How Were We Supposed to Know that Hipsters Were So Flammable – Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal Deliver in Blindspotting
Hey geeks! Last night your girl went to an advanced screening of Blindspotting with the Bruin Film Society. Blindspotting is an indie film written by and starring Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal. In Blindspotting, Collin (Daveed Diggs) must make it through his final three days of probation for a chance at a new beginning. He and his troublemaking childhood best friend, Miles (Rafael Casal), work as movers, and when Collin witnesses a police shooting, the two men’s friendship is tested as they grapple with identity and their changed realities in the rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood they grew up in.
It will be released July 20 but as a fangirl I lack patience when it comes to seeing my faves. So I braved L.A. traffic from the IE and boy was it worth it. The movie was phenomenal. And after the screening, writer/stars Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, and brilliant supporting actresses Janina Gavankar and Jasmine Cephas Jones did a lengthy Q & A. After the Q & A they sat on the stage (!) and stayed to talk to fans for over an hour. They were precious. I’ll talk about that experience on the podcast next week but for now, this is my Blindspotting review.
Blindspotting is an ambitious movie. It is about home and loyalty. It portrays people of color raising children, trying to keep their relationships strong, and coping with PTSD, all in environment of gentrification, police violence, and mass incarceration. But at heart it is a buddy comedy centered on fast talking hot head Miles (Rafael Casal) and easy going everyman Collin (Daveed Diggs). It is a nuanced, challenging, yet side splitting buddy comedy. And oh, there is spoken word poetry. Quite a bit of it. All of that sounds pretty hard to pull off. But the crazy thing is that they DO pull it off. The screening audience (myself included) was alternately laughing, gasping, and sitting on the edges of our seats. There were also tears. It is that affecting. The movie's power to affect the viewer, if you are a person of color especially, comes partly from the fact that the characters who inhabit this movie would have been stereotyped or made caricatures by other movies. We don’t often get to see these types of characters in this way – people of color, convicted felons, working class people, women of color, etc. In Blindspotting they deal with trauma but they also dance in the kitchen. They grapple with violence but also clown on each other. Another big part of the impact of this movie comes from the method of layered, gradual storytelling and commitment to authenticity.
First, the authenticity. Every single aspect of the movie feels organic. Every character feels like it was pulled from inside of someone rather than composed on a writing room board. The dialogue is fresh and the jokes feel like jokes your friends would tell, but only if they were as fast on their feet and as funny as Miles and Collin. In the Q & A portion after the screening, Daveed Diggs says he and Rafael drew on their own rhythm and chemistry as lifelong friends. That makes Miles and Collin a joy to watch. The spoken word in the movie is the patter of two childhood friends who have spent years running the streets entertaining each other by just talking shit and making up verses. I was a little worried about potential awkward inexplicable poetry moments. But I literally didn’t even notice the transitions between poetry and non poetry. That is just how Miles and Collin talk. And as the spoken word elements are heightened little by little throughout the movie, you are never taken outside of the story. You just get absorbed early and it is a fantastic ride.
Secondly, part of the organic approach is that the movie never tells you what to think, it just makes you feel for the characters. It shows people living their lives, and then it goes about taking their inner emotional lives seriously. For example, the main friendship of the movie involves two men who love each another (it's platonic, but it's love), but whose friendship is tested by the world and their own trauma. Precious few movies or TV shows portray male friendships in all of their importance and nuance. So that already makes Blindspotting special. According to most pieces of art/entertainment, men aren’t supposed to care about each other that much. They aren’t supposed to need each other that much. In most movies centering male friendships, the audience is encouraged to laugh with them but never allowed to cry with them. That is a classic feature of toxic masculinity. But Blindspotting just blows past all of that and shows brilliantly how these two men need their friendship. That makes the movie great because it rings true.
It would be absurd to pretend that Miles and Collin wouldn’t depend on their friendship for survival. They grew up together. They have helped each other survive absent fathers, life on the streets, and the criminal justice system. So the fact that Collin and Miles have chosen to be family to one another makes complete sense. Some of the best scenes are when Collin is in Miles’s home, playing with his baby Ziggy (Ziggy Baitinger), and bantering affectionately with his partner Ashley (Jamine Cephas-Jones). But Collin and Miles experience life differently because the world treats them differently based on their race. Collin is trying to survive in a world where the color of his skin makes him a target, and his record means one misstep puts him back in jail. Miles wants to champion Collin, but in true family fashion, that often means inhibiting his growth. Also, Miles is a white man who grew up in among people of color, so he feels like he has to continually prove he is extra down. Add that to his deep fear of losing his home (Oakland) to gentrification, and he is always the first one to pop off. But when he starts shit, he is attracting the police, which puts Collin at risk as a Black man with a record. Miles doesn’t think about that at all, which is part of the problem. He’s just being wild trying to defend his home and his best friend. That’s what he thinks, anyway. But he is missing a big part of the picture by refusing to be accountable for the added risk he is bringing into Collin’s life and his own son’s life. This problem unfolds and escalates throughout the movie masterfully. By the time Miles and Collin have it out, covered in blood in a parking lot, you just can’t tear your eyes away. The dialogue, the performances, everything is as compelling as anything you will see on screen.
Also, this approach to telling personal stories is the most impactful way to talk about topics like police murder and mass incarceration. That is because politics are personal. It is the power structure that de-personalizes politics. It is the power structure that tells you politics is something separate you think about only when you turn on CNN or go to the voting booth. This is at best a privileged point of view, and at worse, a calculated strategy to dissuade marginalized people from participating in the political process. In truth, politics is simply what our institutions do to the human spirit. Watching Collin deal with PTSD, Ashley trying to keep her son safe, Val trying to improve her life, and Miles trying desperately to hold all the pieces together with his bare hands – these stories tell us everything we need to know. When we see institutional injustices collide with their lives – Ziggy throwing his hands up and saying ‘don’t’ shoot’ while giggling, Collin walking down the street at night during a particularly heart stopping scene where you are begging the cop car to Please. Just. Keep. Driving. How can you not see that politics are about how the human spirit is at the mercy of our institutions?
Also brilliant is the layered, gradual way in which they introduce you to these characters. You go on a journey that forces you to see their humanity, the good, bad, and ugly, at all times. This plays out to sharp effect with the Collin character as well as with Val and Collin's arc.
Let’s start with Collin. Of course Daveed Diggs is absurdly lovable and he brings that quality to the screen. But it is more than that. The movie is masterful at creating this experience of getting to know Collin at every level so that you never simplify or patronize him. Now. You know from the opening scene that he did time for a felony. At the first part of the movie, you are left to guess as to Collin’s crime. But you are having so much fun with the jokes, the banter, and the streets of Oakland, that you don’t dwell on the question. Also, you feel right away that it can’t be anything too nefarious. When you meet him, the first thing you see is his sense of humor. Then in quick succession, you see his vulnerability around Val and his silliness with Ziggy. You get the idea that he has disappointed Val and made some poor choices, but you know that he is a good person who wants to better himself. While Miles and Collin are moving things in and out of people’s houses, they idly make up rhymes together. These are absolutely brilliant pieces of character development as well. Hearing the rhymes Collin makes with Miles to deal with the boredom tells you that he is a sensitive, clever, thoughtful guy. Then, a little way into the movie, Miles (in true extra af Miles fashion) dismisses Collin’s crime saying ‘how were we supposed to know hipsters were so flammable!?” But as we see through the entire movie, humor is a great way to cope but can also be used to mask truth. So from the jump, you sense that Miles is a hilarious but unreliable narrator. So you know fire is involved but that's about it.
By the time you see the crime Collin has committed, you are already ALL IN on Collin. You love him and want things to turn out for him. The crime isn’t something that changes that. But it does reveal another layer of Collin that surprises you. You also see him momentarily through Val’s eyes and in that instant you understand why she broke up with him. The moment also adds another layer to your understanding of Miles. Like, oooohhhhh he thinks a woman should be completely ok with that. Duly noted, Miles.
By the end of the movie you see Collin for who he is in his entirety and the journey you took in doing so never let you simplify him. It never let you love him for something he wasn’t. A more pedestrian movie would give you the experience of “Some incarcerated men of color are good people.” Blindspotting give you the experience of “all incarcerated men of color are human beings, both good and bad, like Collin and like everyone else”. Y’all. That’s a big difference and it reflects masterful storytelling, and it must be said, storytelling where people of color get to tell their own stories.
And since I have mentioned Val, I have to say that I appreciated how layered the storytelling was for Val and Collin’s relationship. You first meet Val when she and Collin have an icy relationship. He’s almost off parole and he wants to show her that he can improve himself. She has her defenses up. The first introduction you get to any description of Val is Miles complaining about her. He calls her a disloyal bitch in his loud, extra way. He complains about Val not visiting Collin in jail (and presumably dumping him) the way he complains about $10 green drinks, his favorite burger place becoming vegan, and hipsters parking like shit. These are all crimes in Miles’s world.
