Posts Tagged ‘zachary quinto’

Shades of Gay

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

jonathanknight

Jonathan Knight of New Kids on the Block is the latest celebrity to come out as gay. Sort of.

I don’t mean he’s sort of gay. Rather, he sort of came out. In his own words, he was already out and has been for twenty years - he’s just never talked about it publicly. In a note on the NKOTB fan site, Knight said, “I have lived my life very openly and have never hidden the fact that I am gay!” This explains the confusion when former pop star Tiffany casually referenced his sexuality on a talk show, thinking that the whole world already knew something that was previously only a confirmed certainty within Knight’s social circle.

Of course, until the recent NKOTB comeback, Knight was out of the spotlight; he was working as a real estate developer in Massachusetts. It’s easier to keep your private life private when no-one is looking in your direction. Knight is not a celebrity who came out as gay, but a gay man who came out as a celebrity.

Even so, Knight is not unique. It used to be that if you were famous and gay, you kept your sexuality a secret, and any questions about your love life were answered with lies. ’50s teen idol Tab Hunter ‘dated’ Natalie Wood and Debbie Reynolds at the studios’ arrangement so that stories about his homosexuality would not destroy his career, and most gay actors since have followed the same course.

In more recent years a second option emerged; gay celebrities could come out on the cover of People magazine (or similar) and have their love lives reported on the same as any other public figure. Stephen Fry used to be an outlier; now we have Neil Patrick Harris acknowledging his husband and kids at an awards show. These celebrities need neither lie nor evade.

Now, in addition to those in the closet and those bursting out of it, we are seeing the emergence of a two new types of gay celebrity. The first is those who, like Knight, neither deny nor proclaim their sexuality. White Collar star Matthew Bomer seems to be a fine example of the type. He is often photograped wearing a wedding ring, but both he and his employers deflect any questions about his sexuality without issuing denials. Says Bomer; “the other people in my life didn’t necessarily choose to be in the spotlight.” And echoing Jonathan Knight, he adds, “Anyone who knows me, knows me”.

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Bomer is not alone. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper’s sexuality has long been an open secret. Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto has reportedly refused to get himself a fake girlfriend. British actor Ben Wishaw belongs to the ‘I don’t like labels’ school, telling one interviewer, “I’d prefer to let the work do the speaking” - though he did not correct another interviewer who suggested that he was straight.

Journalists now face an interesting new challenge in deciding how to talk about these people, who are neither in the closet nor proclaiming themselves on tabloid covers. Straight people do not have to declare themselves straight in order to be written about as straight. So is it outing to talk about a gay person in the same way? Can the papers describe Anderson Cooper’s boyfriend as his boyfriend? (One newspaper recently upgraded the man in question from ‘friend’ to ‘companion’.) If the common view is that same-sex relationships are neither shameful nor abnormal, newspapers should be able to talk about Cooper’s boyfriend or Bomer’s husband without the authorisation of an ‘I am gay’ headline. If we accept that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, there can be no such thing as ‘outing’ for anyone who has come to terms with their own identity.

There is value in the coming out story. Every time someone like Ricky Martin adds his name to the ranks of the out and the proud, it changes the world a little bit for the better, and makes life a little easier for the next generation. Yet there may be even more value in not having a coming out story, if we can treat gay celebrities and their relationships as normally as everyone else’s. If they want to keep their private life private, that should be an option regardless of sexuality - but the fact of one’s sexuality should not be treated as one’s ‘private life’, because that perpetuates the idea that homosexuality is shameful. Celebrities who want to keep their partners and kids out of the spotlight to not pretend that their partners and kids do not exist.

So, ‘privately out, publicly silent’ is the new, third type of gay celebrity. The fourth is much bolder; the celebrity who has always been out.

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Adam Lambert almost fits into this category. He avoided saying what everyone already knew for much longer than made sense, but he never hid who he was. Glee’s Chris Colfer and X-Factor’s Joe McElderry just about fit; they did have to ‘come out’, but teenagers get a lot more leeway; they have to first come out to themselves. But Britain’s Russell Tovey belongs firmly in the ‘always out’ camp - he acknowledged his sexuality the first time the question was asked. Soap actor Scott Evans (above) was outed as ‘Chris Evans’s gay brother’ before anyone saw him as an actor in his own right, and he insists he would never have hidden who he was. Swimmer Matthew Mitcham, singer Jake Shears, and actor Cheyenne Jackson are all as far from the closet as a person can be.

