Episode 275: Gravity: Boo hoo, cry me a river, you’re an astronaut

The Overthinkers tackle the movie “Gravity.”

Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Jordan Stokes overthink the movie Gravity.

We’d like to point out that we could have given this episode the title, “IS GRAVITY BAD FOR WOMEN?” but did not, because we are not horrible human beings.


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38 Comments on “Episode 275: Gravity: Boo hoo, cry me a river, you’re an astronaut”

  1. Wrim #

    I thought I should mention a somewhat weird interview with Sandra Bullock on the Daily Show:


    The Episode starts with Jon making a reference to the movie Speed, and crumbling a paper. Was that a subtle comment to his writers or to Sandra Bullock?
    It might just be me overthinking it but I got the impression that Jon Stewart is mocking the movie, and that he thinks it’s nothing but CGI.

    I should clarify that I have nothing against Jon Stewart but I think I can hint some underlying tension during the interview.

    Sandra calls him out on making “the face” and instead of having a serious discussion about acting it goes everywhere else.

    “I don’t want to know how you made it” Sounds like a pun on Sandra Bullocks career.

    At the end of the interview he says “Everything I said about the movie is a lie” which could be interpreted in a couple of different ways…

    It would have been nice if they’d analyzed it as deep as you did, but they didn’t even touch the subject.

    Hey, that’s why I keep coming back to this podcast, you do a better job dissecting movies than the mainstream media :)


    • Mark Lee OTI Staff #

      Re: The Daily Show and Jon Stewart, the format that he’s working with–the 5-10 minute rapid-fire interview–is never enough time for a truly substantive or thorough conversation on pop culture, or anything else for that matter.

      The interviews have always been my least favorite part of his show. Because of the odd combination of humor and straightforward talk, I think Stewart sometimes struggles to establish the right chemistry with a lot of his guests, especially given the time constraint.


      • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

        Struggle is the word.

        It sometimes seems like he spends half of the interview reaching for the right question and trying to stammer it out. As a host of an admittedly smaller pop culture property I feel his pain. :)


    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      Just a conjecture here:

      Jon Stewart is in post-production on his own movie, Rosewater – a movie about an Iranian political prisoner, right now, and it seems like talking about this movie — which is just INSANE with how much was done with it in post-production — has hit a sore spot for him; that’s he’s jealous and intimidated by what what this movie was able to accomplish, and it’s hard for him to focus on the movie because he keeps thinking about himself.

      It seems to me that was he’s trying to say was “I don’t want to know how you made the movie, because the finished product comes across as a seamless, powerful experience, and doing that is so much harder than the matter of making all the objects look like they are flying around in space. If we talk about the CGI it will totally miss the point. Also, I’m trying to do that right now with a scene that just happens in a blank room, and it isn’t working, and that sucks and is really frustrating.”

      You get the sense Jon would rather be talking to Cuaron, because he sees himself as a director now, and Sandra Bullock kind of resents it, because she is legit a big star, and doing these things is required of her and is kind of annoying, and she wants more positive affirmation from the interviewers.

      It’s telling that she doesn’t laugh at Jon’s jokes and in the moment seems displeased, but then she goes along with the gag every time and is funny about it. She’s not getting what she wants out of the interview, which is some appreciation and validation for doing something she doesn’t want to do (but has to do), and he’s not getting what he wants out of the interview, which is to talk about directing scenework and feel some affirmation of the way he struggles as he makes a film himself.

      They also both look really physically tired and stressed out. I wonder if something stupid happened backstage, like she was late or almost bailed, or they didn’t set up her dressing room right or they were both up late the previous night – the kind of thing that can just sour an attitude about stuff.


      • fenzel OTI Staff #

        It’s worth noting that Jon spends almost none of the interview talking about Sandra doing a good job acting in the movie — it’s all about Clooney being great and Cuaron being great and Sandra doing stupid things and puking. He could have been nicer and talked to her more about her own work — which on this movie was substantial.

