Tagtelevision

On GOTHAM and Always Being Batman

A good deal of our remit, over here, is to talk about many of the themes of the fringes of things through the lens of pop culture. To that end, I’ve been having some thoughts about what they’re doing with the idea of the Joker in the show GOTHAM. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen this, already, or maybe sometimes your eyes just glaze over when I go on the long rants, but anyway… Spoilers. Also, one image of violence and blood.

Throughout all of season one of GOTHAM, they teased over and over again that this or that villain of the week was going to end up becoming the entity that we know as The Joker. They did this all the way until the end of the first season, when we were introduced to Jerome Valeska, who worked with the circus and killed his mother and had just the most Infectious laugh.

They brought this character into season 2, as well, and in every ep we saw more and more of the Joker’s trademarks: constant killing for no reason, jokes and storytelling while putting himself in potentially deadly situations, desire for the spotlight, and the laughs and laughs and laughs. His father, the circus psychic, even prophesies to Jerome that his legacy will be madness and chaos and death and blood and laughter, and that children will wake screaming at the very thought of him. Jerome dies at the end of episode 3 of season two, at the culmination of a televised hostage situation, during which the whole city sees that face and hears that laugh.

Jerome is stabbed in the neck and he dies with a rictus grin on his face, and his own bright red blood around his lips and pooling in the corners. In the wake of the hostage situation and Jerome’s death, the TV news predictably plays the footage over and over. Showing that smile, that face, and letting everybody hear that laugh. A laugh that spreads through the city, to men in bars and children in wealthy homes and homeless people on the streets and two thugs who kill a homeless guy, laughing the whole time, one of whom then turns on and kills the other. Who dies laughing. All while Jerome’s father’s prophecy plays, again, as voice over.

In this way, The Joker is not a person. It’s not even People. The Joker is a demon, a virus, a possessing spirit and a disease that looks for the optimal structure, the precise right moment to enter you and make you into one of its limbs.

So I’ve gotta say, unless GOTHAM‘s long-term plan is that there will never be a singular Batman, never any Individual Rogues, i am really divided on the Jerome thing. I love the literal take on Grant Morrison’s ‘The Joker Is A Virus of Super Sanity, and thus is any- and everyone who is able to be that “free,”‘ but that idea really only works if the show also goes Batman, Inc., from the BEGINNING.

That is, if the animating spirit of justice/vengeance rests on or emanates from Bruce Wayne, first (though its origins, if any, would have to go back to at least Thomas Wayne, as things stand in the show), but ultimately is such that Everyone With A Mind To Becomes some form of Batman. In this, Bruce doesn’t “train” Dick, Jason, Tim, Barbara, Stephanie, Cassandra, Terry, he resonates with them and simply shows them what they are. What they all always have been, together.

I say that  this has to be the way of things because, now, anyone other than Jerome Valeska being possessed by that spirit of Jokerness and becoming the nemesis of a Bruce Wayne Batman, in the GOTHAM universe, will just ring far less mythic than it could. It would be a single human fighting an idea, a spirit, a legend, a myth, an evil god whose source that human has SEEN and TOUCHED. When what we could have is two Archetypes battling each other, forever.

In fact, my thesis is that, in Gotham’s universe, Wayne CANNOT be the only Batman. Ultimately, he can’t even be the first one in a line of Succession. Wayne has to be Gotham’s Shaman. He has to be its instructor and instrument of combat magick, its Medicine Man (which also gives greater mythic weight to the role Dr Thompkins plays and will play). He’s a guide to this realm where we are all caught between these miasmas of despair and longings for justice and the constant desperate madness underneath it all.

Unused Rian Hughes Batman, Inc. Logo

In this shamanic take there’d be no “order” or “chaos” to battle. At least not as we usually define them. There’s a Batman who recognizes a dark kind of balance and harmony and knowing that the struggle is eternal because the struggle is all of reality pulling against and defining itself. In this version, Batman’s purpose is rendered not as dichotomy of Good Vs Evil, Law Vs Crime, Justice Vs Injustice, but as a dialectic where all these things, all of these elements of Gotham, generate each other. Wayne’s purpose is to strive for the better, but always knowing that there will be forces that seek utter imbalance and destruction. THAT’S Jerome’s Legacy. That is what the essence of the Joker IS.

So, if they can still surprise everyone and pull THAT off—Bruce-Wayne-As-Shamanic-Guide, initiating Tim, Dick, Babs, &c into Batman’s/Gotham’s Mysteries—then I’ll be satisfied.

Just some thoughts, now that I’m caught up with GOTHAM.

