This Week In Pop Culture (9/08/17)
9/08/2017: BoJack Horseman Would Be Unbearable If It Starred Actual People
By Lydia Bugg
Season 4 of BoJack Horseman has a 100 percent "fresh" rating on rotten tomatoes. The show has been a critical darling since its second season, and a cult classic since the first, but a lot of people find it hard to watch. There's a huge juxtaposition between the material and the presentation, and there's a good reason for that.
The show covers heavy topics like depression, substance abuse, child abuse, and grief. Last season ended with a drug-related death enabled by the main character, and a subsequent suicide attempt by said main character. I had to put on a big fuzzy bathrobe and get out my favorite crying snacks just to write that sentence. I've never thought of BoJack as a comedy. (Yes, I'm on a first-name basis with this TV show, that's how chill we are.) I don't feel uplifted at the end of an episode; that's not what I watch it for. It's more like picking at a scab that hurts but also kind of feels good. After I finish an episode, my heart hurts, but instead of not hurting myself more, I settle in and load up another one. Why?
A lot of reviews of BoJack mention its "realistic portrayal" of painful topics, which is funny because apparently the most realistic way we're seeing depression portrayed on television is via a talking horse? Maybe the only way you can get away with not sensationalizing the difficult topics BoJack discusses is by delivering them in a candy coating of animal jokes.
For every discussion about the pointlessness of life, there's a crocodile wearing crocs in the background to make me laugh. Or bird paparazzi running into a window. The fact that BoJack's abusive father was a horse named Butterscotch makes his horrible treatment of baby BoJack kind of tolerable to watch. Because when a pony verbally abuses its son, it's silly antics! Can you even imagine how depressing an all-human cast BoJack would be? I can, but I don't want to, because I like being a functional person and not a bottomless black hole of tears.
9/07/2017: Sorry, Powerpuff Girls, But There Already WAS A Fourth Member
By Katie Goldin
There are reports that there's going to be a fourth Powerpuff Girl. The reporters saying this are fake fans who don't know anything about Powerpuff lore. If they add a new girl, it would be the fifth Powerpuff, because we already had a fourth Powerpuff. Her name was Bunny, and I'm disgusted that people do not remember her.
See, in Season 2, Episode 11-A, "Twisted Sister," the Powerpuff Girls decided to create another member of their team. Since they were created by accident in their father's lab, they tried to recreate his methods. But instead of using sugar, spice, and everything nice, they used artificial sweetener, dirt, and random bullshit toys. Anyways, they did successfully create a fourth sister, and she was an abomination.
The new sister, dubbed "Bunny," was a grotesque lump of muscles shaped like a drumstick, with fucked-up teeth and massive, uncontrollable Lenny-like strength. She had the mind of a toddler and could barely speak, but tried her best to be a hero. Yes, she almost hugged her sisters into a coma, but she had a heart of gold the size of a horse's heart, because she was huge and medically bizarre. She screwed up by accidentally throwing cops in prison (an unspeakable act, apparently) and was kicked out of the team. But at the last minute, she saved her sisters from certain death, sacrificing herself in the process. Yep, she died. Exploded into a fine mist.
Bunny's existence was brief, confused agony -- brought into the world by selfish children, taken out of the world because of the dark hearts of man. She was a true innocent. Sure, she was a shambling monstrosity, but she shambled right into my heart. Bunny will always be my fourth Powerpuff; not this new, sanitized, saccharine, corporate-safe creation. #NotMyPowerpuff
9/06/2017: Young Sheldon Took The Hassle Out Of Proving It's Not Funny
By Luis Prada
The Big Bang Theory is pretty unfunny. Yeah, humor is subjective, and it's the most popular sitcom on TV, so clearly there are plenty of people out there who disagree. But the show is entering its 11th season. If it was ever funny, it certainly can't be anymore. After over a decade of 24-episode seasons, any property will wear out its comedic resources. It's natural. But like Cheers and Friends before it, the franchise is just too lucrative to completely get rid of when the series inevitably ends. That's why CBS is giving us Young Sheldon, a prequel about fan-favorite character Sheldon in high school. Judging by the trailers they've released so far, Young Sheldon is honoring the legacy of its predecessor by continuing to be almost defiantly unfunny. But they've fiddled with the formula a bit, making it more efficiently unfunny.
