This column originally appeared in the Student Standard volume 1, issue 1 on the 12th February 2013. The Student Standard is NUI Maynooth’s independent new source and can be read online here
published here with kind permission of Keith Broni, editor of the Standard.
Bank Holiday Tuesday 12th February 2013
Another year, another Superbowl Sunday passed with me in bed early, not willing to stay up until 5AM watching the most excruciatingly boring sport known to man (Worse than Cricket, Curling and Lawn Bowls put together because AT LEAST those sports don’t stop for a little rest every every. single. Play) only for the faint promise of nine minutes of Beyonce that I could catch on YouTube the next day. No, I experienced the superbowl the way I also experienced the Late Late show’s debate on marriage equality last week- tucked up in bed with a hot chocolate, following the proceedings via twitter.
Twitter is a great medium for experiencing telly, a crowdsourced annotated commentary of whatever happens to be on. It’s basically watching highlights that are tailored to your own personal tastes- so in my case, the Superbowl coverage I saw was mostly ‘When’s Beyonce on?’ Then hysterical tweets when she actually did come on (SHE’S SO GOOD AT WALKING!) all about the dancing, the costume, the choice of song (‘Baby Boy?’ Really? That song was lame back in 2004. Come on Bey, do Bootilicious, come on-OH MY GOD THEY’RE DOING BOOTILICIOUS) and of course, the fact that Destiny’s child had ‘reunited.’ When really, all that happened was that Bey got her moderately famous backing singers back. I always liked Kelly Rowland. She reached a minor solo peak around 2003 when I first got into pop music. Sadface. Oh wait, now they’re doing single ladies- I have to do Single ladies on this deadly silent train now, excuse me.
The Bey halftime show was a bit of an experience for me, watching it on my phone on the train to Maynooth Monday Morning. It was when I finally sort of ‘got’ Beyonce. We’ve long had a complicated relationship because she just doesn’t really have a lot of songs I can groove to. Bootilicious and Single Ladies are aggressively good and that is Beyonce at her best. Telephone is an over produced masterpiece of pop excess. If I were a boy and her other break up jams always felt a bit flat to me. It never really captures the actual pain of a break-up- they’re more like revenge dreams. I’d theorise that ‘If I were a boy’ is really a dissing of the sort of casual misogyny that’s common in most hip hop and rap.
Beyonce isn’t particularly titillating. She’s too fucking scary to be titillating. Compare some of her earlier videos- writhing on a beach because Sean Paul is just too hot to comprehend (note- it was 2004 after all) in baby boy, to the aggressive dominance of the Single Ladies dance. Single Ladies is an aggressive, iconic song. It’s not sensual- it’s a war cry. She’s strong and she will fucking TRASH YOU in a song if you wrong her. She’s not pandering to sexism so much as sticking a sharp heel through it. Men do fancy her (note-I fancy her. everyone fancies her. don’t lie.) but she’s not for a moment subservient to any man. She consistently out-earns her husband. All you need do to set off any woman born between 1980 and 1993 is to go up to her and ask earnestly ‘Kelly, can you handle this?’. You will be treated to every woman in the vicinity shrieking the lyrics to ‘Bootilicious’ at the tops of their voices.
Which brings me to the title of her new tour- Mrs Carter. Using her husbands name on her solo tour has been a bit… confusing to people who have always seen Beyonce as a strong independent figure. Personally, I had actually forgotten Beyonce had a surname at all. ‘Knowles’ sort of became redundant after Sasha Fierce came out- She’s reached Cher levels of ‘first name only’ recognition. I had also forgotten Jay-Z had a surname either, in fact I just assumed they were monarchs and didn’t have a need for one, you know? Privately, Bey and Jay apparently both hyphenate their names, going as the ‘Knowles- Carter’ family. Bey has said publically that when she’s stressed, she likes to go make love to her husband to chill out. She is one of the most athletic and accomplished dancers of our generation- I’d argue her choreography will define the dance of our generation in the same way Michael Jackson defined the 80s. In the promo for this tour she’s dressed in a Louis the XIV style leotard and a fur cape. She’s Beyonce. LADS. She is Beyonce. Beyonce is allowed name her tour whatever she wants.
Niamh ‘I don’t think you’re ready for this Jelly’ Keoghan
A wild ANIMATED ACTION MINI SERIES appeared!
NIAMH used REVIEW!
Fuck, I loved The legend of Aang.
It was simply the best show Nickelodeon ever put out- It was incredible in it’s scale, it’s attention to detail, it’s gorgeous animation, it’s amazingly lovable, complicated and kick ass characters, it’s amazing sense of humor, it’s beautiful score- Oh man is there anything Legend of Aang didn’t do right?
The original series ran for three seasons of 22 episodes each and it really is a masterpiece. It struck a rare balance in children’s TV- It took it’s myth arc seriously while at the same time keeping an incredible humour and most importantly it respected it’s audience. I really cannot gush about Legend of Aang enough. I’ve had to rewrite my first paragraph four times adding in shit they got RIGHT. Awesome.
The basic plot, for any newbies, is that the avatar world is divided into 4 general races of people- The fire Nation (Based loosely in aesthetic on Imperial Japan), The Earth Kingdom (Based on a certain Dynasty of China that I can’t remember the name of), the Water Tribes at the North and South Poles (Based looesly on Inuits) and finally, the Air nomads (Based on Tibetan Monks). Some members of each of these races have the power to manipulate their particular element- so you have fire, water earth and Air benders. Once every Generation, the spirit of the planet is born as the only human with the ability to manipulate all four elements, and their job is to maintain balance. When the Avatar dies, they’re reborn in a different race to the one they just were, and the cycle starts again with them learning all the elements.