10 Years of Nathan Fucking Barley

Nathan Barley geek pie hairdo

Andrew Harrison channels Dan Ashcroft on the 10 year anniversary of the debut of Charlie Booker’s Nathan Barley:

From cereal cafes to breakfast raves to adult ball pools, from TV shows like Sex Box to newspaper features about the “meaning” of the Man Bun hairdo to inexplicable online phenomena like Ello, our world has been Barleyed. It is uncanny. Created as a comic figure, Nathan has become an insult and a signifier and maybe even – here’s the frightening part – a role model. At 10 years’ remove the show seems less a comedy and more a documentary about the future.

“Back when we were shooting it,” says the actor Nicholas Burns, who played Nathan, “I remember one producer saying, ‘This show will date terribly. In three or four years it’ll look awful.’ But watching it again, you see how prescient it was. It really is the world we live in now. A friend who lives in Dalston told me they saw someone riding a penny farthing the other day. It’s unbelievable really.”

Full Story: The Guardian: Totally Mexico! How the Nathan Barley nightmare came true

Great piece, though I think the hipster hate angle is overplayed. However tiresome I find artisan mustache wax, I’m much more suspicious of the Banana Republic clad 30 and 40 somethings with inexplicably huge bar tab budgets now overrunning inner Portland than I am of the bearded hipster scene these days.

Black Mirror Now on Netflix

Black Mirror

The biting, darkly satirical sci-fi anthology show Black Mirror is now available on Netflix, which I think may mark the first time the show has been available to watch legally in the U.S. Think of it as a modern British take on The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits. Highly recommended.

Also, Variety reports: “‘Mad Men’ star Jon Hamm, ‘Game of Thrones’ thesp Oona Chaplin and Rafe Spall will co-star in the ‘Black Mirror’ feature-length special due to air on U.K. free-to-air channel Channel 4 this Christmas.”

Mutation Vectors: Speculative Geopolitics Edition

Status Update

I spent yesterday afternoon at Maker Faire volunteering at the Tesseract Design booth, where I was lucky enough to watch Crawford 3D scanning people and then printing out little plastic busts of them. Talk about a New Aesthetic experience. I also got to see a a real-life Flintstones car and a bunch of Tesla coils.

Spending today recovering from too much heat and not enough water, and catching up on some reading.

Browsing

“The current struggle for Scottish independence has about as much to do with the events depicted in Braveheart as America’s ongoing racial struggles have to do with the events depicted in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” writes Amanda Taub for Vox. In fact, the movie is outrageously historically inaccurate even by Hollywood standards. Fortunately, Taub also wrote a nice ‘splainer on the whole situation. Meanwhile, Quinn Norton puts it in context with other contemporary independence movements.

On a weirder note, China has been manufacturing islands in a bid to gain legitimate control over the South China Sea. M1k3y speculates that China could eventually become the first off-world power.

Elsewhere in hypothetical geopolitics: if Reddit were a country it would be a failed state.

And for a taste of something completely different, how about the Islamic roots of science fiction?

Watching

After binging through the entire new season of Trailer Park Boys, we just started the latest season of Channel 4’s Utopia which as I’ve mentioned was one of my favorite shows of last year.

Listening

Continuing the fequent Mutation Vectors motif of me finding out that one of my favorite bands has a new album out months after the fact, this week I found out that Bruxa who I raved about before put out a new album in July on a pay watcha want basis.

Apps

Mailpile, a web-based e-mail client that aims to balance security and usability, is now it beta. You can check out my story on them from back when they had just finished their crowdfunding here.

The Rise and Rise of Television Torture

Hansel at Interpet This writes:

But this prevalence of torture that you see in otherwise very comparable shows is not limited to Fringe. It is everywhere in American entertainment now.

Everywhere you see it it promotes the lie that torture works. It does this very effectively. Because usually we, the audience, already know that the person being tortured has the information. They just will not give it up. In real life of course torture is not like that. In the hundreds of torture scenes that have been acted out in popular media only a handful show the victim making things up, and saying whatever they think the torturer wants to hear in order that they stop torturing them. Which is the reason why torture is not a useful tool. The process would be: Torture someone, they tell you something, you double check that story, maybe torture the people they implicate, then you find it out that there story was incorrect, go back to torturing them. Just one round of that might take days or a weeks. Which would make for boring TV.

Full Story: Interpret This: The Rise and Rise of Television Torture

(via Metafilter)

See also:

The politics of the man behind “24.”

Scalia: Fictional TV show justifies legal torture

Interview with Creator of Channel 4’s Utopia

Channel 4 Utopia

Channel 4’s Utopia was one of my favorite pieces of media of 2013. The series follows a group of average people who know each other through a web forum dedicated to a comic book called Utopia. As the events of the comic unfold in real life, the characters swept up in an Invisibles conspiracy adventure. Unlike most series about comic fans, this a dark, edgy thriller, not a campy sitcom.

