The musings of a feminist pop culture fanatic

Archive for November, 2010

#1 Dexter (10/1)

EW Description: “Last season just slayed us, so we’re amped up for our favorite do-gooder sociopath’s return. This year, Dexter will have to grapple with his guilt over Rita’s death, and a new bond he forms with a mysterious woman played by Julia Stiles.”

I’ve heard a lot about Dexter through the years. So many people have told me I should watch it and at various times, I’ve tried to watch the pilot. However, I absolutely cannot deal with lots of violence. Seeing as how the show is about a serial killer and blood splatter analyst, there’s going to be lots of blood and violence. But when I’m watching a show and have to watch so much of it through my fingers because I have to turn away from the blood, it seems a little bit pointless.

I absolutely adore Michael C. Hall. I’ve been a fan of his since I marathoned Six Feet Under during my freshman year of college. He’s an incredibly gifted actor and he is amazing as Dexter. It’s hard to play a sociopath without going completely over the top. He plays it with this calm, unfeeling tone that conveys so much.

The Trinity storyline from last year was all over the entertainment blogs, so I am very familiar with the events of the fourth season. The Trinity Killer (John Lithgow) killed Rita (Julie Benz) in the sason finale and now Dexter has to figure out how to move on and be a single father while still being a sociopathic serial killer. In the season finale, Hall does an amazing job portraying Dexter’s frustration with his inability to properly grieve for his wife. From what I’ve heard about the rest of the season, Julia Stiles is also doing a great job as a potential murder victim that Dexter saved from being killed.

There’s really nothing that is bad about this show. It’s just that it’s too much gratuitous violence for me. It’s really an excellent show and if someone can handle violence without getting squeamish, I highly recommend it to them.

#1 Grey’s Anatomy (11/12)

EW Description: “Seven seasons in and Grey’s is as strong as ever, with fresh story lines – like the recent episode that found the doctors shadowed by a film crew – and juicy melodrama in the wake of the shooting in last season’s finale.”

I have a very long history with Grey’s Anatomy. When the show premiered my freshman year of high school, I became obsessed with it. I loved all of the characters. My friends and I watched it and talked about it at school. I spent months chatting with people on a Grey’s Anatomy message board and met some really awesome people that way. Then something changed. I pinpointed the post-Super Bowl second season bomb threat episode as when it all started to fall apart. Suddenly, the show was all melodrama instead of my awesome dramedy. The comedy was all gone. Then the writing started to fall apart and around the time that George and Izzie hooked up, my devotion to the show started to wane.

I caught a few episodes here and there, but it was not even close to being appointment television for me anymore. After the fourth season, I stopped putting into my weekly television schedule (and yes, I do have one, don’t judge). I couldn’t take any more of the Meredith/Derek will they or won’t they drama. They had completely assassinated Izzie’s character to the point where her presence made the show unbearable. George was no longer the adorkable doctor I fell in love with and was instead just a whiny baby. After multiple episodes where I literally sat on the couch beating a lamp against the side of my head, I was through.

I still knew what was going on with the characters, though. As a television addict, I had to know what was happening on every major show, even if I didn’t care about it. It’s why I can tell you all the names of the American Idol winners or stuff about plotlines on 24 without ever having seen an episode. When something is such a pop culture phenomenon, I have to know something about it. Plus, when they started the Izzie has a brain tumor and is having ghost sex with Denny, you know I was reading the recaps of that and laughing my ass off.

So, when the show was at the top of the Must List, I decided to give it another shot. First, I was just going to watch the season premiere, but the description also mentioned the documentary episode, so I had to watch that too. But then there were four episodes between those two and I wanted to be sure to know what was going on in order to accurately write about it. Next thing you know, I’ve watched seven episodes of Grey’s Anatomy in about two days in between a lot of other stuff. Last night when I was trying to go to bed, the mantra of “just one more episode” finally had to end because it was 2:00 and I could hardly keep my eyes open. But I just had to know what was going on.

I still have my problems with the show. The plotlines are way over the top and unbelievable. People don’t actually speak in the ridiculous metaphors Shonda Rhimes and the other writers love to throw in to monologues. But, the sweetness of the show is back. Meredith and Cristina still have the best friendship on television and I love seeing them lean on each other. In the aftermath of the shooting, Sandra Oh is doing some of the best acting I’ve ever seen her do as Cristina deals with her PTSD and newlywed life. There’s not so much angst between all the characters anymore, which is such a relief. Plus, Sarah Drew (Hannah from the amazing Everwood) is on it now and I absolutely adore her, even if April is kind of annoying at times.

