Monthly Archives: May 2011

Previously on Anthems on Anthems: Part 1

2) The big bad in season 10 is Darkseid. Unlike Doomsday, Darkseid is a cerebral antagonist, plotting against and subverting his opponents through strategy. His presence in the latter season of Smallville gnaws at the fringes of each character and he becomes fully realized in the last episode. He succeeds in infecting Oliver Queen and uses him to try and take down Clark Kent on his wedding day with gold kryptonite.

A fight ensues between Clark and Darkseid-infected Oliver Queen. Lois tries to intervene in her wedding dress and heels, only to get swung across the room by the adversary. Then Clark tries to talk some sense into Oliver. He tells Oliver: “I believe in you.” The darkness within Oliver is driven out. Crisis averted. Wait. What?!

I understand that Superman is a Judeo-Christian allegory, but the position Smallville undertakes is particularly Born-Again Christian. Clark basically converts Oliver back to his side. At the end of the finale, all of Metropolis believes in a “higher power”, but not before he saves them from…

3) Darkseid has arranged for his home planet, Apokolips, to collide with Earth. The American government’s strategy in this case scenario: blow that thing right outta the sky, sacrificing a couple of million people to save the entire planet.

Uh, ok…

So Lois decides this is a bad idea and makes it onto Air Force One by stealing some 2-dimensional bitch’s security pass onto the plane (?). As Air Force One is airborne, Lois makes it past security (??) and tries to reason with the Secretary of Defense. She convinces him to wait 5 minutes for her hero. (???)

Meanwhile, Clark and Darkseid-incarnate finally come face-to-face. They duke it out and Darkseid sends Clark flying…literally. For some reason, the writers thought it a good idea to write in Clark’s discovery of flight through a flashback montage to demonstrate that he’s always had that power in him. Clark then flies forward to Darkseid, vanquishing him with one punch. Deus ex machina.

Having realized the full scope of his abilities, Jor-El finally deems him worthy of the Superman outfit we all know and love.

Apokolips’ collision is imminent and Air Force One trembles in the turbulence, which poses the question why the hell is a plane carrying the President in the sky when the Earth is about to be destroyed?

Answer: because it’s convenient to the plot. Clark stabilizes the plane, saving everyone in it — an act/image we have all come to associate with Superman. He then uses his super-strength to push Apokolips away from the Earth, saving everyone, thus “converting” them into believers.

4) In between all of that, Lex Luthor is alive! Thanks to crazy old man Luthor (Lionel) who sells his soul to Darkseid in order to revive him… I think. It’s all too unclear and rendered a bit too convenient, but there you have it.

Clark and Lex meet again and don’t battle it out. They just talk. Nothing is really said and Clark zooms off to save the day. A bit later, Lex kills his sister Tess Mercer and she dies in his arms, but not before smearing on his face some serum that wipes his memory clean. Deus ex machina.

Seven years later, Lex Luthor is president. LuthorCorp is LexCorp and, really, there was no point in bringing back Lex Luthor other than to please the fans and set a precedent for future episodes that won’t exist.

The whole finale suffers from nonsensical plot points and easy-way-outs. Deus ex machinas and kitsch. The series ends with a bumbling Clark Kent at the Daily Planet. He dashes to the rooftop where he rips his work shirt in the classic pose to reveal the S symbol of his hero uniform underneath. Punctuating the action is the anthemic John Williams’ Superman theme as Clark whisks away to save the day.

I keep telling myself Smallville is a string of great ideas plagued by stagnant writing and rigid filmmaking, but that’s not quite it. The Superman iconography is what provided the groundwork for potential greatness, but the creators and producers did not realize that with great power comes great responsibility.

Tune in next week for Part 3! In which I reveal secrets of the show that you weren’t supposed to know!

After 10 seasons, numerous awards and, uh, “praise”, Smallville – the Warner Bros. young adult-friendly series chronicling the life of a young, no flight, no tights Clark Kent before he becomes the iconic Superman – came to an end on Friday May 13 2011. The series finale was an epic 90 minutes, but please, do not confuse my use of the word “epic” to signify that that hour and a half was well worth my time.

Smallville was a great idea. With great ideas attached. As I read the Wikipedia article on the series and how the show developers, Alfred Gough & Miles Millar, introduced it to the WB executives, I bite. They got me. Well, they had me for about 7 seasons then season 8 is when they totally lost me. Think about it, how could you bring in a character as sensational as Doomsday — the ultimate Superman adversary might I remind — and have him destroyed by an unrealized Superman and the motley crew version of the Justice League with essentially one big blow? For the fanboy, it’s ridiculous. For the writer, it’s lazy. Deus ex machina — a plot device utilized in more than one occasion by the show to defeat a big bad that had been an ongoing threat at the underbelly of the entire season. It takes on the form of a super bad-ass, fail-safe plan that Clark Kent just came up with through Star Trek-like application of basic physics with an idiosyncratic comic book twist. That’s basically what happened in the season 8 finale. Because Doomsday is raw power, only the Earth’s core can imprison it. Why? Because it’s convenient to the plot.

That’s what completely took me out of the show. Suspension of disbelief or not, Smallville had gone from formulating a carefully crafted universe and taking you along for a ride to creating a carefully contrived super universe and jerking you around. I did not watch an episode since that season 8 finale and decided, what the fuck, let’s see how this shit storm ends.

Let me list for you the nonsensical plot points and writerly mishaps of the series finale — an episode that has received predominantly positive reviews across the internet board:

Lois & Clark get married! Before he incarnates Superman!