        Don’t ask her about how the scene was filmed; she didn’t film it. Ask her about how she performed her part.


        • hedges n' quills #

          I’ve always liked The Daily Show, but also always thought that John Stuart wasn’t especially good at interviewing people.


  2. Gab #

    And I have to interject, what does it say about our culture that the director thought, and probably accurately, that making the main character a woman would help with the danger and suspense level? And, sadly, he was prolly right. Sigh. I don’t think I’m “getting mad at the movie,” I’m getting mad at the society that can’t accept a female protagonist as heroic, and can’t see a male one as at risk. So I think Gravity is a good platform for opening up that conversation: What aspects of societal purviews lead to these universal assumptions about male versus female protagonists and our general expectations from them? And how can we change that so both are given the same standards?

    (Barnaby Bright also has a song called “Gravity.” If you like contemporary folk, you’ll like it.)


    • cat #

      First, I will start out by linking to a Reel Girl post on the subject which in turn links to a review that touches on the subject. http://reelgirl.com/2013/10/gravity-director-chose-female-lead-to-strip-it-from-heroists/

      I am now going to ramble… a lot.

      I think female characters are often cast as victims. The audience has an instinct to want to help or protect them and feels helpless about their inability to do so. And this ramps up the feeling of anxiety or tension that makes the movie dramatic and exciting.

      I think we are less concerned about male protagonists because more often than not, we already know that things are going to turn out alright in the end. Now, this is more often the case in television than in movies where you have to keep the usually male character alive because his name is in the title. We need more female heroes and protagonists who feel important and anchor a show. It’s a very simple concept but House, Harry Potter, Ugly Betty, Being Erica, and The United States of Tara would basically end without their main protagonists. They would not be the same shows. Until we have more shows where female characters feel central to the plot, we’re not going to stop seeing them as victims or as disposable.

      I think we also have to look at the kinds of stories we’re telling about male and female protagonists. Male protagonists tend to be hyper capable. Anything based on Sherlock Holmes or on the USA network is usually a good example of this. House, Psych, Burn Notice, Monk. Now, these characters aren’t without flaws but they are also highly skilled or intuitive and that part of their personality is key to the character. Now, it may just be the shows that I personally watch but I feel like female protagonists tend to lack this quality. Female characters tend to have skills or qualities that make them special but they don’t exude this same aura of being hyper capable to the same degree. Rachel Berry’s singing and Jane Bingum’s track record as a lawyer are the closest things I can come up with but even they struggle to retain their skills and stay at the top of the pack.

      Oh, and if we’re making recommendations, I like Sara Bareilles’ Gravity.


      • Gab #

        I assumed all of that went without saying- I’m asking, I guess, about societal structures that place men and women into different categories. Women being cast as victims and men as heroes, that’s kind of too obvious. I’m concerned with why it happens- I’m fully aware that it does. I suppose it’s sort of a chicken-egg conundrum, sure- we’re used to seeing things a certain way, so we keep making them look a certain way when we produce fictions (or even stylized versions of history/fact). I don’t want to seem like I’m tossing about the term “patriarchy” willy-nilly, but it’s at least closely tied to traditional gender roles, to sociologically hard-wired norms of masculinity and femininity. Would a male astronaut’s character been so tied to his fatherhood as Bullock’s was? (Because yeah, apparently Clooney’s character has a kid, but he let himself die- whereas if it had been a women, she would have fought to stay alive for the sake of that kid, no doubt.) Prolly not, and the real question I have is, “Why not?” Why would a film writer shy away from showing a father so torn up over the loss of a child? The guys on the podcast referenced a few different Arnold movies where he goes and rescues his kid (or maybe that was the previous podcast- I listened to three this morning), but that’s different- that’s Damsel in Distress stuff. And I’m sure you can think of exceptions to this, of male characters whose process of characterization revolve quite a bit around their fatherhood, but those would be more like exceptions proving the rule. Systematically, “mother” is more prominent and prolific in characterizations for women than “father” is for men.

