Jenji Kohan Hit Television Shows

Weeds aired for eight seasons via Showtime. I watched them all via Netflix. From the title alone you can guess that the show is going to be risque. Any show can have drama, but can the director/creator give it an edge? I think that the show’s creator Jenji Kohan did just that with this show.

Every disturbing or controversial topic you can think of was in this show. A recently windowed mother turns to the business of drugs to maintain a family of two boys. One of these boys has an attitude issue, but it’s all right because it makes for shocking television viewing. Also, during the course of the show the boys’ uncle gets into making porno movies and running a store that sells bicycle accessories that he himself invented. Furthermore, there aren’t just drug battles within the state, but also across the border. Jenji Kohan ingeniously finds ways to make the story exciting while still showing how dangerous the whole gig of drug manufacturing and selling is. When you get right down to it, it’s good entertainment.

If you or I were to meet any of these characters in real life, we would run away or, perhaps, be intrigued for the first few hang outs. It’s sort of like going on a date with someone who seems to be exciting, but they are merely crazy.

People who live mundane lives love a good fictional story. Sometimes the people we find entertaining in our lives wouldn’t be so to millions of viewers who show creators are hoping to get. So it’s no surprise to me that Orange Is The New Black seems like a story with a few exaggerated characters. It seems to me that this is done because the real story might not be as well-received a few crazy female prisoners here and there.

Piper Kerman is a real woman who wrote a memoir about her own experiences in prison. I haven’t read the book, so all my theories are just theories. I have never been to prison, so I don’t know just how crazy the women were whom Piper Kerman interacted with.

Crazy Eyes is one of the characters I think is more exaggerated even though the actress who plays the character does an excellent job. I don’t like Jason Biggs as Larry Bloom, but that’s probably because I never liked any of the characters Jason Biggs has done that I’ve seen.

The only two things I want to find out at the end of this story is if Alex Vause really betrayed Piper Kerman and if they end up back together in the end. It seems to me that Alex is genuinely sorry that she and her ex-girlfriend were both sent to prison (the same prison no less). I just want to know if it’s all a ploy to lure Piper into a love/drug business trap.

It’s also humorous to me that Nicky Nichols keeps taunting Piper to come “out” as a lesbian while she is there in prison. It’s almost as if the show is foreshadowing the ending, but I can’t really know. It could just be a tease, plain and simple.

I have only watched three episodes so far. I wanted to write down my thoughts on the two shows and make a prediction (and hopes) on Piper and Alex getting back together  at the end of the series. It’s hard to know because there is a curve ball in the mix. Larry Bloom is married to Piper Chapman. That’s pretty official. It makes it seem that much more difficult to have an ending where Piper and Alex end up together.

Between the Lines, Television

The Impact of One Television Show

On March 10, 1997, the first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired on the WB channel. I don’t remember what day it aired on because it changed to different nights throughout its television career. No matter the day, my mom, my brother, and I would sit in a room together to watch Buffy conquer vampires and other supernaturals while slaying those pesky homework assignments.

I was in sixth grade at the time. My mom had moved my brother and I into her boyfriend’s house because we were forced to move out of our previous house. Long story short, my dad didn’t pay the monthly mortgage, so we had to live elsewhere.

I was in a new house that was thirty minutes away from my private school. Junior high was turning out to be this horrible part of the education system where I didn’t get to play on the playground with my friends anymore. It was now all work and no play because my friends were now busier and more importantly I couldn’t relate to my fellow peers.

This is where BVS comes into play. I could relate to Buffy, Willow, and Xander’s butting heads with high school. I wasn’t liking Junior high too much. It seemed only to get worse each year. I could relate to being demeaned by my peers because I didn’t follow society’s standard or in Cordelia’s case, her standard. My school believed in a Christian based faith. It taught almost an hour of Bible every day. There was a definite standard to follow. I was far from following it. I wasn’t excited about who I liked or what boy band was trending.

I was excited about Vampires and other dead things. I had a hole in my heart from many things and I wanted to fill it with something tangible. Buffy killed vampires. She won over evil. Just when we think she is done for, she surprises us. I wanted to be someone whose courage and passion surprised them when they least expected it.

