In thinking about the paths that our heroes take in the Star Wars saga - for the original trilogy, that of Luke Skywalker, and for the most recent trilogy, the tale of Rey (now Skywalker) - my mind is awash with questions and conflicts. As a child, seeing Luke turn Vader in the end was a heroic action. He fought against the dark side of the Force to save his father from a death that would have disconnected him with all living things.
Westworld just has the most evocative, meaningful titles. I fancy myself an educated, erudite fanboy/total geek. But when I googled the title of this week’s episode to ensure I knew what I was talking about, I went down a ninety-five minute rabbit hole because all the connections became so interesting. It’s not the first time that’s happened. (Mind you, it happens a lot anyway with us writer types – I go to look up if a certain kind of wagon was made in the 1880s and two hours later, I’m pouring over early twentieth century Italian crop yields, because research, right?)
Since the late 1970s, the Alien franchise has terrified audiences with its iconic and nightmarish extra-terrestrial creatures, but, since that very first film, a far more insidious horror has always been present throughout the series. While it's easy to understand why the xenomorph and its blood-chilling life cycle have always stood out as the defining fiend of the franchise, there is no argument that Weyland-Yutani (often referred to simply as "The Company" in a sign of their monolithic absolute dominance over human society) is the true monstrous presence throughout the film series, most notably when it comes to the first three entries and the story of Ellen Ripley (portrayed by Sigourney Weaver).
The first images that come to mind when I think of H.R. Giger aren’t necessarily of the Xenomorph. The first images are of human frames (mostly female) meshed with robots and alien lifeforms, penetrating each other in all sort of ways. Giger’s Biomechanics is haunting, beautiful, and terrifying. Thanks to the popularity of the Alien series, these images are scrawled into my brain.
While the movie Alien was released in 1979, the first video game adaptation of the science-fiction horror experience came three years later with Alien for the Atari 2600 home console in 1982. Developed and published by Fox Video Games, a subsidiary to 20th Century Fox, the game can be described in generous terms as being within the “Maze Chase” genre, or in more accurate terms as a “Pac-Man clone.” Alien does not feature power-pellets or ghosts, but it does feature a Flame Thrower. I sense your tracking device is pinging with questions, so it might be best if you read the narrative set-up from the back-of-the-box first:
Okay, so I go to watch this episode on TiVo again on Monday in order to write this review. The description of the episode: “Just say no.” That. Is. Brilliant. See, the title “genre” carries with it two meanings. “Genre” is a category of artistic composition, be it music, film, literature, drama, etc. The definition of individual genres tend to be circular and self-defining: All movies with superheroes are superhero movies, and superhero movies are the ones with superheroes in them. Horror is the genre that consists of scary movies, so if a movie is scary, it’s horror. Yet in this episode, “genre” also refers to a new kind of drug that allows you to experience life within a genre of film and/or music.
The Statue of Liberty. That is the reference in this week’s title. Well, it is in a roundabout way with more than one meaning, of course. Everyone remembers the lines, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”, even if they do not know the title of the poem (“The New Colossus”) or the poet (Emma Lazarus). But this week’s Westworld episode title also comes from that same poem: “her name / Mother of Exiles…” (Not true, her actual name is “Liberty Enlightening the World,” which we call “The Statue of Liberty,” just like we call Lesane Crooks “Tupac Shakur” or we call Marion Morrison “The Duke” or “John Wayne” – nothing in America is called by its actual name.) So, the Mother of Exiles is the Statue of Liberty, the celebration of liberty and immigration.
Like much of quarantined America, I have binge watched and obsessed over Tiger King. While the craziness and over-the-top characters are fun (and sad), I admire the well-crafted narrative. The people are allowed to slowly reveal things about themselves. Sometimes, they reveal things about themselves that they themselves are not aware of. The story seems to unfold effortlessly. Where the remarkable craftsmanship is, however, is in a narrative structure that, untelegraphed and without fanfare, suddenly upends everything you think you knew about this story so far. (Tiger King spoilers ahead.)
Plough Publishing Press recently released the genre-bending poetry comics anthology, Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry, by cartoonist Julian Peters, coinciding with National Poetry Month in April. (Fanbase Press' interview with Peters may be found here.) The publisher has been very generous to the Fanbase Press staff, as we are now able to share an exclusive excerpt from the book!