Issues Regarding “WANDAVISION”

ISSUES REGARDING “WANDAVISION”

Recently, I did a re-watch of the DisneyPlus/Marvel Cinematic Universe limited series, “WANDAVISION”. After viewing the penultimate episode, (1.08) “Previously On”, I realized I had a few issues with the series.

The seventh episode, (1.07) “Breaking the Fourth Wall” ended with this revelation that the long-living witch Agatha Harkness was behind the whole psychic anomaly surrounding the fictional town of Westview, New Jersey. Yet the revelations from the flashbacks forced upon former Avenger Wanda Maximoff by Harkness in “Previously On” revealed that . . . yes, Wanda had originated the anomaly. She started it in a moment of anger and grief over the permanent death of the synthezoid and former Avenger named Vision. In other words, Agatha’s claim in “Breaking the Fourth Wall” that she had been behind the whole incident merely contradicted what Wanda’s flashbacks had revealed. So, what was Agatha’s role over the Westview incident? An enabler? A disrupter? As it turned out . . . both. Agatha had occasionally disrupted Wanda’s anomaly in order to learn the true nature of the latter’s powers and steal them. This means that Agatha’s little “confession”, “It Was Agatha All Along” was nothing more than a lie. A contradiction. Something to serve as a cliffhanger for “Breaking the Fourth Wall”, perhaps? Regardless, I thought it was a sloppy move on the part of screenwriter Cameron Squires and showrunner Jac Schaeffer.

While viewing “WANDAVISION”, it occurred to me that it basically seemed like a character study – touched by science-fiction and magic. Which leads me to wonder why the MCU thought it was a good idea to convey this narrative via a nine-episode series. Since nearly every episode is roughly 25 minutes, I have come to the conclusion that this story is roughly four hours. Or nearly four hours. Four hours for a character study? Seriously? Do not get me wrong. I have a good opinion of the series’ narrative. But I found this 25-minute episode format rather frustrating. And unnecessary for this kind of story. “WANDAVISION” could have easily been told via a motion picture with a 100-minute running time.

As for the television sitcom format that the series used to convey its narrative – I never warmed up to it. To be honest, I found it distracting and nothing more than a clever gimmick. Mind you, “WANDAVISION” did not remain stuck in one particular time period. The narrative progressed from the 1950s to the 2000s with each episode. My family and I are in the middle of a re-watch of “AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season Seven. This was the season in which the protagonists had skipped through history trying to prevent the Big Bads from prematurely destroying S.H.I.E.L.D. My sister pointed out that it was possible the writers of “WANDAVISION” had copied the time travel narrative from “S.H.I.E.L.D.” Season Seven and used it to convey the television sitcom formats from the 1950s to the 2000s or 2010s. In other words, Kevin Feige, Jac Schaeffer and the series’ writers may have slightly plagiarized Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. That is something to think about.

Also, one particular episode featured a major blooper. I am referring to the sixth episode, (1.06) “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!”. The episode featured the marquee for the town’s movie theater:

First of all, when is this particular episode set? The 1990s or the 2000s? One of the films listed on theater’s marquee, “THE PARENT TRAP”, a remake of the 1961 Disney film, had been released in 1998. The other film listed, the award-winning animated film, “THE INCREDIBLES”, had been released in 2004. So, did Wanda set the events of “All-New Halloween Spooktacular” in the 1990s? Or did she skip a decade and set it the 2000s? Inquiring minds want to know. Regardless, this was an obvious blooper that no one bothered to comment on. I would bet that one person or more will come up with an excuse for this obvious blooper.

Do not get me wrong. I enjoyed “WANDAVISION”. But there were aspects of it that I found frustrating. I believe the story, which basically strikes me as a character study, could have been more effectively told via a movie, instead of a nine-episode series. I found the television sitcom formats distracting and unnecessary. And I have some issues regarding the Agatha Harkness character and an obvious blooper from the series’ sixth episode. But I must admit that “WANDAVISION” has proven to be among the better MCU productions from the past few years.

“This Is a Mistake”

“THIS IS A MISTAKE”

I have heard that in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent protests against police brutality, Disney Parks have decided to change the theme of its Splash Mountain attraction in all of its theme parks. Instead of an attraction based on the 1949 animated film, “SONG OF THE SOUTH” and the Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris, Disney Parks has decided to change the attraction’s theme to one based on the 2009 animated film, “THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG”. And I believe this is a big mistake.

First of all, why can Disney Parks not consider the idea of maintaining the present theme of Splash Mountain and create a new one based on “THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG”? What is the point of erasing the “SONG OF THE SOUTH” theme from its Splash Mountain attraction? “THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG” theme . . . with a mountain setting? That does not make any sense to me, considering the 2009 movie was set in late 1920s New Orleans and the swamps of Southern Louisiana. “SONG OF THE SOUTH” was set near the region of Stone Mountain, somewhere between Northern and Central Georgia.

If Disney thinks it is being politically correct in the wake of the Black Lives Matters movement, they are mistaken. The Brer Rabbit stories are basically AFRICAN-AMERICAN folklore,which served as a metaphor for the struggles of African-American slaves before and immediately after the Civil War. Three African-Americans on a Georgia plantation had told these stories to Joel Chandler Harris, a white teenager they had befriended during and after the Civil War. Harris had worked for their owner and later, employer. When he later became a journalist and a writer, Harris took those stories and had them published under the “Uncle Remus Tales” title between 1880 and 1907. The character of Uncle Remus served as a metaphor for those three slaves-turned-freedmen, whom Harris had befriended. What Disney Parks is doing is misguided lip service to the Black Lives Matter movement. If Disney Parks really want to pay tribute to the movement, it would maintain Splash Mountain’s original theme and create a new attraction based on “THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG”.

