Thursday, June 21, 2012

and something quiets the silken strumming

Briefly touching on comics today, especially concerning Amanda Waller:
Nicknamed "the Wall", she is a former congressional aide and government agent often placed in charge of the Suicide Squad, a semi-secret government-run group of former supervillains working in return for amnesty. She later served as Secretary of Metahuman Affairs under President Lex Luthor, before being arrested in the wake of Luthor's public fall from grace. Waller was recently reassigned to the leadership of Checkmate as White Queen, but has been forced to resign because of her involvement in Operation Salvation Run.
Now, like Kingpin, she came out of the projects--specifically, in her case, out of Chicago's Cabrini Green. She fought hard for respect after losing two of her children and her husband to gang violence (at least, I think that's what happened; I know she's introduced as an emotionally scarred widow when she first enters the scene), but ultimately, her adversarial relationships with the heroes under her control turned her to the path of villainy.

(from the media album; Batman, Amanda Waller, and General Eiling)

There's a great review of the toy pack she came in, but I think it's more valuable to note that she, like Kingpin, has always been represented as a strong black woman of size, first, and a villain after. And a lot of people responded to this. In 2009, IGN put out a list of the hundred greatest supervillains of all time; Waller ranked 60th. That's not half bad.

Then came DC's New 52. Amidst the various and sundry problems with the reconfigured line (most notably, the fact that every single hero and villain on the roster has now been "active" as a superbeing for five years or less), they also changed Amanda Waller.

To this:

(from the media album)

I'll let Newsarama field this answer:

Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad: Weight Watchers? Jenny Craig?
The Biggest Loser?
Pretty damn much. She didn't earn her nickname of "The Wall" because she held a firm line around the office (although she did); she earned it, pure and simple, by being the biggest, most inflexible boss on the planet, practically. It may not have been complimentary, considering her size, but it didn't faze her.

Until, you know, DC took a whack at her and carved her down for the new run.

(from the media album)

She was also seen in the Green Lantern film, played by Angela Bassett;

(from the media album)

and seen on season nine of Smallville, played by Pam Grier. Admittedly, Pam Grier comes closest, and I don't, per se, mind either Bassett or Grier getting parts in the DC universe. But as Amanda Waller? Neither of them are even close to her physically, so what the hell, DC? Proving yet again that male characters get (mostly) interesting parts with character development, and females are thinned down and bustily enhanced as Magic Pixie Dream Girls.

Screw you, DC.

Meanwhile, over on the Twenty-sided Tales blog, Seamus Young is taking on the bizarre dearth of streaming options on Netflix. It's not just him; I think everyone who has a Netflix account has noticed this. Now, most of the time I'm still able to find something to occupy some time when I'm interested in watching films, but that's also because I have "standby" features--AKA, titles I can always pull up and watch in a pinch.

My current crop of standbys that get around the slow patches:
  • Iron Man 2 (because, barring Less Than Zero, I'll nearly always watch Robert Downey Jr. in anything)
  • Cher: the Farewell Tour (What? I like Cher.)
  • Farscape (every now and again, I want to see the crew in action. Still miss this show)
  • The Dresden Files (double for this, I seriously miss this show and think it deserved a MUCH longer run)
  • Kevin Smith: Burn in Hell (because he's really, really funny in this one)
  • Paranormal State (because they do things so badly at times, it makes me giggle like a five-year-old)
  • Warehouse 13 (because if the plots are occasionally bafflingly dumb, the acting and the characters are top-notch)
But for most people, the fact that most of Netflix' choice films right now were filmed on the cheap by actors no one's ever heard of does not make Netflix points. I'll search out these films, because I like independent horror, but even there, I'd say I find one gem for every twelve titles. If you were to look down my history, it's staggering the amount of times it says "43 of 121 minutes watched", or something, simply because I pushed that film as far as I could, and walked away from it when the ennui overcame any shock/horror factor the film had.

Which means even my "it sounds interesting, and I don't care if it looks like it had a $29.95 budget" outlook gets crushed under the weight of movies that are so bad, it's well beyond even my ability to appreciate them.

And this isn't happening just in horror; it's pervasive throughout all the genres. When their contract with Starz expired, I'm fairly sure at least three or four additional cinematic firms pulled back as well, because that's about when it became pretty difficult to find something to watch reliably.

Will Netflix turn it around? No clue. They lost nearly a million accounts when they announced the Netflix/Quikster split, and I'm pretty sure they didn't gain back even a fourth of those losses over the course of the year following. I'd hate to see them go, but it does feel like I'm watching the mammoth slowly sink into the tar pits, unable to break free.


Rhianon Jameson said...

You're making me glad I stuck with the DVDs when they split.

Emilly Orr said...

See, normally, our household would be right with you, but two things happened (nearly at the same time):

1. One of my loves lost her job (and, to date, has not found another one yet, even WITH formidable job skills); and

2. Our DVD player died.

Due to economics and the inability to play DVDs sent to our home, both, we downgraded our normal DVDs-plus-streaming option we've had for nearly ten years now, to a streaming-only option. Their DVD selection is still pretty sound (though even there, they're adding far fewer new films every week than in the past), all things considered.

That hasn't been the bad part, though. We frequently watch streaming media with friends in other states. But, because of our downgrade, our former "we can watch three films at once" understanding took a hit--because apparently, only TWO machines are authorized for streaming. So the girls in the front room have to watch off the Wii, while I (and the friends in other states) coordinate the best we can online. It's imperfect and clunky, and absolutely baffling.

Emilly Orr said...

Oh, and I forgot something--any media watched via the Wii counts up from 0:00, just as all other streaming media on Netflix used to. BUT they made a change there, too--because now, media watched solely on computers count DOWN from the end of the film.

So, we have to get about to five seconds in, notify the girls in the other room, have them hit play then yell back to me when they've reached it, so I and our friends can then hit play.

Way to make your service even less attractive, Netflix. Good job.