Television

Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

Offred is a protagonist who lives in a world gone crazy. In a cautionary tale that borders on post-apocalyptic mania, The Handmaid’s Tale pulls a Planet of the Apes and seduces us into the horrors of Offred’s world and then reveals them to be our own. Offered is us. This is meant to terrify us and indulge our worst slippery slope fears. Rarely does that make for enjoyable entertainment, though. Thus, I blooped my way to Hulu’s new series, with my dog-eared, annotation-scribbled copy of the book still on my nightstand, wondering if I even wanted to spend hours of my life sucked into a vortex of depression. What I found, though, oddly delighted me. It turns out my paranoia enjoyed being indulged.

After an alleged terrorist attack on U.S. Congress, martial law is declared in Offred’s America, and there is a public movement for a return to basic values–which includes women staying in the home and owning no property. This would be terrifying enough, but Margaret Atwood, author of the book from which Hulu plucked its content, chose to add a special science-fiction twist: For reasons unstated, women and men face obliterating infertility rates. This warps the nightmare into a nation with a breeding program in which the “lucky” women are turned into procreational sex slaves.

This is the turn of the screw that is supposed to draw you in. Hook you. Women as forced breeders, wearing wimples and enslaved under such miserable conditions that most opt for one form of suicide or another. As a book reader, I was almost a bit disappointed that Atwood took it to this level. Sure, it makes the story stunning and tragic, but takes it just slightly beyond the grasp of what feels realistic. It disconnects us from feeling the likelihood that this could happen to us.

And it could. Atwood has warned of it herself. Were it not for the fertility plot line, this forced female servitude feels like it is only one international crisis away. One cry for a return to our “values”. One coordinated and well-funded grassroots movement away from decrying that women are not permitted to work outside of the home because, the children. Because the 1950s was when we were a pure and righteous nation, right? When men were men, and women knew their place. So the movements call and chant and wail that we need to go back to our roots, and they share it feverishly across social media. And in turn Facebook and Twitter accounts and voter registration records are used to identify who is a “patriot” or a “believer”, whichever bent the crusade takes. Add a pinch of racism and misogyny, a whirlwind of fear, and some financial incentives, and you’ve got yourself a real modern dystopia.

This is why I am so grateful for the updates and tweaks that Hulu has thoughtfully provided to Atwood’s mad world. It warms the world and makes it feel like it could have been our own once. Yes the show preserves the infertility thread–no way to avoid that– but it takes care to modernize the technology and add some haunting (an sometimes jaunty) soundtracks. I know those songs. Pre-Offred Elizabeth Moss knows those songs. And she orders pretentious coffee, swipes on Tinder, and worries about her profile pic. Sure the original names are still very 1980s, which is when the story was originally penned. Lydia. Janine. Angela. But there I am with Pre-Offred, believing I could hang out with her, or that I could at least pass her on the street. She is a real, modern flesh-and-blood American.

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Orange is the New Black: Excerpts From The Time Hump Chronicles

My summer love, Orange is the New Black, has given us one of the greatest, most disturbing meta stories ever: The Time Hump Chronicles. Crazy Eyes’s erotic fiction that she penned for drama class is the highlight of the show’s third season, and makes me wish it was real. The closest thing we have to it is what the script writers came up with and had actress Uzo Aduba scrawl onto curly sheets of worn paper. That is “Suzanne Warren’s” actual handwriting, and Aduba has admitted that there is a full story written out there. Can we ever hope to read it in its entirety? Praise Norma that it may be so. Until then, I have done my level best to reconstruct what the show has actually revealed to us on the written page. This is no fan fiction. You will find no poster mock-ups or vampires, especially because they’re so derivative. This is the actual text as written by our very special Crazy Eyes.

THE TIME HUMP CHRONICLES:
Two People Connecting…With Four Other People…and Aliens

By S. Warren

Characters

Edwina, a freckled, busty robo-doll made of pee-proof metal who can move through time in only one direction and is able to outsmart an orgasmator, but is forced to participate in a blindfolded “Trial by Lovemaking”

Space Admiral Rodcocker, a time humper with a distinct birthmark and two penises, who pleasures beings in other dimensions and has cum that has extra life-sustainable protein; Edwina’s love interest, falls in orgasmator

Gillead (aka Gilly), a sweet and sensitive man, who exists in the past and is known to have the “purest soul in the universe”; Edwina’s love interest and Space Admiral Rodcocker’s rival

Lily Sprinkle, one of Edwina’s lovers who has a pee fetish

Sunflower, one of Space Admiral Rodcocker’s lovers who is known for having taken both Rodcocks at once, and is unlikable

Unnamed Vaseline Character, a man made of Vaseline with a tragic tale

Time Hump

Chapter 1

  Admiral Rodcocker entered […] the Captain’s chair. The crew saw what was to come
next. “Everyone is dismissed.” said Rodcocker. Clear the Bridge. Duh! Purple love
muscle. […] Except for U. […] was palpable and […]. 
 […] behind the final crew was […]
were alone. They […] that can’t […] appendage […].

