[television]one of a kind: a love letter to orphan black

As a lover of science fiction and a feminist, sometimes the sci fi landscape feels a little bleak. The boys club mentality holds on a little bit more stubbornly in this genre than in others. (For proof on even the fandom level just look to the levels of outrage over a female Doctor Who.) It’s a real life mirror of the continued misconception that women have little to no place in STEM fields. Somehow we are still not smart or logical enough by some of the old guard way of thinking. When fiction reinforces these misconceptions, it can be down right infuriating.

Well, boys club, meet Clone Club.


Orphan Black begins with Sarah Manning watching someone who looks exactly like her intentionally and resignedly throw herself in front of a train. Sarah being a bit of a grifter and con artist doesn’t miss the opportunity to grab the mysterious stranger’s purse and check her place out. She’s partially driven by opportunity and trying to figure out who a woman that could be her clone is. So does she find the beginning of the rabbit hole with, well, actual clones.

As the mystery unravels and winds the most important aspect of Orphan Black makes itself apparent. Family is the center of everything, especially the sisterhood of Sarah, Alison, Cosima and Helena.

Brilliantly portrayed by Tatiana Maslany, the four sestras stand at the center of the mystery and each possesses a strength that will see them through while they figure everything out. Sarah is street smart. Cosima is brilliant in science. Alison is organized. And Helena is a trained killer. All of them unapologetically embrace their feminine strengths, both tradional and non. Their biggest strength is their sisterhood and developing trust in each other.

Sisterhood and family are the very center of Orphan Black.

Surrounding the sisters is a network that becomes a family. Even the foster mother Sarah could never connect with becomes their strongest ally once secrets are out and walls broken down. Brothers, spouses, lovers, friends and partners all become part of the fold. It is the strength of that family that makes them strong enough to fight a powerful multinational corporation with government ties.


Also refreshing is Orphan Black doesn’t shy away from presenting women as also being cold, logical and unswayed by emotion. Rachel Duncan is another clone who is also a villain. She has no sense of loyalty to her fellow clones and only to the corporation that wants to profit off them. She is an experiment in her own way, but chooses to follow the path of greatest benefit to herself, regardless of consequences. Rarely are female characters written with any motivations that are not emotionally based and Rachel’s motivations are almost always logically based in her own self interest.


Orphan Black’s finale aired last weekend and it was an emotional thing. Certainly it’s rare that a show knows when to end and does so in such a graceful, unrushed way. It will be missed, but it was also a gift and a revelation. Here’s hoping it paves the way for even more science fiction stories with such strong, nonstereotypical women. Orphan Black did this while posing questions about morality, self determination and scientific ethics. It is a one of a kind show and it will be loved for a long time to come.

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[film]the dark tower: review


There’s a moment when watching the Dark Tower where one is forced to consider how much the source material bears on the film. The Dark Tower is a sprawling (sometimes meandering) epic series of books with a lot of original ideas and more than a few execution errors. For all that it is an extremely loved sprawling epic series of books so anyone going into making a film version knew they had their work cut out for them to make those fans happy.

The bad news is this movie is not going to make those fans happy. I don’t blame them. The ties to the source material are tenuous at best. If anyone ever wants to hear my opinion of Queen of the Damned, I one hundred percent get watching something and wondering if the filmmakers even read the same book I did. The good news for you all is that all reports say the television series will be much closer to canon. So there’s hope on that front.

The good news is that as a film separate of it’s source material, it’s not a terrible film, if a bit of a formulaic one. The biggest issue it runs into is running time. Director Nikolaj Arcel tries to shove a whole lot of story into an hour and half of running time. Basically this gets translated into things that are touched on but never fully explored making it hard to be truly emotionally invested in the story or what happens to the characters.


Idris Elba’s Roland is perhaps the brightest point. Elba plays the line between lost soul, badass and straight man extremely well. Matthew McConaughey does well enough as the Man in Black. If anything I wish they had delved farther into his devil may care, quirky side that feels as if it’s only hinted at. Elba and McConaughey have good chemistry on screen together. Unfortunately Tom Taylor as Jake is fairly bland and while Jake is used as audience stand in he feels more like a plot device for most of the film than a full blown character.