Den of Geek interviewed series creator and writer Dennis Kelly a couple months ago:

There’s a question at the heart of Utopia that I can’t answer, which is, with a burgeoning population, what do we do? I have lots of answers for lots of the world’s problems, and no-one ever asks me so they’re still going on [sighs. Everyone laughs]. For this one, I don’t have an answer because my slightly lefty liberal sensibilities just cannot offer anything. There’s talk about birth-rates going down, but our birth-rate went from 2.7 to 2.4 in the last fourteen years and we still produced another billion people. Even if the birth-rate does lower to 2.2 or 2.3 we’ll still be producing another billion in twenty years and it’s just a fucking nightmare. Phosphates are not going to last, we’re not going to be able to feed this amount of people. I don’t have an answer to that. I don’t think that Utopia’s going to come up with an answer for that, and I think if the world looks to Utopia for an answer to that, we’re really in trouble, but to me that makes it interesting, because it’s difficult and I don’t understand it.

Full Story: Den of Geek: Dennis Kelly Interview

You can stream the whole series from the Channel 5 site if you’re in the UK. If you’re outside the UK you’ll have to get a little more… creative… if you want to watch the show. Oh, and HBO has the rights to do a remake of the series, with David Fincher and Rian Johnson possibly attached.

My thoughts on the Breaking Bad finale (Spoiler Warning!)

Warning: spoilers.

Continue reading

How a Team of Outsiders Created Doctor Who

Doctor Who

i09 has some interesting back history of Doctor Who and how difficult it was to get the show made:

Also, at the panel, Hussein and William Russell talked about how the first Doctor, William Hartnell, wasn’t just a cantankerous old man — he was also a very traditional Englishman, who wasn’t used to the idea of women working outside the home. And he didn’t know what to make of Hussein, “an East Indian who spoke posh English,” said Hussein. Thus, Hartnell took a lot of convincing that an East Asian man and a young woman were going to be up to their jobs. The first lunch Hussein and Lambert had with Hartnell, he seemed reluctant to take on the role, and they almost gave up. In the end, they decided to have a second lunch with Hartnell, at which it became clear that the actor wanted them to prove their qualifications.

i09: The creators of Doctor Who were a scandal

Invisible Babies = Codename: Kids Next Door

Codename Kids Next Door = The Invisibles

Danny Chaoflux on the similarities between The Invisibles by Grant Morrison and the Cartoon Network show Codename: Kids Next Door.

1: The leader, bald, wears shades, really into spy stuff.

2: Inventor/Shaman, always cracks jokes, “the weird one”, overweight [ie: Future Fanny].

3: Shes nuts.

4: Street thug with thick accent and hoodie.

5: Cool headed, laid back tomboy, specialty is stealth and investigation.

Theme : Worldwide loose knit cells operate in secret to protect and encourage freedom from tyranny.

The Antagonists : ‘The Old Gods’ and their lesser manifestations.

This has been brought up a number of places on the internet, but I wanted to shop an image to go along with it paired with a breakdown.

Sure you could say its a blatant rip off, but I think its more interesting to think of it as a starter set of key memes.

Stop Making Sense: Invisible Babies = Codename: Kids Next Door

Official Codename: Kids Next Door website.

The Wire As a Victorian Novel

Omar comin' yo!

This is an amazing treatment of The Wire a Victorian novel instead of an HBO t-series:

There are few works of greater scope or structural genius than the series of fiction pieces by Horatio Bucklesby Ogden, collectively known as The Wire; yet for the most part, this Victorian masterpiece has been forgotten and ignored by scholars and popular culture alike. Like his contemporary Charles Dickens, Ogden has, due to the rough and at times lurid nature of his material, been dismissed as a hack, despite significant endorsements of literary critics of the nineteenth century. Unlike the corpus of Dickens, The Wire failed to reach the critical mass of readers necessary to sustain interest over time, and thus runs the risk of falling into the obscurity of academia. We come to you today to right that gross literary injustice.

The Hooded Utilitarian: “When It’s Not Your Turn”: The Quintessentially Victorian Vision of Ogden’s “The Wire”

(Thanks Jillian!)

Apparently this essay is being turned into a book.

It’s part of a The Wire Round-Table at the site The Hooded Utilitarian.

Also included in the round-table is this essay on women in The Wire, which claims, quite rightly, that “The Wire is singularly unconcerned with how women fare in these institutions, the fates they face, the options open to them.”

See also:

When did TV become art?

Vice Magazine’s interview with David Simon

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