The show became more than a show. It was a guidebook to life’s emotional ride. I saw Buffy fall in love with a vampire despite her job description. I saw a tough jock admit he was gay. I observed how Buffy struggled with her mom and vice versa. That was just in the high school years.

When the Scooby Gang graduated from high school on their twenty-second episode of season three that aired on July 13, 1999, a lot of drama occurred. Buffy’s first boyfriend turned against them. There was another slayer, two in fact. An evil mayor wanted to eat all the graduates. Their difficulties made the hurdles I had to jump seem minor. It helped a lot in that way.

When the college years began, I was still watching this show with my mom and my brother. I was three days from turning thirteen. A full-fledged teenager. You learn about the world in small bits and pieces when you are a tween (ages 8-12), but once you were a teenager the world flooded your eyes and ears from all around you.

There may be a fine line for a Christian mother letting her kids watch a show about vampires who kill people and a slayer who kills those vampires. There may be another fine line for letting her kids watch the light sex scenes in the college years of the show. It wasn’t dramatic for me, but maybe it was for my brother who was three years younger than me. But to not let your kids watch the show because Willow and Tara, both Wiccans and both female, are in a relationship? The Wicca part wasn’t the problem. It was the latter part that made my mom draw the line.

I grew up in a household, a school, and a church that told me what I was and wasn’t supposed to do. Then here was this show, saying it was okay to be gay. It was accepted to be Wicca if that was your way of life. It was okay to love who you wanted. Buffy loved Riley even though he was part of a militia who they weren’t certain was on the entirely good side.

Among all the opposition I was receiving from everything my mom surrounded me with in my life there was finally someone somewhere saying the same thing that I believed. The themes underlining the show constantly spoke of equality. Because even if you are a vampire you can be good. And even if your are the slayer or are apart of her entourage, you can make mistakes too, some really bad ones. In the end, the friends forgave each other. Enemies formed an unexpected alliance. All these things and more. Seeing forgiveness, friendship, and love in this show taught me the things my parents, teachers, and peers couldn’t or wouldn’t teach me. Thank goodness for Joss Whedon and the writers on the show like Jane Epsenson. They fed me the knowledge and the fuel I needed to get through junior high and high school.

I shook Jane Epsenson’s hand after one of the panels at WonderCon 2013. I thanked her for her shows and I walked away. Also in March, I had the opportunity to meet Amber Benson who acted the role of Tara the girlfriend of Willow. I shook Amber’s hand and hugged her, but I didn’t directly thank her for acting the role she did on the show. Maybe someday I will have the chance to just say thank you. Perhaps she already knows.

So that’s the impact Buffy the Vampire Slayer show made on me. To me it’s not a hit cult show. It’s the beacon of hope that led me through the dark ages of my life. When I thought I couldn’t endure another week of religious oppression, I sat down to watch an episode of BVS and all was well.

Today I don’t see any show on television that would do the same thing for me if I was in junior high again. There may be shows that have one of the elements, but not all of them in one show. It will be ten years since the last episode of the show on May 20, 2003. That’s less than a month before I graduated from high school on June 13, 2003. It seems as if the forces that control the things we don’t see was giving me the help I needed from the time my parents separated to the day I graduated from high school, when the religious oppression from school and church would end for me. I hope that these forces are sending more outlets like this show, or books, or movies, to other teenagers in need. More great work needs to be published no matter the cost. If the people meant to help us aren’t doing so, we need to get the help from wherever we can find it.

Between the Lines, Movie Themes

Movie: Impossible

Review of Mission Impossible Movies 1-3

Mission Impossible (1996)

We first meet Ethan an IMF opperative. He and his team are sent on a mission that goes array. There are lots of twists, turns, and explosions. The cinema photography is the only thing letting you know where to look. Ethan is single in this installment, so what we see is him being motivated to take revenge on those who killed his team.

