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Great TV Couples (Who Would Actually Be Terrible Together)

20 May

There are a lot of types of TV romances. Many of them are planned by the writers and producers as long, drawn-out, will-they-or-won’t-they, for-fuck’s-sake-just-kiss-her relationships that are meant to keep the audience watching and hoping.

God, and it works, too.

There’s usually no payout with these kind of couples, but what if there were? There’s a lot of drawn-out sexual tension out there in the televerse and I think that sometimes we forget that just because the writers want us to want a couple to get together doesn’t mean that they actually should.

So, let’s remind ourselves that sexual tension ≠ compatibility and take a look at our list. Some of these couples actually did happen, some of them still might and some of them just never got the chance, but none of them would have been good together. Let’s look at why.

6. Josh Lyman and Donna Moss, The West Wing

I take it back. I want them to be in love for always.

I’m so fucking in love with The West Wing. Mostly because it avoids the petty bullshit of drawn-out relationships and chooses to focus on the workplace and real life.

That all changed when the writers decided to start dropping hints that Josh and Donna were into each other. The tension lasted through the Bartlet administration without anyone making a move, despite the fact that there were no real obstacles in the way of them getting together.

Except this guy in Season 6. But seriously? Lucius Malfoy?

Why we think it would have been awesome: Because we know they really care about each other! It’s depressing how in real life most of our relationships start out as a base level attraction that we desperately pray contains something of substance. We always want to see friends fall in love, even if it’s weird in real life.

Why it shouldn’t have happened: Because it’s weird when friends fall in love in real life. Josh and Donna have an unequal relationship, power-wise. He yells her name and she comes running. Bad for foreplay, methinks. Also, when they did finally get together, it wasn’t cute anymore. We’d been waiting for seven fucking seasons for this, and a payout is never going to be worth it after that long.

Just like grad school!

Their likely future: He forgets himself and yells at her to do things for him all the time. She reminds him that she is way hotter than he is. She has an affair with someone 4 inches shorter than she is (as is the West Wing way) and he drinks himself to death at work while making grimly ironic expressions.

Perfect.

Who they should’ve been with: Josh should have been with Joey Lucas. That was fun. Donna should be with Ronald Reagan.

5. Merlin and Morgana, Merlin

The internet really wants this to happen, I guess.

For all of its focus on relationships, Merlin only rarely considers whether or not its main character might have consistent romantic or erotic feelings towards anyone. Sometimes the thought will occur for an episode and be gone the next time Merlin has to fuck himself over by indulging in needlessly complicated plots and the impulse to not confide in the right people.

One storyline that almost went somewhere was his possible attraction to Morgana. He brought her flowers once or twice and she…barely noticed him. She was too busy practicing her evil “secret” smile every time Uther turned his back.

Other people can still see you, Morgana.

Why we think it would have been awesome: They’re two extremely powerful sorcerers and they start out with similar issues and the problems of trying to cope with magical abilities in a society where such things are forbidden. It’d be kind of hot to see sexy magic times, even if it was just them battling it out and then making out.

Why it would have sucked: Morgana’s not much of a character, and Merlin’s interest in her seems both shallow and transitory. Also, she gets super evil really fast, and there’s just no empathizing with characters that make bipolar disorder look like the Monday Blues.

Their likely future: The relationship lasts only as long as it takes for them to run out of kinky ways to use their magic powers in bed.

Ohhhh yeahhhhh

Who they should’ve been with: Merlin should’ve ended up with the only person he cared about: Arthur. Seriously. And Morgana should’ve ended up with Elton John so they could have the whitest babies ever.

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Top 10 Creepiest Sci-Fi/Fantasy Villains

10 Apr

Please note that this is not a list of the BEST villains in Scifi/Fantasy, just the creepiest. These are the insidious shadows and barely-suppressed manic grins that make your skin crawl. What’s really surprising about this list is how many of these are from network television shows, and how they’re way scarier than most horror films.

 

10. The Hitchiker, The Twilight Zone

And then he asked for spare change. The horror!