The writing is excellent. The acting is great. The documentary-style episode is an instant classic. If you were like me and tuned out after a while, now is the time to tune back in. This show is back to its former glory. All the new characters have really helped to rejuvenate things and the results are pretty awesome.

#9 “Runaway”, Kanye West (10/1)

EW Description: “He topped off his Taylor Swift apology tour with a sweeping cut that eviscerates (and celebrates?) douchebaggery everywhere. If this is Kanye contrite, then we think he should be sorry more often.”

Here’s the thing. Kanye West is a total asshole. But he knows he’s an asshole and he’s okay with it. I’m totally fine with that. As long as a person knows he or she is an asshole and just accepts that, it’s cool with me. It’s when they think they’re nice and are blind to the fact that they are complete and total jackasses that I start to have a problem with them.

Kanye West embraces his assholishness wholeheartedly. It’s part of his personality. Honestly, it’s what makes him so lovable. No matter how many times he screws up, we will always forgive because he’s an asshole and it’s just what he does. This song is basically his anthem.

The entire song is celebrating the fact that Kanye is such an asshole, but there is also a lot of pain in it because you can tell he knows he screws up a lot of shit. The “runaway” part of the song where he gets the title is when he’s warning people to “runaway as fast as you can” because we’ve been “putting up with [his] shit just way too long.”

Kanye, as long as you keep making quality music, we’ll always forgive you. This song isn’t my favorite that he’s done, but I love the spirit of it and the fact that it’s so self-aware. It’s not something I would listen to on repeat, but I appreciate that he recorded it. Definitely check it out if you haven’t yet done so.

#6 Cougar Town (11/5)

EW Description: “Courteney Cox’s prime-time comedy has found an excellent groove in season 2 with offbeat humor, new catchphrases (“Slap out of it!”), and copious amounts of red wine.”

I wanted to hate this show when it first started. The original premise of cougars just wasn’t something I could relate to and frankly, it looked atrocious. However, after catching it a couple of times after Modern Family, I decided to give it a shot. I watched the entire first season in about three weeks and haven’t missed an episode yet of the second season. Once the show got rid of the whole cougar premise, it became a wacky show about a group of thirty- and forty-somethings that all have their own quirks.

At the center of the group is Jules (Courteney Cox), a recent divorcee who is trying to start a life on her own. At the beginning of the series, she was a cougar. However, she is now dating an age-appropriate man, the delightful Grayson (Josh Hopkins). Grayson started out as the playboy of the cul-de-sac, but eventually managed to get past all his phobias about relationships to actually give it a shot with Jules. When you put these two neurotics together, the results are pretty hilarious. Jules divorced Bobby (Brian Van Holt) and he now lives on a boat in a parking lot and drives a golf cart around. Bobby is the quintessential manboy. The two have a son, Travis (Dan Byrd) who has just moved out to go to college. Jules has a very codependent relationship with Travis, so this has produced some really hilarious moments this season. For instance, in last week’s episode, Travis brought home his new girlfriend Kirsten. The sheer craziness of Jules’s reaction to someone taking away her baby was wonderful. She was completely losing it in ways I can’t even describe.

Outside of the crazy little family, there are the remaining members of the Cul-de-sac Crew. Laurie (the wonderful Busy Phillips) is Jules’s coworker and is a bit of a ditzy floozy, but in the most lovable of ways. Plus, her friendship with Travis produces some pretty great moments. And then there are Andy and Ellie (Ian Gomez and Christa Miller). Andy’s blind loyalty to Bobby leads him to follow Bobby around like a dog at times, but it’s just so sweet you have to ignore the fact these are two forty-something men who have the maturity of 12-year-olds. Ellie is Jules’s best friend. Fans of Scrubs will remember Miller as Dr. Cox’s wife Jordan and the two characters are very similar. Miller perfectly portrays the sarcastic bitch in whatever she does. She is never afraid to say exactly what she is thinking and her delight at other’s misery is both awful and hilarious.

The show was created by Bill Lawrence (Scrubs) and has come to have the same type of humor as Scrubs did when it was still good. The show manages to take some completely mundane things (watching people throw pennies into a can) and turn them in something absolutely hilarious. The creators recognize that the name is awful. Every episode now features some sort of sarcastic comment preceding the title (The Badly-Named, It’s Okay to Watch a Show Called, etc.). Don’t let the name of the show fool you. It really has nothing to do with cougars and it is quite delightful.

#2 Speak Now, Taylor Swift (11/5)

EW Description: “The singer’s third album showcases a candid, evocative blend of spite, sorrow, and love, with songs (possibly) aimed at VMA interrupter Kanye West, ex-boyfriend Taylor Lautner, and – is that John Mayer? Working through serious heartbreak has rarely sounded this great.”