Now that I think about it, what is really racist about “SONG OF THE SOUTH”? The Uncle Remus character? The fact that he is a former slave? Or that he was friendly with two white kids? Or that he still lived on a plantation after the Civil War? Uncle Remus was based on the three slaves that Joel Harris had befriended on a plantation. How else does anyone thinks Harris had found out about the Brer Rabbit stories? By eavesdropping on the plantation workers? Are people upset that Uncle Remus had served as a narrator, telling these stories to white kids? I also noticed two other aspects of this situation. The 1946 movie was set during the post-Civil War era. One of the film’s main protagonists, a young Georgian white boy named Johnny, who happened to be the son of an Atlanta newspaper journalist in post-Civil War Georgia. Aside from Uncle Remus, Johnny had befriended a poor white girl and the son of a black sharecropper during his family’s visit to his grandmother’s plantation. The movie has nothing to do with reinforcing the so-called “glories” of the pre-Civil War Old South. None of the live-action characters in “SONG OF THE SOUTH” – including Uncle Remus – or the film’s actual plantation setting is featured inside Splash Mountain. So again . . . why does Disney Parks feel it needs to change the attraction’s theme?

The Brer Rabbit stories are metaphors about how generations black Americans had SURVIVED the horrors of American slavery, after they and their ancestors had been dragged to North American and to different parts of the South and forced to work for nothing against their will. Do many people have a problem that comedy was an element in the stories? That is how the original stories were framed. At least “SONG OF THE SOUTH” is actually based on African-American culture or folklore. Despite having an African-American woman as its leading character, “THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG” is not. It is a movie based on “The Frog Princess”, a 2002 novel written by E.D. Baker, a white American woman. She had based her novel on who based her story on “The Frog Prince”, the 1812 novel written by the Brothers Grimm . . . two white European men.

By replacing the “SONG OF THE SOUTH” theme inside Splash Mountain attraction at the Disney theme parks with one from “THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG”, Disney Parks is erasing one theme based on African-American culture and replacing it with one based on European culture. Replacing “THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG” lead character from a white European woman to an African-American woman does not change that fact.

“THE LAST AIRBENDER” (2010) Review

Below is a review I had written about ”THE LAST AIRBENDER”. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, the movie starred Noah Ringer and Dev Patel: 

“THE LAST AIRBENDER” (2010) Review

Director M. Night Shyamalan decided to explore the world of fantasy-adventure by filming an adaptation of an animated television series called ”AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER”. This movie is a fantasy-adventure tale set in a fictional, Asian-influenced world with Chinese martial arts and elemental manipulation.

”THE LAST AIRBENDER” told the story of a young monk and the only surviving airbender (one with the psi ability to manipulate air) named Aang, who is believed by others to be the future Avatar – one who can manipulate all four elements of air, water, fire and earth. With his two new friends from the Southern Water Tribe, Aang seeks to learn to manipulate three other elements – water, earth and fire. In this movie, he journeys with his friends Katara (a waterbender) and her brother Sokka to the Northern Water Tribe, where he can learn how to master the waterbending skill from a master. Tracking Aang, Katara and Sokka is Prince Zuko, the Crown Prince of the Fire Nation; who has been exiled by his evil father, Fire Lord Ozai and sent to capture the future Avatar. With the Avatar’s capture, Zuko’s honor and right to the throne will be restored.

I would have never bothered to see this movie. But an office colleague of mine had really enjoyed the movie and recommended that I go see it. Needless to say, I do not regret following her advice. Mind you, ”THE LAST AIRBENDER”was not perfect. The movie’s first five to ten minutes failed to kickstart my interest. It bored me so much that I found myself on the verge of falling asleep. Most of the cast members gave performances that ranged from mediocrity to sheer boredom. And a good deal of the movie’s dialogue seemed extremely cheesy to me – the kind of dialogue one would find in the ”STAR WARS” and the ”LORD OF THE RINGS” franchises.

However, ”THE LAST AIRBENDER” definitely had its virtues. I was impressed by the performances of the two leads, Noah Ringer and Dev Patel, who portrayed Aang and Zuko respectively. These two literally kept this movie together. It also helped that both had genuine martial arts experience. I was also impressed by Shaun Toub, who portrayed Zuko’s wise uncle, Iroh; Aasif Mandvi, who played the Fire Nation’s cold-blooded military commander, Zhao; and Cliff Curtis, who portrayed the ruthless leader of the Fire Nation, Fire Lord Ozai. Andrew Lesnie’s photography, Philip Messina’s production designs and the art directions supervised by Richard L. Johnson were very impressive, if not mind blowing. However, I did find Judianna Makovsky’s costume designs to be very beautiful and memorable.

From what I understand, ”THE LAST AIRBENDER” was not exactly a hit. It had failed to fully earn back the money spent on its production. Well . . . what can I say? Regardless of whether it was a hit or not, I found it an entertaining movie to watch and look forward to viewing it again on DVD.