True To *Nearly* The End

It’s well noted now, that True Blood ending has caused a bit of a shit storm of opinions and from what I’ve seen, it’s inspired a surge in people discussing the endings of their favorite shows – from the Sopranos to Battlestar Galatica to Breaking Bad and Dexter, not to mention the massive amounts of speculation being throw about regarding how Sons of Anarchy is going to finish off its run in a few short weeks. All this discussion about disappointing endings has led me to one question that I think a lot of us are asking lately:

Why do so many television writers seem to think that their audiences are idiots?

***ALERT – This blog is going to contain a LOT of spoilers about television shows. Specifically, Battlestar Galactica, Dexter, True Blood and Breaking Bad. I may even hit a note from the Sopranos, but if you’ve not seen the end of that by now, you deserve it to be spoiled.***

This past Sunday television viewers saw the end of the vampire soap opera, True Blood. And almost all of the reactions I saw were not only negative, but even more so – ANGRY. It was BAD;

Really, really, really BAD.

Many of us agree that this season of True Blood has pretty much been a train wreck anyway – so I wasn’t expecting the end to be GOOD. There was no way that they could possibly have tied up all the loose ends to the satisfaction of the viewers, but that was just how it had to be so I was willing to allow for some loose ends in service of the greater stories being finished off well. And some were. Hoyt and Jessica get their happily ever after, and Jason and the new girl are headed that way as well. Bill dies, and with his death, Sookie gets her sweet relief from the manipulation and tiresome bullshit she’s willingly put up with for the last five years. But what I’m talking about here was the last scene. THE FAMILY DINNER. In which we see Sookie, Jason, Sam and all the now “happy everything is perfect in our lives since Bill died” people sharing a big communal dinner that would be more appropriate to a show like Parenthood. Which in fact has been done on Parenthood often – and there it works – because it fits the basic premise of the show. Here, on True Blood, a soap opera (really, let’s not call it a drama any longer, because it hasn’t been that since season one) about supernatural creatures interacting with (mostly naked) humans – it so massively out-of-place and intrusive, it feels like the TV equivalent of gum on your shoe. You didn’t want it there, you didn’t need it, it’s messing up your stride and now you can’t get rid of it. I get the feeling that scene was added for the benefit of one dumbass writer after they’d submitted their final scripts and said “Can it be a HAPPY ending? Happy endings are good.” Of course, ignoring the fact that sometimes, the NOT happy ending is the best ending of all.

True Blood’s disturbingly out-of-place ending gave me so much hate not only because it didn’t fit the characters or the themes involved throughout the show, but it seems to be a plot device that more and more writers employ when it’s entirely unnecessary and makes me feel that writers think their audience is stupid and can’t be trusted to come to their own conclusions.

It’s happened so often and to some really brilliant shows. And it seems to be happening more and more… To prove my point, here are some other examples…

First, we have DEXTER – The series finale of Dexter was largely successful at salvaging a pretty rocky season – until the last 30 seconds. Almost all of our favorite characters were acting the way we expect them too – everyone seemed to be in the right position to move on with their lives. Except our serial killer hero, who after securing the most normal life he thought he could for his son (though, why Dexter didn’t send Harrison to live with his step-siblings and their grandparents instead of giving the boy to his crazy black widow girlfriend, I’ll never understand), Dexter sets off into the eye of a hurricane on his boat, dropping Deb’s body into the ocean along the way. (Okay, that part bugged me too but the whole point was that the guy was disturbed, so I’ll allow it.) AND…. FADE TO BLACK. END. FINI. STOP RIGHT THERE. Ending it here – the viewer is allowed to think anything they want – and the open-ended finish would have been perfect. Optimists would be allowed to think that he somehow survives the storm and goes to South America to join Hannah and Harrison. Others (myself included) would believe he died, poetically joining his victims at the bottom of the ocean and ultimately showing that he really wasn’t any better than they were. See? See how that works?