        My point is, yes, we see women being portrayed XYZ ways, and men in ABC ways, and I think the director’s comments about heroists and whatnot are a result of those societal expectations; and that if we stop to ask ourselves why society has those expectations in the first place, maybe we’d realize there’s something diminishing about our perceptions of the human condition, as well as what we expect of our characters and thus to an extent, ourselves and fellow persons. Because yeah, it’s pretty obvious I think that’s bollocks: It should be totally okay for man to cry if he needs or wants to, and we shouldn’t always expect it from women. And I say this as a prolific cryer. ;p But in all seriousness, in terms of fiction, these categories limit the stories we can tell; in terms of the real world, it limits the potential for us as people.

        ::end soapbox::


  3. Dan in Canada #

    You missed a great opportunity in the Question of the Week to have the milk be played by Sean Penn.


  4. Lavanya #

    I’ve got a “Well, actually…” moment for the podcast in that exposure to the vacuum of space isn’t automatically fatal. That’s just an old sci-fi cliche. As long as you exhale before explosively de-pressureizing and keep your eyes shut, you’d be okay for a good 15~30 seconds. Considering the capsule in that scene had already been mostly de-pressurized, the unsuited character in question would be fine given what happened.


    • inquisitive_hedgehog #

      Yes! There’s also the fact that while the temperature can get astonishingly low, it’s not terribly relevant when there’s virtually no matter around to wick your heat away.


      • Tulse #

        Hence the Thermos (or generically “Dewar bottle” or “vacuum flask”), which preserves the temperature of the liquid it contains because it has a vacuum gap between its inner and outer walls.



  5. Peter Tupper #

    I notice that this follows the trend of a lot of space exploration movies in the last decade or two, that the primary plot is to get _out_ of space and back to Earth: Apollo 13, Red Planet, etc. Space isn’t a place of wonder and discovery, it’s cold and empty and dangerous, the metaphor for Bullock’s character’s depression and grief. There’s nothing of value there.

    The other parallel I could draw is to “The Descent”, which also is about a woman struggling with grief while trying to escape from a hostile environment (and a lot of birth imagery). I wonder why just surviving isn’t enough in these stories, that there has to be a character arc about the loss of a child and/or spouse. Do survival stories with male protagonists have these kinds of character arcs?

    Re: the space booty shorts sound like a riff on Sigourney Weaver’s panties and tanktop shot at the end of “Alien”.


    • Lavanya #

      Maybe it’s an attempt to make the female protagonists “relatable”?

      Wonder Woman’s stabs at a second TV series are a good example here. In an attempt to make Wonder Woman relatable to some sort of everywoman demographic, Hollywood repeatedly turns her into someone who wants a boyfriend more than she wants to fight crime. They almost tried it in the failed 90s revival, and the recent David E Kelly pilot took it to a ludicrous extreme — with Wonder Woman having a second secret identity that consisted solely of being some eyeglass-wearing nobody who curled up on the couch with her cat, ate ice cream, and pined over rom coms.


      • fenzel OTI Staff #

        Yeah, Wonder Woman is a really tricky character, because people are afraid of what she represents and don’t know what to do with it.

        And with superheroes, you can’t go against the flow. The superhero tends to represent specific things, and stories that don’t honor that representation tend to fall flat or feel like they make no sense.

        Superman is a Moses/Immigrant figure. Spider-Man is a postpubescent man-boy. The Green Lantern is the creative process. Batman is the fear of death and pain of loss.

        Wonder Woman is bondage. Plain and simple. She’s about people who tie up other people during sex, as told from the perspective of a guy who was REALLY into it — and who had a polyamorous three-way relationship for most of his life with the two women Wonder Woman is based on physically.

        If you take away bondage, there’s no reason for her outfit or powers. A chaste wonder woman just looks stupid, like if Charles Xavier wasn’t a particularly bookish person and was just in a wheelchair from a football accident and shaved his head in imitation of Vic Mackie.

