Death Note & The Villain Protagonist

WARNING: Spoilers for Death Note. And believe me, you REALLY don’t want this series spoiled. 

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I finally finished watching all 37 episodes of Death Note and was shaken and impressed by, well, the whole series, but the finale in particular. The whole series builds and builds to some sort of grand climax; you can feel as much from the first episode. But through the many twists and turns you’re never quite sure what that climax will look like. That’s the mark of a good thriller, subverting expectations.

What fascinates me the most about this series is the function of its protagonist, Light Yagami. Light is undeniably the main character of the series, and he also happens to be the villain. And because he’s so intelligent and careful, he plays the role of the good guy while trying to catch Kira, a mass murderer who kills hundreds of criminals (as well as anyone who stands in his way) – which is a twisted, circular game of cat-and-mouse, because Light is Kira. He has to simultaneously hide and search for himself, while trying to beat the people that are actually onto him. I’d never seen a hunt for a killer done in this way before, and it really spun my ideas about main characters and audience sympathy in a manner I haven’t seen since reading Lolita. Because while we the audience know what Light does is wrong, he doesn’t. His “search for himself” looks so real to the other characters that he starts to convince us of his innocence, even though we’re the only ones who know with utter certainty that he is guilty.

In the same way Nabokov seduces the reader into sympathizing with Humbert Humbert the hebephile, Death Note makes you sympathetic for Light without even knowing it. And it does this by doing something brilliant: it kills off Light’s opponent, L, in the middle of the series, when you’re least expecting it.

The first half of Death Note is structured as an intellectual game of chase played by Light and L, who are both uncannily brilliant. The series even goes so far as to build a strange (albeit one-sided) friendship between the two, as L works closely with Light to catch Kira. In a way, they are intellectual equals – at least, that’s what the series would have you think at first. If Death Note went the typical thriller route, the cat-and-mouse game would build and build and then culminate in the finale, when L finally gathers proof of Light’s guilt and the two have a final showdown.

But it doesn’t happen that way. Instead of turning L into the “hero” (if a series like this can truly have any heroes), he is killed off in a jarring, unexpected, almost awkward place. And he dies. He doesn’t come back. He is replaced, somewhat, with Near, an equally brilliant opponent, but one lacking L’s depth of personality or connection to Light, something I believe was very intentional. Near is a means to an end, but he’s not a complete replacement for L. He’s not meant to be the arch-nemesis for Light that L was. In fact, after L’s death Light comments that by fighting Near, he is really still fighting L, or some shadowy ghost of him. And as Light dies, the last thing he thinks of is L, not Near.

So why kill L off in this way? I think it was to firmly cement Light as the protagonist, in case the audience was tempted to sympathize more with L. For while most people would never condone Light’s actions, the ultimate goal of the series is not to have you connect with L, but with Light. Just look at the character’s name, which seems so opposite from his role in the series as the villain, and his appearance as an attractive teenager (later, young man). If you knew nothing about Light apart from his name and face, you’d probably assume he was a good guy.

Which brings us to the finale. The finale is brutal, and even though I’d suspected the series would end with Light’s death, I had no idea how it would happen. I would recommend reading Jacob Chapman’s think piece on Light for a great discussion of Matsuda’s role in the finale, but I want to focus on the last few moments of the series, as Light runs to his death.

What does Light see as he’s dying? Not L, not Near, not his father, not Matsuda, not Misa or Takada, but himself before the death note. Essentially, he sees himself as a “normal” kid. This is strange as from the very first episode we are introduced to Light as an egomaniacal psychopath with a grandiose sense of self. Why would Light see himself this way? And why is it strangely and tragically moving?

There are obviously many ways to interpret this ending, but here’s mine. As he runs away, Light knows two things: that he has lost and that he’s about to die. This is after he declared himself the winner and the god of a new world. Not only has Light been defeated intellectually, he is facing his own mortality for the first time. Light is no god – in the end, he’s just a boy. And in the end, that’s the way he sees himself. Not as a god, or a victor, but a schoolboy with no death note and no shinigami.

This forces the audience to look at Light in a way we haven’t been able to the entire series. This person is a psychopath, but he’s also a boy. He’s a corrupt villain but he truly believed what he was doing was right. At the very end, as he dies (bathed in a surreal halo of light, almost like a martyr), he sees the face of L, perhaps not as an enemy, but as someone who could have been a great friend had things gone differently.

That’s the tragedy of Light Yagami. Nobody could have turned him around after he found the death note. But if he hadn’t found it, he could have been a great asset to everyone around him. In the end, Death Note forces us to confront the psychopath in all of us. What would we do if given a death note?  Are we really so different from Light?  What would it take for us to become separate from our morals, if given the power to implement them on the rest of the world? Can we really know – or judge?

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Not “Into” Anime? Watch Cowboy Bebop

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It took me a while to figure out the truth: that I absolutely, 100% LOVED Cowboy Bebop. In fact, it is now my fifth favorite TV show of all time.

I’m no anime aficionado by any means, nor would I call myself a proper anime watcher. I love Hayao Miyazaki’s films, but that doesn’t make me special or anything; and prior to watching Cowboy Bebop the most exposure I’d had to anime besides Studio Ghibli was the (very) few episodes of the original Pokémon show I’d watched just out of curiosity. Other than that, I’d had zero anime experience.

My first college spring break, I was completely alone in my dorm room, as my roommates had gone home. I suppose I could have gone home too, but I took advantage of the empty space to take some time to myself, away from people, schedules, papers, and noise. It was the perfect time for me to delve into something new. But I didn’t want to immerse myself in something that would take a long time to watch, and possibly rip my heart and soul out in the process (ahem, The X-Files). Since I was about to face the last half of the spring semester, I needed something short, something I could start and finish in a week.

What about anime? I thought to myself. You like Japanese animation, and a lot of anime shows have relatively short runs. I immediately began researching Top Ten Anime lists, reviews, recommendations, and suggestions for first-time anime viewers. It took about ten minutes for me to realize that Cowboy Bebop was the show to choose.

I’m not the easiest person to please, and I rarely love things right away. I can, however, become intrigued by something right away, and I don’t think I’ve ever been as initially intrigued by a show as I was with Cowboy Bebop. Even The X-Files took 3/4ths of a season to really pull me in, but Cowboy Bebop had me right from the very beginning.

