Thursday, 26 February 2015

So Fetch Friday: Embarrassing Anecdotes, Fandoms, and Misogynistic Idiots

I've been taking it easy this week. I just finished one paper and handed in the proposal for another. I know things are going to get chaotic in the next few weeks, though. Sooner or later I'm going to encounter exams and I know that there are more essays on the way. Still, enough of that. I have an embarrassing anecdote to share this week, which happened on Monday. I'd been seeing Mercenaries pop up on Netflix a lot, and was debating with myself over whether to watch it. I finally decided to give it a shot, though I didn't have very high expectations. I sat down in the basement to watch Mercenaries hoping it would at the very least be entertainingly bad.

So the movie begins in an odd way. I noticed that the women prominently featured on the cover and posters for the film were nowhere to be seen. My logical assumption was that they just came later. Even more odd was when they introduced a villain who was explicitly stated to be male and hired an all-male group of mercenaries. I came to a pretty simple conclusion about what was going to happen: these men were going to go in and confront the villain only to find out that "he" is actually a woman and then get themselves killed. That would presumably have led to the four female convicts being sent in their place. It got even weirder when I realized I was almost half an hour in, at which point there was still no sign of the female protagonists and we were still following the guys I naturally assumed were going to be killed off early on. To add a further layer of puzzlement, the villain turned out to be male, as originally claimed.

Then Netflix crashed on me, I was about half an hour in when this happened. I had to reboot the whole system to get it working again, and that's when I suddenly realized why there was no sign of the four action heroines I was promised. As soon as Netflix was up and running again, I saw the cover of the movie I was watching, and I realized it wasn't the one I had meant to see. It turns out there were actually two b-movies called Mercenaries, and I was watching the wrong one. No wonder it wasn't lining up with what I'd been told about Mercenaries. I wasn't even watching it and it took me half and hour and a Netflix error to realize my mistake.

You can imagine my embarrassment after realizing that. The movie I saw seemed okay so I might go back and watch the rest of it at some point. However, there was another layer of embarrassment that followed when I went to watch Banshee. I started watching what I thought was the next episode, and could not help but notice that things didn't seem to be consistent with what happened in the last installment I'd seen. It turned out I got mixed up somewhere down the line. When I thought I was watching the second episode I was actually beginning the second season before I'd even gotten halfway through the first. That was a bit awkward but I'm back on track now.

So far, Banshee actually looks promising, and it definitely makes a lot more sense when you watch the episodes in the correct order. When I saw the first episode I was not entirely sure about it but it's beginning to win me over. The main character does have a certain compelling sense of intrigue to him, and since the first episode the show has certainly met my quota for strong female characters (I'm still not sure what that is, but apparently I have one). In his latest adventure, the hero has imparted vigilante justice against a big tough boxer man by beating the crap out of him in revenge for mistreating a waitress at the local casino, and it seems that the most powerful businessman in town is preoccupied with some shady illegal dealings that involve some weird new drugs.

I still haven't had a chance to watch the Season Finale of Agent Carter yet, but I'm hoping to get on that soon. The last episode was pretty exciting, though it took a rather unexpectedly dark turn with the murder of Chief Dooley. I knew something was off about that "psychologist" (it did seem a bit odd that he resorted to killing his alleged patient when he was first found). Fortunately, it did give Dooley a chance to finally recognize Carter's skill and reconcile his differences with her (or at least as much of a moment of reconciliation as you can have when you're literally about to explode), so... yay?

Speaking of Russians, I have always found it curious how Russians are often cast as villains even after the end of the Cold War. I've been considering writing about this sort of topic but I don't have much to go on. However, one interesting thing happened a few weeks ago. I encountered a man of Ukrainian origin who had grown up on Russian films, and he had a few interesting comments on how Americans were treated in those. Apparently, while American films like to depict Russians as evil, Russian films, including Soviet espionage thrillers, liked to treat Americans as misguided individuals who would immediately convert to communism if they could just see the benefits of it. It is a rather interesting contrast if I may say so.

I've also seen episode 3 of Hannibal, and it is getting intense. I now know with 100% certainty that Hannibal is the bad guy (up until now, I wasn't sure if he was just yet or if his cannibalistic tastes were going to develop later in the show) and something's not quite right about his interaction with Abigail Hobbs. Considering her father was a serial killer who apparently cannibalized his victims and Hannibal had something to do with it, it looks as though he might be trying to turn her into another serial killer. I can imagine that this won't end well, but the big question is whether he will be found out.