1) OK, I missed the whole Clark Kent-Lois Lane official hook-up and I could care less. Tom Welling and Erica Durance have the chemistry of a post in relation to another post. I never bought it. It doesn’t help that neither are that talented of actors and it certainly did not help that Tom Welling wasn’t trying. Nevertheless, there they are in the series finale about to get married, Lois feeling she will only get in Clark’s way, that she would be selfish to distract Clark from his duties.

My initial reaction is: “Wow, that woman has a large ego.” Lois is probably the most ill-conceived, underwritten character in Smallville after Clark. Since her introduction in season 4, the relationship between Lois and Clark has been at-arms-length. The writers knew they had to allow the Lana-Clark story to reach a smooth conclusion since they had been building that story up since the series started. Thus, rather than derailing Clark’s attraction to Lana, the show’s producers felt that it would be best to deflect any attraction between Lois and Clark yet still write in some sort of burgeoning relationship. This was not successful.

In season 8, with Clark entering the world of journalism, Lois suddenly sees potential in Clark. The writers show this through moments of jealousy and gushing gazes on the part of Lois. Meanwhile, Clark is so involved in saving the world, his interest in Lois is friendly at best as it has been since she joined the cast in season 4. Traditionally, Lois Lane is supposed to be the one completely enraptured by her career and Clark, still allied with his hero-complex, is the one to seek out Lois Lane’s affection. The story’s gender relations have completely shifted from the 1930’s Jerry Siegel version; the latter oddly appearing more progressive than the former.

The marriage happens – sort of – in an overlong, schmaltzy shot-counter-shot of Lois and Clark at the alter, the shots cross-dissolving from one to the other. Their vows – that they wrote themselves and we know this because they had read them to us earlier in the episode – are voiced-over (but their lips do not move). Like I said, schmaltzy.

Tune in for Pt. 2 next week! In which I discuss: Darkseid, Lex Luthor’s return & Clark Kent fulfilling his destiny!

I remember growing up, watching Roseanne. Once, following an episode, I went up to my mom and told her, “When I grow up, I want to be just like Roseanne Conner,” to which my mom responded, “Darling, that’s not a good thing.”

Even at a young age – I was around 7 when I actively watched the show – I sensed a tension that englobed the microcosm of the show. The show’s history is marked with in-fighting, drama, creative differences and abuse — all of which I was not aware of and if I were I could hardly wrap my mind around such viciousness. But still I sensed and knew there was something going on off-screen — a battle, if you will, that Roseanne was continuously fighting to be the woman I admired on screen.

I understand my mom. The last thing you’d want to hear from your daughter is that she wants to grow up to be a mouthy housewife with a tough attitude. Not to say there’s anything wrong with that, but for my mom an apt role model for her daughter was Doctor Quinn Medicine Woman. As a kid, I guess I didn’t have the eloquence to say “When I grow up I want to be a feminist that stands up for what she believes in just like Roseanne.”

With all of this hoopla over Charlie Sheen, Roseanne Barr thought it was time to show things the way they were and how they haven’t changed a bit in the TV industry.

The end of my addiction to fame happened at the exact moment Roseanne dropped out of the top ten, in the seventh of our nine seasons. It was mysteriously instantaneous! I clearly remember that blackest of days, when I had my office call the Palm restaurant for reservations on a Saturday night, at the last second as per usual. My assistant, Hilary, who is still working for me, said—while clutching the phone to her chest with a look of horror, a look I can recall now as though it were only yesterday: “The Palm said they are full!” Knowing what that really meant sent me over the edge. It was a gut shot with a sawed-off scattershot, buckshot-loaded pellet gun. I made Hil call the Palm back, disguise her voice, and say she was calling from the offices of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Instantly, Hil was given the big 10-4 by the Palm management team.

Read the full New York Magazine article here.

*A sestina is, as a former poetry classmate put it, “Italian for long fucking poem.” I challenged my colleague Whitney French to a sestina-off to close-off National Poetry Month. Read hers here. And vote! (poll below poem)

Soldier, you mimic your older brother – left, right, march.

Gripping tightly to your pellet gun, you take aim, you pull the trigger.

You throw down your plastic army helmet, your shot, you missed,

got your brother in the arm, but you were aiming for his heart.

He never saw it coming, he got dizzy, things turned white

Yes, you got him in the arm, but really you got his pride.

Then the curse words start spewing, attacking your pride

and you stand there taking it, refusing to march

and you stand there taking it, as your face turns white.

The words he spews take on a personal tone and so they trigger

instances forgotten, memories so close to your heart

the lover you had, the lover he stole, the lover you miss.

Suddenly this is no game, you wish you hadn’t missed

No way will he get away bruising your pride

No way will he get away again, stomping on your heart,

but the tirade persists from his mouth and he marches

all over you as you place your finger on that trigger.

You lay things out for him in black and white:

At one point in your life you thought him whiter than white

He was the one you’d look up to, the one you’d miss

when he’d be gone fighting wars more sombre than the triggered

woes of a younger sibling’s lost pride.

Then he’d come back home when it was still cold. It was March

and he’d never seen you with that weight on your sleeve. It was your heart.

Her name was Rain and she had Heimliched your heart

from inside your chest onto your sleeve, so white.

The feeling was so apparent, he could not turn away and march,

he was back now, making up for all of the times he missed

this included a – perhaps unintended – war on your pride,

which, and he was sorry, a lovely girl like that tends to trigger.

He looks at you meek, eyes full of the tears you triggered,

weighed down by the emotional battle at heart.

Can you blame him, soldier? Him and his loose pride?

He was never one to pretend black is white

and he certainly did not intend to lead on the Miss.

That is why he marches

And you march on, your hand nowhere near the trigger

Onward, away from that which you miss, regaining your heart

But the flag you carry is not white, it is the emblem of a little brother’s pride.

(c) 2011


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