Episode 94: Post-Racial Dust Cloud

The Overthinkers tackle 2010 Summer Movies (Part 2).

The 2010 Summer Movie Preview continues as Matthew Wrather hosts with Matthew Belinkie, Peter Fenzel, and Mark Lee. They also discuss favorite dust clouds in popular culture, shatter the myth of post-racial america, and admit that a zombie Confederacy actually sounds kind of bad-ass.


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17 Comments on “Episode 94: Post-Racial Dust Cloud”

  1. Gab #

    _LotR_: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yqVD0swvWU

    _Volcano_: The kid looking for his mom even says (in the arms of Keith David!!!!), “Look at their faces. They all look the same.”

    My favorite cloud of dust: The sand being controlled by Imhotep in both of the _Mummy_ movies starring Brendan Frasier. But most specifically when it has his smirking face. Creeeeeeeepy (and awesome).

    I’ll try to see _Jonah Hex_ because I like comics, but I don’t have very high expectations, and I won’t be devastated if I don’t see it until it’s on video or HBO or something.

    I love the first two, so I’m going to do my best to see _Toy Story 3_ in theaters.

    YES, post the commentary about _Twilight_, oh my goodness. Call me a masochist, but I did read all three books and have seen the first two movies- why I keep torturing myself, I’m not sure. Production value is low, but with attempts at artsy-fartsy, Academy-Award cinematography meant to *look* expensive, I think. LOTS of “epic” sweeps of the setting and parts with slow-mo to make them “more intense,” weird close-ups and angles, and attempts at “cleverness” like using a reflection instead of actually shooting the person talking- all of which can succeed if done right, but they just fail in these movies. It gets *so* melodramatic at times, I wonder if some of the scenes are done so over-the-top on purpose to make fun of the books and their hysterical following. Anyhoo, I’ll wait to borrow the DVD from somebody.

    And speaking of _Twilight_, I kind of went off on a rant with my teenage sister yesterday about the history of vampires in popular culture, and I had to admit that while Stephanie Meyer didn’t *start* the trend of the not-scary, sexxy, angsty vamps, she sort of pounded the nail in the sarcophagus of the genre, and I don’t think vampires will be scary or dangerous again any time soon. I could talk about it more, but that’s the gist.


  2. Bthinking #

    Just wanted to make a comment regarding the Twilight alternate commentary. I dont know about others, but i’ve personally gone ahead and told multiple friends that i intend on watching the first twilight solely for the alternate commentary. Hope it gets uploaded! Hopefully along with future commentaries for other movies?

    Wish I had as much as to write as Gab does… but ill make comments after i listen to the podcast a 2nd time.


  3. Lance Uppercut #

    Hey guys, love the podcast. You mentioned toward the end the demographic mismatch between the people who listen to this podcast and the people who are your fans on facebook. I’d wanted to leave a comment earlier about how the fb crowd but didn’t want to make fun of people who claim to be your fans; and in any event Wrather beat me to it.

    The zombie Confederates discussion also reminds me that we haven’t had a Civil War movie in a long time, really since Glory (1989), which by now is about a generation old. At various points in discussing Inglourious Basterds you guys had talked about the interaction between Hollywood movies’ depictions of important historical events and the general public’s understanding of the nature of those events. The Civil War, despite, or perhaps because, of its own persistent popularity as a subject of popular discourse is still understood by different people in the U.S. to be fundamentally about different things. Perhaps this makes it more difficult to make an epic movie about the war that retains a simple moral clarity, because doing so will risks making a lot of people angry. So at most, movies can be set during the Civil War but focus on a side story (Gangs of New York), or be about the war only in a micro-history kind of way. Cold Mountain a few years ago is an example of the latter kind of movie, as it is basically the Odyssey against a backdrop which appears morally agnostic as between the broader actors and purposes of the war. (Incidentally, if I had a time machine, somewhere far down the list of things I’d do with it would be to take the Decemberists’ “Yankee Bayonet” from 2006 and bring it back in time to put into the Cold Mountain movie soundtrack.) I’m no expert in World War II movies, but I don’t think there could be a Hollywood WWII movie — or at least one that is about the European war in general and certainly anything to do with Germany in particular — could get past go without making it clear to the audience that the war was all about the Nazis.

    Anyway, IMDB tells me we may be getting a Lincoln movie in 2011, possibly based on the Doris Kearns Goodwin book about Lincoln’s cabinet, so I guess I’ll wait and see. I hope the promotional materials will in some way incorporate this Oedipally homoerotic etching of Lincoln and Washington from the 1860s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_depictions_of_Abraham_Lincoln

    One question I pose to the panel is what in your opinion is the most apropos or synergistic combination of a literary character and a Web 2.0 site. My top two are Ignatius Reilley (A Confederacy of Dunces) having his own Youtube channel, and Odysseus using a Foursquare account.