What’s this show about? It’s set in the future, the year 2071, to be exact, when humanity, having blown a massive hole in most of Earth’s surface, has colonized the rest of the solar system. Crime is rampant on many of these planets, and there isn’t really a police system in place to track down criminals, so the task of catching bad guys and turning them over to the authorities is in the hands of bounty hunters, who fly through space collecting bounties on various wanted men and women. The show’s main protagonist, Spike Spiegel, is one such bounty hunter, traveling with Jet Black, a former cop, on a spaceship called the Bebop. Along the way Spike and Jet meet Faye Valentine, a sexy con-woman with an attitude and a capital-P Past, and Radical Edward, a young girl (?) who’s an expert computer hacker and is also completely off her rocker. The show is mainly episodic, dealing with the Bebop crew’s various adventures whilst chasing criminals, but there’s an overarching storyline involving Spike and his capital-P Past, a dark history with a mafia group called the Syndicate, an evil white-haired swordsman named Vicious, and a mysterious blonde woman called Julia.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, really.

There’s just nothing else quite like it. So much so that when it’s over, you feel desperately sad, and not just because of the dark ending. There are only 26 episodes, each about 25 minutes long, and yet the show pulls you into such an original yet strangely familiar world that by the time the series is over, you find yourself missing the setting, a violent and tumultuous one; the music, which I’d like to argue is unparalleled for any show, anime or no; the characters, who are really quite terrible people, yet are at the same time so interesting and dynamic that you can’t help but root for them; and the beauty of the show’s neo-noir animation, with its sharp angles, dark shadows, and moody colors. Even if you aren’t interested in anime, or have your own opinions about the genre, you’d be hard-pressed to not find something to like about Cowboy Bebop, just a little.

This isn’t a review of Cowboy Bebop; it’s more of a suggestion. Plenty of reviews have been written about this show. Some are so good they’re almost as fun to read as the show is to watch. I’m not sure what I’d add by reviewing this show, though I can’t say the idea is terrible to me (it’s not going to happen until I’m finished with The X-Files, though).

This spring break, my one-year anniversary with Cowboy Bebop, I decided to show my fourteen-year-old sister the show. We’d actually started around Christmas break, but we finally finished in March, and I relished seeing her reaction at the show’s ending. Even more, I relished in the fact that she’d liked it. You see, I wasn’t completely sure that she would. The show is many things, not the least of which is odd, and I wasn’t sure if its weird atmosphere would appeal to her. But it did.

And then, the most wonderful thing happened. When I saw that she liked it, I realized how much I loved it. And maybe, given a year’s time, she’ll grow to love it, too.

Perhaps we like to think that we fall in love with our favorite things immediately, but that’s rarely the case. For me, at least, it’s almost never true. Love takes time, especially when it comes to fiction. After all, you’re being asked to immerse yourself in a completely different world, with strange characters and settings and stories. That’s not the easiest thing to do.

Fiction becomes escape for many people, but it can also add to our real lives. After all, all fiction springs from a place of reality – real people’s visions shape fictional worlds and characters, and stories feel real to us because they reflect something in us (if they’re good stories, that is).

But more than that, fiction is something to bond over. It’s something to make friends over, laugh over, cry over, and get angry over. Maybe diving into something you didn’t think you’d like can teach you something about yourself, whether that thing is Cowboy Bebop or not.

But, while we’re on the subject, why not make it Cowboy Bebop? Go watch it. Yes, you. Watch it now. Go on. You won’t regret it. And if you do, well…it’s only 26 episodes. You’ll live.

You can watch the first four episodes of Cowboy Bebop online for free at Hulu. 

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Your OTP Is Not An Excuse for Slut-Shaming

Author’s Note: Before reading this, please make yourself familiar with the term “slut-shaming.” Thanks very much.

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I decided to write this post on Knife Ink Reviews because even though it has to do with The X-Files, it’s certainly not just about The X-Files. This is something that crops up way more than it should, even, it turns out, in the fanbases of shows that are praised for having female characters that are more than props.

When I started becoming more involved with X-Philes on Twitter (for the uninitiated, “X-Philes” are fans of The X-Files), I was pleasantly struck by just how nice, supportive, and dedicated fans they are. That is still true. My opinion of X-Philes has not changed. You guys still rock.

What I was sad to see this morning is evidence of some of the grosser aspects of Internet culture having leaked their way into the fandom: in this case, slut-shaming.

I’m not going to name names, because that’s not the goal of this post and you can find out for yourself easily enough if you go on Twitter. What I want to do is talk about sexism, hypocrisy, and make a sincere apology to the actress who was on the receiving end of some pretty nasty comments (like I said, names are unnecessary, nor do they really matter).

When I was a young girl, a wee young lass, if you will, I asked my mother why it was acceptable for guys to go shirtless at the beach and girls had to cover up. I don’t remember what her response was – knowing my mother, it was very smart and sensible – but the question never left me.

Flash forward to years later, and here I am, witnessing the same sexist attitudes whirl around my favorite show in what seems to me to be an unrelenting firestorm of sexism, hatred, and stupidity. Let me explain.

For most X-Philes, the One True Pairing is Mulder and Scully. That’s obvious. And X-Philes are very, very passionate about their OTP. So much so that anyone who dares get in the way of Mulder and Scully had best find a very, very isolated home in the mountains and stay away from the internet in the interest of their personal safety.

Most of the time, X-Philes are passionate and have their hearts in the right place. I’m sure the same is true of other fandoms. We don’t want anything to happen to our OTP, so we get really, really angry when we hear news like this (even though we don’t know yet what Chris Carter has in mind, Philes, but that’s a conversation for another time). We get angry. We get defensive. We sometimes even get a little mean.

There is a smaller but equally passionate sub-fandom of Mulder/Scully shippers: those that “ship” actors David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, who, unlike Mulder and Scully, are very much real people. This is a tricky sort of thing to talk about because I don’t want to tick anybody off that hasn’t been saying any of the nasty stuff, nor do I want to blame all Gillovny shippers for the actions of a few.

I’m not going to pretend like I don’t have personal problems with the idea of “shipping” two people who are very much real. I, for one, do not have anything resembling interest in David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as a couple. I’ve always been more invested in their characters, and I tend to not delve too deep into the personal lives of the people behind the characters I love. I realize that’s not true for everyone, but for me it is. I just don’t care.

And because I don’t care to know about the intimate details of celebrities’ personal lives, I do have a bit of a problem with the idea of shipping “Gillovny” at all. Not with the people, mind you, just the idea itself. These aren’t characters. They’re real people. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are two gorgeous human beings with a lot of wit, charm, and chemistry. They’re sexy together. I’m sure they’re fun to be around.

And I’m sure that’s what a certain young actress was thinking when she posted a photo on the internet the other day – a photo of herself standing in between Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. All three were smiling and looked like they were having a great time. It was a cute pic.

As this photo circulated around Twitter, people began to edit the photo. They chopped the woman in the middle out, making it another David Duchovny/Gillian Anderson photo. Which I wasn’t a huge fan of, but the act itself was relatively harmless. Fine. Whatever. Have your OTP.

A line has to be drawn.

In an effort to figure out who this mysterious woman-in-the-middle was, some dedicated fans found her Instagram, where the photo had been originally posted, and saw another photo – the photo that launched a thousand ugly comments.