“Her three holes opened, ready to be explored by his swollen pangoline”

“The Admiral thrust his pork sword into her squish mitten.”

Chapter 2

Rodcocker broke away from the kiss.
“Are you okay, my sweet comet?” Rodcocker said. Edwina grabbed Rodcocker by his joystick. “C’mon, Rodcocker. […] rocket to blast off”, said Edwina with a wink.
Rodcocker […] and reached for the control panel. He tapped on the […] with the grace of a dancing […]. […] resting of on the Captain’s chair began to lift into the […]. The control panel [read]: “Artificial Gravitiy: Off.” Edwina looked at Rodcocker with […]. “I thought it was impossible to make love in space. Scientists and […] astronauts before we have proven it. Let’s boldly go where no lovers have gone before.Rod cocker reported […] sly grin. Edwina closed her eyes as Rodcocker’s forked tongue down her neck. The goosebumps […] of her neck […]. […] which he hadn’t felt since she timehumped  the Grand […] during the Spanish Inquisition. […] squealed in […]. Rod. Cock. Eerr…floated […]. […] behind Edwina and unzipped her uniform revealing […] love for space underwear. He pulled her close and she […] of […] approved man meat was pushing against her s[…]. “[…] prepared to board,” Rodcocker whispered in her […] and slipped lower and lower on Edwina’s body until he finally reached the final frontier […] was a smoooooth celestial body until […me]finally reach the humid climate. Rodcocker attempted to bend Edwina over but protested. She spun around in zero-g to face […] “I DON’T WANT TO BE FUCKED. I want to be loved”, she said. […] to him that he could […].

Maybe that wormhole will open for Rodcocker again, and we will get more chapters from that sweet, sick brain. You know I’ll be watching Netflix with the pause button ready, just in case.

I Want to Punch the TD Ameritrade Commercial Guy in the Beard

If you watch a lot of television, especially CNN, as I do, then you know the bearded TD Ameritrade douchebag. He patronizes women, telling them that their life savings is a fortune (….to them, filthy peasants). He therapizes stay-at-home moms condescendingly and, I assume fraudulently, because who the hell is a financial therapist, you creeper? And he does it all while talking out of his pervert beard. I hate that beard. I really want to punch him in it.

Since I can’t do that since that would mostly mean punching my TV which might then weeble-wobble right off the table and break forever, I have developed a solution. I give you, the TD Ameritrade Creeper Beard Dartboard!

TD Ameritrade Ad Beard Dartboard.jpg

Rules: Play darts as you normally would, but you get 50 points if you hit him in the beard.

The Great Golden Girls Game

Gather ’round, gather ’round! I am about to unveil a Golden Girls spectacular of thrills, chills, and excitement. It gives me great pleasure – nay, embarrassment – to introduce to you a game I have invented for those lonely nights when all you want to do is have a slice of cheesecake around a Miami wicker kitchen table with a few old broads.

Here is a game to help you rank and discover what truly is the GREATEST Golden Girls episode of all-time. Or you can make it a drinking game. Which is probably a lot more fun/dangerous. But I don’t know if I want Rose Nylund flashbacks the next morning with lipstick smears all over the screen, so it’s your call.

Here’s what you need to play:

  • A love for Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia, and Rose
  • A few episodes of The Golden Girls ready to roll
  • A pen and paper*
    (*you may substitute a box of wine if you do not own a pen and paper)

Now, start your engines and away we go! As you watch episodes, you’ll need to keep score of each episode’s happenings, and here’s how to do it.

The Great Golden Girls Game Scorecard!

