Stranger Things have happened

So, did it shape up to last season? Am I going to go all feminist on this shit? Do I want to BE Winona Ryder? Stay tuned.

In all truthfulness, up until now all my blog posts have been filler posts.

My whole year has been a filler post as I anxiously awaited Stranger Things season 2 – it’s safe to say there have been points where I have neared the level of mania I had for shows back in 2010-2012. The Stranger Things obsession has been real my pals.

I’m not sure what it is I love about it so much. The 80’s nostalgia for a time I wasn’t even alive for? A little bit. The sci-fi soft-horror? Sure. The music? Yes, of course. The beautiful friendships of all kinds, but particularly of the younger characters? Fuck yes.

I have a massive soft spot for the portrayal of all kinds of relationships and bonds, and Stranger Things really excels with that. It also portrays a level of innocence and geekiness that has its own sort of nostalgia. The kind that isn’t tied to any generation – we can all sort of relate to that feeling of kinship, spare time, and feeling pretty out of place.

So anyway, season 2 – I was pumped. And if you’re reading this then you probably have at least some small level of interest in what I thought about it, so here it is.

I had a lot of expectations for this season. I knew that there would be new characters introduced to the narrative, and that there would be a widening of the universe which in season 1 was almost exclusively confined to Hawkins.

Season 1 was easy. There were good people, and there were bad people. Probably the only person that blurred the lines was Steve Harrington, but even when you hated him you still sort of rooted for him – and you didn’t hate him for long.

It had a small world and tight knit groups, and I knew that in season 2 this would need to be broadened. And yet I still expected it to be about the group having a close bond, and recognising that they’re stronger together.

After all – and the show acknowledges this – they each experienced a large amount of trauma which often brings people together.

I was so excited to see the team together, but we started where we pretty much started in season 1. Nancy and Mike fighting. Eleven on her own. The boys arguing over a girl. And a love triangle between Steve, Nancy, and Jonathan.

But… I kind of get it. It made sense to the narrative, and although it broke my heart to watch the boys keep secrets from each other and distrust each other, I got why it was happening.

Because it was still Stranger Things. The soundtrack was on point as always (although, and I know they did it in season 1, but I wished they would play Toto Africa again cus that is just such a Mood), as well as the cinematography and costume design.

All that aside, I felt that this season took us to a newer, darker place than the first season – and not in the way I expected.

I expected the monsters to get darker, the risks to get riskier, and the deaths to be gorier, but I didn’t expect what else we got.

Although it didn’t do so very overtly, this season did actually deal with themes of racism and sexism – and in fact, homophobia (very lightly). I’m not saying we should start lauding it as the most progressive show of our time, but something that was definitely lacking in the previous season was an acknowledgement that the 80’s weren’t just a fun, wacky dressed, nostalgic and pre-internet era for everyone. For some people it was tougher than that.

So yeah, this season gave it a shot. A really weak shot – and if we’re going to use the baseball metaphor Ted and Steve both use – Stranger Things is still pretty much sitting on the bench. But it gave it a shot.

Max’s brother (aka Evil Zac Efron™) had a level of prejudice against Lucas he didn’t have towards the other boys – this wasn’t overt racism, but I think we all got the drift.

We also see more of Ted being a shitty complacent husband to Mrs. Wheeler. As well as Max and Billy’s father showing an almost overt form of toxic masculinity, which not only affects his sons inward and outward emotions, but also forces his wife into submission.

It was like Social Commentary Lite™ – like if social commentary were a full fat yoghurt, but Stranger Things were on a diet. And while that’s some Bullshit, I really do have faith that next season will be even better. The actor who plays Mike (potentially our main male protagonist), has shown himself to be a lot more progressive and socially aware than many of his older peers, and that sort of attitude doesn’t go unnoticed.

Netflix is in the unique position where, unlike its network cousins, it doesn’t have to worry about as many stakeholders. Stakeholders, such as advertisers, are one of the main things that prevent network television from being able to be socially progressive. Netflix is a unique forum which doesn’t rely on any ads – greatly reducing the number of stakeholders.

It should be doing better.

If young actors like Finn Wolfhard continue to fight back, there may just be a change, and I have faith that it will happen before season 3 – or maybe I just hope.

But I digress. This season certainly had its failings – the entirety of episode 7 being the biggest one. Like, wow that episode was some trash, try harder next time.

But the other big issue was its major attempts at love triangles. There were only 3 women in this show (bar every mother except Will’s, all of which played a very minor part) that were main characters, and each of them were entangled in a version of a love triangle. And Max was in more than one for Christ’s sake.

