LGBT

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 9 predictions: Who will be the top 5?

Season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race is upon us come March 24 on VH1, and I can’t even figure out who will be the first queen sent home. All of this season’s queens seem like they could easily take the win, but even still, I have a couple of predictions as to who will be in the top five. Join me on a journey and see if you agree.

Nina Bonina Brown

 

Nina Bonina is someone who is a true unique force. That’s tough to say that with this list is because all of these queens on this list are true unique forces who are bringing something new to the art of drag. But what Nina brings is a truly different way to paint. She doesn’t just “beat a face” in the traditional beauty queen way; she literally becomes the characters in a hyperrealistic, yet very painterly way. It’s astonishing. (Case in point: her Transformations episode in which she made James St. James into Minnie Mouse.)

Also, her performances are wildly entertaining as well. Maybe the use of “wildly” is a bit of a pun, since this particular video is of her Season 9 premiere party performance as an ape. (As a Planet of the Apes superfan, it’s giving me visions of what an Ape City nightclub must be like and I love it.)

Sasha Velour

Sasha Velour is the performance art queen to beat. Sasha is probably the most avant-garde queen I’ve seen, and she definitely embodies that artsy New York spirit. She also has given herself the unique trademark of an artistic unibrow, which takes from further still from the traditional beauty makeup and presentation of what the mainstream might think of as a drag queen. Overall, Sasha’s elevated drag to a fine art level.

Shea Couleé

Shea Couleé has the makeup skills down and her own set of avant-garde references, as she showed in her episode of Transformations:

But she also has some amazing dancing skills, too, particularly with her Beyoncé performances.

I think she’s probably the most conventional on the list, but she’s got tons of stage presence, and she seems to be in line with the RuPaul mold of Young, Gifted and Black supermodel queens. RuPaul does like her Black Barbie queens, as evidenced by the wins of Bebe Sahara Benét, Tyra Sanchez, and Bob the Drag Queen (who does fall in line with that description for me–wouldn’t you count Viola Davis as a Barbie?), so Shea Coulee could certainly end up following in that tradition.

Valentina

I hope one day Valentina’s fans start calling her La Valentina, because she’s a true Diva in every sense of the word. Well, except for being mean; of course I haven’t seen the show, but she doesn’t strike me as a malicious queen. What she does strike me as is humble, graceful, and gracious to her fans, which is how our Divas used to be back in the day (if, for some Divas, only in their outward appearance to the public).

Valentina really embodies that Diva persona in the best possible way, so much so that it does take me back to my childhood in the ’90s, when you would see these larger-than-life singers like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey and Celine Dion and say, “Yes, that’s how a superstar is supposed to be!”

Of course, I’m using examples from my very narrow perspective; clearly, Valentina’s true love lies in showcasing the divas of her childhood and of her background, like Yma Sumac, Isabel Pantoja and Selena Quintanilla, to name just a few. Valentina said in her “Meet the Queens” interview that she tries to bring that telenovela, over-the-top dramatic style to her drag, and she certainly does, and for me, it’s the most comforting thing ever.

Also, she’s Boulet Brothers approved: She won a live stage version of “Dragula” two years ago, so if she can get the Boulet Brothers’ stamp of approval, then that means she’s definitely got some skills up her sleeve.

Aja

For me, it’s really going to come between Valentina, Sasha Velour and Aja for the crown. That’s my prediction and I’m sticking to it. Aja really has something special that gives her the X factor, and I think it’s her ability to tie today’s drag trends and direction to past influences, like The Fifth Element, singer La India and John Leguizamo’s drag-filled one-man comedy acts from the early ’90s. We haven’t even talked about her intense voguing yet, or her ability to perform to any song, whether it’s by a man or woman, whether it’s rap, R&B, salsa, what have you.

Many have tried to read her for looking a lot like Naomi Smalls, but could it be the no breastplate thing is just coming into vogue now? As I wrote above, Aja’s just as much about trends and trendsetting as she is about showcasing her varied pop culture influences and knowledge in her performances. I think she’s been able to combine everything we’ve seen from recent seasons and make something one-of-a-kind. It’s that alchemical ability that just might allow her to snatch the crown.

And just for good measure, here’s the act Aja was referencing in the John Leguizamo mix, “Manny the Fanny.”

Aja not only entertained me, but she taught me something new and increased my love for John Leguizamo ten-fold. Of course I’m going to root for her.

Who do you think will be in the top five? Who do you think will win? Give your opinions below!

When your feminism isn’t intersectional: Raquel Willis on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s recent “trans women” comments

Channel 4 Twitter/YouTube

The internet is full of faves, but it’s always the moment that they’re put on a pedestal that your faves end up disappointing you. Partly because they are human and humans will disppoint you, but also because you realize that sometimes, your faves still need schooling on certain areas of life and social politics. Case in point: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Adichie was on Channel 4 News recently, being asked about feminism and women’s issues. Then, she unwisely said that “trans women are trans women,” alluding to her opinion that trans women don’t belong under the same “woman” banner as folks who were born as ciswomen.

Here’s what she said:

Okay, let’s pump the brakes for just a second. As you know, Adichie came to full pop culture power when she was featured on Beyonce’s Flawless. She became lauded for her viewpoints on feminism, particularly where black feminism fits in within the entire “feminism” conversation. Her book sales skyrocketed and she became an overnight “fave” of the Beyhive and laypeople alike.

It’s unfortunate that Adichie has this viewpoint about who does and doesn’t belong under the umbrella of “womanhood,” because trans women are women, full stop. In fact, how she said it and what she said is eerily similar to how black women have to fight against white feminism all the time.

However, you don’t have to take my word for it. Raquel Willis, an advocate, activist, and member of the Transgender Law Center, wrote an important Twitter thread about her experiences as a trans woman and how Adichie’s comments are just a continuation of the kind of oppression trans women face on the daily from ciswomen.

Adichie also wrote an article for The Root, called “Trans Women Are Women. This Isn’t a Debate.”

Some key points of the article:

“I was inspired by seeing another black women so unapologetically claim the feminist label and be willing to discuss it publicly. However, I should have known that her [Adichie’s] analysis on womanhood would exclude transgender women. Plenty of other mainstream feminists have shared their own transmisogynistic (anti-trans-women) views with a conflation of gender, sex and socialization in their core beliefs about equality.”

“…She began by gaslighting transgender people. On one hand, she wanted to give the appearance of inclusion and understanding, but on the other, she stripped trans women of their womanhood. By not being able to simply say, ‘Trans women are women,’ Adichie is categorizing trans women as an ‘other’ from womanhood.

Trans women are a type of woman, just as women of color, disabled women and Christian women are types of women. Just as you would be bigoted to deny these women their womanhood, so would you be to deny trans women of theirs.

Then Adichie invalidates trans women for not having a certain set of experiences. When cisgender women do this, it reminds me of how white women in the United States were initially viewed as a more valid type of woman than black women. In her iconic 1851 ‘Ain’t I aWoman’ speech, Sojourner Truth spelled out how inaccurate and privileged it is for us to use these limitations in public discourse.

…Just as it was wrong for womanhood to be narrowly defined within the hegemonic white woman’s experience, so, too, is it wrong for womanhood to be defined as the hegemonic cisgender woman’s experience. Cis women may be the majority, but that hardly means their experience the only valid one.”