        So if you’re not going to talk about sexy sexy sex at least metaphorically, wonder woman is going to make no sense, and of course there’s a divide between people looking to sell a female hero to people and are comfortable with her being openly sexual and who are uncomfortable with her being openly sexual (not just as an object to be desired, but as a sexual person).

        That’s why Wonder Woman looking for a boyfriend is so absurd and fails so badly. Wonder Woman is a fantasy dominatrix. She doesn’t go looking for guys, she makes guys beg for her mercy.

        Wonder woman shouldn’t have a secret identity, either. It just feels tacked-on in imitation of Superman. Wonder Woman should be out there doing her thing in the open, and if people have a problem with it, it’s _their_ problem, not Wonder Woman’s problem.


        • Peter Tupper #

          Undeniably, WW is “always, already” sexualized and associated with bondage and D/s, but it is reductionist to say that’s the only thing the character represents. There’s a reason Gloria Steinem put WW on the cover of the first issue of Ms. magazine.

          There are plenty of stories you could do about WW that aren’t about her as a superpowered dominatrix: she’s a stranger in a strange land, a link between the modern world and the realm of gods and monsters, a woman made of clay who can make anyone tell the truth.


          • Gab #

            And, to piggyback, the arguments against making movies or more series about her usually have nothing to do with the bondage stuff today because, well, the bondage stuff has kind of faded away. Sure, in the original comics, panel after panel showed her bound and tied because she surreptitiously loses her powers when tied up (hmmmm), but that factor pretty much died off after a while. She retains the Lasso of Truth, but she doesn’t hog-tie and gag the people she gets with it, so the imagery of bondage has significantly watered down over the decades and, in truth, I know a number of comic fans that had no friggin’ clue her origins were so BDSM-like because it’s barely referenced in newer versions of Wonder Woman. Of course, you can’t ignore the origins of the character, but the evolution of WW has gone far beyond that bondage thing into one of pretty awesome nuance.

            I honestly think she’d be a great character to bring to screen again because, at least in newer versions, she represents the hope that humanity isn’t inherently evil- her whole purpose with crossing over into our world is to help people work toward peace and loving one another, helping each other and showing that empathy Fenzel was talking about more. Not to say now is a darker time than ever, but I don’t think we could ever not benefit from a reminder that we’re all part of this global world and we’d be much better off helping one another, rather than slitting each other’s throats. She’s sort of the superhero version of that little thing Batman says to the Joker in TDK, in that she believes and fights for the good in humanity. There are so many potential stories in that, it’s kind of astounding it hasn’t been harped on yet by Warner Brothers.

            The irony is that what took over as the specifics of her backstory gets touted as too “ridiculous” or “campy” to be put to screen. That connection to a bunch of Greek gods and goddesses, the realm of Themyscria, her being forged from clay, all of that is brushed off as “unfilmable” or whatever. I’ve also heard the invisible jet is considered problematic. Even though Thor is on his second solo movie. Right. And even though ships with cloaking devices were used in old nineties shows like Babylon 5 and Star Trek: The Next Generation, not to mention countless movies and shows with spy planes, and crap, even that ridiculous heli-hangar monstrosity in The Avengers was “invisible.”

            DC’s animated studio made a movie focusing on the more contemporary mythos surrounding WW a few years ago. It isn’t perfect, but (imo) it’s better than some of the live movies DC’s properties have led to, and far less “ridiculous” or “cheesy” than Thor was. I imagine the new Thor will be exceptionally over-the-top, but gods forbid we use a character with connections to mythological characters in a movie…?

          • fenzel OTI Staff #

            Well, yeah, it’s not that Wonder Woman is _just_ about bondage. But the idea of Wonder Woman as symbol of bondage is going to be inseparable from her character in some way (otherwise, why is she carrying a lasso? She’s not a country-western character.), so whatever she does do is going to exist in dialectic with her as a bondage symbol.

