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Why Supernatural’s Bloodlines Got Called Off

In Career, Fun on May 14, 2014 at 9:51 am

CW’s planned spinoff of Supernatural is officially dead in the water.  Bloodlines, which entered the picture during Supernatural’s season 9 episode (9×20), felt too much like The Originals for many longterm Supernatural fans to stomach.  The backdoor pilot episode earned a slew of negative reviews on Tumblr that outweighed the positive response and killed its future.

Bloodlines wasn’t a bad show.  It wasn’t even a bad concept.  Many fans miss the “good ol’ days” of monster hunting before Supernatural began using the Bible as a reference book.  Setting up a monster mafia in one of America’s most historically corrupt cities was a stroke of genius, and writers could have explored Chicago’s mafia-ridden roots.

But the CW pilot failed in several key points, which they should acknowledge if they expect to keep the Supernatural giant from sinking after season 10.

Upper class, white monsters

Margo Lassiter, shape-shifter family, lassiter shapeshifter, spn bloodlines familiesThe CW hosts slew of glamorous shows about betrayal, monsters and fashion trends.  And they could have continued the run with Bloodlines but for one worrisome fact:  upper class white monsters.

Spinoffs aren’t expected to be identical to their origin material, but Bloodlines proved too jarring a transition for many fans.  While Supernatural chronicles migratory life of blue collar roots, home town cops and your small town Everyman, Bloodlines set its eyes on a more glamorous life.

The pilot split the story between Ennis Roth, the urban man with more traditionally Supernatural roots, and the posh world of monsters.  After giving a courteous head nod to other monster families, Bloodlines focused in on the very wealth – very white – shapeshifter and werewolf families.

I hope the writers planned to expand the story in future episodes, but I was left miffed by how they handled race and class.  Surely the Lassiter family, pure-born shapeshifters, didn’t need to be white – or at least not entirely white.  And where are the other factions, the Djinn and ghouls, who could be cast with more diversity?  Why is Ennis, the protagonist and only minority character, simultaneously given blue collar roots and the less captivating storyline?

Man Pain and Women in Refrigerators

Supernatural has the dubious legacy of beginning its nine season run by killing Sam Winchester’s girlfriend, Jess, and setting a long precedent for killing off the show’s female characters as a plot device.  Bloodlines had the misfortune of mimicking the trope and doing so clumsily.  Not only have audiences become more aware of Women in Refrigerators – when TV shows, movies and video games kill off the main character’s significant other as a motivating plot device for the male protagonist – but they know when it’s not done well.

supernatural man pain, Spn Bloodlines, Ennis Roth spn, women in refrigerators, sexist tv tropes

Ennis’s story is fueled by the death of his girlfriend.  David Lassiter spends the pilot grieving his lost relationship with Violet, which is dead in another sense.  The villain is a grieving man, driven crazy by victimization at the hands of monsters.  Even Sal, who departed within minutes of the show’s opening, died grieving and remorseful.

Too close to the Supernatural pilot

A successful, independent young man is called back home by his sibling to take care of family matters.  He struggles to reconcile the loss of his girlfriend while taking care of the job, eventually deciding to stay on with the family business.  Surprise!  I’m talking about David Lassiter, not Sam Winchester.

Jessica Moore, women in refrigerators, tropes in TV shows, women representation in Supernatural

A hot-headed young man takes up hunting to seek revenge following the brutal death of his girlfriend, but things are more complicated than they seemed.  Then he receives a surprise call from his “dead” father telling him not to get involved with affairs in Chicago’s underworld.  No, I’m not talking about the Winchesters.  I’m talking about Ennis.

I enjoyed the clever characters in Bloodlines, but witty banter and brotherhood forged in loss couldn’t save the show.  Maybe the Winchesters will return to Chicago in season 10 so we can get some closure – and the spinoff that longtime fans deserve.

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Waterworld: Becoming the Kevin Costner Movie We Didn’t Know We Could Be

In Career, The Great Outdoors on April 10, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Why Sea Level Matters – Even if We’re Not Waterworld

Environmental textbooks like to emphasize that ours is a water world, driven by a complex hydrological system that both regulates global temperatures and nourishes the land.  But that’s not the kind of water world I’m talking about.

I’m talking about Waterworld, the 1995 post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie starring Kevin Costner.  It’s a bizarre film – and not just because its eco-friendly protagonist sports webbed toes and gills.  Waterworld’s western parallels play out on a vast, post-apocalyptic ocean where the desert is made of water and all the horses are boats.

Costner plays The Mariner, a drifter whose very nature makes him unsuited for civilized life.  The gruff nomad finds himself drawn into a woman’s quest to find Dryland, a mythic place in this distant future where the polar ice caps have melted and drowned all dry land.

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Check out what the world will look like after the ice melts!

The good news is that scientists think it will take up to 5,000 years for all the ice on Earth to melt – not the mere 500 years it took in the movie universe.

The mechanics of sea level rise are fairly simple.  Heat absorbed from the sun is warming ocean water.  Warming water expands, its extra space contributing to higher sea levels while its heat melts smaller ice caps and glaciers.

Most of the Earth’s warming over the past 40 years has been hidden in the ocean, and that’s unsettling because it took scientists almost as long to figure that out. Meanwhile, the combination of atmospheric warming and ocean warming has helped global sea levels rise 1.0 – 2.5 millimeters per year over the last century.

At the same time, global warming patterns are expected to speed glacial melt and increase tropical sea temperatures.  Sea levels are difficult to predict but could rise between 6 – 37 inches by 2100 … if Antarctica holds.

