It’s fairly obvious that we Jews just don’t get Christmas. Don’t believe me? Check out BuzzFeed’s attempt to get Jews to decorate Christmas trees. (“Who’s Noel?” “Is that like, ‘grassy knoll’?”) Yet, every year we Jewish Americans wrestle as a people over whether or not to incorporate Christmas traditions into our own Hanukkah celebrations. It’s tacky. It’s trite. And it’s really, really lame. Here are five Hanukkah/Christmas hybrids that all Jews need to avoid this holiday season.
5. Life is Beautiful: Dr. Who
Before they brought Holmes and Watson into the 20th century in the excellent personages of Benedict Cumberbach and Martin Freeman, the Sherlock team first produced this marvelous update of the ultimate geek cult classic, Dr. Who.
For the uninitiated, The Doctor is a time-traveling alien, last of his species which was known as Time Lords, who generally is incarnated with some sort of accent from the British Isles, and travels through time and space in a blue time capsule that looks like a blue British police call box circa 1963 (when the series debuted on the BBC.)
The Doctor is of an undetermined age, and regenerates every so often with a new body and slightly different personality. This season, he is played by Peter Capaldi and is, to his initial consternation, an older and grouchier, Scotsman. In the most recent seasons he has been played to great effect by Christopher Eccleson, David Tennant and Matt Smith.
The Doctor travels with an appealing and adventurous sidekick, generally a young and pretty British woman.
Like The Doctor himself, this show has heart to spare, generally with the characters saving some civilization from extinction. While Dr. Who is consistently life-affirming, the show recently aired one of the most blatantly pro-life episodes in the history of television.
Forget wondering if a baby might ruin one’s career, in this case, the dilemma was whether to kill the last of an alien species in utero, even if letting it hatch meant risking the future of Earth itself.
Utterly whimsical and completely addictive, Dr. Who has a sense of wonder and humanity that is unique in modern television.
Editor’s Note: Click here for Part 1 in this 3-part series.
11. How I Learned to Love the Bomb: Manhattan
WGN, the Chicago version of Atlanta’s TBS that never quite made national superstation status, makes a big bid for relevance with Manhattan, a terrific soap opera set in Los Alamos in 1944, as scientists feverishly race their Nazi counterparts in the quest for a workable nuclear bomb.
While most treatments of this subject focus on the supposition that people working on the project would be consumed by the guilt of constructing something that could kill millions of people, this series refreshingly pushes those considerations to the background.
The makers of Manhattan remember that it is set in wartime, where everyone knows someone who has been killed by the bad guys—and that the bad guys themselves are working on creating such a weapon.
Instead, Manhattan’s focus is on two things—the professional competition and jealousies created among the scientists who have competing theories about how to create a bomb; and the stress—and boredom—of people forced to live with their families in a super-secret military camp out in the middle of nowhere.
A very good cast of character actors you have seen elsewhere, sharp writing and an authentic feel of time and place make Manhattan top flight—and informative—entertainment.
Editor’s Note: See the first four parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” “Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone,” “The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power,” and “Should You Trust Your Gut or God?“ Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here. Warning: some spoilers about season 3 discussed in this installment.
Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God. Her officials within her are roaring lions; her rulers are evening wolves, who leave nothing for the morning. Her prophets are unprincipled; they are treacherous people. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law.
Our culture has a seemingly natural distrust of people in power, but that wasn’t always the case. Before November 1963 we put great faith in our political and spiritual leaders. Those pre-’63 figureheads like JFK, Ike and FDR, Fulton Sheen and Billy Graham are still heralded as role models of moral society. Today’s faith is different. We look for hypocrisy and mock it intensely. All spiritual leaders are televangelists skilled in chicanery. Our politicians are now supposed to be our messiahs, and when they fail we as a nation fall into despair and chaos. When did we forget God, and why does it matter that we’ve left Him out of the equation?
This year, one of the shows that generated critical buzz was Fox’s Red Band Society, which is about a children’s ward for children with serious-terminal illnesses. The result was a Breakfast Club for disease, narrated by a kid in a coma with a penchant for platitudes. I bailed during the second lecture by Coma Boy.