BUT NO. Our dear writers seem to think that we can’t deal with that and we’re too stupid to make up our own minds – so fade back in and Dexter is a FUCKING LUMBERJACK. And in a 30 second scene, you have just ruined an entire series. The lumberjack thing makes NO sense. Even if Dexter had survived and didn’t want to join his loved ones, it would have been completely against character for him to become a FUCKING LUMBERJACK. Yes, Dexter was a psychopath. But he was a high functioning psychopath who needed society and people around him to survive. HE WOULD NOT BE A LUMBERJACK.

In another perfect example – we have BATTLESTAR GALACTICA – Okay, so yeah, it’s been years, but the ending to this show still angers me. One of the most prevalent themes throughout the show was whether or not some version of a God ruled over man AND machine. And would the machines be allowed to become a new form of man? The struggle to find meaning in their respective fights, to find their promised land… these were things that so many of us can relate to. Add to that a beautifully written and tense political drama and BOOM – awesome show. As the show starts to wrap up, we find our lost humans discovering a habitable world with a tribe of Neanderthals wandering the vast grassy plains. They make the decision to stop searching and start over. Without their vessels, and without most of the technology they’ve brought with them. It is a good ending that implies a new beginning. Flash forward a couple hundred thousand years and we see that their arrival has set up the remnants of the 12 colonies to be the progenitors of humanity on our Earth. I LOVE THIS IDEA. And most of the viewers loved it too. What a beautiful and hopeful way to bring this to a close, right?

WRONG. The last 30 seconds show us the reincarnations (or ghostly visions or whatever, who cares, it sucked) of Baltar and Six – talking about how GOD HAS PLANNED ALL OF IT. You know what? FUCK YOU FOR RUINING ONE OF MY FAVORITE SHOWS OF ALL TIME. Again, last 30 seconds of the last episode ruined it. Why could you not just leave it? Why again, did the writers feel the need to take us by the hand and drag us to a conclusion that doesn’t fit with the story we know so far?

True Blood’s shiny happy people ending had the same problems for me. With the exception of missing the hell out of Lafayette, the final episode wasn’t horrible. They just took it too far. The series should have ended with Sookie walking under the arch out of the cemetery, after just having lain to rest her true love, symbolically moving on with her life finally. (I have other issues with Bill’s narcisitic motives for making her kill him but that’s an entire other blog post.) And FADE TO BLACK. THE END. Perhaps, after the credits run, an Easter Egg of a brief New Blood advertisement featuring Eric and Pam would have been a great touch – but the dragged out infomercial and subsequent revelation of Sarah’s fate was unnecessary pandering. (And it wasn’t funny.)

Clearly the open-ended series end isn’t for everyone or every show. And there are shows for which tying up all the loose ends in a neat little package is necessary. But usually it’s not. I know it was met with mixed emotions, but I LOVED the way the Sopranos ended. Because it left the end up to audience interpretation.

Is it possible that the writers are so afraid to piss people off that they won’t consider letting us come to our own conclusions? Or do the writers just truly think we’re dumb? I personally was actually INSULTED by that last 30 seconds of Battlestar Galactica. It felt that the writers were forcing their opinion of what life should be on me – and that’s what it feels like now with the end to True Blood.

I think the television powers that be have forgotten that audiences aren’t entirely made up of unthinking morons. We are allowed and should be encouraged to come up with our own ideas and honestly, when something is left a little less fitted up nicely and more open-ended, we’re actually more likely to re-watch, discuss, and recommend the show to others later, as it gives the thinking viewer opportunities for fun, friendly and enjoyably argumentative discussions with other fans. I have actually said to people “When you’re watching the last episode of BSG, when you get to the flash forward bit at the end, STOP THERE.”

So I make a plea to television writers everywhere – please, stop trying to lead us by the hand to the conclusion you think we want. Just lead us to a point where everything makes sense and we’ll take it from there. If you do, we’ll be happier. Really.