Young Sheldon is a single-camera sitcom, which means no laugh track. You might be aware that people love removing the laugh track from The Big Bang Theory to demonstrate that the jokes aren't really jokes and there's nothing even remotely funny going on most of the time. And now Young Sheldon is doing all the work of proving it's unfunny for you. You used to have to download an episode, then painstakingly edit out every instance of audience laughter, and then upload it to YouTube to prove your point. Now you just have to watch the show itself for, like, a minute.
Removing the one thing that keeps up the illusion that your sitcom has any jokes is a bold move. Will it pay off? Probably not. Sitcom spinoffs don't generally do too well. For every Frasier, there are 30 Joeys. But at least one spinoff has the guts to flat out tell you it's just a cash grab.
9/05/2017: Stephen King, Can Ya Not?
By Ian Fortey
If you work at any corporate team-fueled soul-sucker of a business, chances are you've had to endure the odd meeting during which you get to know people and build trust with one another toward the goal of better problem-solving skills. You work together, develop camaraderie, and become a more efficient unit. And if you're a group of kids who just fought a monster clown in Stephen King's IT, you have a sewer orgy. But you shouldn't!
I like King as much as the next guy, but man, Steve, what the hell? As you may be aware if you read King's million-page novel (here be spoilers!), after the kids defeat Pennywise in the sewers, they find themselves a little lost in the maze of stinky pipes full of discarded floppy shoes and errant child body parts. Now this is where team-building comes into play. Maybe if you or I were lost in a sewer, we'd rely on things like flashlights, a map, a trail of breadcrumbs, or hell, even just walking around for a few more hours until you find a ladder to get out. But I'm no Sherpa.
King opts to have the lone female in the group of seven children suggest what some have called a "preteen orgy." Mmmkay, that was one option, sort of, but are there better ones? Yes. All of the other options are better ones. The thing about fiction is it's literally an open book. You can do anything you want. You just had an evil space clown, so I'm sure there are more creative solutions than a preteen orgy.
Some have made the dubious claim that the act is necessary to cement the bond of the children and allow them to unite with the power that helped them defeat IT (which seems to have come from a space turtle, which sounds great) and find their way out of the sewer. I want to go on record that even if a space turtle helps you overcome a carnivorous terror clown, it does not give him the right to initiate disturbing sewer sex. You know what could cement the children's trust in each other? Trust falls. A group hug. A conversation. Literally anything else.
King has said there's a parable for the transition from childhood to adulthood in the scene, a kind of physical expression of how they've changed after their battle with IT. Again, maybe instead of sewer sex, this could have been better showcased by the kids all sharing a glass of Scotch or smoking their first doobie.
King has also said that when he wrote the book it was a different time, and now we're more sensitive to content like this. Maybe he's right -- as you may recall, in 1983, sewer orgies were all the rage, but by the time Friends rolled around in the '90s, we as a society were mostly over them.
In the book, after the sex, one of the six boys involved suddenly remembers where they took a few wrong turns and how to get back out, thus demonstrating just how crucial this was for their survival. But surely the lesson to be learned isn't that orgies are like sextants that help you navigate via the northern star? And did a book that prominently featured an evil arm-dismembering, child-eating clown really need an extra scene to make it even more disgusting?
Far be it from me to dictate the rules of writing to Stephen King, an author more prolific and successful than I will likely ever be. IT was a huge success and we're all stoked for the movie, so sure, he did something right. That said, for the next novel, if he's pondering a way to wrap up a few plotlines and maybe help his protagonists find their way out of a Walmart or a corn maze, maybe an underage orgy shouldn't be the go-to solution. Hindsight is 20/20.
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