Yet these are not household names. Lambert’s fame was manufactured by a reality show. Colfer enjoys a rare synergy of bringing the right talents to the right story at the right time. None of these people have established a replicable path to success for an openly gay performer or athlete.

We have not yet established just how accepting and tolerant the majority audience is prepared to be, though I’m sure that today is better than yesterday. It may take a few of those ‘out from the start’ celebrities to break into the big time before some of those ‘out in my own life’ guys are courageous enough to walk down a red carpet with their partner on their arm.

SDCC09 Day Four: The Hangover

Monday, July 27th, 2009

It ended with a ‘pfft’. At least, that’s the impression that I get from way up here. After the Marvelman announcement on Friday, it seems the news out of San Diego dried to a trickle. What happened the rest of the weekend? Where did everyone go? Saturday was dead, and Sunday is always dead. In fact, Sunday is where publishers stick their ‘oh and also’ panels; the low priority panels that they don’t expect to draw much of a crowd.

Sunday is when Marvel closed out its schedule with its ‘Women of Marvel’ panel.

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Yeah, baby. Feel the representation.

‘Women of Marvel’ is actually about women working for Marvel, rather than the female characters, which is probably just as well given how the company tends to market female-dominated books like Heroes for Hire and the horribly named Marvel Divas. It even seems somewhat remarkable that Marvel can field a six woman team for such a panel, though three of those women are colorists, and one was an editor. The only writer on the panel had proved herself as a novelist first.

Before anyone snaps at me for disparaging colorists, let me be clear; I like colorists. Some of my best friends are colorists. But where else would you see Marvel fielding a panel that’s 50% colorists, except maybe at a colorists panel? Colorists are becoming the nurses of comics. It’s a fine profession, but there are other options for women to pursue. Why can’t Marvel field a panel with at least two female writers, and at least two female pencillers? Maybe even on a panel that doesn’t have the word ‘Women’ in the title? (According to the schedule, ‘Women of Marvel’ was the only Marvel panel with more than one woman on board. Mondo Marvel, aka ‘World of Marvel’, had none.)

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The X-Men panel was not on Sunday, but I’m just catching up on that coverage. According to Comic Book Resources: “September is when “Nation X” begins, with two other September shipping specials, ‘Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Exodus’ and ‘Dark Reign: The List - Uncanny X-Men’ laying the groundwork for the story. “They all sort of flow into each other,” Fraction told CBR News.”

I’m so confused. I miss the days when they used sequential numbers to get the flowing going. I am very much in favour of putting the crossovers in their own little mini-series, but as soon as you start needing checklists to follow a story, there’s something wrong.

In other news, Scott Pilgrim is becoming a side-scroller video game! I have nothing really to say about this; I’m just excited. If they don’t have an Honest Ed’s level, I’ll cry. (Honest Ed’s is not in the movie. I consider this a disaster.)

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Zachary Quinto is getting into comics - at last, Sylar in mylar! And when Hollywood comes to comics, you know what that means; generic ideas that the author thinks are original, presented in a style that shows no understanding of the medium, on a schedule that would try the patience of a saint. Hooray!

But, what’s this? Quinto isn’t writing comics? “We’ve talked about it. But I feel like my instincts as a writer probably lend themselves more, at this point, toward screenwriting,” said Quinto. So what is Quinto doing? His production company is teaming up with Archaia to develop new comics, and his role will be… well, it’s not clear. From the sounds of things, he may just be using his star power and geek cred to lure in talent. (When it comes to selling comics, celebrity names don’t seem to count for much.)

Reading between the lines, one suspects the aim here is to produce ‘proof of concept’ comics for potential TV and movie licenses. Let’s hope he can come up with a bigger hits than Jada Pinkett Smith’s Menace, or Rosario Dawson’s Occult Crimes Taskforce.

Finally, let’s talk Torchwood. There was a Doctor Who/Torchwood panel; it wasn’t on Sunday. But let’s talk about it here anyway, because Children of Earth finally wrapped in the US on Friday, which means it’s now safe to talk about it. Spoilers follow, of course.

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Ahead of SDCC, Russell T Davies spoke to Entertainment Weekly’s Michael Ausiello about the series conclusion and the backlash over the death of Ianto. One of Ausiello’s questions was whether Davies has felt pressured to ‘de-gay’ Torchwood, and Davies’ answer infuriated me:

“I think you can forget about people picking up gay rights as an issue. It’s rather like children picking up nursery blocks and waving them in the air but having no idea what it entails. We’re talking about issues in my entire life here, not just one small television program. If they did research they’d go and look at the history of gay and lesbian characters that I have put on screen. They should simply grow up, do some research, and stop riding on a bandwagon that they actually don’t know anything about.”

