No, The Fall is Not Just Classy Misogyny

The Fall

Last Sunday, Observer columnist Rachel Cooke took The Fall to task over her belief that the show was little more than the fetishization of violence against women. She noted the camera tends to linger for too long on Gillian Anderson’s body in scenes where the show’s central figure (a hard-nosed female detective in a very male-dominated sphere) is just, say, having a shower or catching a work nap. And that the lead villain, played by Jamie Dornan, is a little too handsome, charming and good with children — leaving the show’s audience confused. How can they hate him, even when he’s brutally strangling women? Her argument is that critics overlook the show’s sexist overtones because it has great writing, acting and cinematography — but that ultimately the show is a celebration of the exploitation, rape and murder of women.

Allow me to disagree.

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Fear Not: The British Luther is Also Coming Back


Well, color me confused.

Hot on the heels of the announcement that Fox is producing an American version of the gloomy, violent British crime drama Luther for Fox, BBC One has just come out with the news that the original version of the show is returning in 2015 as well.

I was just about certain that the show’s creator, Neil Cross, had decided that the third series would be the show’s last, which coincided with Idris Elba telling the world that he was going to retire for a couple of  years. At most, Cross said that he was planning a movie based on the tie-in prequel he wrote back in 2012 which would delve further into the backgrounds of Luther and his wife, Zoe (Indira Varma), shedding light on her affair and their separation, along with the case that got Luther suspended. Such a prequel would likely be forced to exclude the show’s most divisive character, Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), who at that stage hadn’t met the detective yet (or killed her family). And regardless of how you feel about Alice, it’s hard to imagine the story without her at this point.

There aren’t many details so far, apart from the fact that Idris is still on board, but it does sound like Cross’s intention is moving forward rather than looking back. His statement from today reads:

“Ever since we said goodbye to John Luther on Southwark Bridge, there’s hardly been a minute when I didn’t wonder what happened next. So I decided to find out. We’re putting the band back together; Luther is coming back where he belongs. Back to the BBC. Back to London. And back to work.”

Wilson’s status is unconfirmed, but given the way the show ends, it would be unusual if she were excluded. Some fans (mostly me) would also like to know what happened to Mark North (Paul McGann), who was missing from the final series despite being major player for the first two. Is he still living in a greenhouse with the porn star/adopted daughter? Inquiring minds, etc.

Other than that, this does help to soften the blow of the American remake news, which with any luck will suffer the same fate as The IT Crowd or Life on Mars.

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Review: Caitlin Moran’s How to Build a Girl

Caitlin Moran


I’m sure that it would be nobler or higher-brow to do a review of How to Build a Girl while ignoring its sometimes controversial, quasi-celebrity author. A good book (some might argue) should exist in a vacuum and be evaluated on that level. The trouble with that noble goal is that if you’re at all familiar with Caitlin Moran and her massive bestseller, How to Be a Woman, you’ll know that Girl is often little more than a fictionalized account of many of the previous book’s anecdotes from Moran’s teen years. Moran gives herself a new name (Johanna Morrigan), and a gay older brother who acts as her sounding board and oracle for most of the book, but for the most part you’ll be treading through familiar territory.

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You Should Be Watching: Peaky Blinders


At this point in the television game, it seems like a safe bet to argue that binge-watching really is the best method for enjoying non-procedural shows. For a couple of reasons.

The “what will happen next” tension from episode to episode often leads to false predictions and an overabundance of expectation that most shows just aren’t prepared to deliver on. But more than that, a good show is often as absorbing as a good book. And just as it would be hard to read 5 or 6 books at a time and invest emotionally in each one while remembering the intricate relationships and plot points, TV — particularly when it comes to shows with dense seasons and only a handful of episodes — is becoming an equally hard thing to juggle.

That’s why I highly recommend devoting your next weekend to both seasons of the BBC’s 1920′s crime drama, Peaky Blinders.

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Book Challenge: 2014


All excited to re-start the New York Times project, I logged online yesterday to see what the front runner was for this week. There, at the top, was a book called Blood Magick by Nora Roberts, and I steeled myself. Then I found out that it’s the third book in Roberts’ Cousins O’Dwyer trilogy and I just decided I liked myself too much to go through that. Would it mean having to read the first two? Could I even dive right into the third — especially of a trilogy? And a Nora Roberts trilogy at that?