For those of you who are too young/uninformed to know what this entry is but still hate M. Night Shyamalan, I have good news: The Twilight Zone made a metric fuckton of scary (for the ’60s) TV episodes that outtwisted M. Night way before his movies even got terrible. One of my personal favorites is “The Hitchhiker,” the story of a woman who keeps seeing the same creepy homeless man no matter where she drives. Naturally she has to drive on the most deserted roads and of course she has to stop and get out of her car at several points, because this was back when we all wanted our cars to use a tank of gas over the course of five miles or so.

Twilight Zone: Brought to you by Ford.

What makes it creepy: Society and its multitudinous civilians have given us the impression that we’re always safe, that help is never that far away. This episode shrinks that feeling of safety down to two areas: 1) The inside of an otherwise empty car and 2) Moving. If you don’t have both those things, you’re suddenly not safe. Don’t drive at night after this episode.

 

9.The Puppetmaster/Bloodbenders, Avatar: The Last Airbender

Everyone’s favorite grandmother

“The Puppetmaster” was just about the creepiest episode of children’s television I’ve ever seen. It happens in Season 3, around the time the writers realized that if Katara could “bend” her own sweat, she could probably do it to other bodily fluids as well. So did they depict her stopping a hemorrhage? Blowing awesome snot rockets? Introducing the most creative form of birth control ever?

NO. They gave us a creepy-ass old woman who could literally control people by bending their blood.

What makes it creepy: She can control people by bending their blood. Also, it looks really painful. Or maybe arousing?

Guess where she sent all the blood in this picture?

 

8. Hands of Blue, Firefly

Stopped being a proctologist after all the “Hands of Brown” jokes

I don’t know what these men are technically called. I’d prefer they stay nameless, but we’ll call them the fanon-deemed “Hands of Blue” for clarity’s sake, which is better than “Blue Myself  Twice”

Not the same.

Firefly was cancelled much too young, but one good thing that came out of that was never knowing what these guys really wanted. Having them stalk our heroes through the episode “Ariel” and killing their own men while River freaked out was confusing enough to be really, really creepy. It’s all based on knowing the victim’s reaction rather than the villain’s motivation, so you never know what will happen next.

What makes them creepy: They seem to be immune to their own weapon. Unlike Men in Black, when they set off their flashy-thingy, they wear no protective gear. They look like humans, they wear no armor, but they’re curiously emotionless as everyone around them pukes blood out of every orifice.

 

7. The Pale Man, Pan’s Labyrinth

“The fuck?”

Pan’s Labyrinth took fantasy and mythology and made it insidious and terrifying. All of it reflected the horror of the real world happening outside of Ofelia’s addled little mind. Nothing was creepier than the Pale Man, an emaciated creature that sat and starved at a feast, the only thing on its plate being its own eyes. It mirrored Ofelia’s stepfather, who kept an abundance of food locked in a barn, waiting for people to try and take it so that he could kill them.

What makes it creepy: 

Exhibits A – M

Enough. Fucking. Said.

 

6. Vasha Nerada, Doctor Who

The most primal of fears.

The “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Damned”, Steven Moffat’s two-parter mindfuck really dug into the most basic human fear: the fear of the dark. The Vasha Nerada are sentient shadows that latch onto a host and strip them of their flesh. You never know which shadow might have an aerosol piranha in it, and you never see it coming. You just look down and suddenly you have two shadows. And then you know you’re dead.

What makes it creepy: I always thought I was afraid of things that might be hiding in the dark. Now I’m afraid of the dark itself.

 

5. GLaDOS, Portal

“Cake followed by light bondage?”

Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System (GLaDOS) is creepy the same was HAL is creepy in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s terrifying to imagine our robotic creations trying to murder the tits out of us. What GLaDOS has on HAL is the format of Portal itself. You think you’re just playing a typical puzzle game and she’s the annoying Navi telling you what to do. It’s helpful, but bland, and she even has the cool, neutral robotic voice.