In short, to quote Willis’ article, trans women are women; this isn’t up for debate. Also, if you are in the public eye like Adichie, make sure to talk about stuff you know; don’t make assumptions about stuff you have no clue about.

Another point: Inclusion is key if we’re all going to get somewhere, and that means including and recognizing the humanity of all womanhood, which includes trans women. I’ll let Willis’ speech from the Women’s March be the last word.

What do you think of Adichie’s comments and Willis’ rebuttal? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

“Beauty and the Beast”: Let’s talk about LeFou – positive representation or token gay stereotype?

Is LeFou breaking new ground or is he just more of the same? (Disney/screengrab)

The big news coming out about Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast is that the Gaston’s sidekick character is gay. Not “coded as gay“–he’s actually, up and down, openly gay. We’re finally in the future, everyone!

Or are we? The character being officially out is something we have been hoping a mainstream family project would actually do. Also, it seems like Disney is also going to give us, as director Bill Condon has been saying, “an exclusively gay moment” at the end of LeFou’s journey in the film, which I can only assume that he ends up with a loving guy to call his own (if Gaston actually still dies in this live-action version, which I’m assuming he will). According to Attitude Magazine, Condon says:

“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston. He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”

Attitude’s Editor-in-Chief Matt Cain praised the film’s scene, calling it a “landmark moment for LGBT representation”:

“It may have been a long time coming but this is a watershed moment for Disney. By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural – and this is a message that will be heard in every country of the world, even countries where it’s still socially unacceptable or even illegal to be gay. It’s only a first step towards creating a cinematic world that reflects the one in which many of us are now proud to live. But it’s a step in the right direction and I applaud Disney for being brave enough to make it – and in doing so hopefully helping to change attitudes and bring about real social progress.”

HOWEVER, the clip from the film featuring LeFou singing the classic Beauty and the Beast song “Gaston,” seems a little…stereotypical? Check it out for yourself.

Josh Gad, who portrays LeFou, plays the role a little too stereotypically “fabulous,” at least from my point of view. He could have toned it down a little bit–I mean, it’s a broad role, to be sure, but come on! It doesn’t have to be that broad. But I could be wrong; LeFou might be less stereotypical than I’m thinking it is.

Marissa Martinelli seems to share my sentiment about the stereotypical aspects of LeFou in the live-action film in her Slate article “The ‘Exclusively Gay’ Character in the Beauty and the Beast Remake Is Not As Revolutionary As Disney Thinks It Is.” Martinelli discusses Disney’s huge queer-coding past with its villain (because remember: LeFou is still a villain) and how LeFou is still not a shining light of gay positivity:

But since the film has chosen to do that by including a character who is literally gay, it’s worth examining their choice. LeFou is a sidekick and a relatively minor character who spends most of the original film groveling at the feet of Gaston, a living embodiment of toxic masculinity if ever there was one, and receiving only abuse in return. That “falling for a straight boy” narrative is not exactly a shining example of LGBT positivity—though it’s possible, of course, that in Condon’s version, LeFou will finally stand up for himself. (Is that the “payoff” Condon is referring to?)

As Martinelli said, LeFou as openly gay is a milestone, but it’s still not as if Disney is bringing us the first gay Disney princess or even the Star Wars Finn/Poe relationship folks have been clamoring for. Also, Josh Gad is pulling the same basic BS others have done when discussing LeFou’s sexuality, which, from a cynical point of view, could be taken to mean Disney’s trying to backtrack from the small Alabama town (that I’ve never heard of and I’m from Alabama) that decided they didn’t want to show the movie, as well as Russia debating as to whether they’ll ban the film or not.

As he said to ABC during the film’s premiere:

“Is he the first gay Disney character? I’ll leave that audiences to decide.”

Now, someone could read this statement as him baiting Disney about their own checkered history with using gay themes and tropes in their characters (such as The Little Mermaid‘s Ursula the Sea Witch, who’s based on drag queen legend Divine, or Pocahontas‘ Governor Ratcliffe and Wiggins, who are not only voiced by David Ogden Stiers, who came out in 2009, but are also clearly in some kind of relationship, whether that be a surprisingly loving one, given Ratcliffe’s self-centeredness, or some kind of kinky 50 Shades of Grey thing). But that’s being optimistic. He’s using the same tactic Paul Feig used for Ghostbusters when discussing Kate McKinnon’s Ghostbusters character Holtmann. SIGH.

So…there we have it. Everything’s changed, but everything’s still the same.

What do you think about LeFou? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

 

The critics weigh in on ABC’s “When We Rise”

Did you check out ABC’s new miniseries When We Rise? I’m going to have my official review on the site by the end of this week, but until then, let’s take a look at what the critics said.

First, a quick synopsis, courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes:

The LGBT civil-rights movement is chronicled from its turbulent infancy to the present through the experiences of a diverse family of LGBT men and women.

It sounds promising, and something that’s much needed. It’s also a project the actors and crew are very proud of. Just read some of what Rafael de la Fuente, of Empire fame, had to say about his part in the show. (Also check out my exclusive interview with him here!)

Since TV shows are now given the Rotten Tomatoes rating, I went over to the site to see how well the show fared, and turns out…it’s fresh!

The show was given an 81 percent rating, with the general consensus being this:

When We Rise works as a well-meaning outreach project with a decent cast, even if the script’s ambitious reach slightly exceeds its grasp.

Now, I know I haven’t actually watched the show yet, but the commercials alone seemed like there were going to be some elements that seemed more suited to either a more fleshed-out show or an actual movie (something to get the taste of Stonewall out of our mouths). But let’s see what some folks who have watched it had to say about it.

“As a television drama, it often plays like a high-minded, dutiful educational video. But at its best moments, it’s also a timely statement that identity is not just an abstraction but a matter of family, livelihood, life and death.” —James Poniewozik, New York Times

“When We Rise’s timid and narrow idea of what counts as progress doesn’t do justice to all the bravery, imagination, and hard work that went into making that progress a reality.”—Inkoo Kang, MTV

“When We Rise is the most impactful LGBT-centric series since HBO’s “Angels in America” more than a decade ago. Sure, it’s a small playing field, but a notable one given the challenges of today.”—Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times

“The miniseries is meant to be a Roots for the LGBT community. Unfortunately, much of it is about as enjoyable as civics class on a Saturday afternoon.”—Mark A. Perigard, Boston Herald

(Interestingly enough, Inkoo Kang compared When We Rise to a show shooting wildly for the importance of Roots as well.)

“Important television, but also wildly, maddeningly uneven TV, too.” —Verne Gay, Newsday

The reviews are mostly positive, and yet they are still all over the board. What did you think about When We Rise? Give your opinions below!

Sherlock S4 recap: A cavalcade of WTF?

Robert Viglasky, Hartswood Films/BBC

Sherlock Season 4 | “The Final Problem” | Aired Jan. 15, 2017

So…what was that?!

Look, let me say upfront for the diehard fans that there were parts of “The Final Problem” that actually started tugging at my heartstrings and had me visibly scared and tense. The treatment of Eurus’ tests was over-the-top (more on that), but the emotional effects, as shown through Sherlock, John and Mycroft’s conversations, were what sold the scenes. I do have to give it up to Benedict Cumberbatch for handling his share of volatile emotions in this episode. This was the episode where we finally saw Sherlock break down all of his walls to once again become that emotional little boy he was at his ancestral home many years ago.

