Saturday, April 05, 2014

50 Shades of Smartass: Chapter 22

Here's an important question: is Ana supposed to be a pretentious asshole, or does she just come across that way because she's written by a pretentious asshole?

Do you remember back in Twilight how Bella was always casually judging everyone she met, even though we were apparently supposed to find her likable? I remember being especially annoyed by that, because it made Bella kind of a sociopath who--even though she was always putting herself down--was also basically waiting for someone who was special enough to be deserving of her. Ana is the same way. She is always looking down on everyone in such a casual way. Of course she loves Christian and she always will, no matter what he does to her: because he's so wealthy and omg hawt and so far removed and above it all. He's literally like Jean Marais in Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast. And he's all tortured and she gets to fix it. What pretentious asshole could resist that?

Even at the top of the chapter, she's taking this moment to try and make Christian jealous by emailing him about how she got a massage in the first class lounge, but tells us of her masseur "He was a very nice young man, in a blonde, perma-tanned way--honestly, who has a tan in Seattle? It’s just so wrong. I think he was gay--but I’ll just keep that detail to myself." Yes, because every gay man conforms to this stereotype in your head. She later refers to him as "very gay" in a needless upgrade of her bitchiness. Why is it that every time Ana thinks someone is gay, it seems to carry a negative connotation? Or, even worse, this sort of connotation of "the other," like a gay person is a different species? Remember how angry Christian got when Ana asked if he was gay? Jesus, has EL James ever met a gay person? It's not like making first contact with an alien, you cretin.

She also mentions for us that the flight attendant wears too much make-up. Yes, judge people you know nothing about, it's not like you think of them as people. Obviously, you're an excellent judge of character, right, dumbass?

You know, I didn't even mention it last week because I wanted to get through it (and I was more struck by her idiotic description of the woman with "Pre-Raphaelite hair"), but she was totally running an internal judgement diagnostic on "Jack Hyde" simply because he said he preferred modern literature to her beloved classics, as though it's bizarre that someone would want to read something reflective of their own time period. Look, I'm not saying this to be a judgy Ana about it, but EL James never went to college, right? Because if she had, she'd know that an English major can't get away with only reading "the classics," whatever that means. "The classics" is not a genre of literature... it's a pretty wide range, and it goes at least through the 1950s or later. And it also goes back much further. I assume that when Ana says she loves the classics, she's not referring to actual Classical literature, because she doesn't strike me as much for Homer, Aristotle, Euripides, or Thucydides. (Her loss.) She seems rather narrowly focused on basically 18th and 19th century English literature, which is fine... unless you're actually an English student. Read something from this century. Or, you know, the last one. How did you get through high school without reading To Kill a Mockingbird?

I'm asking as someone with an actual English degree who read a lot of 20th century literature in college. And Dante. And Milton. And on and on through the whole history of literature.

I know, I know, someone who has tastes that differ from yours is beneath you.

It's that attitude that makes it unbelievable that she'd never used the internet before. That's all it is.



I have a headache now.

A few points in this chapter:

:: Ana is way too thrilled with herself for trying to torment Christian by telling him about the massage. "I almost hug myself with mischievous glee." Yeah, it's a real roller coaster. If you delight in tormenting your significant other about their insecurities, you are not in a healthy relationship.

:: A flight attendant handing you a blanket and a pillow is not mollycoddling you, idiot. This is like when she thought it was shockingly inappropriate for the doctor to pay her a compliment. You have serious problems with narcissism if someone merely fulfilling the basic functions of their job reads as paying you special attention. What do you call it when someone double-bags your bottle of milk at the grocery store? Cosseting?

:: For a moment, Ana is actually frightened that Christian might just show up to take the empty seat next to her. If you're afraid of your significant other showing up out of the blue, you are not in a healthy relationship.

:: You're not supposed to be using your MacBook or your BlackBerry on the plane, you dolt. You're not supposed to use the internet on a flight. Oh, wait, you're special. Sorry, I forgot.

Ana sends Christian this whole stupid email about how she's afraid of him and afraid of getting hurt both emotionally and physically, and also uses the word "envisaged" again unnecessarily, and still basically says that she loves him and wants to be with him but she doesn't like the bondage and it scares her but, you know, she'll try to do it, etc. You're just handing him the whole map to your damaged psyche, aren't you? She's reiterated this in every chapter now: I love him but I don't love bondage and pain but I'll just grit my teeth and try to like it if it's the only way to be with him. Fucking why? You can find someone else to love.