There you have it, kids. Russell T Davies is the only gay in the village. He knows about the gay, and you do not. Not even if you are, say, gay media website AfterElton, where they asked this weekend, ‘Who killed the gay better, Buffy or Torchwood?‘. In poll on the same site, which has a predominantly gay readership, more than half of readers said they would not tune in to a fourth season without Ianto. But what do they know about being gay?

Was the death of Ianto homophobic? I actually don’t think so. It is another in the storied canon of ‘kill the queer’ stories, sure, but as with Joss Whedon, I think it comes down to what has the most narrative impact. It was cheap and sloppy writing, but it wasn’t a case of killing the queer because he’s queer.

That’s just my opinion, and other people read it differently, and not because they’re dabbling in arcane things they cannot understand. It is a legitimate question to raise. It is especially legitimate to wonder whether, even if Davies was not consciously being homophobic, he was subconsciously responding to certain pressures.

Russell T Davies has a deeply pompous image of himself as not just a writer, but a ‘writah-darling’, as in, ‘I am a writah, darling’, and this is a manifestation of it at its worst. At the Who panel this past weekend, Davies tried to ameliorate fan rage, saying, “I have nothing but respect for internet fandom: I understand that some things I have said have been taken the wrong way - and I understand that, and that’s OK because sometimes people will always read things the way that makes sense to them.”

So, you see, when he said, “They should simply grow up, do some research, and stop riding on a bandwagon that they actually don’t know anything about”, that was taken the wrong way. Stupid fans.

Torchwood has been confirmed for a fourth series, in which an adorable puppy will join the Torchwood team, only to be flayed alive and drowned in vinegar.

The puppy will be bisexual.

Battle of the Blockbuster Boys

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

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This year’s two big early summer blockbusters do not have a lot in common. Sure, they’re both based on nerd franchises, but one is a reboot of a cult TV show about a crew of spacefaring ambassador-adventurers, and the other is a comic book spin-off starring an ageless and mysterious loner with pointy claws. One is about preppy kids in space band-camp; the other is about an angry emo jock. One is bright and breezy; the other is grim ‘n’ gritty. One has side-partings; the other has buzz cuts. One is good; the other is not.

Yet there is one odd feature that unites Star Trek and Wolverine. Man-candy. Both movies feature a surprising number of healthy young turks with thrusting chests and Pepsodent smiles.

We all know Trek beats Wolverine when it comes to things like story, tension, effects and character, and Wolverine currently has the edge when it comes to box office, but which movie comes out ahead when you look at the most important factor of all - the totty? Don’t worry; I have the answers.

(By the way, I think that my version of Photoshop is broken. There was lens flare all over my Star Trek images, and it looked terrible. I’ve done what I can to minimise it.)

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The Nemesis: Eric Bana vs Liev Schreiber

I have a friend who thinks Liev Schreiber is just a low-rent Russell Crowe, which I think is absolutely shocking. I think Liev Scheiber is a rent-controlled Vincent D’Onofrio in a bad neighbourhood. His face is a cross between a sticklebrick and a billboard. Mussing him up and giving him stubble does not render him magically sexy.

Eric Bana, on the other hand, is so handsome that it’s impossible to ugly him up. Cover him in crazy prosthetics and tribal tattoos, and he still looks like a prettier version of Lincoln Burrows from Prison Break. He could play Aileen Wournos and she’d still be gorgeous.

Advantage: Trek

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The Clown: Simon Pegg vs Dominic Monaghan

I used to have a mild thing for Simon Pegg back in the Spaced days, but I got over it pretty quickly. I’ve never had a thing for Dominic Monaghan, despite his claim to fame as being the least punchable of the Hobbits. (For the record, in order of punchability from least to most, it goes Monaghan, Boyd, Wood, Astin.)

That said, Monaghan’s rough-looking circus outcast loser freak looks like he’d be better in the sack than Pegg’s slightly misplaced bag-hat-wearing loopy Scotsman.

Advantage: Wolverine

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The Korean: John Cho vs Daniel Henney

Look everyone! Asians! Asians in our action movies! And they’re not there to do karate! One of these chaps does fancy gun-fu, the other has a flashing blade. It’s a revolution!

