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Having just finished ‘The Golf War’ in my rewatch leading up to ‘A Tale of Two Stans’, some thoughts on bully culture and narrative influence:

First off, let’s just get this out of the way: Pacifica Northwest is a bully. She actively seeks out and torments a girl, an age peer, and derives entertainment and satisfaction from seeing her suffer. Now let’s get another thing out of the way: Pacifica never apologizes for this, in universe or through the narrative.

One of the problems I continually find with Gravity Falls but can usually work around is its lack of actual adult role models. No, Stan doesn’t count here. Neither does Soos. Wendy is a teenager, and behaves as such, and is definitely not an adult. TvTropes has a term for this, Adults Are Useless. Now, Stan, for instance, has plenty of good moments, and is more or less a decent guardian, and is reasonably supportive of the twelve year olds he’s watching except when he’s not* (but that’s another post altogether). But Stan has been proven, over and over, to not be a reasonable, mature caretaker. “This seems like something a responsible parent would disapprove of. Good thing I’m an uncle!” “Remember, when there’s no cops around, anything’s legal!”

It’s funny, and given the age demographic the show is shooting for, understood and accepted as humorous statements, rather than object lessons. But it sets up a paradigm within the show that the adult with whom the twins are closest isn’t someone to turn to for help in a situation that requires reasoned, measured thinking. Stan’s first reaction to seeing Pacifica insulting Mabel to her face in ‘The Golf War’ is to threaten to punch her, and while I’m sure everyone was pleased at his anger on Mabel’s behalf, it’s obviously not the solution to the problem. This feeds into the much larger problem I have with the power of narrative influence, in this episode in particular and with regards to Pacifica’s treatment of Mabel as a whole.

‘The Golf War’ is framed around rivalry, and its message is focused on how rivalries are silly and mean and pointless. Problem is, Mabel and Pacifica aren’t playing out a story about rivalry, they’re victim and victimizer in a larger story about bullying. At the end of this episode, Mabel apologizes to Pacifica for cheating, and by doing so, inadvertently endangering her, and the story ends with the two of them parting on something of a high note. When ‘Northwest Mansion Mystery’ brings Pacifica back for her second outing in season two, her antagonism towards Mabel is ignored as she interacts almost completely with Dipper. Particularly after NMM, the fandom rallied around Pacifica as the victim of parental emotional abuse, and reframed her relationship with both twins as friendly or romantic. Pacifica moved forward a hero in the fandom’s collective consciousness, and so fandom has largely elected to ignore her behavior in every episode prior.

Just so we’re clear, ‘The Golf War’ infuriates me. After having been bullied for two months, after Pacifica insulted her looks, her clothes, her friends and her family to her face, Mabel apologizes for cheating. The object lesson focuses on the pettiness and ridiculousness of the Lilliputtians’ rivalry and presents Pacifica’s antagonism as a mutual hatred, rather than a one-sided attack. The episode ignores every time Mabel turned the other cheek and forwent revenge and laughed off Pacifica’s attacks, and all because Mabel made one mistake. The moral of the story becomes “The root of your uncharacteristic misbehavior doesn’t matter, because you misbehaved. The fact that you spent all summer forgiving and attempting to placate the person bullying you is irrelevant because you cheated once. It’s only in the nature of bullies to be cruel, but one mistake made by a “good girl” matters more than anything they do and must be punished because you are supposed to be nice.” Calling Mabel and Pacifica’s relationship a rivalry is a retcon and a lie. The point of the episode (or so I’ve heard) was in part to add depth to Pacifica’s character, as many people felt she came across as an unrealistic mean girl stereotype, but in my experience, immature children picking someone to attack is perfectly realistic; there are plenty of kids whose sense of empathy hasn’t developed and whose parents don’t discourage bad behavior.

