Category: Stuff

Review: The Defenders (Netflix) – minimal spoilers

inside-out-emotions-groupImagine Pixar’s Inside Out but for grown-ups – each character represents one of the four key emotions: Guilt, Petulance, Sarcasm and Luke Cage. Luke Cage is an emotion now or at least he should be – some sort of combination of every positive association with masculinity you might want, with a deeply smooth voice and an excellent soundtrack. In the early episodes at least, the soundtrack shifts whenever the focus is on Luke Cage – perhaps it does that for the other Defenders as well and we just don’t notice.

The colour scheme between Inside Out and The Defenders doesn’t quite match (there’s no blue defender) but they each have their own, which play out in the titles but also cleverly on screen. Daredevil red, Cage yellow, Iron Fist green and Jones purples – which is a bit unfair to Jessica Jones in that she gets her colour defined by her archenemy. Hiding out in a Chinese Restaurant, the four Marvel superheroes of Netflix’s gritty MCU-connected shows, initially have the neon lights of each of their colours casting shadows in the background.

But red is the main colour of the show because really this is a sequel to Daredevil season 2 and to a lesser extent Iron Fist season 1. If you liked either of those two or found them at least watchable then you’ll enjoy The Defenders. If you’ve only enjoyed Jessica Jones, then you may find the show less rewarding. I’m avoiding spoilers but I think it is no surprise to say that the immortal Ninja clan The Hand are the main villains – so the story connects most tightly with Daredevil and The Iron Fist. That isn’t to say Luke Cage and Jessica Jones don’t get plenty of screen time, just that the story isn’t particularly their territory.

Less brutal than Daredevil and less silly than Iron Fist, the show does strike a decent balance. However, where Daredevil 1, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage all dealt with threats that operated on a personal and social level, The Defenders is more conventional fare: evil people are up to no good and need to be stopped. Mind you, when the chief baddy is Sigourney Weaver that’s not such a bad thing.

Fight scenes are impressive and the pacing is good. The story is sort of silly but in a good way. But the main event is comic-book tradition: superheroes team up! The comic-canon combination of Luke Cage and Iron Fist works quite nicely – Danny Rand is still the same shallow character from the previous series but Cage makes him look more like an over-eager sidekick who is capable of personal growth.

Unfortunately, the strong supporting cast from the related shows get less chance to shine in what is already a crowded cast. I’d hoped that Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) would get a stronger role, given her appearance in each of the other Marvel Netflix shows but inevitably she has to take a backseat to the main superheroes.

Worth my Netflix subscription for this month? Yup.

Flu Season is Bad in Australia This Year

I can’t recall knowing quite so many people personally all with confirmed cases of influenza as I do right now. Relatives, colleagues, lots of people sick with fevers and sometimes gastric problems.

Flu cases started lower than average but have really spiked since mid July. I don’t know nationally want strains are causing it but people I know seem to be all suffering from Influenza B – which is less scary than the pandemic causing type A’s because only humans and seals catch type B.

Anyway…special warning to human (and seal) readers in the Northern Hemisphere: get vaccinated each flu season! The flu might still get you but even if it does:

  • Usually shorter
  • Symptoms are less severe
  • Less chance of complications 

You’re turn next. (Unless this is the flu you all had last winter) Stay away from seals?

Stealth Kiwis Takeover

Remember that post I did about the comical cascade of accidental dual-citizenry that was ousting Australian politicians from office? Well it has struck again. This time the DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER of Australia, Barnaby Joyce, has been found to be accidentally a citizen of New Zealand. Oooops.

Now if that name sounds familiar, then you may remember him as the guy who threatened to kill Johnny Depp’s dogs. As a member of the rural National Party, Joyce is a somewhat eccentric figure who trades off a true-Aussie-bloke persona.

Parallels between minor SF kerfuffles & real world politics are both trite & true

In various less-friendly spaces of the internet, I spent time watching right-wing SF fans trying to negotiate their own narrative around the Dragon Awards. There was often a plaintive cry from somebody trying to be the voice of reason as to why things can’t just be about the books. The notable thing was that in the case of the Dragons, they meant that the left had somehow introduced “politics” to it. This despite the case that there had been almost zero campaigning for Dragon Award nominations outside of a narrow area of SF fandom revolving around Superversive, Pulp Revolution and the groups I call the Rabids and the Scrappy Doos. Even the former Sad Puppy leadership had been relatively quiet.