This photo was a picture of this actress wearing a bikini. At the top was a quote from David Duchovny’s novel. She’d tagged him in the photo.

That was all it took for things to get nasty.

Most of them were deleted, but a slew of comments on this Instagram photo called this actress nasty names. I managed to screenshot the one that was probably the tamest:

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Curious, I took to Twitter, in an effort to hunt down more comments launched at this poor woman. There were a lot. But this was the one that got me the angriest, and indeed the one that I think encompasses most of the, ah, sentiments expressed:

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First point. This is a great example of the hypocrisy I was talking about, and it also brings back the point I was making about shirtless men. I can assure you if David Duchovny had posted a picture on Instagram shirtless with the name of a woman tagged, there would have been no response like this. Why? Because it’s acceptable for a man to associate himself with a woman in almost every way imaginable without having to endure slut-shaming. 

This actress is a “bitch” not because she said anything bad about David Duchovny, not because she publicly shamed David Duchovny, not because she did or said anything negative relating to David Duchovny, but because she posted a quote, correctly cited the source, which happened to be David Duchovny, and posted a picture of herself in a bikini.

She did not throw herself at David Duchovny. You, relentless, rude commenters that fancy yourselves fans of David Duchovny and, I’m sorry to say, “Gillovny” shippers, you threw her at David Duchovny.

The bullsh*t continued:

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Oh I’m sure she’s now gotten used to people “telling her off.” Now that this crowd has gotten to her. As I’m sure most women in the public eye are. And here we go with the slut-shaming! This actress obviously has no talent because she has a nice body. She “gets ahead” because she’s a slut and a famewhore, not because of her abilities.

And as much as I’m sure David Duchovny appreciates this crowd “sticking up for him” by publicly slut-shaming another woman, I really don’t think tagging David Duchovny in an instagram post is going to help anybody’s career. Just sayin’. It’s entirely possible that, I don’t know, that wasn’t even her intention? How about maybe she liked the damn quote? And as for the picture, it’s not a selfie. She’s a model. That’s what she does. 

Another point: even if most of the people making these comments are women – and I strongly suspect they are – it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a product of the rampant sexism that exists on the internet, especially in fandoms. And that is why crossing the line of fiction to real life in a fandom is dangerous; that’s why there is a huge difference between someone who innocently ships David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson and those who are aggressively and unhealthily passionate about it. As much as others might try to say it, shipping Mulder and Scully is not and will never be the same as shipping two real-life people.

We can talk about how it’s wrong to slut-shame anyone, fictional or non-fictional. We can talk about how the flack this woman is receiving could be compared to what characters like Diana Fowley received during the show’s run. You can treat this like a normal ship. But it’s not. When a real-life person is being slut-shamed and called everything from a skank to a fucking bitch to a whore in the name of The X-Files fandom, a line MUST BE DRAWN. Your OTP cannot be your excuse for saying harmful things to real people. Your OTP is not an excuse for slut-shaming.

Final words to the people involved in this scenario.

To the shamers:

Please stop. It’s immature, it’s rude, and I’m pretty sure David Duchovny wouldn’t support it. And it makes the fandom look really, really bad.

To the fandom:

Please just continue doing what you’re doing and be the nice, kind people I know most of you are. I love this show and this fandom, and we don’t need to participate in behavior like this. We’re better than that. Let’s remain that way.

To the actress:

On behalf of X-Philes everywhere, I’d like to say I’m sorry you were bombarded with comments like that. And I hope you had a blast with whatever role you play/played in the revival.

To the rest of the world:

As an X-Phile and a fairly decent human being, I do not support this. And neither should you.


You can read Knife Ink’s more frequently updated stuff on thereviewisoutthere.wordpress.com, an X-Files review blog. You can also follow her on Twitter. Warning: she pretty much just tweets about The X-Files. 

Update – Knife Ink Reviews is Going On Hiatus

This blog, Knife Ink Reviews, is going on hiatus. I will not be posting regularly here anymore, not that I’ve ever posted here regularly, but you get the point. Posts on this blog will be few and far between.

Is this permanent? Certainly not. I definitely want to get back to reviewing fairly regularly, as well as reviewing more varied material. But I just don’t have time at this point, for several reasons.

1. I’m working and in school.

2. I often struggle deciding what to review, since I rarely watch/read things for the sake of reviewing them.

3. The X-Files.

The first two points are easy enough to understand, but the last point might cause a few eye-rolls for the few non-X-Files readers I might have. A big part of the reason I’m not focusing on this blog so much is because I want to devote my blogging time to my X-Files review blog, The Review is Out There, especially because of the recently announced X-Files revival. I want to get as many episodes reviewed as I can before January. Another huge reason is that since I’ve already seen most of the episodes multiple times, I’m so familiar with the material that reviewing them is quite easy and fun for me to do. I enjoy reviewing X-Files pretty much more than anything (an exception might be the Legend of Korra audio reviews, which I also enjoyed doing).

Don’t worry. This blog is not dead. It’s just going into hibernation for a while. You might see an occasional #Billbored post (in which I review songs on the Billboard Hot 100), or maybe even a movie review if I ever get around to seeing more movies, but from now until January, it’s going to be mostly X-Files. 

But, I will still be doing occasional livetweets and posting stuff on Twitter, so be sure to follow me there if you’d like to keep up.

Also…I got a Tumblr? I guess I felt I needed a place to really fangirl, but feel welcome to follow me if you’d like.

Thanks to everyone who follows,

Knife Ink

My Week With Kate and Spence

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This month has been a down sort of month. Finals are enough to choke every last bit of energy I have left. Life has become an overwhelming barrage of things, one right after the other. I’m out of time. I really don’t have time to be writing this blog post.

Oh well. I’ll make time.

For the past week or so, I have developed an extremely strong obsession with Katharine Hepburn – arguably the greatest actress to ever grace the American silver screen. Kate Hepburn has been like a friend to me in these difficult past few weeks, particularly because I’ve spent the past four or five days watching nine of her films. That’s right, nine of them.

Not just any nine, though. No, these particular nine were the films she did with Spencer Tracy, with whom she had a famous relationship, both on-screen and off. These nine films, most of which I had never seen before, are the best, clearest example we have of their sizzling chemistry and deeply complicated relationship.

Through the entire journey, I made sure to take plenty of gifs of Katharine’s best moments, because I love her so. And while I certainly can’t say I loved every film they did, I never didn’t love Katharine. She gave a fantastic performance every time. So did Tracy, whom I now have an immense respect for as a film actor.

So…let’s get started. This is my week with Kate and Spence.


Here be spoilers.


Woman of the Year (1942)

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Woman of the Year is by far the most romantic of Kate and Spence’s films. The film is all about finding new love, and boy do these two find it. If you watch it with the knowledge that the two actors got together sometime during or after the filming of this flick, it makes the experience of watching it even better. You can just see how deeply, genuinely intrigued they are by each other.

