Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ch-Ch-Changes at Loving the Alien

As most of you know, I've started working as a staff writer for ScienceFiction.com, which is why I haven't updated this blog in a long time, and also why some of my blog posts seemed to have disappeared over night.

Those blog posts exist, but they are housed here now:

Bonus points for the articles now being better written. Hooray for editors!

Loving the Alien is going to work now more as a personal column, where I hope to still have insightful things to say about science fiction and media, but can't really post it on the more news oriented ScienceFiction.com.

Before I change our regularly scheduled programming, however, I'd like to link you to the articles that would have gone on here in the past and that you might have missed.

Science Fiction in General:

Star Trek:

The X-Files:

Star Wars:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Life in Our Galaxy Book Review

It's been awhile since I've reviewed a book, let alone a comic, so everyone! Rejoice! Boom is back, and she's got her reading glasses on.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Downside of Slash Fangirling (Or When Slash Isn't Sexy... It's Sexist)

I'm sure this is a dreaded moment for a lot of my male readers, but we all knew it was going to happen. I'm going to talk about slash.

Not The Slash, unfortunately. Slash, as in the pairing of (usually) straight male into romantic/sexual relationships. That being said, the #slash may be my favorite tag ever on tumblr....

And the award for most hilariously
incongruous tumblr hashtag goes to!
But male and/or non-slash readers, stick around, because a lot of this actually has to do with you. Believe it or not, the birth of slash may have more impact on your life and your favorite television shows than you think. And yes, even scifi shows.

I may not have been around for the early, early days of slash, but I was certainly there when it became popular. For me, it started with Gundam Wing. 

I actually find this seal really offensive, but
that's another post altogether...
I can literally describe my genesis as a slash fangirl. First, it was because the sight of it made my stomach do that good kind of flip-flop that told me I liked what I saw. Then, it was because I thought it made me progressive, and pro-gay rights. And when it became an obsession, I realized that all of it was because I was terrified of men always treating me like a sexual object, and I found refuge in slash because I couldn't be involved.

My neuroses aside, I was fetishizing men together, and I don't necessarily mean sexually. I was romantically fetishizing them as well. I made them into objects of my fantasy, which essentially dehumanized them completely...

...which brings us to now, where I've come to realize a great deal of hard truths about the slash fandoms.

How Slash Fetishization Marginalizes The Straight Woman, the Straight Man, and the Gay Man in One Fell Swoop
Let's first get this out of the way, because I know this is going to be the first thing I hear. "Boom! There is nothing wrong with being gay! And there certainly isn't any thing wrong with celebrating it!"

Well, imaginary person I made up making hypothetical accusations, you are right. Those are not wrong... if that was what was actually happening.

My problem stems from the fetishization of this sexuality, and the obsession with turning ostensibly straight men into gay men for the purposes of fanfiction. [EDIT: Though I feel that qualifies me to continue with this line of thinking, it's been pointed out to me that I have not made it clear that when writing this, I should say there are good slash fanfictions out there that do not have the problems I am about to spell out. However, I'm not really prepared to allow the few good fics I have read absolve all of the problematic ones that I've been inundated with.]

Okay, readers who don't like fanfiction, stick with me. This will have to do with you in just a second.

First, though, let's look at how slash manifests in terms of fanfiction:
  1. OOC
  2. PWP
  3. Character Hate
  4. Multiple Pairings
So let's take this problem by problem:

  • OOC
OOC stands for "Out of Character", and there are people who write this on purpose. Essentially, they take two characters and then write them doing and saying things that they would never do.

Why would someone do this? Well... I have two theories. The pertinent one is that OOC utilizes a character as a fantasy object and therefore dehumanizes it by forcing it be someone it's not. The second theory is that it's a way to write Mary Sue fiction without being accused of being a Mary Sue writer, but this has very little to do with my point aside from the writer, usually female, feels as if she has to divorce herself from the equation in order to achieve her fantasies.

