Why You SHOULDN’T Be Watching Agents Of SHIELD

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

And welcome to my third, and final, review of Joss Whedon’s Agents of SHIELD.

Those of you who follow my blog know that in my first review of the series, I said that it was entertaining, but highly clichéd and lacking in substance. Then, in my second discussion of the show, I described how impressed I was with some of the choices that the writers made in terms of plot and character development, and thus gave it a higher rating. Now, in my final look at the franchise, I will tell you in plain English that you can only eat so much shit with sugar on top of it before you realize that what you’re eating is, in fact, just that–shit. Stinking, steaming, stone-hard shit. That’s what this series is, and I’ll tell you why.

First off, remember how in my earliest review I said that I admired the fact that this show didn’t have too much overarching plot and gratuitous character drama–how it was nice to see a classic action/adventure series in the tradition of David Carradine’s Kung Fu? Well, forget everything I said, because by the middle of it’s FIRST season, Agents of SHIELD develops SO many goddamn sub-plots, ranging from the character Coulson’s quest to understand how he got brought back to life, to the hacker Skye’s search for her parents, to the team’s repeated clashes with an evil organization headed by a professed Clairvoyant–that it’s enough to make your head spin. To quote the great Sweet Brown, “Ain’t Nobody got time for that!”

Second, I once gave PRAISE to this series for making some bold choices–like having the comic relief character Fitz turn out to be a bad ass, like giving the stony-faced Asian stereotype May a sense of humor, and most importantly, having the pretty boy Ward start a relationship with her, and not Skye, whom everyone predicted would be his love interest. Now, however, I have to take back all the compliments I gave the show, because its pretty much made all those interesting changes null and void. Fitz’s cool side has never re-surfaced, May’s sense of humor has vanished as quickly as it came, and not only are she and Ward no longer together, he pretty much came out and said that he was in love with Skye the whole time. This latter detail is particularly frustrating to me, because I thought it was a clever, original, and very interesting choice to have the show’s romantic center be a relationship between a younger White man and a middle-aged woman of color. Not only is this very rarely shown in the media, it also goes against all audience expectations. So often when you watch a show, you can tell straight off the bat who’s going to end up with who–in Glee, you know Finn and Rachel will be together, in Avatar, it’s obvious that Aang and Katara will get married some day. With Agents of SHIELD, that apparent romantic pair up initially looked like Ward and Skye–the show’s two sex appeal characters. I was so ready to see it happen, was so prepared to watch a predictable, made for a horny fan base romance, but then, May and Ward started sleeping together, and I was thrown totally off guard. I started questioning my own expectations, and even began to have hope for the series. But then, of course, the writers had to ruin one of the few good things they had going for themselves by having Ward not only cheat on May, but also tell her she meant nothing to him. This choice seemed both contrived and unrealistic to me, because if you think about it, May and Ward have a lot more in common than the latter an Skye do. Both are fighters. Both are cut from the same cloth. Both have suffered through trauma in the past. It honestly felt like the writers were desperate to find a way to give the horny fans the pair up that they wanted, and not the one that made sense. This decision to break up the show’s only interracial couple is troubling for another, even greater reason though. It confirms all my worst suspicions that the media doesn’t want people of different ethnicities marrying and intermingling. This might seem like a bold, and somewhat absurd assumption to make, but if you think about it, it isn’t all too far fetched. Nearly every movie, play, or TV show made that features an interracial couple ends with that couple breaking up. If you don’t believe me, then just look at Harry Potter, Jungle Fever, Snow Falling On Cedars, Mr Nobody, Scott Pilgrim Vs The WorldGlee, FriendsScandal, Othello, Madame Butterfly, and Miss Saigon for your proof. Even more disturbing than having the couples’ love end in tragedy, these productions also go out of their way to make the people of color seem less desirable than the White love interests. In Harry Potter, for instance, the protagonist’s Asian girlfriend, Cho Chang, is written as weaker and more emotionally fragile than his White one, Jenny. Similarly, in Agents of SHIELD, the Asian woman, Melinda May, is frigid, stern and cold in comparison to the bubbly and outgoing White girl Skye. Now just what kind of message is that sending to all of us at home? A bad and fallacious one, that’s what!

Anyway, after sitting through these last few episodes of Agents of SHIELD, I just lost all faith in the series. It jumped the shark so much that it damn near sent the cast into orbit. That is why my final grade for the show is a full on 6 out of 10! It’s not just bad, it’s offensive. It won’t just irritate you, it will piss you off. No matter how you approach it–as a nerd, as a romantic, as a writer–it is guaranteed to both disappoint and disgust you. Do not, and I repeat, do not waste your time with it.

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Beautiful, But Unbelievable: Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are The Game.

Despite being blessed with some superb visuals, and an absolutely astounding soundtrack, Christopher Nolan’s space odyssey, Interstellar, is no modern masterpiece. It’s predictable in some places, unrealistic in others, and flat out silly towards the end. In addition to this, it has several sub-plots that are introduced towards the beginning of the film, but never get addressed later on.