When NMM reveals the extent of her parents’ emotional abuse and neglect, it seemed to lay to rest all of Pacifica’s cruelty in one go. I would absolutely love a longer storyline with Pacifica defying her parents, running away, and yes, sure, even laying out a sleeping bag in the Mystery Shack’s attic with the twins, but only if and after she apologizes to Mabel. Her own history of abuse contextualizes her reasons to bully, but it doesn’t excuse or overwrite it. Much though I disagree with most of AA’s rhetoric, the concept of owning up to past mistakes, making amends with no expectation or demand of forgiveness, is important. Pacifica needs to be rescued, but Mabel owes her nothing. Befriending her brother doesn’t count toward that apology, and Dipper doesn’t speak for Mabel, much though he staunchly defends her. The only way to stop cyclical abuse is to recognize the pattern and choose act differently than the people who hurt you, to stop lashing out at external targets.

Frustratingly, I highly doubt this is where the show is going. It would be difficult, though by no means impossible, to pull off a nuanced and frank discussion about abusive cycles and the reasons kids bully in a twenty minute episode of an action adventure series, but given the show’s history of tone-deafness when it comes to addressing kids’ phobias, anxieties and insecurities in a sensitive and mature fashion**, I have little hope. Nevertheless, as I rather enjoy Gravity Falls and would like it to continue to improve, I thought I’d add my voice, in hopes of starting a slightly less anemic dialogue about this character and her arc.


*hi ‘Dipper vs Manliness’, ‘Little Dipper’, ‘Boss Mabel’ and every instance of Stan mocking a child for, essentially, not being an adult (and a hypermasculine and aggressive adult, at that).

**you could make a fascinating and compelling case for the ways in which Stan’s blatant favoritism of Mabel speak to a Boomer mentality caused by growing up in an aggressively masculine and probably single-parent household, and how that informs Stan’s “toughening up” Dipper by being harder on him and less willing to stand up for him, but this is a kids’ show and I don’t think one should have to write a dissertation to get to that conclusion.

#gravity falls #mabel pines #pacifica northwest #northwest mansion mystery #bully culture #emotional abuse
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If you guessed Jupiter Ascending you'd be right. It absolutely more than lived up to its tumblr hype. I adore it. Aside from the pure joy-squee of formerly-winged space-werewolf bodyguards with rocket boots and the most glorious ballgowns imaginable, it's incredibly subtly-crafted tone&message-wise, with a really impressive eugenics metaphor in how the Abrasax family stays youthful and immortal. I want to do a better write-up than this, but I feel like [personal profile] staranise has doen a much better job on tumblr than I ever could. Essentially, don't listen to anyone who says this movie is "so bad it's good" or good in spite of itself. It's, truly, genuinely a pleasure, a smart, woman-dominated, woman-oriented film that manages to be fantastic and joyously genre while simultaneously being clever and powerful. It's so much fun, and so, so thoughtful. And pretty.
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I just went to see Annie with my parents, having forgone our trip to see the California relatives because on fucking Christmas I caught a fucking cold, and miserably slept most of the day. Whatever. It ended up being a good idea not to go, as my uncle is imuno-compromised and really shouldn't be around even remotely sick people. Anyway, we saw Annie.

That was one of the best movies I've ever seen.

I um, started pathetically crying in the first five minutes and it only occasionally abated from there. This movie is *for* millennials, and it's beautiful. It's just so smart, and so utterly self-aware. Not to spoil everything (though the general shape of the story is pretty well-known) but the first image the audiences sees is a little white girl with red hair and a red sweater, giving an essay presentation on William Henry Harrison. She does a little tap dance and the entire class sighs, then she's sent back to her seat as Annie B., our Hero, goes up to give her presentation. Hers is on FDR, and she explains the Depression as 'just like now, but without internet'.

The girls sing 'It's a Hard Knock Life' while cleaning up their foster home, remembering the right bins for trash, recycling and compost. Mr. Stacks doesn't have an army of servants, but he does have a Smart House that knows Annie's every want before she does. There's a scene where Stacks, taking Annie on a helicopter tour of New York, sings about how he worked hard for success and achieved it, and Annie asks him why his helicopter never flies past 97th street. There's the surface self-aware moments, like when Isabella asks what a Hard Knock Life even means, and then there's this. Stacks grew up poor and a person of color in Queens, but came of age probably in the late eighties or more likely the nineties, when the tech boom had only just begun and it was easier to get rich from nothing. He talks about how hard he worked to get where he is (and where he is is so disconnected from the reality of everyone else around him that his mayoral campaign is a joke) to a little Black girl growing up in an abusive foster home, and he talks about playing your cards right and she says, 'what if you don't have any?'.

