Supernatural Re-watch, S1E6: Skin

Sixth episode overall, from October 18, 2005.

Synopsis:

The teaser gives us a proper tease: a SWAT team carefully moving into a house with blood plenty visible, discovering a young blonde woman bound and gagged to a chair, covered in blood. As they rescue her, she frantically points to the other room: “He’s in there!” Moving in, the SWATties see a man trying to get out through the balcony door in the darkness. As they shout the usual things about getting down and complying instantly, the flashlight of one catches the man turning – and it’s Dean, with blood on his face and a knife in his hand. Fade to black.

Backing up, we get “One Week Earlier”, where Dean is talking about their plans for the upcoming drive, and Sam is reading email on his phone. Dean sneers about Sam’s “college buddies”, and lectures him that you can’t have friends when you’re a hunter; Sam disagrees. One of his friends says that her brother has been arrested and charged with the murder of his girlfriend. This seems odd to Sam, as Zach was a pretty level-headed guy, and he insists that they go to St. Louis, NOW. Rebecca meets them at the door, and is pleasantly surprised by Sam’s appearance there. Her folks are in Paris, so she’s staying with her brother at least until they get home, so he has some support.

Zach says he came home, found his girlfriend tied to a chair, badly beaten and not breathing, so he naturally called emergency services. The police arrest him, citing a video they have showing him arriving home around the time she was killed; Rebecca insists that he was with her, having a few beers until at least an hour and a half later. The boys claim Dean’s a detective from somewhere, and offer to have him come through and look at the crime scene.

Sam breaks out the puppy eyes, and convinces her. Dean remains skeptical.

The house is trashed, covered in bloody handprints, but no signs of a break-in. One odd thing: about a week earlier, someone had broken in and stolen some of Zach’s clothes, but the police think it was a homeless person or something. A dog next door is all barky and excited, which is apparently unusual for it, and it started around the murder. Dean is starting to wonder, and conveniently Rebecca has stolen the video that apparently shows Zach entering the building.

Cut away, and we see Zach standing outside an apartment building, watching an East Asian man kiss his partner goodbye, hearing them mention that he’s gone for a couple of days. Zach makes notes. As he watches her walk back into the apartment, Zach grins a little, and then his eyes flare bright white.

Back looking at the video, and Zach can be seen entering the place at a little after ten, half an hour before her time of death, and the tape’s been authenticated as untampered. Sam gets Rebecca out of the room so he can point out the eye-flare to Dean. They theorize it might be a doppelganger of sorts.

Cut away again, to the East Asian man returning home, saying his client cancelled at the last minute. Growing concerned when she doesn’t answer him, his fear spikes when he sees a bloody handprint. He finds her, bound and gagged and covered in blood, but when he frees her, she begs for him not to hurt her anymore! Warily checking the apartment, he meets…himself? With the eye-flare. And, unfortunately, a baseball bat. Lights out.

Sam and Dean pull up at the first scene the next day, with Sam pointing out that the killer didn’t leave by the camera-watched entrance, so he reasons there should be a trail from where he did leave. They do find some blood, but before tracing it further, they notice an ambulance, and follow it to the second scene. We see the police arresting the East Asian man.

Dean discovers that the arrested man was driving home from a business trip at the time of the attack, and that he claims to have encountered himself inside. The police are…skeptical, and take him away.

The idea of a shapeshifter comes up – every culture has a story of them, but apparently they don’t fly. Sam’s picked up a trail running away from the scene, but it just stops. Right by a sewer access hole, so down into the stink they go. Dean discovers a pile of truly horrible glop, slimy bloody flesh, which he speculates is a shed skin. On the good news side, silver is a reliable antidote to shapeshifters.

Rebecca has discovered that Dean’s not, actually, a cop, and wants the boys to stop helping, before they make anything else worse for Zach. Not even SVPDE can help this time. Dean, inevitably, gets his I Told You So on.

Down into the sewers they go, finding more glop near an apparent nest. Suddenly – eye-flares! Sam gives chase, but the shifter books, and after they split up to search, Dean comes back to meet up with Sam, and says they should head to the car. Behind Sam’s back, though – eye-flare. Dean isn’t Dean.

Sam becomes a little suspicious when Dean asks him for the car keys, and tries testing him on their shared history – but Not!Dean passes. Flipping him the keys, Sam moves away while Not!Dean opens the trunk, excited by all the toys. Suddenly, Sam’s back, pistol up, and asking where his brother is. Sam noticed that the real Dean had hurt his shoulder, and wouldn’t have been able to catch the keys left-handed. Not!Dean gets the drop on Sam, and fade to black.

Waking up, Sam’s tied to a post in the sewer, and Not!Dean is claiming that Dean is dead already. Not!Dean demonstrates that he can tap into Dean’s memories, using it to build some animosity between the boys, before heading off to see Rebecca. She’s skeptical, but lets him in. Not!Dean tells Rebecca about the shapeshifter, and gets touchy about her sneering at the idea of sympathy for the monster.