Then she starts slipping in little things that make you wonder, like “Cake and grief counseling will be available at the conclusion of the test.” Then you start seeing stuff like this:

The brilliant idea that was ruined by a thousand memes.

Then she starts trying to kill you.

What makes it creepy:  The fact that since it’s a video game and not a movie, you have to play her psychotic little game. It’s like the difference between taking a roller coaster ride in a haunted house and walking through one on your own two feet.

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Avatar Quiz (Subtitle: WordPress Quiz Fail)

3 Mar

So, I made this super awesome quiz to help you figure out if you’re a Fire Bender, Earth Bender, Water Bender or Non Bender (hint: it’s mostly based on the personalities of the main characters.)  Whatever. At least I didn’t ask about eye color. (Who has golden eyes? No one. It’s like all the Fire Benders died out or something.) I actually did research into martial arts styles and philosophy for this one. And by research, I mean I blatantly stole ideas from a cool person.

Anyhoo, WordPress.com is tragically incapable of embedding quizzes, which is the new saddest thing ever. So instead  you get to go take the quiz at my other hangout, CohesiveThesis.

So take the quiz and let me know! Who are you most like? Douchebag McZuko? TooMuchSugar von Aang? Or this guy?

Sucky Let’sHopeNot

The Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Shows on Netflix Streaming

30 Dec

I have this need to not only make people watch the shows I like, but to sit down and watch them at the same time. Something about recapturing the magic vicariously through the coerced enjoyment of others. Sadly, I can’t do that for the internet, but I can make you all watch what I want you to watch. Don’t worry, it’s not shitty Buffy the Vampire Slayer porn (although the acting is probably on par with early Sarah Michelle Gellar.)

Hey! I said no BTVS porn! Get back here!

No. Instead I’m going to give you the top 5 sci-fi/fantasy shows that you could start watching right now. Provided you have Netflix, or know someone who has Netflix, or are an unscrupulous person who pretends to have Netflix that you’re actually stealing from an aged relative. These are all viable lifestyle choices. Just watch these damn shows.

(By the way, I’m going to list them in order of how easy they are to get into, not on how much I like them. Because I love them all.)

5. Doctor Who

If Doctor Who was just this all the time, it would be #1

Doctor Who gets #5 on this list because Season 1 is EXTREMELY hard to get into if you’re not a fan of the old series, cheesy plots, bad CGI, farting monsters, Chris Eccleston’s ears, Rose Tyler’s cat mouth or Russell Davies’ use of extreme closeups on people’s faces.

I think Jackie’s actively embodying four of the things I just mentioned in this picture alone.

That was a really good pitch. Let me start over.

Doctor Who is the story of a 900-1100 year old alien (who looks like an attractive British man) who can travel through time and space in a police box that is bigger on the inside (or smaller on the outside, depending on which companion you are.) The Doctor and his (usually) young and pretty companion travel around solving mysteries that always link back to malevolent alien species. Sometimes there are bowties. Sometimes the Doctor loses his friends or the people he’s trying to save. But he almost always saves the world.

And when he’s not attractive enough, they change actors so he can look like this!

Doctor Who is an amazing series, and you don’t have to know anything about the 1960s version to get into it. Unfortunately, Season 1 (2005) starts off a little shaky. A trash can eats a dude and burps. It’s that kind of show. However, it rapidly gains something that very few sci-fi shows attain: heart. It gives mere lip service to science, but whatever. More than being a show about aliens and time travel (which is often very cool,) Doctor Who is mostly about how terrible it is to be in charge of other people’s safety and happiness, and how lonely it is to be a god.

“Too many beautiful women love me.”

All of the actors who play the Doctor have been brilliant, and each manages to portray a quirky, adventurous, excitable man who really wants to show off his knowledge and impress people. They also manage to show a man who tries to repress his loneliness, his bitterness, his guilt and his shame and can’t quite pull it off.

Watch Doctor Who for the relationships and the acting. Watch it for Steven Moffat’s clever writing or scary bad guys, but mostly watch it to piece together the beautiful, powerful mess of a man who wants to save everyone and never quite manages it.

