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October 31, 2014 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-10-31

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Friday, October 31, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Fridy, ctobr 3, 204 Te Mchign Dily mihigadaiyco

NBC
That sweater life.
'C onstantine' fails

despit
NBC drama features
some of the worst
acting on TV. Ever.
By JAMIE BIRCOLL
Daily Arts Writer
"Constantine" shouldn't be on
network television;it needs a shad-
owy,graphic atmospherethe kind
that Netflix will
provide for the
"Daredevil"
series debuting Constanne
next year. It's
the kind of show Fridaysat
that is fostered 9p.m.
in darkness and NBC
will thus thrive
on darkness;
the occult, demonology, Hell itself
- topics that should be dealt with
certain a seriousness, albeit with
some levity thrown in, the sort of
combination that can make you
squirm in your seat yet dares you
tolook away.
We get this within the first 10
minutes of the pilot - John Con-
stantine, played by Welsh actor
Matt Ryan ("Layer Cake"), volun-
tarily receives electro-shock treat-
ment in an insane asylum. As he
talks with the head psychologist,
his eyes exude pain, confusion,
fear. This "master ofthe dark arts,"
as his business cards read, also
proves to have quite a wit and sar-
castic bite. Slowly but surely, it is

e Matt

revealed Constantine once fought
demons, but has since lost his faith;
he places himself in the asylum so
that he might realize demons are
figments ofhis imagination. None-
theless, the possession of a patient
at the asylum convinces him to get
back in the game and journey to ...
Atlanta, GA.
Oh, Atlanta: home of lousy
sports teams, Waffle House, large
studio tax breaks and certainly
one of the least visually appealing,
least recognizable cities in Amer-
ica. That the show is so quickly
supplanted fromthe grayumbrage
of England to this sunny Southern
locale foreshadows the impending
collapse of narrative compulsion,
which it almost gleefully pro-
vides in the form of actress Lucy
Griffiths ("True Blood") as Liv
Aberdeen. It is no hyperbole when
I say that Griffiths delivers one of
the worst TV performances ever.
Ever.
And suddenly, "Constantine"
isn't so absorbing. It adopts a
mentor-mentee relationship -
one with zero chemistry, between
Constantine and Liv - with Con-
stantine trying to both save Liv
from a demon that has her marked
for damnation and teach her how
to tap into her supernatural power
of seeing souls trapped between
our world and the next. It glosses
over so much exposition, so many
rules of Constantine's world, as
though we are expected to know
of the conflict between angels and

Ryan
demons, of human intervention
with the occult, etc. before the
show begins.
Yeah, it's out there, but not as
out there as the decision to even
cast Aberdeen in the role. Her
acting is so naive, so childlike, so
completely unprofessional that
it threatens to actually derail the
entire episode. Aesthetic choices,
too, are sometimes questionable,
as with the contrived wide-angle
aerial shot of Constantine, arms
outstretched as he shouts to angels
in the skies.
But despite all of these glaring
issues, there is hope for "Constan-
tine." Pilots rarely, if ever, deliver
the full extent of what a show is
to encompass. "Constantine" ben-
efits drastically from a strong cast-
ing choice in Ryan, who balances
inner turmoil with exceptional wit
and comic timing. A final show-
down between Constantine and
a demon that takes a human form
as a sort of dark-Constantine is
actually quite watchable. Couple
the charismatic Ryan with some
impressive visual effects, add the
fact that Griffiths' character has
already been replaced (yes!); these
are the foundations of a quality TV
show. The producers have dem-
onstrated their awareness of the
show's problems and willingness
to fix them;ifshowrunner David S.
Goyer ("Man of Steel") can inject
some of that "The Dark Knight"
attitude, then "Constantine" just
might become somethingspecial.