Back in the hole, Dean turns out to be also tied up, and the boys get around to untying themselves. Dean points out that they can’t exactly call the police and put out an APB on, well, him, so they have to go rescue her themselves.

Not!Dean is still trying to get Rebecca to feel sorry for him, and creeping her out by being too forward. Not!Dean takes her down, and starts his usual routine – but SWAT arrives, as per the opener. Not!Dean attacks the SWATties and gets away, but is wounded, leading to a really grody shapeshifting scene, replete with groans and peeling skin and just a lot of ick.

The APB does get put out after all, and Dean’s the most wanted man in St.Louis. Sam points out they have no weapons, but they reason out where the Impala is…only to find the cops were sitting on it. Sam distracts the cops and is arrested, so Dean can get away and (inevitably) go into the sewer by himself. Searching, he finds Rebecca, badly hurt and tied up in the nest.

Cut away to Rebecca’s house, where clean and tidy Not!Rebecca is talking with Sam about his arrest. When his back is turned, she smashes a bottle across his head, and eye-flare, in case we didn’t know. Untying the trapped Rebecca, Dean helps her out of the sewer.

Back in Rebecca’s house, Not!Dean has Sam tied up, and says he’s going to kill him, as Dean, to make sure that Dean will always be hunted. Sam breaks out, and he and Not!Dean fight, fairly evenly, trashing Rebecca’s house. Just as Not!Dean gets the upper hand, Dean shows up, and silver-bullets the shifter into Purgatory for good.

Sam reports that the cops are convinced this “Dean Winchester” guy did the murder, and probably the others, and that the video had obviously been tampered with. Zach is released, and we get some more bad matte work on the driving broment.

Analysis:

Despite the matte work (ugh!), the makeup effects in this one are really strong – the shapeshifter extended transformation scene is disgusting and creepy,

I quite liked Rebecca in this episode – she’s decisive when she needs to be, quick to accept that Dean is not Not!Dean, and her delivery of the creepiness of Not!Dean hitting on her at such a terribly-chosen time was spot-on. Quite a small named cast in this one – Zach, Rebecca, Emily (Zach’s partner), and the boys are about it. If the middle couple got names, I didn’t hear them.

If the episode is missing anything, it’s a stronger sense of the violation it would be to have someone steal your very shape. At least for me, that ties into a strong reaction to body-horror, which makes the episode better; it’s a horror series, after all.

Conclusion:

Next up is a classic legend, Hook Man, and another early-season favourite for me.

(cue guitars and credits)

S1E6: Skin: 4 Pentacles

4 Pentacles from me again on this one: another solid early-show MotW episode, introducing another important piece of the show’s lore, about shapeshifters and their vulnerability to silver.

Trivia:

Running total of innocents killed by the Boys: Still being good boys, yet. 0.

Named women and/or POC (not already dead) who end up dead before the episode’s out: I count only two named women in this, Emily (the first victim), and Rebecca. So we’re at ½.

Marginalized (named) body survival rate: 50%. Yikes!

Objectification by Dean: Some, around Rebecca, but among his milder expressions of same.

Misogynist slurs: Actually, I don’t think there were any I caught.

Aliases used by the boys: None this time, as the vic was someone who knew Sam already.

Hint o’ maple: I didn’t catch a single trace of maple goodness on this one. Small cast meant they didn’t get much with accents, and a fair bit of tight shooting kept the background pretty clear of Canadiana.

Well, I’m back

My favourite line from Tolkien, Sam’s when he returns from the Havens and seeing Frodo off. Well, that and Eowyn’s “I am no man!”

And I am. Back, I mean (also, not a man). Ran into a buzzsaw of depression last winter, and more or less got hermitty. Not intentional, and not desired. I’ve got a couple of posts to make about Doctor Who (#MoffPleaseJustGoAway), and I’ve got a few more SPN eps queued up.

I’ll also shortly be starting another blog, specifically for game reviews (board games mostly, though I’ll also write about video gaming). I’m doing this because I don’t think Anita Sarkeesian and the other brave feminist game critics/reviewers out there should be alone. So I’m gonna take up my place on the Via Cyberia, and shout “I AM SPARTAKEESIAN!” I’ll post a link here when I get started there. Already got my first review written, 3 kwd on the newish Firefly board game (spoiler: I like it!).

Anyway, that’s all for today, just wanted to say hi, thanks for staying with me, and I’m looking forward to hearing from people when I get rolling.

Supernatural Re-watch, S1E5: Bloody Mary

The fifth episode to air, on October 11, 2005. I appear to have made a complete botch of my “Schedule Blog Posts” roll, but I’ve triple-checked Friday’s, and I think it should go out on time. 