We also had the Oscars this week, and wouldn't you know it? Once again, the Best Picture award went to a movie I never saw and as far as I can recall knew nothing about until it showed up on the list of nominees. That always seems to happen, I'm not sure why. Evidently my tastes are different from those of the Academy, but then again what can I expect from a group of people who considered a movie as boring as The Towering Inferno for Best Picture? Still, it did have its moments. The live performance of "Everything is Awesome" was pretty good and I enjoyed Neil Patrick Harris more than most people.

This week, aside from my attempts to watch Mercenaries, I've also seen a few odd movies for my classes. For one of them, we got to see a classic, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. In another class, we watched the film A Guy Named Joe to study how American films were affected before and after World War II, and this one was a weird piece of propaganda. A Guy Named Joe is about a guy named Pete who is an air force pilot who dies only to begin assisting other pilots posthumously. The whole setup of this one was weird and not very well-explained, though I will give it credit for having an early action heroine (sort of) in the form of a female pilot (though I would have wanted to see more of her).

Finally, we got something really weird. Yesterday I learned a bit about AIDS and the crisis that resulted in the 80's and 90's. More specifically, we were studying how AIDS was largely ignored by society at the time, very little attention was being paid to it, and what little there was pinned the causes on unrelated factors. Perhaps most notable is the idea of AIDS being a "gay disease" (something not helped by the fact that a lot of people associated with the illness, like Freddie Mercury and Rock Hudson, were publicly revealed to be homosexual). The blame for the illness then fell on a so-called "Patient Zero", supposedly a French-Canadian flight attendant who had sex with a lot of early patients. There is no real evidence of the supposed "Patient Zero" actually existing, and he is little more than a figure of society's bigotries.

To help emphasize this point, we looked at a Canadian film called Zero Patience, which was literally a musical about AIDS that made fun of a lot of the misconceptions. It was actually brilliant in a bizarre sort of way, even with its weird setup (a Victorian man who drank from the Fountain of Youth falls in love with the ghost of "Patient Zero", apparently that is actually his real name) but it is also quite informative. Through its weird musical numbers which I shall not be describing in detail on (putting it mildly, there is one sequence that makes the bugs from Naked Lunch appear sane by comparison), it demonstrates quite effectively how absurd all these misconceptions of what causes AIDS really are.

Apparently, word's going around that there is a new Alien film directed by the same guy who made District 9. Sigourney Weaver is officially on board, which is promising. Apparently this sequel will completely disregard the events of Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection (though I actually enjoyed the latter) and instead pick up where Aliens left off. I suppose that's not a bad thing, but I can't help noticing the slight problem that Sigourney Weaver has aged 29 years since 1986, and the same can probably be said of her co-star Michael Biehn if he is indeed in the film.

I presume this means it won't attempt to pick up right where Aliens left off the same way Alien 3 did but will allow some time to pass. Maybe this film takes place 29 years later and Ripley has managed to settle down with Newt only to get pulled back into something really nasty. It might be nice if they could find something new to bring out, since the "Xenomorph attack" plot has been overdone. Maybe either by trying to find something new to focus on while still including the Xenomorphs or finding some sort clever new angle on the traditional plot they could come up with something interesting. Also, Carrie Henn must have grown up by now. If they can get her to return, maybe there could be a sub-plot about Newt following in her surrogate mother's footsteps. That could be a cool twist.

Unfortunately, I'm still getting a lot of flack on the IMDB message board because I criticized Alien Outpost's decision to feature an all-male cast when there was no reason it was required (especially ironic considering the film it was obviously ripping off did in fact have a strong female lead). A lot of people have responded with angry comments for a while now, and I'm still getting a lot of infuriating things. Quite a few have given me the "women are physically weaker than men" argument which just gets me so mad. I've had to deal with these same arguments on YouTube when addressing idiots who tried to argue against letting women be firefighters (all of their arguments are easily debunked if you talk to a real firefighter, but they won't listen). The sad thing is that people still buy into this nonsense when it is really nothing more than an extreme over-generalization.

One user by the name of niscaty attempted to support one of these arguments,

"may have a chance is well put, because even then, against a male with similar characteristics (75kg being an average male) the chances are rather low. It has to do with lots of morphological factors - bone density, speed and endurance given by the hormonal makeup, muscle fiber composition and lots of other stuff feminists won't comprehend anyway, because... we're all equal. And pen!s. And patriarchy!"

In other words, these people think that women are actually physically incapable of military service, and cite isolated incidents of standards being lowered as "evidence". I'm not saying the standards should be lowered, but rather that, contrary to popular belief, women are in fact capable of meeting them. As I pointed out, we're letting women into infantry units up here in Canada and they're doing just as well as the men. Of course, these misogynistic idiots didn't want to listen. Instead, Niscaty responded by calling Canada, as he put it:

"yeah, Canada the most retarded feminist country on Earth. After Sweden probably."

