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New Escapist Column! On “Better Call Saul”, “Andor” and Slow-Burn Classics…

I published a new piece at The Escapist earlier this week. As Andor winds down its first season, garnering rave reviews but not attracting as strong an audience as its predecessors, comparisons come to mind concerning Better Call Saul, which has quietly become one of the best television shows of the decade despite never reaching the same level of popularity as its predecessor.

What do Better Call Saul and Andor have in common? What is it that makes both shows so compelling, but which also makes them a tougher sell to audiences than what came before? Are they both just out of step with the zeitgeist, reflecting a mode of television production that doesn’t have the same cultural cachet that it once did? And, most importantly, does any of that matter if they are both creative triumphs? It’s interesting to explore and unpack.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

“Someone Who Hides Behind a Mask.” “Joker”, Superheroes, Vigilantes, and Pulp Friction…

A lot of digital ink has been spilled about Joker.

This makes sense. After all, it entered the discussion as a source of moral panic. It then emerged as a box office smash. It is a potential awards contender. And it provides an interesting intersection of genre. It is a hybrid of the dominant genre at the contemporary blockbuster with more ambitious and abstract awards fare. As such, it is not a surprise that Joker has dominated public attention in the way that it has. It seems almost tailor-made to generate discussion and debate, even if that can occasionally feel deafening.

That said, one of the most interesting and frustrating aspects of Joker is the way in which the film deliberately and consciously avoids crossing any particularly provocative lines. The film sidesteps a lot of potentially thorny issues of race and gender, perhaps wary of the potential internet blow back. If the film is making a point about anything, it seems to be a self-aware acknowledgement of the desire to imbue objects with symbolic weight and meaning even when they have not been designed to bear the weight. “I’m not political,” Arthur Fleck asserts, as political meaning is imposed upon him.

That said, there is something very interesting at the heart of Joker, something that likely emerged almost entirely by accident. Joker provides an interesting genre hybrid of the seventies and eighties vigilante thriller with the contemporary superhero blockbuster. And, in doing so, suggests an interesting throughline. Joker suggests that the superhero blockbuster isn’t as far removed from these urban power fantasies as the audience might like to believe.

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