This movie is brilliant, so much of a win, of a Yes, of an acknowledgement of the world we live in now, where a wealth gap that exceeds the Depression exists alongside technology our parents couldn't have dreamed of, and I cried my way through it and saw myself in pieces of it. I am not Black, and I did not grow up in the foster system or New York or even a working class household. But I know the cynicism, the intelligence and lack of interest in nostalgia, the suspicion and the hurt and the strange, broken hope. Annie's precocious bubbliness isn't blithe unconcern, but nor is it entirely fake. She smiles because she refuses to let people see her cry, but she returns to the restaurant where her parents promised in a note to meet her one day because she does still have that stepped-on hope. She really does believe (despite the not the bad hand she's been dealt, but the fact that she doesn't have cards) that things will get better. She trusts Tomorrow, the Tomorrow she can make by herself, and with her chosen family, and that's the most millennial theme of all.
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The one thing that continually hits me as the film's most egregious waste however, is that Harley, the kid Tony finds himself 'connected' to, is a little white boy. I'm always struck, while rewatching it, by how the one thing that holds it back from completely taking apart the myriad problems with the Mandarin (and yes, that twist is the reason I love this movie the way I do, fuck you) is the lack of representation elsewhere in the cast. I think if Harley had been Chinese-American, and had got to explicitly point out exactly what fucking ugly caricatures the Mandarin has in the past and continues to embody, and use, it could have closed that last bit of difference between the movie and a lot, if not most, of its critics. Obviously, racists are racist, and will continue to be racist regardless of whether someone tells them they're racist, but they utterly lose any leg they have to stand on when the text itself calls them out. Or at any rate, it makes them out themselves as assholes for complaining about it. This is what stands between Iron Man 3 and perfection.

Another, entirely unrelated, thing that hit me here was just how horrifying some parts of this movie are. Obviously, in an action piece, there's a great deal of stylized violence, but so much of the violence in Iron Man 3 stands out because it isn't. Pepper and Maya don't get to look nearly as beat up, as is mostly to be expected, but Tony spends the latter half with blood and bruises crusting his face, is held captive not by high-tech torture devices, but zip-tied to a bed frame. Maya's shot in front of him and it's ugly, and Tony reacts as one not trained to encompass that. He has, by this point, seen a hell of a lot of death, and in often worse ways, but Maya threatens to kill herself to save Tony in vain, and Killian simply shoots her, to give Tony 'desperation'. Pepper, who's also seen more than her share of violence, is visibly traumatized, is visible in suffering, and (testament to both the writers and RDJ and Paltrow) their reunion is fragile, and barely not hysterical.

So much time is spent on the aftermath of trauma, the morning after the huge climatic battle, and how difficult it is to move on from it, how much easier it is in the heat of the moment to ignore blind panic and focus on a clear objective (stop the bad guys), vs the horror of then reliving that moment, primed and ready for a battle that doesn't exist anymore. It's pretty telling that Tony's still able to function, to fight and make quips when Pepper falls and he thinks she's dead, while earlier when watching her being tortured he shuts down completely, tries and fails to look away and looks completely catatonic. Tony's perfectly capable of doing the mental equivalent of shoving your guts back into your skin and burning the wound closed--it's having the time to process that's poison. It's fitting then, that this is the film that immediately follows The Avengers. Tony's the one to hold off the act of processing the Chitauri invasion in favor of going out for shwarma, and this is where the reality of the last two years all starts to hit him, and with him his viewers as well.

Aside from that, Rhodey has my continued undying love; stripped down, Mission Impossible Tony remains the most delightful thing; and my favorite line is still

Pepper: Got you.
Tony: I got you first.

Love.
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Things I have noticed:

1. The set-building and scenery hold up beautifully. The CG maybe not so much, but since older and more noticeable generated effects is a fondness of mine, that's no issue.

2. The lack of Chinese/Chinese-American cast is very consipicuous. Like, overwhelmingly noticeable.

3. Having spent much of this summer reading the epic-length recovery story of someone in an uncannily similar position to River's, her whole talking-in-riddles mooncalf shitck is coming off more than a might offensive, and deeply frustrating given the story that could have been told, without changing any of her backstory.