As a woman, I did not join him in judging her. Calling a woman disloyal is just another way to describe a woman maxing out on your bullshit. But while Miles judges Val, (mostly because he judges the Collin/Val relationship through the lens of family, not romantic partnerships) the movie does not. I was happy about that, because judging a woman for leaving a relationship can become sexist hack bullshit really quickly. But thankfully that doesn't happen. Val is nuanced like everyone else.
As the movie unfolds it becomes clear that Val wants better for Collin because she still loves him. And the chemistry between Val and Collin is off the chain. The scene where she is braiding his hair and he looks up at her? Oh Lord. *fans self * And afterward when he goes in for a hug and she shuts her eyes while he is holding her like “goddamnit motherfucker why do I love this so much”. I mean. Their chemistry is freakin fire and she is so relatable. I’m a school nerd and so I’m also going to relate hard to a girl doing her flashcards trying to better herself. Another way the movie shows that it does not judge Val is that the other women do not judge Val. Collin’s mom loves Val. And Ashley is very clear that any distance between her and Val is because of a very perfuntory consession to Miles's focus on loyalty. An Ashley line I loved was “ I didn’t cross the picket line, shit I’m just following her on social media.” These women have made different choices but they do not judge one another. And you get the feeling that they care about each other a lot.
With time you see that neither Val nor Miles are perfect in what they expect from Collin. And you understand that it was never about Collin making a choice between Val or Miles expectations. It was always about Miles choosing himself. And oh god do you want him to choose himself. CHOOSE YOURSELF, COLLIN.
Look, I’m a passionate person. Latina + fangirl is a potent combo. But its also a damn good movie that touches on so many themes that matter to me.
Last thing I want to say is that this movie depicted PTSD in an incredibly honest way. As someone who suffers from PTSD I appreciate that. And on the podcast we are going to do an entire ep about media that gets the depiction of mental health right and I’ll definitely be talking about Blindspotting. I'll also give my first-hand account of meeting the amazing cast, and I’ll read a list of names Miles calls white hipster gentrifying his neighborhood. It’s good shit.
So yeah, do I need to spell it out? Go see Blindspotting when it comes out. Release date: July 20, 2018 (USA)
LGBTQ Art and Entertainment Saves Lives.
During Pride Month, Let’s Promote the Hell Out of It.
Hashtags: #agayaday and #pridemonth
All over the world, LGBTQ people are treated as second class citizens at best, and as criminals at worst. Gay relationships are criminalized in 72 different countries, with some penalties including death.
Even in “enlightened” communities, LGBTQ people and relationships are marginalized and treated as less than or just gross. ‘Gay’ is used as an insult. A same sex kiss on TV is considered more scandalous than an opposite sex kiss. LGBTQ fans who ‘ship same sex TV characters together are often mocked and silenced. There are literal entire political movements dedicated to ensuring the continued second class legal status of LGBTQ relationships. Young people grow up hearing these anti-gay messages all day every day. This literal constant onslaught of dehumanizing and debasing treatment can cause depression and even suicide. LGBTQ youth across the country are isolated and suffer in silence.
So LBGTQ youth need solidarity and the world needs changing.
One of the most powerful, miraculous, methods of bringing solidarity and strength to LGBTQ people everywhere is art and entertainment. And in the process of helping LGBTQ youth, LGBTQ art also changes the world by humanizing LGBTQ people to the larger population. In sum, we should be supporting it. We should be supporting each other.
Tweet/insta/fb/whatevers one recommendation for LGBTQ positive art/entertainment per day during pride month June 2018 -- TV, comics, books, art prints, podcasts, movies, youtubers, anything!!! Let’s vote with our money for art by LGBTQ folks, and/or art with positive LGBTQ representation.
Have fun promoting your underrated LGBTQ faves, you'll make Captain Holt so proud.
Use hashtags #pridemonth and #agayaday
See you on social media, y'all.
Matthew Currie-Holmes, writer/director of Buckout Road, did an AMA for Earpers in the DomSquad Facebook group on May 31, 2018. He thoughtfully answered an avalanche of questions about Buckout Road, Dominique, and indie filmmaking. Earpers ask great questions, so there is a lot of wonderful behind the scenes info as well as advice for creative types who want to be in the movie biz. Also, he told us how Dom's audition for Buckout Road went!
For smidge of background, DomSquad is a group of Dominique Provost-Chalkley fans who promote Dom’s projects. Anyone can join, just look us up on Facebook. We do meetups, screenings, and twitter campaigns to promote Dom’s projects. That’s how we met Matthew! Here we are with Matthew at the Hollywood Screening. Dom even ‘grammed us!
When we met Matthew, he really clicked with DomSquad, agreed to join our Facebook group, and the rest is AMA history. I edited the following transcript for clarity/grammar, and I omitted names of our members because it is a closed group so privacy is part of the deal. So here is how it went! Matthew posted the following photo (hell yeah) and we dove right in!
Let’s do this #DomSquad excited to chat!!
Q. There tends to be a fair amount of sexism and misogyny in horror movies but Buckout road seems to avoid that. Was that a conscious, purposeful decision? (ok, this was my question, sue me I'm always thinking with my feminist brain ha!)
A. You’re absolutely right there is a ton of misogyny in genre films and I think it’s important that we not only address it but change it. I’m the father of a daughter and if I tell her that she can be anything she wants to be and then show her that women are basically sacrificial lambs just to follow the trope, what kind of example of my setting?
Q. I’m not being specific because I don’t want to spoil people. But there was a lot to like about the movie as a woman.
A. Thank you so much for saying that. And for noticing. It’s hard for me to answer this question without spoiling but in my fairytale movie the princess saves the prince.
Q. Are there any other folktales you would love to bring to screen?
A. Great question I have a few scripts that I’ve written that are loosely based on folktales but I think the one that I would love to see done right is bloody Mary 666.
Q. You recently tweeted that you would like to do some more acting. What role would you most like to play and one you wouldn’t
A. I think I’m just nostalgic for acting, I loved being on stage and performing and I loved engaging with other actors. I love what actors do. I think as I get older the roles that I would like to play would be kind of fucked up characters with fucked up pasts. There’s no real specific role that I’d like of course I would love to do true west and there’s some John Patrick Shanley pieces that always make me happy. I’m not sure that there’s a role that I wouldn’t take, the only problem I have with acting is the pursuit of the job Ha ha ha.
Q. How many actors did you actually audition for the roles - a large number or were you able to narrow your options pretty quickly?
A. I had three sets of auditions one was the initial call for every role except the priest the cop and Aaron and Dr. Powell. Every other role in the movie was up for grabs. I saw probably 15 people per role and when I did my callbacks we narrowed it down to three people per role.
Q. Did you write Buckout Road with Evan Ross and Danny Glover in mind?
A. Evan and Danny were attached before I was. I had to audition for directing!
A. Right now we are in the process of getting distribution there will be announcement soon I promise. Don’t forget to follow @BuckoutRoad on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on the latest!
The next Buckout Road Screening is at the Niagara Falls Comic Con on Friday June 1st at 6pm. Get tickets here: https://tix.extremetix.com/webtix/3798
Q. Will any film stills be released?
A. If you want to see some cool film stills check out the IMDb page at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4847454/
(Note: That is where DomSquad member Laura Harley pulled the movie still for this cool fan art)
Q. What made you choose this urban legend to make a movie about? And what made you decide that Dom would be one of its stars?
A. There are actually over 13 urban legend surrounding buckout Road. Obviously we couldn’t film all of them so I did an amalgam of three or four legends and mashed them into one. Dominique had been recommended to me by a friend who had directed her in an episode of Murdoch mysteries. I asked her agent if she would audition and she came in and absolutely crushed it. Both myself and the casting director and my producer knew the second she walked in the room that she had the part. She was really something special! (RRL note: we agree!)
Q. What would you say was the most difficult part of creating this movie overall?
A. For me the most difficult part of making this movie was whenever we shot at night we couldn’t do a pick up because the sun was our ultimate clock. Once the sun came up the day was over and there is nothing we can do about it. We were on such a tight schedule that every location we shot had to be wrapped out at the end of that day. So you can imagine during the night shoots if we didn’t get what we were supposed to we were kind of fucked.There were often times during night shoots that I either had to scrap what I had intended to shoot or reconfigure my shooting schedule
Q. Did you use any specialist lighting? Some places where remote how did you get your equipment to location?
A. We had BIG trucks carry our lights to remote locations.
Q. When you write for a film do you have the season or time off in your mind too?
A. Sometimes it’s set specific, and the time of year is a character of the film. Film shot in winter use the weather as a plot device. I prefer to write most of my things in the summer because I hate the cold. That said if someone offered me an obscene amount of money to shoot something that I had written for summer and the only time we could shoot it is in the winter, well then I would pull up my snow pants and get to work.