But let’s get real, here—this episode was a head-to-toe mess. I read a Daily Mail review by Christopher Stevens, and he’s not wrong. This episode featured Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss at their most indulgent, most self-congratulatory, and possibly most offensive. Let’s go through each thing I’ve got to say with bullet points.

The treatment of women: We already know Moffat has a record of strange treatment of his female characters. But I have to say that the treatment of women throughout this season in particular was largely rudimentary at absolute best, and paternally coddling at worst. I’m not sure if that last description gets truly at the heart of what I’m trying to put into words, but the jist of it is that the women characters in this season were mostly written to provide (as Eurus kept saying) emotional context to the men (and the default Stars-with-a-capital-S) of this series.

Every woman exists because of how they serve the emotional arc of a man. Mary was underwritten so as not to completely get in the way of John and Sherlock’s friendship/romance/bromance, but then she was also hilariously written as a spy. We never get to know her well enough to know why she ever fell in that line of work, which makes the whole “She’s a spy!” exercise pointless. Yes, there should be well-rounded, tough women on screen, but they can’t just be doing stuff for the sake of doing it; they have to be actual characters with 3D emotions. The case with Mary was that she was never made to be a well-rounded character. We never get to know her, her motivations, her likes or dislikes–all we know is that she loves John, impossibly and immediately loves Sherlock (even Sherlock came back from the dead during their date) and is besotted with the idea of matchmaking her husband to his best friend (like, what even was that last DVD message?). Does any of that make sense for a married woman’s emotional motivation or characterization? Not to me, it doesn’t. Then, to top it off, Mary’s death occurs to give John an emotional character moment and to bring John and Sherlock back together as a team (or more, seeing how Mary kept trying to get them together).

Mrs. Hudson is also loosely defined as a “tough” woman character, even though we never get to know her really. Like Mary, she’s largely an archetype, something that will play well on Tumblr and other social networks where the hardcore fans will eat up her mannerisms and almost non-sequiturs as witty British humor. IT’S NOT WITTY BRITISH HUMOR! It’s ill-defined characterization! As much as Mrs. Hudson might say she’s not their bloody houskeeper, she’s still their bloody housekeeper. More accurately, she’s their bloody mom. Her whole character is designed to take care of Sherlock without question. That’s such a limiting position to be in for her character.

Molly is much in the same vein, but to a more tragic degree. Molly is the person Sherlock has an emotionally abusive relationship with. For much of the earlier seasons, it seemed like he only took delight in making her upset. Now, we’re supposed to believe that Sherlock and Molly are all right? Especially after this particular episode, when Sherlock had to get Molly to say something she didn’t want to say because she didn’t want to get hurt? There’s no fallout from that?

Molly was in literal tears during this episode, and are we supposed to believe that even though she showed backbone during that scene and finally had enough of Sherlock’s games (at the wrong time, of course—Eurus was threatening to kill her) that Molly is still an eternal well of support and love for Sherlock at the very end of the episode? SIGH. All of the emotional depth she showed in that scene, which did define Molly as an individual character with feeling, got erased when we see her at the end, smiling, seemingly having forgotten all of the trauma Sherlock put her through (in order to save her, I know, but still…) It also puts Molly in the position of acting as a Female Companion to Prove Sherlock Is Not Straight, something I’ll get into later.

Even Eurus, who was the smartest woman in this series (even more so than Irene, who is also designed just to serve as an emotional counterpoint to Sherlock) ends up serving the men in this story. For much of the episode, we see Eurus as someone who can’t understand emotion and therefore creates horrifying games and experiments to study human interaction. For much of the episode, she’s completely in control. But when we actually need to get the mystery solved, she becomes a completely different character.

Sherlock finds out that all Eurus wants is her brother to pay attention to her, and her mind seems to regress back to the state of a child. But whereas we should be focusing more on Eurus’ mental distress, we’re focused more on how this news affects Sherlock. Eurus might be the killer here, but she’s also the one who’s been in mental distress for decades, locked in her own head, whereas Sherlock at least had the mercy of grief distorting his memories. While we hear Eurus talk about her distress, we always see Sherlock live his–we see his memories as he pieces them back together. We see through his eyes all the time. We only see Eurus, whether in adult or flashback kid form, as an observer looking in.

The women could have been written stronger, and I think this lack of character strength really brings down the entirety of the season. If you’re going to have women on your show, make them actually autonomous beings with their own end goals. Don’t make them solely serve the character arcs of the men.

BBC

The treatment of mental illness: I’m saying upfront that I’m not clinician when it comes to mental illness, so forgive me if I get some things wrong, but I’m also someone who researches, so I’m linking to everything I’m using for this particular segment.

To me, it seems like there was a conflation of ideas when it came to autism and clinical psychopathy. First, let’s get into autism and autism spectrum disorder, which doesn’t have just one defined way of appearing in a person. As WebMD states:

Autism is a complex neurobehavioral condition that includes impairments in social interaction and developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviors. Because of the range of symptoms, this condition is now called autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Symptoms of autism include, according to WebMD:

  • Social interactions and relationships. Symptoms may include:

    • Significant problems developing nonverbal communication skills, such as eye-to-eye gazing, facial expressions, and body posture.
    • Failure to establish friendships with children the same age.
    • Lack of interest in sharing enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people.
    • Lack of empathy. People with autism may have difficulty understanding another person’s feelings, such as pain or sorrow.
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication. Symptoms may include:

    • Delay in, or lack of, learning to talk. As many as 40% of people with autism never speak.1
    • Problems taking steps to start a conversation. Also, people with autism have difficulties continuing a conversation after it has begun.
    • Stereotyped and repetitive use of language. People with autism often repeat over and over a phrase they have heard previously (echolalia).
    • Difficulty understanding their listener’s perspective. For example, a person with autism may not understand that someone is using humor. They may interpret the communication word for word and fail to catch the implied meaning.
  • Limited interests in activities or play. Symptoms may include:

    • An unusual focus on pieces. Younger children with autism often focus on parts of toys, such as the wheels on a car, rather than playing with the entire toy.

    • Preoccupation with certain topics. For example, older children and adults may be fascinated by video games, trading cards, or license plates.

    • A need for sameness and routines. For example, a child with autism may always need to eat bread before salad and insist on driving the same route every day to school.

    • Stereotyped behaviors. These may include body rocking and hand flapping.

You can also visit The Babble Out for more about autism, its symptoms, and management.

Conversely, clinical psychopathy is defined, according to William Hirstein, Ph.D of Psychology Today, involves these symptoms:

Being uncaring and showing a lack of empathy, exhibiting shallow or lack of emotion, such as guilt, embarrassment, fear, and shame, insincere speech (aka lying), the inability to take blame for their actions, overconfidence and a narrowing of attention. Kara Mayer Robinson for WebMD goes further and says that psychopaths, not sociopaths, don’t have a conscience.

A psychopath doesn’t have a conscience. If he lies to you so he can steal your money, he won’t feel any moral qualms, though he may pretend to. He may observe others and then act the way they do so he’s not “found out,” [L. Michael Tompkins, EdD. of the Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center] says.