I keep thinking that she just doesn't think she deserves better, but the fact is, she feeds on this. It's special and different and removed from everyone else, and it's hers. She keeps talking about how Christian is fucked up, but so is she. She comes from a broken home, and she's very withdrawn, and she doesn't stand up for herself very much, and now she's fixated on someone who's clearly wrong for her, probably because she somehow thinks she's going to end up like her once-widowed, twice-divorced mother. Ana has this deep need to make this work because she has to be special enough to overcome all of her doubts. But that's no way to be happy. You will never be happy that way.

Selena Gomez should be playing Ana in the movie.

:: We get to Georgia to meet Ana's mother and Ana's stepfather Bob. Bob thinks her bag with the MacBook in it is very heavy. You're not cut out for golf if you can't lift a simple laptop, Bob.

:: Georgia is very hot. I know, I've been there, and that was the worst humidity I've ever experienced in my life. It's like you're swimming through the air everywhere you go. Humidity, by the way, is the word James is looking for when she describes Georgia's "wet heat." She can pull out "envisaged," but not "humidity." Maybe because "humidity" would have actually fit.

:: In case you desperately needed to know, Bob drives a Tahoe SUV. How many more brand names can she drop in, do you think?

:: For someone who wanted to go hide at mommy's house in order to have space to think about her relationship, Ana sure does flip out when anyone asks her questions about it. She's the same way with her mom that she is with Kate. Personal questions? Oh, shit! Minor freak-out! Why are you so terrified that someone has taken a personal interest in you?

Also, she frets about what she can tell her mother because of the (legally nonbinding) NDA she signed without reading. LOL at her describing Christian as someone who had a "grim upbringing," though.

:: Ana's mother's advice: "Men aren't really complicated, Ana, honey. They are very simple, literal creatures. They usually mean what they say. And we spend hours trying to analyze what they've said, when really it's obvious." As a man who has been in therapy for a year and who has ruined a lot of the good things in his life because of mental disorders, I would like to invite Ana's mother to go fuck herself. I'm so sick of this cliche of how simple and literal men are. Fuck you, bitch, I've got deep recesses. Parts of me are complicated. You not having testosterone and a penis doesn't give you some kind of proprietary insight into the existential dilemma. I have mysteries, bitch. The only thing simple here is your attempt to give your daughter relationship advice. Ana, maybe don't take relationship advice from someone on her fourth husband, alright?

:: Ana thinks about her deceased biological father for literally a second. "My real dad, this mythical man I never knew, snatched so cruelly from us in a combat training accident when he was a marine." No back story on that? No insight? Okay, it's not like it matters, I guess. Let's gloss over the things that make Ana damaged and obsess over the things that make Christian in need of love's redemption, or whatever.

This is like the constant mention of Darfur: appropriation of real life traumas without giving them any depth or explanation just to make a character seem more tragic or something. Blech.

:: For some reason, I'm really annoyed by the way Ana constantly refers to her MacBook as "the mean machine." Maybe it's because no 22 year-old today would ever think to say that. It's just so poorly written. She never turns it on, either. She always "fires it up." It just irritates me. Word choice matters.

:: Christian writes a very long email in response to Ana. He does say something useful, which is that she's only ever completely honest with him over email and never in person. But, honestly, he's never that honest, either. All in all, this email of his--which is all about how he doesn't want to lose her but he does want to address the things she's having doubts about--is really only honest enough to be emotionally manipulative.

First, he tackles the thing about money, basically by saying that he's not paying her for sex, just that he wants to do nice things for her since he can afford to and that he doesn't know how to make her feel like that's okay. Here's what you do: you meet in the middle. If she's uncomfortable with accepting gifts, stop surprising her with them. Talk to her about things you'd like to do for her. If you want to buy her a car, don't just do it and tell her to live with it. Make her a part of the decision and a part of the process. Make her aware of why it's important to you to be able to give her things. The real issue here is that it feels like you're making decisions for her. It's a respect issue.