Perhaps I should elaborate. Interstellar is set in the near future, in a time when Earth has become so barren and desolate that NASA is sending people out into space to find new planets for human’s to inhabit. You can tell straight away that this film is absurd when you see how they choose the people for these missions. For instance, one member of the group, Matthew McConaughey, is selected when he and his daughter accidentally stumble across NASA’s facility, and then the man in charge of the whole operation, Michael Caine, says, “Hey Matt, you were a pilot back in the day, let’s send you on this crucial to the survival of the entire human race mission, which you didn’t train for and had know prior knowledge of.” As you can imagine, things only go downhill from there. In addition to making NASA out to be desperate, incompetent idiots, the film also shows us such impossibilities as cryogenic hibernation, and ejecting yourself from a spaceship into a black hole, which somehow transports you to a realm between space and time where you can talk to people in the past, but only through Morse code. Yeah! I told you it was silly. But what makes it even worse is that this film is by Christopher Nolan, a man who’s gained a reputation for making super sophisticated, grounded in science movies. That’s what his whole campaign for this film was–that, while fiction, it was a story that was all theoretically possible. Nolan said in various interviews that he consulted different Theoretical Physicists, like Dr Kip Thorpe, to ensure the film’s authenticity, and for about the first two-thirds of the picture, you can almost believe that. ALMOST. There’s a lot of astronomical jargon, and the representations of space and zero gravity environments seem reasonably accurate. But then, for the sake of giving us a happy ending, Nolan just throws all that science out the window, and we’re left wondering why, if he was just going to cop out with a magic, trans-dimensional portal, he even bothered trying to make his film realistic at all.

But, all ridiculousness and scientific impossibilities aside, the film is also a failure from a narrative perspective. The first twenty minutes or so are all back-story, which add nothing to the overall plot and, for the most part, never get mentioned later. At the start of the film, for instance, McConaughey has a flashback that reveals he was once in an accident. Why, you might ask, did Nolan decide to include this little vignette? I haven’t the faintest idea, because it serves absolutely no purpose. The accident itself never comes into play later in the movie, and it doesn’t appear to have ad any real impact on McConaughey’s character. Hell, he never even mentions it to anyone else. Similarly, there’s a, quite lengthy, scene within the first five minutes or so, in which he and his children are shown driving through a field of corn in pursuit of a predator drone. The movie never explains why they were chasing the drone to begin with, and as with the accident flashback, the event never resurfaces later in the plot.

In the end, what all these abandon sub-plots and scientific impossibilities in a supposedly possible scenario add up to is a visually appealing, but structurally muddled and insultingly silly movie-going experience. 6 out of 10, if you ask me. The only reason I’m not giving it a failing “5” is its cinematography and special effects. I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody, but I don’t suppose my opinion will make much difference, seeing as the movie’s already made four times its, rather large, budget in box office money. Still, I want to warn any of you out there who might be thinking about going to see it, don’t have high expectations for anything but its visuals and soundtrack.

Why You SHOULD Be Watching Agents Of SHIELD!

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Remember how yesterday I uploaded a review of Joss Whedon’s Agents Of SHIELD, and all I could do was list the show’s weaker qualities? Well, you can officially disregard everything I said, because I kept watching it today, and man, oh man, did it get better! It’s still witty, still well-acted, and without giving away too much, let me just say that the writers did a good job of giving certain characters more depth and back-story than I had previously expected, and threw in a couple of curve balls, including a certain romantic pair up, that I would never have seen coming. True, non comic book fans and people who have never seen the other Marvel movies will still be in the dark on certain things, but honestly, having seen these last few episodes, I feel a lot less hesitant to recommend this show to people. That is why I am officially updating my score for this series to 8 out of 10. It’s super exciting, super fun, and it only gets better as time passes. Check it out!

Should You Be Watching Agents of SHIELD?

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

 

Loved ones, I have a confession to make. I…am a nerd. There! I said it. I’m a nerd. And not just a little one, mind you. A HUGE one. I read comic books and manga, watch anime, write fan-fiction, go to comic-con, and wait in line to see whatever new superhero movie is out. One of my all-time goals as a Screenwriter is to write and produce my own original Superhero movie, and to make an adaptation of Batman set in Red China. Just about the only thing I haven’t yet done is Cosplay, and honestly, these days I’m starting to give it some serious consideration.

