Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Thursday, Jun 18, 2009
Avery Brooks, who fronts Star Trek: Deep Space Nine attended Oberlin College and performed a monologue of Paul Robeson my senior year, at our alma mater’s Black Alumni Reunion. This man is bossy. But DS9 requires a wholly different spectatorship than its fellow franchisees.

As a college student, I suffered from missing the latter few seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which I had watched as a kid each Saturday evening at 7 PM, without fail. I was the only Trekkie in any household I knew, and was just lucky that folks tolerated this monopoly of the television each Saturday in the prime of prime time. It was not until I reached college that I would find a field and flock of comrades, yet had no time to actually see prime time TV.


Since Star Trek is another apocalyptic fantasy where humanity nearly destroyed itself, in our recovery, humanity has banished money and poverty by extension. This seems to explain the apparent lack of class diversity. Yet, I watch the episodes then and now, and each series reflects a very clear picture of how America projected its dominant caste fantasies concerning gender, race and class at the time.


All other forms of inequality are assumed to have been eradicated alongside most diseases. In the Star Trek universe, however, equality was really a project of assimilation just meant that everyone had some strange fusion, futuristic sense of morality that only differed by planet. It has taken President Obama to call the question of assimilation into question and value difference beyond PC jargon.


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Tuesday, Jun 16, 2009
Each one, teach one goes the ole African adage. This gets reflected in many unconventional ways in Heroes.

Kinship in Heroes


A unique feature of the TV series Heroes is a consistent sub narrative of family. Indeed, most characters in the show are developed through interactions across generations. Healing and suffering, defeat and care, are all demonstrated through family interactions through time and space. In later seasons, adults meet their kid selves and arrive at sense of peace with the loss of loved ones. Yet, it is intriguing that despite the closeness of kin, each heroine and hero is left to discover their own identity in a vacuum of guidance and care, again mimicking a common queer experience.


Hiro, the master of time and space came out to his father, played by original Star Trek bridge officer, and out-spoken gay activist George Takei. Claire the invincible girl comes out to her folks under several incidents of blood-n-gore and supreme duress. Flying man and his omnipotent little brother, come out to each other and their folks only to eventually find out that their parents belong to an entire generational cohort of heroes bent on domination and manipulation.


That older cohort faced trials similar to those of the present-day characters that likewise stumbled upon, clustered in groups, and then betrayed one another. In spite of the interaction, there are few instances where any generation is afforded the luxury of the experiences its elders. This, too, is an aspect of queer culture that is only recently receding to inter-generational mentorship.


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Wednesday, Jun 10, 2009

At first I was afraid/I was petrified


Claire Bennet can heal. Cut, stabbed, scrapped, slashed, electrocuted, diseased, burned, beaten and hurled from high places, the obstacles that this young heroine faces show us that she girl can always bounce back. The only other super-being like Claire in the TV series Heroes lived for centuries and manipulated a major conspiracy to take over the world. Yet, the super power to heal cannot mend the heart. Being different is her constant, imposed strain.


Save the Cheerleader, Save the World


An ongoing theme in Heroes calls ‘fate’ into question. Are we victims of fate, or, are we making history? The answer would seem as plain as the show itself: We manifest destiny. In other words, there are indeed several seasons of the show. The show must go on, and so in the Heroes world, we make history, both in the literal and proverbial sense.


Tagged as: heroes
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Wednesday, Jun 3, 2009
Jon and Kate Plus Eight has never been more compelling -- but that's not necessarily a good thing.

Jon and Kate Plus Eight used to be the kind of show you could watch without really watching.


After mastering the basics—Pennsylvania parents Jon and Kate Gosselin had twins and then, hoping for just one more, ended up with sextuplets—the rest of the show passed in a blur of cuteness and crocodile tears. Toss in a few infidelity rumors, however, and suddenly you’ve got must-see TV.


As hard as it was to watch last week’s season premiere, it was just as hard to look away. At their best, Jon and Kate never seemed to be the most loving couple in the world but now they’re absolutely frigid. They abandoned tag-team confessionals for solo appearances on the Couch of Exposition. In between awkward silences, Jon and Kate worked their way through at least a few of the twelve stages of grief over their shattered relationship.


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009
One of the greatest examples of character evolution in a television series is Brock Samson, from Jackson Publick’s The Venture Bros.

I believe it was Neil Gaiman who suggested that writing serialized fiction is like jumping out of an airplane with a needle and thread and hoping you’ll have sewn a parachute before you hit the ground. Certainly there’s always been something of a slapdash, catch-as-catch-can, make-it-up-as-we-go-along feel to even the smartest and most ambitious of long-running television serials (Lost and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)


This reckless approach lends TV series (and some comic book series) a thrilling, anything-can-happen sort of spontaneity, but it also exposes the seams at times. (Fans rightly dismissed Spike’s attempt to rape Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s seventh season as a transparent bid by the show’s writers to remind the audience that Spike was evil, after having slowly neutered him over the course of three seasons.)


What I find most intriguing and satisfying about extended serial fiction is that it is uniquely equipped to reveal the startling extent to which a character can change over the course of time; while your average film might devote two hours to a given character’s narrative arc, Angel gave us five seasons to marvel at its title character as he struggled his way through 20-some episodes at a go. Removing commercials, each ostensibly hour-long entry offered perhaps 40 minutes of real story, but even then, you’re looking at a narrative which lasts well over 70 hours; a talented writer can do a lot with a character in 70 hours.


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