Why do I say it’s the most romantic? Well, it’s definitely the most physical. They have a total of – and I may be miscounting here – seven or eight full-on kisses, some of which barely get away with the 3-second rule (during the time this was filmed, kisses could be no more than 3 seconds long). And, well – I don’t know how else to say it, it’s just sexy. 

I have a major problem with this film, but I’m willing to postpone discussing it in order to gush about Katharine’s outfits. Can we just talk about this for a second?

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I want this

Okay…done being distracted.

Apart from the last fifteen minutes of the movie, which is what I have a serious problem with, Woman of the Year is wonderful to watch, mostly for the scene at the bar/taxi/Tess’s apartment. It’s the most romantic part of the film, and it features the most kisses. One thing I really love doing when watching old movies is looking for implications of sex – not in a dirty or creepy way, but because I love seeing how much they try to imply without being totally out there because they can’t be totally out there.

In Woman of the Year, for instance, there’s a scene where Kate’s character Tess has Spencer’s character Sam take her home. They have a very romantic taxi ride and then they walk into her dark apartment, and the music swells very romantically but with a hint of foreboding. Watch the scene closely – he knows where this is going and she knows where this is going and it’s only because Sam’s “a bundle of nerves” that it doesn’t happen.

I think Woman of the Year is looked down upon in modern times, at least the last fifteen minutes are, because it’s the story of a remarkably strong and independent woman who feels guilty for being strong and independent and by the end resolves to quit her job so she can clean and cook for her husband. It was a different time, of course, but it still bothers me. This movie could have been very progressive and if I remember correctly, they changed the ending at the last minute because Tess Harding was just too powerful for a woman. This was apparently against Katharine’s wishes, though, so console yourselves with that.


Keeper of the Flame (1943)

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Keeper of the Flame is a strange one. I haven’t quite put my finger on how I feel about it yet. For one thing, it’s the only Tracy-Hepburn film that doesn’t feature a romance of some sort, and it’s a drama. It’s also incredibly slow. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s definitely more dialogue than action.

In Keeper of the Flame, Katharine Hepburn plays a recent widow of a man named Robert Forrest, who was a national hero to many people. In a lot of ways, the film is about Robert Forrest, or uncovering the man that was Robert Forrest, without actually showing Robert Forrest because well, he’s dead. It’s Spencer Tracy’s character’s job to write a bio on Forrest, and he meets with Forrest’s widow (or tries to) to gather information. Eventually he discovers that Robert Forrest was not a very good man at all but a member of some sort of fascist cult. He died by driving over a busted bridge – a bridge that his wife had seen and neglected to tell him about, because she hated the fact that he had betrayed his country but was too ashamed to ruin his public image.

Oh yeah, and she dies. It’s kind of gruesome, actually. I was not expecting that.

Keeper of the Flame is so radically different from, well, most of their other films (well, apart from The Sea of Grass but we’ll get to that one later), that, like I said, I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it. It certainly isn’t bad, but it is a little slow and I can definitely see a lot of people finding it quite boring. Spencer Tracy is the real star of the show here, playing what I must say is a really noble and genuine character. I felt that Robert Forrest’s secret was revealed much too late and all at once. I felt the movie would have benefitted from maybe fifteen or twenty more minutes of snooping around by Tracy’s character.


Without Love (1945)

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Without Love is my least favorite of their comedies. That being said, I still liked it very much. I suppose its crime is that it’s too predictable; we all know how it’s going to end the minute the formula is set in motion. Katharine plays a(nother) widow whose husband tragically died in a horseback riding accident. A strange scientist, played by Tracy, randomly moves into the basement of her house to work on a secret experiment for the military. They decide to team up and get married “without love” because of the benefits marriage offers – though in the process they end up falling in love anyway.

Without Love is definitely benefitted by the presence of Lucille Ball, who plays a terrific supporting character, and there’s some funny comedic moments between Kate and Spence as they get ready for bed (in separate rooms). There’s a hilarious scene where Tracy’s character sleepwalks and he gets into her bed by mistake. Katharine comes back and falls out of the bed in surprise when she realizes there’s someone there. Tracy’s dog – whom we now discover is a service dog supposed to prevent him from sleepwalking – rushes into the room, and Tracy delivers my favorite line of the entire film – “Where were you in my hour of need?”

Katharine sometimes gets accused of playing the same character over and over, but I don’t see how anyone can say that, at least not judging by these nine films. In Without Love her character has a subtle naivety that Tess Harding didn’t have and certainly wasn’t there in Keeper of the Flame. She’s smart, but she doesn’t really know a damn thing about, well, anybody. She’s constantly misjudging people and Kate pulls that off perfectly, as Kate often does. Not their best film, but still worth checking out.

Also it has probably the best implication of sex in the whole bunch:

Kate: Th- There… One thing though. I, um…

Spence: Madam, you would never have to give that a thought. 


The Sea of Grass (1947)

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It’s bizarre to think that The Sea of Grass did the most well commercially of any of their films because it is without doubt the worst of the bunch. It’s slow, cheesy, and melodramatic in the worst possible way. The director really wasn’t pleased with the final result, and as far as I can tell the film hasn’t really stood the test of time.

There’s one thing that saves the film, and that of course is Katharine Hepburn. Spencer Tracy is fantastic – I’m starting to think it was physically impossible for the man to give a bad performance – but it’s Katharine Hepburn who held my interest the most. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t enjoy it very much, because there’s a huge chunk of the film where she’s not there.

Katharine plays a woman in the late 1800’s who marries a cattle rancher, leaving the big city life she knows. She is constantly torn between wanting to be noticed, loved, and desired and her love for her husband, who spends more time thinking about his cattle ranch than he does about her. She eventually has a child with another man, causing Tracy to kick her out. Her son, the illegitimate child, grows up to be kind of a stinker and gets himself killed for it. Then she comes back and all is right with the world.

That’s a real bare-bones summary, and of course I’m leaving out a lot of subtleties and plot points. What I liked best about Kate’s performance was how naturally she pulled off a woman struggling in an environment practically alien to her. It almost reminded me of Emma Bovary (though she wasn’t nearly that despicable). And she looks gorgeous, so hey.

spencer-tracy-and-katharine-hepburn


State of the Union (1948)

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loved Katharine Hepburn’s character, Mary, in this movie. Again, she was the best part of the film. I find it difficult to discuss this one because I just want to go watch all of her best scenes. But there are SO MANY.

Spencer Tracy’s character, Grant Matthews, is an unfaithful turd (sorry, but he is), who has cheated on his wife Mary with Angela Lansbury. This is a point that is never expressly stated but everyone knows it, including Mary. And to get back at him, she makes him sleep on the floor. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you think about how powerless women were back then, at least in terms of doing anything about their husbands’ infidelity (especially if they had children), it’s great fun to see Mary do one for herself and make Grant get on the floor.