Then he talks about the whole sub thing. He says the sub is the one with all the power in the Dom/sub dynamic, which is an oversimplification, but isn't entirely inaccurate. If a sub says no or uses a safeword, you have to respect that. It's partially about finding the sub's limits, and when you hit one, you be respectful and stop. But there's also trust built into that; the sub trusts the Dom not to just keep pushing. Christian points to his not spanking Ana in the boathouse because she said no as a model of his willingness to restrain himself from going too far... but he did fuck her anyway, and made her withhold her orgasm, so, it's not like he restrained himself at all, really. Again, it's about respect, trust, and boundaries. The money thing is about boundaries.

He says that "I have to earn your trust, but by the same token, you have to communicate with me when I am failing to do this." Which is true, but hollow. How has Christian been earning her trust? By constantly overstepping? By not respecting her boundaries, ever? By getting her drunk when she tries to negotiate her boundaries in good faith? By stalking her and trying to control her behavior? Give me a break.

Also, remember his stupid contract that he wants her to sign? By the terms of that contract, she's not allowed to refuse anything he wants to do to her. Signing the contract is automatic consent to anything he wants to do to her, remember? So all of this bullshit about trust and communication is pretty disingenuous.

(Aside: I want this to end with Ana taking Christian to court and see him try to defend it. To Judge Judy. That would be amazing.)

Then we get this: "[...] the only time you do assume the correct demeanor for a sub is in the playroom. It seems that’s the one place where you let me exercise proper control over you, and the only place you do as you’re told." Well, what does that tell you, pal? Look, she's meeting you halfway for some reason. She's trying with the bondage. She's a sub in the playroom. Why does she need to be totally submissive and under your control in every other aspect of life?

Rather than see this email for the emotional manipulation it is--Christian has basically set up a pattern of "Don't be sad, I'm so sorry I upset you, I will be very nice and tender with you" followed by "I OWN YOU AND THIS PAIN IS FOR YOUR OWN PLEASURE STOP CRYING ABOUT IT ABUSE IS LOVE YOU AGREED TO THIS SO THIS IS YOUR FAULT"--Ana feels her love all renewed and just wants to be with Christian all the time because she's terrifyingly co-dependent.

:: Ana is actually scared when her mother asks her about who she's talking to online. If you're afraid to tell people you're talking to your significant other, you are not in a healthy relationship.

:: Another stupid, boring, long, faux-flirty email exchange follows. Honestly, email sex? What is this, 2002? Don't you have instant messaging on that BlackBerry?

She calls his "epistle" "verbose" and "loquacious." She later accuses Christian of looking in the thesaurus when he uses "concupiscent." All of these words, and EL James can't pull out "humid"?

:: Ana freaks out internally when she points out to her mother that she's wearing Kate's dress (the same one she wore to her graduation) and her mother asks why she's wearing Kate's clothes. Why are you so scared of personal questions? It's getting really weird.

:: Ana finds out that Christian went out to dinner with "Mrs. Robinson," whom he has said is still a friend, and she goes into a rage over it, asking questions like "Why can't he see her for what she is--a child molester?" and "How dare she? How dare she pick on a vulnerable adolescent?" Good questions. I guess part of the answer is that abuse is really complicated, as you are yourself discovering by being abused by this same guy.

It's striking me as false the way Ana keeps getting so indignant and angry about Christian being abused when he was younger, but is constantly being abused by him now and EL James is celebrating it as though it were real romantic love. Her abusive relationship is apparently romance, and her abuser can be redeemed through her love, but his abuser is a monster. It's just... sad. It's so sad to read about.

Ana is so immediately dependent on Christian, so lost and adrift when he's not around, so apparently worthless without a man to love... she feels so sad for Christian that he was abused... and then she suddenly turns around and feels betrayed by him because "I am away for two days, and he runs off to that evil bitch."

I feel like we're running through a whole lot of neuroses very quickly in this moment, and it's so, so sad. He's really done a number on her, and we're supposed to accept it as romance?

Well, at least Christian cares about her boundaries. He cares about them so much that in the very last email he sends, he lets her know he's watching her. Yes, he's followed her down to Georgia because he cares so goddamn much about respecting her boundaries.

Four chapters left.

Four fucking chapters.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Because Muppet Outtakes Are the Best Outtakes

Toyota Highlander has released a bunch of outtakes and bloopers from their ad campaign featuring the Muppets. They're all super short, and are cheerful for what is (for me, anyways) a gloomy, cloudy, rainy Friday.

