Sunday, July 21, 2013

Media Consumption Log: Star Trek, The Next Generation, Seasons 1-3

What felt sharp and inspiring when I was a child now feels flat and comic booky.  I can see why this franchise came to an end.  At the same time, I can see why these characters and narratives are beloved.  We tend not to love Othello or Hamlet;  those characters and narratives are too complex.  Instead, in ST, TNG, we have an ensemble cast that allows us to identify both deeply with one character and to feel, in the tensions between Whorf and Picard, for example, the tensions that exist within ourselves.  In this way, there is some advantage, I guess, to the kind of distribution of the richness of human identity among some flattened character types.

The show remains a candy cane confection for me, one I value.

Media Consumption Log: "Nao of Brown" and "Not My Bag"

These two graphic novels are a study in the contrasts of the indy, creator-owned, original graphic novel movement.  On the one hand, in "Not My Bag," we see a graphic novel of nearly meaningless scale:  the story of a retail employee who discovers that parts of life are more important than being a retail employee.  It's tough -- I worked retail for seven years, and I know how much good stories about life behind the cashier can both inspire creativity and make someone a hit at cocktail parties.  But the subtexts in this story (about the value of fashion, about fashion and identity, especially sexual identity, as the narrator is one of the rarest in fiction, a gay male) are ignored.  While this is a fine afternoon read, one that turns the pages for you, almost, that's about all it is.

"Nao of Brown," on the other hand, is an immediate case of reach exceeding grasp.  The graphic novel is filled with possibilities -- with the biracial identity of the narrator, with the mental/emotional challenges faced by the narrator, with the stroke which overcomes her partner.  Filled with possibilities that it never quite fulfills.  Just like "Not My Bag," this novel reads quickly and is beautifully drawn, but in the end, and unlike "NMB," it feels inauthentic:  these characters are flat, their problems are genuine but their responses feel forced by the structure of the story, rather than springing from the core of their being as humans.

In different ways, I am glad to have read each.  But I am not, I fear, likely to reread either.

Media Consumption Log: Thunderbolts

Thunderbolts, the Marvel Comic, has been instructive.  I thought I loved this comic, in much the way that I thought I loved the Exiles, and I imagined, like Exiles, that the comic took a terrible turn.  In the case of the Exiles, that turn came when Exiles began dying in multiples on every mission -- the comic equivalent of torture porn -- and greater emphasis seemed to fall on following the murderous characters than on the actual stars of the book.

In other words, I thought the plot took a turn for the worse, and I decided not to turn with it.

Thunderbolts, on the other hand, has a cleaner "turn."  Without being hypercritical of people doing their best, I simply like the attention to character and archetype that Kurt Busiek creates.

Media Consumption Log: The Cell

I remember watching this in the movie theatre, because I was asucker for anything that promised Virtual Reality.  I remember thinking that the breathing noises made by the people next to me meant they were there for the scantily clad J-Lo scenes.  When Kate brought it home from the Disc Go Round out of the $2 bin, I was surprised.  Today, it reads like murder-melodrama;  in a certain sense, Criminal Minds (another of Kate's favorite shows) has given use better insights into the fantasy worlds of fantasy murderers.  And Virtual Reality, write large, is now the stuff of every movie -- every movie is a virtual reality adventure.

So in the end, this movie feels as locked in the 1990s as it no doubt was at the time of release.