4. Ye gods, do I ever want to smack Malcolm Reynolds. It's funny; when I was a wee middle-schooler, watching for the very first time, Mal's whole unpredictable, sometimes angry sometimes funny sometimes affectionate sometimes an asshole routine didn't bother me, and mostly I didn't even notice. Mal wasn't the most interesting member of the crew, but as a kid I sort of understood that he was the Main Character, and had to be there. Becoming acquainted with the shocking notion that the lead role didn't have to go to the straight cis white guy obviously made me question the roles of most of the formative stories of my younger years, but Mal is an interesting case.

He was never my favorite by any means, but I didn't mind him, and I really do remember an attitude of "well, he needs to be there, might as well go with it" in regards to him and his often sideways actions that I didn't feel even for others in his mold, either because I did dislike them, or because I loved them, flaws or not.

These days my response is pretty much "no, he doesn't need to be there, everyone would have had an easier time without him, the only thing he's done is get them all in one place by dint of owning the ship in question, so godsdammit Mal, shut up and go away". That's hyperbole, but damn is he annoying. Between the constant, unending alpha male dominance games and the absurd, truly reprehensible Madonna/Whore complex thing over Inara, he ends up causing half of all of his problems from his own bad attitude.

*grumble grumble bitch moan* The irritating thing is that Firefly really is such a cultural byword now that not having an opinion is next to impossible and having any opinion other than the steadfast belief in its flawless martyrdom as proof that geeks are still getting screwed by the Man is me and my bitchy feminazi hatred of anything cool. (Again, hyperbole, if there's anyone actually playing along at home). And there is still enough to recommend it and make me wistful for the show it could have been, not just because of its cancellation, but because of the directions within the few episodes it has that Whedon didn't have the knowledge or bravery to take.

I'm not saying any of this to Roommate, because I'm tired of being the one jump all over peoples' favorite thing or taint someone's experience before they've had it (try though I might to find an RL friend who feels the same way about the Tenth Doctor as I do, who wasn't a convert of mine). But I'm glad that she likes what she's seen of it, and I haven't asked her for an opinion on the show's many flaws.

I feel I should get a gold star.
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A few days ago I picked up Orphan Black. It's interesting; while I really do love the concept of clones and admire Tatiana Maslany's acting abilities to a ridiculous extent, I keep getting weird, jarring tonal shifts.

I'd heard from various sources that the most deadly character on the show was the Canadian soccer mom, and while that is true, there are parts of Alison Hendrix's storyline that...don't mesh well with the tone of other parts of the series. While Sarah's self-destructive tendencies are played very straight, and continue to be a problem in her life even after all the charades kept up in the first part of season one have fallen apart, Alison's alcoholism and prescription abuse are played almost for laughs. The audience is meant to find the Stepford Wives routine funny as Alison becomes more and more paranoid and her anxiety sends her into a downward spiral that ends with her watching her best-friend choke to death in an accident pretty entirely meant to be seen as black comedy.

I don't have a problem with black comedy, it's that other characters' mental illness and quiet paranoia brought on by the clones being constantly observed and stalked is played for drama, but Alison, suburban soccer mom that she is, becomes the funny neurotic one, obsessed with her image and upholding the status quo.

Another thing that bothers me is Cosima's relationship with Delphine. Now, I'm only halfway through season two, so maybe things change, but from the glimpses of fandom I'd seen, I knew that they were the OTP of Clone Club. When actually watching them though, I just get constantly skeeved out. Delphine is Cosima's monitor, hired by the people who created the clones to insinuate herself into Cosima's life and report on her actions. She's introduced mid-way through the first season since Cosima's new at her university, and Cosima is almost immediately suspicious of her, but continues their relationship anyway. Delphine was implied to have been dating (or just screwing) Dr. Leekie, the scientist behind the clones, and was ordered to get closer to Cosima after Cosima misread a signal and kissed her, freaking Delphine right the hell out. When Delphine returns, she insists she had never thought about bisexuality before (and, to the show's credit, it actually explicitly uses the term bisexual) and the two of them jump right into bed, despite Cosima's suspicions. When she's later proven to be exactly right about Delphine's role in her life, the two fight and and make up within the space of one episode, and Delphine at the end is still working for Leekie, and by her own admission still monitoring Cosima.

