This time last week, I awoke to find myself in an election-shaped cloud of despair. I stumbled out of bed, walked over to my mom, and simply muttered, “I hate people.”
The week since has been a combination of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and…nope, not there yet. I’m really not making a political post. I mean, by the very nature of this, I suppose I am, but this isn’t going to be some long political rant about where our country is going and what this election means for our future. It’s not. Politically, I’m a liberal socialist. Election Night was kind of like watching all of my sociological nightmares come to life, but that’s not really what I’m here to discuss. I’m writing this because lately I’ve needed comfort food, and I get comfort food in the form of pop culture. With that in mind, I thought I’d share some of the films, TV shows and podcasts which helped to get me through the week (and thus saved my family from having to hide my belts and shoelaces):
Has there ever been a better children’s film antidote to the xenophobic vitriol that reared its ugly head in the months leading up to the election? Perhaps, but has there ever been one with a cuter fox and bunny? Didn’t think so. There’s a delightfully anthropomorphized world in which predators and prey live in, if not harmony, then at least toleration and a mystery thread right out of Chinatown. However, what separates Zootopia from a dozen or so other Disney tales of plucky heroines saving the day and realizing their dreams is its message against panic and extreme action in the face of danger. Zootopia gives us a world that promises paradise and un-challenged harmony, but in all actuality the world is more complicated than those ideals. It’s a film which uniformly condemns prejudices and judging individuals based on stereotypes and preconceptions, and while that may not seem so revelatory, right now it’s a welcome, refreshing message. Near the end of the film, the surprise villain proclaims, “fear always works.”
Zootopia’s response is far more complicated: that’s true, but only if individuals refuse to act against it. It’s probably a bit too optimistic in its beliefs that one person (or bunny) can make a difference, but it also reminds children (and their parents) “life’s a bit messy. We all make mistakes. No matter what type of animal you are, change starts with you.” Honestly, there’s probably not a better message for kids to hear right now.
It’s so fitting to be writing about Fox’s genre-busting Lucifer, since it rounded out its most recent episode by having its titular fallen angel assure his therapist (and the viewing public) that Donald Trump, while not dead, is definitely going to Hell. Of course, I was using Lucifer as TV comfort food anyway, but that quick little joke confirmed I’d picked the right show to sooth my soul. .
I’m beginning to think of Lucifer as the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer of the 21st century. Now, before you come after me with torches and wooden stakes, let me explain. While Lucifer started as a vaguely-supernatural procedural (like a slightly darker Forever or Castle), its second season could make it eligible for some sort of TV Most Improved Award. Yes, it’s still breezy and funny and yes, the cast is one of television’s most photogenic, but it’s more than that. It’s become one of tv’s most effortlessly entertaining genre shows.
Like Buffy, Lucifer shifts tone without any difficulty, veering from comedy to suspense to legit heart-felt drama. It may not do it as well as Joss Whedon’s masterpiece once did, but it does it better than any other genre show this side of Doctor Who. Also, like Buffy, it thrives due to an incredibly capable ensemble. Tom Ellis (Lucifer) plays the lead like a wounded jester. He seems to coast through life with nary a scar, but a minimal scratch at his veneer reveals a damaged psyche. I single out Ellis because he’s the lead and the show rises and falls on the shades he brings to the character, but every cast member—Lauren German, Kevin Alejandro, D.B. Woodside, Lesley-Ann Brandt, Rachel Harris, Tricia Helfer—they’re all doing brilliant work and have the kind of chemistry that some shows just luck into.
I’d be remiss, though, if I also didn’t point out its other thematic cousin, Joss Whedon’s other vampire show, Angel. Both series are about redemption and attempting to balance place and purpose in the face of all-powerful cosmic forces. They’re both series of broken, damaged characters existing in Los Angeles and creating makeshift families. Lucifer is ultimately a show about damaged children and the complicated relationships between parents and their offspring, only told an epic, Christian-mythology scale. For all the talk that morality is dying and the fear that the end times are upon us and that we’re going to Hell in a handbasket, it’s the ultimate ironic twist that a series about the devil takes one of the more serious, philosophical approaches to Christian faith.
The series exists in a world where there unquestionably is a God, although understanding what He actually wants is about as complicated as it is in real life. It takes the radical approach that it’s not necessarily that the Devil is evil, but that he punishes evil. He actually has as much of an issue with sin as anyone. The Devil doesn’t make us commit atrocities. We do that all on our own, and he’s just a convenient scapegoat.
Beyond that, though, it’s about attempting to navigate doing what’s expected of you vs. what’s best for you, the issue at the heart if nearly every inter-generational drama out there. So yes, while the show remains one of tv’s most entertaining hours, it’s one of the most introspective “brain-break” series on television.
The reason behind this is short and simple: Britain, please take us back. We promise not to throw away your tea in the harbor anymore. We even promise not to rub in the Brexit vote because we know we have no right to feel superior about stupid, stupid voting decisions. Please, please just take us back and let bygones be bygones
We Hate Movies
This podcast lands right in my pop culture sweet spot. It’s hosted by four liberal, New York guys in their early-mid thirties, meaning their cultural references (e.g., Back to the Future, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, etc.) are right in line with my own. Beyond that, their approach to film skewering seems to stem from the absurdist world-building technique that accompanies improv (they have improv backgrounds, so that makes sense).
For example, in the world of We Hate Movies, Jason Voorhees might be trapped in the Star Trek Nexus (and glancing over at Kirk’s cabin with a mischievous look in his eye), Halloween’s Dr. Loomis might moonlight as a sleazy shock jock called “Loose Loomis” and John Hammond might be a mass murderer. Such inspired bits and extended riffs respectively originated in their Friday the 13th: Part V, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and Jurassic Park: The Lost World episodes. I had no idea their discussion of Curse of Michael Myers would include a running impression of Dr. Loomis as a shock jock touting his beloved “whip ’em out Wednesdays,” but therein lies the unique appeal of the show. They’re going to talk about the bad movie of the week, sure, but they’re also going to veer off into pop culture tangents which would often make for a hilarious Robot Chicken, How It Should Have Ended or Funny or Die sketch.
For the past week, their episodes have been a welcome respite from ever-increasing dread. They’ve kept me awake and engaged during lengthy car trips and on late-night drives home from the hospital (I’m a nurse. Don’t think that’s ever been mentioned before). What separates it from other movie-mocking podcasts (e.g., How Did This Get Made?, The Flop House) involves their film choices, as they have a “ten-year rule” that excludes more recent fare (most of the time). They have been responsible for so many laughs on grim days. Going back through old episodes was just the consolation I needed.
How Did This Get Made
So, what about you guys? What are using as entertainment comfort food? Let us know in the comments!