Of course, I had a clue how dreary the fall could be when this was the list of “anticipated” new shows on broadcast TV this year according to USA Today’s estimable critic, Robert Bianco.
Then it struck me. I went to my DVR and counted 16 shows I enjoyed on cable this SUMMER, and one genial network offering. Summer? Superior original TV? Since when?
So let me offer anyone with cable that offers a good On Demand, a personalized TV schedule for the fall. Add these to the few network shows worth your time: The Good Wife, Modern Family, The Middle, and Elementary; and the two new network shows with promise: Gotham and Black-ish, (and, of course, Showtime’s thoroughly revived and gripping Homeland) and you will actually have a TV schedule worthy of the Golden Age (actually better).
This should at least last you until January, when we get the return of Justified, The Americans, and the rest of the first season of Amazon Prime’s nearly perfect adaptation of Michael Connelly’s great noirish cop novels, Bosch.
Editor’s Note: We’re launching some new discussions and debates this winter in dialogue with the new fiction publishing company Liberty Island. See the previous installments: David S. Bernstein on November 19: “5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture,” and Dave Swindle on November 25: “7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook,” and December 2: “My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors.” Learn more about Liberty Island contributor Mark Ellis in an interview with him and read an excerpt from his short story “Temblor” here.
If there is an inherent bipolarity between hard rock and heavy metal and the dissemination of the conservative message, social issues–in particular substance abuse–are at the bottom of that dissonance.
It’s a question about how art and politics intersect, and it becomes a question about how readily conservatives will embrace transgressive and even regressive artists in their quest to more integrally impact popular culture.
Whatever our politics, it is human nature to make special exceptions in the name of art. If conservatives want to impact the entire culture, we’re going to need some bad boys, antiheros, lost souls, dark heralds, and musical provocateurs.
I nominate Ozzy Osbourne for inclusion in the conservative counterculture– although I would never want to do anything to hurt his career or jeopardize his sobriety. I contend that if you peel back all the layers of substance abuse, all the layers it takes to survive being a superstar, you’ll find that rock’s Prince of Darkness is essentially a man with core conservative values.
VH-1 recently announced that The Osbournes reality show will be returning in January for a slate of episodes. The scuttlebutt is that unlike last time, Ozzy wants the show and Sharon does not.
Ozzy claims (and who would doubt) that he was both stoned and inebriated throughout the filming of the show’s original iteration. He’s down with the new episodes because he wants to show the world how he functions without the drugs and alcohol.
And I recommend that conservatives watch the show, which premieres in January, with an eye to claiming rock’s Prince of Darkness for the center-right.
Editor’s Note: See the first three parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” ”Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone,” and “The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power.” Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here.
The idea of Olivia Pope is one of a woman who trusts her gut instinct so implicitly that she bases her every decision on it. As a result she unwittingly justifies a range of crimes, puts her life and the lives of her employees and friends at risk, and helps terrorists escape the country. Sometimes listening to your gut just isn’t good enough. Which is probably why God provides a wise alternative in Torah: the prophet.
Biblical culture believes that God speaks to human beings. Sometimes this is done in a group setting, like when the Israelites entered into a covenant with God on Mount Sinai. Other times this is done on an individual level, as when God called out Abraham, spoke to Moses through the burning bush, and when God speaks to His prophets. Given that God spoke to His priests through the long-ago destroyed Temple, Rabbinic Judaism tends to view prophets as the stuff of biblical history, despite the prophecy of Joel:
And afterward [after the restoration of Israel], I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
The Spirit of God in prophecy, known in Rabbinic Judaism as the “bat kol,” is highly regulated by Rabbinic law and culture:
In any event, the consensus in Jewish thought is that no appeal to a heavenly voice can be made to decide matters of halakhah where human reasoning on the meaning of the Torah rules is alone determinative. In non-legal matters, however, a Bat Kol is to be heeded. …In modern Jewish thought, even among the Orthodox, claims to have heard a Bat Kol would be treated with extreme suspicion and dismissed as chicanery or hallucination.
