The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn April 22, 2015 The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn Usman Malik He will inherit the Unseen. The Ways of Walls and Words April 15, 2015 The Ways of Walls and Words Sabrina Vourvoulias Can the spirit truly be imprisoned? Ballroom Blitz April 1, 2015 Ballroom Blitz Veronica Schanoes Can't stop drinking, can't stop dancing, can't stop smoking, can't even die. Dog March 25, 2015 Dog Bruce McAllister "Watch the dogs when you're down there, David."
From The Blog
April 22, 2015
Daredevil, Catholicism, and the Marvel Moral Universe
Leah Schnelbach
April 22, 2015
The Old Guy Action Comeback: I’m Getting Too Old for This Sh*t
Ryan Britt
April 20, 2015
The Net is the Meat: Bruce Holsinger’s Middle Ages
David Perry
April 17, 2015
Spring 2015 Anime Preview: The Hellish Life of a Pizza Delivery Boy
Kelly Quinn
April 16, 2015
The Disney Read-Watch: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Mari Ness
Showing posts by: Leah Schnelbach click to see Leah Schnelbach's profile
Apr 22 2015 11:00am

Daredevil, Catholicism, and the Marvel Moral Universe


One of the things reviewers have commented on is Daredevil’s unexpected grittiness. The violence is real, and the consequences of that violence are also real. When Matt Murdock snaps a man’s arm, the femur (ulna?) bone breaks through the skin. When Karen Page is choked with a sheet, the welt shows on her neck for several episodes afterwards. People make their choices, and then they face the consequences. This realism quickly made Daredevil one of my favorite elements of the MCU.

The other thing that I love is how the show’s brutal world is informed by the particularly Catholic morality of its hero. There have been a few conversations online about whether this show gives us an accurate portrayal of Matt’s religion, and I would argue not only that it does, but that by taking his religious beliefs seriously, and weaving Catholicism into the fabric of the show, Netflix has given us the deepest, most emotionally resonant version of Daredevil we’ve ever had.

Warning: this post comes with SPOILERS for the ENTIRE SEASON.

[Plus confession comes with a latte!]

Mar 30 2015 12:00pm

Shakespeare Adaptations That Best Speak to Teens

Romeo + Juliet

Later in our Shakespeare on essay series, Emily Asher-Perrin will tell you about a high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that was engineered to get teens excited about Shakespeare. It did not work. It also wasn’t the only scheme of its kind: There’s always some well-meaning drama teacher—or movie director—who wants to make Shakespeare speak to the youth of today. Whether that involves playing up the sex, drugs, and violence that characterize various works; dropping Shakespearean verse into a modern setting; or building something entirely new off the framework of a play—many have tried.

In the best of these adaptations, Shakespeare’s work serves as a jumping-off point for meditations on race, sexuality, and gender roles, with films that embrace diversity in more meaningful ways than just colorblind casting or genderswapping, and instead try to get to core truths about the human condition. (Often with outrageous musical numbers.)

[Read more]

Mar 18 2015 11:30am

A Perfect Cost-to-Shenanigan Ratio: Community Season Six is Here!

Community: "Ladders"

So the big question with Community: Is it still good? Is it even better? Has the jump to Yahoo changed it? The answers, respectively are: Yes; kind of?; not really.

It is still a great, solid sitcom about a group of wacky friends and their hilarious misadventures. The test with these kind of shows is simple, and sounds kind of dumb when you say it: I missed Greendale, and I was glad to spend time with these characters again. The plots were the usual mix of important things (like Britta’s need to grow up) and silly things (like the Dean suddenly becoming obsessed with early-90s-style VR). The only downside is that after five seasons, the important plots can’t help but feel a bit reheated.

[“You bet your sweet ass I saw Lawnmower Man!”]

Mar 13 2015 11:00am

Is Ladyhawke the Best Fairy Tale of Them All?

