Episode 559: HAMBRUG

The Overthinkers tackle listener feedback, with comments ranging from the Super Bowl to the Oscars, from machine learning to Captain Marvel.

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Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather usually write checks their ’cast can’t cash, when they promise over and over that they will get to listener feedback one of these days. In this episode they pay down the debt, tackling listener feedback from the past two months of the Overthinking It Podcast.

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7 Comments on “Episode 559: HAMBRUG”

  1. ScholarSarah #

    It might be possible that, as a high ranking government official in the 1990’s, Nick Fury feels a great deal of pressure to not talk about racial issues.

    That said, the movie was very White, and the film not commenting on the racial dynamics of the 1990’s seems more like an oversight than a choice.


  2. Mark Lee OTI Staff #

    I saw The Green Book after recording this podcast. I have LUKEWARM TAKES and no better place to share them than here:

    On artistic merits, the movie is…fine. Looks beautiful, has good pacing and most importantly, has great chemistry between the two leads.

    In terms of the racial politics, one thing is very clear about this movie: it’s told from the white POV. The white driver character even has a hero’s journey arc; he gets the call to adventure, he initially refuses the call before accepting; he goes through trials; they land in the belly of the whale (a jail cell); and he returns the master of two worlds at the end. Don Shirley, and all of the black people in the movie, are very much “other”-ified and given less agency and depth than the driver character and his family. Remember, Ali won the Oscar for supporting actor in this movie.

    Does this make The Green Book an active contributor to white supremacy, as argued by this LA Times piece calling it the “worst best picture winner since ‘Crash’? I personally don’t think so. But I at least partially understand the perspective of those who are upset by the racial politics of this movie and the context of the 2019 Oscars campaign. The whole package–the Shirley family controversy, the mostly white production team, and the competing movies that were much more in tune with the racial politics of the moment–isn’t a great look. So I guess at the end of the day I bemoan the context more than I bemoan the movie itself. A bit of a cop-out answer, perhaps, but honestly, The Green Book did not elicit very strong feelings from me.

    End lukewarm take.


    • Three Act Destructure #

      I think that’s sort of the point though, isn’t it?

      The Oscars, by way of the social dynamics implicit to them, are consistently better at being involved in politics than they are at rewarding agreeably meritorious artistic accomplishment. Every think piece on the awards exists within the understanding that they are worth talking about only because they are voted on by some of the wealthiest — and therefore most powerful — people in one of America’s largest entertainment industries. In essence, one of our strongest external influencers has decided that we are to feel either this way or that way about our own identities and our own place in the culture this year.

      And in 2019, representing 2018, they chose white mediocrity over black excellence.

      I may be thinking too narrowly but I believe that that’s a form of white supremacy by default, even before you get into any of the production issues or the problematic perspective or even any of the specific messages of “Green Book”. Why is a movie that is just okay better than a movie that is very, very good, regardless of what either of them are about? If the only answer has to do with the average collective skin color of the people who made it then… well…

      Then again, I’ve got a long history of Oscar-bashing behind me so I’m not inclined to give them a favorable reading anyhow.

      Also, as to your point about Captain Marvel not needing to be all things, I absolutely agree. I would like to note though that the movie also does a poor job of bringing up, say, Anita Hill or riot grrl music or Xena: Warrior Princess or third-wave feminism at all. I guess movies that are set in the past don’t really have an obligation to dig to a specific depth of context within that setting though.

      I certainly wasn’t missing out on any discussion of Bacon’s Rebellion while watching The Favourite, for example.


      • clayschuldt #

        It is unfair to force a film set in the past to to dig into ever aspect of the era. In the case of Capt. Marvel there is an argument that ’90s history is dramatically different in the MCU than the real world.
        This is a universe in which Capt. America fought in WWII. In the first Capt. America film it is implied that the Army was desegregated in WWII, which is earlier than it was desegregated in real life. Its possible the racial conflict in the MCU’s version of the ’90s are less severe.
        We also can assume Wakanda has secret agents are all over L.A.
        It is entirely possible some of the historic events that happened in our world did not happen in the MCU. I don’t think Blank Panther ever confirmed the L.A. Riots happened, though the opening scene did take place in 1992 Oakland. Maybe the O.J. Simpson trial went down very differently.


  3. Liffer Member #

    No love for Webex meetings among the OTI crew? Is it the meeting-specific links that lead to the presenter being annoyed that nobody is on time because they logged into tomorrow’s meeting while everyone else is staring at the gray “join” button for today’s? Or could it be that the chat box is so easily hidden that dozens of increasingly desperate messages about “no audio” can go completely unnoticed until the wrap up? And don’t get me started on lagging through the telework server…


  4. jmasoncooper #

    Comments on Captain Marvel going out here, because I was too late to get in on the conversation last week.

    Regarding the specific comments from this podcast regarding the “place-ness” of Captain Marvel, yes I 100% agree that it did not feel like Los Angeles or Louisiana. I am from Northern California and I have had the following conversation more than once:
    Me: Where are you from?
    Them: I am from California.
    Me: Oh, yeah? Me too! Where in California?
    Them: (Insert name of some city in or around Los Angeles, eg Chino, Burbank, Brentwood, etc.) It’s in Southern California.
    Me: Oh, so is it near LA?
    Them: Kind of. (Insert description in miles from the City of Los Angeles).
    Me: So is that south of the Grapevine?
    Them: Yes.
    Me: OK so you are from LA.