Synopsis: 

At a tween sleepover in Toledo, we get the infodump on Bloody Mary, the monster of the week, through a game of Truth or Dare: say her name three times in a bathroom mirror, and she’ll appear to take your eyes and kill you. The girl does it, her friends scare her a little, there is squealing and a woken-up Dad. Dad hits the bog before heading back to sleep, and Bloody Mary shows up to, y’know, take his eyes and kill him. They have a cool effect on her showing up, where people walk around and in every reflection they walk past, she’s in it. Older sister (Donna) comes home, finds the blood and Dad, and screams -

Sam wakes from the usual Jess nightmare, which Dean tells us is happening a lot lately. Pretending to be med students from OSU, they try to get in to see the corpse; Dean’s Bluff roll fails, but Sammy drops in a nice Aid Other action by laying down five twenties. Dude is a gross-out mess: eyes missing and kinda black and gooey.

Running down the leads, the boys pretend to be workmates of dear dead Dad at the funeral reception, and investigate the house a little while they’re there. It’s too bad the family wasn’t Jewish, because having all the mirrors covered for sitting shiva would have been a nice touch. Younger sister Lily – the one who was dared to say “Bloody Mary” – insists it wasn’t a stroke, but in fact her fault for having done the bad thing.

Sam deploys the soft-voice puppy-dog-eyes (SVPDE) to get the details from her. Dean’s kind enough to reassure her that it can’t possibly be that, because, y’know, Dad didn’t say it, did he? No. Sam brings up a good point: why, if this is a real thing, aren’t kids dying all over the US for playing this silly game? Speculation that this is the kernel of truth in the modern legend. Also, it’s weird: Dad didn’t say it, so why was it him who died?

Donna’s friend (Charly) catches them investigating, and points out how crappy their lie was about the Dad, because he was a day trader, so he didn’t have much in the way of “colleagues”. She’s shrewd enough to have put together the weird questions and the oddness of them being upstairs, and demands to know what’s going on. SVPDE again, as Sam explains that they’re just trying to keep other people from being hurt. Sam hands over a phone number where she can reach them if anything weird happens.

Research and infodump. Later, Charly is talking to her friend Jill on the phone when the friend, to taunt her, goes to the bathroom mirror to say “Bloody Mary” – and then looses a huge scream while Charly freaks out. She reveals it was a “joke” before hanging up. As Jill begins to get undressed, Bloody Mary appears in the mirror. Jill’s reflection first begins to not be a reflection, and then blood starts dripping from its eyes, as it does from the real Jill, while Mary says, “You did it. You killed that boy.” Fade to black.

Sam’s nightmare. Frustration at lack of results, then Charly calls. They meet with her, and find out that Jill’s gone the same way Papa Shoemaker did. The boys reassure Charly that she’s not insane, which she rightly points out makes this all so much worse. They have a plan, so they go back to Jill’s place for a Search roll. On the back of a mirror, they find (using a blacklight) a bloody hand print, and the name Cary Bryman. Checking it out, the kid appears to have been struck and killed by a car, the description of which, Charly realizes, sounds a lot like Jill’s.

Going back to the first place, they find the name Linda Shoemaker on the back of the mirror where Dad died. That’s the kids’ Mom, who died of an ‘accidental overdose’ a few years ago. It looks pretty clear that Dad killed her, and that they’ve found Mary’s criterion for whether or not to kill (and thus why kids all over aren’t dying by the bukkitload): if you killed someone in secret, she’s coming for you.

Sam talks about the folklore about mirrors being a true reflection of your soul. Dean finds a source for what may well be the original story: “Mary Worthington” (I snickered), Fort Wayne Indiana. They talk to an old retired detective, who inevitably has taken the file on his one “it just bugs me” murder (as apparently all old retired detectives do, I think it must be like how some careers they give you a gold watch when you retire, if you’re an old detective, they give you a cold case). Turns out she was murdered by a break-in who took her eyes, probably a surgeon with whom she was having an affair. Looks like she was made into a spirit when she was unable to pass along the name of her killer.

Unfortunately, she was cremated. Crap. The mirror from the photograph of her death, the one with the unfinished name on it, was returned to her family long ago. So no obvious reason why this spirit is able to wander across the US yet.

Charlie and Donna are talking, and Donna is annoyed with Charlie’s credulousness, and so defiantly says “Bloody Mary” to the bathroom mirror a few times. As Charlie walks away, we can see Mary stalking her through the reflections in windows.

In a chemistry class, Charlie takes out a compact, and has a complete freakout when she sees Mary, smashes a window, and freaks worse yet when it happens again in the concerned teacher’s glasses.

