It’s the Golden Age of TV; But Is Binge-Watching Ruining the Experience?

A couple months back I encountered the newly released trailer for Stranger Things, Season 2. Aside from the utter disappointment that came with the realization that the trailer was only a play on audience anticipation and gave no narrative information, I found myself disappointed in me. Why? Because despite ranting and raving about the brilliance of this show, I had to stop and think, ‘what happened last season?’. Blasphemy, I know. But this is the paradox of binge-watching.

For those of you who don’t know, Stranger Things is Netflix’s greatest success. Season 1 was an engaging mix of 80s nostalgia, sci-fi/horror hybridity, and beautiful character development.

Stranger Things [Credit: Netflix]
Stranger Things [Credit: Netflix]

Most people are quick to describe it as similar to the best horror movies of the 1980s; and although Stranger Things is a perfect example of this sentiment, the truth is that this is a period of time in which TV has become far more cinematic than it has ever been in the past. We are currently in a new age of storytelling that conflates the escapism of the cinema with the accessibility and interactivity of TV.

The Cinematic TV Experience

Bates Motel [Credit: A&E]

We are presently experiencing TV in a way we never have before. Some go as far as to call it the Golden Age of Television, referencing the sheer quantity of quality TV available. Traditionally, TV has been thought of as the cinema’s crass younger sibling; it was originally a space for variety shows and game shows, and eventually moved towards the sitcom. For a long time, TV shows were rigidly structured and predictable in a way that cinema was not. Of course, to be fair, the cinema had had decades to mature by the time the 1950s saw the birth of TV.

Though the introduction of TV (and later the VCR) initially worried the film industry, the fears eventually proved to be unfounded. Stats from the 1980s show that people actually attended cinemas in record numbers. There are different ways to interpret this, but what seems evident is that TV and movies do not cancel each other out. They offer different viewing experiences. Or, at least, they once did.

[Credit: Slate]
[Credit: Slate]

Back in 2000, historian and theorist Anne Friedberg wrote a critical essay aptly titled, “The End of Cinema: Multimedia and Technological Change.” This essay highlighted the ways in which spectatorship had been altered, first by the advent of the television, then by the advent of the VCR, and finally by the advent of digital media. Astoundingly, her arguments do not feel at all dated when we think of them alongside the advent of content streaming. Rather, it seems she was prophetically telling the origin story of Netflix.

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From Sunnydale to Burnside: Joss Whedon’s ‘Batgirl’ is Full of Promise

Last week it was reported that Joss Whedon is being recruited to write and direct DC’s first-ever Batgirl movie, and the fan anticipation is already palpable. Whedon is better known for his long-standing relationship with Marvel Comics; he wrote a wildly successful volume of Astonishing X-Men (2004-2008) before writing and directing The Avengers in 2012. He then went on make Avengers: Age of Ultron, after which he stepped down from the MCU, displeased with the work.

The Avengers [Credit: Marvel Studios]
This sorted history with Marvel makes his potential move to the DCEU all the more intriguing – but it won’t be his first rodeo. Whedon actually wrote issue #26 of DC’s Superman/Batman back in 2006. And yet, even with this mature comic book resume, it’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer – his very first TV series – that we should look to for evidence that Batgirl is full of promise.

Buffy Spinning Stake
Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Without a doubt, penning Batgirl will give Whedon an opportunity to return to some of the most prominent themes of Buffy; you know, the stuff that made him a household name among fans and critics alike.

Continue Reading for themes to look out for in ‘Batgirl’ such as, the ups and downs of campus life, duality, technology, sexuality, and friendship.

The Walking Dead: “Something They Need” and Female Leadership

Despite initially offering some problematic portrayals of women – Lori, Andrea, and Carol – The Walking Dead has really stepped up its game in the last few seasons. Lori and Andrea were killed off, so that takes care of that; and Carol transformed from abused housewife to tough-as-nails survivor. More women eventually got added to the main cast, and they keep getting stronger and more well-rounded.

Now, Maggie, Michonne, Rosita, Tara and Sasha make up some of the best female characters on TV today. But it took until Alexandria for us to get a female leader; and soon after, she died and Rick took over. Then we met Dawn, who was in charge at the hospital. She turned out to be two-parts villain, one-part weakling who couldn’t stand up against the wrongs she knew she and her group were committing. Even more recently, we met Jadis. There’s not much yet that can be definitively said about this group, except that they are strangely modelled after a 90s sci-fi flick. Unfortunately, it’s unclear at this point if Jadis is friend or foe.

Suffice it to say, the depiction of female leadership has been questionable. Nonetheless, this week’s episode, “Something They Need” shined a spotlight on two of the season’s most significant female leaders. Natania of Oceanside, and the rising leadership of Maggie, at Hilltop. Both make very interesting case studies for the authority of women in a post-apocalyptic world.