Okay, I’m really doing my best to go into this with an open mind. Taylor Swift and I have a very complicated relationship. When she first came out with “Tim McGraw,” I thought she was a sweet, talented singer-songwriter who had the potential to become a very big country star. Well, clearly, she’s become a huge star, but in my opinion, she’s turned into a teenybopper shadow of her former self.

My all-time favorite song of hers is “Picture to Burn,” from her first album. It’s the one I feel is the strongest example of feminism that she’s ever recorded. I love the message that it’s not a big deal if some guy breaks up with you, just burn his picture and move on with your life. However, since then, she’s just recorded variations of “Teardrops on My Guitar” and “Love Story.” Her lyrics have become extremely problematic, particularly in the song “Fifteen,” where she almost flatout says a girl is nothing to a boy if she has lost her virginity. But, I really am going to try to listen to this album with an open mind. Here we go.

Mine: While this song is completely overplayed on the radio and I change the station every time it comes on in my car, it’s not entirely bad. When I actually listen to the lyrics, it does promote a healthy relationship. There’s equality between them, both are referred to at one point or another as belonging to the other. While I don’t believe people are property and can belong to someone else, at least they’re on equal ground. However, the tune reminds me so much of Love Story.

Sparks Fly: It’s a sweet song about how attracted she is to some random guy. There’s just nothing particularly original about it. It’s definitely not something I would remember.

Back to December: Rumor has it that she wrote this song about Taylor Lautner, which brings me to my other big problem with Taylor Swift. Every song she writes is now about some celebrity guy that she fell in love with and then broke her heart. Considering how often she is linked to some random celebrity, I doubt she’s actually loved every single one of them. Her credibility is completely shot. However, this song is probably the best of the album at this point and actually sounds like something I haven’t heard from her before. I might go back and listen to it again.

Speak Now: This is probably the closest I’ve come to hearing her have the same spunk I loved on her first album. There’s no talk of how she’s nothing without this guy, which is refreshing. It still embodies one of the biggest cliches, though, with the talk of breaking up a wedding at the “speak now or forever hold your peace” part.

Dear John: Her voice sounds better on this song than on any other song on the album. It’s more authentic than any song she’s written about breaking up with someone. You can actually hear the hurt in her voice and how she felt like she was betrayed. I think this is probably the strongest song on the album.  However, I believe a better song about John Mayer would have been “I Can’t Believe I Dated That Walking STD.”

Mean: Coming off Dear John, I had high hopes for the rest of the album, but this song is terrible. I appreciate the sentiment of it and am all for telling off bullies, but this is so annoying. Seriously, you can’t find a better word than mean? It sounds like you’re one step away from calling this person a poopoo head. I never want to hear this song again, which of course means it will probably be her next single.

The Story of Us: This has a really great beat and is very catchy. That’s really all I have to say about this song. It doesn’t blow me away like Dear John did. It doesn’t make me cringe like Mean did. It’s just kind of meh.

Never Grow Up: This is probably my second favorite song on the album. It sounds like a song a 20-year-old should be singing. It’s not some crap about high school heartbreak. It’s about growing up and how fucking terrifying the world is. As a 20-year-old, I completely relate to this song. I love it.

Enchanted: This is another really great song about how taken away you can get when you first meet someone. Sometimes, you just meet someone and they completely enthrall you. While it does get a bit repetitive, it does capture that feeling of crush at first sight.

Better Than Revenge: I love the spunkiness in this song. This reminds me a lot of Avril Lavigne and I mean that in the best possible way. This is just really catchy and I could see myself blaring this when I’m in a slightly pissed off mood.

Innocent: This is the Kanye West song, but it’s not what I was picturing at all. It’s a completely different take on the situation and is almost like she’s pitying him because he was so out of control the night of the VMAs. Very interesting.

Haunted: This actually sounds really different from her other songs. It’s amazing how adding different rhythms and instruments can make a song original. Probably one of the strongest songs on the album. I really like it.

Last Kiss: This is another song about Joe Jonas, but it’s not bad. It captures the spirit of that first heartbreak and how incredibly painful and confusing it can be. Not my favorite song on the album, but it’s pretty good.

Long Live: A strong finish to the album. Original tune, good lyrics. I like it.

Okay, so this wasn’t nearly as awful as I was expecting. I actually found some songs I really like and there was only one song that truly made me cringe. I just wish her producers and managers would pick better songs to release as her singles. Mine is not a very strong song. I would have picked either Back to December or Dear John because it’s something different from her. They probably wouldn’t play as well with the Disney Channel crowd, but I don’t necessarily believe that’s a bad thing. Overall, this album isn’t as strong as her first, but it’s much better than Fearless was.