Mission Impossible: Two (2000)

Ethan has had a rough lesson in back-stabbing within his own agency. This next installment gives us a break from that. This time Ethan has to apprehend a thief. This thief ends up helping the agency in order to clear her debts. In the end, she ends up putting herself literally in the harm’s of an ebolia-like virus. Ethan is still without a girlfriend, so he is motivated to save this thief.

Mission Impossible: Three (2006)

Rabbit’s foot. That’s all you need to know about this installment’s mission. Ethan now has a girlfriend and possible future wife. He trains operatives at the IMF. No longer does he work actively in the field. At least, not until he gets the call to retrieve one of his students. He succeeds in doing so after much gun firing and building explosion. His student wants to tell him some intel, but she is intercepted. The boss at IMF wants Ethan to capture a buyer and seller of dangerous goods. Ethan accepts even in lieu of his recently made vows with his girlfriend. They capture the weapons dealer, but through a series of events, he is released. The guy then captures Ethan’s wife. Ethan has yet another motivation to seek revenge against the bad guy.

In conclusion: Every hero needs motivation. If he has friends, co-worker, or love relationship, he has a motivation. Sometimes your family members can be a motivation, but not everyone likes their family, and you can choose the other relationships to some extent. If you are watching a movie or television show or reading a book, your character has a motivation. If the motivation is weak, chances are you will be bored and stop watching or reading. Let’s take this idea and make it practical. What’s your motivation in life. You don’t have to want to be a hero. You just have to have motivation or else you’ll end up bored. Some people end up doing things they don’t want to when their bored: Hang out with mean people, drink too much alcohol, watch too much media instead of creating something from their own mind and hands. Be the motivation you want to see in the world. That’s my own twist to the famous quote.

Between the Lines, Television

Being Human (U.K. Version)

I have enjoyed this show so far. <<Season one was great because you meet three supernatural characters “being human” while maintaining their individual hurdles. I also agree with others who have said that the werewolf and ghost are annoying, but how else would one act being supernatural as they are. Imagine how much worse they would be if the three characters did not find each other. I love seeing their personalities bounce off each other. <<Season two was great because the audience is shown more depth to the characters as they delve deeper into the human world while still trying to maintain their secrets. <<Season three was very intense with the war between vampires against other vampires and werewolves. While that description has been used to describe dozens of other supernatural stories, this one does not hold anything back. You may have to close your eyes during a few scenes. <<Season four was unenjoyable for me. Everything is different. Some characters have left the show. The ones who stayed aren’t the ones you really care about. I watched the first two episodes. I was done. It’s unfortunate because I really liked the concept and execution of this show.

All in all it’s great to watch a show that puts a twist to “being human”. We have to face hardships everyday. Even though this show about three supernatural people trying to be human, it can make us “normal” people thankful that we don’t have to add supernatural conflicts on top of what we already deal with. It’s nice to get lost in this show. Then go back to reality feeling ready to face whatever comes our way.

Between the Lines, Movie Themes

Rise of the Guardians

The boogyman returns to the world of children and their dreams. He tells the other holiday and everyday guardians that once the children stop believing in them the guardians will disappear. Which is sad to think of anyone with an actual life disappearing, but in reality these guardians like the Easter Bunny, Santa, and the Sandy-man don’t exist as living entities. They exist as symbols of commerce. The producers of this movie are telling you and your children that if you forget these Holiday “symbols” it will be bad because the profit they bring will disappear. The big companies don’t want that. It’s a shame that such a fun animation has so much to read in between the lines, but that’s how PG movies get through to children: through bright colors and characters who are popular symbols in at least American culture. They want you and your family to love their holiday guardians, so you will buy their products.

I do like how the things you can’t see like Jack Frost’s icicles and snowflakes on your nose bring people happiness even though they don’t see the power behind it or in this case Jack Frost’s power. Then Jack is surprised on how little the other guardians knew about actually playing with children. Because all he did was interact with them via sleighing and snow ball fights etc. And the other holiday guardians mere give and give to children without ever interacting with them. I think Parents can take away from this that they should focus on spending time with them and not only giving and giving toys or whatever it is they buy to keep the kids busy.