Q. How do you start your your plots for a movie? How do you turn the story into a script?
A. That’s a great question. I have a very strict process of how I like to work. The first thing I do is write five pages of gobbledygook. Just crazy bullshit that doesn’t make any sense. Then I turn that into a beat sheet. Mapping out all of the major plot points and beads in the film, not the minor ones just the big ones. Then I create back stories for every character even though nine times out of 10 you never see it (that’s from years of acting). Then I create a log line and a two page synopsis. Once I have all these things I write a 10 to 20 page treatment. Once I finished my treatment I start writing my script and filling in the blanks with dialogue, action, etc. Finally once I’m finished a draft of a screenplay where I think there is no way in the world I can possibly write anymore about this particular subject, I send it out to get notes and then the rewriting begins.
Q. Do you have specific people you trust to proof your scripts and give you notes?
A. I do. I have screenwriters who are friends of mine who have graciously donated their time many many times to read my shit. I in exchange read their fantastic screenplays.Once I get notes back from my fellow screenwriters I send it out to get coverage from a screen writing company. If you’re looking for someone to read your work there are really great companies out there that can help you and that aren’t very expensive. The first hat comes to mind is called Dan Rosen reads. He’s a fantastic screenwriter and a great filmmaker and he just started a company reading scripts for people. His notes are amazing. There are other companies that are use as well because, I tend to have a lot of typos in my scripts so I need to professionals to clean them up for me.
Q. How do you select your crew? Is this a different process to auditions?
A. As far as crew is concerned, The majority of the hiring is done by the production manager. I select my cinematographer, my editor, and my production designer. Because I was somewhat unfamiliar with some of the great crew that was available to me in Ontario, where we filmed, I had to rely on our production manager to fill in the blanks. She did a great job and we had a fantastic crew. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if I didn’t have an amazing crew. They made me look great and I am deeply indebted to every single person on that film said who gave 110%. It was a very tough shoot and not one person complained. I would work with the vast majority of the crew I had again in a heartbeat.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring indie film directors just starting out?
A. This is the New World order and the rules that used to apply don’t anymore so if you want to make a movie just start filming. Grab your phone, grab a Canon rebel, and start shooting. I really do believe that the best school is practice. I have a saying: never be the smartest guy in the room. If you’re a director surround yourself with an amazing cinematographer and amazing sound person, And make a movie. Then hire an amazing editor and have her cut it for you. Just as long as every person that you hire or asked to do the job is better than you at it
Q. Besides being able to scare people based on their belief in folktales, is there anything specific about bringing folktales to life, or the horror genre in general that speaks to you?
A. I absolutely adore horror. I find that it is just drama with higher stakes. Being scared and coming through a fear tunnel is what reminds us that were really alive. I think that people have been scared of the unknown for as long as there have been people and posing questions on film that don’t necessarily give answers but reinforce those fears is what makes life worth living in my humble opinion. We are creatures who love to tell stories and we love to solve mysteries and to feel like we’ve experienced something. I find horror is a ultimate surviving of a folktale. And it’s what you can’t see that’s more scary than what you do. That’s why the shark doesn’t appear until the third act JAWS.
Q. How do you raise funds for a film project? And how do you keep to a budget? (I understand this may not be answered)
A. Hahaha, this is an AMA so by the laws of the universe I have to answer, but I do have to be judicious as well. I make most of my movies in Canada and I have amazing producers who are able to access some of the benefits Canada has to offer like tax credits and film funds. The rest of the budget is raised by the caliber of cast, and the amount of territories that the film sells in. For example if we sell to a UK distributor for $100,000 we can take that promise to the bank and get a loan for the amount and all of that is how the budget is compiled.As far as how I keep to a strict budget, once again I just have amazing people who keep me on track and tell me under no uncertain terms what I can and cannot do Based on the money we have. It’s my job to be as creative as possible within the limitations.
Q. Is Canada your location of choice because of funding/tax credit considerations or more because of your connections there?
A. I am a Canadian citizen so I can access some of the tax credits by my birthright. Plus, I love shooting in Canada. Canada has the best people, best crews, and great actors. And that’s where my family is.
Q. What qualities or roles can Dom play that the world hasn’t seen yet?
A. Dom has an incredible control of her emotional faculties and I think she has a really wonderful mischievous character inside her as well. But more importantly she is so unbelievably dedicated to her craft that I’m sure she can do just about anything. I would love to see her get super angry and I think that she would make a kick ass bad guy! I think she has incredible range and if given the opportunity she could add and an enormous amount of complexity to someone perceived as evil.
Q. Directing really requires a broad knowledge of all aspects of filmmaking. What aspects of directing do you love the most and which challenge you the most?
A. I love working with actors and I really love the editing process. The most challenging part is getting the shot, lining up the shot. There’s always an element where everyone on set is holding their breath to make sure we get it. But that’s where a fantastic crew comes in
Q. Do you find it easier or more difficult to direct a screenplay that you wrote.
A. I prefer directing things that I’ve written because I already had a picture in my mind when I wrote it. That’s not to say that the picture that I had in my mind is the only version that I shoot. Part of being a director is the ability to take the best decision and put it on the screen. A lot of great ideas that made it in the final cut of the film weren’t mine to begin with but we’re better than what I had so we shot it. You have to put your ego aside and do what’s best for the film even if that means someone else had a better idea than you did. The cool thing is it says directed by Matthew Currie Holmes so I get the credit, haha.
Q. Have you ever had an experience in which an actor was really difficult to work with or had a really contrary interpretation of the character than you imagined? If so, how did you work it out?
A. What makes a good artist is their dedication to their craft. A great actor will interpret the material they’re given in a number of ways. To me the only reason someone would be perceived as “difficult “ is because they don’t feel they are being heard. Ultimately I have the final say on set as far as what I want my performers to do. My job is to be open their interpretation because even though I have an idea in my head they might do something that I didn’t see coming and I need to be receptive to that. I’ve been lucky in that all the actors that I’ve worked with have been professional and courteous so I can honestly say it was very little drama on the set. That being said, there are always contrary opinions but nothing can’t be worked out.
Conclusion: Hey everybody thank you so much for asking me all your amazing questions I hope I was able to give a little bit of insight into the process and I didn’t look like too much of a fool.I’m really humbled by This engagement. Hope you all have fantastic day or night wherever you are in the world. I will leave you with this. I spoke to Dom just before got on here and asked if she had any messages for you she wanted to let you all know that you’re all amazing and that season three of Wynonna Earp is going to be EPIC!!! Happy #TransDayOfVisibilty MCH out!
For more DomSquad fun:
Terran (our one and only nb Earper prince) did a vlog on the Buckout Road Screening Earper meetup with Matthew, if you want some behind the scenes fun check it out! https://youtu.be/ADRImLFxNEE
As a dyed in the wool geek, I want a lot of things. I want Bae Doona to have her own series as a Batman-esque dark avenger with a complicated past but instead of Alfred she has a super sexy wife who builds all of her tech. I want John Barrowman to guest on Supernatural, and flirt so outrageously with Castiel that Dean Winchester finally confesses his true feelings for his angel.
And I really really want Root and Shaw from Person of Interest to get their own show. Or movie!
You’re sensing a pattern. Super gay. But in my defense, we need more quality LGBT content. We also need Root and Shaw, no matter their sexual orientation. Even in the crowded field of quality shows, a Root and Shaw spinoff would be a stand out among stand outs. The characters are nuanced and magnetic. The actors are incredible. The themes of government surveillance, data security, global spy networks, and terrorism are more relevant every day. The themes of found family and underdogs fighting the odds are inspiring and relatable. The format has the potential for action sequences that would make you stand up off the couch. And the chemistry between those two -- holy lord. Grab your fans, your glass of water, whatever you need because you’re going to be parched.
Root and Shaw are two characters from the late great CBS tv drama Person of Interest. If you have seen the Person of Interest all the way until the end, I can hear the question mark above your head. Don’t worry. It’s tv. We can fix it.
And if you haven’t seen the show, here is the premise. Person of Interest is based in NYC after the attacks on the twin towers. After 9/11 (in the show, though this is #tooreal) the American government hires a tech genius to build them an artificial intelligence to predict acts of terror. There is nothing supernatural about it. People who are going to commit acts of terror do certain things. They buy burner cell phones, open bank accounts, visit sketchy websites, etc. Add in video cameras everywhere, and ‘The Machine’ (the AI entity the government builds) can predict any premeditated acts of murder.
Harold Finch, the genius who builds the machine for the CIA, quickly realizes something disturbing. The machine doesn’t distinguish between terror murder, and regular ol murdery murder. But the CIA has neither the interest nor the resources to do anything about the run of the mill impending murders. So, the information on the regular murders are destroyed at the end of every day, leaving people to die when they could have been saved. At some point, Harold can’t live with himself so he recruits a deadpan, laconic, former special forces badass named John Reese. Harold does the tech genius bit, John does the stalking/rescuing. Their unlikely friendship (more than friendship?subtext?) is a source of sheer enjoyment. Detective Carter, their friend on the force (perfection that is Taraji P Henson) helps them from the NYPD side of things. There’s also Lionel, but he’s a bit of a wild card.
