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This is my increasingly regular plea for you, when you shop at Amazon, to please use our links. That is where I get the money to keep this place open. I know y’all buy books and other things.

Click any Amazon link you see. If you block ads on our page then you can donate because that doesn’t help. Pause Ad blocker and shop for a minute. 🙂

Saturday Open Thread 

Friday Open Thread 

Mulan - A Conservative Family Film In Liberal Drag

So we watched Disney’s Mulan last night, and seeing for the first time in years, I was really struck by just how politically incorrect a film it was. When it came out back in the 90s, it was considered a progressive film, since it was about a woman serving in combat. But seeing it now, nearly 20 years later, it feels more like a conservative film in feminist clothing.

Sure, the main thrust of the story is about a woman trying to achieve empowerment in a man’s world, but consider that almost every other character is a strong, masculine male soldier, and that the film celebrates those qualities rather than putting them down. Just listen to the lyrics of the song “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You”.

While they are tinged with a bit of irony because one of the soldiers it’s being sung to is a woman in men’s clothing, overall it’s a celebration of masculinity and the male gender, something that boys should aspire to be and women should appreciate. The men around Mulan are not weaklings and cowards, they’re strong, tough guys that give her an ideal to live up to. These are not the neutered beta males of recent Disney films and TV – they’re brave, rough-and-tumble guys who love to fight, tease each other and mack on ladies, and the film praises them for it, rather than humiliating or shaming them for their “toxic masculinity”. This film doesn’t see being a man as problematic, it sees being one as actually pretty awesome.

The movie is also very pro-military, seeing the war they’re fighting as courageous and necessary to protect their nation and repel the vicious, bloodthirsty Huns, who kill everything in their path. Mulan doesn’t join the army to prove something to anyone, she joins to save her father. But once she sees what a threat the Huns pose to her countrymen and her fellow soldiers, she joins the war effort enthusiastically. In its own G-rated way, it’s almost as pro-war a film as Zack Snyder’s 300.

The story is also more of what you would call “classically feminist” rather than modern feminist. Mulan earns the respect of her fellow soldiers by working her ass off and being brave. She’s not some Mary Sue character who is automatically better than anyone else around her because girl power (see modern Star Wars, Disney and superhero flicks). She does the work, and when the war is over she goes back to being a feminine woman, and at the end is even delighted at the possibility of a romance with her handsome former commanding officer.

It’s truly startling to see how far our culture has shifted in the last 20 years. If Mulan was made today, the character would be a Mary Sue who never has to work at anything, and constantly spouts feminist talking points while putting down all the misogynistic, weaker men around her, and the idea of a traditional romance with a man would be disempowering and beneath her. Not to mention that the entire war plot would be filled with constant commentary about how cruel, dehumanizing and futile war is. Just consider Disney’s most recent treatment of Mulan, on the show Once Upon A Time – she’s portrayed as a moody, butch warrior and a bisexual to boot. None of the femininity, warmth, complexity or likeability of the film character, just dour social justice pandering.

Man, I miss having a culture where even feminist films were fun to watch, and gave me something to cheer for.

Thursday Open Thread

Wednesday Open Thread 

This Afternoon’s Broadcast is brought to you by…

Little River Band.

We're Back, Baby!

Do my eyes deceive me, or is Saturday Night Live actually making fun of the Democrats as old and out-of-touch? Maybe the recent wins in Virginia convinced them that the Dems are on the comeback trail so it’s safe to mock them. Granted, it’s not as hard as they’ve gone after Trump and the Republicans, and they do it from a slight pro-Bernie perspective, but still, not bad, SNL. Not bad.

Tuesday Open Thread

Last night I gave a speech at our leadership institute entitled “Civility in Uncivil Times” the gist of which is that we are not necessarily more uncivil than other times in our past (as the above cartoon printed by Andrew Jackson supporters in 1828 attests — ditto JQA’s followers hounding Mrs. Jackson to her early death), but that the major challenge is the lack of centripetal forces holding us together and the ascendance of centrifugal forces pulling us apart — identity politics, lack of appreciation of free speech, etc.

The Walking Thread: Some Guy (S8, E4).

TWD 8.4

Heavy is the head that wears a crown, indeed. With “Some Guy”, King Ezekiel finally gets his own episode, and TWD narrows its focus on him and his group (Carol, Jerry, etc.) and the completion of their mission against the Saviors, with a brief drop-in by Rick and Daryl. As a result, this episode feels more like a vignette than the larger-scale battles of the last three episodes, but this also gives it a fantastic balance of action and character that makes it the Season’s best episode so far, in my opinion.

