Tag Archives: nostalgia

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On Re-Watching Supernatural

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I started re-watching Supernatural from the beginning this past Wednesday… it’s familiar, it’s comforting, it’s straightforward and uncomplicated, and it’s been helping me cope with the exceedingly complicated world beyond the TV screen. I’m not going to dwell on that in this post, though. This post is also not about the problematic parts of the show, though I’ll certainly talk about that at some point. What I do want to talk about is that I forgot how charming Supernatural is right from the beginning. I’m fairly certain this isn’t just my affection and familiarity talking… in fact I’m certain this is exactly how that affection began.

I talked about Supernatural at length on an episode of the podcast, but I’ll give you the rundown here as well: it’s about the Winchester brothers, Sam and Dean, who hunt supernatural creatures, live on the road in cheap motels, and make money by gambling and committing credit-card fraud. It’s largely of the monster-of-the-week variety with a big bad that ties each season together. But from the very first episode it’s so much more than that: the thing that makes the show such an obsession with fans is that the relationships between the main characters feel real, consistent, and fully realized throughout the series.

The series begins by showing us Sam’s apparently normal life… he’s just graduated college, he’s about to attend law school, he’s got a girlfriend he loves. Then his older brother Dean shows up and tries to convince Sam to come search for their father, John, who Dean meaningfully says is on a “hunting trip” and hasn’t been heard from in three days. It’s immediately clear that Sam’s relationship with his father and brother is strained, and as the show progresses it explores the messy nature of familial love, and later the love found in platonic friendships. (Romantic love exists occasionally throughout the show, but it’s rare, fleeting, and largely unimportant.) The lead characters—who are all male—have conversations about their feelings every episode, and just as often there are scenes where the actors subtly express all the complexities with only facial expressions or tears. Throughout the first season Sam struggles with feeling torn between leaving a normal life behind and the loyalty he feels towards his family. Dean suppresses jealousy that Sam ever had a chance at a normal life, hides the weight of responsibility he feels under jokey bravado, and desperately tries to maintain peace between Sam and their father John, the only two people he has in his life. John can be brusque, unhinged, and hyper-focused on the job, but it’s also clear he thinks he’s doing the right thing to keep his boys safe from all the horror he knows is in the world. And in between they kill monsters.

I suspect that this is one of the main reasons that the fan-base is largely female… the focus on feelings and interpersonal communication is far more interesting to us than the “will they or won’t they” romantic plot of so many shows. This may seem counter-intuitive when you’re scrolling through Tumblrs full of fan-fic and art devoted to placing the male leads in sexy situations with each other, but I think the truth is that most fans (including the fan creators) want those fanciful ‘ships to remain separate and sacred from the show’s canon.

So the show began with the right ingredients to create its current fan-base, but then that fan-base began to influence and cultivate the show into something even better. The show’s creators and cast are very connected with the fan community through conventions and social media. But they also respond within the show with easter eggs and entire meta-episodes, the best example of the latter being the 200th episode, “Fan Fiction,” which can only be described as a love letter to the fans. That relationship between the creators and fans feels unique and collaborative, like friends snickering together over inside jokes. And it’s yet another relationship that forms the backbone of the show—though to be clear it’s not exclusionary… the fan community is warm and you’ll quickly be welcomed into that click.

I’m afraid I’ve made it sound too soapy… is the series still a fun horror/fantasy escapist show? Absolutely, but that’s not what makes it special. I think after 12 seasons I have sometimes lost sight of that… I still heartily recommend it to people, but I’ve occasionally felt like it’s inertia that’s drawn me back season after season. Re-watching from the beginning has reminded me why I fell in love with the show and why it’s not even a guilty pleasure… it’s just a pleasure.

 

 

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Jurassic World Is Super Fun Despite Its Shortcomings

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Check out all the majesty.
Check out all the majesty.
Let me start with this: Jurassic World was never going to surpass the experience of seeing the original Jurassic Park in the theater in 1993 for me. It was the first time we saw real dinosaurs on screen (well, real-ish… more real than the stiff, plodding dinosaurs of movies past.) Jurassic Park‘s dinosaurs were smart, fast, felt like real animals, and they were brought to life in a way we’d never seen before. Yes, it was chock full of scientific inaccuracies, but that hardly mattered to the dinosaur-lover inside of me… I was Alan Grant, tearing up at the majesty and magic of the creatures, just as Hammond intended.