Ladyhawke: Phillipe and the Hawk

I spent last month rewatching a bunch of 1980s fantasy movies. (I know, I missed some, I’ll get there eventually.) Sometime around the middle of the month, I revisited Ladyhawke for the first time since high school, and found myself surprised at just how well it held up. True, some elements have not aged well—an opening song that recalls nothing so much as the MacGyver theme, for instance—but on the whole, it ended up being one of my favorites. And the more I think about it, the more I think Ladyhawke may be the most successful of all the fairy tale films.

[Yes, even better than The Princess Bride. Yes, those are fightin’ words.]

Mar 11 2015 10:00am

Watch Closely Everyone; I’m Going to Show You How To Kill a God

Mononoke Hime

Generally speaking, if you think of a god, a few characteristics come to mind: immortality, omniscience, omnipotence... But sometimes, we puny humans can get the better of our gods in art, if not in life. I’ve gathered up some of our most memorable deicides from genre fiction—some cathartic, some tragic, and some part of a grand cosmic plan.

Spoilers for murdered gods, apocalypses, the ending of Final Fantasy XIII (all of 'em), and possibly the damnation of your immortal souls.


Mar 2 2015 10:00am

A Ranking of 1980s Fantasy That Would Please Crom Himself!

The Beastmaster

Long before Game of Thrones, there was a time in history when HBO stood for “Hey, Beastmaster’s on!” A time when, if you asked for a dragon, you got a puppet instead of CGI. A time when the words “fantasy hero” didn’t call to mind a pensive Viggo Mortenson or a bespectacled Daniel Radcliffe—nay, but a shirtless, bemuscled Arnold Schwarzenegger (or cheaper facsimile) dripping with oil.

I have travelled back to that time to bring forth the Ultimate 1980s Fantasy Epic Ranking List Post! And By Crom, I swear I’ve gotten… most of them. Join me below to celebrate the 1980s fantasy epic, in all of its loincloth-wearing, phallic-sword-waving, secret-wing-unfurling, spandex-bulging, camel-punching glory.

[By Crom!]

Feb 24 2015 3:00pm

Time Flies, and So Do Heads! Sleepy Hollow: “Tempus Fugit”

Sleepy Hollow Tempus Fugit

So. There was a scene, in Season One, that made me love this show. It was a scene in “The Sin Eater” (Remember? When we met Henry?) and in it Ichabod agreed to poison himself for the greater good, and tried to get Abbie to leave him, so she’d be spared watching him die. But she refused to let him die alone, and held his hand, with every intention of staying there to the end. This was a great moment for many reasons: the show opened itself up in a way to see the depth of love and trust between these two characters, and allowed you to imagine an entire world around them in the process.

Last night’s episode, “Tempus Fugit,” gave us another moment like that.

[The show is finally good again!]

Feb 20 2015 8:00am

Terror on a Deadline: Remembering Richard Matheson

Richard MathesonIn writing some of the On This Day features for, I’ve been privileged to learn more about some of the greatest writers in the SFF canon. One thing that has continually impressed me is the way these people treated writing as a job. They didn’t wring their hands over their genre’s marginalization, or complain about writers block—they just told stories. Sometimes the stories hit, sometimes they didn’t, but these writers knew there’d always be another one to tell, and in the meantime the rent was due and the kids needed to be fed. Richard Matheson, whose birthday we celebrate today, is an excellent example of this old school work ethic.

[Cue evil Zuni doll cackling]

Feb 17 2015 3:00pm

Where We’re Going, We Won’t Need Roads. Sleepy Hollow: “Awakening”

Sleepy Hollow "Awakenings"

Sleepy Hollow only has one episode left in this season, Sleepyheads! And after last night’s “Awakenings,” I am desperately hoping for a Season 3. I guess if you’re going o do something to reinvigorate your show, the penultimate episode is a good place to do it, but I’m not sure how they can wrap that final twist up in one episode.


Feb 16 2015 12:00pm

Spoons, Hammers, and Mighty Pogo Sticks! Favorite Superhero Parodies

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years studying heroes, and what our cultural heroes say about society. Much is made of gritty vs. fun, Man of Steel vs. Guardians of the Galaxy. But one thing that is often overlooked is the importance of parody superheroes to this discussion. I think that that parodies serve just as much as a dismantling of the superhero archetype as anything Frank Miller wrote. Not to belabor this too much, but clearly the people behind these parodies were commenting on the pervasive hero-worship of characters like Supes and Cap, and often jabbing the broodiness of Batman and Punisher. There is also a very real message in many of these books: normal people can be heroes, too.