If I really want to boil this down, OOC means taking someone for their looks, and making them play sexy puppet for your imagination.
[EDIT: It's been mentioned to me that OOC is generally reviled in the fanfiction world, which is true. But reviled or not, it still happens a lot, and people keep writing it, hence why I brought it up.]  

  • PWP
There are a few acronyms for this, but the two most used are "Porn Without Plot" and "Plot? What Plot?". Basically, the point behind these fanfictions are to hook two characters up (almost always slash, too) and have no plot aside from slick, throbbing, and other impossibly unsexily worded sex. Sometimes it's with two characters who would never hook up in the course of a television show, straight or not, and thus, the reasons for writing a PWP fanfiction is "because it's hot".

It's basically a porn where you take two people who most likely aren't gay and put them into slick and throbbing situation because the you thinks it's sexy. That doesn't make you, and let me quote my dear friend of the blog,  Ryan, "a flying rainbow of an LGBT ally because [you] watch Bait Bus."

It follows the mentality of "anyone can be gay" which is demeaning to anyone who actually struggles with their sexuality, as well as people who know what their sexuality is. Being straight shouldn't be a bad word any more than being gay is.
  • Character Hate
Fanfiction is peppered with character hate, and it's almost always directed at the canon girlfriend/love interest. What I mean by this is that somehow, in order to constitute a relationship between male characters, the best way to do it is to marginalize the women in the equation. This is either done through writing them as bitches who deserve to be... quite frankly... shanked, or pretending that they don't exist in the story at all.
Women, then, become an obstruction to true love in such a maligning way that they essentially slander themselves and their own sexuality.
  • Multiple Pairings
Multiple Pairings, or how I like to call it, EVERYONE IN THIS UNIVERSE IS GAY, is where there are many different slash couples in a story. I know people are going to wonder why I have a problem with that, and they are going to assume it's because I hate gay people or something stupid like that.

No. I just strongly dislike how this idea basically marginalizes everyone by assuming that we're all gay. The truth is that nobody knows the percentage of who is gay in the world, but the most optimistic has us at about 15 percent. Even if it were as high as that, it would mean these stories are statistically impossible. These stories basically say that being gay is the natural way of being, and as such, remove all other possible sexualities.

Do we all assume people are straight in television? Unfortunately, that answer to that question  is yes, we do. But completely reversing the issue doesn't make it go away. It just causes whole new problems.

So, let's bring this back together.

Slash can be harmful to the notion of straight male friendship because it suggests asserts that men can't have meaningful relationships with other men without fucking compromising their own sexuality. So what we get in society, then, is uberly testorone-filled boys who become that way because they are afraid to be labelled gay, which slash fans help by automatically characterizing any relationship between two men as being gay.

Next, slash can be harmful to the notion of gays because they become sexual objects and not humans, as evidenced by OOC and PWP. They may as well be the sexy librarian, or a blow up doll.

Lastly, it can be harmful to the notion of women, because women tend to be played as evil cock-blocking bitches who constantly get in the way of a noble love. It essentially assumes that the female gender can't be included in a meaningful relationship.

Therefore, the very concept of slash can be harmful to three separate sexualities...

...which leads me to the next thing I wish to talk about: the notion that liking slash is actually being progressive and pro-gay.

Sometimes Your Two Favorite Characters Will Never Get Married. Get Over It.

These shirts are very popular. Pick a slash pairing from any fandom, and you will have a shirt.

Fandoms (from left to right):
Watson/Sherlock (Johnlock), Merlin/Arthur (Merthur) and Kirk/Spock (Spirk)
Sherlock Holmes, Merlin, Star Trek: The Original Series

"But Boom," you say, "They promote equality."

"They really don't, though," I reply, despite loving the NOH8 movement from which these t-shirts are associated. "Now allow my rebuttal to be unnecessarily long-winded."

First of all, none of these couples mentioned on the t-shirts ever get married, so they're all lies.

But really, that's not my problem with it. Instead, my problem is that these t-shirts aren't trying to normalize being gay; they are trying to normalize a fetish that potentially marginalizes three different sexualities.