 

 

#6 Daily Show’s “Earth (The Book)” (9/17, 9/24)

EW Description: “Jon Stewart and his crew of writers believe the world is ending, and this irreverent 244-page guide is their hilarious take on our dubious accomplishments in science and politics.”

I hereby decree that this book be placed in every time capsule buried in the next 5 years. This book is wonderful for pointing out the general fucked-upness of our entire world. Absolutely nothing is left untouched and it is all addressed with The Daily Show’s scathing wit. Every page made me chuckle in some way.

The book addresses nine specific sections of the human condition: Earth, Life, Man, The Life Cycle, Society, Commerce, Religion, Science, and Culture. Personally, I loved the sections on Society, Religion, and Culture the most, but I found something to enjoy in every single chapter. While not as overtly political as The Daily Show’s “America (The Book)”, it will still probably piss a lot of people off and I would not have it any other way.

The basic premise is that this book serves as a tour guide for when the aliens inevitably invade and kill off the human race .The writers try to address every aspect of our lives in order to show the aliense what life was like for us on Earth. This brings about hilarious results. At the end of every chapter, there is a FAQ section where the “aliens” ask questions of humans. These questions are perfectly logical and point out how screwed up humanity is and the humans try to explain everything logically.

There’s a little something for everyone in this book, unless you’re a fundamentalist Christian who believes strongly in Creationism and thinks Jon Stewart is the devil. Then you probably won’t like it so much, but oh well.

2 for 1 Special! #1 “Raise Your Glass,” Pink (10/22, 10/29) AND #6 Katy Perry’s “Firework” video (11/12)

After a long week of tests and papers, it’s time for some party music. Here we go. Let’s start with Pink.

EW Description: “Though her greatest-hits collection isn’t due until Nov. 16, the rocker offers us an excellent first round with her raucous new single. The album may be looking back at past triumphs, but this song has got us looking forward to her future ones.”

I have always loved Pink. “Don’t Let Me Get Me” was pretty much my anthem throughout middle school. I’ve seen her evolve from slightly emo-ish punk rock star to total badass punk pop superstar. And I’ve loved every step along the way.

Throughout the years, her music has become a little more Top 40-friendly than it probably would have been seven years ago. Although there is more of a dance-y pop feel to her music, she’s still a full-on badass and I adore her. With “Raise Your Glass,” a song that at first just seems like it’s about getting drunk and having fun, Pink parlays a much deeper message. Basically, that message is “Fuck it all. Just be yourself and have fun.” It’s a message all of us need to hear every now and then.

Also, anyone that will dress up as Rosie the Riveter and a nerdy high school girl in the same video is pretty much awesome. Add that to showing scenes of her laying naked in bed with religious officials from every background and it’s pretty much amazing.

Moving on to the less badass, but still pretty awesome Katy Perry.

EW Description: “Yes, this clip shows sparks flying out of the singer’s boobs. But it’s all part of her let-your-light-shine ballad’s genuinely affecting message of self-love, tolerance, and acceptance.”

Here’s the thing. I know Katy Perry’s songs aren’t that great. They’re overly poppy and generally have no real substance, but they’re just so damn addictive. When I first went to watch this video, I was expecting another song exactly like “Teenage Dream” and “I Kissed a Girl,” but I was pleasantly surprised. This song has actual meaning!

The main hook of the song is “Baby, you’re a firework/Come on, show ’em what you’re worth.” Where her other songs have just been about partying and young love, this song is all about showing the world that you are awesome. We need more songs like this from female pop artists.

EW also mentions the sparks flying out of Katy Perry’s boobs. From the way I read the description, I was expecting a copycat of the whipped cream bra from her “Teenage Dream” video, but the sparks in “Firework” are a metaphor for literally showing the world your power. And sparks fly out of every character’s chest. The overweight teenage girl who is afraid to swim in front of her friends, the little girl with cancer, the young boy who is fed up with the domestic violence between his parents, the young gay man at a party who is afraid to go up to the guy he likes, the street magician who is getting mugged. Everybody has a light to show the world.

It’s great when there are songs like “Raise Your Glass” and “Firework,” because they aren’t the typical cheesy “love yourself” songs. As much as I love songs like Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” it is a tad on the over-the-top, cheesy side. These songs are great because they make people want to get up and dance, but it’s to a song with a positive message. So many pop songs are just about partying and getting drunk. It’s nice when one comes along with an actual message.