The boys are chasing the mirror, which was sold one week ago to an antique dealer…in Toledo. They get the idea that maybe if they smash the mirror, she’ll be destroyed. Me, I always wonder (as I did in the execrable Doctor Who episode The Curse of the Black Spot) why people think that smashing mirrors will make them stop being mirrors. If you smash a mirror, you get a whole bunch of little mirrors. Until you either strip off the silvering, or grind it to dust, there’s still lots of reflection there – in fact, almost as much as there was before you smashed it.

Charlie calls and summons the Rescue Rangers, so the boys shut her up in their motel room, cover everything remotely reflective, and Sam gets SVPDE with Charlie to keep her calm until they can destroy Mary. Part of that, of course, is revealing what her dark secret is: she had an insecure and abusive boyfriend, who threatened to kill himself if she left; she said “good,” and so he did. Despite that she obviously didn’t kill him, her guilt over it is enough to bring the big bad.

Sam speculates that they need to pin her down in the haunted mirror before smashing it, and insists that she will come after him, because he has a secret about Jess’ death. He can’t tell Dean, of course, because then it wouldn’t be a secret anymore, and Mary wouldn’t come when called.

Turns out the antique dealer has kind of a thing for mirrors. When they find the right one, Sam gets ready to call her, while Dean goes out to Bluff the cops who’ve responded to the alarm they tripped. When the Bluff doesn’t work, Dean resorts to a surprise attack, dropping the two cops quickly, then heads back inside to help Sam. Hefting a crowbar, Sam gets to smashing mirrors where she shows up, but before she gets into the one they want her in, she starts to use her power on Sam. Mirror!Sam accuses Sam of having precogged Jess’ death, and that his ignoring the dreams meant Sam is responsible for killing her.

Dean arrives to destroy the mirror, which seems like game over – until she starts going all Japanese-horror-movie cliché, crawling out of the frame and walking in that Japanese-horror-movie way (long straggly hair covering eyes, jerky movements). She starts to power-whack both boys, before Dean manages to catch her in another mirror, and her power eats itself, basically.

Back to Charlie’s to drop her off, and Sam gives her a bit of SVPDE as light therapy on the way out. Sam spots Jess standing on a corner as they drive away, and seems troubled. She disappears.

Analysis:

Wow, were the effects for them driving the car crappy in the first season! Crude matte work, bad lighting differences. Just…yeesh. So much better when they started doing it as a practical effect, by what I assume is mounting the car on a low-rider trailer, and filming it actually driving around.

Anyway, this is one of my favourites of the first season. I like the use of SVPDE, it’s what gave me a soft spot for Sam in the first place, and I’m sad that they cut down the use so much later. I like also that the MotW provides a fairly graceful way of introducing Sam’s precog nightmares, in a much less clunky way than the usual expositionary dumping.

The girls’ characters in this episode rang more true to me than those in some other episodes, and I wonder if that’s related to the two Teleplay credits, one of which was to Terri Hughes Burton. She also worked on Wendigo, where I liked the character of the older sister. Unfortunately, those appear to be the only two episodes she worked on, and for me, one of the ongoing weaknesses of the show is how women characters are written, so it’s too bad she didn’t get more chances.

Once again we have a senior police officer who is a PoC: veteran actor William S Taylor. Taylor’s got an amazing resume: an NCAA star in football, he moved to Canada to play pro for the CFL’s BC Lions and later Canadian Heavyweight Boxing Champion, before becoming disenchanted with sports and moving into music and acting.  

I just tend to think this is a well-written episode, with good pacing, some genuinely creepy moments (although undermined a little by the cliche-ness of the spirit’s appearance), and a much less clunky style of infodump than we’ve seen in previous episodes. Not one “As You Know” moment.

Conclusion:

Next episode is S1E6 Skin, another creepy early-seasons favourite of mine.

(cue guitars and credits)

S1E5: Bloody Mary: 4 Pentacles

Four pentacles from me on this one, as I quite simply enjoy it. Not five because there’s a bit of cliché to the herky-jerky-long-hair spirit, and because of the distractingly terrible matte work.

Trivia:

Running total of innocents killed by the Boys: Still zero! Actually, this may not move a whole lot in the first season, it’s not til demons get really rolling (second and third seasons) that we start to get a fair bit of the lads killing civvies.

Named women and/or POC (not already dead) who end up dead before the episode’s out: (of Lily, Donna, Jill, and Charlie, only Jill dies; the Black detective is unnamed) ¼

Marginalized (named) body survival rate: 75%

Objectification by Dean: Actually, amazingly little.

Misogynist slurs: I don’t think I heard a single one. Interesting how much more common it becomes as the seasons go by.

Aliases used by the boys: Again, I don’t think they used any.

Hint o’ maple:  Lots of accents (Donna & Lily and one of Lily’s friends, the cops), but not a whole lot else.