'OambleBORt, am I right? 'Wtl did you say, Severus? OK, Severus."
coven of badass
SwNom,4%*4%enIfgf

J.K. "Jo" Rowling, God
bless her, can't seem to get
over "Harry Potter." Despite
making millions off the
series, and releasing two

critically-
appre-
ciated
detective
novels in
the years
since the
beloved
series
ended, she
is still just
an extra-

NATALIE
GADBOIS

CBS

Whatever it is, Will Arnett ain't having it.
Kill 'The Millers'

special Muggle living in a
wizarding world. She's cur-
rently working on a theatri-
cal adaptation of the series
to premiere in London's West
End, and in Warner Bros' epic
PR dump last month it was
revealed that spinoff "Fantas-
tic Beasts and Where to Find
Them" (Rowling's screen-
writing debut) would be
made into a trilogy. All that,
and then the news came last
week that J.K. (Joanne Fuck-
ing Kathleen!) was releasing
a short story on Hallow-
een, with new Harry Potter
secrets to add to the lore.
J.K. hasn't gotten over Harry
Potter, and thank goodness,
because neither have I.
During my two years at
The Michigan Daily I've had
the self-control to avoid pub-
lishing anything related to
HP. But people know: I was
and always have been that
person, the one who read the
whole series 16 times, who
showed up at the movie the-
ater early in the morning and
waited over 12 hours to get
the best seats (and who was
featured on the local news
for those efforts - thanks
WZZM-17!). I'm the girl who
referenced Dumbledore in
her senior quote. Harry Pot-
ter is the reason I love writ-
ing, the reason I connect so
deeply with the characters I
read, the reason I want to live
in London someday. Harry
Potter is also the reason I'm a
feminist.
No, this children's series is
not a strident feminist mani-
festo, nor an unblemished
social commentary. In an
effort to simplify and moral-
ize, Rowling often glossed
over identities, and that can't
be ignored. The few minority
characters are barely expand-
ed upon (Dean is Black and
an artist! Kingsley Shackle-
bolt is a deep-voiced badass!
Padma and Parvati are Indian
... and exist?), and even her
most progressive admission
- that headmaster and deity
Albus Dumbledore is gay -
was made in an interview
long after the series ended.
Furthermore, despite com-
prising over 1 million words,
the series barely passes the
Bechdel test (a feminist
litmus test that basically

requires female characters in
a film to a) Talk to each other
about b) Not boys). Rowling's
social agenda is certainly
disjointed. But throughout
the series she also developed
her female characters beyond
archetypes, allowing them to
be living, breathing, imper-
fect role models for impres-
sionable little nerds like me.
Take Professor McG-
onagall. At first glance,
she comes off as harsh and
shrewish, the overly strict,
asexual teacher archetype.
(Think of Amy Poehler as
Hillary Clinton, the "boner
shrinker.") But throughout
the series McGonagall grows,
proving herself to be both
fearless and caring, opinion-
ated but fair. She is fiercely
protective of her students,
but not as a cookie-baking,
grandmotherly doll. She
showed that women could be
strong without being sexu-
alized, caring but not soft.
In later stories released by
Rowling, we learn that McG-
onagall had had one great
love, a Muggle boy who she
was forced to leave because
by law she couldn't tell him
about magic. While this
melodrama is typical of a
Rowling backstory, it grants
McGonagall even more emo-
tional complexity. Not a
woman scorned or a sad old
maid, but someone who had
to make deep sacrifices to
keep her integrity.
In a completely different
vein, Molly Weasley is arche-
"typically motherly without
ever losing her power or
agency. She could have been
depicted so differently - a
harried stay-at-home mother
of seven, with a tendency
towards shrillness and excel-
lent cooking skills. Molly had
the makings of a one-dimen-
sional, June Cleaver type. But
Jo knew better. Molly took
care of her children, doing
the laundry, making their
lunches, but in the fifth book
she also was the glue holding
together the entire Order of
the Phoenix operation. She
humbly did the work no one
else thought to do; cooking
and cleaning and organizing
- but also was never afraid
to put grown men in their
place and make them help.
In her most badass moment,
Molly jumps in to protect her
daughter when she is duel-
ing Bellatrix Lestrange (an
interesting Rowling female
in her own right), screaming,
"NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU
BITCH." It's a humorous bit
during a particularly tense
fight scene, but shows that
Molly is not a simpering wife
or back-broken mother - she
is a force to be reckoned
with. In an apron.
And of course, Herm-
ione. Rowling has said in
interviews that if she had

