YA Dystopian Films Have Become Everything They Hate
The Hunger Games continues to wend its way towards a conclusion with this weekend’s awkwardly titled The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. That a Part 2 arrives next year to wrap up the franchise is enough to render this installment in Katniss Everdeen’s uprising saga somewhat less than wholly consequential. Yet even more problematic for Part 1 is that it’s a thoroughly been-here, done-that type of entertainment. In just over a year, movie theaters have been besieged by six dystopian science-fiction films designed for young adults, all of them adapted from best-selling novels: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Ender’s Game, Divergent, The Maze Runner, The Giver, and now Mockingjay – Part 1. More depressing still is the fact that while these films can claim a distinct literary lineage, each one, in making the transition to the big screen, has been cut from a matching cloth, hewing to such a rigorous narrative, aesthetic, and casting template that they’ve become the very thing their stories so vehemently decry: conformist instruments of the ruling modern-Hollywood machine.
The fact that futuristic movies about heroes revolting against conventionality are themselves completely conventional is an irony apparently lost on (or ignored by) the filmmakers themselves, as well as the audiences who voraciously consume them. Of course, each of the five aforementioned films/franchises take their own approach (and social-commentary angle) to the genre. Nonetheless, they share so many similarities that they not only resemble disposable facsimiles of each other, but they negate the very rebel-yell messages they purport to champion. Taking their cues from Logan’s Run, Star Wars, and decades’ worth of other science-fiction stories in which a group of plucky do-gooders band together to stage an insurgency against baddies who seek to control through oppressive uniformity, they recycle familiar material in virtually the same ways—thus calling attention to their own dreary indistinctness.
What Should the Smithsonian Do With Its Show of Bill Cosby’s Art Collection?
As rape allegations against Bill Cosby have continued to emerge this week, with a fifth andsixth woman stepping forward to publicly accuse the iconic comedian, the backlash has been swift: NBC and Netflix have both dropped plans for new projects with Cosby, while TV Land announced it would stop airing reruns of The Cosby Show indefinitely. But Cosby’s collaboration with the art establishment remains alive and well, as dozens of works from Bill and wife Camille Cosby’s personal collection are currently on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.
Factory-Farmed Turkeys Are More Than Twice as Big as Wild Turkeys
In October, Vox published a picture that vividly shows how much bigger chickens have gotten since 1957, thanks to selective breeding. If you’ve taken a gander at a gargantuan Butterball bird lately, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that selective breeding has made commercial turkeys much bigger, too. Julie Rossman and Roxanne Palmer of the World Science Festival made a side-by-side comparison of supermarket turkeys and wild turkeys, and it’s pretty clear which one would win in a fight.
It Makes Sense to Split Mockingjay, and That Cliffhanger Is the Perfect Place to Stop
This post contains spoilers for Mockingjay Part 1.
Most reviewers of Mockingjay Part 1, including Slate’s own Dana Stevens, have noted that the movie ends with a jarring halt. Peeta, who has been “highjacked” by the Capitol, tries to strangle Katniss, who has spent the entire movie obsessing over getting him back. For fans of the movies who haven’t read the book, this presents a particularly juicy cliffhanger: For the first time, these two characters haven’t spent the entire movie trying to save each other. Instead, they get just one scene together, and he tries to kill her. For fans of the books, who know what’s to come, this simply re-emphasizes that—whatever you want to say about this being a feminist vision of a dystopic future world much like our present—The Hunger Games is really the story of all the obstacles Katniss and Peeta face in trying to save each other. Which is why ending the movie there makes perfect sense.
Why You Shouldn’t Worry About the New 3-D, CGI Peanuts
The first full trailer for the new 3-D, CGI Peanuts movie surfaced online this week, and the reaction was the same as it was to the teaser: Thousands of nearly unanimous voices suddenly cried out at once, “Good grief!” The Week calls the new trailer “distressingly unfaithful,” iO9 notes that it “feels wrong,” and Indiewire lifted its fists towards the heavens, lamenting, “20th Century Fox, what have you done... .” Vulture, meanwhile, compared the idea of CGI Peanuts to “emoji Guernica, or dubstep Mozart.” (Some Slate writers made their complaints more direct.)
My fondness for dubstep Mozart aside, the problem with all this handwringing is pretty simple: It tends to presume that the Peanuts have one Edenic incarnation whose integrity and purity is still around to be ruined. Boy is that wrong.
In reality, our beloved Snoopy, Lucy, and the gang have evolved quite a lot since they first appeared, and along the way they have been subjected to innumerable indignities far worse than a trailer soundtracked by Flo Rida. To understand why no one should worry about the new 3-D, CGI Peanuts, let’s take a short tour of the Peanuts history hall of horrors.
Why Serial Can’t Settle on a Genre
As Serial has progressed, it has become less obvious what exactly the podcast is about. Defining itself as it goes along is part of the show’s appeal, but it also makes listening feel precarious: Every week you tune in and wonder whether you’ll hear a murder mystery, a crime procedural, or a pensive character study. And then there are the minisections patched into the larger fabric, like this week’s standalone, deeply emotional memorial to Hae Min Lee, or the one-off wacky comedy sketch between host Sarah Koenig and fellow producer Dana Chivvis. The show swerves between genres, counting on Koenig’s warm and relatable persona to weave it all together. Serial may not end up in the place it originally intended—its form may be more dictated by the facts of the case than even the TAL team anticipated—and maybe that structural wavering is part of the point.
I’d argue that Serial doesn’t know what it is because it doesn’t yet know how it ends. (St. Augustine was the first of many autobiographers to note the contradiction of narrating a life that’s still unfolding.) The show lies more or less at the mercy of the real-life story it has set in motion, with fresh characters and information—like new testimony from the victim’s high school friends, or the nonexistence of a crucial phone booth—materializing all the time.
Will Reporters Finally Ask Terrence Howard About His Alleged Violence Against Women?
The Bill Cosby saga, as it’s played out over the last few weeks, represents a massive systemic fail for the media. This wasn’t just a story that the media missed. It’s a story that was already on the record and about a guy whom various newspapers, magazines, and TV networks helped promote in all sorts of ways over the last 10 years.
There are legitimate reasons for journalists not to pry into the private lives of celebrities, of course, and of course any story should be vetted and put in context.
If Star Wars Were Made in 2014
With The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 out this week and sequels like The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Parts 1 and 2 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Parts 1 and 2 dominant at the box office in recent years, we thought we’d imagine what it would look like if the final chapter of the original Star Wars trilogy were made in 2014.
Watch Jon Stewart’s First—and Probably Last—Interview on the Colbert Report
Stephen Colbert only has 12 shows left before the Colbert Report comes to an end. But he is going out with a bang: Thursday night, he invited his former boss and “voice of the left,” as he calls him, Jon Stewart for his first-ever interview on the show. Stewart was there to promote his new movie, Rosewater. But with such a long history between the two, Colbert could barely keep in character for most of the interview.
Watch Gwyneth Paltrow, Adam Sandler, and Other Stars Read Mean Tweets About Themselves
The list of stars that Jimmy Kimmel has convinced to read mean tweets about themselves was already impressive: Jon Hamm, Matthew McConaughey, Mindy Kaling, Julia Roberts. The latest round, no. 8 in the ongoing series, is no less star-studded, with a nice blend of beloved celebrities (Chris Pratt), divisive ones (Lena Dunham), and, to be frank, easy targets (Gwyneth Paltrow, Adam Sandler).
As usual, some of the digs are nonsensical and others feel kind of spot-on, depending, of course, on how you feel about the celebrity in question. For me, at least, Britney Spears’ delivery of her mean tweet is particularly charming.