Now, John Cho is a handsome and funny guy, and I’d definitely court Harold over Kumar; but Daniel Henney is quite a discovery; the prettiest Korean to shoot at a good guy since Rick Yune in Die Another Day. Not that this propelled Rick Yune to super-stardom, mind you. Hopefully Henney will break out bigger.

Advantage: Wolverine

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The Wiseguy: Karl Urban vs Ryan Reynolds

On first impressions, this is an easy one to call. Ryan Reynolds is stupidly lovely. He’s handsome in a generic Ben Affleck way, and he has an amazing Men’s Health magazine cover body, and he’s funny and goofy and charming. Karl Urban, on the other hand, tends to look a lot better onscreen than off, and has a face a bit like a pissed-off chihuahua. He was at his best playing a Zoolander pretty-boy assassin in The Bourne Supremacy.

Until now, that is. As Dr McCoy, Urban takes on a lip-jutting matinee idol raffishness. While Scotty got the gags and Kirk got the pratfalls, McCoy delivered most of the best lines. Wit and a pair of delightfully full lips will take you a long way in the Federation. Reynolds failed to achieve his usual potential on Wolverine; Urban emerged as one of the nicest surprises in Trek.

Advantage: Trek

vsdaddy

The Father Figure: Chris Hemsworth / Bruce Greenwood
vs Danny Huston / Aaron Jeffrey / Peter O’Brien

The heroes in both movies have both real and surrogate daddies. Actually, James Logan has three dads; real, adoptive, and evil. James Kirk only has two; dead and fake. Wolverine’s dead dads are both played by good-looking Antipodean soap actors, but both are only fleetingly seen. The more substantial father figure is Danny Huston’s William Stryker. Had the part been played by Dexter star Michael C Hall, as originally planned, the character might have had a little more magnetism.

Kirk’s dad is also played by a good-looking Antipodean soap actor, Chris Hemsworth of Home & Away. Kirk’s surrogate dad is Captain Pike, played by Bruce Greenwood. The original Captain Pike was played by Jeffrey Hunter, one of the most beautiful man who ever lived, so it’s natural that they didn’t try to replicate that. In the five-way battle of the daddies, the Abercrombie good looks of Captain Kirk père put him way out ahead.

Advantage: Trek

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The Girl: Zoe Saldana vs Lynn Collins

Or ‘funny-shaped lads’, as I like to think of them. Saldana is a very beautiful woman, but she could stand to eat a few fried Tribbles. Poor dear is wasting away. Collins is likewise attractive, if you can get past the fact that she looks like she smells of hemp and quinoa. The simple truth of the matter, though, is that they’re girls, and you don’t get any points for putting girls in my boy movies. Silly filmmakers!

Advantage: None

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The Sidekick: Zachary Quinto vs Taylor Kitsch

This is where it gets really tough. Quinto is a very handsome man, who made being a brain-eating psychopath seem sexy (and, yes, Sylar eats brains, no matter what he says). However, his bowl-haired Spock is not anywhere like as appealing as either Sylar or Quinto himself. Even with the lengths the movie goes to in order to sex Spock up, fancying Spock is something not everyone is mentally equipped to do. Besides, Quinto is at his best with a bit of stubble. Bring on the Mirror Universe!

In contrast, Taylor Kitsch gets to have fun playing omnisexual flirt and acrobatic hustler Gambit, and his few short scenes are some of the best moments in an otherwise clunky movie. Kitsch convinced me that I’d much sooner watch a Gambit movie than Wolverine 2, Deadpool or Magneto. His hair may be foofy, but it’s still better than Spock’s.

Advantage: Wolverine

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The Hero: Chris Pine vs Hugh Jackman

With scores tied, it all comes down to the leading men. If you’ve seen Jackman strutting about all muscular and shirtless in Wolverine, you’d be forgiven for thinking this a no-brainer. Jackman got himself into amazing shape, and he’s a hugely charismatic actor who can easily carry a big action movie. And he can sing, and he can dance, and he can even raise the ratings for the Academy Awards! He’s a fricking miracle worker!

Then there’s the new boy. Chris Pine is pretty. Chris Pine is flawlessly pretty. He’s as close as any human could come to being a Ken doll. In fact, he was born in LA, the son of two actors; he might as plausibly have been custom-made by Paramount. Consider this; he was born in late August 1980, which means he could have been ‘conceived’ on the very day that Star Trek: The Motion Picture hit cinemas in early December 1979. He’s not a human being! He’s a back-up plan!