On a slightly unrelated note, is anyone else watching Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge on the channel formerly known as Sci-Fi? Because that is a damn good show.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Marvels: Fantastic Four #18

"A Skrull Walks Among Us!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(September 1963)

It's been 16 issues (and one annual) since the Fantastic Four foiled the Skrull invasion. Back then, Reed scared the Skrulls off by showing them clippings from Strange Tales and claiming Earth held a variety of monsters. But the Skrulls must have figured that out, because not only are they planning a new conquest of Earth--they've also realized that the key to a successful invasion is taking out the Fantastic Four.

Enter the Super-Skrull. This guy is a great villain. With Doctor Doom in retreat, the FF have a lot of free time on their hands. Stan & Jack clearly need to raise the stakes now, and they do so by creating a hero who not only has all of the powers of the Fantastic Four, but better versions of those powers. Mister Fantastic can stretch? Super-Skrull stretches much farther--at least a hundred miles! The Human Torch can flame on; Super-Skrull can flame on for longer, fly faster, and concentrate a blast of flame so densely that it literally becomes antimatter. The Thing has incredible strength? Well...

The Super-Skrull can lift one hundred tons, apparently twenty times what the Thing can lift.

And the Invisible Girl's powers? He can duplicate those, too. And apparently there's one other secret power that's yet to be disclosed...

Damn, Skrull scientists. That is some amazing super-science.

The Fantastic Four are shopping in a department store when the Super-Skrull lands in Times Square and claims Earth for the Skrulls. (He even plants a flag in the sidewalk!) The FF are mobbed by the crowds, but rush to face this new menace.

Most of what follows is a fight scene, but it's a pretty epic one. I won't go through it blow by blow, but everyone's powers--both the FF's and the Super-Skrull's--are showcased really well. Super-Skrull flies rings around Johnny and blinds him with black carbon. He injures Reed worse than we've ever seen before. He batters the Thing so hard that Ben's thrown across the city and only stops himself by grabbing the needle at the top of the Chrysler Building. He uses his invisibility to throw them off-balance and fire flame arrows at them unseen, like the Predator. The Fantastic Four have to retreat back to the Baxter Building!

The Super-Skrull is worthy villain for the FF, and he defeats them soundly. But then he makes the cardinal mistake of so many villains: he gets arrogant about it. He lets the FF have a night to breathe before he finishes them off, and that's enough time for Reed to figure out a solution.

Reed figures out that the Super-Skrull's powers require an additional power source, and (somehow, but it's dramatic enough to accept) determines he must be receiving rays from his fifth quadrant homeworld to keep him powered. He makes a tiny, sub-miniaturized jamming device that will disrupt the signal and de-power the Super-Skrull, and decides that Sue is the only one who can get close enough to the Super-Skrull to put the device on him. (Sue, as usual, is under-utilized in this issue, so it's nice to see her suddenly become an integral component of Reed's plan.)

The FF use their Pogo Plane to draw the Super-Skrull out to Crater Island for the final battle. It's there that he unleashes his hidden power: a hypnotic glare that seems to rob everyone of their strength and will. He makes short work of the men, but Sue, invisible, jumps the Super-Skrull from behind and slaps the jammer on him. Cut off from his powers, the rest of the team recovers, and Sue tricks him into falling into the crater the island is named for. Johnny seals him inside and they basically just leave him there.

How many Skrulls does that make walking around the planet now?

Of course, this one's trapped in a deep crater on a remote rock in the ocean, but I can't wait to see what happens when he breaks out of there. (According to Marvel Wiki, I only have to wait... 14 issues? Aw, man!)

Another excellent issue in a long run of quality comic book storytelling!

Stray observations:

:: The Thing sent away for a Mouseketeers pin when no one was looking. You ol' softie.

:: Reed and Sue take off to Waikiki for a while for a real vacation in their passenger ICBM. The dialogue in this panel is priceless.

He's henpecked, you see.

:: "Boy, it must be a gas workin' in a place with all these chicks!" I can tell Johnny's never worked retail before. It's like how now I always feel bad when I hear a young person say they want to work at a bookstore because they "love books." Oh, you poor thing...