 

Anyway, the reason I’ve confessed my geekdom to you all is to help you understand why I recently started watching Agents of SHIELD. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a Superhero/Espionage series that aired on ABC in 2013, and has continued running up to the present. Based on the Marvel Comics spy agency SHIELD (which either is an acronym for Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division, or Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division), the series focuses on a team of six agents traveling around the world, fighting crime, and solving mysteries, all against the backdrop of such Superhero movies as Iron Man, Thor, and The Avengers, with frequent references made throughout the series to the latter picture. It’s simple, but highly entertaining. Too many shows start off with a great general premise, but then get bogged down with too much over-arching plot or character drama. Not this one! It is, in many ways, very much like the 1970s Western Kung-Fu, in that the only thing that remains constant about the series are the characters, who in every episode must face a new, unrelated challenge to the one’s they’ve previously encountered. It’s well-acted and well-written, with some truly funny dialogue in it, and better yet, it’s directed by Joss Whedon. For those of you who don’t know who he is, he’s widely referred to as the Feminist God of the Geeks. He created and wrote for a number of highly successful action/sci-fi series in the late 90s and early 2000s, such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, and more recently, has worked on films like The Cabin In The Woods and The Avengers. He’s known for writing strong, well-rounded female characters , and stories that focus on diverse groups working together and achieving great things. Basically, he’s the kind of writer I aspire to be.

 

But, I digress, as much as I enjoy this series, and as many merits as I see in its craft, I do still have some problems with it. First of all, if you’re not a geek, there’s going to be a lot that you won’t understand. The show is banking on the fact that its viewers have seen the other movies in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, specifically The Avengers. Not only does it make frequent reference to these other works, in many cases, characters or plot elements from those movies actually play a part in some episodes. So, if you’re new to Marvel or the whole Superhero/Comic Book mythology, I’m sorry, but you probably shouldn’t watch this. Also, unlike other Joss Whedon projects, which usually have some kind of underlying message, like teamwork or open-mindedness, this series has none. It’s just pure escapism. And lastly, as hard as the writers of this show have tried to give each of their characters depth and personality, the characters themselves are still pretty cliched. There’s Agent Phil Coulson, who appeared in many of the other Marvel movies, and who acts as the tough, but tender-hearted leader. There’s Agent Grant Ward, the stereotypical pretty-boy spy. There’s the hacker Skye, who’s obviously just there to be Ward’s love interest. There’s the Scotsman Fitz, and the Englishwoman Simmons, who both serve as the series’ nerdy comic relief. And finally, there’s Agent Melinda May, who, I’m sad to say this but, is clearly just a female version of Bruce Lee’s character Kato in The Green Hornet, in that she’s the stoic Asian driver who dresses in black and knows Kung-Fu. Seriously. That’s all she does. She’s given the least amount of personality, and dialogue, out of any of the main characters, and when she does say something, her sentences are short and clipped, and she rarely emotes. As both a Chinese-American and a hardcore Feminist, I was truly saddened to see this stereotypical role for an Asian woman, especially in a Joss Whedon production. This character is just more evidence that people in the entertainment industry are completely okay with typecasting Asian people, and exploiting Asian stereotypes. If you don’t believe me, then ask yourself: when was the last time that you saw a movie or show where the Asian men weren’t Kung-Fu masters or wimpy nerds, and the Asian women weren’t demure, butterfly girlfriends or Dragon-Lady Assassins? As both a writer, and an actor who experienced a great deal of typecasting, I would love to write stories with strong, well-rounded, and most importantly, non-stereotypical roles for people of color, particularly women, and if there are any women out there who have comments or would like to give me advice, I would greatly appreciate it.

 

But, alas, I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to the show! In spite of all its flaws, I still really like it and would give it an overall rating of 7 out of 10. It’s witty, well-acted, and just entertaining enough to get you to overlook its weaker aspects. Plus, I like the fact that there are an equal number of men and women in the lead, and that there isn’t one main protagonist. And as much as I dislike the character of Melinda May, I was both pleased and impressed with Whedon’s decision to cast Ming Na Wen of The Joy Luck Club, Mulan, and ER in the role. Why? Because, despite the fact that Ms. Wen is extremely talented and still very beautiful, she’s now well into her fifties, and these days it is extremely rare for a TV show, much less an action series, to cast a middle-aged woman as one of the leads. So, in conclusion, if you’re a fan of the Marvel Universe, or are simply willing to go back and watch a bunch of movies before you see this show, I guarantee you that you’ll enjoy yourself. You’ll laugh, cheer, and be hanging on the edge of your seat, hoping for the Agents of SHIELD to prevail.

The Beggars On The Street

She’s Young,

She’s White,

She’s A She.

 

I Am Touched By Her Sign And Spoken Pleas.

I Empty My Pockets Of Change,

And Pour The Coins Into Her Outstretched Hand.

 

Why?

 

he’s old,

he’s black,

he’s a he.

 

i recoil in horror when he looks my way.

i lower my head and walk on past,

pretending i can’t see him.

 

Why?

The Beggars On The Street

She’s Young,

She’s White,

She’s A She.

 

I Am Touched By Her Sign And Spoken Pleas.

I Empty My Pockets Of Change,

And Pour The Coins Into Her Outstretched Hand.

 

Why?

 

he’s old,

he’s black,

he’s a he.

 

i recoil in horror when he looks my way.

i lower my head and walk on past,

pretending I can’t see him.

 

why?