            And as awesome as Gloria Steinem is, using a superhero as pop art or as a textured critique is a lot different from writing a story starring the superhero that actually works. And as far as I know there’s no reason to believe Gloria Steinem knows how to write a superhero story.

            Wonder Woman is problematic, and that problematization is interesting. Reclaiming her as a cultural symbol is interesting. But in my own experience people are far more successful reclaiming and elevating Wonder Woman when they aren’t writing actual Wonder Woman stories. When Wonder Woman is the protagonist and actually has to tie up bad guys with the Lasso of Truth, you’re welcome to any degree of ironic detachment, but you also must own it for it to be any good — you must be willing to be the hand that holds that lasso, not just the hand that comments on it.

            But existing in dialectic with the Wonder Woman sexual agenda (which is by no means a reductive or cheap thing — there’s a lot to talk about in it that’s important and about love and society; it’s just that it also has to do with tying people up for mutual pleasure) — that’s totally doable. But ignoring it is going to feel wonky.

            A great example of this at work is Captain Marvel in _Kingdom Come_. I would argue that the essential aspect of Captain Marvel that exists in every Captain Marvel story is that he’s adulthood as seen through the eyes of a child. Captain Marvel stories need Billy Batson a whole lot more than Superman stories need Clark Kent or Batman stories need Bruce Wayne — the dichotomy between Billy and Cap is the heart of the character.

            Otherwise, why does he have that ridiculous Las Vegas matador cape instead of a regular cape? Why is he slicked up with Dapper Dan all the time? Why is he such a goofy, grinning palookah?

            But in _Kingdom Come_, there is no child Billy Batson. And yet it’s a great Captain Marvel story, because the absence of child Billy Batson is acknowledged and felt by the story — it’s about loss of innocence, the ravages of time, the failure of personal courage — if Billy Batson the child becomes Captain Marvel the paragon, what does Billy Batson the borderline-depressed, pathetic corporate thrall become with that same power? Something much worse — something almost hideous in its grinning mockery of what it was. And yet, something still possessing magic strong enough to decide if Superman lives or dies — it’s all very poetic — but it isn’t poetic if on some level child Billy Batson isn’t dialectically present in the story.

            So if you want to do a Wonder Woman story about how she is quietly living at home, is kind of lonely, and wants a boyfriend but is afraid to approach people — the idea of a sexually confident, assertive, dominating Wonder Woman who is still compassionate and loving still needs to echo in your story somewhere. There needs to be a feeling of what has been lost — otherwise when she picks up the lasso again, as she must in a story like this — there will be no drama in what she has gained back. There will just be confusion as to the absence of cattle.

        • Lavanya #

          I’ll concede that Wonder Woman started as heavily bondage themed, but I think she’s changed over time. Much as Superman transformed from his initial muscular leftist New Dealer into an embodiment of traditionalist Americana, I’d argue that WW’s thing is being THE female superhero.

          And beyond that, as Peter Tupper mentions, there’s how WW combines mysticism and the immigrant experience. Superman is the foreign kid who came from elsewhere but grew up in America, and become wholly American in character — a Kryptonian-American. Wonder Woman is the foreign person who goes to America as an adult, make a life there. Not a Themysciran-American, but simply a Themysciran living in America.


          • fenzel OTI Staff #

            Maybe harder-core Wonder Woman fans feel differently about this than I do intuitively, but I never felt that Wonder Woman being “mystical” or “magical,” as opposed to any other potential source of her power, was all that important. To me, it just felt like a balancing point for stories that involve Superman.

            Wonder Woman has to have some sort of edge over Superman or else none of those stories have any tension, and magic is just arbitrarily this thing Superman is weak to because Kryptonite is stupid and because otherwise they would run out of Superman stories.

            It’s important that Wonder Woman is an Amazon, it’s important that Themyscira exists and that she is from Themyscira. And Themiscyra needs to feel sort of Ancient-Greeky. But I don’t intuitively feel about Wonder Woman’s character that it is important for her to be magical. She could have nanotech implants or have been hit by radiation from a volcano or something and it would also work.