The worst you can say about Chris Pine is that he’s too handsome. I don’t believe in ‘too handsome’. As the young, insolent, swaggering Cadet Kirk, pouty-lipped, big eyed Pine is a new icon of cinema sexy, in the grand tradition of Russell Crowe’s Maximus and Daniel Craig’s Bond. Sorry, Wolverine; you’ve finally been out-hunked.

Advantage: Trek
Winner: Trek

Heroes: Faster, Stronger, Fuller?

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Even with a geeky show, it’s uber-geeky to pay attention to things like producer credits. Unless the guy in charge is named Joss Whedon or Russell T Davies, we simply should not know their names, any moreso than we should know the name of the factory foreman responsible for our cornflakes. Yet for those who do pay attention to such things, there was a frisson of anticipation leading up to last night’s episode of Heroes, because with last night’s episode, producer Bryan Fuller came back.

Bryan Fuller was one of the producers on Heroes for its first season, back when it was legitimately must-see TV. He was also the writer on the show’s best episode, Company Man. His other credits include cult favourites Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls, and Star Trek: Voyager. Well, everyone has to make their mistakes somewhere.

For the past couple of years he’s been off making quirky cutesy deathly rom-com Pushing Daisies, but that got cancelled, so they lit the batsignal and called him back to Heroes to try to steer the ship away from the rocks of mediocrity. Last night’s episode was also the last one to feature the thumbprints of the man who may bear the blame for much of that mediocrity, Jeph Loeb, a comic book writer who attempts to cover up his startling lack of originality by hiding it behind his towering lack of ability.

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Going in to last night’s episode we had Sylar on yet another tireseome extended road trip, having finally ditched but sadly not killed his irritating teen sidekick. (If ever there was a superhero convention this show did not need to explore, it was teen sidekicks, and if it really had to go there, it really shouldn’t have gone there with Sylar.)

We also had yet another blow-up-a-city prediction, this time involving Matt Parkman suicide-bombing DC, and we had the ongoing power-struggle between Danko the sickly-looking sub-Berkoff, and Nathan Petrelli, America’s most negligent senator. Plus, we had Claire participating in a Mutant Railroad that seemed suddenly to require her to help a predatory psychopath - and not the hot one with the eyebrows, but the fat one with the sweating - and we had Hiro and Ando ‘travelling’, ie, not doing anything, because after their pathetic ’save the lesbian, stop the wedding’ sub-plot, they needed a time-out.

Last night’s episode was clearly a bit of a deck-clearing exercise for Fuller so that he could start putting things right. Coming out of the episode, Sylar’s road trip seems to have reached its end; the blow-up-the-city plot was speedily curtailed; the Danko/Petrelli tussle was resolved by putting Noah in charge; Claire was no longer running the railroad; and Hiro and Ando were back doing potentially plot-relevant stuff (or setting up a superhero babysitting sitcom spin-off).

The episode ended with a trailer that pretty much just flat out said, “we’re sorry the show has been crap, but we promise the new episode in two weeks’ time will be better”. Cause for celebration? We’ll see. This marks the third time that Heroes has apologised for itself and promised to do better, so even if the show can still improve, the audience may have run out of patience.

But was last night’s episode any good? Not really, no. It was better than discovering that Noah Bennett has flashbacks in the style of Nouvelle Vague cinema, or that Sylar’s flashback theme is The Chain by Fleetwood Mac (though I was hoping we’d discover that Danko has flashbacks to Make It With You by Bread), nor did we get anything on the level of last week’s wonderful dialogue exchange - “I’ve been here before.” / “How do you know?” / “I remember.” -  but it was still not what I would call ‘good’. 

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First we had to get past the millstone of the obligatory exploding city prediction story, in which Danko thought he could convince the world of the danger posed by super-people by using a completely non-super threat. So clever. This narrative cul-de-sac was hastily backed away from by having Nathan yank out a wire. 

Then we had Claire’s fleeting decision to go and work in a comic shop for five minutes, which turned out to have absolutely no relevance to anything and served only as an excuse to mock the dumb dedicated fanboys and fangirls who are still watching this show. I’m going to assume that this sequence was Jeph Loeb’s bitter last hurrah. Claire next went on to save a rapist and set him free in the park. Don’t look back, Claire! Let him go! He needs to be free!

