone seems to qualify as a fake in the eyes of a select few who only deem themselves and their devout followers worthy of wearing the badge of “GEEK”. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but it sure feels like this is the case.

What I don’t understand is where all this hatred comes from? I mean, those guys (and gals) probably were the kids who got picked on because they went to see Star Wars Five times in opening week and lugged around books that had more pages than their schoolbooks. They likely were excluded because they were different, and now they do the same to others. Guys, do you even see the irony in this? Man, you’ve gotta be stark raving mad… (let’s play Who Spots the Lame Iron Man Joke :P)

Speaking of let’s play, one thing that can serve as a nice example for this selective exclusion is Joe Peacock’s reaction on a reaction on his first article (see link above). He explicitly states that “gaming is not geeky”. (Also, he kind of insults booth babes and claims they only do it for the money. Dude, they probably do, they are paid models, it’s their JOB! /random comment) Okay, fine, there may be various opinions on that one. What irks me is that in his other article he mentions “celebrating great comics, great games, great art, great movies and great television”. Yes, fine, I’m with you on that one. BUT! If you exclude games from the “geeky” spectrum, why not comic books as well? After all those films, they are just as popular as video games; maybe even more so. My mum watches those films with me, but she doesn’t play video games (yet^^). So, what makes comics geekier than games? Is Doctor Who still geekier than Supernatural? And since when has art NOT been geeky, no matter what kind or art?

Excluding one thing because it became “too popular” while simultaneously embracing another which is just as popular just because YOU happen to like it makes you look like an idiot. Just so you know.

 

Now, to enrage the “pure” geek community a bit:

According to this Venn diagram, what do you think I am?

Matthew_Mason_Nerd_Dork_Geek_Venn_Diagram

If you guessed “geek”, you just earned yourself a cookie :>

See, I may sound arrogant, but I am obsessed as well as smart; granted, I’m not totally socially incompetent, but I do qualify as “awkward”, even on my good days (does this mean I’m a geek/nerd hybrid?). Now, this lovely diagram was used by Tara brown (see link above) to back up her point (she’s one of those who hate the “fakes”, in case you’re too lazy to read the whole thing…). So, according to this, I’m a pureblood geek – but according to the rest of her article I’m not.

Did your head explode already?

You see, this is why this whole debate is downright stupid. The geek culture has grown so much over the past few decades, it’s just ridiculous to try and keep it as it used to be. There are tons of people out there who are “modern geeks”, but probably wouldn’t have qualified as one had they been born in the seventies. Hell, I wouldn’t. No, I haven’t read every single comic book that’s out there (mainly because they are insanely pricey around here; we don’t get normal, cheap comics to read and throw away, we get fancy graphic novels to put on our bookshelves that cost a shit ton of money -.-). No, I haven’t played every single video game there ever was. And no, I haven’t had the time yet to watch every single episode of Doctor Who (and I never will watch all of them, simply because I’m too young to have seen the lost episodes on TV :<). Well, sue me. I don’t care what you elitist freaks think – I stand by it, I qualify as a geek, by your standards and mine. And your efforts to exclude people like me to keep “your” culture pure just serves as evidence for how much asshattery is going on in the world, even in your precious geek culture.

Also, I’m wearing a Batman shirt as I write this. Because I love Batman. Or maybe I am Batman. Who knows.

 

 

-Ricarda

 

PS: Just an afterthought… I read in one of the articles against fake geek girls (by the way, why never “fake geek dudes”? oO) that only those qualify as true geeks who contribute to the culture. I wonder what they think about all the “fake geek girls” writing fanfiction…