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Simply cannot go back to them

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John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in dick cheney (120)


In Which We Travel Light In The Badlands

Death of Good Taste


Into The Badlands
creators Alfred Gough & Miles Millar

Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have a sketch in their new Netflix series W/Bob and David where a white director explains the genesis of his movie Better Roots. Ironically two white men have also teamed up on the AMC network to launch their version of the slave story called Into the Badlands.

In this stock photo from 1821, helpers are happy.Into the Badlands takes place on a massive plantation where young boys are either trained as ninjas or put to work in fields cultivating heroin. Young women aren't allowed to become warriors, so they are exclusively limited to farmwork. Sonny (Daniel Wu) is the top slave (in David Cross' terminology, "helper") who has a tattoed mark on his back representing every person he has killed for his master (Martin Csokas).

Despite the extensive slave allegory, exactly one of the helpers is black. You can see him slightly to the right of Csokas in the above photograph. Recently Adam Sandler had a huge problem recruiting Native Americans to play a role in his offensive movie The Ridiculous Six, which coincidentally also will air on Netflix. They have entirely corned the market in racism and anti-racism.

It's almost like he's a conquering hero in the vein of a Don Johnson.

So why use all this plantation imagery if you aren't actually going to include any black people or make any other reference to slavery except the plantation gear and southern accents? The creators of Into the Badlands can't really be blamed for this bizarre mishmash of signification. I mean, were they to be expected to read Olaudah Equino or the provocative work of Phyllis Wheatley? There is no serious evidence that the people who wrote this show can read, period.

You know, a lot of people have been asking me what I thought of what happened at the University of Missouri this month. I settled down with a chai latte, in my finest robe, and read the list of demands that the black students there came up with. Nothing on their list seemed terribly drastic. I mean, I think they were asking for like ten percent of faculty to be professors of color and maybe for some outreach. The real reason the university fired their president was because the football team went on strike. It's only the university at fault that the threat worked.

They probably should have just cast Andrew Lincoln and saved us all the trouble.

I'm happy that Lee Daniels made some money off Empire before he totaled it like a car for the insurance money, but I still think about Roots. For my younger readers, Roots was a miniseries that actually contained some of what African people experienced when they were dragged from their homes to this country. It did huge ratings on television; everyone was really into it although it was probably never merchandised like it should have been.

Roots was succesful because it was nothing that had ever been seen on television. Now violence is pretty de rigeur. Daniel Wu is an amazing stuntman and he kills about forty people in the pilot of Into the Badlands alone. To his credit, he is upset about it afterwards. In the mishmash world of Into the Badlands there are no guns, so there is no credible reason that there would even be slaves. Guns enabled slavery to happen in the absence of overwhelming force.

African-Americans aren't the only victims of this tripe. A living woman does not appear until after twenty minutes of Into the Badlands. She is the wife of Martin Csokas' Baron character and she is portrayed by Irish actress Orla Brady. Her husband is cheating on her with this trollop —

Rest assured that in this dystopian future, there is an H&M.

— but she accepts the situation because such is the plight of women on Into the Badlands. Make no mistake, creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar want you to know this is a corrupt and dangerous world. There is a place of hope that Daniel Wu and his lisping protege M.K. (Aramis Knight) are planning on reaching; it is roughly based off the plot of the fifth season of The Walking Dead. Evil women are set on foiling the plans of these men. One such individual is the Widow (Emily Beecham), who murdered her husband for power.

Or Norman Reedus? That would have been fine, too.

I am somewhat skeptical that anything positive will come of this. Into the Badlands might occur in a terrible place and time in human history, but there is no evidence that its masters realize just how bad things are. If you have sensed the allegory I am making to the University of Missouri, you are probably next in line for your own AMC series.

"This is just an extended audition for another show, right? Otherwise I have a blog on Medium about how offensive this is ready to go."