This assumes that men can't have meaningful relationships with one another without being gay, and then traps them in a box as well.

These shirts, essentially, insist on stereotypes. It also forces gays into a heteronormative stereotype, which leads us neatly to my next section.

Fanfiction and Heteronormative Roles for Not-so Hetero-people

Honestly, if I want to do a TL;DR version of this section, here it is: Mpreg.

I'll let the fangirls nod sagely at that for a moment before explaining my point.

Here's the TL;DR (slightly longer version): Mpreg is fanfiction where two men are romantically involved and one gets pregnant... somehow. Reason is usually not a factor in these particular fanfics.

My point is this:

Taking gay couples, and then forcing them into heteronormative roles is offensive in two ways. Firstly, it assumes that gay couples are the same as heterosexual couples (though they do definitely deserve the same rights). And secondly, it assumes that all hetero couples have typified male and female roles.

Essentially, writing male couples as a commonplace male/female couples not only damages perception of gay men and their representation in media and culture, it highlights how deeply rooted misogynistic thinking in our society is; that there is always a dominate (male) role and a submissive (female) one.

Now, it's easy to say that that's just Mpreg, but it's really not. Read fanfiction. See how often one is cast in a typically female role, and the other in a male. If all else fails, let's not forget the cadres of writers who spin stories about which character in a pairing would wear a wedding dress when (not if) they get married.

Or even more poignantly, top!character versus bottom!character. In other words, the fangirls' need to know who- to put this crudely-- pitches, and who catches only goes to show how strongly ingrained heteronormative thinking is, and how we try to put it on gay men without thinking that this may not be the sort of relationship they would choose.

A great deal of slash fanfiction, then, essentially assumes gay men think the same as women do.

When Women Don't Exist
Let's set aside my problem with television, and its fans, conflating all love into romantic love and come to just as serious of a problem. The marginalization of women.

When female characters aren't written well, and a girl desires romance, what characters are they supposed to turn to?

It should say something that in the entirety of Supernatural the only episodes I can think of that may pass the Bechdel Test involve the ill-fated Jo and Ellen, and even then, I can only think of two episodes that may pass it. But let's be fair. Even if every episode Jo and Ellen were in passed the Bechdel Test, that would still be a pathetically low number.

What is the Bechdel Test?

It is three simple questions that one asks to measure the amount of female presence in a movie. They are as follows:
  • Are there two female characters with names?
  • Do these two female characters talk?
  • When they talk, do they talk about something that doesn't have to do with men?

As you can see, The Bechdel Test is an embarrassingly low bar to pass, so one wonders if the rise of slash doesn't stem from something more systemic, and comes about due to the nature of misogyny inherent in media.

If women who watch television shows want romantic attachments, the only characters who are truly developed characters are men. As such, they become the only available choices for romantic attachment.

Believe you me, if I wanted Dean to be in a relationship with anyone that wasn't a man, I would be hard pressed to find one that would have something meaningful with him. As for Sam, they kill every single women he gets attached to... true story. First episode even.

Women, in these shows, then, become sex objects and nothing more. No show really displays that quite like Supernatural. Even the most fleshed out female character, aside from Meg (who is a demon who can change genders if she chooses so I'm not sure if she counts), is hit on thirty minutes before she dies. It's also worth noting that she dies before she can talk to the other female character, who chats with a corpse... which I'm relatively certain won't pass the Bechdel Test... though I'm not sure.

I call it the Winchester Principle.
This goes back further than the last eight seasons of Supernatural, of course. An even more obvious example of the lack of female presence, especially in terms of relationships, is this famous Star Trek episode:


But even James Bond has this issue. We all know that all James Bond movies are deeply masculine movies, where chicks are things to be banged or killed. So, it should say something about the culture of romance in movies that all the fangirls attached themselves to the fact that villain (a man) hits on Bond by caressing him, and suggesting he not knock having sex with a man until he tries it. To this, Bond responds with "who says this is my first time?"