To me, it seems like the writing tried to make Eurus fall in between a flat reading of autism (what with Eurus saying several times that she has trouble reading emotions and body language) and psychopathy. In other words, the writing took the “greatest hits,” if you will, of both conditions and used that to create a villainous character that they tried to humanize by the end, despite the fact that her claim to villain fame was being a cold-blooded killer.

But did it have to be this way? It’s really a cliche at this point to make the psychopath or a sociopath a killer, when not everyone diagnosed as such becomes a criminal. Most of the time, they’re only out to meet their own needs or wants. To quote Robinson:

In movies and TV shows, psychopaths and sociopaths are usually the villains who kill or torture innocent people. In real life, some people with antisocial personality disorder can be violent, but most are not. Instead they use manipulation and reckless behavior to get what they want.

“At worst, they’re cold, calculating killers,” [Aaron Kipnis, PhD, author of The Midas Complex] says. Others, he says, are skilled at climbing their way up the corporate ladder, even if they have to hurt someone to get there.

The stereotype of the clinical psychopath as a killer is pervasive in our culture. Now, I’m not saying we have to excuse behavior, but it would be cool of a show decided to not make their killer have some kind of mental issue or, as you’ll see below, be linked to queerness.

BBC

The treatment of high- and low-key LGBT themes in this episode and throughout the entire four seasons: I could go into deep detail about every moment in the series that queerbaits the audience, but this season both provides Johnlock shippers with a Johnlock ending while still providing the men with women-as-beards (yet again utilizing women as props for the men’s character development). This season, we have Molly that becomes the last beard for Sherlock (of course, there’s still Irene, who’s mentioned in this episode in relation to love) and the last beard for this series.

There’s no way Sherlock actually loves Molly outside of friendship, and there’s no way Sherlock and Irene would ever make sense as a couple, just like Mary and John’s relationship made no sense. First, it doesn’t help that the women are written within cookie-cutter parameters. But what also doesn’t help is how Mark Gatiss himself has said that he indulges in teasing the audience about the will-they/won’t-they aspect of Sherlock and John’s relationship. Or better yet, he indulges in teasing about whether John realizes he is along a sexual spectrum and how okay he is with that. As I wrote recently, Irene’s conversation with John in Season 2 basically acted as a canonical way of telling John that he does, in fact, have feelings for Sherlock. The fact that this conversation is never brought up again is a character development moment that went undefined.

But outside of John and Sherlock’s relationship, we have Moriarty, who has been confirmed as being, if not gay, bisexual or pansexual. Also, Sherlock insinuates that Eurus may have raped a female guard. First, the fact that rape is casually discussed in this season is appalling by itself. But also disturbing is how LGBT characters are linked to criminality and violence, once again associating queerness with villainy. That’s a trope that has long been beaten to death, so it’s sad that it’s happening in a show of supposedly high caliber as Sherlock.

Lastly, the seeming dismissal of the fans by the creators is little irritating. You can’t bait the audience and then get mad when they don’t get what they were expecting. There is a reason Sherlock Holmes books and this show are at the center of queer media critique, and there should be a level of respect for that type of decades-long scholarship.

Robert Viglasky, Hartswood Films/BBC

 

The actual episode itself: Overall, I think the characters were largely all over the place. Perhaps the most consistent character was Mycroft, but that’s also because he’s broad. But Sherlock was uncharacteristically emotional, even considering the fact that his proverbial walls were coming down, and John was back to the old John before Mary, which seemed to show just how throwaway Mary ended up being as a character.

The editing tried to make up for the fact that there were gaping plotholes in the plot. How do they survive the jump from 221B after the explosion? How did they end up on that boat? How did Eurus get the glass removed and suspend the signs? How could Sherlock not realize there wasn’t glass when there were never reflections? How did things like that get past the writers? And why were the transitions, which were clearly made to distract you from the bad plot, so bad? Particularly bad was that transition after John gets pistolwhipped after Eurus tried to first kill Sherlock. The screen spins around as if it was an Adam West Batman sequence. I was floored. Equally floored was the freeze-frame ending featuring John and Sherlock running towards the next case. I have seen bad stuff before, but that was horrendous. Worse, it was lazy, for all of the effort put into it.

Robert Viglasky, Hartswood Films/BBC

Final thoughts (since this might be the series finale): The acting is the only thing that carried this finale through. But the treatment of the characters, particularly Sherlock, is really sad. If you think back to the first-ever episode, you can tell how well-defined the characters are. They are also characters defined by the real world; there would have never been an Eurus who can control people (how?) and seemingly electronics (again, how??). Instead, what we had was Sherlock who was tied to his mobile phone, Mycroft and his assistant, disaffected government officials who also live on their phones. Lestrade and his police crew who can’t live with Sherlock and can’t live without him. All of these characters, even Sherlock, seem like someone you could possibly run into (perhaps you might only run into someone like Sherlock or Mycroft at a MENSA meeting or something, but that’s also me devolving into stereotype). What I’m saying is they were relatable, regardless of how extraordinary they were. They were human and they were developed characters.

What we’ve gotten now is a show that is so satisfied with itself that it’s gotten lazy. For me the coup the grace was the level of nepotism involved in the later seasons’ cast. Cumberbatch’s parents as Sherlock’s parents, Amanda Abbington—Martin Freeman’s partner—as Mary, and Gatiss, one of the co-writers as one of the main secondary characters? That’s a lot. The writing also seems to take itself too seriously, thinking it’s so funny, so insightful, so witty. The gag is that the script isn’t saying anything new, even though it thinks it is. It’s just an exercise in ego. As Stevens said in his review, the show has become twee, to an antagonizing degree.

Overall, this last episode was largely crap, with only golden moments clumped together towards the middle. It’s a sad way to end the series.

Update: Information on autism now from WebMD to reflect concerns over the ethics of AutismSpeaks

Sherlock S4 recap: Sherlock and John make up over death

Martin Freeman as John Watson in Sherlock episode "The Six Thatchers."
BBC

Sherlock Season 4 | “The Lying Detective” | Aired Jan. 8, 2017

Talk about an episode!

I really liked this second episode of Sherlock Season 4, “The Lying Detective”. The pacing and the amount of story depth took me right back to earlier seasons, and for that I couldn’t be happier. Also great: The Dynamic Duo are back together again, both a little worse for wear, but still in fighting form.

Let’s talk about the big bad of this episode, Culverton Smith, who I think rivals Jim Moriarty in terms of villainy. Culverton, though is a little scarier to me than Moriarty actually; Moriarty was a broad villain. But Culverton is someone who loves existing in plain sight (as Sherlock said twice in this episode). He’s a philanthropist billionaire who also loves awful puns at his own expense. If I’m being accused of murder, I wouldn’t then think to brand myself “the cereal killer” to sell what looks like a box of straight-up oats. But then again, I’m not Culverton, who thinks he can get away with anything…even murder (said with a Dr. Evil-esque hand gesture to the mouth).

Also, there was something a bit more eerily human about Culverton’s villainy. I feel like there could be an argument made about whether Culverton is another villainous portrayal of someone with narcissistic disorder, which could go in line with other stereotypes of people with mental disorders (see the upcoming movie Split for another depiction of a villain with a mental disorder). This could be its own post, since many villains throughout media history have been portrayed as such because of a general fear of mental illness. Of course, I’m not excusing Culverton’s penchant for killing people; he is a murderer and should be in jail. But I’m just raising a point to think about.