The cold open starts with a brief but effective flashback to Ezekiel back in the Kingdom, putting on his kingly “costume” and gearing up for battle. He gives a brief inspirational speech that has some very Shakespearean overtones, and is high on “we can win!” optimism. Then it cuts back to the present, after all of his forces have been cut to pieces by the Saviors and their .05 cal machine gun (talk about putting cold water on that speech!). Ezekiel has survived, albeit with a nasty leg wound, and barely has time to grieve before his former friends start coming back to life and trying to eat him. He manages to get away, but is taken hostage by a surviving Savior, who plans to take him to Negan as a war prisoner.

Ezekiel has fallen into some pretty sudden despair after being brought so low, and The Savior, a creepy Jeffrey Dahmer-looking dude, rubs salt in the wound by taunting Ezekiel about what a liar and a failure he was as “King”. They get stuck at a chain-link fence that Ezekiel cannot climb in his wounded state, and the Savior is about to off him when Jerry appears (yay, Jerry lived!) and rescues him, offing the Savior in a most bloody and satisfying way.

Meanwhile, Carol has also survived, and is hunting down the Saviors who were firing the .50 cal. She stealth-kills some of them, and chases the rest into the parking lot, where she shoots it out with them. A couple of them escape with the machine gun to break Negan out of his Sanctuary, but she takes out the rest (with the help of some Walkers) and saves Ezekiel and Jerry just before a herd of Walkers overtakes them. They escape into the woods, where they encounter some more Walkers that have apparently been stewing in toxic waste for a while (although they sadly have gained no superpowers from this). Now at his lowest point, Ezekiel orders the others to go on without him. “I ain’t no king”, he says”. “I ain’t nobody. I’m just some guy.” His illusions of strength and optimism have been completely dashed, and he just wants to go out swinging, but at the last moment, his tiger Shiva appears and saves him, but is torn apart by the Walkers for her trouble. Ezekiel is even more saddened, but realizes that even if his greatness was an illusion to the rest of the Kingdom, he genuinely meant something to Shiva. He limps back home with Carol and Jerry, his mission completed but himself completely broken by it. We’ll have to see in future episodes what kind of a man, and leader, this makes him into.

Thankfully, the plot thread of the .05 cal machine gun is not left hanging, as Rick and Daryl track down the remaining Saviors on the road, shoot it out with them, and recover the weapon, which will likely be a game-changer in the war. Despite the unfortunate losses for the Kingdom, the war as a whole is looking up. Next episode looks to finally show us what happens back with Negan and the Saviors (who have Father Gabriel hostage now), so we’ll have to wait and see about that, and the rest of the story.

TWD 8.4.1

Random thoughts on this episode:

*Man, Khary Payton is fan-freaking-tastic as Ezekiel in this episode. His grief, despair and disillusionment are all so very palpable, and watching his spirit broken is heartbreaking. Hard to believe such a great actor has been hiding behind all those cartoon voices for all these years. I hope his career gets a serious boost after he leaves TWD.

*I find it hard to believe that, even wounded, Shiva went down that easily. Yeah, she got mobbed by Walkers, but Walkers are just slow humans. Try to imagine a dozen skinny humans jumping on top of an angry tiger, do you think that would be enough to subdue it?

*As sad as it was to lose her (and accurate to the comics), the show’s creators probably cheered when they killed Shiva off. Not having to painstakingly animate a CGI tiger anymore is probably a relief.

*I know they’ve gone over-the-top with Ezekiel’s speeches, but I really liked his “and yet I smile” speech. It was beautifully written, acknowledged the danger and risk of their mission, but communicated the optimism needed to get the job done with enthusiasm. Battlefield commanders don’t have the luxury to be pessimistic. These flashbacks also did a good job of foreshadowing that he could’ve been killed in this episode, and on a show where pretty much anyone can die, that made the later scenes very tense and involving.

*Carol’s stealth-killing game was on point. She took out half a dozen Saviors while hiding in the ceiling. A lot of people are saying she was able to do that blind, but it’s a dilapidated building after the apocalypse. It’s plausible that there were lots of small holes in the ceiling that she would’ve been able to see them through.

*It was fun seeing an honest-to-goodness car chase, something TWD has never done before. There were definitely shades of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Road Warrior, and the scene was a real kick. That said, I don’t really get why the .05 cal didn’t do more damage to Rick’s jeep, aside from the fact that the plot required he be able to keep driving it. Minor quibble, though.

*”Thank you, Your Majesty.” “For what?” “For being such a cool dude.” Damn, I love Jerry.

*Fan gripe I don’t get, #85,000: why is everyone asking how the Saviors have so many bullets in these battles? Let’s see: last season they made Eugene a part of their group. Eugene knows how to make bullets. Connect the freaking dots, people. Besides, last season they were complaining because there was not enough action, now they’re complaining that the plentiful action isn’t 100% realistic. Some fans will just never be happy unless they’re grumbling about something.

This AFternoon’s brOAdcast is broughT to you bY:

The Talking Heads.