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.

BvaAHzS.gif

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.

source.gif

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

My top 5 TV picks from 2016 – Not everything sucked last year, but almost

Top 5 TV shows of 2016 might sound like a difficult list to make, from a year that really just, well, sucked, but these 5 shows made me think all hope was not lost!

In a year that sucked, there were at least 5 shows that didn’t suck – my top 5 TV picks from 2016

 

 

There’s no denying it – 2016 was the pits.

 

And when I say this I don’t mean:

 

a) Every single individual on this planet had a bad year

 

Nor do I mean

 

b) Absolutely nothing good happened in 2016

 

I’m just being realistic about the fact that both I, and many other people, seemed to have a less than great year in comparison to previous ones. And on top of that, many great and cherished celebrities, scientists, and influencers of note didn’t make it to 2017, something that definitely isn’t a highlight.

 

Regardless, in a year that seemed to really just suck, I found some light in these 5 TV shows I’m going to talk about in this post. The fact that there weren’t more though… Well I’ve had years where I’d have had more than 5 shows to talk about, let’s just say that!

 

For possibly the first time, I can say this blog post is SPOILER FREE!

 

5) Humans

top 5 TV shows of 2016

Ok we’re going to start with number 5, but even if it’s at the bottom (top) of the list, Humans is still a big mention! This scifi season 2 has a charming nature that sits good-naturedly on top of it’s absolutely unsettling content. Humans has this fantastic way of touching on the complexities of AI gaining consciousness, and their integration (or segregation) within human society, without overcomplicating themes or messages. Its messages are accessible, but important, and use the AI characters as allegories to discuss previous and current human societal issues, such as classism, as well as body autonomy for, in particular, women. The cast are all superb actors, and well-suited to their roles, as well as diverse and well-rounded – from well-known actors, to the bright eyed newbies. It’s a delightfully unnerving show and I’m excited to see where it will continue to go!

 

4) Luke Cage

top 5 TV shows of 2016

Honestly, did you think I was going to manage a list of favourite TV shows without mentioning a superhero one? While DC has been dominating the superhero realm of television, Marvel continues to creep in there, especially with its Netflix series. I watch Agents of SHIELD mind you, but I don’t think it’s going to be making any top 5’s of mine any time soon. Luke Cage however, brought me as much joy and exhilaration as Jessica Jones did last year, and I continue to be floored by the ways the creators of these Marvel/Netflix shows use colour, angles, and motifs to carry the individual shows beyond the simple techniques other superhero shows use, as well as tie the 3 Netflix series together. The use of yellow lighting, the 90’s hip-hop-esque music, and the 70’s-reminiscent fashion all brought together a sense of the community, atmosphere, and tensions this show touches on. A standout superhero show (that could even be argued as not a superhero show at all), that I hope doesn’t go the same downwards route that I found Daredevil going in its second season.

 

3) Stranger Things

top 5 TV shows of 2016

By now you’ve probably realised, I’m no indie-viewer, no standout obscurest, so I was no more immune to the Stranger Things charm than anyone else. I love horrors, I love scifi, I love 80’s music, and I love obnoxious film and nostalgia references. Strangers Things hit all the right spots and there really isn’t anything I need to say about it that hasn’t already been said. It was paced well, it had the perfect amount of sweet childhood friendship to counteract the dark themes, and it pulled at all the right heartstrings. But I think, for me, what really put it here, at number 3 of all the too-many shows I watched this year, is the group of child-actors who not only brought the show to life, but also pulled off one of the best, most engaging press tours I have seen in many years. They were enchanting, exciting, hilarious, and unbeatably talented, and I’m watching Stranger Things as much to enjoy the show and see what happens next, as I am to see where these amazingly talented young actors will go.

 

2) Brooklyn 99

top 5 TV shows of 2016

Never once in my life have I ever said anything remotely close to “my favourite genre is comedy”, or “my favourite movie/tv show this year was a comedy”. Not because I hate fun, or I have no sense of humour (I hope), but because I have an unbelievably low tolerance for second-hand embarrassment, and an even lower tolerance for humour that relies on mocking another person for their race, culture, sexuality, gender, mental or physical health, or basically any humour relying on the incredibly lazy technique of mocking other people for things they can’t help about themselves. Oh, and I’m not fond of slapstick either. I’ve found it pretty damn hard over the years to find a show or movie in the comedy genre that doesn’t rely on one or more of these comedy techniques, but then, down from the heavens above, an angel came forth to me. One, with the makings of being your very-average, no-different, cop comedy, but was put together by the most diverse cast I think I’ve ever seen in a sitcom, and that uses humour that 100% matches mine. Jake Peralta, you have saved my soul, and I will die by your feminist, understanding if slightly misguided at times, very much hilarious side, should that day ever come. At only roughly 20 minutes an episode there’s really no reason not to give this show a try, so like, go do that.

 

1) Westworld

top 5 TV shows of 2016

For hours and days, I have scratched my head, not only over how to write a blog on this show, but also on this show in general. I’ve watched it twice, since I started in November, and I can honestly say I still… Don’t get it. Where Humans is easily digestible, light, and approachable (while still disturbing), Westworld is just, absolutely a maze in itself (perhaps the maze wasn’t meant for me and my small mind). The film major in me so badly wants to be able to discuss in depth the themes, plot twists, and characters, but when it comes down to talking about the show, I just simply can’t seem to wrap my head around it. And yet, in all my confusion, I can say without a doubt, that with only 1 season under its belt, Westworld is not only my favourite show of the year, but possibly of my adult life! (Shows like Friends don’t count because that’s a nostalgic thing. Sshhhh). This show has you sitting on edge, deeply unnerved, 100% unsure of how you stand on the consciousness of AI, while simultaneously delivering some of the best acting and writing I have ever seen from a TV show. It has you sitting there debating with yourself about your own sense of morality and ethics, as well as any prior knowledge you might have about previous AI fiction. Let me tell you, Isaac Asimov would’ve been able to provide you with a lengthy, meaty, and substantial blog post to flesh out this show, but I sure as shit cannot. All I can tell you is to give this show a try, because it’s damn bloody good. I’m just not smart enough to tell you why!

 

And with that confusing, useless, utterly insubstantial piece on the greatest visual masterpiece of 2016, I conclude my top 5 list of shows from last year!!

 

Honourable mentions go to:

 

  • Cisco Ramon/Carlos Valdes’s performance in Flash (as well as extended CW/DC universes)
  • Elektra and The Punisher in the otherwise dull second season of Daredevil
  • The Christmas/Holiday special of Sense8
  • Sansa Starks performance in the ever-deviating TV adaption of Game of Thrones

 

And with that, this pretty much wraps up all of what brought me joy in 2016! I’m excited for what media I’ll get to consume this year, although I truly have not held my breath over anything yet.