That’s the really basic plot, and oh man it gets so much deeper than that.
And so, after the epic finale of Legend of Aang, nerds everywhere orgasmed when a sequel miniseries was announced- The Legend of Korra was going to pick up a whole new cast of characters and the newxt avatar, Korra. The basic Avatar formula was always ripe for sequel bait and Korra proved successful- it’s already been green lighted for a second series apparently and it does go in a radically different direction to the original series which is good. Overall, here are some of my thoughts- Set out as pros and cons
I adored this series, let’s make that very clear. Let’s also make it clear that I don’t think Korra was the masterpiece that Aang was. It’s exceptional but perhaps understandably didn’t have the epic scale that made Aang so memorable. In a way, I like that. Korra manages to really deviate itself from the formula of it’s parent series and there was a conscious effort to make this series different. Rather than the globe wandering original Korra is set entirely around a modern metropolis location that didn’t even exist as a city at the time of Aang’s series. It’s colour palette is far darker and grimier and even the soundtrack is different- Like jazz with Asian instruments tossed in [Spoiler- it rocks so fuckin hard]. The setting is far more industrially developed than Aang- Set 70 years after Aang, the 2 series are seperated by a massive industrial revolution. In Aang we saw a few early airships and mechanical weapons but in Korra we have a full on electrical, petrol driven steampunk playground- and that’s awesome. It makes a great success of feeling like the same world, just a little further along in time.
Korra is also fucking boss because it’s proved something- A female lead can kick ass in a series and boys will watch it. I won’t really go into how much this kicks ass, but suffice to say Korra is pretty goddamn progressive for a show marketed to kids- Execs were worried about Boys not liking a show with a female lead, but in test screenings most boys just thought she kicked ass. And she, to quote The Nostalgia chick, doesn’t hold her ovaries in triumph as she kicks as- Korra just happens to be female and happens to be in this ridiculous situation.
I don’t get the impression that Korra was written consciously as a ‘strong female character’, she certainly doesn’t feel forced or awkward. She’s a character, rather than a ‘female’ character. You can say the same for the other women in this series and oh dear god they ALL KICK SO MUCH ASS YOU GUYS (even Pema. Fuckin’ LOVE Pema)
One thing Korra avoided was the usual trap of sequels which is trying to re-capture the dynamic of the original work- and they did do it in places, but it’s rather hard to distinguish who is this series’ ‘Sokka,’ who’s the ‘Aang’ and who’s the ‘Zuko’, because all the characters are looking for different things. You do have the joker, the broody one and the blithe spirit, but they aren’t carbon copies of the original cast, nor are their relationships. Even direct relatives aren’t expies- Tenzin is very unlike Aang, and Lin Bei Fong isn’t a Toph clone despite being her mother. There are nice homages, but the characters are all their own. Unfortunately…
… The series had absolutely no time to develop this very promising cast.
My god, this felt so rushed. It’s my one massive complaint with the whole series. they set out to do and show so much and introduce so much new shit, that it just all flew past for me. you had the new steampunk elements, fine. And the metal bending police, then pro bending, then equalists, then FUCK race cars then AGH Air Acolytes and biplanes and cabbage corps- so much! Now there is a comic book series bridging this series and Aang together, but the pacing of the show itself felt rushed. It was difficult to really build up a connection to massive cast in 10 25 minute episodes, and an hour long finale.
The cast was awesome, just not utilized very well. People are introduced and you never really get breathing time with them, there’s no warming period- General Iroh junior is a good example- I know he’s really a nod to fans, being voiced by a familiar actor and all that, but he only appears in THE FINALE? Seriously? It drove me nuts! We get no arc with him, we don’t get a character, we just get badass General doing badass shit. That’s fine, but I think what made Legend of Aang so compelling was the fact that EVERYONE had a point and an arc to their stories- Even Toph who by and large was comic relief badass who cracked wise in the original series was introduced with a motivation- run away from my smothering parents. Sokka and Katara and everyone felt rounded and familiar.
Korra just didn’t have time to introduce and maintain such a massive cast- Lin Bei Fong is another offender- Awesome and badass, but we don’t really get under her skin much- we don’t get under anyone’s skin the way Aang did so expertly. Even side characters in Aang like Jet and Haru had most character to them. the Korra characters are… Disappointing in a way. You always want more because they’re awesome, but there just isn’t enough time for everyone. So in terms of pacing, I found Korra a bit too jam packed- they tried to do too much with too little time. (General Bumi DIDN’T EVEN GET A LINE. HE LOOKED AWESOME AND ALL HE GOT TO SAY WAS ‘WOOO!’)
I really, really loved this show. I’m so glad it exists. I didn’t even get into all the awesome aspects of it, but it really is exceptional. However, Korra seriously suffered from it’s short running time- Introducing a whole new setting and a massively changed world was very ambitious and not fully successful in the time that that had. It’s a gorgeously animated and very clever little series (You’d actually get through he whole thing in one sitting) but it doesn’t have the majesty of the original. Then again, it was never going to, and I don’t think the makers wanted it to be another Aang- it’s the differences from Aang that really make it something special.
It was super effective!
Niamh ‘Avatar state Yip Yip!’ Keoghan