  4. Caroline #

    Not to take the wind out of your Twilight street cred, but there are four books. If you missed #4, you spared yourself some incredibly long and atrocious writing, but denied yourself some truly record-breaking amounts of disturbing “romance”

    And it may be because I’ve been spending a lot of time in Twilight lately (for academia), but it’s hard for me to remember that they’re supposed to be vampires at this point. The crappiness of the vampire-ness is such a small part of what’s messed up in that series (especially when compared with idealizing whiteness, orientalization of the non-white, and strange regressive relationship dynamics), that it can be hard to remember that they’re “creatures of the night.” Partially because they won’t stop coming around in the day.


  5. Socraticsilence #

    Would totally listen to the alternate twilight commentary- I just listened to the Skynet VIP suite and it made the “gift” of Terminator:Salvation from my mother, way, way, more tolerable.


  6. Gab #

    @Caroline: Whoops, I read all four! No idea why I said three. In fact, I even read what Meyer posted online of the “fifth novel,” the one from Edward’s perspective (and if you think the first four are creepy in their “love” dynamic, _Midnight Sun_ is the Ph.D. dissertation on the subject).

    The vampireness of the “vampires” in Meyer’s books is much like Bella’s “clumsiness” and “plain looks,” the way I interpret them: it’s a throwaway flaw that actually doesn’t give the character any big problems, but instead makes them *more* appealing (and not an, “I love you in spite of this!” but an, “I love you *because* of this!” kind of way). Every character, not just Bella, is pretty much a Mary or Barry Stue. The skin of a killer? Gag me.


  7. stabbim #

    I also would be tempted to watch Twilight for a first and only time solely to hear the OTI alternative commentary.

    My favorite dust cloud: SOMETHING IN THE MIST TOOK JOHN LEE!!!


  8. Matthew Wrather #

    @Lance Uppercut
    You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to be more of a jerk than ME. ;)

    @everyone else
    OK! OK! Message Received. I’ll post the Twilight alternative commentary (the first entry into a series we’re calling “The Overview”) as soon as I can.


  9. Socraticsilence #


    I’d disagree with that, I mean at least from the summary of the reversal of the first book- the one from Edward’s perspective his character seems far from a Gary Stu- you know unless Meyer’s idealized man is a fricking stalker.


  10. Caroline #

    We’re clearly on the same page with Twilight masochism. I have also read the entire series, including Midnight Sun. But I do disagree with your interpretation a little. I feel like the vampireness of the vampires is actually something that makes them more valuable (they’re stronger, faster, smarter, and even whiter than everyone else) – while Bella’s clumsiness makes her less valuable.

    In the entire series, Bella never says a positive thing about herself, or allows a compliment of her to go unchallenged (except on her wedding day, when she distances herself from the positive by using “The girl in the mirror” to describe herself instead of her usual “I.” Edward, on the other hand, is “glorious,” always. Bella writes like a Mary Stu, but until she turns into a vampire, she is the self-loathingest Mary Stu ever.

    @Socraticsilence – Meyer’s idealized man is definitely a fricking stalker. It is terrifying, but so true.


  11. Gab #

    Socraticsilence: Yeah, I do think the obsession/stalker stuff is exactly what Meyer idealizes in these books, and here’s why. It’s basically written as fanfic, meaning (in this kind, anyway) the realizations of an ultimate fantasy and, here’s the important part, with no consequences. So what is more fantastic than an ultra sexy angsty emo vamp obsessed with you, since in the end, you’ll be together and happy (that’s the general “you”, btw, not you specifically)? The “flaws” of Edward’s obsession aren’t really flaws at all in the world of the book(s), because they ultimately pull him closer to Bella. So I still think he’s a Gary (and yeah, dunno why I said “Barry” before, my bad) Stu, since the obsession isn’t labeled as unhealthy for the audience by the outcome of the books- if anything, that obsession is rewarded in the end, making it seem as though it should be okay in the real world too (to some people, at least).

    And this is (one reason) why I have a lot of “trouble” with the series, because *so many* fans (and I mean tweens, teens, and grown adults alike) don’t realize how unhealthy that kind of relationship actually is and thus crave it in *reality*. In the world of the books, it’s okay because it’s *fantasy*, but if a relationship in reality was like that, BOTH parties would have their mental health questioned by anybody with half a brain observing them- and many fans don’t “get” that separation between reality and fantasy in this case. They may get it elsewhere, when they see it in other fiction, but for some reason, they forget it with regards to _Twilight_. That bothers me. And while I can dismiss it in other cases of fiction because the author says, “No! Don’t interpret it that way!” and the audience is still willfully ignorant, I don’t in this one because Meyer has said in interviews that she thinks Bella is a good role model and justifies the way(s) Edward and Bella obsess over and depend on each other.