:: Interesting moment when the crowd in the store is mobbing the FF: Sue turns invisible, but her designer dress does not. Reed and Johnny use their powers and don't ruin their clothes, so they must pretty much be always wearing clothes made of unstable molecules, but Sue wears a lot of couture. I think that's a neat detail, and nicely paid attention to by Kirby and Ayers.

:: When the Super-Skrull lands in Times Square, right away someone thinks it's an advertising stunt. This must have been a golden age for advertising stunts. (And hauntings, considering how often Sue does anything and people think a place must be haunted.)

:: In the letter column, Stan Lee gives Steve Ditko the credit for creating the corner boxes on the Marvel covers. Paul B. Weinstein of Portsmouth, Ohio, would like more recognition of Marvel's Westerns (particularly Two-Gun Kid, which is a very good series). Dick Tedor of Lake Bluff, Illinois, wonders how Sue Storm could be so attracted to the "gremlin-like" Namor. Robert Caldwell of Peekskill, New York, doesn't care for the Red Ghost or the proliferation of cliche commie villains (I agree). Steve Sough of Findlay, Ohio, is annoyed by the letters which point out simple errors in the comics... if he thinks that's tiresome, I wonder what he thinks of the internet!

The letter column is also starting to become a home for the praise of other Marvel comics that don't have their own letter columns: Tom Jones of Aberdeen, Maryland, prefers Thor to the Fantastic Four and loves Loki, while Anthony Corda of Flushing, New York, thinks Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos is the best war book out there (I agree).

And Alan Wheeler of Oakland, California, says what we're all thinking about Marvel's books: "NOT ENOUGH GIRLS." What's with all of the sausage, Stan?

The last letter in this column is from Ron Foss himself! That's some fandom history, for you. Read a bit about Foss here. There's also a mention from Stan that an FF fan club will begin publishing a fanzine; he name-checks Fred Bronson as the editor, and you can read all about Bronson here. (He even wrote for Star Trek!)

:: In addition to teasing the FF and Strange Tales annuals, and the first issues of The Avengers and The X-Men, Stan also mentions that Reed Richards will make a brief appearance in Sgt. Fury #3. We'll get to that after the next one.

Speaking of which: be here next time when Thor faces Merlin, because why not?

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

L Is for Lazy

When I was in fifth grade, I had a teacher who used to get her students meaningful Christmas presents. For example, she would give the kids who talked the most in class miniature plungers and tell the kids they were for their mouths. It actually kind of sounds mean-spirited, but she had a way of making it clear that they were gag gifts. She wasn't trying to tear anyone down.

I had a habit of not doing my homework, so she got me a copy of Roger Hargreaves' Mr. Lazy. I think I still have this around here somewhere. It's true: I am pretty lazy. I'm low-functioning, as my therapist calls it. And I'm not very motivated.

I was just thinking of this today because it's Wednesday and those days can be pretty lazy for me. I'm coming out of a few weeks of intense depression, and I'm trying to take it a bit easy. I always try to take it easy on Wednesdays. I don't always succeed.

What is it about Wednesdays? Well, it's the day my wife spends the longest working. She works for four different vendors, and Wednesday is a heavy day. She's out all over town for anywhere between 8 and 12 hours. Sometimes it's longer, particularly around the holidays, and I'm going to bed alone because she doesn't get home until 2:30 or 3 in the morning.

It's hard for me... ever since I came off of Lexapro in 2012, my mental and emotional issues have been much more pronounced, and my age-old issues with being neglected as a child tend to come into play when I'm alone for a very long time. I'm lonely, so I try to be lazy and just relax and watch movies or read. And, you know, take Xanax. A warm coffee and a book do a lot to take me out of myself.

Why did I have so much trouble in math in fifth grade? I was certainly low-functioning then. I lagged behind in math and it made me feel stupid, and so I just didn't do my homework because it made me feel stupid, and I didn't ask for help because for some reason that just felt wrong to me. To this day, I won't ask for help when I really need it because I feel like I shouldn't impose myself on anyone. It makes the simplest things hard, because over the past few years I find myself flustered and confused very easily.

This is my Wednesday, generally.

Time to shut down, make some coffee, and read.

ABC Wednesday

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

How I Met Your Mother

I admit, there was part of me that held out hope for the final episode of How I Met Your Mother. I've spent a long time with these characters, and even as this final season got more and more teeth-grindingly stupid, there was a small part of me that hoped we could get away with a decent finale. I just wanted something to salvage so that watching the last couple of seasons hadn't been a total waste of time.

