Saturday, 28 May 2016

Worf: Hapless Victim or Black Widow?

Mr. Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation has long been a fan favourite. The first Klingon in Starfleet, serving on the Federation Flagship, Enterprise-D, who went on to become the Tactical Officer (whatever that is) on Deep Space Nine, and then back to the Enterprise-E for the movies because reasons.

He remains one of the more complex characters of the franchise, an honour-bound man who would rather throw himself on the pyre than risk the Klingon Empire or the Federation, a man of reserve but passion, father of a unknown son, a lover of prune juice. But he was also a man of many loves, most of whom fell under some rather gruesome ends. Was Worf an innocent bystander... or a black widow in disguise?

The first example is not a romantic interest but a vested interest all the same. In season one, the Chief of Security aboard the Enterprise was Lt. Tasha Yar, a tough cookie raised on a hellish planet full of rape gangs (for real, it was messed up).

Worf was introduced as a random button pusher. I honestly don't know what his job was and I don't even care to look it up because season one suuuuuucked! In the episode "Second Skin," however, Tasha met a sudden and senseless death at the hands of some creature made of cough medicine and blank printer's ink. Actually.

Now granted, Worf wasn't on the scene but as luck would have it he got an instant and bafflingly unprecedented promotion to Security Chief, having shown no predisposition to security detail before. Suspicious...

Season two introduced K'Ehleyr, an unconventional ambassador who was the first Klingon woman Worf had ever really encountered. They had a steamy romance but neither was willing to sacrifice their careers to pursue a further relationship so they parted ways.

She later returned with a little surprise, their love child Alexander who was an insufferable weiner comparable only to Wesley "Shut Up Wesley!" Crusher. During some complicated and clandestine Klingon plots I won't get into, she was murdered, leaving Worf with a dead girlfriend and unwanted son he shipped off to his human grandparents in goddamn Russia! Cold, Worf.

This was explained away that he was a grieving widow and a there was no place for a child on the ship, despite the absolute zoo of kids roaming the hallways. Innocent enough but could Worf perhaps be a bit miffed his lady friend tossed him aside, birthed an unwanted child, and dragged him into boring Klingon politics? So miffed, in fact, he resorted to murder most fowl?

Worf remained a swingin' bachelor moving forward but in the final season of The Next Generation, he began dating his own therapist, Counselor Deanna Troi. Their romance was not met well by fans as it was both creepy and disappointing to proponents of Troi's longstanding relationship with First Officer, Commander Will Riker.

Troi managed to survive this courtship, unlike poor K'Ehleyr, but in the series' final episode "All Good Things" a possible future is presented where she had died prior to marrying Worf. This future never came to pass but the question remains, how did she die exactly? Natural causes or perhaps a jealous and notoriously violent lover?

After the series wrapped, Worf went on to join the crew of Deep Space Nine to help them in their new war with the Klingons. Also as a rating grab.

The typically stodgy Worf quickly began a long and very entertaining courtship of wild child/old soul Lt. Jadzia Dax. She was a Trill, a joined species where Jadzia was a young scientist while a centuries-old slug named Dax shared its memories and living space in her stomach. It's weird but awesome.

Unlike prior relationships, Worf managed to wed Jadzia but, wouldn't you know it, she died at the end of season six! They managed to save the space slug at least and it was transferred to newly-dubbed Counselor Ezri Dax (again with the psychologists). Skipping the grieving widow stage, Worf kinda tried to mack on her too but, new to this joined species/sudden rush of past lives' memories bit, Ezri was having none of it.

After Deep Space Nine wrapped (and possibly missing the opportunity to murder Ezri), Worf returned to the Enterprise... likely to finish the deal with Troi! Luckily, she came to her senses and ended up marrying Riker/blueballing Worf.

Now it could easily be argued that Worf wasn't present in any of these deaths but having watched a handful of To Catch a Killer episodes, I'm pretty much an expert on setting up a hit. You don't do it yourself; you arrange for others to carry out the dirty work for you. Worf's many loves/career blockers generally died as plot advancements but the body count is just too much for any one man over the course of ten years.

They could have been plot advancements... or perhaps the master plot of a deranged and murder-fueled Klingon. You decide!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Summer Movies 2016: Bromance Edition

Yet again sequels, reboots, and comic book movies are all the rage this summer but either by coincidence or design, two very distinct themes have emerged.