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Image Credit: AMC

Top 15s: 15 Vampires You Would Want to Have Your Back in a Fight

Vampire lore has been an obsession of literature, art, and pop culture for hundreds of years. In the last decade or so, there has been an influx in vampires in young adult fiction, paired with an influx of young adult fiction in popular culture. As a result, the vampire routine started to feel played out, and people even started actively hating on it. Vampires have now been put in a really uncomfortable homogenizing category of teen romance, which has subsequently made it difficult to defend the many vampire stories some of us still hold precious.

Creators of vampire fiction pre the teen-craze have also found themselves looking to defend their work. To great effect, Joss Whedon’s ongoing Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic series presented a storyline in which the Big Bad was named “Twilight.” Meanwhile, Steven King and Scott Snyder embarked on a new horror comic book series, American Vampire, which cynically stated that the bloody goodness of the vampire had recently been “hijacked by a lot of soft-focus romance.”

The truth is, there isn’t one right way to do vampires. The mythology was popularized by Bram Stoker in his 19th-century Gothic novel, in which the main plot involved Dracula compelling women to fall in love with him. The romance is built into the core. And yet, that dangerous allure elicits a sense of horror that reminds us that the vampire is, first and foremost, a monster. But, whether you like them broody and romantic or straight up bloodthirsty, you have to admit – it’d be great to have one back you up in a fight.

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Image Credit: New Line Cinema

Top 9s: 9 Subtle Homages to Hitchcock You Might Have Missed in Bates Motel

Bates Motel has proved itself to be an impressively unique spin on the concepts of both the prequel and the television adaptation. Like many other film geeks, I for one was absolutely terrified to see what would be done with the iconic Hitchcock classic, Psycho. I especially wondered how they would frame it; how could a 53-year-old film about a woman-hating murderer, with a now outdated Freudian psychosis, be responsibly portrayed on television today? The idea made me so uncomfortable, that I avoided the show until its fourth season had completed.

Once I finally got the nerve to check it out, I realized this was not a simple rehashing, nor was it a thoughtless manipulation of the kill-the-pretty-girl trope that Psycho, for all its brilliance, troublingly brought about. Bates Motel is best described as a love letter to film history, and a tribute to one of its most notable pioneers. Flawlessly updated to appeal to a new audience (some of whom probably haven’t seen or do not recall its source material), Bates Motel never forgets where it comes from, or where it is. Proof of this is not only in the action-packed, plot-twist heavy, narrative – but also in the Hitchcockian cinematography, which even includes many long shots. Hidden within the narrative and cinematography are a number of obvious Psycho homages, but there are also some less obvious tributes. Here are 8 subtle nods to Hitchcock that you might have missed in seasons one through four. Beware of spoilers.

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Image Credit: A&E

From Comic Books to TV: Why You Should Be Excited for Y The Last Man

Adaptations of comic books are a dime a dozen these days, what with MCU superheroes dominating the film industry and DC television shows spreading like wild fire. However, as any comic book reader will tell you, the pages of graphic novels have so much more to offer than superpowers. Brian K. Vaughn’s, Y: The Last Man is a perfect example. This post-apocalyptic series features a dystopia in which a mysterious illness has entirely wiped out the Y chromosome, killing every male being in the world – except for two: Yorick, and his monkey sidekick, Ampersand. The award-winning series (praised by Greats including Robert Kirkman and Joss Whedon) ran for 60 issues, and is currently in the works for a television show – and it promises to be like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Let me explain.

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Image Credit: Vertigo Comics

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Duality and Dopplegangers

With Buffy the Vampire Slayer currently celebrating its 20 year anniversary, it seems like the perfect time to reflect on some of the reasons why it is widely regarded as one of the best television shows of all time. After a really sad beginning as a failed movie, and then hitting the air as a low-budget, mid-season, replacement, it still went on to become an icon of popular culture. Not to mention, the colossal level of critical acclaim it has achieved. The series launched Joss Whedon (writer/creator) to stardom; and today, most people agree that he’s a genius, or a nerd-God of some sort. So, what is it about a teenage girl fighting vampires that could be so overwhelmingly successful? It’s simple. The show’s got wit, smarts, and heart. Perhaps most importantly, though, it has some of the most well-conceived characters in TV history.

Ever fascinated by deconstructing human nature, the writers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (almost obsessively) developed and redeveloped characters so that they would grow and change overtime in a realistic way. Not only did this make for engaging storytelling, it ensured that each re-watch would be a more richer experience than the last. To break this down, let’s take a look at the theme of duality as it pertains to the way in which characters mirror each other, and the way in which doubles and dopplegangers draw attention to the complexity of identity.

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Image via: 20th Century Fox