But is it really wise to always trust your gut?
Sometimes it takes an outsider to notice the confusion laced within a holiday message. When it comes to Christmas, the confusion is on overload. Somewhere along the way a religious message got smacked with a load of pop culture overtones to create a holiday lush with semiotic excess, too much for the brain or heart to process. So, allow me from my seat on the sidelines to create the How To guide so you can enjoy the perfect pop culture Christmas.
12. Shop early and shop often for things you’ll never need that are on sale at bargain basement prices.
Christmas really begins on Black Friday, or 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, whichever you prefer. The holiday is about buying to your heart’s content and making sure everything you and your children have ever dreamed of is stacked up under that decorated tree. The bruises and broken limbs you get in pursuit of those awesome sale prices will be well worth it. Who needs teeth when they can have stuff?
Editor’s Note: this article compiles the opening essay “Why Star Trek: The Next Generation Is Great in Spite of Being Mostly Terrible” and all 5 parts of Ash Freeman’s recent series dissecting how and why one of science fiction’s most influential shows failed to give its female characters adequate attention. Jump to your favorite neglected heroine below or dive in first with Ash’s explanation for why he still enjoys TNG even though its shortcomings now show more glaringly today.
1. Tasha Yar
2. Deanna Troi
6. Ro Laren
7. Lwaxana Troi
8. Alyssa Ogawa
10. Sonya Gomez
Star Trek: The Next Generation is, undeniably, one of the greatest sci-fi shows in the history of the genre.
But it wasn’t perfect. So when did it start to slide in quality anyway?
It didn’t start out that good — let’s be real.
Like many productions, TNG stumbled in its early seasons, regularly. As the show found itself, it began to consistently display the storytelling and endearing characters it would be known for even today… at around Season 3. Hell, the most famous episodes of the series, “The Best of Both Worlds” Parts 1 and 2, ended said season. But before that? It was hit or miss, and often the latter.
Season 1 is especially egregious, containing the worst good-to-mediocre/terrible ratio in the entire series. Yes, that is including the often (justifiably) maligned Season 7, generally the point where most shows have definitely passed their high point anyway. What set Season 1 apart from arguably more inferior seasons is the sheer volume of crap they had to crank out before they hit their stride.
No, seriously, it was pretty terrible in the beginning
“The Big Goodbye.” “Datalore.” “Conspiracy.” Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe “Skin of Evil.” Maybe.
That’s four (possibly three) episodes that could be considered great, at least by the standards of Season 1.
Out of 26.
Not off to a great start there, were they? Fans at the time certainly didn’t seem to think so, and their opinions are justified. Season 1 has its share of stinkers, and most of them appeared right out of the gate. The second episode, “The Naked Now,” was more or less a rehash of an original series episode. After that we got what is thought to be by many, including principle cast member Jonathan Frakes, as the most embarrassing episode in the entire run– “Code of Honor.”
Editor’s Note: See the first two parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” ”Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone.” Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here.
The husband/wife relationship is central to feminism. Historical, first-wave feminism studied matrimony in terms of legal rights. Contemporary, second-wave feminism approaches marriage in terms of sexual and economic power. Biblical feminism seeks to understand the spiritual relationship between a husband and wife, and how that spiritual relationship manifests into physical action. To do so, we must begin at the beginning, with Genesis 3:16:
To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
“Rule over you” is a phrase that sends chills down any feminist’s spine. But, what does it truly mean? A study of the original Hebrew text provides radical insight into one of the most abused verses of Torah:
This brings us to perhaps the most difficult verse in the Hebrew Bible for people concerned with human equality. Gen 3:16 seems to give men the right to dominate women. Feminists have grappled with this text in a variety of ways. One possibility is to recognize that the traditional translations have distorted its meaning and that it is best read against its social background of agrarian life. Instead of the familiar “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing,” the verse should begin “I will greatly increase your work and your pregnancies.” The word for “work,” izavon, is the same word used in God’s statement to the man; the usual translation (“pangs” or “pain”) is far less accurate. In addition, the woman will experience more pregnancies; the Hebrew word is pregnancy, not childbearing, as the NRSV and other versions have it. Women, in other words, must have large families and also work hard, which is what the next clause also proclaims. The verse is a mandate for intense productive and reproductive roles for women; it sanctions what life meant for Israelite women.