I appreciate an actual f/f pairing becoming canon onscreen, and I really appreciate that that Delphine identifies herself as bi, but...I just wish that one of the exceedingly rare canonical f/f pairings available in a show that actually holds my interest wasn't so...blatantly creepy.

Another weird note (and I know this comes off like complaining, but i really do like the show more than I dislike it) is that Sarah's daughter Kira, who's somewhere around eight years old, does not act her age. She's not only ridiculously perceptive, (which in and of itself is far from unusual) she's also aware of adult situations around her in a way not really normal or typical of a child. My mental rewrite is that she's exceptionally Gifted, but even then, Gifted kids are still kids, and don't really tend to pick up on things like an adult who's more or less raised them keeping new secrets, and then be aware of what these are and that Mommy should be told but no one else. Or not even that, but that the language she uses to express herself is isn't just advanced for a child of her age, but rather adult concepts in child-words. If that makes sense. Mostly she's a Mysterious Plot Device Child, which is somewhat annoying. I'm waiting for her to actually act her age.

Eh. I like where it's going enough to keep watching, and the things that bother me have yet to overwhelm my enjoyment of it, so I'm going to at least finish watching season two before passing a full judgement. These are just my thoughts at the 3/4ths mark, I guess.

Also, everyone is very attractive and winds up in next to no clothing at some point or another, so there's that.
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So, as a Father's Day present, my parents and I went to go see Jersey Boys, the biopic on Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

Man, biopics all tend to be anti-climatic. Life doesn't have a narrative, doesn't have motif or symbolism or hell, balance and spacing of major events (not that any event in Real Life is more or less important than another. It depends on who's telling). The movie, like most biopics, went through the trouble of a good half hour to forty minutes of establishment of setting before the entire band had met and formed, then spent another good half hour on the first three hits that made them famous, then the fifties became the seventies in the space of two montages and a narrated flashback. My dad had really wanted to see it, and he thoroughly loved it, which was the important thing to me, so though I definitely wouldn't have seem it on my own, and almost certainly won't see it twice, it wasn't time terribly poorly spent.

And the Jersey accent-porn in the first act alone is worth price of admission, at least.
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On the one hand, hooray for Cecil taking back the station. On the other, there's a part of me that feels like the plot threads are either too nebulous to grasp at, or too obvious to have anywhere to grow. Maybe I'd feel differently had I heard the last three episodes on time, rather than skipping the last two and then hearing them in the space of a week; the time between them airing might have made me more invested in the town's having been captured. But the whole thing just progressed weirdly fast. Still not the masterpiece Yellow Helicopters was, but pretty riveting nonetheless.

Also, I attempted to listen to it in a Skype session with a friend. It wasn't terrible, but Skype shorted out on us a couple of times, and the audio never exactly synced up, so one of us always had a disconcerting sort of echo. Actually didn't in anyway detract from the atmosphere, considering the content.
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Christ above, did I choose the worst two episodes to fall behind on. Everything that could happen, from planned revolution and failure of the above, to a complete hostile takeover of the radio station just went down. That GIF from Community of Troy walking in on a disaster area with pizza and a horrified expression really fits, I think.

Fink and Craynor aren't really bothering with subtlety in their social justice message anymore, are they? I like the direction, particularly the more pointed jabs about revolutionary movements failing because of the bystander syndrome and the willingness to allow other people to risk their lives and futures for the sake of change, as long as it doesn't directly affect us.

Also? I totally called Old Woman Josie being Hispanic. Thank you and good night.
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So somebody on an Imdb message board (and wow, nothing good ever comes from a sentence that starts like that), in an attempt to refute the OP's negative review of the HBO miniseries Political Animals, said that the show wasn't meant to be a particularly realistic depiction of modern American politics, and that it was meant to be light fun.

While I too disagreed with the OP that the show was boring/not compelling, I have to ask of the second poster: were we watching the same show?

It managed to pack into six episodes some of the most dense misery I've seen on television recently, outside of the news.