The episode gave us was more progress on the Danko/Nathan/HRG power-struggle than we’ve seen all season, the highlight of which was watching Angela Petrelli eat oysters. I think the Danko/Angela scene was meant to be a tense stand-off between two heavyweight players, but no glower or sneer that Danko could muster came close to the menace of Angela Petrelli chugging oysters in the manner of an erotic Hannibal Lecter. Danko was sent packing like a disobedient schoolboy.

The centrepiece of the episode was Sylar’s confrontation with Sylar Senior, played by John Glover. Glover is best known to many as Smallville’s Lionel Luthor, so in a unified universe, Sylar and Lex Luthor are now brothers, which means the first crossover incest slash-fic is only minutes away. 

Unfortunately, after weeks of build-up, the clash between Sylars Père et Fils was a damp squib. The highlight was Daddy triumphantly pissing in Sylar’s chips by telling him he welcomes death, but no-one gets to outclass Sylar and his thick, lustrous eyebrows - not in Sylar’s show! - so the pouty little vulcan princess overcame pappy’s one-man-and-his-dog whistling powers and took his leave. And that was it.  Well, that, and they killed and stuffed a rabbit together. I’m hopeful that we haven’t seen the last of Lionel Sylar, as he’s far too good an actor to waste on that pitiful scene.

It was a clumsy, hapless episode, but maybe, just maybe, it did enough to set things moving in the right direction for the last handful of episodes of this season and on into season four. And, like a fool, I’ll be tuning in to find out. Disappoint me again, Heroes. I like it when you demean my intelligence.

Come On Barbie, Let’s Boldly Go Party

Friday, February 27th, 2009

 This year marks both Barbie’s 50th anniversary and the flashy 90210 reboot of the Star Trek movie franchise, and what better way to celebrate these two awesome moments in our cultural development than a Barbie Girl/Star Trekkin’ mash-up?

But sadly no-one has done that (as far as I know - I’m too frightened to actually check), so instead we’ll have to settle for the new Star Trek Barbie dolls, out this April. These have been made in the likeness of the movie’s stars, so check out this awesome likeness of Zachary Quinto as Spocklar:

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Impressive, isn’t it? The resemblance is striking. Or it would be, if they had cast Anne Hathaway as Spock. Maybe this is Barbie as Zachary Quinto as Sylar as Spock? (As a bonus, it’s worth noting that the shirts all double as ShamWows.)

The sculptors have better luck with Chris Pine as the Captain Ken T Kirk Doll:

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Of course, it helps that Chris Pine already looks like a Ken doll. This is an unavoidable side-effect of being made out of vacuum-molded plastic. (But admittedly Chris Pine is made out of very pretty vacuum-molded plastic. I’m actually all in favour of making our movie stars in molds. The only danger there is that they wouldn’t be naturally biodegradable, but judging by Sofia Loren, this is not a new problem.)

It wouldn’t be much of a Barbie range if they didn’t have a Barbie, of course. There has been a Star Trek Barbie before - a perky blonde in a Starfleet tunic - but in keeping with the fact that they’re basing the Barbies on the movie actors, and based on the fact that there’s really only one woman in space in the future (because someone has to answer the phones - ah, the future), Mattel had to do something it doesn’t normally do. Black Barbie.

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As a likeness of actress Zoe Saldana, this is actually not too terrible. In fact, compared to the other two dolls, this one looks like a runaway success, but then I suppose the people at Barbie probably are better at making Barbies than Kens.

I’m being a little unfair on the black Barbie front - there have been a few Barbies of colour over the years, including ‘Colored Francie’ and ‘Oreo Fun Barbie’ (I wish I was making this up). Some of them have even been called Barbie, rather than Christie, DeeDee or Simone, which is such a generous concession. There was even an African-American Barbie friend called Nichelle! (I’d like to stress that I have had to look these things up. These are not things that I already know.)

So there you have it, the new Star Trek Barbies. No word yet on whether or not they’ll follow it up with Wolverine Barbies, but I’m first in line if they do.

Heroes: Gonna Take A Superman To Sweep Me Off My Feet

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Heroes is back. Uh-gain. ‘Volume Four: Fugitives’ started last night, and an ever-diminishing audience tuned in to see if this time the creative team would follow through on their eternal promise to fix what they knew was wrong with the show. So, how did they do? If you want to know my thoughts on the latest episode, follow me beyond the gratuitous Zachary Quinto pic. If the new episode hasn’t aired in your parish and you don’t want to be spoiled, scroll on, dear reader; scroll as if your life depended on it, and mayhap return another day.