Oh, and as a PS to this – I recently – to my horror – heard rumors that Vince Gilligan is bringing back Breaking Bad for a 6th season. Which would be like a full series of those last 30 seconds that we don’t need, or want, and very possibly will ruin the whole thing. Breaking Bad was a near perfect show. It ended the way it needed to. It was amazing and remains amazing just as it is – SO…

MR. GILLIGAN,

PLEASE.

PLEASE.

PLEASE.

PLEASE.

DO.

NOT.

DO.

THAT.

The Problem with Wonder Woman

Earlier this week, the announcement was made that in Zach Snyder’s upcoming film Batman vs Superman, we get yet another important character introduction – in the form of everyone’s favorite Amazon – Wonder Woman. She is to be portrayed by an Israeli model and actress Gal Gadot. In the time since the announcement was made, the internet has blown up with reactions. Some were positive, some were questioning… but most, that I saw, were very negative. But the question I pose to you is this – WHY?

Once again, as it was with the Ben Affleck/Batman announcement – the general consensus is that the actor picked for the role is totally wrong for it. And most of the comments I saw were based on no more than a quick trip to the actress’s Wikipedia page, IMDB page and an extensive array of images of her as an actress, model and most notably – a Miss Universe contestant. While I agree with the fact that I’m not sure that she fits MY vision of what Wonder Woman should look like, I don’t know anything about this woman. And I would venture a guess that most of the more vocal haters don’t either.

I’ve never seen her act. At least not in any English-speaking roles – I do remember (only because it was on TV yesterday) she played the Israeli girlfriend of Mark Wahlberg’s security operative in Date Night. But most of her screen time was 1) spoken in Hebrew and 2) pretty much focused on the fact that she wasn’t wearing much. That was her role – the hot non-English speaking girl in the room. And she was cute in that role, if not very memorable. But then again, that was meant to be a throw-away role set as a bookend to accentuate Mark Wahlberg’s awesomeness compared to Steve Carrell’s NOT awesomeness so in fairness, I really can’t base an opinion on that.

Having no information on Gal Gadot’s acting history aside from that one small role, I looked her up. Apparently she’s been in a Fast & Furious movie or two. I can’t speak to that, having not seen the films from that franchise that she’s in. Again, I’m pretty sure most people who are hating on the choice haven’t seen her act much either. So let’s not talk about whether or not she’s a good actress. What I really want to get into here is the commentary that she is “too skinny” or not the right look for the role.

Let’s see how she stacks up against the description of the Amazon tribe Wonder Woman comes from:

1. Amazon women are meant to be tall. She’s 5’9″ according to her IMDB page – so throw her in a pair of stack heeled boots and BAM – SHE IS TALL.

2. Amazon women are meant to be strong and athletic – well – this girl is a former member of the Israeli military – arguably one of the most well-trained and most capable military forces on the planet. Having lived in Israel – I have known more than a few Israeli soldiers. You do not want to fuck with them. Trust me. So I’m pretty sure she will be doing most of her own stunts. Or at least she’ll be able to, even if they don’t let her.

3. Amazon women are meant to be beautiful. Check. No one is disagreeing with that. The girl is beautiful.

Now let’s look at the character more specifically.

1. Wonder Woman should have ultra dark hair and blue eyes. Okay. So, no one in Hollywood has ever dyed their hair or worn colored contact lenses to portray a particular character, right? I’m pretty sure if they can turn Christopher Eccleston into an evil white elf with glowing crystal blue eyes and seamless super pointy ears, they can handle a box of L’Oreal blue-black hair dye and some Acuvue tinted lenses.

2. Wonder Woman should be voluptuous. Okay, I’ll give you that – Ms Gadot is not particularly voluptuous. However, we have seen more dramatic body transformations in Hollywood than on the Jenny Craig website, so let’s again, give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s not only men who can bulk up, build muscles and gain or loose weight as needed. So there is no reason to assume that just because she’s thin now, she won’t be bulked up for the role. There is no reason you can’t be curvy AND athletic. And with the wealth of nutritionists and trainers available to her, I’m confident, that she can alter herself physically to fit the more curvy and buff look of Wonder Woman.