Quick one

Just realized things have been very quiet on this week’s rewatch episodes, and that would be because I set them somehow to publish next week and not this week. I’m not sure how I skipped a week. Anyway, we’ll return on Tuesday with S1E5, Bloody Mary. I’m looking forward to that one, it’s one of my favourite first-seasoners. On Friday next, we’ll have S1E6 Skin, another highlight of the first season. Three-quarters of this second DVD of the series is good (Bugs and I have a love-hate relationship, but Hook Man brings the goods). 

Monday Pouring Down Rain

This is really awesome. If I met this kid and his mom, and she gave him the high sign that it’s okay to speak up about what he loves, I’d be happy with him. Who could be unhappy at a child doing something they love? 

Rebels without a clue: Paul Krugman’s column about the sheer foolishness of this looming shutdown in the US, and potential default on their financial obligations. Because let’s be clear, that’s what this is: the US Congress passes laws which establish things that cost money. Then, later, they appropriate the money to pay for it. Not paying for it? That’s default. 

So if the debt limit doesn’t get raised (or ideally disposed of, it’s a stupid rule that has nothing to do with economics and everything to do with shallow political realities), the US will be saying, “Yeah, I know I said I’d pay for the car, but I’m having an argument with my wife, and she won’t let me have the chequebook unless I do 87 things around the house by this afternoon, 84 of which are really bad ideas, and the other 3 conflict with some of the 84.”

And expecting the dealership rep to say, “Oh, well, that’s alright then, pay it when you can, it’s not like we’re in this for the money or anything,” when we all know really that as soon as you hang up, they’re calling the repo man.

This sort of behaviour leads to revolutions in some places. I doubt I know anyone brave enough – certainly not me! – to start one in the current incarnation of the US. 

The only potential solution i can see is if Boehner resigns, and the House is able to elect a Speaker who isn’t afraid of being primaried from the right – maybe someone who’s not running for another term, or something like that – who’d be willing to bring the CR to the floor even though it’d be almost all Democrats voting for it. I looked around online this morning, but there’s no way to unseat a Speaker who doesn’t want to be, in the US system, unless their party also agrees. 

This is, I think, a pretty bad flaw in the US’ system of checks and balances: a partisan Speaker means that the majority party has almost total control of the lower House, through the right to control the agenda. In the Westminster system, the Speaker is explicitly non-partisan, and expected to do nothing that can be shown to have supported one party over another. 

Comment Policy

nicked with permission (and very minor customization in italics) from Consider the Tea Cozy:

COMMENT POLICY

Let’s keep this simple.

Slurs will get you banned. Racism, ableism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and xenophobia (and this is not an exhaustive list) will get you banned. If I think you’re genuine or I’m in a particularly good mood, I might disemvowel your comment and give you a single chance. I might draw-and-quarter you (I draw a picture of you and how you’re a big meany, and then I throw quarters at it until it’s all ripped up). Or I might not. This is my space, I can be as arbitrary as I like. Get your own blog and post about how hurt your fee-fees are there.

On the other hand, calling me out on my own privilege or asshattery is welcome. Discussion is welcome. Dissenting opinions are welcome. Cursing, swearing, and general pottymouthery are absolutely welcome. Comments in English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, or Japanese are welcome. Have at it.

Got it? Excellent.

At some point, i’ll get a link to this in the place for that sort of thing. 

Bewildering

I’ll admit: I often don’t – well, okay, usu- alright, really almost never - get our southern neighbours, Jesusland, er, the Libertyworld Theme Park, um, the USA. The changes which have been happening in their society, lurching ever rightward in grotesque spasms of cruelty to the – well, to almost everyone, really – don’t make sense to me.

Here in Canada, for instance, the Harpertron 5000 – CPC (non-communist) MP for Uncanny Valley – had been in the Prime Minister’s Office already for two years when I found out that someone had installed the “Evangelical Christian” package just after assembly. It just doesn’t really come up in our politics much, and an atheist doesn’t have any notable disadvantage in running for member of any parliament in many ridings (some notable exceptions exist, absolutely).

Cutting spending (and thus reducing economic growth, unless you live in the magic-thinkosphere where “spending less money in our economy is better for it!”) to fight a recession? That is bizarre – and to be fair, by no means uniquely American, as the European Community’s 1% saw an opportunity to create more serfs when they’d crashed their economies, and grabbed it with eleventy-three hands at once. Canada, for various reasons, balanced the federal budgets under Jean Chrétien and produced surpluses for much of the 90s, which allowed us to pay down our debt considerably; as a result, our economy didn’t crash nearly as badly as our neighbours’ did, as we had no impulse to implement austerity in hellish ways to make it worse, and our banks haven’t captured our regulatory mechanisms (yet).

Spending more than the next top ten militaries in the world every year? Also, bizarre. Also also, not a little bit terrifying, when one lives next door. Further terrifying, when one realizes the US is running out of water, and there’s this huge, largely un/under-populated just to the north, with an enormous supply of fresh water, and did we mention largely underpopulated? Also already mostly speaking a form of English, and generally more familiar with US culture than their own? Anyone getting a little Anschluss-y shiver, or is that just me? Just me, then.