In light of this, the notion of general male dominance in the second half of the verse is a distortion. More likely, the idea of male “rule” is related to the multiple pregnancies mentioned in the first half of the verse. Women might resist repeated pregnancies because of the dangers of death in childbirth, but because of their sexual passion (“desire,” 3:16) they accede to their husbands’ sexuality. Male rule in this verse is narrowly drawn, relating only to sexuality; male interpretive traditions have extended that idea by claiming that it means general male dominance.
In the past few days, liberal extremists have launched a full-scale attack on the Duggars, demanding that The Learning Channel cancel the Duggars’ popular reality TV show.
Their reason? Michelle Duggar openly opposed an extreme ‘transgender’ bill in Fayetteville. The bill would have given biological males who say they are women the right to use women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other female-only facilities!
As of this writing, that petition has over 80,000 signatures, and is growing fast, with media like the Huffington Post leading the charge! We need to launch a counter-attack, letting TLC know that the American people stand by the Duggars and their defense of traditional family values.
Rather than being extreme, the Duggars represent the majority of people in state after state who have stood up for the traditional family.
The real extremists are those who are demanding that a TV network penalize America’s beloved family because they support the truth about family, which they have always expressed in a loving, compassionate fashion.
I haven’t watched 19 Kids and Counting in years. It just fell out of my usual television viewing rotation. That doesn’t mean I want to see it become the next victim of toxic progressive pitchforking.
The next target may be your favorite show.
LifeSiteNews’ counter-petition has just under 20,000 signatures as I write this.
You can read it here and sign it if you agree.
In one of his most memorable roles, as the eponymous character of Tim Burton’s 1990 film Edward Scissorhands, Johnny Depp plays a semi-human manboy with shears for fingers, stuck in eternal youth as those around him wither. I thought of this film last week, as I watched a fifty-something Depp, drunk and clad in his usual get-up of randomly placed crosses and scarves, stumble to the microphone at a televised awards show and deliver a slurred “speech” in which he giggled, cursed, rocked, and swayed his way through a painful two minutes. Here was another manboy on display, albeit one lacking the charm and innocence of Burton’s creation.
It was a shame to see Depp, a genuinely talented and by most accounts kind and gentle man, reduce himself to this display. He is well into middle age—not that any age is an appropriate time for public drunkenness. I suspect his career won’t be dented much, if at all, by the episode. This is not just because he is a celebrity. One can’t imagine, say, Morgan Freeman stumbling onto the stage, delivering a gin-soaked introduction, and walking away with his career totally intact. No, it is Depp’s enduring “bad boy” image that affords him the extra latitude. Those crosses and scarves go a long way. If you can set yourself up as some kind of outsider, those on the inside will start to think they’re caged animals and become desperate for your kind of freedom. The bad boy’s appeal comes from nonchalantly scuffing the social rulebook with his cowboy boots and daring us not to like him because of it.
Women are fixers. It should come as no surprise to anyone with an understanding of the sexes that the leading female figure on primetime television is none other than a fixer named Olivia Pope. Fifty years ago women primarily played the role of mother on screen and, in doing so, they fixed things and life was pretty darn perfect. But perfect doesn’t fly on network television any longer. Today it’s all about drama, and drama is conflict. So, we get Olivia Pope: beautiful, intelligent, who fantasizes about marrying an already married man, having his children and fixing a nice little life in the Vermont countryside for them, but is too embroiled in fixing her own life and the lives of those she loves to ever quite reach her American nirvana.
