Sunday, February 18, 2018

Advert Artwork: Gargoyles (Disney)

Toxic and Troubling Fandoms: A Discussion with John Kenneth Muir

Jeff Fountain of Geek Chic Elite interviewed me recently for a fascinating discussion about toxic and troubling fandoms (particularly as applied to Star Wars, The X-Files, and Star Trek: Discovery).

Here's a snippet:

"People are failing to understand how you use a story and how you use drama as a social vehicle and it’s getting scary to me, as someone who regularly views these things, that a portion of the audience is getting so dumb that you can’t see it. It’s like if you raise the issue of xenophobia, that’s not the same as being xenophobic. If you raise the issue of sexual harassment and Me Too -- of course, that was an underlying part of My Struggle III -- it was commenting on that, it’s of its time, but they don’t understand the difference between commenting on it and being the thing it’s commenting on. It’s really scary to me, it’s like we’re losing the capacity to realize that art has a responsibility, a legacy of commenting on social issues and just because those issues are raised, that doesn’t mean they’re endorsing the issues for heaven’s sake, they’re exploring them. It’s horrifying to me to read these comments on Facebook and Twitter, people just don’t get it."

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Far Out Space Nuts: "Galaxy's Greatest Athlete" (December 11,1975

Two beautiful space aliens -- who are really alien hags -- want to recruit Barney (Chuck McCann) and Junior (Bob Denver) as the galaxy’s greatest athletes in a kind of cosmic Olympic Games.

These space sirens determine that only Honk is actually intelligent, and attempt to seduce Junior, the dumbest of the trio, to their cause.

He participates and wins in different events such as “laser leap,” (a long jump), “astro arm wrestling” and more.

Junior proves victorious, and must battle the “space fuzzy” as the final contest.

The final episode of Sid and Marty Krofft’s Far Out Space Nuts (1975) doesn’t chart much new territory in terms of theme or plot, but remains enjoyable in the campy manner of much Saturday morning TV from the era (think: The Ghost Busters [1975].) 

As always, the humor remains juvenile, but pleasantly juvenile.

Once more, in “Galaxy’s Greatest Athlete,” we get female characters who appear to be beautiful, but are really hideous aliens, a story idea we have seen before in the series.

Once more, Junior is singled out as the stupidest man in the universe, and recruited to some cause (space piracy, scientific experimentation, or Olympic Games) that he has no desire to be involved with.

Once more, the “space nuts” out-maneuver the “superior” aliens they contend with.

This episode, intriguingly, does rely more heavily on chroma-key technology than most installments of the series do, with Junior (Bob Denver) visually inserted into miniature arenas and sets.  These shots are not visually-accomplished by today’s standards, yet remain inventive for a low-budget 1975 series.

The focus on crazy “futuristic” games at the galactic Olympics here also forecasts similar imaginings in the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981) episode “Olympiad.”

As this is the final episode of the series, I should offer a summation of the program as a whole.  I’m as surprised as anyone to note this, but I actually enjoyed Far Out Space Nuts more than the previous two Krofft series I covered: Lidsville and the Bugaloos.  

Perhaps it’s all the crazy aliens, or the outer space milieu, or perhaps just the fact that the series arises from an era I am nostalgic about (the immediate pre-Star Wars era; the epoch of Space: 1999), but I’m sad to have reached the end of a program I watched when I was five years old.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Cult-TV Blogging: The Immortal: "White Horse, Steel Horse" (November 5, 1970)

Working at a potato ranch, Ben Richards (Christopher George) ends up in an armed dispute between motorcycle riding workers, and nefarious ranch owner, George Allison (John Dehner). Allison refuses to pay his workers, and they protest, violently.

When a scuffle between factions ends with the death of a local sheriff, Ben flees to the mountains, but George Allison organizes a vigilante posse to bring him, and the others, to justice.  The “Honor Posse,” as it is called, captures Ben and another cyclist.

Soon, Fletcher (Don Knight) shows up with a (fake) warrant, and attempts to make a deal for possession of the captured Richards.

Written by Star Trek (1966-1969) veterans Gene L. Coon and Stephen Kandel, “White Horse, Steel Horse” is all about the generation gap of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s; the war between the Greatest Generation and young anti-establishment, counter-culture. 

What may be surprising is that this episode of The Immortal views the young generation sympathetically, and the older generation as corrupt.

In this case, George Allison, the antagonist, is a white man who holds all the power in his particular situation. He is rich. He owns land. He runs a business. He has powerful friends in law enforcement and the judicial system.

And then, on a dime, this well-connected, wealthy man decides he doesn’t want to pay his workers what he owes them.  

They get angry. 

After acting capriciously, George blames the young workers. He laments children who have been allowed to grow up and “run wild.” He calls the youth “rotten, long-haired scum.” He sees them as a threat to his country too. “It’s like they’re trying to destroy everything,” he says.

Of course, Allison has the right to his viewpoint. The scary thing about his character is how he then manipulates the law (and his connections) to hunt those he cheated. “The courts don’t do their jobs, so we have to,” he tells the members of his vigilante posse. 

In other words, he substitutes his rules for society’s rules. And because of his wealth and power, he can do that.

Ben Richards, in “White Horse, Steel Horse,” stands up for the persecuted ones. He tells Allison that people “have the right to be different, and not be killed for it.”

This was a truth apparent to our society in 1970, but which some Americans seem to have forgotten today, in 2018.  This fact makes this particular episode of The Immortal quite timely, but also quite sad.  It seems we have gone backwards in the last forty years, at least in terms of how we treat one another.

The episode also finds Allison’s grown son turning against him, another sign of the generation gap.  The inference is that with the passing of the generations, a new, better morality will take hold.  Alas, that hasn't really happened either.

The only problem that I see with the episode is that it basically conflates young people, motorcycle gangs and hippies as one demographic. Perhaps at the time, that is how they were all viewed by men like Allison. All made-up, collectively, the counter-culture.

In terms of series continuity, this is another story in which Ben Richards falls in with strangers who need help, but we learn virtually nothing about him. Even the details about Fletcher’s warrant for Richards’ arrest are maddeningly vague. It must be a forged document, but we don’t even know the details of what the fugitive is being charged with.

Despite the lack of character development, not to mention science fiction concepts, we’re still at a point in The Immortal’s canon where the stories are compelling and interesting. This episode serves as a time capsule of a very turbulent time in our culture, if nothing else.

Next week: An Immortal classic: “The Queen’s Gambit.”