The funny thing is that in a previous generation, college protestors asked for a complete turnover of a new world order and soldiers brought home from endless military engagement abroad. Now kids are only asking for the people driving around their campus with Confederate flags to be expelled, and that's too much. Perhaps they could include on their list of demands the cancellation of Into the Badlands. (The whole thing was in rather poor taste, although Daniel Wu's martial arts stunts were admittedly impressive.) It is no problem satisfying American youths today. I am ready to become the next president of the University of Missouri. That's an easy fucking job.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

"Lonely One" - Anna Ternheim (mp3)

"Keep Me In The Dark" - Anna Ternheim (mp3)


In Which We Have Never Done Anything Like This Before

Sunset Decade


Wicked City
creator Steven Baigelman

The year is 1982. Kent Grainger (Ed Westwick) has tied up a nurse named Betty (Erika Christensen) in his bed with rope and twine. He tells her to not make any sound at all, not even to breathe. She complies, and he is able to generate an erection. Afterwards, he produces a knife to cut her free. "I've never done anything like this before," she says, and yet she was a woman living in Los Angeles, with children, in the 1980s.

We tend to apply the moral standards of our own time to the past. By the standards of the 2000 era period, Westwick was a good actor. Now his facial hair appears scruffy and insolent, and I no longer wish to hear his terrible American accent in roles meant for my countrymen. Everything about ABC's Wicked City actually reminds us more of 2000 — the costumes, the gee-golly attitude, the weirdly vanilla makeup choices.

Her haircut is reminiscent of those women who were imprisoned in that guy's basement.  Christensen at first is just a concerned mother getting her first experience in the S&M game, but soon she is prepping Westwick's kills for him, since he is a serial murderer and this is the first time she has ever received any sustained positive attention from a man. The women of Wicked City rely entirely on men to provide an external compass and to reaffirm the sense of purpose lacking from their lives. This is just the way things were in the 1980s. There was no such thing as Margaret Thatcher.

I remember when I couldn't tell Erika Christensen and Julia Stiles apart. This is no longer a problem, since Julia Stiles has been excommunicated to Hulu

Tracking this deadly duo is Jeremy Sisto as detective Jack Roth. Sisto continues receiving gainful employment long after the American public has resoundingly explained it no longer wishes to see him attempt something he is not very good at whatsoever: acting. He has never altered his facial hair for any role; he is always just this scruffy pseudo-handsome guy who sounds like a somewhat more mature Kermit the Frog.

Your husband does not care for your robe.

Sisto plays a philandering police detective who cheats on his ginger wife even though the other woman is a stripper and he has a young daughter. In 2000 this would be shocking and disgusting, and despite the fact that this is supposed to be the 1980s, when such behavior was de rigeur, it is still abhorrent. I can't watch fake shows about the 1980s where everyone is dressed like a hooker and there is a man whose name is Bucket, even if they did not have the massive plot holes featured in Wicked City on a weekly basis.

The Gossip Girl probably should have been Chuck Bass.

Sam Raimi was actually there for the 1980s, and he made a trilogy of semi-amusing movies starring Bruce Campbell. Evil Dead was always a lot more suited for a television series, since the entire concept of loved ones and friends becoming possessed demons has a shelf-life of about 20 minutes. Starz' Ash v. Evil Dead has already been renewed for a second season, and rightly so, because Ryan Murphy's definition of camp was starting to more closely resemble murder porn.

Ted Danson is the only man brave enough not to dye his hair.

Campbell, 57, looks very good for his age, but he acts like is walking off the set of Army of Darkness, Raimi's most amusing version of the Evil Dead story. Performances were a lot broader then — it wasn't really necessary to show any kind of emotional range when the characters were paper thin contrivances intended to be taken over by demons.

A romance between a Latino man and a Jewish woman is all I have ever asked for.

Here Campbell's sidekick (Ray Santiago) and his sidekick's love interest (Jill Marie Jones) have to continually bounce off his steely one-liners. They seem to be having great fun, and Ash v. Evil Dead succeeds on that, on the enthusiasm it has for its wacky subject matter. It is amusing to see the ancient Ash Williams have to deal with all the problems of modernity, and even appreciate the new time in which he lives as substantially better as the decade from which he came.

Special effects were greatly improved.

The whole format became a bit tiresome over the course of an entire film, but Ash v. Evil Dead works because there is nothing else like it today: the entire concept of its humor died in the waning moments of 1990.