Like Israel’s matriarchs, Olivia Pope has a vision of justice, of order, of the way things should be. The wearer of the “white hat,” she wrestles between good and evil in her many attempts to manifest this divine sense that has been humanized as her “gut” instinct. Watch her and you’ll see the woman in white when she pursues truth, the woman in black when she has given over to evil, and the woman in gray when she questions everything she knows. Being a fixer is a woman’s inherent power and inevitable struggle. It isn’t that we want to “do it all” because doing it isn’t as hard as taking responsibility for it, for the lives under our care. Olivia Pope cares for everyone, wants to save everyone, wants to repair everyone and make everything all better. Her struggle, like that of the matriarchs, is in placing the sole burden of responsibility on her own shoulders. But, the greatest lesson of God-given responsibility is that you are not expected to carry it all alone.
My editor, David Swindle, has a penchant for assigning me to review what I’d consider some pretty nasty stuff. It started with HBO, Girls in particular. He tried getting me into Game of Thrones, but after the whole Red Wedding thing I just couldn’t take it. Now, David has me watching Scandal. It’s more palatable in the network sense (nowhere near the gratuitous nudity and graphic sex levels of HBO), but it’s still as dark. Nothing beats watching a show about a team of lawyers who don’t care a whit about the law. In fact, they go to great lengths to break the law in order to serve the gods of public opinion.
Only four episodes in, I consulted with my PJ colleague April Bey, a big fan of the show, for her opinion. “Everyone is evil, but that’s okay because we’re all evil,” she explained. Her observation was ironic, disturbing, and thought-provoking. Despite an apparent thread of cynicism regarding religion and morality, the struggle between good and evil remains the stuff of blockbuster hits like Scandal. Because our stories reflect our cultural psyche, it should come as no surprise that the word “evil” is beginning to carry serious weight in intellectual circles. Ascribed with more power than a petty adjective (i.e. early 2000′s “evil” George W. Bush), evil is now being discussed as a theory and a reason for contemporary political, legal, military and indeed cultural failings.
According to “Live with Kelly and Michael” co-host Kelly Ripa, her 13-year-old daughter Lola isn’t her biggest fan. Yahoo News reports:
“I don’t think she likes me, but I don’t care. I’m like, ‘I’m not your friend, I’m your mom,’” Ripa told Wendy Williams. “I just feel an obligation as her mom to keep her living in the real world. I don’t care who you are or what you do, if you’re a mom, you’re a mom.”
Ripa, 44, explained that not only is she a source of embarrassment for her teen, but recently, she and her husband, Mark Consuelos, were forced to punish their daughter. Ripa said she revoked their daughter’s phone and Internet privileges because she was using her phone when she was supposed to be studying Spanish.
It’s an interesting insight into the private life of a very public figure. As if parenting isn’t fraught with enough perils and pressures, Ripa and her husband, Mark Consuelos, are raising kids in the spotlight — where they’re expected to smile for the cameras and perform anytime they’re in public. Their children are privileged — one percenters by almost any standards — so raising children who are not spoiled brats (see: the debacle they call the Kardashian family) increases the degree of parenting difficulty exponentially.
Kids need to learn early on that the world doesn’t revolve around them and they’re not the center of the universe — they shouldn’t be permitted demand to worship and adoration (things that should be reserved for God). All things considered, Ripa seems to be trying to keep her kids grounded and as she said, “living in the real world,” which is rather refreshing in a culture where discipline and accountability are increasingly out of fashion and parents want their kids to be their BFFs.
But about Ripa’s comment that she doesn’t care if her daughter likes her. Should she care? Should you care if your kids (in particular, kids of the teenage variety) don’t like you? Should your popularity with your kids guide how you respond to them and make decisions about parenting? Or is it better to plow ahead with your decisions, ignoring how your kids feel about you?
The policy, a summary of which is also posted online, ominously advises users to, “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”
“I do not doubt that this data is important to providing customized content and convenience, but it is also incredibly personal, constitutionally protected information that should not be for sale to advertisers and should require a warrant for law enforcement to access,” writes Price, adding that current privacy laws offer little protection against “third party” data.