So Jurassic World was never going to be that. But it was also never going to disappoint me… I already knew there was a gang of velociraptors rolling with Chris Pratt on a motorcycle. And that was every bit as awesome as I anticipated… in fact all of dino-action was FANTASTIC. From the pastoral grandeur of the roaming herds of herbivores to the over-the-top, kick-ass climactic fight scene, Jurassic World DELIVERED. And seeing the park taken to the logical conclusion was satisfying, as were all the winks to the fans and nods to the original film. I loved it. I loved every minute of that stuff. I laughed with childish glee. If you’re at all hesitating, it is ABSOLUTELY worth seeing this in the theater, because the magnitude and action are the best things about the film.

That being said, literally every female character in this film is an eye-rolling stereotype or a prop. I mean, it’s not like anyone is well-written, but it’s particularly egregious with the women. This movie couldn’t be any more male-point-of-view. The main female character, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a lazy 1980s cardboard cutout of a corporate ice queen who doesn’t know how to have fun and is completely out of touch with her environment. Also probably she wants babies because every human female wants babies. Judy Greer—as Claire’s sister and the boys’ mother—was criminally underused. She has a weird melt-down at one point that’s completely unsupported by the plot, and also she’s sure her sister wants babies. The other female cast members include the older son Zach’s girlfriend (prop); Zara, Claire’s assistant (prop); Vivian, from the control room, who refuses the advances of her co-worker but also cries alot (I know people had just been eaten, but none of the dudes are crying!); and all the girls Zach looks at (also props).

The 22-year-old Jurassic Park was infinitely more feminist. In that film we only had two female characters but they were both solid. Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) is a badass, she’s clearly respected in her field, she’s not afraid to call people out, and she doesn’t burst into tears at every possible turn. Lex (Ariana Richards) was actually an improvement from the novel… sure she’s not thrilled about the outdoors, but it seems to do more with her being a computer geek (sorry, hacker) than a girl. And she helps save the day on more than one occasion… she distracts the raptors in the kitchen, and she knows the “Unix system.” Weirdly, even the female raptors in the original film were better written: they were calculating clever girls, whereas Blue and her gang take orders from a man. They couldn’t even write the female dinosaurs correctly!

This all makes it sound like I hated the film, but I honestly didn’t… it was everything you want and expect from a dinosaur-fueled thrill ride. In conclusion, I give Jurassic World 10/10 Barbasol Cans for awesome dinosaur action and nostalgia, but only 7/10 White Suits for mild sexism and exhausting tropes.

And now for some spoilers:

Continue reading →

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Ready for Opening Night of Jurassic World

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Hold on to your butts: Nerdhole heads to opening night of Jurassic World tonight, and I AM READY! I’m wearing my vintage 1993 Jurassic Park Island Tour tee shirt. 22 years ago today I saw the original on opening night with my best friend Chris and my two sisters. Chris nearly lost his arm like poor Mr. Arnold because I kept pulling on it in terror and excitement. Despite all the scientific inaccuracies and nonsense Jurassic Park is still one of my favorite movies of all time.

Obviously we’ll have lots more to say about this, and I promise my review will be filled with ALL CAPS and ALL OF THE EXCLAMATION POINTS.

jurassic park island tours tee shirt

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Episode 21 – Chuck

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CHUCK "Chuck vs. Tom Sawyer"
“Is this a token I see before me?”

We’re trying something new (to us) this episode: One of us tries to sell the others on some beloved but underappreciated bit of nerd culture. This time, Mary schools Paul and Rob on Chuck, a NBC series that aired from 2007-12. Despite Rob’s skepticism and Paul’s amnesia, Mary’s enthusiasm won the day.

