Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is a Faithful, but Inconsistent, Adaptation

I’m of rather mixed feelings about Netflix’s newest original series, A Series of Unfortunate Events. If I take it at face value, it’s a very faithful adaptation of the book series, and it’s honestly an enjoyable way to spend eight hours. Neil Patrick Harris does a fantastic job as Count Olaf, and slips into and out of each of Olaf’s disguises with a whimsical flair that makes the unfortunate events of the series seem drearily entertaining rather than just dreary. Though it seems at times darker than the book series, much of the acting is clearly meant for a children’s demographic, as the characters go through the plot reveals with all the suspense of a Scooby-Doo-esque “I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” And the runtime, though a little bloated, allows a lot of time for the adult actors to make their shenanigans funny. I really enjoyed watching this series. However, in adapting the book series to Netflix, a few things were expanded on that ended up making the story’s internal logic a little, well, unfortunate.

Spoilers for the series (and some mild spoilers for the books) after the jump.

Continue reading

Magical Mondays: Who Gets To Be A Vampire?

(via goodreads)

(via goodreads)

I was recently reading the latest book in The Vampire Chronicles, Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis. After the many ups and all-too-frequent downs of the series, reading the new installments comes out of the same schadenfreude-y curiosity that presumably leads other people to watch the Kardashians: namely, wanting to know what on earth these disaster (non)humans are up to now.

One of the major worldbuilding developments in the most recent books has been, as one might guess from the title, the ascension of Lestat into a sort of mutually-agreed-upon rulership of the vampire community. Even Lestat has acquired some self-awareness, over the years; he knows that he is not going to have the attention span to attend to every issue of the community, and so he forms a court of vampiric elders from across the world. While this has the immediate benefit for the reader of putting all the major players of the series in one place to stand around and be beautiful at each other, it also lends a seriousness to Lestat’s rule. His princeship is not symbolic, and for the first time the vampire community is less an arbitrary group of metahumans connected only by the fluke of their condition and more of an organized nation. And that, of course, means there need to be rules.

In an increasingly plugged in and hyper-vigilant world where the existence of vampires is a very poorly guarded secret, it’s more important than ever that vampires maintain a low profile. As part of this (and as part of the mentality that vampires are not inherently evil despite their predatory nature) they are expected to behave in reasonably moral ways.

(via wikipedia)

Except for that whole “don’t turn children” rule. (via wikipedia)

Don’t kill; only take enough blood to sate your hunger. Don’t drink from innocents; only take blood from those who are clearly bad people (you know, like, sex traffickers, murderers, people who don’t use their turn signal). Don’t broadcast your existence to humans – a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ rule given Lestat’s history- as this endangers the entire vampire community. However, despite the rather checkered history of how all these people actually became vampires, there don’t seem to be any rules forthcoming about who gets to be a vampire.

Continue reading

The Lunar Chronicles: Fairy Tale Heroines in the Future

lunar-chronicles-marissa-meyerThe Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer may not have caused as much public excitement as some of the other female-led sci-fi/dystopian YA series of the past several years, but it doesn’t mean it’s less deserving of our attention. In fact, it’s a very solid series, led by a team of awesome kickass teen heroines. The plot is engrossing and action-packed and has an intriguing twist to boot—the main four books of the series offer loose, but still recognizable, retellings of four well-known fairy tales: Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty.

Spoilers below for Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter (the main four books of The Lunar Chronicles).

Continue reading

Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: The Legacy of Christian Paternalism in the Harry Potter Universe

As long as there has been racism, people have been trying to justify it to themselves and others. Unfortunately, all too commonly, religion has been a prime factor in these justifications. While the Atlantic slave trade was just beginning, before slavery was made hereditary, slavery was justified by the simple fact that slaves weren’t Christian. Worse—they didn’t even know about Christianity! It was obviously necessary to capture them all and take them under the loving wing of white overseers in order to educate them about the Lord and Savior, right? Jesus did say to go and make disciples of all men! And otherwise they wouldn’t be able to get into heaven! And Christian salvation was just the first perk in a long line of awesome things slaves got for being slaves!

Yeah, that was my sarcasm voice.

Slavery is rampant in the Bible. The Hebrews were God’s chosen people, and they had slaves. Not only did they have slaves, but God must have approved of them doing it, because He gave them specific rules in Deuteronomy and Leviticus on how to do slavery the Yahweh way. In the New Testament, in St. Paul’s Letter to Philemon, Paul doesn’t so much reject the idea of slavery as he recommends that slaves and their masters maintain an imbalanced system of mutual respect, e.g. slaves should be obedient to their masters, and masters should repay that obedience with compassionate lordship. (Sounds a lot like what he had to say about marriage, so, uh, yikes on that one, dude.)

In the beginning, God created a bunch of stuff, including Adam. In both of the Creation stories included in Genesis, part of the myth involves God granting dominion over the earth and all the creatures He created to Adam, to hold in stewardship. As nonwhite peoples, in particular Black Africans and brown Native Americans, were seen as lesser, subhuman, and savage by white colonialists, it was easy to argue that this sense of God-given stewardship, this paternalism by divine right, should extend to include these other races. (The troubling principles of social Darwinism later lent pseudo-scientific credence to these arguments.) Instances of cultural genocide like the Trail of Tears, the doctrine of manifest destiny, and the Indian Residential School System were all in some way justified by the God-given belief that the white man had authority over how these “lesser races” should be living their lives.

Now, this is all horrifying and unpleasant to say the least, but what does it have to do with geeky stuff? Well, this Christian paternalist mentality is front and center in the Harry Potter universe, with the serial numbers filed off just enough to make it kind of secular.

Continue reading

Throwback Thursdays: Spindle’s End

(via Wikipedia)

(via Wikipedia)

One of the dismaying parts about writing for this column is that you often discover that a thing you really liked a long time ago is super problematic when you revisit it. For example, the last time I reread a Robin McKinley book (The Blue Sword) for a Throwback Thursday, I realized that it’s a dead ringer for the Mighty Whitey trope. Of all of McKinley’s books, Spindle’s End was always one of my favorites, so it was with some trepidation that I picked it up to read it again after several years.

To my great relief, I discovered that, in leaving the world of Damar behind for a different fantasy country, McKinley left her troubling racial tropes behind as well, instead weaving a fairy tale retelling that focuses on the importance of the bonds between several very different women.

Spoilers for a sixteen-year old book after the jump!

Continue reading

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender Is Beautiful, and Definitely Strange

I’ve always loved wingfic—that is to say, stories about people with wings—ever since I was very young, and so when someone recently recommended me a magical realism book about a girl born with wings, I immediately snatched it up from the library. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that despite the actual wingfic part of the book, the rest of the book wasn’t something I was particularly into. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, by Leslye Walton, tells a story about lust, love, and loss, but fell somewhat short when it came to making the book more than an exercise in good prose. Spoilers after the jump.

Continue reading

From Pig Tails to Fat Ladies: Fatphobia in the Harry Potter Universe

While I did enjoy it, there’s still quite a lot to critique about the newest entry in the Harry Potter series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. From Queenie’s casually nonconsensual Legilimency to the general lack of people of color, at least I know that I won’t lack for post topics for a while.

One of the more egregious issues in the original series was J.K. Rowling’s ongoing conflation of fatness with badness. While Fantastic Beasts takes a small step in the right direction by making its fat character a good guy, his portrayal is still far less than ideal. Spoilers for the movie after the jump.

Continue reading