You get the feeling Samsung needs to change this policy if the company wants to, you know, keep selling TVs?
If you had to affix a precise date to the beginning of Mike Tyson’s professional decline, you could do worse than December 9, 1988. On that day, Tyson fired Kevin Rooney, the masterful boxing trainer who had guided him to the world heavyweight championship, and moved firmly into the camp of Don King, a man whose name is interchangeable with corruption and degradation. Once an invincible fighter with precise punches and defensive skills, Tyson got sloppy, trading his scientific pugilism for flat-footed brawling. Seduced by a world of women and money, he abandoned all discipline. His laziness caught up with him in February 1990, when a journeyman named Buster Douglas outclassed him in a championship fight and knocked him out.
This was still merely the beginning of the end. In 1992, Tyson was convicted of raping a young beauty queen named Desiree Washington, and spent the next several years in an Indiana prison. Emerging in 1995, he knocked out a few tomato cans before fighting the bigger names, biting ears and going on ridiculous rants about eating people’s children and stomping on their testicles. He nurtured an obsession with pigeons and exotic tigers, living as an eccentric in his own Xanadu. More arrests ensued, more assaults, more crude outbursts.
What’s the point of rehashing this ugly tabloid history? The point is that the name “Mike Tyson” comes with a lot of unwanted baggage, which I simply couldn’t set down while watching the premier of Tyson’s new “show,” a 15-minute animated sketch called Mike Tyson Mysteries. It airs on Adult Swim, which is a grown-up portion of the Cartoon Network featuring peculiar and often graphic shows that blend violence and dark humor. The show has Tyson voicing an animated version of himself. A retired boxer, he is inexplicably portrayed as a freelance mystery solver. His team, a cross between Animal House and the Scooby Doo gang, consists of Norm Macdonald as an alcoholic talking pigeon, the ghost of the Marquess of Queensberry, and Tyson’s brainy adopted daughter.
If you’re still operating under the false notion that pop culture doesn’t have a real impact on everyday life, take a look at America’s oldest example, Sleepy Hollow, New York.
When Washington Irving penned The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in 1820 under the pseudonym Geoffrey Crayon, he probably had no idea that his short story would inspire the beloved town of his youth to turn itself into a living homage to his tale. Settled in the late 1600s, the village was originally an agricultural and manufacturing zone of Tarrytown, New York. Nicknamed “Sleeper’s Haven” by early Dutch settlers, Washington Irving picked up on the Anglicized version of the name, “Sleepy Hollow” when staying with family in the area as a boy. Eventually millionaires like John D. Rockefeller would build mansions around the industrial zone that would become known as North Tarrytown at the turn of the 20th century. But it was Irving’s story that proved eternal when, in 1996, the village voted to rename itself Sleepy Hollow.
Street signs are orange and black, as is one of the village’s fire trucks. The Headless Horseman is the school mascot who, dubbed the nation’s “scariest high school mascot”, runs through every football game at half-time. Police cars and fire trucks also bear the Headless Horseman logo with pride. Halloween is celebrated throughout October with haunted hayrides, street festivals, a parade encompassing both Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown’s main streets, several ghost tours and performances of the Washington Irving legend. The Great Jack O’Lantern blaze puts Christmas light spectaculars to shame and Horseman’s Hollow turns a 17th century Dutch mill into a gory homage to the headless Hessian.
The Old Dutch Church, Ichabod Crane’s presumed safe haven, stands guard over a vast “garden cemetery” designed to allow Victorian families to picnic with their dearly departed. Tours of the cemetery can be taken both day and night and feature stops at the graves of Washington Irving and those who inspired characters in his tale. A fair runs every weekend alongside the cemetery, providing tour groups with the opportunity to walk the grounds with alcohol in hand. The gas station on the other side of the infamous bridge hawks t-shirts and other assorted Headless Horseman souvenirs. And if you’re hungry, there’s always The Horseman Restaurant, a hole in the wall diner that promises you’ll “lose your head” over their milkshakes.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing dialogue about Star Trek, women, and feminism in pop culture. See Ash’s previous installments on Tasha Yar, Deanna Troi, and Beverly Crusher; also check out April Bey’s “An Artist Trekkie’s Guide For Becoming a Better Person.”
