Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Recap: Supergirl 2.20 "City of Lost Children"

Guardian re-enters the picture this episode, having a bout of superhero angst. And, I don't blame him. What is this show even doing with James/Guardian? Supergirl is reaching Arrow-levels of "make every character a hero."

Anyway, James apparently feels as though the people he saves are scared of him, while people are in awe of Superman and Supergirl. When an apparently evil telepathic alien comes into town, Guardian also seems to feel insecure about his lack of superpowers. Which, yeah, I suspect it is hard for humans to compete with flying, heat vision, ice breath, and super-strength.

However, James' human skills are needed when the evil telepathic alien's son, Marcus, needs to be interrogated. James takes the boy to his office at CatCo (ie, Cat Grant's old office, *cries*) and hangs out with him, hoping to get intel on the mom.


Meanwhile, Lena lets Kara know she's seeing another lady and I feel like Kara pretends to be okay with it but isn't, really. That is to say, things between Lena and Rhea (Mom-El) are going swimmingly, as they continue to have candlelight dinners and work together on developing the stargate thingy. I predict that Kara's going to flip her shit when she finds out that it's Rhea who has been cupping Lena's chin and giving her evil, motherly pep talks.


The Lena plot converges with the James plot when Lena finally gets the stargate up and running. When the stargate activates, something in Marcus also seems to activate, making him go all Carrie in CatCo.


When Lena powers down the stargate, the kid goes back to normal. After that, James doesn't want to interrogate the kid any longer, because Supergirl had to swoop in and save them all, once again. But, Daddy Hank gives James a pep talk, convincing him that connecting with Marcus and getting information from him can be just as heroic.

(I think a theme of this episode is positive v. negative role models)

Right on cue, Kara calls Lena, but Rhea sees Lena's cell phone ringing and answers it for her. Apparently, the CEO of L Corp doesn't password protect her phone, or she and Rhea are so U-hauled they're sharing passwords already. ANYway, Kara quickly figures out that Rhea and Lena have been working together on this secret project.

Marcus ends up opening up to James and says he can track down his mom. Simultaneously, the DEO pinpoints Lena and Rhea's location. So, the challenge is to keep Marcus and his mom from going Carrie if Rhea activates the stargate thingy.

James signs up for the mission, and Winn brings along some sort of force field generator that will keep the telepathic abilities at bay. However, when Marcus takes James and Winn to his mom, there are a bunch more telepaths there. Zoinks! Rhea, of course, activates the stargate, which causes all the telepaths to activate.

Winn's little force field generator isn't strong enough to protect all the telepaths, so James gives an Inspiring Speech to Marcus, which breaks the effect the stargate has on all the telepaths. While that is the good news, the bad news is that Rhea's little stargate endeavor was actually a plot to teleport the surviving Daxamites to Earth. Wheeee!

Those slave-holding monarchists from Daxam seem like real assholes, so I take it National City's in deep shit when Rhea starts calling it "New Daxam."
 



Deep Thought of the Week: For whatever reason (I think it's the stargate/wormhole concept), this episode reminded me of that Jodie Foster movie, Contact. Does watching a brilliant female scientist be gaslit for two and a half hours sound fun? Then you should definitely watch Contact!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Let's Not Downplay "Identity Politics"

As white supremacists continue to unabashedly rally in Trump's America, I remember the spate of liberal/left-authored articles scolding those of us with identities to ditch "identity politics."

Seven months into this current Republican administration, Democrat leadership under Chuck Schumer has been strategizing to downplay identity politics

Oddly (or not), the Politico article I link to says that "identity politics" are being downplayed to appeal to more center-right Democrats, yet in my experience, many so-called Bernie Democrats simultaneously see themselves as the far left and also want to downplay identity politics in favor of "universal' economic messaging. If the far left, the center, and the right want us to ditch "identity politics," I guess that leaves those of us with identities outside of the political spectrum altogether.

The current absurdity of today's political labels aside, I'd like to link to a previous piece I wrote about this demand to downplay identity politics, back in December 2016.  It's still relevant, and I still believe that it's a mistake to ditch identity politics, particularly when neo-nazis are emboldened enough to rally on our public streets, without hoods, because they know they have the support of the Republican Administration behind them.

Thus, my plea to our white male allies:
"....[P]lease do not ask marginalized people to endure the hostility of the Trump regime on your terms or on anyone's terms but their/our own. The white walkers are here and we are doing our best to hold the door. My question to you is, which side of it are you on?"




Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Tale of Two Memos

In his workplace, Donald Trump is reported to demand a twice-daily folder of content confirming his greatness. Via Vice:
"These sensitive papers, described to VICE News by three current and former White House officials, don’t contain top-secret intelligence or updates on legislative initiatives. Instead, the folders are filled with screenshots of positive cable news chyrons (those lower-third headlines and crawls), admiring tweets, transcripts of fawning TV interviews, praise-filled news stories, and sometimes just pictures of Trump on TV looking powerful."
In another workplace, a white man sent his colleagues a manifesto purportedly confirming the inherent superiority of white men in the industry in which he works, and lamenting reverse sexist hiring pratices. Example:
"Google's left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence."
That probably gives you a gist of the whole thing which, yes, is 10 pages of dullard, condescending MRA-ism and lay evo-psych "analysis" presented as the courageous truth-telling of a genius.