WAIS, antarctic ice sheets, map of antarctic ice sheetsThere’s a reason most research on sea level rise leads to the Antarctic.  The continent, which is covered in snow and glacial ice, holds more than 800,000 years of climate history in its ice.  With ice shelves extending off 75 percent of its coastline, Antarctica is the Big Boss for climate change.

Glaciologists agree that the Come-to-Jesus moment for sea level rise will happen when and if the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) collapses.  A marine ice sheet, the WAIS could become unstable if ocean warming trends continue.  If this one ice sheet melts, it could raise sea levels more than three meters (about 10 feet).

Evidence from sediment samples in ice cores suggests the WAIS melted in previous interglacial periods.  Keeping a watchful eye is not unreasonable, especially after the recent collapses of two major Antarctic ice shelves:  The Larsen A in 1995 and the Larsen B in 2002.  While studies have since shown the Larsen A previously melted and returned, they also concluded that the Larsen B Ice Shelf was a permanent fixture during previous warming cycles.

This begs the question:  Is Waterworld even possible?

Nope!  Melting polar ice caps will not drown the entire known world – but they would rewrite it. If the polar ice caps, land ice and glaciers all melted, the Earth’s sea level would rise more than 200 feet. Swaths of North America would disappear into the Atlantic and whole countries erased, but there would still be land.

While this isn’t exactly Waterworld-type ocean rise, it would devastate already at- risk coastal cities and upend today’s geopolitical structure.

And that’s kinda the point of the film.

For a film that doesn’t openly discuss ecology, Waterworld is surprisingly preachy.  The reluctant hero is a man whose mutations enable him to live in harmony with the environment.  The antagonists, pirates who cobbled together smoke-belching combustion engines, terrorize society from an old oil tanker called Exxon Valdez.  Even its premise evolved with the idea that humans created ecological factors resulting in their own destruction.

“What was different about [Waterworld] was that it had to do with an ecological conflagration, a whole world covered in water because of human stupidity and greed,” said director Kevin Reynolds in a 1995 interview.

the mariner boat, exxon valdez waterworld,

Scientists don’t expect Antarctica to melt any time soon.  The continent, which is buried beneath feet of ice sheets, can survive warmer climates for some time before it gives way.

For now, Antarctica’s western ice sheet is safe.  But should it fail in the future, we may well be on our way to the water world Kevin Reynolds and Peter Rader envisioned.  And, as in the movie, it would be society’s destructive practices that caused it.

The Winter Soldier Is a Better Sympathetic Villain Than Loki Ever Was

In Career, Fun on April 4, 2014 at 1:07 pm

We all love the god of mischief, but if you saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier you might need to make room in your heart for another villain.

The second Captain America film takes place in a fearful post-Avengers world where government surveillance and military oversight are growing ubiquitous.  Captain America finds himself doubting S.H.I.E.L.D.’s reactionary and fear-based policies, which could easily be misused to great catastrophe.  In the midst of the storm, a new Hydra threat emerges to silence Captain America and take over the world.

bucky barnes, winter soldier shield, bucky barnes villain, sympathetic villains in comic books

If you read the comics, watched the first film or looked up Captain America within the last year, you know the Winter Soldier’s true identity.  Steve Roger’s childhood best friend “Bucky” Barnes, who seemingly died in the 1943, has been remade by Hydra into a ruthless assassin through physical and mental manipulation.

While Loki looks like he’s having fun, The Winter Soldier is all business.  As Natasha Romanoff explains to Rogers, he completes his missions at any cost.  But his ruthlessness is not inborn but manufactured.

Contrast this with Loki who, after his redemption arc was destroyed in The Dark World, became yet another version of the Lovable Sociopath theme.  Audiences largely forgave Loki from his murderous tendencies in Thor because he had a legitimate bone to pick with his family.  The Dark World shows Loki in a less forgiving light, stripping the veil of begrudged brother away to make room for the last film in the trilogy.

bucky barnes and captain america, steve rogers sidekickThe Winter Soldier makes a bigger emotional impact as a villain because the viewer has no doubt that Bucky was a good man.  The audience see him stand up for the diminutive Steve Rogers and fight against tyranny.  He is brave in the face of danger, a champion of Captain America’s cause.  He also possesses a good-natured sense of humor that opposes Loki’s sarcasm and malicious pranks.

In one striking scene, where the movie’s main antagonist demands to see “The Asset,” viewers get a humanizing peek at the Winter Soldier, a conflicted and confused man who has been memory-wiped and tortured for more than 50 years.  The Asset, as the villains call their creation in order to separate him from his identity, is more than the brutal assassin seen moments before.  When he expresses concern that he recognized Captain America, the Hydra leader orders his caretakers to “reset” him, which they promptly do using an intense looking version of electroshock therapy.

Bucky Barnes is being used as a lethal tool by the institution he gave his life trying to destroy.  He has been divorced from his identity and forced into evil with no choice in the matter.  Bucky needs to be saved, not stopped.

A running Internet theory is that Thanos tortured Loki so badly between Thor and The Avengers that it warped his personality.  While that would lessen his moral responsibility in The Avengers, it’s not canon.  Sorry Internet, but all signs point to a business partnership between the two.

loki evil grin, loki sociopath, loki chaotic evil

Loki’s later actions in The Dark World reveal his manipulative, sociopathic nature.  Following his questionable ascent to power, it is doubtful that Loki had a sincere bone in his body.  Loki’s choices aren’t compelling because that’s what they are:  choices.

There’s nothing sympathetic about being willfully cruel.

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