Dr. Katherine Pulaski
Just give me a second to get my flame-retardant suit…
I like Dr. Pulaski. No, wait, come back! I know a lot of people hate her, and honestly, that usually comes down to one thing:
I’m not going to pretend like she wasn’t mean to Data (she totally was), and I don’t forgive it (I’m also a fan of Data), but the reason I like Pulaski’s character is that she was, well… kind of a bitch. This probably sounds really counter-intuitive, but think about the time in the show when she appeared: Gene Roddenberry was still calling the shots, and one of his stipulations for TNG was no interpersonal conflict between the crew. The reason for this is because allegedly everybody is “evolved” and past that kind of thing or whatever. While idealistic, this made for bad drama.
I feel that if Diana Muldaur had stayed on the show, and as much attention had been given to her character as Beverly got, she might have been able to have been developed into a more sympathetic person and kinder towards Data. There are shades of an attempt there, such as in the episode “Peak Performance” where she encouraged him to think outside the box in order to beat Kolrami at Strategema.
Ultimately the entire relationship was a bad rehash of the one between Spock and McCoy on the Original Series. What worked then failed because Spock and Data were inhuman in very different ways and this made Pulaski seem like a bully whereas McCoy came across as merely teasing. The tragedy is that this take on Pulaski isn’t the result of being a mere ripoff, but instead a wholesale re-purposing of McCoy’s character.
I’m upset that Boardwalk Empire, that gritty gangster drama that boasted some of the most brilliant production design, cinematography, directing and ensemble acting during its five-season HBO run, came to an end last night. But it ended with a bang, and throughout a season of flashbacks all of the pieces fell into place — and we saw where the moral downward spiral of lead character Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) began.
I’m glad that the series run ended well, unlike the final season of Homeland which has become utterly painful to watch with a storyline that has crashed and burned and characters we no longer care about. Boardwalk didn’t just contrive an ending to round out its contract, but the season was all about the story arc coming full circle, from Nelson Van Alden recapturing his inner lawman in the final moments of his life to cocky Al Capone believing there has to be a way out of his tax-evasion charges while admitting to his deaf son that he’ll be going away for a while.
As Rolling Stone’s Sean T. Collins, who has provided the best show reviews of the season, puts it: “More than any other finished series in television’s New Golden Age, Boardwalk Empire used its series finale to strip its antihero protagonist bare. Whether or not he was ever fully comfortable inhabiting the role, Nucky Thompson was a crime lord. The show’s final sequence depicted his first, and worst, crime. And as any actor from Hollywood’s hyper-regulated Golden Age could tell you, crime does not pay.”
And as Collins points out, Thompson’s assailant in the final scenes had plenty of opportunities to kill him before. What sent him over the edge was Nucky’s final, brusque lack of empathy — and trying to throw some money from his omnipresent wad of cash at the problem in hopes of making it go away.
Here are a few of the best scenes over the show’s run. Fans can think of many more.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for the series finale of Boardwalk Empire.
No Sopranos-style ambiguity here: Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) didn’t survive Boardwalk Empire‘s series finale. The disgraced Atlantic City mob boss was gunned down by Tommy Darmody, son of Jimmy (Michael Pitt), whom Nucky had shot dead, and grandson of Jillian (Gretchen Mol), whom Nucky betrayed decades earlier—as depicted in flashbacks throughout the fifth and final season. Creator Terence Winter breaks down the decision to whack Nucky.
How long ago did you know how you wanted the show to end?
We knew definitively somewhere in the middle of Season 4 that Nucky would die. We ran the different versions of how it might end. We had talked about him going off to a life of obscurity after he gave everything up. In some ways, that felt like a punishment, too—not that we were necessarily trying to punish him. But this felt like a more powerful and dramatic ending.