My main complaint about the Dark Tower is the lack of female voices. It could be argued that Susannah doesn’t show up until the second book so therefore has no place in the movie, but there are many factors that don’t show up until later books that they included that the argument doesn’t entirely work. It does end up feeling a bit like watching dudes do all sorts of dude things. The two female characters with extremely limited screen and dialogue are pretty literally the mother and whore archetypes and that’s about it. In a film where very few characters have any level of depth, the women feel even more shallow than that.

For all it’s flaws, it’s an enjoyable movie. There are lots of fun moments and the action scenes are on point. It’s beautiful to look at and there’s a ton of fun King Easter eggs to keep your eye out for. I’d definitely say it’s a wait to rent however and skip buying it though.

[film]don’t you forget about me: a look back at the breakfast club

“…And these children
that you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware
of what they’re going through…”

DAVID BOWIE

Teen angst has been a selling a point for movies for a very long time. It’s forever immortalized in movies from Rebel Without a Cause to Carrie. Perhaps the most perfect storm of teen angst can be found in the Breakfast Club however. Telling the story of five teens serving detention on a cold day at Shermer High School in Shermer, Illinois, the Breakfast Club is very much a story told through the lens of youth and a world that doesn’t understand them. To be honest, it’s a world that very much does not want to understand them. It’s the penultimate teenage feeling of us against the world. The moment when a loose collective becomes a unit to fight against the ultimate tyranny of the adult world.


What is it about this particular teen angst film that endures when so many others tarnish with time and growing up? The reason is likely equal parts nostalgia, quotability and just being an all around well done film. It is the rare film that you can watch as an adult and, instead of finding yourself rooting for the adults, you find yourself partially a teenager again, full of hope and existential angst all at the same time. The adults run the gamut from clueless to indifferent to outright antagonistic and there isn’t a positive one in sight. These are not the adults any of us wanted to grow up to be, but had no choice in becoming.

“When you grow up, your heart dies.”

~Allison

Some days it does feel as if your heart has died. You look at yourself and see missed chances and opportunities. You hear the way you speak to your children or about the next generation and realize that you have become every adult you hated. Sure, you try and fight it. You even tell yourself that maybe your parents and teachers weren’t as bad as you thought (in most cases at least). To be honest, you’re probably right. The Breakfast Club (and movies like it) tap into the way teenagers have always felt and will always feel. It gives you the empathy to understand that what your own teenager hears you say is not at all how you meant it.

Obviously, all impact a film has on someone is completely subjective. All men I’ve dated (including the one I married) have at least a little bit of John Bender in them. He was probably my first full fledged film crush and created a blueprint for what I looked for. Also, for better or worse, I operate under the impression that all of the Midwest is like Shermer, while accepting it’s a pretty flimsy basis for thinking that.



The Breakfast Club put together five archetypes that we can all see ourselves in a bit. I’ve always fancied myself a halfway point between John and Allison, a little rebellious and a little weird at the same time. Much like David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” is my favorite song, Breakfast Club is my favorite 80s movie. It takes one perfect day and lets us live on that edge of hope that these kids are going to be okay and their happy endings are more than a moment waiting to shatter when they walk off screen into their real lives. John Bender’s triumphant fist in the air at the end is all that we need to be left with.

Dear Mr. Vernon,

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…

…and an athlete…

…and a basket case…

…a princess…

…and a criminal…

Does that answer your question?

Sincerely yours,
the Breakfast Club

[film]wonder woman

Full disclosure: I was never an avid reader of the Wonder Woman comics. My comic heroines tend to be gals like Tank Girl and Devi from Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and I Feel Sick. Having said that, I exist in the world and in the world of pop culture specifically so I have a love of the character and a love of seeing more female super heros in general.


Wonder Woman is the redeeming ray of light the DCEU has so badly been in need of.  I feel no need to rehash the same thoughts we’ve all heard a million times before here, but I am not a fan of the gritty equals realism lens that we’ve been given before. It works for Batman, not for anyone else necessarily.