  12. Gab #

    @Caroline: Missed your comment earlier, sorry!

    I actually don’t see how we’re *completely* at odds about the vampire-ness, at least in terms of how the vampires themselves view… uh… themselves. They loathe themselves for those characteristics, after all, and do the same things Bella does (until she becomes a vampire, too) in their self-loathing. And while the books are from Bella’s perspective and we’re aware *she* admires those vampire-ness traits, enough people *around* her are freaked out by vampires in general to get the point across that mayhap it’s kind of bad.

    ALTHOUGH. I could be projecting my own thoughts into it even as I’m being “objective” about it. *I’m* smart enough to realize it’s freaky, but *Bella* isn’t, similar to how *I’m* smart enough to realize Edward should be arrested but *she’s* not. Hmm…

    And her clumsiness? A total throwaway, staple “flaw” in fanfic. It’s so easy to say, “But I’m clumsy!” only to have it immediately turned into something that instead makes them cute or endearing or makes it easy for them to be swept away in the arms of their beloved, blah blah…


  13. Socraticsilence #

    I realize that its hard to assign a concrete definition an informal term even worse to engage in taxonomic sorting of a series of such terms but I had always understood the “sue/stu” dynamic to extend solely to author proxies idealized or not, what exactly would Edward be? Just a bad character? Or is there a specific literary term that would apply to a character created purely for one’s “sue” to romance? [Heck, would the “sue/stu” dynamic even apply to author inserts in a world of one’s own creation as opposed to an existing fictional (or in the odd Mary Sue bangs JFK et al subgenre non-fictional) universe]

    Speaking of the books themselves I do know about the veracity, but the funniest summaries I’ve found were the Cracked “Twilight” page and the “Chris vs. Twilight” Tweets.

    Additionally, I generally feel uncomfortable attacking art on political grounds- I mean that’s the sort of apparchick right-think stuff that fringes of the political spectrum always engage in but can I just say I’ve always been more than a bit disturbed about the marketing of a series of novels with a perhaps unconcious pro-abusive/controlling relationship narrative, especially to adolescent girls who frankly often lack the relationship experience necessary to discern just how screwed up the power dynamics of Bella’s various relationships are- I mean seriously, the idealized hero quite literally stalks the protagonist- watching her sleep after sneaking into her room- and supposedly (again I haven’t read the books so I feel I should extend Meyer the benefit of the doubt) this is a romantic gesture rather than one that would justify a restraining order- after 60 days in lockup.


  14. Socraticsilence #

    The obsession aspect isn’t all that disturbing- heck if anything its in keeping with the self-imposed melodrama of adolescence- I mean the love:time actually known ratio in teen romances is insanely skewed.


  15. Socraticsilence #

    Addendum- though on further consideration said ratio may in fact be more balanced when one adjusts for lifespan and prior relationship time and/or amount leading to an obsessiveness quotient of:

    emotive valuation/ [time known/(percentage of life span*previous relationship time)] = obsessiveness with the unit of time being years and an assumed life span of say 75 (not sure what the measurement, much less the unit of emotive valuation would be- maybe a 1-10 spectrum of importance?)
    ex: 7/ [.5/((15/75)*2)]= 5.6 Bellas, or to translate a relationship with an importance of 7 that’s lasted half a year and involves a fifteen year old whose been in 2 years (cummulative) of previous relationships. The only thing I might correct in this way, way, overthought formula is the weighting of straight relationship time- its possible that I need to adjust for frequency- I mean would a person with a 6 months worht of relationships but 5 total relationships be as obsessive as a person who has had only one relationship which lasted a year?


  16. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @Lance Uppercut: Thank you for that picture of Washington and Lincoln. It kind of made my day.

    And thank the Internet gods that Ignatius Reilly doesn’t exist or have his own youtube channel. I’ve no doubt that within a year he’d leverage his Internet fame and get his own cable news show. And then America would be more doomed than it is even now.

    Also, I have English teacher friends who, when teaching Catcher in the Rye, had their students make MySpace pages for Holden Caulfield. (Personally, I think a livejournal would be more appropriate, but MySpace works well, too.)


  17. paperclip #

    In defense of ‘Guns of the South’, the starting point (“Confederates get AKs”) is kitschy, but its execution is definitely not.

    The series Turtledove went on to write, the “Timeline-191”, is more grounded, and is fascinating (the first book, set in the 1880s, has a discredited Lincoln preaching Marxism, for instance), at least until Turtledove turned the Confederacy into a Nazi analog later on. ‘How Few Remains’ and the Great War trilogy that follows it gets my vote for favourite Civil War pop culture.

    Uh, not really overthinking, I guess.


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