In any case, Culverton is someone who relishes in being a serial killer, or does he? He does seem to have a bit of conflict about killing people, even though he enjoys it. As he tells Sherlock, it’s something he’s just compelled to do; it makes him happy. That’s already disturbing, and even more disturbing is how excited he is to tell Lestrade all about it. What he craves is power and glory, and becoming a world-famous serial killer is something that appeals to that narcissistic side of himself (again, we’re going back to a clinical mental disorder as a trait of villainy).

What I found most intriguing about this episode is how it was actually John’s time to grow as a character, not Sherlock. What I’ve found is that over the course of these seasons, some episodes are just set up to have Sherlock act as the emotional McGuffin, leaving us to forget, then be surprised by, John’s own mental turmoil that he has to work through. This time, Sherlock-as-McGuffin was for us to see how much Sherlock’s been affected by John’s absence to a theatrically expansive degree, only to be surprised to remember how much John has been quietly suffering over his choice to have a texting affair with the woman on the bus. John’s grief, while not as explosive as Sherlock’s, is just as deep, if not more so, and we finally see John reach the depths of his sorrow when he finally admits to Mary’s ghost (inside his head) that he cheated on her. Seeing Sherlock console John is just what this episode needed; Sherlock might be the star of the show, but he’s come far enough to learn when to give someone else an emotional moment. It was nice to see that growth within the character. It’s nice to see how much Sherlock actually cares for John.

It was also interesting to see how Sherlock completely deteriorated because John wasn’t in his life, and his deterioration also acted as a self-punishment because he felt like he killed Mary. I’m glad John finally tells him he didn’t actually kill Mary, because he didn’t. I found it personally amusing that when Sherlock shows up at John’s therapist’s house, and John eventually asks him what’s wrong, Sherlock’s answer is that he’s “burning up.” There’s a fanfiction I read that had Sherlock saying kinda the same thing and for a similar reason—he was apart from John because of a big boo boo—but the line in the fanfiction, “I’m on fire,” was because Sherlock was in love with John and couldn’t stand to be a day without him, much less weeks. I doubt Steven Moffat read that fanfiction and decided to paraphrase the scenario of Sherlock pushing John away from him by accident, but that’s what the scene in this episode reminded me of. Long aside, I’m sure, but that moment in the show just tickled me.

I have to say, though, that the storyline bugs the longer I think about it, despite my being thoroughly entertained. It made for great drama, sure, but when you start thinking about it, it gets kinda How to Get Away with Murder-ish; it’s entertaining, but does it make any sense for real? Not really. Why did Sherlock have to save John by nearly killing himself? Why go through such lengths to nearly be offed by a serial killer? That’s a lot for a friendship. But, of course, Sherlock isn’t about normal people salvaging their friendship by telling each other “You’re not at fault for your wife’s death.” Otherwise, we might as well watch something like This Is Us, right?

What also still bugs me is that Mary is still advocating for Sherlock and John to be together, if not in a romantic sense (which the show is going through great pains to make clear), in a platonic-soulmate sense. But why? Mary didn’t really know Sherlock that long or that well. Why is Mary always advocating for John to be with Sherlock? Even weirder—why is Mary-in-John’s-head advocating for him to be with Sherlock?

To me, this show is once again going through a lot of hoops to say “Sherlock and John aren’t gay for each other.” Okay, I guess. I mean, yeah, John got married and and yeah, Sherlock’s supposedly still texting Irene Adler. But did the women in their lives really mean anything aside from giving certain fearful audience members an excuse to believe that Sherlock and John don’t have some underlying tension? On the surface, I get that they’re really good friends, but even without the romantic element, their souls are two that are tied to be together in some way, shape or form. I wish the show didn’t feel like it had to rely on women characters to allow for John and Sherlock to be close, whether that’s in a brothers-in-arms type of way or an actual romantic way. Two men can be close; the world won’t fall apart because Sherlock’s hugging John.

In any event, the show isn’t helping itself by having John have an affair with the woman on the bus, who turned out to be John’s new therapists, who turned out to be none other than Sherlock and Mycroft’s long lost sister. John is having an affair with the female version of Sherlock. Let that sink in.

Again I ask: Why is this show so afraid of same-sex attraction and homoeroticism? Having “the sister” of a male character as the love interest for the best friend of that male character is a little beyond cliché, don’t you think?

However, John did beat Sherlock up over Mary out of grief, so I don’t know how a relationship, much less a friendship, can recover from that.

Anyways, they’re back together because they can’t leave each other alone, and we the audience are better for it. We wouldn’t be able to take a lot of moping John and moping Sherlock because seeing them apart is no fun. Without John, Sherlock acts like a maniac and without Sherlock, John acts like a boring, normal person, like the rest of us.

Even still, I have to assert my disappointment with the treatment of Mary. Much like Irene in this episode (who thankfully didn’t make a guest appearance), Mary is a fridged woman, only there to help the man move on and surge ahead in his life. Even after John admits his dalliance to her, what does Mary-in-John’s-head say? Something to the effect of, “Well, you best get moving along.” Okay….what? Couldn’t fake Mary be mad at least, not sad-yet-understanding? Understanding of what, pray tell? That your husband cheated on you while you were taking care of your baby? Sigh.

And for Sherlock to tell John that it was only texting? Well…it’s only texting if you don’t have anybody, like how Sherlock texts Irene. But John was emotionally cheating on his wife, and while it wasn’t physical, it was still cheating. John is right to chide himself because he’s completely in the wrong.

And can we talk about Mycroft possibly having a love connection? No. That shouldn’t be happening in my book. Why?

It sounds like I didn’t like this episode, but I actually did. I thought the writing was much tighter than the first episode of this season, there were much less of the strange transitions, and I think Toby Jones played Culverton spectacularly. I’m intrigued to see how Sherlock and Mycroft’s sister will be handled in the next episode. Hopefully she won’t become a fridged woman as well.

What did you think of this episode? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Sherlock’s obsession with queerbaiting is more frustrating than ever

BBC

Sherlock Season/Series 4 is upon us! I’m sure there are a ton of us excited for Sunday’s first episode of the new season on PBS Masterpiece, which I shall be livetweeting via my personal Twitter handle @moniqueblognet. But before we flip out as we watch the first movie-length episode, I need to flip out about some things I’m already annoyed with.

First, let’s watch the two teasers together.

Okay, so what am I flipping out about, you ask? First, Moriarty’s alive? Come on now. Now, I’m a beginner-to-intermediate fan of the Sherlock Holmes literature, but there are other villains aside from Moriarty, right? I know he’s the biggest big bad Sherlock’s ever faced, but since Sherlock diverges from the canon all the time, why not make some other lesser known villain a supreme big bad for the screen? I don’t know, just some thoughts. I just hate seeing story ideas/plot devices get repeated.

Also, isn’t the basic “Moriarty” character now typecasting Andrew Scott in the ultimate way? Almost every time I see or hear him lately, he’s playing a skeevy character. He’s been so typecast, that even when he was in Garrow’s Law as an actual victim, his character was still lying through his teeth. Sure, he was lying to protect his lover at the time, sure, since this show is set in the 1700s when same-sex relationships were outlawed, but still, the character still painted himself as a skeevy villain.

