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The Ethics of Problematic Protagonists: Netflix’s You

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For as long as stories have been told, we have had the protagonist. In many situations and in the most fabled of tales, the protagonist is known to us, the audience, as “the good guy” – but this is by no means a requirement.

In the most technical of terms, all this person needs to be is “the leading character or one of the major characters in a drama, movie, novel, or other fictional text”. That’s it. They have no literary obligations to be kind, moral, just, or “the good guy”. And, in my own personal opinion, it is the stories that revolve around the ones who aren’t quite as morally sound as the ones in fairytales, that happen to be the most interesting.

The rise of streaming services has done a lot to disrupt the formerly strict setup of the entertainment industry and studio system. Gone are the days of being obsessed with ticket sales on opening weekends, massive P&A budgets dedicated to a single film, and the reliance on the typical formulaic blockbuster setup that has been the trend for.. well, forever. The goal now is to keep your eyes on their prize.

That is not to say that things have somehow gotten easier. The stakes are higher than ever for HBO, Hulu, Netflix, and others to experiment, push the limits on traditional storytelling, and keep you far away from the cancellation button in your account settings.

 

The latest in Netflix’s planned journey of ambitious programming is their show called You, which is already creating quite the buzz with thought pieces and explanations coming from every direction. It is very well done, with a star-studded cast, an 8/10 on IMDB, and a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes (and this somehow all started as a Lifetime show..). Now, I’ll start with the most basic of facts: this show is creepy. But a different kind of creepy from the normal modern day Hitchcockian-thriller that we are seeing more and more of these days. The twist is: the creep is the protagonist of the show. It’s like if Psycho was told completely from the perspective of Norman Bates and we heard almost every messed up thought of his through voice-over; and the plot isn’t too far off either considering Joe Goldberg, You’s star played by Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley, is also a socially awkward and murderous stalker.

 

The writing in this show is good – a little too good. Like I said, we hear the inner thoughts of Joe throughout the entire show and even have – and it pains me to say this – sympathy for the guy in the beginning. He is very normal at first, kicking off the plot by noticing another main character, Guinevere Beck (played by Elizabeth Lail), in a book store where he is the manager, and falling in love at first sight. Cute, right? No! Not cute! Soon, we begin spiraling along with our protagonist into a deep, dark hole of stalking, breaking & entering, and murder. The whole time, I found myself rooting for Joe to just stop being creepy and be a normal boyfriend and live happily ever after.. like a normal person!

But then I asked myself, “everyone else that’s watching this also thinks it’s messed up, right?”. Are there people who think that his behavior is justified? Because we can hear Joe’s own rationale for his actions and it technically makes sense in the most technical of ways, would someone think that it is okay? You can hope for people to have morals but at the end of the day, some don’t. You can hope that people know the difference between right and wrong, but some don’t. Does the entertainment industry have an obligation to portray the good guy as always winning? Does the “bad guy” always need to be punished? Because in You so far, the bad guy wins, and he wins a lot.

This brings me back to the days of the Hollywood Production Code, which was a set of rules in play from the 1930s to the 1960s dictating what could and could not be in films. Something that was hounded on in these rules was making sure that the audience is sure that evil is wrong and good is right. As a result, “the bad guys” could not win in a film, ever. With so much new content coming out and so many innovative storytelling tactics riling up the masses, maybe they had a point? Didn’t a bunch of people commit murders similar to the ones that were portrayed in the show Dexter?

 

Sit on the question of what kind of responsibility Hollywood holds in emboldening those that wish to make their art into reality.. All in all, this show is really great and does a fantastic job at playing with irony in its purest form. There is one scene where Beck’s best friend, Peach (who is also pretty obsessed with her), is secretly looking at Beck in the bathtub, while Joe is secretly watching Peach, and we are  (secretly?) watching Joe, which was a great and subtle point of humor in such a dark storyline. The events are predictable, but predictable in a way that highlights the realistic traits of these characters, especially Joe. He’s just a dumb, creepy guy who makes some really bad and unnecessary choices, but man, he sure is charming.

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Frogfathers lessons from the Normandy surf

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Frog Fathers: Lessons from the Normandy Surf” is a deeply moving documentary directed by Bob Whitney, narrated by John C McGinley, and presented by World of Warships and FORCE BLUE. It chronicles the journey of four Navy SEAL veterans revisiting the site of the D-Day landings to honor their forefathers and gain a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made during World War II.