In the first season, the show is more like ‘case of the week’. But befitting the rich, complex topics of AI, spying, data security, rogue government agencies, and international intrigue, things become complicated fast.
Enter Root. Root is a hacker at Harold’s level of genius. She is interested in Harold’s Machine. But while Harold has a deep sense of caution regarding the machine he built -- he tries hard to keep it from getting too much information that could be catastrophic in the wrong hands--Root is in love with the machine. She abhors the evil that humans inflict upon one another (she calls terrible people ‘bad code’) and she sees The Machine as the answer to the problem of us (people). She adores Harold for creating the machine but is totally perplexed and even outraged as to why he doesn’t trust his creation. Looking around at humanity, it is hard to argue with her many salient points. But it is easy to argue with her methods and doubt her values. In theory she is disgusted by evil. But she does terrible things in service to the machine. It begs the question: for Root, is the machine a path to good? Or is the machine (instead of humans) the good? Because those are two very different things, and one is incredibly sinister if you happen to value humanity.
Root is an enigmatic, layered character played with intellectual ferocity by Amy Acker. And when Root gets hooked into the machine and starts following her intel, the combination of woman/machine is exhilarating. The machine knows when a murder is going to occur, so Root finds a way to pipe The Machine’s ‘feed’ into her ear. The Machine is practically all-seeing, and gets Root out of seemingly unsolvable situations. I will never ever tire of watching Root step into a crowded hallway on orders of The Machine. As bullets fly around her, Root walks in a perfectly straight line, face serene, pulling triggers on the guns in both of her hands. Her trust that the machine will keep her safe is unshakable. She is taking down murderers and terrorists left and right all while feeding intel back to Harold. She tries not to kill people because Harold is quite fond of humans, and she is now part of his Machine team. But she herself is a damn machine.
Now let’s talk about Shaw. She is another fascinating, exciting character. Shaw works for the Other side of The Machine -- the main feed that predicts terror and sends data directly to the CIA. Shaw is essentially a CIA assassin. She took the job because she is good at it. Shaw has never felt emotions the way other people do. Flashbacks show her standing next to a car crash as a child, being completely unphased by the death of her parents. She creeps out an adult there to help her, who is expecting a human emotional reaction from the child. That’s the story of Shaw’s life. It’s why she doesn’t succeed as a doctor. She literally disturbs her patients with her inappropriate emotional responses and lack of affect. So she ends up doing a job that would torture others, because it simply doesn’t bother her: assassin. But while Sameen Shaw may not feel the same way others do, she does value things. She values loyalty. She values honesty. And when her partner is slaughtered by the CIA she is unwilling to accept it. And because of who she is, she has very little compunction about cutting a swath of violence to punish her bosses. She doesn’t angst over it. She doesn’t worry. She doesn’t fear them. She just does what she needs to do to teach them not to fuck with her.
Being on the outs with her bosses, she reluctantly becomes a part of John and Harold’s crew. It takes a whole lot of convincing. She’s not really into their mission. She isn’t a hero. But what else is she going to do? Where else will she fit in? She’s their “petite Persian sociopath” and boy does she up their game. Shaw has skills. She is brutal, decisive, resourceful, and punctual. (Ms. Shaw may be violent and uncommunicative, but she is never tardy! -- Harold Finch) And she shares an enthusiastic love of melodramatic violence -- think rocket launchers in broad daylight--with the laconic John Reese. Root dubs Reese and Shaw “The Mayhem Twins” and their partnership is truly delightful. Shaw has a sardonic nickname for Reese for every day of the week, with Root jumping in on the fun.
Sarah Shahi’s interpretation of Sameen Shaw is a constant delight. She inhabits her with such complete comfort that you feel Sameen Shaw is real. She plays Shaw’s sociopathy (of course whether she is strictly a sociopath is arguable) with incredibly subtlety and even humor. Shaw is completely unaware of how she comes across to other people. She is so disconnected from social norms. She is the awkwardest little turtle for a woman who could kill you with her bare hands. Maybe even hand. She doesn’t need much to kill you. And Shaw kickboxing the shit out of someone while wearing a ball gown is my entire sexual orientation. Just so you know.
When Shaw and Root first meet, I was not a fan of their romantic pairing. I already wanted to protect Shaw, and Root tortures her for information in their first scene together. Relationships shouldn’t start with torture, don’t @ me. However, Shaw is a little different than your average woman. She also tortures and kills and this is just another day at work for her. But they are not off to a good start. They seem at opposite ends of the spectrum. Root vibrates with ideals. In the beginning, those ideals are dysfunctional and misanthropic, but they fill her and spill out onto everyone around her. Root’s eyes brim wonder when she talks to Harold about The Machine. She can picture a better world and she will stop at nothing to make it happen. These type of emotions don’t necessarily bother Shaw, but the expectation that she should be able to respond in kind, does bother her. Shaw would like to back away from your grand dreams so she can get back to her sandwich. Her sandwich doesn’t expect her to respond with an appropriate emotional affect.
Shaw never expected anything from the world, so how could she have dreams for its destiny? She loves food. She loves the dog (Bear, the former combat dog that only responds to Dutch commands) and she does her job. Other than that, she’d like to be left alone. But her new job with the Machine’s squad starts to change her. She experiences the gratitude of people whose lives she saves. At first she finds it incredibly off putting. But at one point the gratitude of a child pierces her abject inability to empathize. It’s like a lighthouse piercing fog. It’s not complete, but it is something. It gets her attention. She starts to grasp what she is doing for people, and it reveals possibilities for who she could be in the world. Also, the acceptance of her new rag-tag weirdo family starts to work on her psyche. She starts noticing that no one cares that she’s a bit off. No one cares that she is emotionally stunted. They have her back. They show up for her time after time after time. And when she shows up for them they are grateful. Which she has a hard time accepting. Her life is transactional. She’s not sure what do do with feelings. But she notices them, and she understands that she now has a family. It is a loyal, badass family that would do anything for her. She can trust them with her life. And after the betrayals she has endured, that means something to her. In fact, it affects her profoundly. She isn’t capable of verbally acknowledging her appreciation of them. But before she herself notices it, she would lay down her life for them.
And Root starts falling in love with her. Of course she does. And in true Root style, she gushes out her feelings. Root is unfiltered. She is raw. She feels from the top of her head down to her toes, whether that is wrath, rage, disgust, or love of Sameen Shaw.
Shaw resists. Of course she does. Accepting Root’s feelings requires her to respond to them. And she doesn’t know how to do that.
But Root sees something in her. She sees Shaw’s beating heart and she knows Shaw has zero idea what to do with it or how to reach out. So Root all but shouts from the rooftops that she is willing to do all the work. Root will find and meet her where she is. Root will jump off the cliff with no net and all Shaw has to do is open her arms. Shaw starts to find inches of courage. Even a silence or a ‘maybe’ instead of a no. But you can see her defenses start to slide down. Root and Shaw are both socially inept in their own ways. Root too raw, Shaw too withdrawn. So for them, connecting consists of many false starts and awkward pauses. But boy oh boy when they get there. These two women, with their scars and trauma and tenacity, who belong to this little weirdo family and share a mission to keep the world free, these two women have chemistry that just explodes. It is a slow burn that flows to lava.
But all of these amazing developments? They happen in the last season! They are cut so short when there is so much more story to tell. Person of Interest may have come to a close but Root and Shaw were just getting started. Root started out a woman who felt self righteous enough to kidnap and torture in service of her mission, with no thought to the damage she was doing. During her time with Finches Team Machine, learns to protect humanity, in spite of its glaring flaws. Shaw evolves from someone utterly detached, to someone with family that she could trust and die for. But there was so much more to learn. And their back-stories!!! Why was Shaw the way she was? How did Root become Root? We saw snippets but not nearly enough. Person of Interest was about Harold Finch and John Reese for the most part. I loved getting to know them. But what about Root and Shaw, characters even more unique and unpredictable than Finch and Reese?
Beyond their characters, their relationship with each other is rich and complicated. Their respective approaches to humanity and the world (good, bad, violence, freedom, privacy) contrast in a way that there is immense potential for exploration. Their respective skills in espionage, hand to hand combat, enhanced interrogation, and mission strategy represent untapped excitement and plotlines. Their deep love for one another coupled with their emotional limitations is also rich terrain.
And come on, you can’t tell me that you don’t want to see these two women on your screen again.
In the mean time, Amy Acker is on The Gifted on Fox and Sarah Shahi is on Reverie on NBC.
The post-convention blues are real, my friends. They can range from the blah’s, to the blues, to full-on depression. There are some very good reasons for that. In our everyday lives, we may feel marginalized or isolated. There are few people we can connect with about the things that light our fires. We may even live in places hostile to our skin color, gender expression, or sexual orientation. When we go to conventions we find Our People.
