Recent Comments

The Little Theatre in Newark, New Jersey
Whitney Strub

Welp, damn: the very day after this was posted, the Little Theatre closed. It came suddenly, and I only caught it because of an alert about a comment on its page at the Cinema Treasures website. It doesn’t really change my historical arguments, but it’s a sad loss for Newark culture.

stylized Capitol dome with brain, flying saucer, and ant details
Hans Staats

This is a fascinating post. I was especially interested in Christina’s observation that “While traditional monsters often represent social fears via the form of demonized Others,” the cultural function of the figure of the monster in BrainDead “is instead used to indicate the inhumanity of politics-as-usual.” I agree that recent horror films like Get Out and It Follows are a timely response to the Trump Administration insofar as the possibility of truth and reason are called into question.

stylized Capitol dome with brain, flying saucer, and ant details
Josh Smicker

Very interesting post to start off the discussion. While Christina clearly lays out the ‘death of reason’ elements of the show that are connected to current discussions and anxieties around living in a ‘post-truth’ era, BrainDead’s combination of those themes with the sense that people that you thought you knew are not who they think they are is what it makes it a particularly prescient text for our current moment. While this sense of mistaken identity/replacement has literally ancient roots (in tales of changelings, dopplegangers, etc.) and more modern iterations in media texts ranging from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” to “Westworld,” it’s interesting to think about how those narratives are shaping a number of more general current US political tropes across journalistic stories, social media, and personal conversations. These include “the shocking Trump voter” (often a close family member or friend who turns out to be “not who I thought they were” because of their vote/support for Trump and his policies) to longtime Republicans claiming that the Trumpite GOP “can’t be who we are.” I wonder if in some ways, narratives like BrainDead in fact provide a framework for absolving people of responsibility for these positions—it’s not “really” a question of individual choice, the actual political program of a party, etc., but literally outside/alien forces exerting mind control and dictating actions. I would also add that this question of mistaken identity is a central component of a number of contemporary horror subgenres (i.e. the “uninvited guest” renaissance) and specific films (such as Get Out, It Follows, Hereditary, etc.). The connection between these elements—how feelings or fears about false or misunderstood identity challenges the very possibility of truth, reason, or a sense of reality or ‘normalcy’—seems very relevant to me.

Jayson Quearry

The history of near endings for the superhero genre in film is fascinating. As you mention at the top of your post, 2009 - following a barrage of mediocre entries that were more sci-fi or action genre formulas with capes attached - felt like a possible ending point for the superhero film, were it not for Iron Man kicking off the MCU the year before. Equally, Batman and Robin (1997) may have been a death knell had Blade (1998) not come along the year after and proven to studios that even C-level Marvel properties could make money. Much like how characters infamously cannot stay dead in comic books, the cinematic genre keeps being reborn.

All of this is to say that a revitalization of the Blade character now, at another point where critics, scholars, and fans keep prognosticating a saturation point for the superhero film as new entries continue to make recording breaking profits, would slot perfectly into the new apparent saving grace for the genre: diversity. Like how Iron Man’s inclusion of serialized continuity saved the genre back in 2008, films like Wonder Woman (2017), Black Panther (2018), and future releases like Captain Marvel (2019), Ava DuVernay’s New Gods, and Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey, suggest a possible shot-in-the-arm in the form of fresh voices in front of or behind the camera. Blade, whose film, as you correctly state above, initiated the whole cycle that has lasted from the early 2000s to the present deserves to once again be a factor in the genre’s continuation. With Snipes or without, I look forward to the character’s (possible) return.

Women in sports journalism
Travis Bell

This is one of the most powerful videos I’ve seen. I will be using this in my Issues in Sports and Media graduate course this fall. Sadly, thank you for sharing this significant visual contribution for the challenges facing female sports journalists.

Kerry Washington as Anita Hill
Amanda Konkle

It is interesting to think about these 90s “villains.” These docudramas definitely reveal how our present moment reshapes histories, perhaps for the better.

Outline of a missing Young Thug in "Wyclef Jean"
Michael Frazer

Very interesting post, Laurel! It’s definitely fascinating that the absence of the artist in the video still becomes a looming presence that serves as a precariously absent center for the content. I appreciate especially what you point out in the irony of the absence as well, namely that Staake’s production while poking fun at the frustrations also reinforces a certain social cachet for Young Thug. I think it’s interesting too that Staake did stick with some of the content originally planned by Young Thug. Obviously there wasn’t much direct collaboration due to the absence, but might this be a sort of symbiotic relationship? On the one hand, the video is clever in its response. On the other, were the video for, say, an amateur band or struggling artist, it probably wouldn’t have received the same attention. Might this further complicate the question of success? Again, I really enjoyed your post on this video.

The Gay Migration
Tanya Zuk

In popular culture and in academia, we often equate (metaphorically and literally) fandom as religion or having a religious feel. I’m thinking of fan conventions as being referred to as high holy days or going to “mecca,” or fan tourism as pilgrimage. I feel that there may be a connection between “Gay Migration,” fan tourism, and reclamation of space?

Lisa Weckerle

What a great post!

I just watched all of Godless, so thank you for inspiring me to do that.

Your questions about how masculinity is (de)constructed in Godless and other Western narratives is intriguing. On the one hand, Roy Goode’s domesticity (his protection of children, his bond with Truckie and Alice, his giving them the money from his robbery) is clearly framed as the ideal of masculinity, but on the other hand he still leaves at the end, choosing the solitary journey over his domestic community. Griffin also effects a patriarchal role towards his family of outlaws, to the sick house, and even towards Truckie at the end. And yet, we know that Griffin allowed the lynching of a child in his rage against Roy’s betrayal, so Griffin’s domesticity seems inconsistent.

Lisa Weckerle

Thanks for your comments, Sasha. You make an excellent point about the similarity between present day shifts in marijuana’s association with race and Walt’s colonization of the drug world. It also seems to me that the legalization of marijuana and association with medical uses effects the same sort of “baptism by capitalism” that Walt tries to use to justify his making of a dangerous drug.