Here’s the thing with Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman: Even in the midst of an actual war there is more light (literal and figurative) than any other movie has given us. Diana Prince believes in love and light and isn’t afraid to admit it. There’s a quote from Jenkins in circulation about how she didn’t want to shy away from what could be perceived as too earnest and cheesy. That mentality is what best serves this movie. Because that is Wonder Woman. She is earnest and believes in doing the right thing. Sure, her initial experiences with humanity throw some curve balls at her, but that’s to be expected. The world is not the idyllic island she was raised on and it takes some getting used to.

There’s a love story, but it neither bogs down the storyline and action or feels like it was forced in because it’s a “girl movie”. The supporting cast around Diana is delightful, especially Lucy Davis as Steve Trevor’s secretary, Etta. I would honestly watch the adventures of her teaching Diana to exist in the real world over and over.

All that being said, Wonder Woman is not without its problems.

The universe continues to be racially tone deaf as fuck, if not to the same extent as Suicide Squad was. Amazonians of color are limited background imagery for the most part. The few that speak any lines only get one or two at most. The mammy stereotype is even employeed. Once Diana is out in the world the stereotypes of sneaky Native American and dishonest talkative Middle Easterner. Warner Bros needs to step up their game and realize there’s more to diversity than tired tropes and stereotypes again and again.

The other memo they failed to get is that often heroes are only as interesting as their villains. The villains are lackluster at best. Dr. Poison is potentially the most interesting, but she’s never really developed beyond the “chick who makes the poisons and wears a half mask”. Which is also symptomatic of the other thing that is underserved in Wonder Woman: A diversity of types of strong women. We are constantly being reminded of how beautiful everyone finds Diana, but Etta, while wonderful, is mostly shown to be somewhat bumbling instead of as the capable woman she clearly really is. Hopefully these are things that we see in future sequels, but this is a thing Hollywood frequently struggles with so I’m honestly not hopeful.

All and all though, the bright points outshine the problematic areas and hopefully will lead to more movies about female superheroes of all colors being greenlit. In the dearth of female fronted and directed super hero films, the perspective is much needed and, while the fight scenes are adrenaline inducing, this one is all about the heart. Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince is a hero that can be looked up to by small girls and grown women alike.

My Supergirl on our way in to see Wonder Woman

[ink]m train by patti smith


I am drawn to stories about grief. As the years go by and I learn to live with mine, I find it comforting to wrap myself in the grief of others, fictional or otherwise. It’s a way to lessen the isolation that grief strands us in.

How is it that we never completely comprehend our love for someone until they’re gone?

With M Train, Patti Smith explores the themes of love, loss and grief in her life. Mainly the loss of her husband, Fred Sonic Smith at the age of 45. It’s a book presented as a series of dreams, memories, travels and the hazy area in between them all. Smith is a consummate poet and her memoirs always read as an extension of that, ephemeral and enigmatic.

It’s not so easy writing about nothing.

Like Just Kids before it, M Train’s text is juxtaposed with personal photographs of Smith’s. These are more powerful for the fact they are frequently not of people, but of inanimate objects that belong to artists and writers that inspire her. They create a subtle set dressing that tells us more about Smith than her words alone could.

Nothing can be truly replicated. Not a love, not a jewel, not a single line.

This is one of those books that should not be talked about too much in hard and concrete terms. It strips it of some of it’s magic. It’s often heart wrenching, but more often hopeful. I’m sure I will wrap myself in it’s words more than once. Perhaps it will not be all at once. Perhaps I will choose a chapter here and passage there, but there is too much beauty here to not be revisited.

[life]down a rabbit hole…

There has been a lot of discussions about suicide in relation to pop culture lately. Shows like 13 Reasons Why have sparked a conversation on how we portray suicide and depression. Real life incidents like the death of Chris Cornell have created a dialogue about what to do if someone you know is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.

In the midst of these conversations something that comes up a lot is the concept of tunnel vision to the point that there doesn’t seem to be any other options. It’s an apt description, but in my experience it doesn’t even begin to cover it.