My favorite scene is when Mary is drunk. It’s reminiscent of Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story, and produces some wonderful dialogue. Much to my chagrin I couldn’t find the clip on YouTube. But here’s the tweet I made watching that scene.

[tweet https://twitter.com/knifeink/status/596153749015375872 ]

All Hail Katharine indeed. OH and also – here is the world’s greatest gif, courtesy of yours truly, Katharine, and this movie:

Katharine


Adam’s Rib (1949)

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Ah, here’s their famous one. Most consider Adam’s Rib to be Hepburn and Tracy’s best film. I can definitely see why. Here their banter is sharpest and the premise is by far the smartest. Plus, let’s face it – they’re just adorable in this movie. When they look under the table at each other I found myself squealing out loud.

I’m going to leave the feminist analysis of this film for another day, but needless to say I loved seeing Katharine Hepburn take a stand for the woman. She does it hilariously and sincerely all at the same time. And I love (love) how they go at it in the courtroom but when they get home try and act perfectly married, like nothing has happened.

Poor Spencer Tracy. He really gets kicked in the pants in this one (literally). From dropping glasses to being lifted by strong women, you sort of wonder when he’s going to lose it. He kind of does twice, once when he slaps her and once when he threatens to shoot her with a licorice gun. What a lovable asshole.

What can I say about Adam’s Rib? It’s a classic in every sense of the word, and it couldn’t have been done by anyone else. I read somewhere online that they better not touch Adam’s Rib if they know what’s best for them, and I agree. I have to say it’s not my personal favorite of their set but I can definitely see the argument for it being the best. “Best” and “favorite” are not the same.


Pat and Mike (1952)

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Move summary: Katharine Hepburn is a badass.

I mean, I already knew that, but I can’t tell you how many times I shouted “Yessss, girl!” while watching Pat and Mike. Here Kate gets to show off her athletic abilities, which she really and truly possessed. And she wears the cutest tennis outfit in the history of everything.

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What I liked best about Katharine’s performance in this one was her struggle between her own lack of confidence and her self-knowledge. Let me clarify. Pat, in this film, knows damn well that she’s an incredible athlete, but is constantly doubting herself, especially when her fiance (not Mike) watches her play. I know what it’s like to be nervous performing in front of people even though you know you have the ability. It’s incredibly frustrating, and Kate is incredibly frustrated in this one, even though she can swing a golf club like a pro.

This, thank heavens, was on YouTube, so enjoy and try not to watch it on loop for an hour.

“You know what you can do with your gluteal muscle? Give it away for Christmas!”

Oh, and let’s not forget the part where she saves poor Spencer Tracy from two guys, all on her own, without even swinging a punch or batting an eye.

That’s my girl.


Desk Set (1957)

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Of all these nine films, the biggest surprise was Desk Set. I absolutely LOVED this movie. It might be my favorite.

One of the things I loved most was seeing how much they could get away with in this film as opposed to the earlier ones. This film has the word “sexy” in it and no one bats an eye. Although I was extremely disappointed that we didn’t get to see Katharine in that green dress.

Katharine is older in this film but you don’t get the sense that she’s past her prime (when has anybody ever gotten that sense?) and she still looks stunning. I think what I love most about this movie is how much fun it is, and how much fun she is. Sure, she was fun in her other comedies, but comedy is tragedy, as you know, and most of her other movies have her go through a little bit of pain. There’s very little pain in Desk Set, it’s just one big fun romp. And Katharine – oh, Katharine my love. She…she has fun too. Here are some more gifs for you.

KatharineOOH

“OOH, they had a baby!”

KATHARINEWHYY

KatharinePerfection

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Somebody, thank the heavens, put the entire movie on YouTube, so if you just search “Desk Set 1957” you should find it (seriously, go watch before it gets taken down by the copyright gods).


Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

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Their last film, and Spencer Tracy’s last film of his career. He died only a few weeks after it was finished filming.

This film is a lot more than Kate and Spence, but since this post is about them, I want to focus on one moment in the film. But first some background.

A lot has been speculated, and unfortunately never verified, about Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s romance. It was a 26-year long “affair,” but it was an unusual affair. Katharine was completely devoted to Spencer, and he didn’t always reciprocate. Spencer had serious drinking problems and was probably depressed. His failing health was due to his years of drinking and inner struggles.

Throughout the filming of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, the cast and crew knew that Spencer was dying. Kate knew it too. They had to be very careful not to put too much strain on him, only letting him film for about three hours each day.

And even though Katharine must have been scared and grieving the whole time during filming, she still manages to pull off what is, without a doubt, the single greatest verbal middle finger in the history of everything:

YESSS KATHARINE!

Katharine always said that Spencer was a locked door, and never really let on how he felt about anything. He was married and never got divorced from his wife Louise, though they were separated for many years, before Spencer even met Katharine. He had a deaf son, John, whom Louise was completely devoted to, and had always felt guilty about John and because of his Catholic faith that wouldn’t let him divorce his wife. Katharine never asked for marriage – she knew that living was painful for him. He was a brilliant actor, and could become anybody, but outside of the studio, he drank and needed constant care and attention, which only Kate would give him. And he wasn’t always nice to her. He had affairs on the side of his affair, and there have even been reports of him drunkenly striking her once (though I don’t think that’s ever been confirmed).

But Kate never left him. For the last six years of his life, she moved in with him to make him more comfortable. It was during this period that they filmed Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Here’s what Kate said about Spence in her autobiography:

“I have no idea how Spence felt about me. I can only say I think that if he hadn’t liked me he wouldn’t have hung around. As simple as that. He wouldn’t talk about it and I didn’t talk about it. We just passed twenty-seven years together in what was to me absolute bliss.

It is called LOVE.”

Excerpt From: Katharine Hepburn. “Me.”

And, because I like to torture myself, I also watched this video, of Kate reading a letter she wrote to Spence years after he died.

Knowing all this, I went into Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner looking at every interaction they had as more than acting, because it is. Especially his last speech, when both their eyes get misty. Spencer wasn’t a crier, and guess what, I’m not either…

But I couldn’t fight back tears when I watched the scene in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner where Spencer says:

“And if it’s half of what we felt – that’s everything.”

katharinetracylove

THE END


This post was made specially for Margaret Perry’s The Great Katharine Hepburn Blogathon, which I was thrilled to find out existed. Here’s a banner and a link to Margaret’s blog where you can read all the submissions. 

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Margaret Perry’s Blog

An Ode To Leonard Nimoy, and To His Undying Character

Spock with a cat is basically the epitome of awesome.

Spock with a cat is basically the epitome of awesome.

Spock is still with us. He was brought back to life by the Genesis Device, after all. He’s out there somewhere, with pointy ears and one eyebrow raised, telling us the most logical course of action.