The film’s strength lies in its raw emotional impact and historical significance. It blends personal narratives with archival footage, offering a poignant tribute to the bravery and resilience of those who fought on June 6, 1944. The veterans’ reflections and the cinematography effectively capture the solemnity and reverence of their pilgrimage.

While the documentary focuses primarily on the veterans’ experiences, it also serves as an educational tool, highlighting the strategic importance of the Normandy invasion and its pivotal role in shaping modern history. The film’s respectful approach and engaging storytelling make it a compelling watch for anyone interested in military history and the enduring legacy of the D-Day heroes.

Overall, “Frog Fathers” is a powerful and heartfelt documentary that honors the past while inspiring present and future generations to remember the sacrifices made for freedom 

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American Horror Story: Delicate

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As most of us are already aware, the 12th Season of AHS has been fraught with all kinds of differences to the previous seasons, mainly in that this is the first one to be based entirely off a novel, ‘Delicate Condition’ by Danielle Valentine. The first half of the season aired in October 2023 to mediocre reviews, while the SAG-AFTRA strike caused production and airing delays for the latter half of the season, and the episodes of Part 2 were all cut to less than an hour long apiece. And none of that is even getting into the disjointed attempt at storytelling for Season 12, so let’s dive into this! 

Meet Anna Victoria Alcott (Emma Roberts), former young ling star of Hollywood now struggling to recapture fame as an adult, who wants a baby, very very badly. Bad enough to drive herself and her husband Dex (Matt Czuchry) through multiple unsuccessful rounds of IVF (in-vitro fertilization), bad enough to keep trying no matter how crushing each failure turns out to be, bad enough to involve her purported best friend and bougie publicist Siobhan Corbyn (Kim Kardashian) in her struggles, and maybe, just maybe, bad enough to give up on a burgeoning resurgence of her career after interest in her comeback role for The Auteur begins garnering her Oscar-worthy attention. 

So, Anna and Dex are going to go through yet another round of IVF, likely one of their last attempts at it, from a different doctor, Dr. Andrew Hill (Denis O’Hare), and clinic based on Siobhan’s recommendation. And already, strange things are beginning to happen to Anna – her appointments that she set herself begin springing up incorrectly, a doom saying woman called Preacher (Julia White) shows up spouting warnings about trusting no one, dire warnings appear in unlikely places, and BTW, it seems as though long-suffering but good-nurtured Dex has a side-piece too. It doesn’t help that Dex’s new partner at his art gallery, Sonia Shawcross (Annabelle Dexter-Jones), bears a striking resemblance to his dead ex-wife Adeline, either. Those spiked emerald heels start appearing weirdly too, and it seems as though no one will listen to Anna as she grows more and more suspicious that some sort of sinister cult has designs on her as-yet-unborn baby. At the same time, Anna tries to live the life of a successful returning actress, attending parties and gallery openings while draping her rapidly-expanding middle in shimmering fabrics and actively ‘campaigning’ for that little golden statue that most actors covet. Competition is fierce, even among her co-stars of The Auteur, and while Anna wants to be supportive of her fellow entertainers, she clearly appears to be incapable of doing both at the same time – wanting the baby and the little gold award at the same time is too much to ask, apparently. 

Elsewhere, mostly in the past, various women in states of desperation formed from one situation or another are visited by sinister-looking women in prim black dresses, headgear reminiscent of – to me anyway – an odd cross betwixt birds and bunnies, my guess is an ostensive nod to fertility in general, and a general feeling of blood-bound witchery about them at critical moments of crossroad choices. 

Though the second half of the season moves a good deal faster than the first, the attempts at callbacks and reminder flashes to Part 1 hit with all the impact of a dropped bag of garbage onto their friends Talia’s (Julia Canfield) borrowed bougie kitchen floor – splat, into incomprehensible silence, from all parties, both characters and audience, concerned. Even the reminders that, in Part 1 of Delicate Dex’s mother Virginia Harding (Debra Monk) did indeed have perfectly valid memories of abuse at the hands of a black cult and Dex’s own father Dex Sr. (Reed Birney), the revelation pales and peels away in the face of Dex’s true parentage. 