The first is the much talked about Feminist Movies. When I say "Feminist," however, I don't speak necessarily about equal rights and treatments among men and women (both in front of and behind the camera) but rather this faux Spice Girls-esque "Girl Power" Feminism that's pervaded the movie landscape.

I won't debate what constitutes true Feminism but this year's two main culprits, Alice Through the Looking Glass and Ghostbusters are textbook examples on what not to do. They have amazing casts, huge budgets, and have completely alienated movie-goers with lacklustre trailers, poor publicity, and this overly-aggressive "Feminist" tone.

My perception regarding Feminism is about creating pragmatic equality with the hope that someday this discussion will not even be necessary. Ghostbusters, however, commits essentially the exact same crime as their predecessors: including only one gender (one of whom is their token Black). It's blatant and didn't do them any favours.

Another culprit is the long overdue sequel to 2010's Alice in Wonderland where Alice is now a sea captain which, while obviously not impossible for her gender, is impossible given her time period. After stumbling through heavy, beat-you-over-the-head Feminism, she and her mom open a company because women can't do these things alone in Hollywoodland.

Despite (and in spite of) this heavy-handed handling of modern "Feminism," many fans have turned nasty towards the movies while other fans have taken to attack those fans, calling them misogynists for not eating up shitty product. In the end, nobody wins.

On the absolute (and unexpected) flipside, we see the evolution of the bromance blossom into a return to Manlove. See, before last century, men loooved each other. Not in a Brokeback Mountain or ancient Roman baths sense, but best friends were very affectionate and it wasn't considered faggy.

With the advent of Metrosexuals and bromances and whatever other terms the kids are coining now, the love of men amidst other men is becoming less of a gay thing and more of a natural progression among good male friends. This is especially prevalent in Captain America: Civil War where, despite fans wanting to ship Cap and Bucky, it was really just their pure friendly love for one another that bonded them. The same rings true in X-Men: Apocalypse where only Charles could bring Erik back from his killing spree. The most famous Manlove couple out there threw down and forged and early bond in Batman v. Superman and don't you dare tell me that Finn and Poe Dameron in Star Wars: The Force Awakens aren't adorable.

The moral of this story? I don't really have one. Hollywood's having a bit of a gender crisis, trying to sell us strong, independent women that are predisposed to fail while men (once again) get the real benefit this summer to extremely surprising results! It's as through writers and directors have subconsciously tapped into the gender crisis quietly facing our times and are trying to make sense of it behind CGI spectacles. It's all deeply confusing but vaguely exciting to see how this unfolds, especially with 2017's Wonder Woman and Black Panther to really shake things up!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Remember, Ladies...

... if Batman is known for anything, it's turning you gay.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

You Meddling Kids!

In the classic 1997 The Simpsons episode, "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show," the maligned character of Poochie is added to The Itchy & Scratchy Show by the network to boost ratings. At the same time, a red ballcapped/sunglasses "cool" character, Roy, was quietly added to the Simpsons family.

Both characters only lasted the one episode but they were a riff on similar tropes of adding a prototypical 90s teenager to a show with the rationale that it will boost ratings from kids. This largely happened in prime time sitcoms but also bled into Saturday morning cartoons as well.

The annoying creature sidekick (Orko, Snarf) or child practically begging to be murdered (Scott Tracker) character archetypes were old hat by the time the 90s rolled around but adding new characters mid-series in a vain effort to attract younger audiences really started to flourish at this time.

Arguably the most infamous and generally hated was Scrappy-Doo. The nephew of Scooby-Doo, Scrappy-Doo debuted in 1979 with such catch-phrases as "Lemme at 'em!" and "Puppy Power!"

Clearly an addition to appease ABC (also known as Always Be Cancellin'), Scrappy-Doo was that hyperactive kid character who was meant to up the cute factor ante and save the beloved show from the very thing that lead to its success: fun mysteries as seen through the eyes of meddling, stoner teenagers.

He has since become an integral part of the franchise but, like Ewoks, is generally regarded as a egregious mistake and even went on to become the (spoilers) antagonist of the first live-action movie.

Admittedly, this is a bit of a reboot cheat. See, after the first two seasons of The Transformers, the 1986 The Transformers Movie came along, pushed the timeline up to the futuristic 2005 (?!), and gleefully killed the original lineup of characters to be replaced by a new cast.