Total Seasons Available: 6 available on Netflix, but the show is midway through Season 7.
Total Episodes: There are about 87 45-minute episodes, although you have to search through Netflix for a few of the specials.
Best Episode: “Blink” is one of the greatest episodes of television. This award is not up for debate.

4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Six reasons right here why you should watch this show. (Count ’em.)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is technically the story of an extremely annoying cheerleader who doesn’t want the superpowers that she’s given. Then she gradually learns to slay vampires, kill demons, and solve mysteries, always with a terrible pun and some witty banter. Actually, though, this show is the brilliant deconstruction of almost every trope, genre and pop culture phenomenon ever. And it’s funny as hell.

Buffy is another one of my favorite shows that takes a bit of effort to get into. This is Joss Whedon, whose writer’s block probably cures cancer, but he starts off a little slow. Like Doctor Who, you must be patient with Season 1. Your patience will be rewarded. Buffy has everything you could ever want.

Except when she opens her mouth.

It’s a feminist text set in a campy horror setting. It’s a show that stars powerful women that is not just watched by women and that doesn’t just focus on romance. It delights in classic tropes that you didn’t realize were cliches, and then it inverts them.

Very few high school shows outlast the high school years. Most of them shouldn’t. This one thrived and it stayed fresh for almost its entire run. Inside jokes, sexy-ass romance, Seth Green as a laconic werewolf, clever dialogue, real heart, and mostly this…

Don’t expect this for Seasons 1-3 or you will be disappointed by the amount of fuzzy sweaters

…Are all great reasons to start this brilliant show right now. If you’ve ever hated cliches, wanted more continuity, enjoyed witty banter or had an emotion, this show is for you. If you’ve had too many emotions, try watching Angel.

Total Seasons Available: All 7
Total Episodes: 144 45-minute episodes. It sounds like a big time commitment and it is. Yet I feel no shame in telling you that I downed this series in just over a month and I regret nothing.
Best Episode: The two episodes that embody the extremes of BtVS with the most innovation, beauty and fun are “The Body” and “Once More With Feeling.” I could write essays on “The Body” and I might, because it is the most amazing piece of film ever written or directed. “Once More With Feeling” is just an extremely catchy musical. Continue reading

Harry Potter vs. Avatar: The Last Airbender (Hint: Avatar Wins)

27 Dec

[MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW. Seriously. Everything from who killed whom to who didn’t kill whom to everything that ever died and everyone who ever lived. You’ve been warned. Sort of.]

There are two serial children’s stories in the past decade that have stood out to me, mostly because they understood that children do not need sheltering, coddling, rigid morality or insipid sentimentality. In both Harry Potter and Avatar: The Last Airbender, children suffer loss just like everyone else. However, I would claim that Avatar is a more nuanced and thoughtful depiction of traditional heroism than Harry Potter because it deals with the problem of destiny, violence, choice and murder in a more active and thoughtful manner.

Harry Potter and Avatar each start off with the classically elusive “oh, sure, I guess death is a thing and it’s coming for your family” references. In children’s stories there are always people who have died, it’s just that no one seems to die onscreen anymore. In Harry Potter, his parents were killed, followed by every possible positive parental figure whose acquaintance he makes. In Avatar, Katara’s mother was murdered because the Fire Nation was too stupid to make sure she was telling the truth about being a Water Bender.

 

“Dantooine. The last Water Bender is on Dantooine.”

So now we have two unsafe environments that carry fatal consequences for minor slip-ups and that desperately need a hero who can wage war against the forces of darkness. Both Harry and Aang are chosen by the fates to defeat the supreme force of evil. In Harry’s case, a prophecy says that neither he nor Voldemort can live while the other survives. Similarly, Aang is the Avatar and must bring balance to the world by defeating Fire Lord Ozai. This is where the tales diverge.