But this latest one: holding your own government, your economy, in a hostage situation, so as to protect the profits of the health care insurance industry, while shouting at the top of your lungs how incredibly patriotic you are for doing so?

That’s…what’s the right word for this, when you’re trying not to stigmatize mental illlness? Maybe incomprehensible will do? Baffling and bewildering? Boggling and croggling? Rare as this is, I can’t find the right word at all to express what this looks like from outside, while trying to be respectful about mental health (which is not a thing I’m willing to compromise on).

But let me say this: living next to the nation with the largest military, the largest arsenal of nuclear world-ending bombs, one of the worst healthcare systems in the western democracies, collapsing physical and educational infrastructure, and an almost totally nonfunctional government…if the US shuts down its government and begins to default on its debt, in what important ways at that point would it not be rapidly approaching “failed-state” status?

Our former long-running Prime Minister, the late Pierre Trudeau, once said of the US:

Être votre voisin, c’est comme dormir avec un éléphant; quelque douce et placide que soit la bête, on subit chacun de ses mouvements et de ses grognements.

“To be your neighbour is like sleeping next to an elephant: no matter how gentle and mild the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

And when the twitch-and-grunt turns instead into musth, well, it’s a rotten time to be the mouse in the bed.

You have my sympathies, neighbourinos, and my hopes for a sudden pandemic of highly contagious rational-thinking, as well as the government the richest country on earth deserves, in place of the one the richest corporations on earth want it to be.

Racism in football

(and by football I mean the game where the ball may not be played with the hand by most players, not the game where the ball may not be played with the foot by most players)

content note: discussion of acts of racism against Black and Jewish players and fans

There’ve been more and more frequent incidents of racism, largely anti-Black racism but also anti-Semitism and anti-Asian, happening in football in various European countries. Really vile stuff: throwing bananas, making monkey noises, and other abuses of Black players, and hideously, gas-hissing noises at teams thought to have a lot of Jewish support, or which are traditionally associated with Jewish fans. Incidents are listed by country at this link.

Starting with anti-Semitism, because it’s something that comes to my attention fairly often, as the team I’ve supported since I was a wee thing (Tottenham Hotspur FC, from the north side of London in the UK) has traditionally been associated with a large contingent of Jewish fans. The fans, when confronted with the usual anti-Semitic horrors thrown at them by fans of nearby rivals, have often sung with pride of being ‘the Yid Army’, turning the anti-Semitic slur “Yid” into a term of pride in not being bigots.

This usage is obviously fraught, as the support base has grown well outside our north-London home into being in the second tier of football’s biggest clubs in the UK, and the prevalence of Jewish fans of the team has diminished by proportion. Meaning a group of mostly non-Jews are singing songs about being proud to be Yids, and such; some Jewish fans (and not-fans) have complained, on (I think) reasonable grounds.

I am, absolutely, proud that my fellow Spurs fans take pride in our association with the Jewish community of north London, especially given the right-wing and often white-supremacist stuff that is used to attack us by fringe groups of hardline fans of rival teams, a good portion of whose fans wouldn’t ever use those terms or attacks.

But tiny in overall proportion isn’t much help when you’re in a stadium and hearing it from a few thousand singing people. So as much as I hate to lose our term of pride, I do wish my fellow Spurs fans would heed the words of those we’re so proud to welcome against the awful things hurled at them, and retire the word from our chantbook.

Maybe instead we could learn some traditional Yiddish songs and use those tunes, or even learn them in Yiddish, and show our pride that way. I believe we can find ways to show that pride without doing harm to the people we want to be honouring.

o-O=O-o

Also, from the other kind of football, the one with almost no kicking: the Washington team? Time to find a new way to ‘honour’ those your name is allegedly meant to embiggen. Using an unambiguously racist slur as your team nickname is just…just please, stop digging, Mr. Owner of the Washington team? Put down the shovel, have a contest to rename the team, sell some naming rights, call it the Washington Tide™, and cash in on that sweet laundry-sponsor money or something. But enough with the slurs as names for teams. That’s so twencen.

o-O=O-o

Back to the world’s game, Black players have walked out – at least once, notably, with their entire team following them – of games in which they have been racially abused, so far only friendlies and pre-season games, and most noted in Italy, though Black players themselves are quite clear that they don’t see Italy as being particularly more likely to find racial abuse as part of their fan culture.

As a bit of evidence that it goes on in the usual much-less-noticeable ways too, former England/Spurs/Arsenal (BOO!) defender Sol Campbell said that in order to become a team manager*, he’s preparing to go abroad to find work. He highlights that the top four divisions in English football – NINETY-TWO TEAMS – have only four Black managers running a team.