Mark points on your scorecard for the following Golden Girls moments:

  • (1 point) A late-night dessert is eaten in the kitchen while discussing a problem or date
  • (2 bonus points) If that dessert is cheesecake
  • (1 point) Every lover or group of lovers that Blanche mentions by name
  • (5 points) If the girls scream in horror after discovering two people in bed together
  • (2 points) Each time Sophia says, “Picture it….” followed by a location and year
  • (3 points) Each time Rose mentions a St. Olaf resident (not her, Charlie, or their kids) by NAME
  • (5 points) Each time Rose mentions a St. Olaf pet or livestock by NAME
  • (1/2 point) Each time someone says “Shady Pines”
  • (2 points) For every family member that comes to stay with the girls
  • (1 bonus point) If the visitor is one of Blanche or Rose’s daughters, and the daughter acts like a total bitch
  • (2 points) Every time Dorothy asks a guest to leave the house
  • (3 points) Every time they have to call 911, or fear that Sophia’s dying “Maaa!!!”
  • (1/2 point) Each time Sophia makes a farting joke
  • (2 points) If Stan comes to the house
  • (4 bonus points) If Stan brings the monkey cone with him
  • (6 points) If any of the four girls sing or dance during the episode (limit one scoring per episode)
  • (2 points) If Sophia talks about a Sicilian curse
  • (4 bonus points) If we see Sophia put a curse on anyone!
  • (1/2 point) Each time Dorothy is mocked for getting pregnant as a teen
  • (4 points) If there’s a wedding (whether or not the bride backs out beforehand)
  • (5 points) If “The Cheeseman” is mentioned
  • (-3 points) If they help a wayward child/person in need
  • (-1 point) For every celebrity cameo as him/herself (I’m looking at you, Sonny Bono!)
  • (-1 points) If Carol, Barbara, Dr. Westin, or Dreyfus appear, in what is surely a sad, sad spinoff tie-in attempt
  • (-1,000,000 points) If it’s a clip show!

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Game of Thrones: How it Parallels the Wars of the Roses

I’ve been a bit obsessed by the The Wars of the Roses lately. Maybe that’s hard for some people to understand, but I look at it like a really, really old season of Scandal, just with much worse hygiene. But apparently I’m not alone in my fascination, because author George RR Martin has made no secret that his A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones) is based loosely on The Wars of the Roses. Cool. GRRM gets it.

Now, while the books/TV show that you and I know by heart is no allegory for the multi-decade conflict, there are a whole lot of parallels we can draw. So here is where I tear into the major characters like I am Henry VIII clawing apart a whole roasted chicken (I know, I know, the Tudors come later, but seriously, that man could really eat!).

The Lancasters Always Pay Their Debts

First, you need to understand that the (over-simplistic and somewhat misleading) gist of real-life The Wars of the Roses is that it’s a tale of two families battling for the English throne.

First, the Lancasters ruled. Then the Yorks.

And back and forth, and a bit wiggly all around for a while. Complicated. Now, notice the similarities in the names. Familiar, eh?

Lancaster = Lannister
York = Stark

Lancaster’s (alleged) red rose sigil = Lannister’s red lion sigil

York’s (alleged) white rose sigil = Stark’s white dire wolf sigil

You see? Even linguistically and symbolically, it’s pretty obvious where GRRM started. Even the map of Westeros loosely resembles the UK.

In fact, the only place where the allegory really falls apart is how kindly the Starks are portrayed by GRRM. The real-life Yorks were mostly some really greedy assholes. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Oh, and if you want to learn more about the Wars of the Roses in a fun and delightful way, I retell the history here. Ya know, jut in case you want more background.

Okay, let’s just jump in and look at how I see the characters lining up:

Richard II = Mad King Aerys (Aerys II)

Richard II and Aerys

Richard II

King Richard II is largely considered the first major victim of The Wars of the Roses (TWOTR). See, Richard II had ruled the kingdom since he was only ten years old, and by most accounts, he had grown up to be a right little shit. His egocentric hobbies included building monuments to himself and surrounding himself with sycophants. After his wife, Anne of Bohemia, died, Richard started to become outwardly paranoid and began executing and banishing most of his rivals. This didn’t go over so well with his (recently banished) cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, who raised an army against him, and threw him in prison, where he shortly thereafter died–possibly murdered, possibly starved to death, accounts differ.

Mad King Aerys II

Aerys II also ascended to the throne via largely non-disputed lineage. Good for him. But that didn’t help him much after his paranoia and general insanity caused him to start offing rivals, oh yeah, and playing with fire. As with Richard II, those who had once been close to him started throwing shade his way, distrusting the king’s actions and motives. Eventually Aerys II was overthrown in Robert’s Rebellion. Of course, Aerys’s death was much swifter…and pointier. No prison for him.

There are, of course, many differences between the characters. Aerys’s affinity for kidnapping and pyrotechnics sets him apart from his historical doppelgänger. But ultimately, both lost the throne that rightfully belonged to them because they lost their grip on reality. And when that happens, there is always someone waiting in the wings to pluck the crown of the king’s head.

King Henry IV = Robert Baratheon

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Longbourn Showdown: Which Pride and Prejudice Version is Better?

