Tag Archives: pop culture

Grimdark Fatigue, or Why I Broke Up with The Walking Dead

Spoilers for The Walking Dead comic and TV series, Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire.

When I was younger I really like horror movies. Every Halloween I would have a group of friends over and we would watch movies all night long. My favorites were The Nightmare on Elm Street movies, but I liked them all. Start out with a group of characters, whittle them down until only one or two are left, then beat the bad guy.

Pop culture commentator Tara Ariano says that what you get out of these movies is catharsis, and she’s right. You deal with fear, anger, work through it and feel better at the end. That was certainly true for me.

As I got older my tastes in these things grew more selective. I liked the Alien movies, then came Pitch Black which I thought was absolutely astounding.

From here I moved on to other things, my favorite of which was The Walking Dead comic. I loved the revolving cast of characters, the situation, the sense that anyone could die (and did!)  at any moment.

However, as time went along, instead of developing a high tolerance for horror, I started to lose my ability to deal with it a little bit, lost the ability to shut out the grimness and enjoy the story. Instead of becoming desensitized, my triggers got a little more sensitive.

And one of those triggers was violence against children. I made it though a mother and a baby being shot to death, an eight-year-old twin murdering his other twin and then being shot in the head by another eight-year-old. What finally did me in was when a little boy who was running from zombies pissed himself, then was eaten while his mother tried to save herself.

That was it for me, I couldn’t deal with the grimness anymore and dropped the series.

Before this, however, came the tv series. At the start I loved it for all the same reasons I’d loved the comic series. All the death didn’t get to me. And then came the plotline where a little girl ran away, was turned into a zombie, and had to be shot in the head. I couldn’t deal with the tv series anymore and dropped it too.

In an ongoing story like this, there is no catharsis, no sense that we’ve pulled through and everything will be ok soon. It’s just one more grim situation after another.

From this, death in stories itself started to bug me more and more.

I love the Song of Ice and Fire series, but all the death there is starting to get to me too. Martin has killed off all the interesting, noble characters and replaced them with those that are much less compelling. I wanted this series to be about the triumph of the Stark family, and now the Starks are (mostly) dead. I understand that good stories don’t necessarily give readers what they think they want, but it would be nice if the good guys could get a win sometime. Then Martin goes and kills who I thought was the main character, the only one left who was fighting the good fight that needed to be fought. Just kills him dead with no warning. And I don’t know if I can deal with this series anymore. Too grim.

From here comes the Game of Thrones TV Series, based on the books. Now I haven’t seen any season 3 episodes because I don’t have HBO and am watching on Blue-Ray a year later. This series has been even more grim than the books, and talk about violence against children. They’ve slaughtered a baby, among others. In many ways the TV series has gone beyond the books in the violence they are willing to portray, but maybe it’s just the difference between reading it and seeing it.

Come this last week’s episode and the red wedding. Like I said, I haven’t seen the episode, but I knew it was coming, and I wondered how they would deal with it. If anything it seems like it goes beyond what happened in the books. They gut a pregnant lady. That did not happen in A Storm of Swords.

So now I don’t know if I can go on with this series either. Too grim. I don’t need more grim in my life. I have enough issues with mental stability as it is.

I know death is necessary in fiction. I killed off a little kid in my first published story. But there needs to be some hope in there, some catharsis, or it just overwhelms. And I don’t need to be overwhelmed by that any more.

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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in culture, writing


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Harry Potter and the Unrealistic Expectations (or: I have how many pages? To fit into 3? hours?)


I will preface my comments with the following information so you can know how seriously to take me. It’s like on Netflix, how it shows you the percentage of commentor’s scores that agree with yours.

My least favorite of the Harry Potter Books was the Fifth, Order of the Phoenix.
My favorite movie of the series was the fifth, Order of the Phoenix.

David Yates took a book that had a lot of interesting stuff in it and made it a tight, lean war story. And this was the first of the movies that felt like it was taking place in a world that was real, one that inhabited the corners, shadow regions , just-beyond the edge of your sight spaces in our own. A lot of people thought the production design was lackluster after the epic scope of Goblet of Fire, but it worked for me. This was a world like ours, gearing up for the ultimate war. So, I was really happy that they gave Yates the rest of the movies to direct. These last three books (four movies) are really one story, and it needed a consistent tone.

But for this movie, he was working against the material a little. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, while it was more successful as a novel that Order of the Phoenix, still has the same problem: There’s a lot stuffed in it. There’s the developing War, and there’s the flashbacks through Voldemort’s life, there’s the mystery of the Half-Blood prince, and the political changes at the ministry of magic, and several love stories, and the introduction of the quest for the Horcruxes, and there’s Malfoy’s secret mission and there’s … well, you get the point. There’s a lot going on. And its a good book, as all of them are, but its hard to boil down into one film that adequately hits even a majority of all of this.

So, the question was, would Yates and Kloves focus on the stuff that mattered, boil it down to the strongest bits? The answer : eehh … kind of?