No, friends. Not today.

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Doctor Who’s Season 8: A Lesson in Being Careful What You Wish For


This time last year, I complained that death in the world of Moffat’s Doctor Who didn’t seem to stick and that there were no consequences. So what do we get for pretty much all of Season 8? Death and consequences.

No female Doctor? Have a female Master.

Afraid that the female companion is just going to settle down with her (arguably controlling) boyfriend? Nope — he’s dead and she’s alone.

So it puts me in a tricky position, because I can’t complain that this season was “Moffat as usual.” In fact, I feel like Steven Moffat often fucks with fans by giving them what they ask for; He’s like a squat Scottish genie that way. Because the finale was a bloodbath by Moffat standards — poor asthmatic Osgood bit it early on, along with the two hapless security guards who were supposed to be watching Missy; Danny (who seemed prime for a resurrection) remains dead; as do all of the recently-deceased Cyberhive inhabitants. And even though Danny’s final curtain call came off as a cheap deus ex machina ploy, the end result is that he’s still gone for good.

So why do I still feel unsatisfied? The truth is that even with the surface “corrections,” there’s a basic problem that will likely always be true about Moffat’s writing: it never quite comes together, and it never quite makes sense.

I’ve broken up the finale’s biggest offenders below:

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Lemony Snicket’s Unfortunate Series to Be Adapted for TV


It’s a rare day when news of a remake elicits a general response of, “Oh, that’s a great idea.” But given that the first attempt to turn Lemony Snicket’s series about a trio of savvy orphans and their scheming evil uncle into a big-screen adaptation fell somewhat flat, the recent announcement that Netflix is going to be trying their hand at a TV version seems like an occasion for cautious optimism.

First because TV now seems like a natural format for a lengthy book series (Outlander being a recent example), but also because when working with child actors, the gaps between films can often yield growth spurts and voice changes that might stand in the way of a seamless book-to-screen transition. Though it seems unthinkable now, there was a time when Warner Brothers was floating the idea that the Harry Potter kids might need to get a cast refresh to avoid a bunch of 20-somethings playing less-than-believable teens. For better or worse, that didn’t wind up happening, but it’s easy to see why it may have seemed necessary at the time.

In any event, I’ll keep to cautious optimism with this announcement and the hope that it brings a new generation of kids back to Snicket’s fun and fantastical kids’ series.

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The Return of the New York Times Project



This is more housekeeping than anything else, but lately I’ve felt self-conscious that this blog is turning more into a celebration of what I’ve been randomly watching on TV than what I’ve been randomly reading. So in order to reign things in back to the literary side of things, I’m bringing back the torturous but fun New York Times Project.

For the uninitiated, this means that every week I’m going to read the #1 bestseller and then provide a review. Given the type of books that end up at #1, this has been, for lack of a better word, interesting in the past and hopefully it will continue to be so.

Could we hope to get something as truly patriotic and quotable as Home Front?

Only time will tell.

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Doctor Who: Is the Missy Reveal Progressive or Patronizing?


This is your friendly spoiler warning. If you haven’t seen the first episode in Doctor Who’s season 8 two-parter, Dark Water, don’t click any further.

And trust me, you really don’t want to be spoiled.

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Why Are We Still Fighting About YA Lit?

john green
Over the summer, Slate magazine’s Ruth Graham ruffled some feathers by attacking the great guilty pleasure that is Young Adult Literature. The main thrust of the article involved Graham waggling her shame finger at the number of grown-ups who seemed to be stuck in Neverland — refusing to read “proper” novels in favor of the latest John Green tearfest or a dystopian sexy teen death duel.

What really had Graham up in arms was the fact that these grown-ups didn’t even have the decency to admit that what they were reading was drivel: some even dared to claim that books like The Fault in Our Stars or The Perks of Being a Wallflower had honest-to-goodness literary merit. But she wanted to clarify that she was not unreasonable — Graham stressed that it was certainly possible to write a great book about teenagers (without providing any firm examples), however what she took exception to was the dreamy, nostalgic and uncritical approach that so much YA lit takes.

Where was the retrospective realism? Why was it all so satisfying?

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