            But even beyond that, Themyscira as a real place that people are actually from is kind of dubious. More dubious even than Kyrpton. Like you’re going to find out the cobbler down the street and her sisters are all from Themyscira and are working on their GEDs and community college and whatnot.

            Themyscira to me is associated with story, legend, learning, myth, social authority, and the certainty of classicism. It’s not a foreign, “otherly” place, it’s a place everyone is supposed to be able to imagine because it is part of all of our cultures. To me it feels more like a boarding school that totally remakes people who go there than another country — such that even to the degree peopl come out of it are strange, they are strange in a way that feels to them elite and appropriate — as if really the problem isn’t that they are unlike the people around them; it’s that the people around them are unlike them.

            Yeah, I’m getting very specific on my take on a character for whom there are many takes. But I stand by it :-)

          • fenzel OTI Staff #

            To add to this, one of the really important characteristics of Wonder Woman is that she is secretly a leader of other women.

            That’s another one of the ways Themyscira feels like a prep school to me – there’s a sisterhood there, and Wonder Woman is unambiguously in charge of at least most of it in a way that’s a bit homoerotic, as most such power relationships are, especially in the absence of the other gender. So when new women grow up in Themyscira and start meeting people, they know just by meeting Diana that she is somebody they should listen to and be kind of in awe of.

            So, if I were writing a Wonder Woman story, Wonder Woman would have a similar effect on women she met outside Themyscira. She wouldn’t be a fish out of water; she’d be a natural leader who feels at home most places she goes. And the story would be about the empathy she has for the issues of the people she meets there.

            They would find themselves looking to her for leadership and approval, even when she’s using her “secret identity” if such a thing is even necessary. Even on trivial things, like which line in the deli is for ordering a sandwich, and which one is for paying. Stuff like that.

            This attitude in itself — of a secret, intuitive leadership, of deference to a confident, striking person — this is all related to the sex stuff Wonder Woman represents, which has to do with opening ourselves up to what society says we can’t or shouldn’t want, and about trust, vulnerability and control. You don’t have to go much further than that in the surface text — the bondage stuff will be in there in subtext.

            And men who meet Diana should find themselves feeling similarly most of the time, which drives conflict, because a lot of Wonder Woman stories are about men reacting violently to the idea that they should give up control to a woman, even a competent, compassionate woman who loves them.

    • Gab #

      All the survivor stories I can think of starring men involve the loss of a lover/wife/etc. I can’t recall any male protagonist’s major character arch being anchored in their grieving process over their child.

      Although. As I said above, exceptions proving the rule prolly aren’t hard to find, and I know the OTI guys love the lead actor in this movie (JK Simmons), so I’m just going to leave its IMDB page and tell you it’s really wonderful and touching and you get to see Simmons at a Greatful Dead concert: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1613062/

      But for serious, I can recall a lot more women with character developments revolving around motherhood in some way than males with any characterization revolving around fatherhood.


      • fenzel OTI Staff #

        The most prominent male protagonist who has a big macro character arc involving the difficulty of processing and coping with the death of a child is probably Captain Kirk, who spends most of Star Trek V and VI pretty consumed with grief over the events of Star Trek III.

        The whole “I need my pain” speech at the end of Star Trek V, which I just loved tremendously when I saw it, but which I’m discovering as I get older is psychologically problematic even as it is insightful and important (that’s something to unpack!) is for Kirk probably about his son being killed by the Klingons, even if for Bones it is about his father.

        And then of course Star Trek VI is all about whether Kirk can forgive the Klingons for killing his son in an analogy to whether the United States can peacefully coexist with the Soviet Union/Russia in the post-Cold War era.

        But yeah, those aren’t really survival stories. And Kirk isn’t exactly any old character – part of what makes him awesome is he is just so weird, and part of why Kirk’s arc in those movies is so weird is Shatner wrote and directed Star Trek V himself (with help, but himself). So it’s not the studio.