My experience is this: I am a chronic depressive and I have seriously attempted to take my own life multiple times. So when these conversations happen, they are remarkably close to my heart. Here’s the thing with my depression: Much like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, I tumble down depression holes. Obviously they are not full of color and whimsy, but they are as impossible to climb out of as Alice’s.

I know that people who have never been there don’t understand how someone could reach the point where they feel like the only option is to end it all. Obviously every single person has their own reasons for it, but for me it was always exhaustion. It is exhausting to wake up every day and force yourself to be functional when nothing feels worth it. Depression is not a constant state. It has waves of intensity. When it is on a wave of high intensity and you still have to go to school or work or take care of a small person, it is so fucking exhausting. Combined with the fact that for all the posts about how doors are always open, when those same people ask you how you are chances are they don’t really want to know the extent of hopelessness and apathy you’re dealing with today. We are trained by society that being sad is a burden and rude. So you have the choice of either being a burden or somehow finding the energy to fake being “okay” and “normal”. Frequently this is all in our heads, but I can almost guarantee that even people with good intentions are not prepared for the scope of the full emotions of someone with depression. It tends to express itself in empty platitudes and cliches about how loved you are and how there is always another way. Which leads us back to not wanting to be rude by not telling you how unhelpful it is to hear the same things repeated ad nauseum for most of our lives.

Here’s the thing: Words and platitiudes probably aren’t going to help. Asking what you can do to help is probably not going to help. Saying you are always only a phone call away is probably not going to help. Honestly, nothing you can do is going to help sometimes. Understand though that we who struggle with this are not always going to be able to approach you or tell you how you can help.

The honest answer to how to help is this: Be there. Be there when it’s difficult to be there. Show up with coffee, tea or the drink of your friend’s choice. If they seem more tired than normal, make them a casserole that they can throw in the oven to heat up and feed the family. Show up at their house and say it’s such a nice day you thought you’d go hang out at the park and ask them if they would like to come (or would they like you to take their small person and give them a break)Text them stupid and funny stories even if you don’t always hear back right away. If you show up and they don’t seem to have energy to interact, offer to hang out and watch Netflix. We notice all these things. Maybe it doesn’t seem like it. We don’t expect you to be there, but if decide you want to be don’t put the pressure on us to figure out how you should be there.

Again, I clearly don’t speak for every depressed and suicidal person. We are all walks of life and all shades of different just like anyone else with any illness. This post is clumsy and awkward and probably badly gets any point I was trying to make across since it’s all over the place, but there are a lot of thoughts that have been all over the place so there probably wasn’t much help for it.

I also promise the next blog post will be back on track with the pop culture things. I mean basically I write about that to avoid writing about things like this anyway.

[television]samurai jack

Once upon a time, in the dark ages of the early ’00’s, there was a moment of brilliant television called Samurai Jack. It told of an epic quest of revenge, redemption and time travel. For four seasons, we travelled with Jack on his quest to return home and defeat Aku. And then it ended with Jack winning a battle with Aku, but not the war as Aku transforms into a bat and gets away. Not going to lie. It was a bit disappointing as far as series finales go, but it wasn’t the worst.


Fast forward to present day and the time of the show revival for every show ever from the 90s and early 00s, including Samurai Jack. So how does season 5 Samurai Jack stack up against original Samurai Jack?Especially from Cartoon Network which has alienated a lot of fans with Teen Titans Go and Power Puff Girls? I’m happy to report that, as of the first episode, the answer is pretty damn fantastically.


In terms of story, it’s been 50 years since we last saw Jack. He doesn’t age and he’s haunted by the past and the people he’s let down. He’s still wandering, but the door to the past he believes is closed. His fighting skills are still sharply honed as we see in a show down with Scaramouch, an android assassin. Meanwhile Aku is training seven girls to become ruthless assassins in their own right with the sole purpose of killing Jack once and for all.

Artistically and animation wise they’ve modernized without losing any of the striking visual style that set Samurai Jack apart from so many other shows. Greg Baldwin does an excellent job of stepping in  as Aku for Mako Iwamatsu, who sadly passed away in 2006. It’s a solid first episode that should bring fans back for more and perhaps even garner a few new ones.