In an interview, Campbell said

…he may have to go abroad to move into coaching because of “archaic” prejudice and his “broken” relationship with the Football Association. Campbell, who won 73 England caps, is working towards gaining UEFA’s A-licence, the game’s second-highest coaching qualification. But he believes prevailing attitudes in the professional game mean “there are no opportunities” for him in a country where only four black managers — Chris Hughton, Paul Ince, Chris Powell and Chris Kiwomya — work in the top four divisions.

For further tools to help fight racism so as to make the beautiful game beautiful again, I cannot too strongly recommend the FARE** network, who’ve been working very hard for years to change attitudes about racism in the game, from fan support to top executives.

* In the UK, the team’s ‘manager’ is the one responsible for the team on game day, giving tactical orders and making substitutions and picking the starters and such. They’re also frequently (but not always) the person in charge of recruitment of players from outside their own youth system, namely free agent signings, player exchanges, or sale/loans of players.

** I think it’s for Footballers Against Racism Everywhere, but I couldn’t find confirmation.

Supernatural Re-watch, S1E4: Phantom Traveller

Fourth episode of the first season, air date October 4, 2005.  First appearance of demon-as-black-smoke, black-eyed demons, and DIY exorcism.

Synopsis:

We start with a nervous flyer in a bathroom at an airport, where we see a wisp of black smoke (which we’ll pretend later we don’t notice is completely and totally different from every later instance of black smoke demons) entering his eyes (yeah, yeah).  When he boards the plane, he turns black eyes to the flight attendant, but she dismisses it as she carries on working.

Later, in flight, the man stands up and walks to the back of the plane.  One passenger notices him by the door, when the black-eyed man grabs the impossible-to-move handle on the inside of the door, opening it wide.  He is sucked out, and follows the door as it smashes the jet’s right elevator.  The plane goes into an immediate loss-of-control state, and eventually crashes.  There are only seven survivors.

The boys are called in by a phone call from a Pennsylvania air traffic controller, whom Dean and John had helped before with a poltergeist problem.  Sam’s having trouble adjusting to hunting again, having nightmares and angst.  Jerry the ATC has a recording of the black-box voice recorder, which has a voice saying “no survivors” in a weird way – double weird, because seven people survived the crash, including the pilot and the flight attendant we met.  He can’t get them in to see the wreckage, though, as it’s locked down by NTSB.

The boys hit up their local Kinko’s-clone, where Dean puts together some Homeland Security ID for them to use in infiltrating the wreckage warehouse (careful examination of the ID shows that Dean is using one with “Jerry Wanek” as the name – this happens to be one of the crew, the production designer).

They also go to the psychiatric institution where one of the survivors is regaining his equilibrium.  Careful probing turns up the bit about the black-eyed guy who opened the door.  He points out that this is impossible, but he sure as hell thought he saw it anyway.

Dean and Sam speculate that the passenger may not have been human, given his apparently-impossible levels of strength.  His widow says he was a dentist, headed to a convention, and a terrified flyer.  I think this is the introduction of an idea that gets dropped pretty quickly for narrative reasons, that demons could only possess someone if they were weak in some manner when it happened: his huge fear made him vulnerable.

Cue a Blues-Brothers transformation, as the lads get themselves into cheapish black suits, so as to look more the part for their wreckage survey.  Dean introduces us to the idea of the EMF meter, with a bit of clumsy As You Know Bob, and finds a fair bit of EMF signature – meaning spirit activity.  Sam, meanwhile, finds what turns out to be a fair bit of sulphur on the wreckage of the door.  Then, trouble!  Real DHS agents show up, only to find that the boys somehow magically knew they were coming and got away just in time.

Cut to the crashed pilot going up for his first flight after the crash, in a small twin-engine.  Again we get the trope about the demon-vulnerable scared guy, as the black smoke once again drifts in through his eyes (I know).  He gets very cocky, and soon goes black-eyed, before knocking out the other pilot and diving straight at the ground, and then there were six.

Sam checks further, having noticed that the flights both went down 40 minutes in, and finds six more previous flights which crashed 40 minutes in.

When they hunt down the other survivors on the phone, only one of them is still flying: the flight attendant is to take her first flight back on the job tonight, from an airport five hours away.  They try to dissuade the flight attendant from taking the flight, but she won’t go for it.  They have no other choice but to get on the plane with her.  Dean, it turns out, isn’t the happiest flyer ever, and the demon is definitely taking the flight with them.

Another demon-hunting tidbit is introduced here and then quickly forgotten: the whole “demons flinch from the name of god” thing.

Dean gets a good hit off the EMF meter when he spots the co-pilot coming out of the bathroom.  Muttering the (wrong) Latin name for god, the demon goes black-eyed, but heads into the cockpit.

The boys try to talk Amanda into luring the co-pilot back out of the cockpit, and obviously get critical successes on their Bluff and Diplomacy rolls, because even in this post-9/11 age, they manage the task.  This, by the way, is where my suspension of disbelief nosed over and headed for the ground at a high rate.