        The archetype for the more common “how do men process loss” genre film is _Commando_, where, whatever happens to Alyssa Milano, her daddy Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to save her. It’s virtually unacceptable in these sorts of movies for men to experience grief or loss — they MUST find some way to rectify the situation, or they are worthless.

        The many many movies about men grieving for lost children are more commonly “former special forces / cop goes out for vengeance against the gangsters who killed his family” movies — although in those cases it’s often a wife who dies along with the kids, and the efforts at processing the deaths of the children is often done by really reductive means that totally trivialize the emotional experience of the man.

        A good example of that is one of my favorite B-movies, “One Tough Bastard,” a.k.a. “One Man’s Justice,” a.k.a. “North’s War,” — in that one, he rather superficially befriends a local kid who is in danger of falling in with the drug gangs in his part of LA (led in this movie by MC Hammer), and has to decide whether and how to interrupt or slow down his quest for vengeance to do things like teach the kid to say no to drugs and to play basketball with him. And I guess at the end of the movie the kid is a replacement for the kids he loses at the beginning of the movie. I guess.

        But yeah, Steven Seagal made like a half-dozen straight-to-DVD movies with this plot, where he has to rescue or avenge a lost son. But it’s important to note the role of grief in these movies is pretty different than it is in Gravity, and Stokes’s insight that maybe the best answer to trauma is not “more, worse trauma” applies in those movies times a million. Which is roughly the number of bullets discharged in each of them.


        • Gab #

          That’s a really important distinction- the male protagonists aren’t allowed to process their grief in the same ways. They find peace by blowing stuff/other people up and acting hypermasculine. At least the women are portrayed as going through various stages of grief, shock, etc. (The driving thing Bullock’s character does, I took that as being a shock-related behavior). Like I said above, those archtypes and expectations placed on men are limiting and dehumanizing- any man in real life should be allowed to have as much of an introspective, existential process as a woman in either a movie or reality, and getting bombarded with angry daddies with machine guns all the time in movies complicates the potential for that to be accepted. So then it becomes a conversation of, Okay, then what do we do about it? And the naive answer would be, Change societal expectations! Which, uh, well, not very easy.

          I also really like Stokes’s observation, and I think it’s one that should be considered more seriously in general. I’ve thought a lot about how people react to one another in times of crisis lately, and I gotta say, I think we’re so focused on coming across as being put-together and well-adjusted and whatnot that we don’t know how to communicate what we’re going through when someone wants to help, and we don’t know how to help when someone reaches out for it. But that’s another rant…

          Also, I actually got the box set of Star Trek: The Original Series movies a while ago; I haven’t seen them yet, so I’ll have to pay attention to how Kirk deals with the loss of David (who, iirc, gets introduced in Wrath of Kahn), and maybe we can talk about it, if you’re interested. But if you wanted to just unpack that stuff for an article on the site, I’m sure it’d be gobbled up!


    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      Action movies can never be just about the action. Action without emotional stakes is too boring, to the point of being largely unwatcheable. Even really trashy action movies where people joke there is no subtext tend to have tons of subtext around the action to invest it with emotional reality — it’s just that it’s done so sloppily people don’t want to acknowledge that it’s there.

      So yeah, surviving isn’t enough. Survival is boring.

      A big part of all that is empathy. We have to, in our lives, acknowledge that many people die that we simply do not have the mental energy to care about. Empathy as an emotional function just plain isn’t something you can uniformly spread out to everybody in the whole world as a long-term thing; it would drive you crazy.

      So the question has to be “why do we care about _this_ person? Why do we care if _this_ person dies?”

      I mean, yeah, that’s a bit offensive to indict all of us in a rather profound lack of sympathy for fellow human beings. Is it not enough that a person’s life’s at stake?

      No, it’s not. Welcome to the human race. We need that little extra to care about somebody living or dying.

      And then, if you have to have a reason to care about somebody living or dying, it’s far more efficient and elegant to have the reason have some sort of relationship with what is happening — if the reason we care about the character is totally different from the reason the character’s life is in danger, it can make the story too convoluted or detached for us to really care about it. It can feel like our time is being wasted.