Anyways, this Moriarty thing isn’t even the biggest concern I have. My ultimate pet peeve right now is when shows decide to queerbait vulnerable audience members, and Sherlock is the British king of queerbaiting.

In the second trailer, you see Sherlock telling someone, “I love you.” Previous to that, you have Toby Jones’ Culverton Smith saying that Sherlock will have to reveal his deepest, darkest secret. For big fans of the show, and particularly big fans who are also well aware of Sherlock‘s gay subtext, the trailer wants you think that Sherlock’s biggest, deepest, darkest secret is that he’s in love with someone so meaningful to him, that if he tells this person his truest feelings, it could wreck their entire friendship and, indeed, Sherlock’s entire world. The only person who fits that description is John.

There was a time when I was quite heavy into exploring the subtextual story in both the original Sherlock Holmes literature and Sherlock the show. A lot of that scholarship (if you wish to call it such) is still available via the Wayback Machine. But the jist of it was discussing why the show indulges in queerbaiting when it doesn’t have to. With the UK being in the 21st century and with Mark Gatiss—a gay man who seems to understand the subtext of the subject matter—as 1/2 of the executive producing/writing duo, there’s no reason why Sherlock has to be coy about asserting the queerer aspects of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.

The most queerbaitiest of Sherlock episodes ISN’T the first episode ever, in which Sherlock thinks John is asking him out over a candelit Italian dinner, although that’s a popular example. The most queerbaitiest episode is actually the first episode of Season 2, when Irene Adler comes to town.

Irene is used as both a beard for Sherlock (by the writers) and as confirmation for the audience’s belief about/confusion surrounding John’s amorphous feelings over his friend and flatmate. Irene’s purpose as truth-teller to the audience comes when Irene realizes John is obviously jealous over Sherlock’s surprising interest in her.

To quote myself from 2012:

Thanks to livejournal user bizarremain, we have the transcript of what exactly was said during this scene:

Irene: “You jealous?”
John: “We’re not a couple.”
Irene: “Yes, you are.”
John: “Who the hell knows about Sherlock Holmes? But, for the record, if anyone out there still cares, I’m not actually gay.”
Irene:”Well, I am. Look at the both of us.”

What she’s saying is that she and John are both two people who aren’t attracted to men. Yet, here they are, attracted to one man, not because he’s a man, because he’s this amazing being. What Irene was getting at is that it doesn’t matter what Sherlock is, it’s that he is who he is what’s so attractive and magnetic. It’s not so much that he’s the magical male that can change Irene into a heterosexual–the episode never says she’s changed to a heterosexual woman; it’s that she’s attracted to him, no matter what he is, and that’s what makes the whole thing interesting.

…By alluding to [sexual fluidity], Irene is also saying that John is in the same boat as she is. …Irene is saying to John that he needs to analyze what is going on with him and Sherlock and realize that even though he’s attracted to women (just like she is), he’s just as attracted to Sherlock. In fact, Irene is also intimating that Sherlock might be the one for John. Never once does she say that she’d actually like to have a relationship with Sherlock. She’s mostly just got a mixture of intrigue and lust when it comes to him. To me, Irene summed up John’s relationship with Sherlock in just a few words.

To piggy-back off that, John is getting a lot of hints from the universe that he is meant to be with Sherlock, whether as friends or as more-than-friends. Sherlock is naked in a sheet–John takes a look before even asking Sherlock if he’s naked under it. John’s new girlfriend breaks up with him–the umpteenth girlfriend to do so. She says to his face that he’s a better boyfriend to Sherlock than he is to her. The whole Irene scene I just blabbed on about. And, frankly, I think Irene herself is a big clue to John that there’s more to his relationship with Sherlock than he even realizes yet. By Irene constantly asking him if he’s jealous of her and telling him that he’s in a relationship with Sherlock, coupled with his string of bad relationships due to his dependence on Sherlock, John slowly seems to be mulling over how his relationship with his friend is perceived, which is interesting.

And yet, the season progresses without much mention of this illuminating moment again. After this, probably the most progressive moment in Sherlock, the writing seems to have swung towards a weird place where either the writers, the characters, or both are afraid of admitting that the subtext is more than likely text.

For instance, John’s wife Mary calls John out on treating Sherlock like his boyfriend all the time, such as when she clocks him for getting spruced up more often once Sherlock comes back from the dead. However, Mary is also unnervingly okay with this, which strikes me as a little disingenuous, particularly because her characterization was basically acting as an avatar for the Tumblrites who want to squee over John and Sherlock.

Also, Sherlock acts like he’s completely happy at John’s wedding, but later on, we see that he’s clearly not. That’s keeping with his own dependence on John as his soundboard and wingman-of-sorts, but then we later see him act wildly out of character, even for Sherlock, by “getting a girlfriend,” only to later use said girlfriend’s emotions to crack a case. Even Sherlock of Season 1 would think that was going a little too far. The writing in this season both provides Sherlock and John with beards, as if to say, “SEE, BBC VIEWERS!? THEY’RE TOTALLY NOT GAY!!” But when they are with their respective significant others, nothing about the relationships seem real (and in the case of Sherlock’s, it actually isn’t real).

(If I can go on a tangent—The writing for that season wasn’t particularly strong; it was more about filling out the character beats the Tumblr fans wanted, to me, than it was about properly building character and realistic character moments. Out of that season, the only person who came out looking sane was John, who was rightly frustrated with the fact that everyone around him has lied to him in some way. Talk about gaslighting! The mental abuse John suffered during the third season is another reason why I don’t like it.)

Now here we are with Season 4, with Sherlock telling someone that he loves them. Chances are it’s not John, and that’s not even because John is standing behind him when he says it. For all we know, “I love you” could be another “I am Sherlocked.” (Also: If Irene was worth her salt as a dominatrix hardcore woman, she would never use such teeny-bopper language as “I am Sherlocked” for a cell phone passcode.)

The show loves baiting its audience and has gotten good at raising expectations only to have them tied in knots later on. Gatiss has said that he likes playing with the latent homoeroticism in Sherlock, but there comes a point when playfully exploring a theme becomes hanging a dangling carrot over fans heads, only to yank it away each season. I say either the show decides Sherlock actually loves John, and not in a platonic brother-in-arms kind of way, or it quits using homoeroticism as a crutch to keep people tuned in. At this point in time, the media we ingest, including Sherlock, can no longer have it both ways.

“Rogue One:” A satisfying, sad chapter in the “Star Wars” franchise [SPOILERS]

Lucasfilm/Disney

SPOILERS ABOUND!

Synopsis (Lucasfilm): From Lucasfilm comes the first of the Star Wars standalone films, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” an all-new epic adventure. In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.

Monique’s review: What a film.

Maybe it’s that time of the month and I’m being hormonal, or maybe the film was just that sad. But it’s about 48 hours after having seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and I’m still reeling from the ending. AUGH! MY HEART!

The opening crawl to Episode 4: A New Hope states that rebel spies steal the Death Star plans, but it doesn’t say that they die! I haven’t gotten over it yet.

It also doesn’t help that the princess of all space, Carrie Fisher has died. Can 2016 give us a break yet?!