    Now most people I have had this conversation with generally take umbrage at this and then explain to me how they really aren’t from LA, but as a person who is not from there, all of the connotations of “LA-ness” fall away in the face of the pop culture depiction of LA. And as a person who is not from there, driving around in the LA-area, I cannot tell the difference between the municipalities (except Beverly Hills on Sunset Blvd.). It is usually just a sign and then more small businesses and homes and strip malls. Very few large buildings, not easy to tell “nice areas” from “not nice” ones. So to say that the movie lacked a place marker in the LA area seems incidental to it being a movie.

    Regarding the 90s-ness of Captain Marvel, I agree with your comments 100% this week and last week that no rap was weird, and “Come as you are” was weird. It was more like a nostalgia trip for the audience rather than determining the attitude the characters should have about things going on in the movie. Like in Black Panther when N’Jobu’s references flooding black communities with drugs and assassinating leaders, that comment very clearly locates the film in 1992. Blockbuster was a clear olive branch to modern internet film nerds who got their start watching movies from Blockbuster. Just a thought, but Snoop Dogg and NWA with Brie Larson might have seemed like cultural appropriation, so they shied away from that, where grunge was very white, even though it was more of a Seattle thing.

    Regarding Pete’s comments about the train, I read the chase on LA’s metro rail as a nod to “The French Connection.” The big car chase in that film is of the cops in a car chasing baddies on a train. Obviously less well executed, but seemed to me like what they were going for.

    To summarize my own thoughts on the movie, Captain Marvel seemed like an attempt to do 2011’s Green Lantern better by using the template laid out by 2008’s Iron Man. The movie is about a character deeply connected to the US military experiencing a trauma that is told in flashback and developing powers that are exploited by a shadowy figure with ulterior motives until the hero learns what is really going on and is able to confront and overcome their oppressor and become the founding member of the Avengers Initiative. The hero even gets to learn to fly.
    Green Lantern failed because it tried to exposition away all the weirdness of an intergalactic space police. Captain Marvel sidestepped that pitfall by focusing on Carol (although the movie does just drop you right into a scenario that only a sci-fi fan with a well honed suspension of disbelief would accept). Captain Marvel also builds out side characters that are at least empathetic and does not rely on the two-villain structure so many superhero movies use.

    Regarding Captain Marvel’s feminism, I think it is exactly the kind of feminism that anyone who has watched 21 MCU movies would come to expect. It is very obvious 2nd wave feminism. I had a conversation with my professors and classmates a few years ago at a conservative private university and we all agreed with Betty Friedan and the 2nd wave feminists almost universally. I would argue that every person in America (except maybe Warren Jeffs) is a 2nd wave feminist, just like everybody is a 1st wave feminist. No one would argue women don’t deserve to vote. No one would argue that women don’t deserve to make choices regarding career and family that lead to them having a fulfilling life. There are debates that fall under this category that can be teased out and that people argue over (like abortion, the wage gap, paid family leave, etc) but nobody believes we should go back to living in the world of “Mad Men” or “Agent Carter.” This middle of the road view, is the same type of view championed by T’Challa on racial politics at the end of Black Panther, and the same type of view championed by the Ancient One and Stephen Strange at the end of Doctor Strange on religion, and the same view championed by Tony Stark at the end of Iron Man about the American “War on Terror.” Marvel picks safe liberal views that the largest possible audience can get behind while villainizing radical views. A man who would tell Captain Marvel that it is called a “cockpit” for a reason is connected to the oppressive fascist Alien oppressors. Erik Stevens’s plan of black supremacy by overthrowing most of the worlds governments by arming black people around the world is shown to be villainous. Kaecilius’s plan to give all of humanity eternal life by uniting them with the eternal one Dormammu (which incidentally is the plan of Shinji’s father in Neon Genesis Evangelion) is shown to be ultimately painful and destructive. Obadiah Stane’s plan to make billions of dollars by running the world’s war economy (which incidentally is the plan of the Patriots from Metal Gear Solid 4, and later Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3) is the least valid form of Creative Destruction known in economics. So what I am trying to say is, that Marvel has a grasp on what works and their plotting is clearly in line with safe bets and stands on social issues that most people can agree on. People might be dissatisfied with that answer, but that pretty clearly seems to be the answer.


  5. John C Member #

    Relevant to absolutely nothing in the episode, but rather what I assumed the episode might be, I feel duty to point out that there’s a certain movie that Amazon Prime has recently been pushing…
    Oh! Actually relevant to the episode (the title, even), back when I was in college, I was helping out at one of the open houses where the admissions folks realized that they were about to have all us volunteers wear sweatshirts emblazoned with the logo of our “unversity.”
    I’m still kind of bitter they wouldn’t let me keep one.
    Also, Teams (Microsoft’s new replacement for Skype for Business that still inexplicably isn’t based on the thing they own that they know works) is…not as bad as Skype for Business. It’s also very, very purple, if anybody’s into that sort of thing.


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