So here’s a by-no-means exhaustive list of some superhero parodies—be sure to join the discussion in the comments!


Feb 12 2015 11:30am

SFF Sexier Than Fifty Shades of Grey

SFF sexier than Fifty Shades of Grey Sex Criminals cover

Fifty Shades of Grey opens this weekend, with many audiences worried that the movie will repeat the mistakes of the book in depicting an unrealistic, unhealthy BDSM relationship. But it doesn’t have to be this way—after all, sci-fi and fantasy authors have written believable power exchanges and sexual agency into their books and comics for decades. Instead of headdesking over Christian and Ana once again, pick up these books by Samuel R. Delany, Octavia E. Butler, Matt Fraction, and more.

[Read more]

Feb 10 2015 1:15pm

Let’s Rewrite the Declaration of Independence! Sleepy Hollow: “What Lies Beneath”

Sleepy Hollow What Lies Beneath

So much happened in this one! We met yet another of Ichabod’s beloveds, learned more about his past, and had an all-too-short glimpse into Frank Irving’s soul, plus we got a wonderful cold open, a slightly convoluted moral dilemma, and maybe best of all, met a truly intriguing new character!

Guys! There are only two more episodes after this! I don’t know how to feel!

[Why does this show turn me into Gene Belcher?]

Feb 9 2015 1:00pm

Jupiter Ascending is a High-Concept Sci-Fi Explosion (And This is a Good Thing!)

Jupiter Ascending

Have you ever asked a five-year-old to tell you a story? Because if you see Jupiter Ascending, and I truly hope that you do, you are essentially asking a super-creative five-year-old to tell you a story. What if a werewolf who’s also an angel and, like, a space warrior had to fight Lord Voldemort and Dorian Gray for the love of Cinderella? Well, add in some fabulous eyeliner and a suspicious amount of crystal, and you’ve got Jupiter Ascending.

This movie is for sci-fi fans who enjoy their class critique and rickety world building to be well-cushioned in loud, fun, explody action sequences. Did you like Pacific Rim? You’ll probably like this movie. Did you feel that The Fifth Element was, at times, almost too restrained? You’ll definitely like this movie. Do you think Karl Marx had some swell ideas? You’ll like this movie. Do you want to see a big Hollywood movie that’s all about the evils of anti-aging schemes? You’ll looooove this movie.


Feb 4 2015 12:30pm

Why Do Reboots Cause Such Mass Hysteria?

Ghostbusters Reboot Panic

A few weeks ago I was showing a friend of mine Kevin Feige’s Marvel Phase 3 announcement, and we got to talking about identification, privilege, and how changes to characters affect fans. His specific point was that as a kid he always identified with She-Ra more than He-Man, so he assumed growing up that girls also identified with male characters I had always provided a helpful example for him, since, as a kid stuck in a town I didn’t much like, craving adventure and excitement, I identified wholly with Luke. Leia, the beautiful, self-assured royal diplomat, was not someone I felt in tune with, despite our similarities in name and gender.

So he was a bit taken aback at my excitement for the upcoming Black Panther and Captain Marvel films. He certainly isn’t against them, but he was surprised when I talked about how important it was that superhero movies, and SFF in general, was finally becoming more diverse. And the more we talked, the more I realized that I always identified most with characters like Indiana Jones, Peter Venkman, Raphael (the turtle, not the painter), Al Calavicci, Arthur Dent... I spent most of my childhood thinking my way into perspectives that were all male, and usually white. Of course, I’ve thought about this before, but the conversation put it back in the front of my brain. And then Paul Feig announced his Ghostbusters reboot cast.

[But...busting used to make me so happy.]