Today in my Jane Austen confessional, I admit that I love both recent modern adaptations of Pride and Prejudice–that is to say, both the 1995 BBC version, and the 2005 Keira Knightley version. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, particularly when it comes to casting. I was recently mulling over a glass of gin, watching the lime wedge twirl around inside of it and muttering about what would make the perfect adaptation if only I could breed the two versions and add my own bits. There was a lot of wild gesturing, especially when I got to the bits about the Darcy performances. And since that seemed to keep me distracted for a couple hours, I figure it’s probably time that I put fingers to keyboard and organized my thoughts on the matter, sans gin.

Just to make this fun, let us do this in true showdown fashion. Like Thunderdome, but with more ribbons and carriages.

Elizabeth Bennet

Lizzie BennetsJennifer Ehle vs. Keira Knightley

Neither are the perfect Lizzie whom I pictured while reading the book. Ehle’s take on Lizzie is a little too sweet and coy. What is supposed to be a slightly cutting and wry wit is softened maybe just a tad too much. Whereas, Knightley goes too far in the opposite direction, making Lizzie a bit too moody and angry, and worst of all, not terribly clever. Appearance-wise, Knightley is almost entirely wrong. I do love her wardrobe immensely, but she is far, far too skinny for this role and would have been considered sickly looking for the time. In contrast, Ehle is much more fitting. It is only a shame that they did not allow her looks to be a little less formal. I wanted my Lizzie to have a just slightly feral look to her–not quite as buttoned up and pinned as her peers. Still, though I loved Knightley’s chemistry with her Darcy, this one hands down goes to Ehle!

Winner: Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet

Best Elizabeth Bennet


Jane Bennet

The Better Jane Bennet

Susannah Harker vs. Rosamund Pike

Sweet, shy Jane. This is not a terribly challenging role, I imagine, but it is nevertheless important to pull off the perfect tone. Lean the wrong way, and Jane acts like a simple fool, or worse, a simpering lump of clay. And this is where Harker treads ever so slightly. Both Janes are all sweetness and humility, but Harker fails to demonstrate even the mildest passion, even when Jane is hushed away in a bedchamber with her little sister. Too sedate. Pike, on the other hand, was able to achieve the coyness and gentleness of spirit, while still seeming ensnared by the idea of romance. That extra breath of life gives Pike the edge. Plus…you know. Come on, let’s just out with it: There were some beauty issues with Harker. Allow me to declare firmly that Susannah Harker is a true beauty. But the 1995 styling did her no favors–especially in the hair department–and her pregnancy during filming altered her delicate facial features into a more mannish appearance. Trust me, she has my utmost sympathies on this count. While I dislike neither Jane, I must choose but one, so here it is.

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Review: The OA

Mid-March, 2017 and Netflix has a brand-new original series out. It’s in the same vein as the incredibly popular and oh-so-delicious Stranger Things, in that The OA is a one-season wonder. An entire series of goodness packed into a single bingeable season (which may or may not have a sequel). And we are meant to greedily scarf it down, all the while in suspense of where this series is going and what on earth (or beyond?) the “OA” is.

The Safe, Nimbly-Pimbly Spoiler-Free Review

Let’s get one thing straight, fans of Stranger Things: This isn’t nearly as good. This will not be a cult classic and you will not be messaging your friends that they have just got to see this new amazing Netflix show.

The Premise:

First, since you don’t want spoilers, let me tell you, it’s hard to even give you a basic show premise or even assign it a genre without signaling where it’s headed. Sufficed to say it ventures into sort of a sci-fi / fantasy / psychological thriller with a slight Biblical twist (though not so overtly that it made me blow chunks).

The OA stars little-known actress Brit Marling and her shiny blond hair that is never mussed, and her dimples that never sag. Once you understand what the show is trying to tell you, it’s perfectly clear why she was cast. Her character, Prairie, is a young 20-something who went missing years ago and mysteriously reappears with a story to tell. So right off the bat, Netflix hooks you with the “what has happened to Prairie that she’s so messed up?” mystery. And just to turn the screw, it turns out that when she disappeared, she was blind. And now? She’s NOT!

The OA 2

What It Reminds Me Of:

The unraveling of the mystery in full is the entire season. And it keeps you wondering and guessing and really attached. The suspense, along with themes of kids riding bikes around a neighborhood and forming important misfit connections to serve a central purpose that eludes the logic of adults, heavily parallels Stranger Things. But the wee characters in The OA aren’t quite as precocious or likable. Maybe that’s because they’re supposed to be sad, even beaten down.

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