Aside from the fact that this is obviously queer-baiting, which is something I will discuss in the next section, the need for fangirls to hang onto this very short conversation and gif it within an hour of the premiere date means that relationships between women and James Bond don't matter and this is the only possibly meaningful one they can find in the movie.

Source: http://vinsh.tumblr.com/post/36597079530
"The name is Bond. Gayes Bond."
To summarize: there are fangirls who fantasize about men being in relationships with one another because they can't imagine being in an meaningful relationship themselves. After all, how could they be when their sex is written so badly?

The Rise of Queer Baiting

Now that it's evident girls really like guys who like guys, no matter how misguided it may be, we have come to a unique time in television writing: queer-baiting.

The idea of queer-baiting is specifically putting gay/homoerotic context in relationships in order to keep girls interested in the show. However, the writers/cast keep just enough out to keep the men interested.

The scene I mentioned in the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, is a prime example of that.

Which, again, makes slash something that is completely demeaning to the gay experience. Having it be something that is nothing more meaningful than a commercial vehicle eliminates all the profundity a homosexual relationship is capable of having.

Let me put this in almost as dehumanizing of a context as queer-baiting is: Christmas.

How long have we heard people bitch about Christmas being commercialized? That the meaning of Christmas is lost in the bells and whistles of decorated stores begging you to buy something?

That's what queer-baiting is. Buy our show. Not because we believe in the savior (or whatever you think Christmas is about) they are gay, but because we pretend to.

And this is meaning of slash, Charlie Brown.

Should You Stop Reading Slash?

No. That's not the point of this post. This is not an exercise in kink-shaming, or denouncing people who only think they support gay rights.

The point is to make slash fans aware of the harm they may be doing.

Honestly, we need more gay characters in television, and ones that aren't the stereotype. Slash at least promotes the idea that a good population of television watchers aren't against it, and a number of non-heteronormative characters have been emerging, which is encouraging!

But the other facts can't be denied either. We ungender women constantly in our quest for slash, we demean other forms of meaningful relationships with men, and we deny an entire spectrum of homosexual love that may have nothing to do with our heterosexual conception of it. Then the media that creates it starts to prey on that and there starts a downward spiral.

Or as friend of the blog and fellow podcaster, Jacquie, puts it more succinctly:
"I've never taken issues with people masturbating to fictional characters based only on their looks as long as they are aware that's what they're doing."
 And that, my friends and readers, is why I wrote this.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Looper - Movie Review

Friend of the blog, Greg, always said that he'd watch a time travel movie if they could just do one right. By that, he means, none of that circular logic that turns your brain into mush, which Looper actually does address beautifully.

Still, I can't tell you that Looper is that perfect time travel movie Greg is looking for.

For all that it has really interesting ideas that follow time travel, it still lampshades the mind-bending premise of two timelines merging to make a "cogent" story by having not one, but two characters say that it's a bad idea to explain how time travel works because it will fry your brain.

Thanks guys! Now I don't have to think at all when I watch this movie!

So, really --and take this from me-- just watch the movie and try not to work out the "if a future timeline affects the past, which then affects the future, how the hell did that future timeline happen at all?". Do that, and it's a damn good movie.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt acts from the top of his fake-Bruce-Willis nose to the the tips of his 70s throw-back shoes, and I mean act. He changes his gait, the way he holds himself, and his own speech patterns. It's unbelievable how effectively he transformed himself into something that isn't even a caricature of Bruce Willis (though Willis does a good job of being his own caricature, actually...), but something wholly organic and believable.

He even did the squinty eyes! CONSISTENTLY.

Frankly, all the actors are great, and there is very little in this movie that I can really poo-poo aside from the difficulties with the time-travel concept as mentioned above. It's dark, surprisingly funny, and unrelenting in its reality.

I should mention that the movie is about time travel and telekensis.

So... I can't really explain how they made this so real without taking away from the movie, so just know that they did it.