Feb 3 2015 1:30pm

Plot Twist Theater! Sleepy Hollow: “Spellcaster”

Sleepy Hollow "Spellcaster"

Well, this one was a cavalcade of twists and turnarounds! But do they add up to anything? After my optimism of the last few weeks, gentle Sleepyheads, I’m just not sure. I think if these character shifts had been set up a half a season ago, and Hawley had at best been a cameo role, and we’d gotten at least one more Abbie and Jenny episode, I’d feel more confident than I do.

On the other hand—the twists we get work for me, and we finally get a few more fun Crane moments. And once again, Sleepy Hollow proves itself the true successor to “The X-Files Cold Open.”

[The Truth is Out There]

Feb 2 2015 10:00am

Groundhog Day Succeeds by Breaking the Rules of Every Genre

Groundhog Day succeeds as a film because of the way it plays with, subverts, and outright mocks the tropes of each of the genres it flirts with. While some people would call it a time travel movie, or a movie about small town America, or the most spiritual film of all time, or a rom-com, it is by breaking the rules of each of those types of films that it ultimately transcends genre entirely.

[It’s cold out there today. It’s cold out there every day.]

Jan 27 2015 3:00pm

Don’t Stop Believin’! Sleepy Hollow: “Kali Yuga”

Sleepy Hollow Kali Yuga

Oh what is this emotion? Could this be happiness? Or relief? I think it’s relief! Gentle reader, I think Sleepy Hollow might be back! It was pretty good! There was wit, and chemistry, and the Hawley subplot actually worked as part of a larger arc, and it was like the show that I used to love had returned to me! Which was also commented upon multiple times by the episode itself!

[More Sleepy Hollow comeback joy!]

Jan 20 2015 3:00pm

We Paint A Happy Little Serial Killer in Sleepy Hollow: “Pittura Infamante”

Sleepy Hollow Pittura Infamante

So the Sleepy Hollow team is talking about the fact that Season 2 has not been as good. Apparently some execs feel that it became too serialized, but I would argue that they added too many side characters, when the central relationships were squandered. People started saying “Ichabbie” for a reason. They practically kicked Captain Irving, a great, a compelling twist on the cliché of the Angry Black Police Chief, most of the way off the show. Finally, and most problematic, they ignored the mystery of the Mills sisters and their mother (the thing that produced the most compelling hour of the season, “Mama”) to focus on the Crane’s marital troubles, with an extra dose of Headless angst.

I’m not sure that last night’s Katrina-centric episode is the right move, but, it mostly worked as a tense, Monster-of-the-Week entry, and we did get some great Mills sister banter.

[Plus more Irving, and no Hawley!]

Jan 13 2015 11:00am

Samuel Delany Pukes on a Baby: Authors Can Be Art, Too!


There have been many storied cameos in comics history: KISS, Barack Obama, Stephen Colbert, and the entire 1977 cast of Saturday Night Live. There are also plenty of instances of comic writers appearing in their own books, and a giant fabulous example of fictional characters adventuring together.

But what about comics that feature other authors? I spent some time recently looking for cameos by writers homaged in comic books and found a vampire Neil Gaiman, an alien Samuel Delany, and the mighty she-god Isaac Asimov?!? Take a look.

[He did write a sestina about vampires...]

Jan 6 2015 2:00pm

Better to Reign in Sleepy Hollow Than Serve in Heaven. Sleepy Hollow: “Paradise Lost”

Sleepy Hollow Paradise Lost

So where were we? Abbie, Ichabod, and Katrina are tied to trees. Henry just knifed Moloch. Abraham is chained up in the warded room, and Hawley is guarding him. Oh yeah and Captain Irving is DEAD, because apparently life sucks now. (I’m holding out hope that he comes back in another form, however. You don’t just waste the walking embodiment of charm that is Orlando Jones.) So obviously we have questions. Is Henry going to free our Witnesses and Witch? Is Hawley going to forge a bromance with Abraham? Will Henry be good now, or he going to step up and become a freelance Horseman?

Are any of these questions answered in Sleepy Hollow’s latest episode? Or will we meet a new character instead? There is only one way to be... well, you could actually watch it. But there’s only one totally immediate way that’s already right in front of your eyes!

[Read More]