Since this was the future, not totally horrible teenager Spike Witwicky grew up and had a son named Daniel. Spike, facing a nonstop barrage of potential death for years alongside the Autobots, had no mixed feelings about sending his young son to tag along with these building-sized killbots. And the tradition lived on!

Being a child surrounded by robots who had no fleshy organs to be smashed to a pulp, Daniel himself must have felt invincible as he launched himself into danger as though he had a death wish. To make matters worse, another Autobot, Wheelie, was introduced to be a child-like Transformer who spoke in a high pitched voice and rhymed all of his dialogue while shooting an energy slingshot. Combined, they proved to be among the most annoying and befuddling additions to a cast we already had difficulty accepting after old favourites were so callously dispatched before our eyes.

The Care Bears were no strangers to adding characters throughout its impressive cartoon run. The Care Bear Cousins, for example, scrapped the bear theme and just threw in any animal that was deemed cute and could have a heart tattooed to its stomach.

Early on, however, two cubs were added to the show: Hugs and Tugs.

Side note: don't ask me which one is which. I don't know and don't even care. What I do care about is how their names sound like an amazing furry bar or gay bathhouse!

These motherless abominations seemingly came out of thin air and boasted an impressive vocabulary for two bears that regularly shit and piss themselves in a society where no one even needs to wear pants. True to form, they became an integral part of the episodes going forward. By that I mean they were there to be absolute idiots, get in danger and/or captured, and inevitably in need of rescuing. Usually they'd learn a valuable lesson about caring or some garbage but they were mostly present for exposition or plot advancement, something even we as children saw right through.

Although The Flintstones were a product of the 1960s, they nevertheless felt the need to be relevant and hip and cool and pop and fresh.

The A Flintstone Family Christmas television special aired in 1993 and followed a loose continuity where Pebbles and Bam-Bam had grown up and got married, leaving the show without a child character aside from their own annoying babies. With all these adults talking and being adult-y, how were we supposed to identify with the show?!

The special's producers, in perpetual need of getting Middle America off their tractors and in front of television boxes, naturally knew what to do. After getting into more hilarious hijinx, Fred and Barney get thrown in the slammer where they meet Stoney, a totally street-wise orphan type with an anti-establishment backward red ballcap and no-nonsense attitude, dude.

The intention was obviously an appeal to kids who could identify with a character that someone, somewhere thought was relevant and cool. Being not as stupid as producers had hoped and assumed, we did not. Stoney was never seen again, hopefully overdosing on marijuana in a gutter where he belonged.

The Real Ghostbusters is seen by fans as having two distinct eras. The first syndicated run being amazing and then everything after that once studio executives hired a bullshit consulting firm to "fix" what wasn't even broken.

Amidst the vast, sweeping, and mind-bogglingly strange changes to the show, a cast of kids, calling themselves the Junior Ghostbusters, were added in the 1987 episode "The Bogeyman Is Back." Although children regularly appeared in the series, they were generally intrinsic to the plot and only stuck around the one time. The Junior Ghostbusters (Donald, Catherine, and Jason), however, were peppered here and there and, once again, were there to remind us dumb kids that we too can make a difference and help out too!

Only they were so goddamn annoying, cutesy, and transparent cash grabs that we hated them. Thankfully, they only lasted a few episodes but the show's death knell had been rung.

A similar character was also introduced in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles named Zack, the "Fifth Ninja Turtle."

Zack (such a 90s name) was a white, blond, 14-year-old kid who was totally the Turtles' biggest fan! At the very least, he was sort of wide-eyed and naive instead of trying to one-up the Turtles with terrible surfer lingo.

Nevertheless, he was a desperate appeasement to viewers to say "Look, LOOK, he's just like youuuuu!" that came across a little strong, y'know? Swipe left on this turd.

He was later followed up by Carter who was more racially diverse, a little older, and had a greater purpose to the plot. Coming to New York to train under Master Splinter, Carter was accidentally exposed to mutagen that made him sometimes a mutant and sometimes a human and it was very much a Jekyll/Hyde thing going on for him.

That said, he appeared in the later seasons of the original cartoon run so nobody ever saw it or even talks about it.

All in all, these characters were transparent marketing ploys. And even in the days before the cynicism-mongering internet, we knew the score. Children were (and especially now are not) as dumb as adults think and the addition of these trite, tacked-on farces of actual kids were forced and, worse, painful to watch.

The very things executives wanted to lure us in to their shows, were the very things that led us elsewhere.