if you don’t see

I’m well satisfied with the opening paragraph of my review of tonight’s American Horror Story: Roanoke. For the entire run of American Horror Story: Roanoke, I’ve pointed out its fictionalized images of real horrors visited upon black Americans, some for centuries and some more recent. And for the entire run of the installment, some readers have told me I’m imagining a significance that isn’t present in the show. In “Chapter 9,” where a police officer asks a screaming black woman if she’s survived “a lynch mob,” and where much of the footage comes from police body cams, if you don’t see that underlying theme, it’s because you’re determined not to see it.

text: “For the entire run of American Horror Story: Roanoke, I’ve pointed out its fictionalized images of real horrors visited upon black Americans, some for centuries and some more recent. And for the entire run of the installment, some readers have told me I’m imagining a significance that isn’t present in the show. In ‘Chapter 9,’ where a police officer asks a screaming black woman if she’s survived ‘a lynch mob,’ and where much of the footage comes from police body cams, if you don’t see that underlying theme, it’s because you’re determined not to see it.”

I’ll be donating my payment for tonight’s review to The ACLU, because we woke up to a true American nightmare, and I’ll do what I can to make it easier and make it end.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things macb

Over at The A.V. Club, I’m covering Stranger Things, Netflix’s nostalgic summer series full of thrills and throwbacks. Look for my episodic reviews every 48 hours (“Chapter Five: The Flea And The Acrobat” goes up today!) until I’ve covered the entire series, which is all available for streaming at Netflix right now.

Not sure where to start? This sci-fi/horror bonanza needs to be watched in order. Start with “Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers”:

From its opening sequence in the corridors under Hawkins National Laboratory, Stranger Things is dark, and not just visually. The most obvious influence on the Duffer brothers’ ’80s-inspired series is E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, but under that layer of comfortable fun lurk more ominous allusions, from Tolkien to King to Carpenter.

My affection and respect for this reference-rich, gratifyingly taut story grows with each episode. In my review of “Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly” (remember, all these reviews contain spoilers for their respective episodes), I discuss how Stranger Things manages to make a virtue out of most of its lapses:

The show is occasionally clunky or trite, but its failing are weirdly appropriate, even endearing. It’s hard to distinguish between flaws that arise from Stranger Things’ writing […] and those inherent in its source material—the pulpy, sometimes hackneyed genre films, novels, and shows it so deftly recombines.

kill is kiss

Pontypool screenshot

A year ago on The Toast, I discussed Pontypool, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind:

St. Valentine’s Day is an excuse to express our most intense or obscure passions. But words can be a frail tool to capture the complications and complexities of this thing we call love: the sweet blush of infatuation, the kinship and kindness of true companions, the frenzy of unfettered lust, the torments of jealousy, betrayal, or heartbreak. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that three films set on Valentine’s Day hinge on the fragility and feebleness of words, creating worlds where meaning and reason fall apart.

overnight in Ferguson

“I don’t want to put the group in danger. I was trying to go in deeper with this. At this point, it’s clear that they’re trying to exterminate folks.” Elon James White‘s overnight coverage (Tuesday, August 19th) in Ferguson, Missouri.

“Outside, they’re just gassing everyone. If they see a human being, they throw a gas canister at it.”

the mother of all fears

Bunny Lake dolls

“Movies about mothers – mothers’ relationship with their children, children’s relationship with their mothers – can trade in easy sentiment or melodrama. But motherhood isn’t all swaddling and coddling and comfortable archetypes. In the rough terrain where a woman becomes a mother, she can feel she’s been corralled, her personality, her persona, her entire independent self suddenly defined largely by her actual or idealized connection to a child. These three thrillers tap into the poignancy and pressures that many mothers face, digging into the complicated web of social expectations in a world that both mythologizes and devalues motherhood, while translating the everyday tensions of caregiving into the language of the fantastic and the grotesque.”

Today at The Toast, my essay about motherhood as depicted in Bunny Lake Is Missing, The Others, and El Orfanato.