Everyone involved manages to find new and exciting ways to make the wrong choices and accidentally screw themselves over in every. single. damn. episode. Some of them (I'm looking at you, TJ) in life-threatening ways, others simply (or really, not so simply) politically. There are two addicts who are major characters, one of them more or less functional, the other in a not-at-all-contained death spiral of doom and despair. It's fucking awful. Another character jumps off the deep end with a reporter, almost immediately regrets it, and spends the latter half of the series trying unsuccessfully to contain his mistake. There are genuinely good politicians and reporters trying to do right by the American public, and then there are the sleazeballs and the assholes and the ruthlessly ambitious (as opposed to reasonably ambitious, something the narrative takes time to point out) all vying for the opportunity to fuck these people over, often in viciously personal ways. It is emphatically not a "fun" show. It's painful.

It's also much better than I was expecting.

I have my continued issues with the way some plot threads were handled--my thoughts on TJ Hammond alone might deserve their own post somewhere down the line--but by the time I finished I was impressed. I actually really enjoyed all of the credited characters in their own right almost immediately, and while the politics weren't that subtle to begin with, things definitely evened out, and I did find myself disappointed after the end of the sixth and final episode that there wouldn't be any more. It also ended on a pretty massive cliffhanger, which just isn't fair.

One thing I noted while watching is that in the same vein as Puella Magi Madoka Magica the show manages to have an undercurrent examination of a theme entirely unrelated to its surface plot. In Madoka Magica's case, this was the devastating effects of unrequited love; here it's an examination of infidelity, in all of its forms, and viewed through the lenses of every player involved in an affair. Someone cheating on a long-term partner or spouse makes up at least a B plot of four out of the six episodes, and rather pointedly, one character who could be considered the central protagonist (one who'd in the past written quite angrily about how despicable she thought cheating was) is involved in affairs both as the cheated on and as the Other Woman. Fascinating stuff.

On a related note, I think it's hilarious that Sebastian Stan and Dylan Baker are playing basically the same roles they played in Kings, in a show that shares more than surface similarities.

Aaaaand now it's technically tomorrow, and I should go to bed.
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Oh well, I'm home anyway.

So while watching Agents of Shield and lamenting the many Almost Awesome things about it, I started casually wondering who I'd most like to run into Coulson's team. And given at least half of them are hardcore skeptics about ESP and anything paranormal, the first thing that popped into my head was the six psychic protagonists of a book called Hidden Talents and its sequel, True Talents.

Gods I loved those books as a thirteen year old.

So this kid named Martin is expelled for a third time from public school (actually a rather difficult feat if you aren't committing felonies) and is sent to an alternative middle school called Edgeview. He meets four other boys (all with indicative nicknames that are actually filled with black, black sarcastic humor if you think about it) and befriends them and he eventually figures out that they, as well as another kid whose unfortunate nickname is Trash (he trashes things) are psychic, and because they aren't aware or in control of their powers, they keep acting out and have all been thrown out of various schools.

Rereading as an adult, the metaphor for neuroatypical students slipping through the cracks is pretty unsubtle. And also, in hindsight, hell yeah I identified with Martin as a young teen.

He's constantly angry and possessed of massive trust issues, in part because his father is an abusive prick of the sort that doesn't get spotted because his abuse is all psychological. He's also an empath with the ability to sense people's greatest prides and deepest shames, but he spends most of the book, like his friends, unaware of it because for the most part, this manifests as sarcasm and backtalk. The reason he's been disciplined so severely is because he's been ripping people raw whenever anyone tries to get close to him. It's, um, kind of awful to watch really.

The other five boys have equally depressing backstories and reasons for being at Edgeview. Cheater is a Gifted kid who's always in trouble for (as his name implies) cheating on tests and in-class assignments. He's actually telepathic, but doesn't have any way of blocking other people's thoughts, and no way of recognizing which are really his. He's very proud and very defensive of his intelligence, and actually has a minor breakdown after getting a test back with another F, confused and hurt that everyone assumes he cheated.

Torchie starts fires. (Look, I said their nicknames were indicative. Middle school boys are perhaps uncreative when picking them). His constant chorus line is "I didn't do nuthin'; the double negative doesn't exactly help his case. He's pyrokinetic and again, has no idea what's happening or why he always gets the blame. As far as he knows, it's just the world's weirdest coincidence that wherever he goes, so follow small fires and the scent of burnt paper.