It is Leonard Nimoy, beloved to millions of people across the globe, that is no longer with us. But somehow, that doesn’t feel quite right to say.

I generally have a slight aversion to cheesy celebrity death posts, mainly because I have never had personal experiences with these celebrities, or did not feel like I was enough of a fan to warrant writing a eulogy for someone I’d technically never met. I was a fan of Robin Williams, for instance, and was very saddened to hear about his tragic death, but I did not feel I was the right person to write about what he meant to people.

This is different.

Leonard Nimoy did much more than play Mr. Spock on Star Trek (here is the proof). But for me, and for most people, I imagine, Spock is what he will be remembered for the most. It’s obvious why, and I don’t need to explain what made Spock such a good character. What I want to talk about is what Spock meant to me.

My parents are huge Star Trek fans, and one day the decided to order the first show from Netflix, CD by CD (back when people actually still ordered physical DVDs from Netflix), and watch it episode by episode with us. Since we had to wait for the DVDs to come in the mail, it was the closest we could get to watching it as a real TV show. In a way, it was even better because we were seeing every episode in order.

The show gets off to a semi-slow start, but by the time I saw “The Menagerie,” I was hooked, and much of it had to do with that intriguing pointy-eared science officer that was so different from everyone else in the show. And yet, he fit in perfectly. There would have been no Star Trek without Mr. Spock, and I don’t think I would have been drawn to the show as I was if not for him.

I’ve said numerous times, in discussion of TV shows like The X-Files and movies like Gravity, that what I personally look for in storytelling are complex characters. A good story is carried by great characters, and the emotional arc of any tale rides on a character’s conflict and development. But a great deal of it also rides on personality, which is something I haven’t discussed much.

Spock was – is – a logical, practical, calm person with two halves, a person split right down the middle between two kinds of being: the logical, and the emotional. The emotional is his human side, the logical is his Vulcan side. Or so the show claims. What was so, so special about Spock – and what really drew me to him, as a shy, lonely, awkward twelve-year-old – was the way he showed his humanity through his inhumanity. Some of Spock’s most emotional, noble, loving material is channeled through a being of logic – his Vulcan side cooperating with his human side, allowing it to drive his actions. And damn, there’s just something so relatable about that. We all feel like that. We all have problems that lead us in different directions. We all must find ways to make two conflicting sides of ourselves help each other.

I think Leonard Nimoy took this character that Gene Roddenberry created and gave him a depth, a layer, that Roddenberry had not anticipated. One raised eyebrow is funnier than any joke, one sincere sentence says more than a monologue ever could have. The contrast between Spock and Kirk is striking: Kirk, whose emotional material is delivered through passionate monologues and rousing speeches; Spock, who can do the same with a softly spoken sentence. Neither is better than the other; they go together, complement each other. Two halves of a whole.

I had to go out and do stuff today. I had to do normal things, like eat breakfast and go to class and buy food and talk to people. And all the while, I kept turning my head away, blinking back tears. I kept thinking back to when I was younger, sitting on my living room floor with a bowl of popcorn, watching a spaceship full of people wearing primary colors flying through space, boldly going where no one had gone before. To my young mind, Star Trek was the greatest thing I had ever seen, the most exciting, the most intriguing, the most creative. In many ways, it still is. In great part thanks to Leonard Nimoy and his character.

Spock, you have been and always shall be my friend. Live long and prosper. Thanks to you, I know I will.

spock

#Billbored – A Look at Billboard Hot 100 (on Twitter)

Interstellar – Movie Review

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Space films seem to be taking a different direction as of late. What we’re getting is less Star Trek than it is 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is a film not merely about our future (or, the future as seen in 1968) but about our near, attainable future, a future so close it feels almost familiar to us. This is the world Interstellar occupies. Nothing in the film has happened yet, but it does not feel that far away.

I’ve pondered and mulled over this movie ever since seeing it. I can safely say that it’s a very good film – well made, original, engaging – but something about it isn’t sitting right with me. There were too many little problems, too many flaws that just kept nagging at my brain whenever I replayed as much of the three hours of film as I could remember in my head. I’ve swung back and forth on it – I like it, I don’t like it, I like it – and while I have reached the conclusion that I do indeed like it, I’m not sure I want to see it again any time soon.

One thing’s for sure – I didn’t love it. There was never a moment when I watched it that made me think about anything differently or that conjured that movie magic for me. Which is entirely me, of course – I know dozens of people that said this film was the most amazing thing they’ve seen in a while. But not me.

Here’s the thing about Interstellar that few have brought up – it’s sad. Like, really, really sad. This is not a triumphant film about people who conquer space to find a new home, it’s a film about a group of characters – really good, engaging characters, I might add – that suffer hardship after hardship, loss after loss, misfortune after misfortune. Most of the time, they’re miserable, and rightfully so, but it was hard to feel happy or elated watching this film with all the heavy emotional weight. And when you’re sitting there for three hours…

But like I said, I’ve been on sort of a seesaw when it comes to how I feel about this film. One moment I’m “eh” and another moment I’m “that was awesome!” A perfect scene to describe this feeling is the part where they go to the first planet. In my view, there was really nothing that made the first planet the best to travel to first – it was so close to a black hole, so the dangers traveling to it and the possibility of getting swallowed by the black hole itself made it a risky option, even without considering the dangers they found on the surface. The whole sequence cut out of the film would not, I think, have affected the film too much. However, on the other hand, there’s some real function to that scene because while I think their reasons for going to that one first were flimsy at best, one of my favorite parts of the film was watching those giant, kick-ass waves. The special effects junkie in me was practically salivating with delight (it looked amazing on the big screen, by the way).

I think the film’s greatest strength, though, is its characters. These are good, developed characters. They are not clichéd action heroes, they are real people with problems and motivations and complexities. A great majority of the film focuses on the relationships these people have with one another, and at the very core of the story is the bond between Cooper and his daughter, Murphy. That is the essence of good storytelling – to place what happens to a character and the decisions that character makes into a complex internal conflict. There are moments in the film where the mere absence of something can have just as much impact as someone acknowledging that it isn’t there. That was very well done.

So while I don’t think it’s the best movie I’ve ever seen, and I do have problems with it, I’d say Interstellar is a good, meaningful film and any science-fiction fan will probably enjoy it. The film didn’t really affect me all that much, but I did enjoy seeing it – although it was very, very long (bring a pillow for your butt). This one’s worth the watch.


Upcoming Reviews

Gravity Falls Intro and Pilot Talks – Monday, January 26

The X-Files Season 4, Episode 3 “Teliko” Review – Monday, February 2

Knife Ink Reviews Update – “Schedule,” The New Year, Etc.