LINKS

FUN FACTS

  • We stumbled on season length, but here you go: the first season was a short 13-episode run, while subsequent seasons were more typical at about 20 each.
  • We joked that Matt Bomer might show up on Arrow because he’s hot, but in fact he will star on the next season of American Horror Story because he’s hot.
  • Zachary Levi will be in Heroes Reborn, which leaves us with confused feelings all around.
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer At 18

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ea_b_s1bIt’s hard to believe how long it’s been since we first heard that opening howl and entered the Hellmouth. The Atlantic has a great piece reflecting on Buffy eighteen years after its premier, and on the show’s importance.

In its first two minutes, “Welcome to the Hellmouth” establishes a universe, as the camera creeps slowly through a high school in the dark, lingering on skeletons in a classroom and shadows behind a door. But it also establishes a premise—that this is a show about female power. The pretty blonde, a vampire named Darla, isn’t a victim but a predator, just as Buffy has strength and acuity that belie her looks. At the end of “The Harvest,” the second part of the two-episode debut, Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) watches Buffy and her friends walk away, cheerily discussing the ways in which she stands between the world and its total destruction. “The earth is doomed,” he says, wearily. It’s this kind of assumption—that being young and frivolous and having profound influence are mutually exclusive—that Whedon would go on to dispel throughout Buffy’s seven seasons.

Go read the whole thing.

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Episode 14 – Star Wars

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In the Shadow of Yavin
In the Shadow of Yavin
Join us for a rather optimistic discussion of the too-big-to-fail Star Wars franchise in some of its many iterations. For once, Rob’s ignorance is addressed explicitly instead of just showing up unannounced.

LINKS!

FONTHOLE

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Episode 8 – Tabletop games for Thanksgiving

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Clue shirts made them kill!

We get timely and talk about the time-honored tradition of playing family-friendly* tabletop games while immobilized by overconsumption. We look at a few golden classics and a few that could interest even the hardest-core gamer as well as her less intense family members. Here’s what we discussed:

Epic Spell Wars sample spell
Epic Spell Wars sample spell

* For most values of “family-friendly,” anyway.

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Revisiting the X-Files with Kumail Nanjiani

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Kumail Nanjiani's The X-Files FilesAs you wait for all your genre shows to return from break in this late-summer lull, why not stop searching Tumblr for #cosima and #superwholock and watch The X-Files, which is streaming for free on Netflix and Amazon Prime? And if nostalgia isn’t a good enough reason, you have an ambassador to guide you through the very best and most important episodes: Kumail Nanjiani.

You may know him from Portlandia; or Silicon Valley; or his video game podcast, The Indoor Kids, which he co-hosts with his wife Emily V. Gordon; or his hilarious, nerd-tinged stand-up (which you should REALLY check out if you haven’t yet). Now he’s hosting a new podcast called The X-Files Files where he and a guest discuss select episodes of The X-Files.

Nanjiani, an enthusiastic fan of the show, has curated a list of must-see episodes and he explains why on the second installment of the podcast: “This show is for two kinds of people: one, people who have never watched The X-Files and for them I’m guiding them through the good episodes of The X-Files… for them I’m helping them skip the ones that aren’t that well done.” He goes on, “The second group is people who have already watched The X-Files and are re-discovering it, well then you don’t need me to talk about the episodes I don’t like because you’ve already watched them and you have your own opinion of them anyway.” He’s gotten some grief from his growing fanbase about this decision, but I think his reasoning is solid.

One of the most interesting parts of the podcast is that he delves into ancient X-Files message boards, revealing the beginning of the internet as we know it today: a place where some people obsess and argue and speculate about their favorite shows and other people troll them. Also fascinating is that The X-Files was one of the first shows to have the kind of direct contact with fans that we take for granted today. On one episode of the podcast, guest Dean Haglund (aka Lone Gunman Richard Langly) revealed that the show’s creators visited these boards often, interacting with the fans and taking note of the discussions.

I’m a huge Kumail Najiani fan (and I love The X-Files) so I was already on the hook before I even heard one episode. But whether you’re a long-time fan of The X-Files, or watching for the first time (or not watching it at all), the podcast is delightful. The commentary from Nanjiani and his guest, the behind-the-scenes trivia, and the archeology of the early internet all make for a rich experience. I give it 5 out of 5 Erlenmeyer flasks.

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