These people get me so mad. I'm not even sure why I bother trying to reason with them because I know there is never any way they are going to listen. These people who claim that women are physically weaker than men and then attempt to use that to justify workplace discrimination are just nasty. Also, it's not too hard to turn that logic around on them. If general statistics that imply that women often have lower upper body strength than men (which does not mean they are weaker, they have other strengths to compensate for it), than those same statistics could be used to argue that men shouldn't be allowed to be astronauts. There actually are scientific studies that suggest women are generally better adapted to living in space, the reason why we don't rely on those alone is because they are general statistics and not something that can be applied to everyone within a specific group.

So as you can see I've got a lot of stuff going on right now. I've still haven't had as much material as normal, though I'm hoping at some point soon I can get back into writing another one of the amazing academically-influenced article/essays that have helped me stand out. I just need to find a good topic. I've had lots of ideas for articles I can do once I have more free time, not much that I can do right now. On the bright side, I did manage to actually read some other people's blogs this week, even going on something of a reading rampage Wednesday night, so I guess I'm doing okay.

Around the Internet


  1. It takes a lot for me now to be embarrassed. about 20 yrs ago or so I went with my ex and some others to see a silent film which I had wanted to see for a long time(Barb Wire with Pola Negri). A man from Rochester-Eastman House comes to the University and he plays the piano while the film is being played. Well I had a bit too much to drink and 5 min in, fell asleep. To this day I have no idea what happened but my ex and my friends said I asked, loudly, where the sound was (ughh). They have been known to reel me in on more than one occasion so let's hope I wasn't that daft. As for the young boys on the twitter etc...(am I showing my age??)...they wind you up too much and they are not worth it. They are, how should I say...idiots. My dad was an old time lumberman (born in 1913). We owned a sawmill and guess what? He hired a woman to tail end the saw and she worked in the sawmill for 2 summers while she was off school. He said "if anyone can do the job and do it well then they are hired I don't care who they are!" She was better than most men and many "men" could not handle the job. If a person can do the job then great! There are many men who can't be firefighters also. I don't have the strength for that but that is just how I am built and I have joint problems, there are many women who can outdo a man and I have seen it. Oh and thank god I am out of having to do essays and exams-ick!:)

  2. Fun story about Mercenaries. Also interesting to hear about the depiction of Americans in Russian films.

    I'm more curious than excited for the proposed Alien sequel.

    I grew up during the times when AIDS being thought of as ONLY a gay men's disease was a real thing. How to Survive a Plague is an excellent documentary on those times and the fight to get AIDS medications legal in the US.

    My review:

    Finally, the imdb message boards is not a good place to find intelligent conversation. Great post.

    1. We didn't bring up that specific film, but that was roughly the area we covered in my class this week. The whole idea of blaming it on homosexuals (and specifically gay men) is absurd. I'll have to check out your review.

  3. "Speaking of Russians, I have always found it curious how Russians are often cast as villains even after the end of the Cold War." My kids and I were just talking about this the other day. Interesting perspective from your Ukranian acquaintance.

    People are STILL arguing that women are physically incapable of military service? The many women serving in the military, in combat zones, today would disagree, if they had time to argue with such ignorance.

    1. It's not even exclusive to the military. There are still people who use precisely the same justifications to argue against letting women be firefighters (ironically, actually doing some research in how firefighting works and talking to real firefighters reveals a mountain of evidence to the contrary). In this case, I think it's more people arguing against women serving in infantry units (as opposed to supporting roles like medics, helicopter pilots, etc.) but their reason is still every bit as flawed. The women serving in the modern Canadian infantry would certainly disagree with their line of thinking.

  4. Great So Fetch Friday! I've had similar experiences on Netflix; sometimes watching the wrong movie or jumping ahead on episodes.

    I love Classic Hollywood dearly, but there are quite a few films that aren't as artistically great as they are presented to be. I don't remember much from A Guy Named Joe except that the overall concept fit with the times of the war (an American patriot continuing to serve his country after death while also releasing his girlfriend to be with another serviceman) but it was a movie I always struggled with.

    1. The fact that it was made with themes meant to support the war effort was the main reason we watched it in class, and I could definitely see that. One thing I still don't seem to learn about studying cinema is that my professors (and film scholars in general) tend to focus less on the quality of the films in their discussions of certain themes and more on what movies provide the best examples of those topics. Rambo II was a horrible action movie in many ways but it did work as an example of what characterized the hardbodied action heroes of the 1980's.