Hi everyone! Since the new year has started, I thought I’d make a very quick update on what I’m planning to do with Knife Ink Reviews in 2015. The short answer is I have a better idea but I still don’t really know. However, I do have a few things planned.

First, I’ve made a semi-New Year’s resolution to kind of get more organized-ish. To go along with that, I want to try and release reviews on a reliable schedule. Now, bear in mind that I am horrible at keeping up with schedules and depending on my crazy real-life schedule, it’s not going to be completely regular. But I still want to give it a shot.

Here’s how it will (sort of) work: Every Monday afternoon, I will release either a normal review/post on Knife Ink Reviews, an X-Files episode review, or an audio recording. I will rotate between these each week.

The X-Files reviews (on my separate blog The Review is Out There) are straightforward enough, but the question is, what am I going to be reviewing on Knife Ink Reviews?

Well, firstly, I want to do the audio reviews again. I had so much fun doing them with The Legend of Korra that I’ve decided to try a new show, and thanks to Doug Walker and his vlogs I became aware of a cartoon show named Gravity Falls. Now, believe me, even though I love Doug and his work, it is not my intention to copy everything he does. I saw Avatar: The Last Airbender before he did, and since the announcement of Matrix month I’ve decided to put off reviewing The Matrix for a while.

With that said, I would like to emphasize that I will not be watching any of Doug’s Gravity Falls vlogs whatsoever when I do my audio recordings. I chose Gravity Falls not because I wish to imitate Doug, but because I watched the pilot and really liked it, much more than I thought I would. I’ve never been a fan of modern cartoon shows, especially the Disney ones, but after some research into Gravity Falls I discovered that the creator is a fan of Twin Peaks and yes, The X-Files – but even if I hadn’t read that, I can totally tell from the show itself. In other words, it’s right up my alley. I’m excited.

Now, as for regular Knife Ink Reviews reviews, that’s the part where I honestly have no idea. I’ve been meaning to see some new movies – particularly Selma and Interstellar – but I don’t know if I’ll have the time. The Top Ten Best Songs of 2014 list should be out soon – I haven’t yet decided which one of the three segments I want to start off this new schedule. In any case, expect something up by tomorrow.

Thanks to anyone who follows this blog, and see you later!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter. Goodness knows your life would be so incomplete if you forgot that.


Very tentative schedule:

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Also The Top Ten Best Songs of 2014 will be squeezed in somewhere.

The Top Ten Worst Songs of 2014

Well, another year is coming to a close, which means it’s time to say goodbye to many things. Of course, I will be more than happy to say goodbye to some of those things, including various pieces of music, many of which I wish had never transmitted themselves through sound waves into my brain. I will unfortunately never get to un-hear these pieces of crap, but I can take my vengeance on them by making a list of the ten very worst.

Now, if you’ve been following Knife Ink Reviews for a while, you know that my very first post was my Top Ten Worst Songs of 2013 list, so needless to say these lists hold a very special place in my rotten little heart. Not only does this mark the end of the year, this also marks the approximate 1 year birthday of Knife Ink Reviews, and what better way to celebrate than to recreate the list that started it all?

Some ground rules. 1 – only songs from Billboard’s year end Top 100 list, and 2 – Only songs that were released in or only made the charts this year, in 2014. There are plenty of songs, like “Wrecking Ball” and the like, that have stuck with us since the year they were released. They don’t count. Sorry.

All right then, let me just take a listen to some songs, I’ll be right back. How bad could it be?

[TWO HOURS LATER]

Those were possibly the two most painful hours of my life. Let’s just get this over with.


10. “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry

Katy-Perry-Dark-Horse1

Katy Perry escaped my list last year, and she wasn’t going to make my list this year, until my history professor explained to us the misrepresentation of Cleopatra, and while the music video for “Dark Horse” doesn’t necessarily mention Cleopatra, it’s still pretty obvious that’s what they were going for. Anyway, the misrepresentation and blatant sexualization of Cleopatra is really getting tiring and is unfair as she was actually an extremely capable leader, more so than many men of her time. So there.

In actuality, though, this song annoys me because, like most Katy Perry songs, it gets stuck in your head, but unlike some Katy Perry songs it lacks the dumb enjoyability that I’ve managed to find in several of her singles. They may not be good songs, but I can understand the appeal to “Hot N’ Cold” and “Last Friday Night” – they’re stupid, but they’re fun, catchy, and when they get stuck in your head they just want to have a good time, like a little kid poking you over and over begging you to take him to the park or something. When “Dark Horse” gets stuck in your head, it wants to drill itself into your brain. It’s a disgusting earworm that latches onto your brain cells and sucks the life out of them. It has a dull, plodding beat that’s not at all fun and really the song doesn’t make much sense and the music video’s even worse. I just don’t get you, Katy Perry. Who – who are you?


9. “Chandelier” by Sia

Sia-Chandelier-Feature

Get out your torches and pitchforks, I don’t care. I just don’t see the appeal to Sia. She has a voice so grating it makes me feel like my brain is exploding. On the chorus of “Chandelier” she sounds like a wolf in extreme pain. She is literally howling the word “chandelier,” and I certainly wouldn’t be able to make out that word if it wasn’t the title.

I had to look up lyrics for this song because I couldn’t understand a word Sia was singing. She has a way of mushing words when she sings, making them virtually unrecognizable. And that’s not an accent or anything, because I’ve watched interviews with her and I was able to understand her fine; it’s just the way she sings. Maybe it floats your boat, but I find it annoying.

I’ve seen a lot of comparisons between “Chandelier” and “Habits (Stay High)” by Tove Lo because they have similar subject matters – coping with life, getting through day by day by drinking, partying, etc. I like “Habits” better because it actually sounds like someone who’s going through a tough time. I had to look at the lyrics to “Chandelier” closely to realize that it wasn’t an empowerment ballad, which is what it sounds like. Maybe Sia was going for the juxtaposition between the song’s subject matter and its tone, but I doubt it. In any case, I can actually understand what Tove Lo is saying, which gets her points.

“Chandelier” seems to try and make a point and loses it, and while I do appreciate that it’s not about merely getting high in a club and partying all night, it lacks focus and because of that, it turns into a song that has virtually no identity at all. Besides the screaming wolf.


8. “Rude” by MAGIC!

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This song got really annoying really fast. I’m not sure what else to say about it. I suppose I could launch the usual criticisms at it – that it’s a rather poor take on “cod reggae,” that it’s slightly sexist, that it doesn’t really make much sense as the narrator claims he’s going to marry the girl anyway but still keeps asking for the dad’s permission – but it’s all been done before, and I find that what bothers me the most about this song is the fact that it stayed relevant for so long, that there are very, very few positive things about it but it still gets played a lot and yeah I just don’t ever want to hear it again.

Oh, and worst band name ever. Ick.


7. “Say Something” by A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera

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I’m not going to make any friends for this one, either.