Have you kept up with Boardwalk Empire? Now that you know it won’t have a lousy ending like Dexter or The Sopranos where its criminal protagonist gets off the hook for his crimes, are you more likely to give it another shot? Binge-watching on streaming at some point, maybe?
Which of the HBO or Showtime shows do you like? Have a favorite?
Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing dialogue about Star Trek, women, and feminism. See Ash Freeman’s The Wasted Women of Star Trek, Part 1: Tasha Yar and The Wasted Women of Star Trek, Part 2: Deanna Troi.
I am an artist and a Trekkie. For me creating art, discussing art and seeing art are important ways for me to disconnect with the negative things in life. They are a distraction from mediocrity. Star Trek accomplishes this goal too at times. Both can act as lenses through which I view the world.
Having just finished up graduate school, another huge catalytic chapter of my life, I think it’s time to take inventory of the human elements and roadblocks I encountered and the parts of myself I need to rehab and examine. I’m finding the types of people I work best with, the ones I find the most interesting, also in turn share basic moralistic virtues. They are kind, thoughtful, candid yet respectful, honest, reliable, practically critical and have great taste in music. On a very basic, Prime Directive level, <em>Star Trek</em> also tackles these virtues in its characters but it’s a little too utopian sometimes isn’t it? Because reality contradicts this naiveté of so many people being good or at the very least aspiring to be better.
I started a personal quest in grad school about the time I witnessed my first adult temper tantrum in academia. I won’t go into details but it was shocking to say the least. Right then and there, I suspected, if I actively pursued trying to be a better person, maybe those around me would start being better people too, or maybe we’d attract each other with some type of space age “good person” pheromone. Here’s what I’ve learned so far and it’s not quite science fiction.
Editor’s Note: Check out the previous installments in Chris’s series exploring Disney history: “10 Disney Cartoons from the 1930s that Reflect the Can-Do Spirit That Survived the Great Depression,” “10 Ways World War II Affected Disney’s Filmmaking,” “10 Examples Of How Disney’s Productions Reflected The Changing America Of The 1950s,” “Walt Disney’s 7 Most Radical Ideas From His Last Decade on Earth,” “Disney’s Wilderness Years, Part 1: How The Studio Reflected The Chaos Of The 1970s” and “Disney’s Wilderness Years, Part 2: How The Studio Navigated The Hit-Or-Miss 1980s.”
A few years after Walt Disney’s death, the studio he founded entered a creative drought of nearly 15 years. The projects Walt had his hands on had dried up, and the most creative minds in the company were working directly on the theme parks. Ron Miller, Walt’s son-in-law, oversaw the company during most of this era, and, though the studio managed to produce some underrated cartoons and live-action films during this time period, nothing matched the artistry and innovation of the years when Walt was still alive.
When Roy E. Disney and Sid Bass brought Michael Eisner over from Paramount to head Disney — along with Frank Wells — the company experienced an almost immediate injection of creativity. In the realm of animation, most everyone dubs the period beginning with 1989′s The Little Mermaid the Disney Renaissance. (Some people end the Renaissance with the execrable Tarzan from 1999, but for me, this period ends with 1995′s Pocahontas.)
A lot of exciting things took place at Disney during the first few years of the Eisner-Wells tenure, and here are the ten best of them.
10. Pocahontas (1995)
Pocahontas marked the end of the Disney Animation Renaissance of the late-’80s and early-’90s, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s nowhere near as good as the films that preceded it, largely due to its over-earnestness, Judy Kuhn’s vocal melisma, and the screenplay’s loose play with history.
However, Pocahontas deserves mention because of its firsts. It was the first Disney animated feature based on a historical person, and it also brought the Disney Princess banner to an American character (something the studio did much better in 2009 with The Princess and the Frog). Disney also deserves some credit for turning the dramatic “Colors of the Wind” into a smooth pop hit.
Even though Pocahontas isn’t the greatest of the Disney classics, it does belong among the highlights of the early Eisner-Wells era.