My interest here was not the Brian Niemeiers of the groups but others, less inclined to create an SJW conspiracy out of nothing. In several cases, you could see them correctly reasoning that if they want the Dragon Awards to have any status then they would need authors like John Scalzi and N.K.Jemisin involved. However, they would always return to the idea that it was up to people like John Scalzi to, therefore, fix the problem by participating. Commenting here, author David Van Dyke took a similar tack – the Dragons need broad based participation, therefore can authors that the SF right calls “SJWs” (whether they are or not) please participate. This despite the fact that the reasons WHY authors didn’t want to participate were clear and unambiguous – they didn’t want to get caught up in the culture war that other on the SF right want the Dragons to be.

What is particularly interesting is this. When the right that is adjacent to the more belligerent alt-right NEED somebody to be reasonable, to compromise in WHICH direction do they turn? Note how it is the LEFT? This is more than just the modern conservative dictum of not-shooting-right/no-enemies-on-the-right but a tacit acknowledgement that they themselves have no capacity to control their allies.

The alt-right want the Dragons Awards to be a culture-war shitstorm because culture-war shitstorms help them recruit small numbers of extremists via radicalization and the comradery of a conflict. It’s a tactic anybody on the left will recognise from many micro-Trotskyist groups in the past, whose expectation of a conflict (e.g. a labour dispute) was that making hyper-strong demands (not necessarily EXTREME demands but essentially shitty negotiating positions) would not lead to a successful outcome but would lead to a better struggle and new recruits.

This dynamic among the more moderate right with respect to their terrorist allies is an abrogation of their duty to take on extremism. Instead, they hope that the left and centre will do it for them, while they hope to retain the votes of terrorist sympathisers.

In 2016 the strongest GOP counter-reaction to Trump was the ‘Never Trump’ group but even they expected the Democrats to do their dirty work for them. They expected Hillary Clinton to win and then when she didn’t, they stuck to complaining about the left rather than making any real concerted attempt to take back their party. All the time sort of hoping that the left will sort out their problem with an overtly violent & authoritarian movement in their ranks. Fear and cynicism.

Back when Trump won the GOP nomination, Larry Correia had this to say:

“This is an amoral statist authoritarian liberal, who got to where he was by being a huckster con appealing to anger and fear. He is a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He is an insult to the founders, a disgrace to our people, and in the unlikely event he wins, will probably go down in history as the man who ended any hope of small government or individual liberty in America.”

Of course, Larry expected Trump’s nomination to mean victory for Clinton and when that didn’t happen and Trump’s presidency really did prove to be amoral, statist, and authoritarian, Larry has focused on the ‘but not actually liberal’ and has either avoided politics or stuck to left-bashing.

This mix of short term opportunism and unwillingness to tackle extremism is resulting in relatively moderate conservatives finding themselves unwilling to confront terrorism. In the UK this was exemplified during the Brexit campaign when a radicalised terrorist murdered Labour MP Jo Cox  At the time pro-Brexit voices like Louise Mensch (who has since rebranded as a never-Trumper pushing unfeasible conspiracy theories) turned her rhetorical attacks on the left – condemning anybody who was naturally outraged by the use of murder as a political act. The demand was absurd and simple – that in the face of political extremism on the far right, to the point of overt terrorism & murder, that the left needed to be less vocal rather than the right needing to be less prone to murder.

So the same performance happens fractally across different levels of debate. Conservatives want the left to:

  • Defeat the terrorist aligned section of the right but…
  • without making a fuss and…
  • the conservatives will call the left names while they do that because…
  • the conservatives still want the support of the alt-nazis.

[ETA: speaking of which, here is Brad Torgersen desperately trying to find somebody to be angry with OTHER THAN the actual terrorist in the wake of a terrorist attack tl;dr its the media fault apparently.]