The good:

What I loved about the film is that we got to see what Star Wars is like outside of the confines of the traditional crawl, so to speak. I, for one, liked that the film decided to forgo the crawl and throw us right into the movie. It makes sense, since this is the first story that that kickstarts the entire franchise, but it’s also a bold move that takes the franchise further into the future. We’re in the 21st century with Star Wars now; it needs to go beyond what the older fans expect. Now that we’ve got younger fans, the franchise has to use the 21st century modernization to enthrall and keep them. Also, the lack of a crawl added a freshness that a new fan like me appreciated. It made me feel like I was watching a sci-fi action film that didn’t chastise me for not having grown up with the Star Wars franchise.

Let’s talk about the cast. Overall, the cast is 8/15 POC (or should I say MOC), which is hefty for a blockbuster film, especially since they are all main characters. This number, I should say, is if you count the voice of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader (the actual figure of Darth Vader, as usual, is played by another actor, this time Spencer Wilding) There are only five main characters who are women, and one of them, Jyn’s mother Lyra (Valene Kane), gets killed early in the film and the other, young Princess Leia, is portrayed by a body double (Ingvild Deila) with a CGI’d face. Aside from Jyn, the most prominent woman in the film is Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), a senator from A New Hope who is mostly used in this film to give gravitas with her face and clothes, but not much more. If anything, she seemed to act as a loose replacement for Leia in the majority of this film, almost as if she were a preliminary sketch for the actual Leia character, down to her white robes.

(Interesting fashion note: It appears that this film is setting up the idea that style trends are a thing in the Star Wars universe–White is a color that seems to have been popular up until the construction and usage of the Death Star. Perhaps the lack of white after A New Hope suggests that the innocence of the galaxy before the Death Star had been lost.)

Why is counting the amount of non-white people and women important? Because in Star Wars films of the past, the cast has been mostly white, with only a few POC actors as minor rebel pilots who quickly get killed. Having people of all racial, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds gives Star Wars the legitimacy it needs as both a contemporary film in a multicultural world and as a space opera itself; why does science fiction/fantasy just have be a place for white people, when we all would like to live in a galaxy far, far away?

Lucasfilm/Disney

The character portrayals themselves are great despite being a little truncated. Was it because the screenwriter knew we’d only be seeing these characters in one film? At any rate, the characters’ collective fates make their performances even more riveting and haunting. Felicity Jones held down the movie as Jyn Erso, further establishing the notion that women can successfully helm “boys’ movies” and bring in the big bucks. I also thought Diego Luna played Cassian Andor convincingly, but I must point out that like Mon Mothma, his character seemed like a sketch of an early Han Solo, what with his own “who shot first” moment early in the movie (although they don’t show a close-up on Cassian’s hand pulling the trigger, we know he’s the guy who shot his informant in cold blood).

Cassian, though, provides one of the most satisfying character arguments I’ve seen in film in a long time. Surprisingly, the film delves into privilege when discussing Jyn’s sudden turn to the resistance after years of not caring about who’s in power. Jyn’s turn comes after her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) dies. Even though Galen dies due to his involvement with the Empire—he was the chief architect of the Death Star, who defected, then later came back to work on the project in order to place a well-hidden weak spot—Jyn blames Cassian, who was ordered by the resistance to kill Galen. It’s when Jyn offends Cassian’s honor as it relates to fighting for the resistance that Cassian decides to tell her the ugly truth about herself. Jyn, he said, was picking and choosing when she wanted to fight for the resistance, whereas he had been fighting for it since he was a small child. While Jyn found it easy to take up the resistance mantle after years of running, Cassian and others like him had devoted their entire lives to the cause. Jyn had no right to assert she automatically knew more about fighting the good fight than someone like him, who had sacrificed everything to get to that point.

On the surface, it reads like a standard argument about who has more to lose and who has the most to learn. But when it’s played out, the optics—a white woman “Damonsplaining” resistance fighting to a Latino man whose been in the trenches long before she had no choice but to care—took the scene up a level to near discomfort for some in the audience, I’m sure. If put in today’s context, the scene was basically a man of color telling a “well meaning,” but insensitive and selfish white woman that she can’t co-opt the fight for social justice and chastise someone else’s part in the fight just because she realized she should have been fighting long ago. The distillation of Cassian’s message was that Jyn should be reckoning with herself as to why she found it so easy not to fight the good fight, considering all she had at stake. It shouldn’t have taken Galen’s death to spur her into action. Similarly, a lot of Jyn Ersos in the audience should ask themselves why it’s taken them so long to join the social justice fight a lot of marginalized people have already been a part of and, indeed, have sacrificed a lot for.

Other standouts include Donnie Yen as the blind devotee to the Force, Chirrut Îmwe, and his friend? life partner? Baze Malbus, played by Wen Jiang.

I went into the film aware of the strong reaction these two had garnered online, with many believing that these two could be Star Wars‘ first gay couple. I say that’s great if it’s true, but if it is, then it’d be nice for Lucasfilm and Disney to actually confirm that. 

Rogue One director Gareth Edwards told Yahoo! Movies that he doesn’t mind people reading a relationship into the characters. “I think that’s all good” he said. “Who knows? You’d have to speak to them.”

“Them” being the characters. Come on now, Edwards. Quit being coy.

The coyness is what kills me, honestly. I’ll get to this in “the bad” section of this review, but seriously, the cutesy answers like this from directors need to stop. People don’t like having their emotions played with, and LGBT viewers are a demographic who have had their hopes dangled in front of them like carrots by the entertainment industry for far too long. Queerbaiting isn’t a good business practice for any entertainment studio, especially not in today’s time.

With that said, the evidence for Chirrut and Baze being that couple that’s been together so long that you can’t understand what they still see in each other (no pun intended) is strong from the beginning. They’re a package deal from the first time we meet them, with Baze hovering protectively over Chirrut, who is very much capable of being on his own. But even though we come to know that Baze is entirely aware of Chirrut’s independence (I mean, Chirrut can beat up hordes of stormtroopers in minutes), he still watches over him, and Chirrut lets him. Perhaps a better word to use is that Chirrut allows it.

Second, we have when the gang is on some rainy planet (the same planet Galen and Jyn have their sad reunion) and Chirrut decides to go trudging after Jyn, Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) and Cassian. If memory serves, Baze taunts him a bit, saying Chirrut would have to be lucky out on his own to survive. Chirrut says, “I don’t need luck; I have you.” At the very extreme, this could be excused away as just banter between really good friends. Sure, Chirrut and Baze are best friends, but movies don’t usually portray friendship in this fashion. This moment was basically the “You complete me” line from Jerry Maguire. Except that in movies, men and women are instantly coded as being in a relationship, while same-sex couples are nearly almost instantly coded as being “just friends.” If one of these characters was a woman, you’d have people vehemently arguing against any idea that their relationship was merely platonic friendship.