Flinch can see about 15-30 seconds into the future, and so anticipates his teacher's questions and cuts them off with answers. He's quite jumpy. Great at dodgeball, though. I'm actually kind of amazed that no one in-universe misdiagnosed him with ADHD.

Lucky has perhaps the most bitterly ironic nickname of the lot, and also probably the most tragic personal story of any of them, though all of the boys get put through hell before the two books' end. Lucky finds lost or hidden things, and remember what I said about nicknames also being full of bitter humor and weighted in-jokes? ...Yeah, Lucky's about the least lucky person in this series. He finds hidden things because they call out to him in his head, whisper his name and then shout if he tries to ignore it, and the only way to make the voices stop is to pick up the lost thing--something that won't cut it if the thing is valuable and it looks like Lucky stole it. Terrible things happen to Dominic Calabrizi (his full name). Awful, nightmarish things.

And then, oh Trash. Oh gods, Trash. This poor, neglected, beaten down fifteen year old breaks my heart. He's telekinetic and has next to no idea, other than being aware that things have a tendency to break whenever he gets near them, and then he gets accused of vandalism and throwing things. It starts when he's eight. By the time Martin meets him it's gotten so bad that stuff routinely flies off the walls or into them and no one wants to get within fifteen feet of him, because everyone thinks he's the nutcase who won't ever stop throwing things. Unlike Cheater and Torchie and Lucky, who defensively insist that it's not their fault, Trash is completely resigned to being hated and ostracized by everyone, and doesn't ever bother to assert himself and try and prove his innocence. Aaaaand then True Talents happens.

By the end of the first book, Trash has made his five new friends, and has a reasonable amount of control of his powers. Book number two opens with Trash drugged up to the eyeballs in a lab, having lost close to nine months in a haze of torture and experimentation, only to escape and find that everyone he knows thinks he's dead. Shit only continues to get worse. Lucky has a breakdown after getting transferred to a new high school and hearing thousands of voices coming from the concrete, having had a huge box of little plastic army men dumped into the mixer coincidentally by the same man who kidnapped Trash. Lucky ends up institutionalized, kept on doses of anti-psychotics strong enough to muffle the voices but also leave him in a fuzzy, incoherent haze. At the end of Hidden Talents, Martin goes home, but the book leaves the reader a reminder that he's still going home to an abusive father and a powerless mother and sister. This comes back in a big way when Martin loses his temper at his father and storms out of the house, with nowhere to go and nothing but the clothes on his back.

It's really somewhat dizzying how much different the two books are. One deals with the problems of bullies and bad teachers in a high school setting, and the stakes are over the school possibly getting shut down and the boys getting transferred elsewhere. The second deals with kidnapping and murder and rogue military forces trying to harm six (relatively) harmless, innocent kids. And really, both books have copious amounts of nightmare fuel, in drastically different ways. Between the boys' utter despair and self-loathing and combined mistrust of authority figures, even those trying to help them, to Trash's abduction and subsequent attempts to cope with his trauma and escape and Lucky, proud, angry, defensive Lucky spending most of the book in a stupor, good Christ were these books more horrifying than I remember them. And really quite gripping.

And hmm, I could easily see Martin and Trash ending up a couple sometime in the future. They both immediately think to go to each other when they're both on the run and in trouble, they trust each other almost unquestioningly, and they do seem to be closer to each other even within the group as a whole. Not only that, but Martin was the one person who talk to Trash or even acknowledge him in Hidden Talents, and Trash thinks of him as his first real friend because of that. And they even briefly (and in Martin's case, semi-seriously) contemplate stealing a car and running away together, to just escape the hell they find themselves in, in True Talents.

But mostly I just sat and read both books (they're short reads) and sort of cried and went booooooooooooooooys at them a lot. Because they are tragic and adorable and self-destructive and my boooooooooooooooys...

And yeah, I totally see how I might ID with an angry kid who burns all of his bridges in ways specifically about school as a thirteen year old.
gen_is_gone: criminal minds team standing in an elevator (team and family)
...while Agents of Shield (and gods, I'm realizing all of my thoughts have been occupied by Marvel recently; I swear I'm not like this normally) has generally been improving, I continue to make perhaps unfair comparisons to Criminal Minds and end up petulantly mumbling "but Hotch wouldn't send non-combatants to do field work" and "but Morgan wouldn't voice his screaming trust issues in front of strangers"...you get the idea.