There is something that is actually worth returning to in the 1980s: a distinct lack of cynicism worth revisiting. Wicked City totally misunderstands that concept as innocence. It was not innocence, that we felt in the decade that followed a failed revolution based on transmitting diseases through our penises. We preferred to feel nothing except the pain.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.


In Which We Halt The Newfound Employment Of Dianne Wiest

Shattered Illusions


Life in Pieces
creator Justin Adler

As part of an initiative to show non-gaming programming, streaming service Twitch.tv has been running a marathon of Bob Ross' PBS show The Joy of Painting. Bob's only significant problem in life was his hair. He had it permed into an uncomfortable afro to save money on haircuts. It smelled like a zinc lozenge and was a somewhat painful style to adopt. This is what we properly mean when we use the loaded phrase "white people's problems" or WPP.

Colin Hanks has his eyes closed for about a good fifty percent of this show.

Ross built a multimillion dollar empire around his mediocre landscapes. Then he died from lymphoma at the age of 52. Jen (Zoe Lister-Jones) has a baby when the CBS comedy Life in Pieces begins, and the remainder of the episode is spent with her emphasizing what a mess her vagina is in after childbirth. 

Well, you know what? There's nothing wrong with how a woman's vagina looks after childbirth, and maybe some white people stigmatizing it and pushing womyn to have more dangerous surgeries to avoid vaginal birth is about as good for the public health as the anti-vaccine movement.

No one, not even the rain, has such a short haircut.

The only positive thing to come out of Life in Pieces is gainful employment for Dianne Wiest, who recently revealed that she had not saved a whole lot of money during her career. She is horrid as the mother of two boys, Greg (Colin Hanks) and Matt (Thomas Sadowski) and a daughter Heather (Breaking Bad's Betsy Brandt). These are the kinds of names people give their children when they haven't read a book since high school. 

But Jordan, I was so looking forward to another sketch in which you satirized how much African-American enjoy, I don't know, hats

As disgusting and racist as Modern Family was at times (I speak of it in the past tense in order to pretend it no longer exists), Life in Pieces is substantially worse. There is only one person of color in the entire cast, and he plays the stalker-y ex-husband of Matt's girlfriend Colleen. To add insult to substantial injury, he is portrayed by Jordan Peele, suggesting that the reason we are not getting a new season of Key & Peele is because Jordan had to spread his wings in the role of a psychotic single black male. 

White people are uncomfortable with physical touch. 

Then there is the greatest indignity of all: playing the father of these magical white power cherubs is James Brolin. Acting was never Mr. Brolin's forte; satisfying Barbra Streisand sexually is, and is a job he does with perfect rigor and aplomb. By no means should he ever have been employed as a working actor. In the pilot of Life in Pieces, he stages his own funeral so he can find out what people would say about him. As bad as that sounds, there was one storyline this creepy show did that consisted entirely of a character having diarrhea.  

Let's all play the sport that can exclude the maximum number of people based on their economic status. 

Then again, at least that is a issue with which individuals of all races and colors can identify. Other storylines take the men of Life in Pieces out to the golf course, murdering innocent skunks and shopping for an expensive college for their children. The idea of being upset because your son is going to a university is something Bob Ross could never understand. 

Ice cream out of a drinking cup? What is this? 

It is not okay to pretend that being white and ignorant is some kind of blessing from the universe to focus on jokes about bowel movements or handicaps. I thought we were past all that. Watching Amy Schumer's stand-up special at the Apollo, she barely mentioned where she was once, although she did make sure to hammer home that she doesn't "follow the news" and that she did not know what happened in Ferguson. White people were supposed to be improving, not becoming stupider. 

I mean, All in the Family was a long time ago. Shows were able to explore timely issues of race and class and still be popular. Life in Pieces feels like it was created in a massive white bubble where the only thing that ever gets in is occasionally Jordan Peele. It is a revolting, regressive show, and all of the hateful curses I direct towards Johnny Galecki on a regular basis will now be focused on this disgusting mess.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

"Birth of Lola" - Laurie Anderson (mp3)

"Tell All the Animals" - Laurie Anderson (mp3)