Eleven – Mike – Max.

Dustin – Max – Lucas.

Steve – Nancy – Jonathan.

Hopper – Joyce – Bob.

Like, I get it. The Duffer Brothers couldn’t write enough women for the show, which meant that there weren’t enough women to fulfil the hetero-normative needs for each male in the show.

Totally.

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But what the fuck. Was this really necessary? I’ve said it before – love triangles are one of the weakest methods of emotional writing you can employ, and I despise them.

Love triangles only work to simplify the emotional responses of every character involved, and usually they just work to exemplify the males need to “own” a woman.

Like, where ma polyamorous relationships at? I would’ve loved if Steve – Nancy – Jonathan had ended in a polyamorous relationship – instead it just ended in me crying over Steve being lonely.

And then there’s Max. Man, I was so excited for Max. Another female character? Amazing. A girl who skates and calls the boys out on their shit? Inspired. Like, a whole other female character? Colour me pumped.

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But she wasn’t written like a real person???? She was either a prize to be won by Dustin or Lucas, or she was an inconvenience to the predetermined group, and plot. She deserved a lot better than this, and I hope that in season 3 she gets some actual characterisation and storylines.

But that brings me to the wins.

Firstly, all of episode 8 and 9. My tears were flowing like the Cancer trash I am.

The unity and solidarity was heart-wrenching – in a good way – and it showed the complexities of friendships that the other episodes failed to do.

My heart was ripped entirely in half watching Mike try to reach El on the walkie-talkie. That is romance my friends holy wow.

My dreams came true when we got to see the Snow Ball, and although they very heavily shoehorned Will having a girl to dance with (don’t get me wrong, he deserves love, but ??? it didn’t make sense), and it was heartbreaking to see Dustin turned down by everyone except Nancy who pity-danced with him, my heart truly soared when Mike and Eleven were dancing.

I waited so long to see this damn child romance at the Snow Ball, and my tears were both happy and sad at what the two had been through.

At the end of it all, all I can really say is, this is still my favourite show (despite the mess in episode 7), and these child actors still blow me away with their talent.

I’m once more anxiously waiting for the next season, where I hope to GOD the Duffer Brothers don’t think that splitting the team up or shoehorning love triangles is a good idea.

Also final note, I hope we still have Steve in the #squad, even if he’ll be at college and isn’t dating Nancy and is probably alone, heartbroken, and eating his feelings…

#justiceforSteve

It, 2017: a film that appropriately ignores the entirety of the original book

I sincerely hope you never ever EVER read the original book – but by all means watch the new film if you want.

This blog is going to be NOT spoiler-free, but honestly even if you haven’t read the book, watched the old film, or the new, does it really matter? Does it???? DOES IT?

 

I honestly don’t know if you’ve ever read ‘It’ by Stephen King, but if you haven’t I sincerely hope you never do. I had no intentions of ever reading it until this year when I got it in my head that I’d be able to write a more well-rounded blog about the new figiphy.giflm if I had read the book. And that’s where my life started going downhill.

It’, the 1986 novel (or, brick) by Stephen King is, objectively, the worst book ever written.

I’m sorry. I know we all love Stephen King – hell, I love Stephen King. He’s a white man renegade for the downtrodden, the ignored, and the under-privileged. I’ll even throw him a bone and say he does this as well with ‘It’.

At the forefront it’s a horror novel where there is a killer uh, “clown”, that every so often wakes from its slumber to feast upon kids. After a while however, it also becomes a quite effective discussion about racism, sexism, and even homophobia – topics which I wouldn’t have expected to be discussed in a book from the ‘80s.

So yes, there are some absolutely wonderful things about the book, but I can’t get past the fact that it’s absolutely the worst in almost every single other way.

Now, I know we’re all actually here to read about the new film, so I’ll try and keep this snappy while still giving you context, but here are the main points as to why I think ‘It’ is the worst book ever written.