The biggest problem I think I'm having in this regard is that procedural-types shows tend to be cut from a similar cloth no matter what their subject matter, and as such have standard character/plot/villain molds from which to work. This isn't a bad thing, just a fact of storytelling, but the fact that Show (in its seasons 1-5 prime) took easy character bases and made real, breathing people from them while Agents of Shield is still writing fairly shallow* characters makes it all the more disconcerting to recognize the underpinnings that both casts share.

That being said, it isn't unwatchable as far as procedurals go, and it's nice to see aliens and comic book science on network tv.


*Shallow isn't to criticize per say, just to point out that Phil Coulson is (to me) a character being written played by an actor saying lines; Aaron Hotchner exists as someone alive to me.
gen_is_gone: two one way arrows pointing in opposite directions (cake)
In more or less a continuation of yesterday's foray into teen not-quite horror, and for more or less the same reasons (i.e. Sebastian Stan being attractive and relevant to my currant interests) I watched the first few episodes of Kings. My response, inasmuch as I have one, is a resounding...meh.

I have something of a history with Kings, in that by complete accident, and without having ever seen it, it inspired one of my original fic worlds. Coming back from a vacation in New York the year it came out, I saw a trailer for it in taxi and was curious, but had no way of accessing it at the time and had already forgotten about it later. I never got around to watching it, or even looking it up, really, and I didn't actually realize it was meant to be a setting update of the story of David until now.

(The world in question isn't at all related to what this show is actually about, and mostly just shares the concept of a modern monarchy with unusual fondness for the color orange. But still.)

I ended up more frustrated than anything, because it's clear that an awful lot of money went into this enterprise, but mostly? the writing is mediocre at best. For a show about modernizing some quite epic biblical stories very little happens for long stretches of time, and for a political thriller it's annoyingly unsubtle. There was so much potential that was sort of left up in the air, and unfortunately it's easy to see how the writing didn't justify the budget. It's a shame too, 'cause the scenery porn is absolutely gorgeous.

Not entirely sure why the past what? three things I've posted have been reviews of some kind, but whatever. I'm not sure why I'm doing this, as nobody's going to read it, so mainly this is just a slightly more socially acceptable way of talking to myself. Works for me.
gen_is_gone: two one way arrows pointing in opposite directions (cake)
In a fit of shallow fangirling, I decided to watch a movie I knew next to nothing about, other than it featured Sebastian Stan doing Homoerotic Things in a boys' locker room, called The Covenant.

It was glorious. I have no idea what anyone involved with this project thought they would get out of it, as it straddles a strange sort of line between B movie horror and fan-pandering supernatural-sploitation, with a hefty dose of queer baiting. I'd imagine that with this level of genre confusion it must have done terribly at the box office, but apparently it has quite the cult fanbase. I'm not at all surprised.

It has the kind of good-natured cheese I can enjoy, and while it criminally under-used its two female leads, it was nice to see them get a friendship that didn't devolve into petty squabbles over boys. The boys themselves were pretty typical fair: the lovechild of Joffery Baratheon and Draco Malfoy, a Sam Winchester lookalike, the one who looks like the guy from Teen Wolf, the one I'm pretty sure is the guy from Teen Wolf, and of course, a Depraved Bisexual Sebastian Stan.

While most of them aren't likely to win any Oscars, they worked as best they could with some deliciously stupid dialogue. Actually, the dialogue for the most part wasn't terrible all the time, just concentrated into a few scenes that jumped right off the deep end. Although I think "Harry Potter can kiss my ass" is one of the best lines I've ever heard.

I'm pretty sure this movie only exists to cash in on the millennial gothic horror craze and only made its money back on the strength of its fanservice (impressively equal oppportunity; we get male and female shower scenes and swimming pool scenes for the guys to balance out the shots of the girls running around in panties and short tank tops) but damn, was it enjoyable for what it was. And Stan looked like he loved playing the giggling psychopath.

All in all, a great way to kill time not studying for finals.

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