I started watching Supernatural in 2013, which is quite late for a show that aired on a channel that went defunct in 2006 (The WB). Supernatural itself had aired a year earlier, in 2005, and with its eleventh season became the longest running American fantasy television series in history. In 2013, I was a junior in college, just starting to develop a critical consciousness and an awareness of feminism, but at that point I had spent years immersed in fandom, so I was familiar with media criticism.
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.
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”
- Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott (★★★★★)
- The Pawn by Skye Warren (★★★☆☆)
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (★★★☆☆)
- The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells (★★★☆☆)
- Bright We Burn by Kiersten White (★★★★★)
- An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson (★★★★☆)
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (★★★★☆)
- A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (★★★☆☆)
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte(★★★☆☆)
- Not That Bad by Roxane Gay (★★★★★)
- Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (RTC)
MONTHLY TOTAL: 11
YEARLY SO FAR: 70
This has been a surprisingly productive month. I read way more books than I expected to, and a lot of them were books that were in my backlog, meaning I have been wanting to read them for a long, long time. I finally finished Jane Eyre (a book I started in March!), and I read three other classics to make up for that lost time. I got a couple of YA books in as well, one a new release (Bright We Burn), and the other an older release that has been on my list since it came out (An Enchantment of Ravens). I also got in literary, thriller, nonfiction, and even dipped my toes into the erotica/dark romance genre. And I read nearly everything that I had on my TBR post!
I haven’t actually finished Spinning Silver yet, but I’m 80% of the way through, so I’m sure I’ll be done by the end of my 90 minute commute, lol. I’ll try to get the review out before tomorrow, since I’ll be super busy preparing to leave for the airport, and I really want Goodreads to mark it as finished and reviewed in August. It’s also the only book I’m reading at the moment, which I did on purpose; I wanted to clear out everything before I leave for Egypt just so that I could feel organized and free to start whatever book I want.
I haven’t yet decided if I’m taking my laptop with me to Egypt, but if I don’t, I’ll probably vanish from here for two weeks, because my aunt, who we’re staying with, doesn’t actually have internet at all, so I’ll just be on my phone. But I might just take my computer in the end because I’m enrolled in three classes this semester and they’ve all started, so I’ll need access to Blackboard. Not to mention there might be some Fulbright stuff I have to finish up. I don’t like taking my laptop while traveling unless I absolutely have to, though, so we’ll see.
Mini TV Update: I am completely behind on everything I need to catch up on from last month, and yet somehow I managed to binge two whole other shows. One is called Safe, a British thriller starring Michael C. Hall which was really twisty, and the other is American Gothic, which was also a really twisty thriller/family drama. Both are on Netflix! I also started watching Father Brown; I’m only two episodes in but I’m already loving it. It’s about a Catholic priest who solves crimes. This isn’t even the only British show with a crime-solving clergyman lmao. It’s not even one of two (although the other one also takes place in the 1950s). Why are there so many British shows with crime-solving clergymen?