But my favorite part, and I can't stress this enough, was there was no romantic subplot for the main character... (well, not the main character's present self... gah... time travel). Therefore, this is one of the few sci-fi movies that takes a good premise and doesn't muddy the waters with a cliche love affair. It's wonderful, and allows for a drama I don't think most sci-fi get to indulge in because it's too busy pandering to the masses.

Thus, I must conclude that you all should watch it. It was depressing, really, how empty the theatre was when I went to see it tonight (opening night, I might add), so I'm sending you out now! Make the Saturday showing a good one!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Japanese Sci-Fi Shorts (or in which Boom prefers Sci-fi Short Films to Short Stories)

When it comes to Japanese sci-fi, it's really hit or miss for me, which should be evidenced in my review of 10 Billion Days & 100 Billion Nights and the fact that a disproportionate part of my High school life was dedicated to Gundam Wing.

Yeah. I said it. I still love that horribly animated show with its politics that are basically Political Science 101. Whatever.

Honestly, someday I'd like to rewrite this, if only to get
rid some of the racial stereotypes, and misogyny, and tighten up the  plot.
One of the places Japanese Sci-fi really excels, though, in is short films.

Before I indulge in those, however, let me explain just why I love these sci-fi shorts when it seems even a simple Bradbury or Dick story doesn't do it for me (read: I am a sci-fi heretic).

The medium allows for a far more immersive environment than a short story ever could. Even a two-minute fan-made film of Jed Whedon and The Willings' "The Ancestors" tells a story more completely than the short stories I read. The plot hermeneutically lies completely in images, and how the audience put it together.

I think when one writes, especially a short story, one doesn't want to get bogged down in too much detail. It would distract from the story that is being told. But when it comes to films, one can add all those small things that are important to the world, but not necessary to the story. Then, the audience can spend time at it's leisure to try and piece together what happened to make the environment the story takes place in.

Which brings me to my two of my favorite sci-fi anythings ever made: Voices from a Distant Star (星の声) and Pale Cocoon (ペイルコクーン).

These two shorts tell two relatively simple, yet original, stories that are made all the more unique by the sheer amount of detail put into animating them.

Voices from a Distant Star

You can watch this amazing anime here. It's only 25 minutes long, so I'm not asking too much of your time!

The first time I ever saw this was at Starfest in Colorado, and I was not really willing to. I saw the artwork, and was dramatically underwhelmed by it. I was even more underwhelmed when the friend that pushed me into the viewing room at one in the morning told me that the man who created it, Makota Shinkai, had made it completely on his own.

I was being uncharitable, yes. But I was tired! Do you know how much energy cons take?!

But, because I can get pressured into doing anything, I watched it... and it transformed me. It took a simple precept of light speed, meaning that if one moves at the speed of light, time slows down, and turns into something beautiful. Though I'd like to use a more scientific explanation, I really think it was explained best in Contact, which I bring up just because I'm a Saganite and I think all people should be.

In any case, Palmer Joss talks about this in the movie Contact, where he tries to convince Ellie not to go on the alien "ship" because by the time she returns everyone she ever knew or loved would have passed on.

The basic premise of the short, then, is what becomes of a relationship when one remains the same age, and the other grows old, the messages sent between them growing further and further apart.

I love that it takes a scientific concept and turns into a truly emotional story, and I love how the world is ours and not ours in all its jarring beauty. I never have this feeling when I read a sci-fi short story.

Even better, the story has hints of Ender's Game, and a Japanese sci-fi favorite, mechas.

Pale Cocoon 

You can watch it here. Please check it out. It's amazing.

Yet another anime I was introduced to at a con, and one a I watched several times without subtitles because I hadn't realized there were any English ones on my DVD! Dumb, dumb me. My Japanese is good, but apparently not good enough to understand sci-fi without help.

Anyway, this story focuses on a concept I think we all wonder about (read: probably only me?). What will happen to all our records in the future, and why do we keep them? Will our progeny understand them? Or even be alive?