I will illustrate why it matters to find Your People in a series of Stock Photo Comics. (I can’t draw so this is my solution). Your People do not side eye you for:
Sexual orientation/gender identity...Particular combo of ethnicity and interests...Or we just found people we could bond with over the stuff that matters to us...Not saying conventions are perfect places where every human being is a rainbow farting unicorn. NOPE NO WAY NOT EVEN A LITTLE. But we do find Our People there. We go from isolated minority to a sea of people who GET us. It makes sense that coming back to our own realities at home can be a jarring experience. So the important questions is: how can you minimize the impact of that loss? Because I want you to be happy, my fangirl/boy/non binary darling!
Integrate your passions into your everyday life. First things first. Are you filling your everyday life with reminders of your passion and joy? If you are, DO IT EVEN MORE.
Think of how you played in your childhood.
The things that matter to us in our fandoms today, flow from the imagination, play, and whimsy of our childhoods. Whether our childhoods were lovely, traumatic, or all points in between, we just got on with doing what we loved. We connected without shame to the things that filled our spirits with joy. That could have been faeries, dragons, spaceships, robots, quests, magic, monsters, it could have been anything. But to a one, our worlds of imagination offered us comfort, solace, hope, inspiration, and freedom. Then we grew up, and became disconnected. FUCK THAT. It’s time to reconnect. Think back to when you were a kid. What did you play? What did you imagine? What did you read? What do you love now that fills you with those same feelings?
Then make a list of those things. That’s your to do list of life, my friends. Take the items on that list and let them inspire you to:
- Start a creative project. That could be designing a cosplay, writing a fanfic, making a piece of art, shooting a video, or recreating props. Some Supernatural fans have literally spent months fixing up Impalas to look like Dean Winchester’s Baby, and then they get to drive around in them every day! Bottom line, be the originator of your own badass life content. It creates a consistent thread in your life of imagination and creation.
- Don’t assume that no one near you can relate. Maybe not in your town or school or home. But check meetup.com, check social media, ask on your own profiles to be connected to folks who live in your vicinity. Visit your local comic book shop and look at the flyers they have up. You never know.
- Organize a local meetup for your community with a theme. Even if they live a few hours away, you might be surprised. They could be feeling the way you are and would welcome a day trip out to you. It can be as simple as a TV-watch party for Buffy with vampire themed drinks. It could be meeting at a local diner in Winchester and bringing your con photo op binders to swap stories. It can be a Wynonna Earp cosplay photoshoot near a dive bar that kinda looks like Shorty’s. I know it can be intimidating to plan events. What if no one shows up? But here’s the thing. What they do and it is fucking amazing? Plus, having it on the calendar will make you feel like you haven’t been dropped off into the deep end.
- Stay connected with your con family through binge watching together on Skype or rabb.it. Lots of folks have remote watch parties. I have not used rabb.it. but I have used Skype and google hangouts. You just say one, two, three, HIT PLAY and then watch together.
- Put fan art or merch everywhere at work or home. Looking at it will reconnect you with the things that matter to you. Whether it’s the love and acceptance of Sense8 or the optimism and sense of possibility in Star Trek, you will always have reminders. You can get mugs, candles, art prints, cutting boards, calendars, the fandom options are endless.
- Be creative with your style. Represent your fandom wherever you go. You can find low key fandom items to wear at work. You can also play with your hairstyle. Hell, tattoos are always an option. Rock it.
- Start planning your next convention. Buying those tickets, planning your photo op poses, or deciding what you want your fave to autograph will give you something to look forward to.
- Bring headphones to work or school if possible. Listen to fandom podcasts, audiobooks, or music associated with the things you love. Even if you are only listening on your commute, that is something.
- Start projects online with your fandom. In fact you can choose a fandom based on its level of activity and creative energy. For example, if you are a Misha Collins fan, you ALWAYS have a project to work on, whether it is doing a bizarre scavenger hunt, raising money for a refugee family, or creating a piece of art with a group.
- Make time for yourself to enjoy your favorite shows/books/movies. Don’t feel guilty for scheduling in time to do that stuff, even if you are a parent. (I’m talking to myself now.)
- Write fan letters or art and send them to the people who are making a difference to you. The time and love you put into that will be time you spend thinking positive thoughts of gratitude.
Make your life better in general.
Sometimes it is MORE jarring to return home because we hate our jobs, our partners are not supportive, or our families look down on us. Tackle those issues according to your level of emotional energy and your financial situation.
- If someone is being actively homophobic or racist at work, report it if possible.
- Start building the groundwork to leave your job, or to move somewhere better.
- If your partner or family belittles your interests, it’s time to have some come to Jesus talks and good healthy boundary setting sessions.
I know this is a whole lot easier said than done because I’ve had to do a whole shitton of it. I have had good therapists help me through it. And the impact on my level of happiness was incredibly positive.
Look ahead to next time.
Prevention is worth a whole lot more than cure. Being exhausted and actually sick with con crud when you get back just compounds the misery.
- Make sure you bring hand sanitizer to the con and wash your hands often while you are there.
- Make sure you eat and take care of yourself at the con.
- If you have anything you swear by like vitamin C or emergen-c, bring it to the con.
- If you DO have the option, make sure you ask for a recovery day off work ahead of time. You will need to rest, and you will thank yourself for the brilliant planning.
Lean into it.
Will having a cry make you feel better? It’s ok to do that! Share your pain with other fans. Let yourself feel it. As long as you are taking care of yourself and you try not to wallow toooooo long, honoring your feelings is a good thing.
Make sure that if you actually have full blown depression that you get treatment from a health care professional.
Know the symptoms of depression. Here is a handy reference list from the Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007
If things seem like they are slipping deeper from blue to depressed, get professional medical treatment. When in doubt, get professional medical treatment. (sensing a pattern?) Again, I know this is easier said than done. I say this as someone who has survived 25 years of major depressive disorder, PTSD, and anxiety disorders that have resulted in no fewer than five hospitalizations. Many of those years were spent with no health insurance, which, as an American, sucks donkey balls. I say this only so you know that I get it. I have called upon many different resources in my life – teaching hospitals, local universities, public health departments, free support groups at local nonprofits, I have tried and used it all. When I couldn’t afford it I’d call and tell them. They often came up with ways to help me. The important thing is that you don’t wait for it to get better on its own. I’ve done that and I’ve suffered for it. So I know for a fact that depression compounds upon itself. Depression is terrifying and traumatic, and having a full blown episode itself causes damage. The longer you wait, the worse the long term impact will be on your health.
So. Ask for help. If someone says no they can’t or won’t help, ask someone else. If a treatment doesn’t work, try another one. Keep doing that until you get the treatment that works. It is horrible and unjust that that you have to fight so hard for your own life, but your life is worth fighting for. I have been happy and symptom free for several years and I rate being non depressed a 15/10. I highly recommend.
And keep doing what you love.
In the end, attending conventions is worth the pain of coming back home, especially if you are taking good care of yourself in between cons, making space for joy, and if your life is nice to come home to! If you have any other advice for weathering the post-convention blues, please put it below in the comments!
And as a bonus for reading the entire article, enjoy a picture of babby 19 year old Rebekah after her first fan convention. It was the 1995 Star Trek Grand Slam convention in Pasadena and I was just a tad excited for the first female star ship captain. Can you tell? Once a nerdy feminist, always a nerdy feminist. At the convention, besides asking Kate Mulgrew to sign everything but my face, I got a 'Q' poster (you can see part of it in my hand) signed by the man himself, John de Lancie for my uberfan younger sister Michele. I also remember swooning over Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes in person. (Troi and Riker, my first 'ship). Great memories! I can't wait to go out and make some more. See you at the con!
Blackwelder 2164 is a rollicking, sci-fi adventure, with a brilliantly drawn, lovable (and reprehensible) cast of characters. It is set in a time where warring countries on Earth have been forced to unite in the face of an alien threat. Blackwelder refers to Spencer Blackwelder, a disciplined, sharp shooting sergeant in the Allied Earth Forces.
The book starts off with a bang and keeps up a steady pace throughout. In the first chapter, the reader is dropped right in the middle of action, as Blackwelder’s squadron from the warship AES Barack has been sent to check out an abandoned alien craft. The mission does not go as planned and the stakes are life or death. In the second chapter, the reader learns that Blackwelder’s personal life has not gone to plan either, and he is grappling with a painful decision with no easy solution in sight.
By the end of the second chapter, I was already rooting for Blackwelder. He is clearly a good man and a great soldier. However, he has made choices in his personal life that have led to heartbreak and put his cherished friendships in jeopardy. He has fallen in love with one of his best friends. Due to the small detail of his friend being engaged, paired with the homophobia of his commanding officer, he feels completely trapped and miserably guilty. He decides to essentially run from his problems and requests to be transferred to a remote planet called Triton. Triton is a planet likely to be the target of a first wave of alien attacks, and the soldiers there are woefully unprepared.