  • It’s 1,300 pages long and you could cut 70% of those out and still have the exact same novel. Like, the exact same.
  • It takes over 30% of the book for all of the main characters, AKA the Losers Club to actually all even meet
  • There are a large number of strong motifs and concepts that are either never explained or almost done in a throw-away line that doesn’t feel like it justifies the frequency of that motif/concept being mentioned
  • Stephen King clearly doesn’t understand how to write women. At all. An eleven-year-old girl whose father beats her and who is being haunted by a murderous clown doesn’t think about her boobs the instance she wakes up – Sorry to tell ya Stephen.
  • She also doesn’t feel her nipples harden when she is afraid when all of the boys just feel goosebumps
  • She’s eleven for Christ sake stop talking about her boobs!!!
  • The clown isn’t even a clown it’s a spider which is also ~The Universe~ and there is also a turtle which is also ~The Universe~ except it dies by puking out a galaxy and choking on it – are you still following? I’m not
  • Oh, also it’s almost not at all explained why the spider regularly takes the form of a clown who is called Pennywise but also sometimes Bob Gray but only very occasionally.
  • There is legitimately a child orgy that is a 100% serious aspect of the book that is described in detail for an entire chapter
  • And it’s the worst thing I’ve ever read.

Yeah it’s that last part that really threw me off the edge.

I’m sorry, but in what world should I have to read about the genitals and sexual acts and the body fluids of eleven year olds IN A SEWER.

It literally doesn’t make sense narratively either. It doesn’t.

I’d like to say, “yeah, so I had to read a really horrible, uncomfortable sex scene between 6 kids, but at least it made sense in terms of the plot development” BUT IT FUCKING DOESN’T. It’s some shoehorned attempt by Beverly (a fictional character) to bring her and her friends back together so they can stay strong and get out of the sewers blah blah blah something minor about friendship in the face of adversary.

To bring the whole group together she must have sex with each individual boy. Even if sex does somehow bring eleven year olds together (why would it), shouldn’t all of the kids have sex with each other, not just Beverly? I know this is horrible, and obviously I much rather advocate for NO CHILD SEX SCENES AT ALL, but shouldn’t the connection be between all of them not just Beverly? I mean, despite her being the only female, there’s really nothing else that makes her important enough to be the vessel through which they all ~become closer~. Unless vaginas + 5 different boys semen = cauldron and potions and some kind of sorcery.

Whatever. It’s fucked up and I wanna know how we’ve all just ignored this for the past 30 years. Why have I never heard anyone mention the child orgy before? The clown almost seems secondary to me.

What pisses me off most about this book is that it could be really good. It could be fucking fantastic. If Stephen King hadn’t messed around with so much other shit.

So anyway, I’ve just spent 700 words on how shit the book is – but what about the new movie? God I hate that I go on these tangents.

Anyway.

This movie is fantastic because it utterly ignores all of the above. ALL of the above. In fact, I’m pretty firmly in the belief that the people who made it never read the book. Oh you sweet summer children I’m so glad you didn’t.

The movie also understands one fundamental thing that Stephen King never has – nor probably ever will.

The reason ‘It’ has become a cult classic is not because it’s written well, or because it has strong motifs, or the characters are so amazing, or anything.

The reason ‘It’ has become a best seller, and garnered not one but two film adaptions within 30 years is this: a clown in the sewers of small towns who eats children is fucking terrifying.

Stephen King doesn’t realise this. Which is why he makes his clown also a spider but also a giant conceptual beast from the macro-verse.

The reason ‘It’ still brings excitement, hype, and cultish interest is because it’s a fucking cool concept – as long as we all ignore all of the other shit that makes it disturbing in a way you don’t actually want horrors to be disturbing.

Yes, the film definitely wasn’t perfect. It had some pretty bad editing at times, some of the kid actors weren’t great (I won’t hold it against the kids, but the actor who played Ben wasn’t quite up for the role, and REALLY not up for the role of stealing the Historian storyline from the one black character). There’s also the fact that it wanted to dwell on kids in underwear, failed to acknowledge the storylines around racism and sexism, and basically glossed over all of the characterisations and relationships between the kids (good and bad).

So yeah, it was your average horror film – but there were some good bits too!

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Richie Tozier is a standout for me. Finn Wolfhard proves himself again and again to be leagues ahead of other child actors right now, and his dialogue was written flawlessly. Truly flawlessly.

The clown was fucking terrifying. Bill Skarsgard does a fantastic job, and the fast, manic running forwards and the gruesome eyerolls were a fantastic addition that really could not have been played off as successfully in written form.

The explanation of the ‘floating’ motif was fantastic if only because that is hardly EVER explained or justified in the book, and is at least attempted in the film.

Oh, and there was no fucking child orgy so props for that tbh.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far then you deserve a fucking red balloon because I’ve rambled too long. So tell me your thoughts. What did you think of the film? Have you read the book? Did you like either? Do you think child orgies are A-OK to have to read for 10 pages in extreme detail?

I’d love to know.

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