More importantly, if the world is hugely changed, what will they do with all the records we leave for them?

I guess, in short, it asks how will our ghosts haunt the future?

The two characters, in only twenty-five minutes, are brilliantly fleshed out, brought to life through the way they move, and react, something which can be difficult to capture on the page. The loneliness of the main character's time card sitting alone in a large shelf of a place that was once full of archealogists, and the disembodied voice that talks to him in his dark cubicle say so much about the world and the character's problems then if it had to be told and detailed to you in words.

The way one characters lies on a grate instead of working, looking up at a sky that doesn't exist also exudes a certain beauty when you realize it yourself, instead of being told.

Like Voices from a Distant Star, Pale Cocoon takes a simple sci-fi concept and turns into something else. It takes survivors from a long disappeared Earth and makes an emotional short that leaves all the answers in the small nooks and crannies of the images.

And, it may just be my favorite science-fiction ever made.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ray Bradbury is Retroactively Cliche (Young Generation Problems)

First of all! I apologize for the brief hiatus you've had to endure, but when real life presents itself and says "You may have a chance to live your life without TOO many money troubles" you sort of have to take it.

So I've used this image in other articles. It's painfully relevant
to most everything I do.
So! While I was away, trying to live a life outside of being a sci-fi nerd/shut-in, I picked up a collection of Bradbury short stories at a book sale.

Random wise advice courtesy of Simon Amstell.
Since, dear readers, I believe you to be wonderful people who don't judge, I'm going to assume that no one is going point out the irony in the fact that, while attempting to live a "normal life", I bought a book of mostly sci-fi short stories.


As I was reading the stories, I kept having heretical thoughts like "Bradbury isn't all he's cracked up to be!" and "I've so heard this one before!" and "I can predict the ending and I'm only a paragraph in!"

Then I would have to remind myself that the man wrote Fahrenheit 451 and try and get over myself.

But I couldn't, and I now realize why. Bradbury is so influential on the science fiction that I grew up with that it's only natural I feel that everything he's written has already been said. Because in my weird wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey way of existing as a science fiction fan, it already has.

My first sci-fi wasn't The Martian Chronicles, or even Asimov's I, Robot. It was Star Trek, which drew on themes put forth in classic sci-fi stories. My sci-fi was Star Wars, and Sliders. It was everything but the old stuff (or so I thought).

Thus, when I started reading Bradbury (and if I'm honest, I feel the same way about Phillip K. Dick), I find myself bored at times because I feel like it's been done before.

Which it has. It just that these stories were the before. The problem, then, is that for me, it's not the first time I'm reading about this idea. I then struggle to find enjoyment because I'm not surprised or intrigued by any of it.

I wonder if anyone else has had similar problems, or if my timeline is really that wonky.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Startide Rising Book Review

I feel like I should start this with a disclaimer: I don't usually read things that, when described to me, bring back memories of all the Christian Riese Lassen folders I owned in elementary school.

So, basically that means I don't usually read things that can be summarized as dolphins in space. Especially when they have 80s-tastic cover art like this:

But, a friend with taste that I only question about half of the time less than other people said I should read it, and so I did.

And you know what? It wasn't bad.

I'd go so far as to say it was actually good.

That's right. A novel about dolphins in space is actually pretty good. And I say that in spite of sexual tension between dolphins.... and dolphins and humans for that matter.

Though, I have to admit, because of this book, I'm now able to put dolphins in the same category as my parents: I'm aware that they have sex, but I don't want to talk about it. You know what? NEVERMIND. THEY DON'T. THEY NEVER HAVE SEX. EVER.

Except they do. They totally do.


Okay. It only happens once in the book, but you know what? Once is a lot as far as I'm concerned.

So, Startide Rising is not the first book in the Uplift series, but I've been assured that it's the most enjoyable, hence why I'm starting with it. And you know what? It really was enjoyable. I never thought in a million years that I would be entertained by a book like this.