I can’t stand music like this – harmonically uninteresting, lyrically bland, falsely profound snore ballads that could be written by literally anyone. I could have written this song. You could have written this song.

This song deeply irritates me because, like most slow pop ballads, it passes itself off as something really moving and thoughtful when in reality it lacks substance. Its lyrics are generic and unclear, it’s slow and plodding, it’s harmonically boring, and I hate it I hate it I hate it.


6. “Summer” by Calvin Harris

Calvin-Harris-Summer

I can’t speak for other places, but where I live, this song was everywhere. It got played long past summertime, that’s for sure. So part of why I dislike this song is very much the same as why I dislike “Rude” – I just got sick of hearing it.

For me, though, there’s another huge reason why this song irritates me, and that’s Calvin Harris’s voice. He sounds like he has a cold, but more than that, he just sounds so uninterested in what he’s singing. He has no passion for this song whatsoever. I may not like Sia’s voice but I do have to give her credit for at least caring about what she sings. Calvin Harris sounds like he’s half-singing, half-mumbling, totally not invested in the performance. Now, that’s not an assessment of him as a person; I have no idea what he’s like in real life. I’m just describing what he sounds like to me, on the song.


5. “Talk Dirty” by Jason Derulo ft. 2 Chainz

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Okay, I’ll admit it. I put this song on the list somewhat out of obligation. Really, this song was #6 on the chart this year and I have a sense of duty to the human race which tells me that if I am making a Top Ten Worst Songs of 2014 list, I must put “Talk Dirty” on it. It is just something that must be done.

In reality, I do like one small, tiny, tiny thing about this song, and that’s the funky Latin-style riff in the chorus. I think it’s fun and catchy. The rest of the song is the dumbest thing to hit the charts with the exception of…well, you’ll see in a minute.

Jason Derulo, besides being essentially talentless, comes across in his songs as an incredibly gross individual and someone I really would not want to hang around. The “it’s just dumb dance music” excuse has been used for far too long when it comes to sexist, insensitive shit in our music, but, in fact, may be the most fitting description for this song. If I am insulted by anything in “Talk Dirty,” it’s that it’s the most brain-dead thing on this list (besides…well, you’ll see in a minute). It’s just dumb. The end.


4. “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift

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“Shake It Off” is, without any fraction of a doubt, Taylor Swift’s worst song. The very worst she’s ever released. Now, I’ve never been a Taylor Swift fan, but after hearing this song over and over again, watching the music video over and over again, I began to long for the days when Taylor Swift just sang about boys named Drew and never ever ever getting back together.

What’s more, “Shake it Off” made me realize something about Taylor Swift. While she may not be the most talented artist ever, she does (or did) possess lyric vision. Her songs, while they did sound like seventh grade textbook poetry most of the time, were identifiable and very much Taylor Swift. Identity is huge in today’s music world, and Taylor Swift seemed to have a firm grasp on it, much more than other artists (*COUGH* Miley Cyrus *COUGH*).

“Shake It Off” could have been sung by anyone. Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, any of them could have done it. There’s nothing that makes this song Taylor Swift, except for her extreme aversion to haters, which is by far the most irritating and actually quite insulting part of her personality which I just can’t let slide. We apologize profusely, Taylor Swift, for your “haters” and also for your fucking net worth of $200 million. We’re really sorry.


3. “Wiggle” by Jason Derulo ft. Snoop Dog

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“Wiggle” was the song I kept referencing in my “Talk Dirty” explanation. I didn’t even know this was possible, but it’s about ten times more idiotic than “Talk Dirty” and lacks the funky Latin-style riff that made “Talk Dirty” slightly redeemable. My reaction to the main riff in “Wiggle” was, I kid you not, almost exactly the same as Todd In The Shadows’s. Upon hearing this riff, Todd said:

That’s a goddamn recorder.

I feel ya, Todd. I feel ya.

“Wiggle” is even more disgusting and perverted than “Talk Dirty” and its lyrics – again, I didn’t even know this was possible, but its lyrics are even dumber than those of “Talk Dirty.” I don’t even want to think about how many of my brain cells died after listening to this “song.”

To give you an idea of how awful “Wiggle” is, let me say this: it is so bad, it is the only song Postmodern Jukebox could not rescue. (I mean, their version is better but it’s so stupid it still doesn’t work.) Yeah. It’s that bad.


2. “Maps” by Maroon 5

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So far, none of the songs on this list have really insulted me beyond being brain-dead or irritating to listen to. These top two songs genuinely insult me because of their subject matter, dreadful lyrics, and in some ways, the artists singing them.

So, with that said, hi, Maroon 5. How’s it been?

I really hate Maroon 5. I’m not sure any of the other members besides Adam Levine are even relevant – I certainly don’t know anybody else’s name, and he’s the one who gets featured predominantly in their videos – so most of this is going to be targeted at Adam Levine.

First of all, let me start off by saying that Adam Levine has my least favorite singing voice on this list and possibly of all time. I just can’t stand the way he sounds. I know that’s personal preference, but I don’t know how to describe it, he sounds like a jerk when he sings and his songs, this one in particular, really do a good job of reinforcing that jerkiness.

In the music video for “Maps,” Adam Levine’s girlfriend gets hit by a car and the song is all about how much he does for her, how she messed up and dishonored him, how he’s remained loyal and faithful to her even when she’s treated him like dirt. Oh, and she dies at the end.

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1. “Loyal” by Chris Brown ft. I don’t care let’s just get this overwith

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You know, for some things, I need to explain why they’re bad or why I don’t like them. For other things, I would hope, I would pray, I would beg, that people would be able to figure it out on their own. So I’ll just do this.

Remember when Chris Brown violently beat up a nineteen year old girl?

Here are some of the lyrics in his song “Loyal.”

These hoes ain’t loyal
These hoes ain’t loyal
Yeah, yeah, let me see

and

When I call her, she gon’ leave
And I bet that bottom dollar she gon’ cheat

Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like what Chris Brown accused Rihanna of before he…oh, never mind. I’m sure he’s grown up and moved past that in his life or whatever.

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Things I Need to Clear Up

No, These Are Not Good Songs

“Fancy” by Iggy Azalea – okay, it’s not really a good song, but I can’t bring myself to passionately hate it.

“All About That Bass” – again, I can’t bring myself to hate it, though it has numerous faults. (Making a swipe at eating disorders is not cool.)

“All Of Me” – boring, generic, and bland, but John Legend is a really good singer.

“Timber” Pitbull ft. Ke$ha – Oh wait I’m supposed to hate Ke$ha and Pitbull, right? (*YAWNS*)

“Turn Down For What” by DJ Snake – …I kind of like it?

“Boom Clap” by Charli XCX – I can at least get behind this song, even if it is incredibly annoying.

“Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj – Oops, I forgot to care.

Stay tuned for the Best of 2014!