Monsterland is kind of like Black Mirror, only with supernatural creatures instead of technology. Based on the short story collection North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud, it is indeed very American in its horrors; I might even call it a modern iteration of American Gothic. It’s not a Creature Feature; though the monsters are very, very present, they are not the focus of the horror. They are only peripheral to the very human characters’ trauma and the hard and sometimes despicable choices they find themselves forced to make when put between a rock and a hard place.
Monsterland is an indictment of the failures of the so-called American Dream. Its characters struggle with poverty, sub-par healthcare, sexual assault, lack of abortion access, racism, abusive parents, corporate greed, mental health, and more. The realism inherent in their struggles elicits an existential dread that easily eclipses any fear of monsters. And no, it’s not particularly subtle in its messaging, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a show very suitable for 2020, and I absolutely loved it.
I want to talk about the individual episodes, but it’s very difficult to do so without spoiling some plot elements, so be aware of that if you continue to read, if you want to remain totally unspoiled. However, while I’ll be revealing significant plot details, I’ll avoid revealing any major twists or reveals.
Elizabeth Jennings is one of the most complex female characters I’ve ever come across. She is an undercover KGB agent posing as a travel agent in 1980s Virginia, at the height of the Cold War, with her husband Phillip and their two American-born children. From the outside they seem like the perfect American couple, but in reality, their lives are full of spying, lying, betrayal, and murder. What is especially intriguing about Phillip and Elizabeth, however, is that it is Elizabeth who is the cold, closed-off emotional enigma, while Phillip often showcases vulnerability and honesty.
If you know me, you know I watch a ton of television. Like, a truly obscene amount. In fact the reason I probably don’t read as much as I could is because I spent most of my free time watching television. I could spend a lot of time talking about how I think television is just another storytelling medium and is therefore just as respectable as books, but instead I’ll just give you a bunch of TV shows I think make for great binge-watching. Continue reading “5 TV Shows To Binge Watch”→
A little over two years ago, I wrote an article for The Mary Sue called The Complicated Role of Arabs in American Television. In said article, I discussed the dearth of roles for Arabs on TV, and then proceeded to do an in-depth analysis of the – at the time – only three Arab characters in the history of American television. Two weren’t even played by Arab actors, and only one had a plotline that didn’t revolve around terrorism in some way.
When I saw the ad for Ramy, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it. A whole show about Arab-Americans? On a popular American streaming service? A show about Arab-Americans in America that has nothing at all do with terrorism? A comedy, at that? With actual Arab actors speaking actual Arabic instead of mangled gibberish? Continue reading “TV Corner: Ramy”→