That is to say, we have two workplace memos converging into one image:

A mediocre white man perched on a throne of presumed objectivity. The throne is in a room full of mirrors, which are being held up by women and people of color - the hoi polloi in his self-indulgent, egotistical universe. As he contemplates his innate superiority and supreme station in life, it is beyond his grasp to fathom that this reality-distorting fun house has been built precisely per his delicate specifications, and not - as he whinges every chance he gets - everyone else's.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Recap: Supergirl 2.19 "Alex"

So, Mom-El (Rhea) is back in town, this time wooing Lena. She's proposing some sort of tech collaboration with L Corp on a "trans-matter portal" and/or is hitting on Lena. On Lena's part, she doesn't yet seem to know that Mom-El is an evil space alien, because they have a romantic candlelight dinner and bond over having attended MIT.

Lena acts flustered when Mom-El makes it known that she's newly-single.  Lena says, "Regardless of what happens with business, I have a feeling we're going to be friends." Mmm-hmmm.

I'm not here to judge, folks. I'm just here to report the facts.


Later, Lena is examining Mom-El's tech designs and realizes it includes a component not found on Earth. She gets suspicious and then tricks Mom-El into taking her alien detection test, which confirms that Mom-El is, in fact, an alien. Lena kicks her out of her office and refuses to collaborate. Oh, that crafty, virtuous Lena! But then, later, Lena changes her mind. For ... reasons?

In Danvers Sisters news, Maggie and Kara bicker about the pros and cons of vigilantism v. law and order, putting Alex in the awkward position of not wanting to take sides with either her girlfriend or her sister. But then, Alex gets kidnapped, forcing Maggie and Kara to Work Together. The kidnapper wants his dad released from prison or else he'll kill Alex. Hmm, I sense an impending lesson here.


The DEO's position is that they don't negotiate with terrorists. So, they won't release the prisoner just for the sake of freeing Alex. Uh-oh. But will everyone abide by that principle? We shall see.

Supergirl first wants to kick the kidnapper's ass, but Maggie keeps a cool head. Her suggestion is to have J'onn act like the prisoner, so they can pretend they've freed him. But, the kidnapper doesn't buy it. They try other assorted measures, none of which work.

For instance, in her cell, Alex uses her credit card to MacGyver the security camera with her tracking implant (wut, where did this come from?), which sends a signal to Winn that includes the IP address of her location.


Supergirl wants to immediately swoop in and rescue Alex, as is her style, but Maggie's thinks the kidnapper is acting a little too cocky for someone who just "lost." So, she urges restraint.

Annnd, Maggie's right, because when Supergirl does swoop in, it's a trick. The IP address had been "re-routed." I guess the kidnapper did that while in DEO custody, since the DEO is apparently letting him keep his computer handy. Seriously.

The upshot is that Alex's cell begins to fill up with water, which is one of my most anxiety-provoking "character in peril" scenarios.

Now it's up to Maggie to save the gay. Desperate, she ends up ditching the "we don't negotiate with terrorist" principles and breaks the kidnapper's dad out of prison. All of this seems to happen in a matter of minutes and it's not clear how far places are from one another in National City or whether Maggie has access to trans-matter portal or something. But, let's just roll with it.

Supergirl finds Maggie and the prisoner, trying to stop Maggie from letting him go. She then gives an Inspiring Monologue, which leads the prisoner to revealing where the kidnapper might be holding Alex. Why Supergirl didn't give this speech 12 hours ago isn't entirely clear, since this is also one of her apparent super powers.


Supergirl swoops in and rescues Alex just as her cell has filled up with water.

And, I get the reversal here in that Supergirl is the one who mostly remained calm and stuck to the DEO's "we don't negotiate with terrorist" principles, but it didn't ring especially true to her character to me. At least in the instance of protecting her sister, I feel fairly certain she'd be on board with Maggie in doing whatever it took to get her back, including "negotiating with terrorists."


Deep Thought of the Week: As I continue to watch superhero shows, how does every character not have PTSD from all of the killing, violence, and near-death situations? For instance, at the end of this episode, Alex "deals with" almost dying by punching her kidnapper in the nose while he's handcuffed, which the other characters kind of chuckle at in a "he got what was coming to him" sort of way. It's not clear if that's supposed to signify that Alex's trauma has now been resolved, or whether it's more that the tone of Supergirl doesn't really allow its heroic characters to go to dark places beyond more than these superficial outbursts.

Is there any show that has effectively acknowledged the psychological impact of trauma on its characters? Jessica Jones comes to mind. And, particular episodes of Buffy stand out to me as acknowledging the full humanity of their characters, particularly the aftermath of Tara, Joyce, and Buffy's deaths. While I retain critiques of Joss Whedon's work, I think one of his great strengths in Buffy was allowing shifts in tone, from lighthearted to serious and dark, that still rang true to the series as a whole.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

America: The Broken

I have a new piece at Shakesville today, examining the degradation of our democracy:

A lesson from George W. Bush's presidency, then, is that a security crisis can confer legitimacy to a President who begins his term lacking it. And, the people will hunker down and rally behind an undeserving leader during a scary time, out of a sense of fear, loyalty, and nationalism. History shows that bad leaders will squander this trust, rather than accepting it with responsibility and grace.

For these reasons, my first point today is that we ought to be gravely concerned that the man who holds this office today is historically unpopular, obsessed with his popularity, and is widely seen as illegitimate.

My second point is that by virtue of his office, Donald Trump is now entrusted to preserve the legitimacy of the electoral system, something which, I argue, for him is an impossibility. His very ascension to that office reveals a fundamental brokenness of our democracy, the supreme rule of which his rise has confirmed to be not "the law of the land" but "win by any means."
 Read the whole thing.