3. Wonder Woman’s accent won’t be right. No, not kidding. Not a huge concern I’ll grant you, but I saw one hater post that said “She talks funny.” Um, have you ever heard a woman from the long-lost Amazonian colony speak? Yeah, neither have I – so who’s to say what she should sound like. As long as they don’t give her a misplaced psuedo-British accent, which as we all know, is the go-to “you’re not from American, but we shouldn’t know where you are from exactly” accent, then it really doesn’t matter. Also, dialect coaches. Hollywood has them. Bet hers has already been hired.

Not one of the arguments I saw about this announcement had anything to do with Ms. Gadot’s ability as an actress. They all had to do with what she looked like. So, based on the lists given here, all of your shallow and pointless arguments are now invalid. Could we all agreed to let it be until we actually see how GOOD Ms. Gadot is or isn’t in the role?

My concern with this role, isn’t the look of the actress, but with the way that Zach Snyder seems to treat female characters the way an adolescent boy envisions them. Even his most empowered and strong-willed women tend to give up their power to a man at some point in the narrative. That is something that Wonder Woman would never do and I cringe to think at what may be going through Snyder’s head in planning her portrayal.

And what worries me more, is that I just don’t think that Snyder is a very good director. I mean, look at Man of Steel. He took several talented and proven actors and turned them into walking cardboard. Granted, they’re pretty walking cardboard but still cardboard. Man of Steel would have been a more engaging movie if it’d just been Henry Cavill standing shirtless in front of the broken landscape of Krypton for 2 hours. At least I would have enjoyed it more.

Who knows if Gadot will be a good choice for Wonder Woman or not? There is no way to know if the role is something that she (and Snyder) can handle with the respect it deserves. But let’s also remember, no one thought that Heath Ledger was going to be a good Joker. And a lot of people hated the idea of Christian Bale as Batman too.

Okay, so now that we’ve got that all out of the way – let’s talk about what the uproar is really about.

After months of speculation, discussions and and teasing on the part of any number of entertainment and comic book “insiders” – the problem you’re all having with the new Wonder Woman is simply this:

She’s not Jaimie Alexander.

Upset at the Golden Globes

Dear Hollywood Foreign Press Association,

Quit your fucking whining! The biggest news story of the day today seems to be “Did Ricky Gervais Go Too Far” at last night’s Golden Globe Awards. And the answer is this – NO. He did not. He went just the right amount of far. If the HFPA wanted a more safe type of funny, then they shouldn’t have hired Ricky Gervais. End of story. Everyone who has ever seen Ricky Gervais perform – either in his stand-up routines or in the television shows he’s written, KNOWS that he is a professional piss-taker. His entire career has been based on making fun of things and people in a way that is brutal, honest, and at times awkward. Had none of you ever seen Extras? Or The Office? (And no, I’m not talking about the watered down anemic version that Steve Carrell has given American audiences.)  What did you expect?

And you know what? You and everyone who he picked on probably deserved it at one point or another. If you didn’t, he wouldn’t have picked on you! His jokes are topical. He goes after those who have already brought themselves to the public eye for their own indiscretions. Gervais is like a trained assassin with his barbs. He never goes after the innocent. And yes, I do count his jab at the Tourist and the rumors that the HFPA take bribes as worthy of it. It was a HORRIBLE movie! How the hell did it get nominated? I tend to agree with his suggestion that it was nominated only because they wanted to get star power like Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in the room.

The people in Hollywood need to lighten up a bit – the HFPA and the celebrities who attended last night. And we as an audience need to stop expecting them to be perfect. They’re just people. They make mistakes (Sandra Bullock’s hair anyone? Heidi Klum’s dress?). They are not better than us, they are not infallible and now and again, it’s a good idea to knock them back a bit to remind them of that. Last night, Ricky Gervais’ humor took a stab at doing just that and he refuses to apologize for it.

I, for one, commend him.

Though, I do expect, that next year the Golden Globes will hire a host who is nice and boring and not controversial. And I for one, will skip watching it if they do.

Till next time.