      So most survival stories have the reason we care about the main character related metaphorically to the thing that’s trying to kill him or her.

      In Gravity, the impossibility of life in space is related to the impossibility of life coming from Sandra Bullock’s womb, since her child is dead.

      In The Grey, the fight against the wolves is related to Liam Neeson’s emotional distance from his dead wife, which is inspired by the poetic but problematic rage of his alcoholic, violent father.

      In Twister, the tornado is Helen Hunt’s divorce from Bill Paxton, which is implied to be related to her attachment issues, because of her absent father. A tornado (which might also represent the experience of a dad just leaving) takes her dad away when she’s a kid, and then later, the metaphorical tornado of a divorce threatens to take Bill Paxton away like her father, except then a real tornado shows up and they have to choose whether to face it together and come out of it a couple or not bother and go their separate ways.

      I’ll end this ramble by reminding y’all that Twister is a great movie.


      • Gab #

        And they don’t try to fight the tornadoes in Twister like they did in that one tornado flick that came out over the summer.


        • fenzel OTI Staff #

          Sharknado is tricky, because it’s hard to see the 90210 guy’s character as the protagonist. It’s really an ensemble piece that is mostly about the younger characters.

          And the uniting theme, as it is in many silly horror movies, seems to be people screwing around when they shouldn’t — when Nora is hanging out with Baz, the guy she shouldn’t be with but who likes her, she gets eaten by the midair shark. When Matt, the guy she is with at the beginning and ends up with, shows up again, she gets cut out of the shark’s belly with a chainsaw.

          That it’s the 90210 guy who cuts her out is I suppose about the creepy relationship between fathers and the chastity of daughters, where in many stories is seems like a super-creepy validation of the father’s sexuality for the daughter to proceed to the wedding chapel unsullied — protected from bad boys by his paternal virility.

          That Nova isn’t Fin’s daughter is probably just pages of the script getting mixed up by the strong winds and raining sharks.


          • Gab #

            I was going to make a joke, but then I remembered that Nova was into Fin at the beginning of the movie, then seemed to resign herself to his son in the end.

            I shudder.

    • DanAlt #

      Just because you’re RIGHT doesn’t mean you’re not overthinking it.


      • fenzel OTI Staff #

        I would argue we’re right most of the time, and that’s the site’s biggest joke :-)


  6. Daniel #

    Can we make The Core the next Overview? Lots of awful hollywood-science, lots of silly melodrama to make fun of, a ridiculous plot to shoot full of holes, but a movie which is (in my opinion, at least) still very entertaining!

    Plus, I’m craving another Overview – I’ve watched all the available ones and I need more overthought, dammit! LET ME GIVE YOU MONEY!


    • DanAlt #

      Speaking as a physicist, I’d be down with that.


  7. Daniel #

    I wanna nominate The Core for the next Overview. Lots of bad hollywood-science for you to talk about, lots of silly melodrama to make fun of, a thousand and one things to pick apart, but a movie which is (in my opinion, at least) still very entertaining!

    Plus, I’ve bought and listened through your whole library and I’m craving more Overview!


    • Daniel #

      Sorry, didn’t mean to post twice. I got an error message the first time and tried again.


  8. Adrian #

    A few things:

    My interpretation of Clooney’s unfinished Mardi Gras story was that the girl was actually holding the hand of a chimpanzee (I think he specifies it was a short guy).

    I feel like movies like this aren’t saying “get past your trauma by subjecting yourself to more trauma.” It’s more like the movie’s message is “you should get past your trauma,” which is delivered to the character diegetically via another traumatic situation, but is delivered to the audience via the artistic statement of the movie. The message of getting past it is what’s important, not the method.

    Regarding songs, ever since I learned this movie was coming out I’ve had Sound Check (Gravity) by Gorillaz stuck in my had. Which has been awesome.


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