Well... didn't happen.

Spoilers for the episode, obviously.

I had three giant problems with the episode--and, by extension, the series as a whole--and if you watched it, you can already guess what they were.

First problem: as the show goes into the future, Barney and Robin are only married for a couple of years before they get divorced.

So... we had to endure their relationship, which was okay, and then their break-up, which was excruciating, and then their second attempt at a relationship, which was alternatingly dull and insulting, and then their wedding getting teased for years, and then a season-long wedding weekend... all of which played a major role in derailing the show in the first place... all for a marriage that ends in divorce in the first 15 minutes of the finale?

The great thing about this show is that in its first four years--what I will probably be referring to as the "good years" from now on--is that it all seemed pretty planned out. At some point in season five, you could feel the entropy settle in and from there the whole thing just meandered on and on. If there's a sitcom that makes the case that you probably shouldn't go over five seasons, this one was it. One of the unique things about the show was the way it doubled back on itself, set things up sometimes seasons in advance, and had a great sense of an overall plan and continuity that felt like it knew where it was going. But at some point, the show just started adding stuff for the sake of making more money and more episodes, and they lost the plot. They lost the plot big time. They undid a lot of character development and rehashed fights that had been settled long before. They kept repeating plot points and having characters act completely out of character for episodes to work. And they kept trying to convince us that Robin, the most independent character on the show, would be rendered whiny, dependent, and desperate because she fell in love with an immature, womanizing quasi-rapist. Great job, show. Great job.

The finale had so many unearned emotional moments. Barney being awestruck by the birth of his daughter was just so shoehorned in. What could have been a nice (if obvious) moment in a more measured season felt cliched and manipulative because it came out of nowhere.

Second problem: the Mother. As I've been complaining all season, she was barely a character. I hate the way she was introduced. I always felt like the original plan was for Victoria to come back into Ted's life and turn out to be the Mother. That really would've been the way to go for the final season, especially had season 5 been the final season. And this is nothing against Cristin Milioti, who was fine with what she had to work with. In fact, if they'd introduced her more organically and made her a real character, I probably would have liked her a great deal. But she was never a character, ever. She was a plot device.

We never got to know her. She swoops in and fixes all of Lilly's problems. Then all of Barney's. Then all of Marshall's. Then all of Robin's. She's this magical glue that patched up everyone's lives, so everyone has their big life-changing moment with her before Ted even meets her. And then she's just pretty much a mirror of Ted as we montage through their lives together and then find out that she's been dead the whole time Ted has been telling the story. Dead for six years. So rushed it has no emotional weight.

This was just a bad call, because it was another unearned emotional moment. I didn't feel anything, and most of us saw the twist coming a few weeks ago. If it had been Victoria and she'd come back, so that we already knew her from the first season and got to see them be a couple and fall deeper in love and have these meaningful moments that were just stacked hastily one on top of the other in the final episode, that might have been an emotional climax. Instead, Victoria did come back and turned out to be a slob or whatever the problem was, and that was all chucked aside in favor of a plot device that turns out to be all set-up for the real twist, which is my...

Third problem: Ted ends up with Robin, anyway.

I knew they were going to end up pulling a Ross and Rachel on this, because TV shows refuse to imagine that characters who are immediately attracted to each other or harboring secret lifelong crushes might not always end up together, even if it takes decades.

They did this thing in the worst way, too. Because in the first goddamn episode, we were told that Ted and Robin didn't end up together. We were told repeatedly that they didn't. As the show dragged on and the creators decided Barney was the great love of Robin's life, they went out of their way on several occasions to show us how wrong Ted and Robin were for each other.

The thing about this show is that it used to be so well-written and well-executed that I didn't care who the Mother was and didn't care about the Robin thing. It didn't bother me at all that Ted and Robin were a couple for the entire second season, even though you knew she wasn't the Mother, because it was just so fun to watch and they brought it to a point where it seemed realistic enough that they could remain friends even though it didn't work out. But they kept going to that well in a way that seemed really pointless and frustrating because we knew, for nine years, that they weren't going to end up together.

And then they did.

Not only that, but they've had this ending in mind all along, because they filmed the kids pushing Ted to go get Robin years ago, when the show started.