Let’s look at Harry’s trajectory: a prophecy is made before his birth saying that he must either kill or be killed. For something that huge and life-changing, though, the word “murder” only shows up in one brief thought in Harry’s head in The Order of the Phoenix, when Harry realizes that “his life must include, or end in, murder.” Here we expect to see Harry struggle with plotting the death of a crazy tyrant, and the problem of being only 15 and devoted to premeditated murder. Does Harry struggle with this enormous burden, though?  Not particularly. By the time we get to The Half-Blood Prince Harry is saying that he’d want Voldemort finished and that he’d want to be the one to do it. Notice the lack of the word “kill” “death” or “murder” now. “Finished” is the best we get.

Not like that. NOT like that.

Despite Harry’s ambivalence towards becoming a murderer (his focus being more on the “how” than any consequences,) he is the hero, and therefore must be a model to children in the audience. We can’t have Harry showing callousness or (heaven forbid) agency in the act of killing itself. So even though he goes to Hogwarts for a final showdown with the intent of killing Voldemort, we have to have two things:

1) An offer to let the supreme evil figure repent (unlikely), and
2) A guarantee that the supreme evil figure will be the cause of his own downfall.

We get both aspects easily in Harry’s final scene with Voldemort. He shows maturity, calls Voldemort “Tom” and then uses a disarming spell instead of a spell that would be remotely useful. Voldemort’s own Avada Kedavra spell rebounds on himself and kills him on the spot, and Harry’s pure and noble soul remains untarnished.

To me, this is a bit cowardly. Rowling builds up a theme of love and forgiveness that only extends to a point, when force must be used. I have no problem with that. Except that then, at the end, she takes it all back. “You only have to use force until the bad guy causes his own destruction,” she’s saying. “And you will not be damaged by the hard choices you make.” In the end, Harry was spared the ordeal of having to kill Voldemort, but he never wrestles with the fact that he was ready and willing to fight to the death. If you’re going to have Harry be willing to be a murderer, I say take that as far as it will go. Show us what kind of teenager that is, what he struggles with, and how he feels when he has to or does not have to go through with the difficult act. Don’t give me deus ex machina.

Um…Priori Incantatem doesn’t count.

In the opposite corner we have Aang, who is so amazingly different from Harry. He’s silly, goofy, sweet and good-tempered. I know a lot of Harry’s angst can be attributed to puberty, but it’s still nice to be spared from pages of dialogue in all caps. The thing about Aang, though, is that he’s thoughtful, he thinks long and hard about what it means to actually face the Fire Lord, he understands that ending the war involves killing the leader…

And he refuses.

“The Avatar state makes me inexplicably muscular. I no longer need to kill you.”

The Fire Lord tries to kill him and Aang finally has the opportunity to kill him right back. He doesn’t take it. He taps into a place of purity and light and strips Ozai’s Bending powers away entirely, rendering him ineffective.

“Oh yeah, like that.”

It would have been really easy to write Aang deciding to do something vague like “face the Fire Lord” and then have Ozai fall off a cliff accidentally or something. Or to never bring up death and pretend that killing doesn’t actually happen in real life (another common children’s story evasion tactic.) But Aang is spurred on by his friends and his own freaking past lives to kill Ozai in order to bring peace to the world.

“C’mon. Just kill him a little. For me.”

They tell him that he has to kill Ozai over and over and over again. And he says no. He finds another way and it works for him, but this is not the cop-out of Harry Potter. Aang is tenacious but he is also basically pacifist in his ideals. One comes to the understand that even if he didn’t learn to take Ozai’s Bending abilities away from him, he would have continued to abstain from killing until he found another way. Aang’s story is actually more vanilla. Ozai doesn’t even die; he is simply taken into custody. But the question of choice, agency and death are actively internalized in Aang’s character and he struggles with the question as any human probably should.

That is true morality, and an honest approach to the prophetic kill-or-be-killed trope that has been softened into mush by children show censors. Harry Potter’s soul is saved only through coincidence and his own curious unwillingness to acknowledge the fact that he plans to murder someone for 2 years straight. Aang, on the other hand, internalizes and rejects the path of a killer and finds another way to solve a complicated problem.

Maybe that’s what we should really be teaching our children.