Blackwelder’s request is granted and he takes up the responsibility of training soldiers on Triton. He quickly finds out there are many more layers to this war than he had imagined. As a top soldier on a prized warship, he was shielded from most rumors and secrets. But on Triton, he begins to see complexity to the war. Perhaps earth wasn’t so blameless and perhaps an insurgent terrorist group posed more of a threat than he previously thought. Moreover, a suspicious sabotage leads to a terrifying malfunction in the training arena. As the mysteries pile on, and the stakes rise and rise in the face of an alien invasion, Blackwelder meets a man (a badass, gorgeous, well-connected ambassador with a heart of gold) who helps him move on much more quickly than he thought possible. Triton is just full of surprises.
Blackwelder 2164 delivers heart stopping sci-fi space battles, government intrigue, spies, action, humor, and feels. Also, bonus sexy scenes and romance! I also appreciated that this is a story about a gay man of color, written by a gay man of color. When people write protagonists that reflect themselves, there is an easy authenticity that makes the story more absorbing. In fact, all the characters reflect respect for a diverse spectrum of cultures. And I was delighted as I kept meeting women characters who were written with love and style. A book set in the military with a male protagonist could easily fall into the trap of forgetting women soldiers exist or tokenizing them. But this book has women soldiers and they are written with character, personality, and depth. It is sad how refreshing it is to read a genre book that actually acknowledges that earth is a diverse place.
I highly recommend Blackwelder 2164 for your 2018 reading list. It's a fast, fun, intriguing read. In fact, I hope it gets a sequel. Blackwelder 2164 does end with a resolution to the first battle, so thankfully no cliff-hanger. But earth’s scheming and secrets that Blackwelder uncovered would make a fantastic act 2.
You will have more fun in Star Wars: The Last Jedi than you knew was humanly possible. There are scenes so striking, innovative, and flat out magical that you will nearly fall out of your seat. You will gape. You will cheer. You just might cry.
Megafans will debate for years about character arcs, continuity, and whether porgs are adorable or nah. But what cannot be denied is that The Last Jedi is visually stunning, massively entertaining, and almost never takes the predictable route.
This crop of Star Wars movies has the unenviable task of pulling off the near impossible: honor the past while creating the future. Change is hard. Launching the next generation of heroes and making space for them is crucial, but honoring the deep love that fans have for the original heroes is equally as important. The Last Jedi did both.
Our beloved heroes, Luke and Leia, are still leading the rebellion and bringing hope to the galaxy. They still know how to pull victory from the jaws of defeat. Our iconic villain, Darth Vader, still casts a looming shadow even in his absence. Yet it is clear that the power of the force is not owned by anyone or anything. The Jedi religion is not shackled to any physical place. Good and evil are choices, not destiny, and we all get to make choices, no matter our family tree.
The Last Jedi also succeeds making the Star Wars universe more nuanced and complex, even while delivering crowd-pleasing scene after crowd-pleasing scene. In The Last Jedi, heroes can make mistakes. Legends can have crises of faith. Things that are shiny can be grotesque upon closer inspection. And the girl who fixes the pipes can have a hero inside of her you just haven’t met yet.
The plotlines are equally innovative. There are numerous times I thought I knew what was coming, and The Last Jedi surprised me.
A forty year old franchise that can still surprise you is pulling off something special.
At its heart, Star Wars is an epic, timeless story. Truly valuable stories are living, breathing things that we pass down to our children and grandchildren. When we hoard them and encase them in carbonite, they become more suited for museum display. The surprises and innovations of The Last Jedi ensured that Star Wars is a story that will inspire generations to come.
Still dubious? Stand in my sensible-yet-attractive middle-aged pumps for a second. Let’s go on a journey to 1999. Picture being an overjoyed young adult camping out for a Star Wars prequel--the first in fifteen years. Imagine squeezing into a movie theater with breathless anticipation. The projector turns on and The Phantom Menace appears on the screen. Imagine a void where the soul and charm of Star Wars was supposed to be. Picture acting so wooden you want to feel something but you just don’t. Then you see Jar-Jar Binks. Yikes. What you are picturing is the experience of being fed an aggressively mediocre sci-fi movie dressed in a Star Wars suit. If you didn’t experience that, count your blessings.
I was born the year before Star Wars premiered. I have lived long enough to see great Star Wars movies being made again. These movies have introduced wildly endearing new heroes like Rey, Finn, Poe, and Rose. They are movies packed with talented people acting their asses off, and with chemistry that sparks off of the screen.
You don’t even have to imagine that last part. Just go see The Last Jedi, and experience it for yourself.
When you fall in love with a television show, you cannot predict its longevity in the pop culture consciousness. Its lifespan depends on the next generation. What parts of your pop culture will resonate with them and thus persevere? That matters to nerds like me. But no one can predict what the next generation holds on to.
As I enter my forties, I’m starting to see answers in the teenagers around me. My son’s friend showed up for a party wearing a Nirvana shirt. I made a mental note. Nirvana made the cut. One day last June, I picked up my nephew from high school. He got into my car and realized Biggie’s Juicy was playing.
“Auntie, how are you gonna be playing Biggie on Tupac’s birthday?”
Touché, young man. Touché. But for every Biggie and Tupac, a hundred more artists I love have been relegated to the dustbin of pop culture history. The same is true of TV shows. My love of Star Trek has been richly rewarded. Star Trek is a juggernaut of merchandise, spinoffs, movies, and documentaries. That means the fandom regenerates like a time traveling alien with two hearts. I get to connect with others who understand what that show and those characters mean to me. Other shows I am devoted to haven't endured in the same way. But one incredibly pleasant surprise has been the staying power of the little cult show that could: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I could fill a novel with the reasons I love Buffy.
Buffy was a hero. She had a heart as big as a the Rocky Mountains. Sometimes she suffered. Sometimes she gave up. She even fucked up. It didn’t diminish her or her value. It didn’t change what she was capable of. And she always found a reserve of hope. The humanist values, the family you choose, it all hit me where I lived. And guess what? The people who understood and loved Buffy, understood me. Buffy ended, but has remained an important part of my life.
Twenty years later, I watch Buffy. I read Buffy. I buy Buffy fanart. I make friends because of Buffy. Buffy still determines what new shows I will watch. I follow writers from Buffy-and its spinoff Angel-throughout their careers, because I know they tell stories that resonate with me. That is how I found Supernatural, which is where I continue to connect with people around Buffy. In my Supernatural fan group on Facebook, we maintain photo albums of every Buffy alum that has appeared on Supernatural. We have a files section that lists Buffy/Supernatural crossover fan fiction. Buffy fans created our own subculture within the Supernatural fandom where we connect with people who love the same stories and characters that we do.
Then I discovered Wynonna Earp, and the ante was upped. I watched Wynonna Earp because of an article where the creator of the television show, Emily Andras, talked about her Buffy influences. So I gave the show a try. I immediately saw Buffy’s –and Supernatural's’--fingerprints everywhere. But Wynonna Earp progresses beyond Buffy and Supernatural in a few important aspects. One is LGBT representation. A main character (not a dead side character) is in a same sex relationship. That relationship is complex, three dimensional, and fully recognized. The cast embraces their opportunity to represent LGBT characters in a positive light, and attends LGBT fan conventions. (Raises eyebrows across the room at my SPNFamily) Secondly, Wynonna Earp reflects a more modern and evolved understanding of feminism. Wynonna is not shamed or punished for her sexual choices by anyone. The men in her life fully understand that they do not own her, even when they are attracted to her. (Sit down, Xander) The male characters--such as the love of my life, Deputy Marshall Xavier Dolls--are fully formed, secure badasses in their own rights and are not threatened by her strength and fire. In fact they thrive on it. So hey, add in all the kicking demon ass, rollicking fight scenes, hilarious one liners, and fabulous cast, and I was all in on Wynonna Earp. I followed/joined/signed up for everything Wynonna Earp fan related. I found a creative, inclusive, welcoming community.
But it got even better, and even Buffy-ier. A few Wynonna Earp fans (called Earpers) launched a #BuffyEarpers initiative. I assumed it was just a hashtag with some clever, adorable accompanying fan art. But #BuffyEarpers is an initiative by Buffy fans within the Earper community where they share their love of Buffy with each other, and with the uninitiated. It has art, merchandise, watch parties, social media accounts, live tweets, and a podcast. Throw all of those ingredients into a bowl and pour in a heaping helping of pure fangirl (and boy and nonbinary) love and devotion. I listened to the premiere episode of the BuffyEarper podcast last week. The episode opened with the Buffy theme song and I found myself in tears. It dawned on me that some part of this initiative involved Buffy fans in my generation sharing the show with a younger generation. I find that touching. I have zero time or energy for people who slag off the younger generation. Secondly, that means my show offers something of value to the next generation, who will bring even more creative energy and connection to the community. I don’t ever have to say goodbye to my fandom.