Confining the dude with some duct tape, Sam starts the exorcism, but the demon starts fighting back – when he gets his mouth loose, he talks some smack about Sam’s dead girlfriend, but they complete the ritual, and the demon leaves him.  Somehow, it possesses the plane, which takes the usual tumble to the ground, causing Sammy to lose the journal with the exorcism ritual in it.  He finally grabs it, shouts some stuff, and the plane is fine.

When the plane gets back on the ground, the boys find out that Jerry found them by calling John’s cellphone, the message on which has been changed to redirect people to Dean’s phone.  They now know that John is alive, but for some reason staying away from them.

Analysis:

Like the last episode, it’s hard to find much to critique here, because the episode is basically a pork (the other white meat) sausagefest: only one named/speaking character is not a white man, and she’s pretty inoffensive as a character – brave, but a little too easily manipulated for my taste.  I know Sam and Dean are superheroes, and one of their powers is their high Diplomacy/Bluff skills (for Sam and Dean respectively), but really, this one just is hard to take seriously.

Conclusion:

Next up is a fan favourite, as well as one of mine: Bloody Mary.

(cue guitars and credits)

S1E4: Phantom Traveler: 1 Pentacle

1/5 – I wonder if I’m being a little harsh on this one, but I just find it way too hard to keep my suspension of disbelief in the air.  Post 9/11, this is just not a very believable episode to have made: we’ve all heard WAY too many stories of planes which made emergency landings because someone whose skin was too brown made an offhand reference to a comedian’s joke bombing, so the idea that two guys could talk a flight attendant into luring a pilot out of the cockpit to be ambushed?  Just…no.  I don’t care how big Sam’s puppy-dog eyes are, I don’t care how cute Dean thinks he is, just…no.  Though the numbers (see below) indicate a much less lethal world for not-(hetero-white-men) in this one, so maybe I am being too harsh.  Of course, it’s hard for the world to be much less lethal for marginalized people than this one, since there simply are almost none to work with.

Honestly, it’s a good thing I found the show watching fourth-season reruns.  I don’t know how long I’d have stuck with this show at this point, if I hadn’t already know there was some awesome coming.  The pacing has improved considerably, but there are still dead zones in the episode: the editing will get much tighter and much better as the series continues.

Trivia:

Running total of innocents killed by the Boys: 0 (they’re doing so much better than I thought they would!)

Named women and/or POC (not already dead) who end up dead before the episode’s out: 0!  A new record!  Of course, the streak continues, with only one named woman character who speaks, and no POC who speak or have names. 

Marginalized (named) body survival rate: 100%!  1/1 (Amanda, the flight attendant, who lives)

Objectification by Dean: 0 again!

Misogynist slurs: And another big zero!

Aliases used by the boys: Wanek (Dean), unknown (Sam).

Hint o’ maple:  Three actors (Kett Turton as Max Jaffe, Daryl Shuttleworth as Chuck Lambert, and Paul Jarrett as George Phelps), plus Vancouver International Airport’s South Terminal, and a few CF and CG tail-numbers on the non-CGI aircraft.

Promising news about Marissa Alexander

Rather than re-typing, I’ll direct your attention to Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, who wrote about Ms. Alexander’s unjust treatment here; in short, she fired a warning shot to stop her husband attacking her, and ended up in prison for 20 years for aggravated assault.

In Florida.

You know, the place where it was okay for Zimmerman to murder a young Black man, because Zimmerman was so scared that had to leap out of his police car - oh, wait, no, not a cop, huh? – vehicle to pursue and kill him with a firearm?

Where there are nominally “stand your ground” laws, allowing (privileged) people to defend themselves without requiring retreat, as is commonly the law in most places. 

In the comments, she also updates that Ms. Alexander (link is to the support site for her fight against her conviction) has been granted a retrial by an appeals court, so at least she will theoretically get a chance to make her case, and hopefully with some attention we can focus on the trial, get a more just result than a mandatory minimum 20 years, for an “aggravated” assault that didn’t make so much as a bruise on the person she didn’t shoot

20 years. Anyone doubting that it’s because she’s got the complexion to break the connection, between self-defence (for those deemed white enough) and aggravated assault (for anyone foolish enough to have brown skin)?

See, mandatory minima sound like a justice leveler. You’re meant to think, “Well, anyone else who did that would get the same mandatory minimum, right?”

But of course, that doesn’t reckon with Privilege™ (don’t leave – or enter - your house without it!). 

When you’ve got Privilege™, then they look at your case and decide it was “unlawful discharge of a firearm”. Usually not a major felony, and thus able to avoid both three-strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentences.

There are lots of ways for the system to be gamed in favour of people with Privilege™. 

Speak up for Marissa Alexander