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SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

Previously on Heroes: Arthur Petrelli had a plan to give lots of people superpowers. I don’t recall why. Then he got shot, and that was pretty much that. New York Senator Nathan Petrelli signed up for the ‘give everyone powers’ scheme, and when that fell apart he asked President Worfbama to implement a ‘lock up everyone with powers’ scheme, because Nathan likes any scheme so long as it’s stupid and evil enough.

So where are we now? It’s a few months later, and all the characters are getting back to their normal lives. Peter is trying to save lives; Claire is uncovering conspiracies; Hiro is setting up a Batcave; it’s all so refreshingly normal! Where ‘normal’ means ‘par for the course”.

The episode begins with Niki expositing on the phone while Nathan exposits on TV. Double the exposition! (It’s not Niki, of course; it’s the other one, Ice-Niki. Remember that cloned-babies plot that they almost got around to dealing with? Isn’t it nice to know there’s a third Ali Larter out there somewhere for when they decide to kill this one?) Nathan is being interviewed with plothole-covering questions like, “Didn’t you have a religious epiphany storyline ten episodes ago?” and, “How are you so influential as a senator when you spend more time in Haiti putting down warlords than you do in New York or Washington?”. They don’t explain why a senator is doing the job of the Secretary of Homeland Security, but, details, details. And then Niki gets kidnapped.

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L-R: Niki, Tracy, Barbara

And thus goes the rest of the episode. Look, here’s another of your old favourites getting back to their normal life; and here they are getting kidnapped. And all your favourites are back! They still haven’t culled the cast! Because the plot involves the government kidnapping them all, they can’t be drip-fed into the plot one by one. Instead we have to catch up with everyone at once! (Except the ones in New Orleans, because we all know that you can’t get the US government to go to New Orleans.)

So over here we have Mohinder and the return of his magic yellow cab of coincidence. Over there is Hiro, setting up an immensely contrived GPS-tracker plot device. And then there’s Matt and Daphne and their stalker/stalkee love nest. I never understood how those two became a couple. Lonely? Single? In need of a date? Go up to someone you fancy and tell them you’ve been to the future and you’re destined to be together. Follow them around for long enough and they’ll eventually assume that their ‘destiny’ must have come true!

Even that damned African mystic is back, and he was beheaded! Yet here he is, handing out iteration five of the stupid plot-hobbling paint-the-future powers. Not that these powers are very useful when two people can stare at a painting of their own backs seen through a bullethole-cracked window and not immediately think ‘duck!’

fliptop

Oh, and what of Sylar? Any fool knows that a good villain will wither from overexposure, and Sylar is as overexposed as a streaker at the Winter Olympics. The writers have surely taken note and wisely tucked Sylar away in their back pocket to reintroduce to the board at a time when he’ll have the most impact, right? No. They waited precisely ten minutes before bringing Sylar back into play in an already crowded episode. 

So having been reintroduced to the entire bloody cast, just about everyone is dressed in Gitmo jumpsuits (so contemporary!) and shovelled into an aeroplane, whereupon the aeroplane crashes. The end. Next episode; meet the all-new, all-different Heroes! Please?

As opening episodes go, I will say that they’ve set up a good pace that gets to the meat of the new plotline in a hurry, and that at least is a rerurn to form. Also, everyone seems to be acting in character (though they do each have several characters to choose from). Best of all, Peter and Mohinder have a clunky conversation about the potential dystopian future that could arise from the current plot - it’s not good dialogue, but it may save us from yet an0ther trip to the future to spoon-feed us the idea of ‘what’s at stake’. Sometimes ’show, don’t tell’ is not such great advice.

Blessedly, Hiro is still depowered, and hopefully at most he’ll only get his teleporting powers back. Peter also appears to have been significantly powered down. That takes care of two of the three characters with powers that regularly make a nonsense of the plot, leaving only Sylar. The best way to deal with him? Stop putting him in every episode!

That the writers have identified any of the show’s many problems and taken steps to fix them is at least a positive sign, but I’m not sure what the show can do with the Fugitives arc that will feel terribly new, given that it’s the same bunch of character running around chasing after each other. Uh-gain. I will of course be tuning in next week to find out, because I am a sap for pretty people shooting magic out of their fingers. Therein lies the true power of Heroes.