Just to put this in perspective to the younger ones, in the 80’s and early 90’s, when something was over, it was over. Did your family move to a different state? You aren’t ever seeing those friends again. I hope you said goodbye. Did you lose a phone number? A recipe? Google doesn’t exist, bitch, it’s over. That set of encyclopedias isn’t gonna help you. The same with shows. When your shows were over. They were OVER. And you didn’t have a fandom to sustain you because you didn’t have the internet. If your siblings or hometown friends didn’t like a show, tough titties. If they thought drawing blueprints of the Starship Enterprise and learning Klingon was fucking weird, or that wanting to be called Galadriel was childish, well you were up shit creek without a paddle. You got to be the social leper reading dragon books in the back of the bus. (Ahem.) So it wasn’t just that your show that was gone. Your point of connection was gone. Your validation that you were not alone disappeared. Buffy was just on that cusp where the fans and creators were pioneering online communities and fan meetups. But I didn’t have a computer. How was I gonna afford that? I wasn’t Scrooge McDuck.
But of course, things changed. Remember those long lost childhood friends? THEY. ALL. FOUND. YOU. ON. FACEBOOK. Oh, hey Devin from 2nd grade, you still exist. Laptops became common. Starbucks, your local library, and maybe your entire city got Wi-Fi. We used the internet to build entire communities along fandoms instead of along geography. Frankly, the latter leaves much to be desired when you are a kid that doesn't quite fit in the box. New generations of fans were born and found each other. Comic Con became a worldwide sensation. And the best part? Some of the things you loved the most, but thought you had to say goodbye to, just. Kept. Coming back. And in that moment, listening to the #BuffyEarper podcast, I realized that even though Buffy may not be the massive phenomenon of a Star Trek or Star Wars, she isn’t going anywhere. Not only is my generation of fans still devoted to the little show that could, we are sharing it with the next generation of fans, who are falling in love too. And they are breathing new life into the fandom. We are going to be here, regardless of whether there are remakes, reboots, and regardless of whether they turn out to be any good. Given the uncommon resilience of Buffy herself, I suppose it is fitting.
Buffy Lives, indeed.
Let's Laugh, Cry, and Cuss about Supernatural Together
Episode Name: Lost and Found
Air Date: 10/12/2017
*SPOILERS* DO NOT READ IF YOU DON'T WANT *SPOILERS* SERIOUSLY I MEAN IT *SPOILERS*
Hi my name is Rebekah and I’m a Supernatural addict. If you are reading this, you have probably watched 12 years’ worth of Supernatural, so we’re in the same boat. Welcome, fellow sucker for punishment! Feel free to let it all hang out.
Last night I eagerly watched the Season 13 premiere of Supernatural. I don’t start every season of Supernatural eagerly. But I enjoyed the hell out of the Season 12 finale and the set up for Season 13 was right down my alley. Creepy as hell, a parallel dimension, and the promise of seeing some old favorites. Also, the acting in the show has reached Oscar caliber. No exaggeration. Jared and Jensen inhabit these characters and make you feel like they are old friends. The delivery of their lines feels real, raw, and impactful. That’s a tall order considering it is a fantasy show and you can get burn out from the constant trauma. But the writers can put in the most absurd plot line and those boys sell the shit out of it. These guys know what they’re doing. They’re just doing it on a cult favorite CW show so they probably don’t get the recognition they deserve.
So just for set up purposes, Season 12 finale ended with the boys losing everything and everyone they love. Again. It wasn’t as traumatizing as it could have been because as y’all know, the boys lose everything all the time. And characters have the tendency to come back. Also, there were some character deaths I was ready for. (Sorry. I love Mark Sheppard but the writers didn’t know what to do with Crowley anymore, it was painful.) Additionally, the few scenes in the parallel dimension were a joy. We got to see Bobby, which, it’s always a good day when you get to see Bobby. And he mentioned Rufus. Almost nothing makes me happier than Bobby and Rufus. (Safe House, written by superbae Robbie Thompson is one of my favorite episodes they’ve ever done.) So Season 13 was set up to be very cool, which after 12 years is impressive.
Season 13 Episode one opened up exactly where we left off, with Sam standing in the cabin gaping at the ENTIRE GROWN ASS ADULT Nephilim that was born FIVE MINUTES AGO crouching in the corner naked as a jaybird (are jaybirds more naked than other birds?) with glowing eyes being CREEPY AS FUCK. Like, genuine chills down your spine creepy. Sam tends to use his words so he tried to communicate with the Nephilim. Dean walks in and instantly whips out his gun to shoot the guy. Dean had just left Castiel’s dead body so he was not in the mood. Sam knocks his arm out of the way. Which was probably for the best, because Dean, what’s a regular ass bullet going to do to a Nephilim? Well, that pisses ol’ dude off and he yells and the blast of his power picks up both of the boys off the ground and throws them into the wall. So, he is hella powerful. Then he gets away.
The boys give chase. For stunningly gorgeous Greek god looking model types, they look like shit. Bruised, dirty, depleted, bags under their eyes. Dean was reacting to the crushing loss of Cas by being enraged (appropriate reaction) and that was manifesting partly by him uberpissy and barking at Sam. Even his most pissy retorts crackled with grief. Sam obviously knew he was grieving and didn’t give him any pushback. There is this unspoken understanding that Cas’s death is more Dean’s loss than Sam’s loss. Part of that is because most of the writers are Deanboys, and partly because Dean and Cas have a more profound bond. They’re boyfriends. Or they would be if the showrunners had the sense God gave a fruit fly. But I digress.
The Nephilim ends up in a police station. He’s confused and bewildered. He’s trying to figure out who he is, and what feelings are. He tries nougat for the first time. It’s intense. He’s in turn adorable, off-putting, and terrifying. The actor is fantastic. It’s hard to make these kinds of characters work. It’s easy to lean a little too hard on the crazy or on the bewilderment. But he was perfection. I truly hope they keep him around. He infuses the old SPN dynamic with new life.
Any who, the most significant thing is that when he hears voices in his head (angel radio), it hurts, and he reacts by throwing folks around. But he doesn’t know how it happens. He doesn’t have control over his powers just yet. Which makes sense, because he’s like three seconds old. The boys catch up to him. Sam spends some time with the Nephilim (the audience knows his name is Jack at this point) and realizes that he is an innocent. Also, Jack reveals that Castiel is his father, which was a brilliant little twist that hurts sooooo badly because you know that beautiful Castiel is dead. Poor kid, Dad killed while he was making his way into the world. But wait, wasn’t Lucifer the father? Apparently, Jack’s mom found the concept of fatherhood pretty flexible. She said since Castiel would be the one to protect him, that he would be his father. And since Jack was conscious in the womb, he was always hearing Cas take care of him, so he cosigned that (extremely solid) choice.
Then the dicks show up. Ok that sounds weird. But any SPN fan knows what I’m talking about. According to Dean, angels are dicks. And the group that shows up lives up to that less than stellar reputation. They are there to kidnap Jack and to use him for nefarious power-hungry purposes. There are some really cool, creative fight scenes. Only in Supernatural do you laugh during a fight scene. They are often sly and inventive. Ultimately, Sam and Dean prevail. The angels are either sent to heaven or ganked. But before the last one is stabbed, she stabs Jack right in the heart. It doesn’t take. He pulls it right out. Yes Jack is innocent, but also menacing and scary, mostly because we don’t know what his powers are yet. He doesn’t know what his powers are either. But we do know that he can be stabbed in the heart and not even ask for a band aid. He’s like. Hm. (kanyeshrug)
The boys head back to the bunker and take Jack with them. Which I thought made sense. Jack is a loose cannon and you don’t really want him bouncing around out there. Sam mostly wants to look after him. Dean mostly wants to kill him. They only thing stopping Dean is that he has no idea how to do it. Dean still doesn’t see these decisions on whether to kill folks as a democratic decision between him and Sammy. If he wants to gank somebody it doesn’t really matter what Sam wants. And of course, you can see both of their viewpoints. Dean is sick as shit of these supernatural creatures killing his boyfriend and his family. But to be fair to Sam’s point of view, rational thought generally makes for better strategies. Also, there is no real reason to believe that Jack will be evil. Lucifer is not a demon. He’s an angel. His villainy was purely a conscious choice, not his genetics. Also, Dean saying his job is to kill the supernatural is a bit disingenuous. Because in reality, the boys have a long storied history of partnering with supernatural creatures (You know, like Castiel? Or Crowley? Or Dean’s ex Benny? I could really go on). But Dean is completely over it. Which. You can’t blame him there considering what they just went through. So that’s where we are.
Then we get the thoroughly heart wrenching scene where Dean prays to God to bring Cas back. Here is what he says:
Okay, Chuck… or God, or whatever. I need your help. See, you– you left us. You left us. You went off. You said… You said the earth would be fine because it had me… and Sam, but it’s not, and we’re not. We’ve lost everything... and now you’re gonna bring him back. Okay? You’re gonna bring back Cas, you’re gonna bring back Mom, you’re gonna bring ‘em all back. All of ‘em. Even Crowley. ’Cause after everything that you’ve done, you owe us, you son of a bitch. So you get your ass down here and you make this right, right here and right now.