From the space battle that rages overhead to gain control of crashed maiden voyage of a dolphin spaceship, to the complex relationship that humans have with the rest of the universe, this books is nonstop science-fiction/action goodness.

And the premise is the most intriguing part. Imagine a universe where every species is brought to sentience through a patron race who then genetically controls the very nature of their being (some might call it slavery, and others, tyranny). Throw humans in, who seem to have evolved on their own, though most people think their patron race skedaddled, and you have political and theoretical upheaval like you've never seen in sci-fi. Then have the humans decide to patron their own client races but give them some semblance of freewill, and all you get is a lot of scared aliens and fantastic sci-fi.

With some dolphin fucking... but whatever.

My only qualm with the book is the amount of names you have to associate with dolphins that all look the same to me in my head. I don't really know the difference between the dolphins, and honestly, until now, I only though there were two species of it. Just so you know, there are thirty-two species, and after viewing the link I'm providing here, I'm feeling really rather stupid. Thus, if you think all dolphins look like grey bottlenoses, you may have the same problem I did keeping track of the dolphin characters.

Aside from that, the book is a genuinely good read. It's filled with action, aliens, and philosophy. What else do you need?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Three Times the Total Recall

I was ready to watch Total Recall yesterday. I totally pre-gamed it.

I main-lined the original Philip K. Dick short story, and chased it down with a little Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was ready to go to the cinema and die of Total Recall poisoning! In the name of blog!

And if I felt like this at the end of doing all three,
then so be it.
And all I can say is.... well... I have no idea. It wasn't bad. It wasn't great. I mean, for the most part, it was enjoyable. What I can say is that I'm surprised that I think of the three, I prefer that horrible, horrible movie from the 1990, which just isn't like me. I never enjoy Schwarzenegger unironically, and Philip K. Dick usually makes me happy.

That being said, over the course of my Total Recall binge, it was fun to watch the progression of the stories change. It was as if the writers of the first movie were like "I really like that Phillip K. Dick story, but it needs more gratuitous violence, and less inference to aliens still existing. Also, Quail is a stupid name. Quaid is a million times better."

Then the second movie came along, and the writers were like, "I really like that Schwarzenegger movie, but we need less Mars and aliens, but we definitely need to keep the three-titted woman."

Compare all the tits!
The remake is pretty much scene-for-scene the original, except it decided to take itself seriously. This means no more mutated alien babies in Marshall Bell's stomach, no exploding woman in a yellow coat (though she did sort of appear as an homage in one scene), and no bitch-fight between the wife and girlfriend. Also, no corpse shields held up with one hand to be thrown at pursuers, or needlessly violent fight scenes that end up with comically severed limbs.

But I suppose that's what happens when you remake an R-movie into PG-13. The three-titted woman stays, but the rest? The rest has got to go!

What's interesting is that the actors, during the promotion, have stated that this movie is not a 1990 remake, but an adaptation of the short story. Did I mention that they kept three-tits (who does not exist in the short story)? Just how is this not a remake?

But, it's not just that. There are too many similarities to the 1990 version for it to be a fresh take on the short story.

So let me break this down with as few spoilers as possible (I'll keep the biggest, most obvious similarity a secret if only because I don't want to ruin the movie for everyone).

The first movie starts with a dream about Quaid's past, and not surprisingly, so does the remake. The conversation about Quaid suffering from a paranoid delusion back in Recall is almost directly lifted from the 1990 movie, and you guessed it, doesn't exist in the short story. It's hinted to in the short story that wife may have been a spy, but in the original movie she becomes super spy/assassin dead set on killing the guy she shacked up with six weeks. It should surprise no one that the 2012 movie follows that line almost completely.

Though admittedly, Beckinsale gets to wear sexier clothing.
Sharon Stone gets to be Sonya from
Mortal Kombat.
The only thing different is that the 2012 movie takes place completely on Earth. Now, I don't know if that's because current audiences think the idea of space travel is cheesy, or if because somehow that would be more expensive to shoot, but my guess is that with the trend of post-apocalyptic worlds hitting its stride in this decade, it's the former.