New Year’s Day

That, my friends, is the first time I have typed or written “2011.” And let me tell you it looks odd.

Last night, as my New Year’s Eve plans went quickly from “quiet but acceptable” to “non-existant” my friend and I were discussing the need for some new things this year. One of those is new projects. We decided that we would give each other weekly homework assignments. We are both photographers and creatively inclined. We’re both freelancers and at times go from zero to sixty and back to zero again within the span of hours.  Work is erratic. And because of that, a lot of the time, after the work is done, we both have a tendency to fall into a pattern of working a lot for days or weeks at a time and then when it’s over, we do nothing – which includes ignoring projects that we’ve been wanting to work on.  So giving each other a weekly homework assignment is our answer to that.

I’m not going to go into what her assignment was for this, our first week. (Let’s just say she got the easier assignment.) But my assignment is to write every day for a week. And more specifically, to post something on my blog every day. For the week. The hope is that a theme will appear. A direction. A focus. It’s one of the things that I have always lacked when it comes to my creative projects – be they photographic or verbal – I lack focus. Without focus, I have no follow through.

So here’s the first of the week. It’s Saturday. This morning I made my New Year’s Resolutions (there are 11 so far), and this is the beginning of number 9: Balance my actual social life and my online social life a bit more. Currently I’ve been spending too much time online and not enough out in the real world. So here we are. This morning, I asked a friend of both the online & real world to join me at a photography exhibit at the LACMA. I have a membership card, so it’s free for both myself and a guest. Amongst the photos (a William Eggleston retrospective) we saw, the paintings, the art installations and the history of fashion (which I LOVED) there was a statue in the Olmec exhibit of ancient Mexican statues and figures that caught my eye.

This one made me laugh. As only a Doctor Who fan would when I realized that this statue, which was carved sometime in the 1400’s or so, looks strikingly like The Face of Bo.

Don’t you think?

A free day at a museum with a friend wandering about. New Year’s Resolution # 9 begun. As well as number 6 (that is if I can keep this up all week), now that I think about it.

So there you are. First blog post of the new year and it’s not insighful really. It’s just made me giggle. Good start the new year straight off.

When Will They GO AWAY?

Yesterday in driving home from lunch with a friend, I caught site of something that made me want to vom my lunch just a bit. A billboard along La Cienaga Boulevard advertising the following story for that night’s “ET” show:

“Heidi and Spencer Renew Vows”

I must ask the people at ET this one question – DOES ANYONE CARE? I mean really. Over the last year or so, the entity called “Spidey” have proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are nothing more than fame seeking morons with delusions of intelligence and over inflated senses of their own importance.  And though their stars have since faded to a flicker (thankfully), now you’re trying to bring them back?

Please, dear Entertainment Television, let’s leave Moron Barbie and her equally vapid Ken Doll with the creepy flesh coloured beard out where they belong – behind us with the rest of last year’s trash.

Bridalplasty

On the topics of bad unnecessary television that should get the creators shot:

Recently I saw an advertisement for a new reality show called “Bridalplasty.” The sad thing is this isn’t a joke. Brides-to-be compete for a chance to get major reconstructive surgery before their wedding day. The thought of how sick and demented this is makes me want to vomit. Also, the fact that they found 12 women whose self-esteem was so low that they would agree to this thinking that it would make everything better.

The producers at E! who are responsible for this should be lined up in front of a firing squad. Then again, what was I to expect from the people who gave us the insta-celebrity of the Kardashians and whose major goal in life seems to be to discuss Lindsay Lohan’s fall from grace at every opportunity.

I hate television. (Why do I watch so much of it then?)

A New Low For TV

I just saw an advertisement for a television show called Sarah Palin’s Alaska. This PR campaign, I mean, the “reality” show intended to show us that Sarah Palin is “just like us.” Remember what your mother used to tell you about bullies? Just ignore them and they’ll go away. I’d like to see that theory applied to Palin and her entire procreating bible-thumping clan.

Or maybe during the first episode she’ll get eaten by a bear. That’d be okay too.