Ugh. Now that is writing. Interesting to note that Dean explicitly refers to Cas as his everything. And if your heart can survive that, you should probably check whether you have a pulse at all. Maybe you are a vampire. Then Dean asks for his mom back, and even Crowley! He wants to turn the fucking clock back. Like. Takesies backsies the whole thing. As I mentioned, Jensen is just a masterful actor. He’s always been good at grief. (As well as comedy. As well as singing. As well as being the most beautiful boy in the world. *shakes fist at sky*) After all, he inspired the ‘single man tear’ meme and subsequent song. But Jesus Christ he just gets better and better. He barely needs to use body language or gestures anymore. It’s all in his eyes. How does he do that?? He can barely flinch yet rip your heart out by the roots. (do hearts have roots?) Then he wraps Castiel’s body for a proper burial and if you thought his prayer was devastating, watching him wrap Cas’s body is a punch to solar plexus. Jensen is JUST SO GOOD AT THIS. And Castiel’s face IS SO GORGEOUS. Just. Come ON with that face, Misha Collins, you have GOT to be kidding me.
Then during the body burning scene, Sam asks Jack if he wants to say anything. Jack of course doesn’t know which way is up yet. So he asks what Sam what is normally said in these situations. And Sam’s answer had me in tears.
You say thank you. You say you're sorry. You hope they're somewhere without sadness, or pain. You hope they're somewhere better. You say goodbye. --Sam Winchester.
The simplicity of the writing is perfect. Jared Padalecki's delivery was phenomenal. Jared Padalecki why are you trying to kill all of my feelings? I swear to Chuck, man. When the writing and the acting is on point, no one has a prayer of getting out without crying like a goddamn baby.
Then the last scene is a short one where you see that Lucifer spared Mama Winchester’s life in the separate dimension. Why? I guess we’ll find out. He says he needs her. Which he clearly doesn’t, unless he’s up to something. What is that something?
So this episode. I was all about it. Clever. Well written. Great fight scene. Genuine emotions. The guest stars had distinct personalities and you cared about them right away. The cop mom and her teenage son were everything. The head of the angel gang had some hilarious, very SPN-ish one liners. And the prospect of seeing some friendly faces in the parallel dimension has me excited. Andrew Dabb mentioned Missouri Moseley at the SDCC panel this year and I am all about it. Let’s face it, Loretta Devine is a goddamn gift and I’ve been wanting to see her again since the last time we saw her in season one. Of course Supernatural often handles female characters, particularly WOC characters, atrociously, so consider me down on my knees praying they get it right for her. Maybe they will actually HIRE some women of color writers (imagine that) and we can do this thing. (God, are you listening? Wait. I’m atheist. Whatever. You know what I mean.)
Now, as the supernerd and fangirl that I am, I always check who writes the episodes regardless whether I like them or hate them. This one was written by Andrew Dabb, which makes a lot of sense. Andrew Dabb is particularly adept at taking the stories, which are in a heightened world of fantasy and melodrama, and making them emotionally impactful in a way that you identify with. He’s like a heat seeking missile of finding the most searing and relatable human emotions and journeys the boys are experiencing, despite whatever plot is happening. He also hits that very particular soft point of Supernatural fans--people who deeply connect with the family dynamic and the experience of surviving trauma and chaos together. Also, he is great at creating compelling supporting characters. My only quibble is that he is a Dean boy, which isn’t a sin or anything. But one day I’ll find an SPN writer who centers the emotional journey on Sam and lets him drive it. Not that I don’t love Dean. Of course I do. How could anyone not love Dean? What are you a monster? (Careful, he’ll stab you in the neck.) I just feel that Sammy consistently gets the short end of the stick and functions as the support for Dean's journey. But that’s how I’ve felt for almost the entire run of the show and it’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
When all is said and done, though, here is the final thought I’ll leave you with for ‘Lost and Found’. It is Season 13 of Supernatural and I still care about the Winchester boys. That’s kind of extraordinary.
Disclaimer: This article reflects my personal opinions, not the opinions of my fellow Geeky Girls, who are also Supernatural super-fans and (who knows!) may want to banish me to purgatory for my views.
Photo credits: All photos are promotional photos from the CW
CORRECTION: My previous version identified the writer of the episode as 'Adam Glass' as opposed to 'Andrew Dabb'. I have literally no excuse except for the fact that my brain is terrible and I didn't do a terribly careful edit because I didn't think anyone would especially read my article ahaha. Andrew Dabb is the showrunner, and has written the all time classic favorite episodes like Yellow Fever, Afterschool Special, Weekend at Bobby's, and Dark Side of the Moon. Darkside of the Moon in particular is notable for a few things: 1) Being PAINFULLY accurate about siblings and about how, despite growing up shoulder to shoulder in the same home, experience things suprisingly differently 2) The way that those siblings deal with the trauma of childhood can be so different it causes the other pain and pushes them apart 3) Being so heart rending that my sister Michele can't watch it unless she is feeling very strong and 4) Giving Wincest shippers the joy of their lives when Ash says that only soulmates can share a heaven, and there Sam and Dean are, sharing a heaven. There you have it. My excessively verbose correction.
I Hate Musicals How Did this Happen to Me in Ten Easy Steps; or, Learn to Humiliate Yourself by Crying about Eliza Hamilton at Work
Last month marked the two-year anniversary of the cast recording of Broadway’s Hamilton. During those two years I moved from absolute resistance on day one, to a complete mess on day seven hundred and thirty. Come make the same journey with me. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, Hamilton.
- See fifty headlines about Hamilton. Investigate briefly. It’s a musical. You don’t need to read those articles. You hate musicals. Well, except for the Buffy musical of course.
- Be worn down. Finally click a link. Read that it is a hip hop musical. You would rather scoop your own eyeballs out with a spoon than see a stage full of white musical theater nerds rapping about the continental congress. Try again to ignore it.
- Notice that your Blerd friends are obsessed with it. Investigate. Ok. They hired actors of color and actual rappers. Still. The founding fathers are overdone. Anyway, you hate musicals. Well you DID love belting out ‘Under the Sea’ as a little kid. Ok, you probably still remember the lyrics.
- Decide you are at least allowed to read articles about Lin Manuel Miranda. You get to know the brilliant Latinerd with a heart of gold. Your heart grows three sizes. You’ve never been so in love. You watch every interview, you follow him on any social media he posts on.
- Look up the Hamilton cast online. Their collective charisma, talent, and good looks are so overwhelming that you momentarily black out. You jolt back to consciousness mumbling something about Daveed Diggs.
- Relent when your sweet Midwestern friend looks at you with eyes as wide as saucers and asks to play it for you. Well, you can’t exactly crush the dreams of a sweet Midwestern girl, can you?
- Think wow, this is clever, catchy, and deadly accurate. The cabinet battles are perfection. These guys were savage. Still, why did your friends act like this changed their lives? Come on guys. Who cries because of Hamilton?
- Resist listening again even when the catchy songs and hilarious one liners come back to haunt you. You are already a fantasy/sci-fi nerd. You are already a political geek. You don’t need to be a musical theater nerd too. There has to be limits to this. You have to draw the line somewhere. Also, you HATE MUSICALS! Ok, Edelweiss was a beautiful song. But that’s mostly because Captain Von Trapp was a freaking fox.
- Decide that you need something new to listen to at work. So you listen just once more. You catch so many more words. As you listen, you sink into thought, connecting their battles and drama to the present day. The founding fathers all agreed to fight, but they were not fighting for the same things. They disagreed vehemently about what America meant. They set the stage for warring ideologies that are still playing out today. You think about the casting choices. The founding fathers were white land owning men and they only freed themselves. Yet LMM cast a troupe of actors of color to claim this story as their own. LMM could have written a musical about an inspiring American of color. But he chose to tell a story about the white founding fathers and had people of color lay claim to that story. You can’t stop turning over the multiple layers of this. And it. Is. Catchy.
- Fine, you listen again. You absorb even more nuance. You sink deeper into thought about the human condition. How does a human being live with taking soldiers into battle? Creativity, intelligence, kindness and anything else a soldier could offer America is snuffed out because the meat of his body is good for stopping bullets. What do you do with that guilt? And what about the omnipresent grief? How did parents go on when so many of their babies died in childbirth and childhood? STAY ALIVE. And on top of the losses the world dealt them, the people they loved were often the cruelest, just like today. What were the virtues of making history at the cost of their families? Isn’t family sacred? God, none of us know what the fuck we are doing, do we? WE HUMANS ARE RIDICULOUS. We are so sure, we put everything on the line, only to be humbled and humiliated. Oh God, the orphanage. Not the orphanage. Eliza, you precious precious woman. You deserved so much better!
You hear a splash and pause. You look down. Those big drops of water on your desk came from your eyeballs. There is snot. Mascara streaks. Are you sniffling???!! HOW DID THIS HAPPEN TO YOU!??! You silently curse Lin Manuel Miranda. You look sheepishly at your coworkers and grab some tissues. Ok, you like SOME musicals.
Now to check out the fandom.