Also, this moment, as explained by Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan, is something that seals the deal, if you were in doubt after the “I have you” statement:

“He spends his final moments in Baze’s lap, and as his friend stares down at him, devastated, Chirrut raises his hand as if to caress Baze’s cheek. It’s the simplest gesture, but it packs a potent, more-than-platonic current, and as Chirrut expires, it’s clear that Baze does not want to live in a world without this man. He charges almost suicidally into battle, firing at Stormtroopers while repeating Chirrut’s mantra over and over–finally, at the end of his life, paying tribute to his partner’s guiding philosophy–until he, too, is felled. And while there are still plenty of big moments yet to come as Rogue One completes its story and links up with the familiar opening minutes of A New Hope, I couldn’t stop thiking about that near caress and what it might mean. After the movie was over, I asked other audience members if they thought Baze and Chirrut could have been in a relationship, and I was surprised by how many people had been picking up on the same signal.”

I must also add that as Baze faces his death, he looks back at Chirrut’s body, as if he was mentally telling himself and Chirrut that he’d be reunited with him soon. Comfortable friendship is one thing, but showing an all-encompassing love to where you don’t want to live without the other is a completely different kettle of fish, and Rogue One toys with that kettle a lot. If you read their relationship another way, you’re basically sticking your head in the sand.

Another point: Yen did an interview with GT, formerly known as Gay Times Magazine. Movie stars who are playing gay characters do interviews with gay outlets, for instance, Moonlight‘s Trevante Rhodes doing an interview with OUT Magazine. So that kinda cements it as far as I’m concerned.

Chirrut and Baze as two people in a same-sex relationship remind me of what John Cho said about the invisibility of gay Asian men in movies. Cho said that for Star Trek Beyond, he took his character Sulu’s sexuality as a way to pay homage to some of his friends:

“…I always felt the Asian gay men that I knew had much heavier cultural-shame issues…I felt like those guys didn’t date Asian men because of that cultural shame,” he said. “So I wanted it to seem really normal in the future…that there was zero shame in the future.”

In this vein, Chirrut and Baze are even more important; not only are they providing a much-needed outlet for LGBT viewers, but they are also providing an outlet for gay Asian men, who are marginalized along racial lines and within the mainstream LGBT community as a whole.

Lucasfilm/Disney

I mentioned Riz Ahmed above; his character Bodhi is super important because it finally breaks with Hollywood tradition of casting brown actors as “the terrorist” or “the taxi driver.” Finally, an actor like Ahmed, of Pakistani heritage, can be the hero of a film.

Silicon Valley‘s Kumail Nanjiani explained it best with his Twitter thread:

It was also cool to see Tyrant‘s Fares Fares in a role as well. The racial and ethnic diversity abounds in this film, and I’m glad for it.

The bad

I liked Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera. The trailers make you think you’re going to spend the majority of the movie with him, but we don’t. I wish we had more time with him.

Saw raised Jyn after was forced to separate from her parents, so you’d think we would have gotten to see more of their relationship after their reunion. It seemed like a waste to just have Whitaker around for a couple of scenes, only for him to die nobly minutes later. Whitaker gave his scenes his all, though; you can’t say he didn’t chew scenery.

K2SO, played by Alan Tudyk, was…interesting. This might be the first droid I’m lukewarm on. I get that he’s supposed to have a personality—all of the droids do—but maybe the personality went a little overboard with this one. He (since the droid is coded as such) sounded a little too human to be a realistic, more crudely made droid, and it took me out of the film a little bit each time he spoke. He did grow on me, but it took a while.

I wish there were more women of color in this film. I address this at length in this article, but just to reiterate, it’d be nice for me, as a black woman, to see more black women and women of color in general do things in this franchise.

Also, it kinda seems like Jyn still co-opts the resistance and becomes a de facto leader, even though she hasn’t done much to earn the role. Meanwhile everyone else who has given much has to follow her, as if they’ve never come up with a bright idea before. That bugged me. Again, the optics—white savior leading POC soldiers towards victory—painted the picture.

Chirrut is awesome, but does his characterization bleed into the “Hero” stereotype of disabled characters? It definitely could.

Much emphasis is on how accomplished and independent he is in spite of his disability, as if his disability is something that would make him weak otherwise. What’s actually true is that he’s strong because of his disability; it’s because of his adversity that he’s found the strength to channel the Force. On the other hand, though, the fact that he uses the Force to see has its roots in the ableism of the script, which posits that with “sight,” Chirrut is closer to being an able-bodied person. However, Chirrut doesn’t struggle against his disability, which is something that is seemingly inherent in the “Hero” stereotype. He seems to embrace it as a part of himself, which is encouraging. In short, Chirrut’s characterization teeters on both edges of the disability stereotype spectrum.

Lucasfilm/Disney

I already mentioned it above, but just to reiterate: It’s not cool when franchises bait the audience. If Chirrut and Baze are together, everyone in the film should be of one accord and say that to the press. Edwards’ maddeningly cutesy answer flies in the face of those who don’t feel Chirrut and Baze’s relationship is a joke to piddle around with. Of course, I’m sure Edwards is a fine person; he, like most of the people under the Bad Robot helm, is all about diversity. I also don’t think he means to turn Chirrut and Baze into a joke. But to say that we should ask the characters takes all of the onus off of him as the director, who has the unique ability of deciding who gets to be what in the movie. He made it a point to have a diverse cast, right? Why not make it a point to say definitively if Chirrut and Baze are in love? What’s the difference? (I know, “money,” but seriously, though, what’s the difference?)

Finally, I didn’t like the idea of reviving characters with CGI at all.

I understand the minds behind the film feeling that Tarkin and Leia were crucial to tying this film into A New Hope. But I just didn’t care for it at all. It was way too creepy and jarring to me. However, Leia looked a lot more convincing than Governor Tarkin (who we know as Grand Moff Tarkin in A New Hope). Like Leia, Tarkin had a body double (Guy Henry), but whereas Leia’s transplanted face looked like it could be sustained relatively easily throughout a film (because of Leia’s Disney Princess like features, which are probably easier to animate), Tarkin’s wasn’t realistic enough. To me, this was a case of the animation needing to be as close to the uncanny valley as possible, if not all the way in it.

For me, Tarkin’s face had too many Pixarisms to make me believe it was a real person. Yes, I know the CGI was by Industrial Light and Magic, but I’m sure there was some crossover at some point since this is a Disney movie after all. The eyes seemed too big, the nose seemed to long, and he ended up coming off as a more realistic version of the old man from Pixar short Geri’s Game.

This video explains what I’m talking about (after much fanboy-ing):

If O’Reilly could play Mon Mothma, who looks just like the original Mon Mothma, Caroline Blakiston, how come Guy Henry, who looks and sounds similar to Peter Cushing, couldn’t play Tarkin without the CGI?

Final verdict

I liked the film a lot. It’s a bit of a mood-killer, since all of our heroes die. But I don’t think we were ever promised they’d survive. The subversive aspect of a genre film like this one injecting some realism is quite jarring; we’re used to the heroes surviving no matter what. Even when Han Solo was supposedly dead from carbonite, he still survived. The fact that everyone dies and not just one singular character ups the stakes for the entire fight for the galaxy. It’s no longer child’s play; it’s hardcore. We’re not just following fun characters on an adventure; we’re following people who will give up their lives for a cause. Things are serious, and it’s fascinating that such a serious tone would inject itself in these films at this point in time. As many have said, this film has a serious social message embedded within it (again, something the film’s team coyly deny). If anything, the film warns us to jealously guard our own freedoms; don’t wait until it’s too late to stand up for what’s right.