So the Mother's death is ultimately meaningless, and her existence is ultimately meaningless, because she's just a plot point: a way to make Ted more mature so that he can move on to the real love of his life. So, in the end, the Mother magically fixes all of Ted's problems, too. At this point, I was just amazed that they didn't have the Mother on her deathbed telling Robin to take care of him.

And even their getting together was unearned, too, because the show's just been jerking us around for nine seasons.

Really, with all of the flash-forwards, it kind of felt like the creators just went ahead and undermined every significant decision the characters had made in the course of the series. Which is a shame, because what I loved so much about this series was that it felt like watching my generation mature. For a series that was always so proudly romantic and optimistic, this ending was a real downer and surprisingly unromantic. I feel like even the callback with the blue french horn just diminished all of the growth Ted had had over the run of the show. One episode ago he's telling Robin "I'm not that guy anymore, you don't know who I am now," and the next episode he's pulling a big, crazy romantic gesture so he can be 25 again. It took us right back to all the times that they tried to make it work as a couple and found out that they didn't. They never worked as a couple, and really they never loved each other so much as when one of them was romantically unavailable. It just didn't land for me, because now we're going right back to that place where they never worked out. We've been beat over the head with this constantly: they do not make each other happy.

I at least hope he doesn't force her to get rid of her dogs in a blaze of insecurity this time.

And all this time, the whole series, was spent building up the Mother into everything that Ted ever wanted, only to have her wind up as a footnote to the epic love story of Ted and Robin. A symbolic, vaguely Mary Sue-ish plot device in the long run of getting Ted to Robin. At least that's how it felt to me. I see a lot of viewers who feel differently about it. But it wasn't enough time, as a viewer, to go right from the Mother dying to Ted's kids excitedly mocking him for not realizing he's been in love with Robin the whole time and to go and be with her. It was tonal dissonance. (In fact, was it just me, or did they all spend the next several years basically in a living hell because of all the decisions that they made in the final season? Also, notice how the whole thing is really about getting Ted everything in the end? He got the kids he wanted, but he also got to get Robin, because the Mother conveniently died. How sweet of her!)

And all of this happened in a single episode, instead of more interestingly over a whole season. A whole season which took place over one weekend featuring a wedding that ended up being completely unrelated to the show's ending. So many missed opportunities to tell interesting stories. Instead we get slap fighting, a road trip into infinity, Lilly basically doing nothing but drinking and crying, William Zabka, and the Mother's magical fix patches. Everything they did in the finale could have been a couple of good seasons of TV... honestly, Barney and Robin could've gotten married back in season 4 and the rest of the show could've integrated all of the stuff we saw in the finale and actually developed the characters. But instead the show just sort of... existed for five seasons and rushed through a finale and took this person who was built up by the entire series (starting right there in the freaking title) and used her 100% as a placeholder to make Ted mature enough to go after Robin again.

Yeah, that's great work, you guys.

Not only does the ending emotionally negate most of the final season, it almost makes earlier episodes of the show actively worse.

Time is a flat circle, and we all run around making the same mistakes over and over again. Keep stealing that french horn, I'm sure this is the time it'll work!

And that, kids, is the story of how I never got over your Aunt Robin. Even when I was married to your gestational carrier.

UPDATE: Joel Murphy really nails the moral of the ending.

UPDATE 2: Todd VanDerWerff has some thoughtful points about the series as a whole.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Lorenzo Semple, Jr. 1923-2014

Recently, Fox announced that they were finally able to release the classic Batman TV series on DVD. Lorenzo Semple, Jr., who wrote the first four episodes and served as executive story editor, unfortunately passed away over the weekend. Sad news; Batman and I had and on-again off-again history. I loved it when I was a kid, hated the campiness as a young adult, and finally embraced the campiness and more or less "got the joke" in the last few years. I hope I'll be able to get those DVDs when they're out.

Semple also wrote two movies I love which, admittedly, are also pretty campy: Flash Gordon (another one it took me too long to appreciate) and Sheena (cable staple of my youth). His work gave me some enjoyment.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Man, could we just please cast her as the Wasp or, I don't know, Hellcat or something?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Song of the Week: "Sweet Child O' Mine"

Postmodern Jukebox featuring Miche Braden, in the style of 1920s New Orleans blues. Got my Sunday rollin'!