Humanity Through Film: Jon Stewart and Rosewater

Never did a film release year so desperately need a breath of earnestness as this one did. Fortunately, between Transformers oh Fuck We’re Still Doing This, Exodus: “It’s Not Brownface if we Don’t Admit it,” and two Lars Von Trier films (he’s maximizing potential misery by dividing his films into parts now), we got Rosewater. And while part of me was tempted to recuse myself on this movie – Jon Stewart’s had an incalculably large impact on my growth as an analyst, and overwhelming admiration has a way of coloring your senses – it ultimately fit in a bit too well with this blog’s mission statement to overlook.

Continue reading

How Much Canon is Good Enough? Korrasami and Where We Go From Here

I would like to present you now with two circular lines of logic prevalent in the world of western animation, especially shows aimed at younger audiences:

Same sex relationships cannot be too explicit (read: involve kissing or direct love declarations) because this is viewed as inherently tied to sex, which is inappropriate for children’s media. Think of the children.

Close relationships between two characters of the same gender are too vague to be considered explicitly romantic, and so people should not complain when they are read as merely close friendships.

That’s some catch, that catch-22.

Which brings us round to the events of Friday’s Legend of Korra finale – and if you thought for a single second I was going to miss out on an inclusivity landmark in animation history, you have not been around this blog for long. And yes, it is a landmark: not just a canonical same-sex romance in a children’s TV show (defined here by network demographic, not the wide net that is the actual audience), but the making of a heroine who saved the world, grew as a person, and also happens to be queer. What we’ve got here is the American Samurai Flamenco. I want to write a letter to the past and tell myself this day is coming, just to see what a relief it would be to them. I want a letter from the future to tell me what bold new artistic freedoms will someday come of this important step. But first we have to deal with that catch-22.

Then we can all just agree to talk about how sweet they are

Continue reading

A Letter to Stephen Colbert

I am without sufficient breath to detail the extent to which my life has been shaped by one Stephen T Colbert, DFA. Though he may never see this document (hence why I have idled toward a 3rd person styling, for ease of reading by the literally dozens of people who pass these pages), I wanted nonetheless to mark the occasion of The Colbert Report’s final week of broadcasting. It’s still my hope to meet the man someday, to shake his hand and (with minimal stammering and tears) impart to him my gratitude and admiration. But for the moment, this eulogy will have to suffice.

When my older brother was a graduate student, he gave me the single most appropriate gift one can give to their junior high aged sibling: a copy of America the Book. Separated by almost two generations, I was constantly in a hurry to be as well informed and sophisticated as I was certain he was. Anything to be included. So I studied that book religiously (including, hot-faced and slightly ill, the senators), and when he was home from the frozen wastelands of North Dakota we would watch The Daily Show. Every time my brother would laugh I’d stare harder at the screen, trying to will satirical knowledge into my mind. This is how I began getting into arguments with other 9th graders about the justifiability of the Iraq War. There was an addictive quality to knowing things, and eventually I watched even when my brother wasn’t home.

Election night, in the middle of a bit involving romantically shared pizza and a gunshot. That’s when I found Stephen Colbert.

Continue reading

Over the Garden Wall: The Millennial’s Fairytale

While it’ll be some time before we can start weaving the history books, I’m fairly prepared to say we’re currently living in a new Golden Age of western animation. Starting as early as the controlled, beautiful storytelling of Avatar and exploding in the wake of Adventure Time’s bold exploration of world building and mythos, we’ve finally reached a point where the gatekeepers of entertainment are ready to consider animation, if not as seriously as supposed ‘real’ entertainment, as a flexible field of possibilities. Most recently, that means Over the Garden Wall, perhaps Cartoon Network’s first true miniseries since Tartakovsky’s regrettably swept under the rug Clone Wars.

One thing the recent generation of cartoons has had in common, from Legend of Korra to Gravity Falls, is a willingness to cast a wider net through the maturity of its writing. A lot of this stems from the 90s, with its envelope-pushing oddities (Invader Zim, Courage the Cowardly Dog), influx of anime (all the way up to today, when Space Dandy aired in America before Japan), and the burgeoning heyday of explicitly teen and adult oriented cartoons (Daria, the birth of Adult Swim). And as those who came of age in the late 80s and 90s come to creative positions of power, the realization starts to assert itself that the appeal of animation isn’t down to an age demographic. The exploration of what that might mean is what we’re in the midst of now, and so we come back to that miniseries. Over the Garden Wall is an experiment with one foot in history and one in the now, trying its hardest to act as a fairytale for the millennial generation.

Now, OtGW has its hand in quite a few pots as far as thematic exploration, so we’re going to break it down subheading style. And because this show is well worth watching, and richer for going in without prior knowledge, I will now warn for copious spoilers.

Continue reading