Which brings us back around full circle kinda sorta, to the only real character worth a damn in this entire miserable season of strange feminism and aspirations of world domination through a kind of idiotic Rosemary’s Baby nightmare scenario, we should have known she’d steal the show when Kardashian was cast for it, Siobhan Corbyn, leader of the blood cult her high and mighty (old) self. Throughout the whole show her character has remained exactly the same, and it’s a wonder Anna can stare at her all stupefied while Siobhan does her villain speech at the end of the last episode. Siobhan never masked her ambition or greed, her mysterious protective vibe and even deep love for Anna, and can always be counted on to have secret plans of her own, already in motion, bitch. 

The idea that Anna herself was used as a surrogate for Siobhan and her incestuous eugenicist plans, plus the sweet little demon baby she just birthed, has an ironic the-world-is-tilting-the-wrong-way kind of witchy madness to it. Sure, Anna really can have it all, the baby and the golden statue, if only she joins the patriarchy-crushing cabal of blood witches with world domination plans, got it. 

I have questions, or I would have, but things are moving on and Anna is being saved by … Dex’s dead ex, Adaline the former member of the coven right okay her, she’s going to show back up and offer Anna a simple chant to Hestia her patron Goddess, and that is somehow enough to deal with Siobhan entirely – poof. And finally, after all that rigamarole, decades of planning and scheming and witchy plotting finally settled, Anna really can have it all as a White Witch of Hollywood, heaven help us, with her perfectly human baby and that damned little golden statue, clutched in an only slightly desperate grip. 

As with any season of AHS there are a great deal of statements that could be implied just under the skin of the season – the canker way of ambition, the millenia-old pain of a woman giving birth, the savagery and bloodshed that comes with bringing forth life, pushback against both the patriarchy and ultra-feminism, the absolute desperation of humans wanting to have a child, and perhaps strangest and most open to interpretation of all, what it means to be feminine. The worlds population of women who can’t or don’t or simply won’t have children, for any reason or none, are relegated to servants, expendable servants at that, for this new world order that Siobhan is proposing, and that is far too close a comfort to things like outright slavery. A dictator is a dictator, no matter how great she looks in those emerald spiked heels. 

It’s not the really beautiful grotesquerie that Ryan Murphy and his AHS gang are often known for, nor is it utterly terrible and should be burned at the stake. What Delicate should be, is put back together with missing and cut footage, an hour long per episode again come on folks, fleshed some more of Siobhan’s baby-stealing adventures in the past and given us an actual reason to like anything about the whiny Anna, at least the Part 2 we as longtime AHS fans deserve. Toss in some more spidery hijinks! Give us the actual origin of those weird feather bunny-ear headdresses! 

American Horror Story Delicate the whole season can be seen on FX! 

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Jurassic Park: Unraveling the Mystery in a World Gone Prehistoric!

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Hold onto your hats, dino fans! The highly anticipated sequel to the adrenaline-pumping Camp Cretaceous saga is here, and it’s taking us on a wild ride six years in the making. Following the harrowing events of Camp Cretaceous, our beloved “Nublar Six” are back, but they’re not out of the woods just yet. In fact, they’re about to plunge headfirst into a world where dinosaurs roam freely alongside dangerous humans, and trust us when we say, it’s a Jurassic jungle out there!

Picture this: a world where survival isn’t just about avoiding sharp-toothed predators but also navigating the treacherous waters of human greed and deceit. As our resilient heroes reunite in the aftermath of a heart-wrenching tragedy, they quickly realize that danger lurks around every corner, and trust is a luxury they can’t afford. 

But wait, there’s more! Prepare to embark on a globetrotting adventure like no other as the Nublar Six find themselves thrust into the heart of a conspiracy that threatens not only the fragile balance between dinosaurs and humanity but also their very existence. From the lush jungles of Isla Nublar to the bustling streets of bustling cities, buckle up for a rollercoaster ride of epic proportions as our intrepid group races against time to uncover the truth about one of their own and, ultimately, save both dinosaur and humankind from certain doom.

So, dear readers, if you thought you’d seen it all in Jurassic Park, think again! With heart-stopping action, pulse-pounding suspense, and jaw-dropping revelations, this latest installment promises to be a game-changer in the Jurassic universe. Get ready to roar with excitement because Jurassic Park: Unraveling the Mystery is about to take a bite out of your imagination and leave you hungry for more!

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