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This Week in White Fragility – Dear White People Netflix Trailer

Two days ago, Netflix dropped a trailer for Dear White People, a series based on the 2014 film of the same name. Since then, white supremacists and other similarly fragile folk have taken to YouTube to blanket the trailer’s comments section with thoughtful, incisive gems such as “Hey everyone, the creator called critics "white supremacists".. Maybe we should do the black kind of thing and burn down their set?” and “Amazon Prime is the new Netflix, and its better. Goodbye Netflix, enjoy your racism.”

To his credit, the show’s creator, Justin Simien, is taking the racist trolling in stride. On his Twitter account, he chalked up the backlash to some white folks’ “fear of being overlooked,” a fear which, he says, is shared by the characters in his new show. I’m looking forward to the show, and to the miniscule uptick in Netflix’s bandwidth now that they’ve lost dozens of racist subscribers. Though, if I know the caliber of people who confine their protesting to tweets and comments, I’m sure they’ll be texting a sibling to borrow that login and password before the show drops on April 28.


Don’t Call it a Comeback – M. Night Shyamalan

I’m a Shyamalan apologist. A knight in the service of M. Night. My loyalty is unbreak—never mind. When I tuned in to a recent episode of The /Filmcast devoted to discussing Shyamalan’s new film, Split, I was almost over-hyped by the hosts’ fifteen-minute-long spoiler warning. I hit pause, texted some friends, and saw the movie the following night. Not only am I glad I went in to the film unsullied by spoilers, I’m glad audiences are coming around to a more balanced take on Shyamalan’s filmography. I haven’t seen all of his movies, and some of the ones I haven’t seen—Lady in the Water,  After Earth—happen to be the most derided of the bunch. And while I admit that The Last Airbender was an unqualified flop by every metric except for box office receipts, movies like The Happening and The Village are underrated. Mark Wahlberg knew the kinds of choices he was making in The Happening. His whiny reticence makes the horrors of the film all the more shocking when they creep into frame on a poisoned breeze.

And speaking of actors’ choices, James McAvoy, the male lead in Split, is putting every choice on full display in this film. He does the most, and it’s always enough. Playing a character with multiple personalities is a dream for most actors, and he does not waste his shot. I leaned forward whenever he was on screen, waiting, unsure whether I was about to laugh or reflexively throw my popcorn in some impotent gesture of self-defense. He’s the real deal, and his co-stars, Anya Taylor-Joy and Betty Buckley, are mostly well-served by the script, having lots of moments to steal scenes in their own right.


We Were on a Break! – Marvel Comics Civil War II

I love crossover events in comics. I love having sustained, multi-month reasons for Iron Man, the X-Men, and Captain America to interact with Miles Morales aka Black Spider-Man aka just be an adult and call him Spider-Man, please. So when a new member of the Inhumans (think X-Men but generally hairier) emerges, with the power to generate visions of a possible future, I was eager to see how this story could play out. Over the course of the event, which ran until last month, characters described this superpower as a kind of profiling, with potential for good and for evil. So, of course, the black and Latino Spider-Man Miles Morales became the moral centerpiece of the storyline, a kind of superhuman hill for either Tony Stark (Iron Man) or Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel) to die on. If you know anything about which of these two characters is played by an actor who might want to retire from making Marvel movies at some point, you can guess which character ends up in a coma at the end of the story.

I wish I could recommend this arc to readers wholeheartedly. The art by David Marquez and Justin Ponsor and many others is as beautiful as ever and there are some great character moments early on, especially in issues focused on Bruce Banner, better known as the Hulk. But part of what makes this storyline a cheap imitation of the 2006 Civil War in Marvel Comics is the false equivalence between Tony’s and Carol’s positions on profiling. Brian Michael Bendis, who wrote Civil War II, never convinced me that Carol’s position was as justified as Tony’s. When you operate at that kind of sympathy deficit as a reader, characters who are supposed to feel like heroes in an impossible crisis end up feeling more like villains or, worse still, plot devices.

Also, we had a character with the power to immerse crowds in emotionally-influenced visions of a possible future. How could Bendis not seize on the Trump parallels? Wasted opportunity! Sad!


You’re Doing It Right – Riverdale

Teen soap operas are back, and none of the characters need to fly, run fast, or shoot arrows with their abs. Riverdale premiered on the CW two weeks ago and, three episodes in, I’m smitten with this adaptation of the rebooted Archie comic series. New Zealander KJ Apa plays Archie, a jacked fifteen-year-old Varsity football player with three love interests (his music teacher, his best friend, and the new girl in town) who has to split his time between football, working construction with his father, and writing really good pop songs about semi-requited love.

This show is perfectly cast, top to bottom. Luke Perry is surprisingly terrific as Archie’s dad Fred. Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse, who play Betty and Jughead respectively, both can do so much with a close-up that the show doesn’t even have to be well-written to stay interesting. But since this show appears to be a thoughtful mash-up of Twin Peaks and Dawson’s Creek, staying interesting shouldn’t be a problem.


Simple Pleasure - Swype

When President Bannon gets me down, I take joy wherever I can find it. This week, I’m grateful for the satisfying sine wave I make with my finger on my smartphone’s Swype keyboard when typing the word “awful.” The blue squiggle lingers just long enough for me to appreciate its symmetry and momentarily distracts me from the fact that, until impeachment proceedings become the hottest summer jam of 2017, I’m going to be typing the word “awful” more and more often.


Current Wikipedia Rabbit Hole – The Caning of Charles Sumner

Everything I have read about Representative Preston Brooks brutally beating Senator Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate in 1856 makes me feel tremendously proud of how far our politics have come in the intervening 161 years, and equally concerned about how easily we might backslide. To fall down this particular Wiki-hole is to see shades of the ongoing divide between liberals and conservatives—the liberal habit of condescending to those considered morally or intellectually inferior, the conservative habit of seeing equality and freedom as assured if they exist for themselves and everyone they know personally, and the habit of people who are kind of cool with slavery to be equally cool with assaulting people who are rude to them.

We have so much work to do. Work in the field of treating the mental disease of racism and its symptoms, which manifest to varying degrees in all people. And in the field of repairing our ability to separate open minds from closed ones, and not dismissing open-minded people based on a single criterion. In the field of keeping facts and opinions straight in our minds, and sharing our beliefs, and letting facts guide us to new and constantly improving ideas about how to keep this marble spinning. And we have work to do in the field of protecting one another because, while I don’t think it’s reasonable to hope that we should all have the same number of commas in our checking account balance, we improve as a society when the number of people who feel safe going to a movie theater, or voting for president, or emigrating to a land of opportunity, or getting pulled over for speeding, grows. We have to grow that number. That’s the work.

above image: John L. Magee (c.1820–c.1870) - Lithograph reproduced here, (wikimedia commons / {{PD-US}})

I can't really remember not being famous.

I can't really remember not being famous.