seen Emma Watson before
being cast as Hermione, she
wouldn't have picked her.
Hermione wasn't supposed
to be so cute. I could go on
for days about how book
Hermione and movie Herm-
ione deviate, how Rowling
on some level perpetuates
the beauty ideal and how the
filmmakers do so shameless-
ly. But in reality, Hermione
is one of the most positive
female characters in chil-
dren's literature. She is by
now pretty ubiquitous, and
requires little explanation
- whip-smart, unafraid to
speak up, a leader and activ-
ist. She doesn't simper or
submit; her best friends are
boys but she never is a tom-
boy or a "Cool Girl." Out of
these female role models she
changed the least from begin-
ning to end of the series, and
that's a good thing. Herm-
ione is distinctly who she is
at 10 years old, and stands
by that as she matures. She
made it OK for other preco-
cious bookworms to feel good
about themselves, and I will
forever be indebted to Rowl-
ing for that.
This wasn't the investiga-
tive critique I usually strive
to write; the reason I've
avoided writing about Harry
Potter for so long is because
I do recognize my own bias.
I know these representations
are imperfect, and for every
empowering quality these
women possess, we could dig
through the pages and find
an instance in which they
falter in their feminism. But
Rowling's impact is evident
everywhere, most recently in
comments made by the actors
who played her beloved char-
acters.
In September, Emma Wat-
son gave a speech before the
UN about gender inequality
that went viral and received
nearly universal praise. And
just last week Daniel Rad-
cliffe in an interview was
asked about his status as an
unconventional romantic lead
(news to me, since he has
been a personal sex symbol
since sixth grade, but what-
ever). Instead of playing the
question off and moving on,
he directly called out those
(read: everyone) who began
sexualizing Watson at 16. So
it's not just me who found
their feminist awakening
through Harry Potter. We
can only hope that as Rowl-
ing keeps building her world,
she continues to develop such
complex, valuable female role
models. Until then, thanks
Jo. Happy writing.
Gadbois is still waiting in line
for a midnight showing. To send
her some BuzzFeed quizzes,
e-mail gadbnat@umich.edu.

By ALEX INTNER
Daily Arts Writer
CBS has a mixed track record
with its comedies. While the
network is never short of top
talent - like
Kat Den-
nings and Beth
Behrs from "2 The Millers
Broke Girls"
and Melissa MOndays at
McCarthy from 8:30 p.m.
"Mike and CBS
Molly" - it has
a tendency to
make shows that lack the sub-
stance and quality humor to
support the casting ofthose fine
actors. "The Millers," which
just returned for its second sea-
son, is no exception, taking a
group of extremely gifted per-
formers and giving them mate-
rial that isn't worth their time
or ours.
"The Millers" follows the
misadventures of Nathan
Miller (Will Arnett, "Arrested
Development") and the strain
his parents' split has brought to
his own life post-divorce. In the
premiere, Nathan is trying to
find another apartment for his

mother, Carol (Emmy Award
Winner Margo Martindale,
"Justified"), so she can finally
move out of his place. Along the
way, they meet apartment man-
ager Kip Finkle (Sean Hayes,
"Sean Saves the World"), who
eventually moves in with her by
the episode's end.
On any other show, that cast
would be a murderer's row: able
to execute fantastic jokes to
the point where side-splitting
laughter would be unavoidable.
Unfortunately, this is not that
show. The ensemble is doing the
best they can with the material,
but the gags are lazy and dull.
Most of the attempts at humor
in the episode are either based
on sex, gay stereotypes or a
man living with his mother
(and really wanting her gone).
"The Millers" doesn't even try
to be intelligent, writing easy
punchlines instead of clever
ones. One of the biggest laughs
of the studio audience came
when Carol made a joke about
her not having sex with her ex-
husband when he made fun of
her for doing arts and crafts. It
was a basic setup line-punch-
line combination that only left

crickets in the room.
"The Millers" isn't helped
by Hayes' addition to the cast
either. He plays his character
as if he's playing to the cheap
seats in Carnegie Hall. He's
loud, broad and, as a result, he's
tough to watch. His character
is gay-and he plays into stereo-
types too. There's a moment
in the episode where Nathan
kisses Kip, and Hayes proceeds
to shout, "Ewwww! Straight
lips, straight lips," while paw-
ing at his mouth. The rest of his
performance doesn't get much
better than that. He's a strong
fit for the series in terms of tone
and style, but that doesn't make
watching him any less painful.
Instead of making an enjoy-
able show, "The Millers" just
makes you feel bad for every-
one involved. Arnett, Beau
Bridges ("Masters of Sex") and
especially Martindale have
proven themselves to be fantas-
tic actors in the past. Unfortu-
nately, the series is not livingup
to their potential. Maybe losing
a huge chunk of its "Big Bang
Theory" lead-in will be enough
to kill it, if only so the actors
can move on to better things.
I

I

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