You have to accept the fact that this story is not the book story. I read comic books for years. I can accept a divergent continuity. This is the movieverse, not the bookverse. You need to accept that and move on, and enjoy them each for what they are.

I think focusing on two things: the war (which encompasses Malfoy’s mission and Snape’s conflict), and the stirrings of romance was wise. We kind of get to the Horcruxes, and the half-blood prince mystery is sort of dealt with (I have a feeling that if it had not been in the title, it probably would have been cut, which may have been appropriate), but the movie picks its subjects and sticks with them. It might actually give short shift to some of the romance plotlines (one of which I really missed), but here all all the romances crammed into this book: Harry-Ginny-Dean, Ron-Lavender-Hermione, Remus and Tonks, Bill and Fleur, Neville and Luna (wait–that one was a fanfic I wrotesomeone posted on some strange website I most certainly have never visited (what?).

So, Ron-Lavender-Hermione gets most attention, Harry-Ginny kind of not really happens–Remus and Tonks just rocket through the nonsense and are presented as a couple. Bill and Fleur and the whole werewolf plotline … um … not there at all. Actually we haven’t seen Bill or Charlie at all in these movies, have we?

Anyway, we also lose most of the Voldemort backstory. I wonder why they included any of it at all, frankly, because without most of what they cut, it was kind of pointless.

The battle at Hogwarts was … a couple of death eaters yelling in the hallway. So … not a win there

I really liked the movie, but it did seem to meander somewhat, I don’t know how they could have done what I really wanted, which was to make it both 30 minutes shorter but put back in Bill and Fleur and make the ending battle more signifigant, and bring some clarity back to the Half-Blood Prince thing. Maybe cut some of the Quidditch/Slughorn stuff? I don’t know.

I see why they made the cuts they made, but they kind of removed some of the urgency, and should have given us more of a payoff for the Harry-Ginny stuff.

I don’t know… they did, at least, keep the zombies, so that was a win there. Maybe I’m not that hard to please after all.

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Posted by on July 23, 2009 in culture


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Damned Baptists would be an awesome name for a band.

I like to say my first favorite TV show ever was Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. This is not true. My first favorite TV show ever was Charlie’s Angels. My favorite Angel? Surprisingly, not Farrah Fawcett’s Jill. It was Chris, her replacement, played by Cheryl Ladd. But Farrah Fawcett was cool too. My favorite Farrah era was her crazy years, where she babbled on Lettermand and there were stories that she was throwing wild parties and defecating on her own lawn (I blame Ryan O’Neil). This was just after the critically acclaimed Burning Bed years. But I was too young to watch that. Still, Farrah, I salute you. Go gently into that good night. You deserve the rest now.

And Michael Jackson’s Thriller was the first album I ever really wanted to buy, but wasn’t allowed to because it was unholy rock music(yeah, right!) and my church did not approve. This was also the era in which I was not allowed to go see Return of the Jedi because the church frowned on its members going to “the show,” and the cool kids called it in 1984. Damn Baptists … sorry, I know I’m going someplace bad now. Michael Jackson’s amazing flame out out of weird accusations and long-delayed projects (hello Katrina relief song?) was just as entertaining as Farrah’s. But Michael’s work was good. Black and White is still my favorite MJ song (will not go near Man in the Mirror), but I always thought he was kind of a sad case always trying to reclaim a childhood that was stolen from him by the mass media and an abusive father.

I think we all kind of knew it was going to end suddenly, so Michael, go get some peace as well now.

weirdness note: I found out about MJ’s death via a twitter message form Randall Flagg. This will give me something to talk about with the psychiatrist next week.

Sorry, I got nothing on Ed McMahon, except that I was always really hoping he was going to show up at my house with balloons and a giant check, and am still somewhat disappointed it did not happen.

Anyway, Farrah, MJ, ED … go gently and all that …

adding her condolences:


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Posted by on June 26, 2009 in culture


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Turning and Turning on the Widening Gyre

Recently, I’ve noticed that the world seems to be remaking itself into the one that I grew up in (very soon you will see how old I really am).

Russia invades Georgia, threatens Poland, and the Cold War, it is back on, Baby! Complete with the threat of nuclear annihilation (ah, promise of Mutually Assured Destruction, how we’ve missed you).

The Watchmen are in pop culture once again, complete with those awesome ads based on the original comic book ads, way, way, back in the day (which was a Wednesday, as always.)

My son’s favorite cartoos, and the toys that are cluttering up our house …. Transformers. G.I. Joes also seems poised for a comeback.

North and South Korea are once again competing in the Olympics as two different countries.

Indiana Jones is running away from bad guys again (and so is my first movie-crush, Marion Ravenwood). Commies instead of nazis, but we’ll take what we can get.

My pant size is back to where it was when I was a freshman in high school in, oh, …. let’s say say it was before the fall of the Berlin wall and leave it at that.

And now … this:

someone hold me …

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Posted by on August 27, 2008 in Uncategorized


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