But if you're wondering if you should go see this movie, let me summarize what my friends (who I forced to go with me) said:
"Not bad. I'm surprised that I actually enjoyed it."
Which is weird, because all they did was bitch at me for making bad life decisions not two hours before. But they did admit that they may have been victims of the "disappointment effect", which is to say you go to a movie so set on being disappointed by it that, when it's slightly better than you expect, you sort of like it... which is exactly how I intend to raise my kids.

I'm already a bad mom...
Accordingly, the disappointment effect will make
me feel like a great one!
 As for me? My opinion is largely "meh" on the Boom Richter Scale of Movie Enjoyment.

As for elements I enjoyed:

  • I loved the world-building. The details in every scene were amazing, and I spent most of my time going over every bit of scenery to see what was hidden in its nooks and crannies. 
  • Kate Bekinsale was brilliant, though that should surprise no one. 
  • Bryan Cranston (who you will never hear me berate in anyway seeing as he is in my favorite X-File episode, my favorite episode of Saturday Night Live, and my favorite sitcom growing up when they cancelled 3rd Rock, Malcolm in the Middle) was a surprisingly believable bad-ass asshole. 
  • Oh, and don't forget blonde John Cho who bites it within two minutes of being likeable in a smarmy kind of way.

Essentially, the cast is too good for this movie to truly blow, and I say this despite the fact I had difficulty telling Beckinsale and Biel apart initially (what? white actresses do tend to look the same to me!).

Elements I did not enjoy don't really exist. I mean, the only line I wanted them to keep was "Consider that a divorce", wasn't in the movie at all, but I'm not going to condemn an entire movie that distracted me from my life just because it was my favorite line in a movie that I don't actually list as a favorite.

For the most part, it was an action movie. Nothing less, and certainly nothing more.

So, give it a chance guys! If nothing else, there is much running away from explosions. MUCH!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Science Fiction in the Olympics

You may have read an earlier article here at Loving the Alien about a little known Science Fiction lawyer show called Century City, which can be read here. It was nine episodes long, and cancelled almost immediately so I never thought I would have to bring it up again, but life is always full of surprises, isn't it?

Lately, the news has been running stories about the South African Olympian dubbed the "The Blade Runner" named so, not because of his talents in taking down organic robots who think they can pass as humans on Earth, but rather because he is double amputee who uses sort of blade-like prosthetics to run.

But his moniker is not where reality mimics science fiction; it is his story.

In the episode, "Love and Games", Teddy Paikin is a baseball player with a bionic eye who isn't allowed to play in all the reindeer games baseball, the argument being that he may have an unfair advantage because he's been upgraded (though his vision is actually average).

Paikin's lawyers argue that it's discrimination against the disabled.

Yeah, in case you're wondering, that IS Zachary Ty Bryan
talking to Ioan Gruffudd.

Guess what international court battle pretty much follows along the exact same lines? If you guessed Oscar Pistorius, you are correct. You can read an article about it here.

Oscar Pistorius in a Oakley Ad

Really, science fiction needs to be given far more credit than it's ever afforded. There are reasons we look to the future. It's because we know it's coming and we need to be prepared.

The only thing that is markedly different between the fictional case of Teddy Paikin and the very real case of Oscar Pistorius, aside from one being about an eye and the other about legs, is that Pistorius winning at his trial is deemed largely a non-issue because he isn't actually considered to be competition. If he wins at the Olympics, however, that will be another case.

Now, for Century City, the episode "Love and Games" only has drama because Paikin can be competitive, and that is where the trial goes after it's realized the opposition can't win if its about disabilities.

That's the future, it seems, or at least where we think it's going to lead, be it implicit in our reality, or explicit in a science-fiction show: Disabilities becoming advantages, and the "normals" becoming the ones discriminated against.

How odd that an underrated, seven-year old show with almost no viewership predicted it and addressed it. We really need to keep our scifi shows on the air more consistently.