Brainwashing Media

Make no mistake: we are being brainwashed by the media that we consume.

(This post isn’t on faith, but it seems appropriate to acknowledge the Bible warns of such: ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!’ (Matthew 6:22-23)).

In the not too-distant past I watched an action movie on Netflix called Wolf Warrior II. It’s an action movie set in Africa. The core difference however is that it is a Chinese action movie. All of the heroes in the story are Chinese. The Chinese are building the infrastructure of Africa; they are boosting the economy and being friendly to the locals. When the bad guys (Westerners, mostly American) show up it’s the Chinese embassy that protects the African civilians.

Of course the Chinese are known for their philanthropic benevolence with minority groups. Well, I guess technically a million Uyghurs aren’t a small minority, so the fact they’re in prison re-education camps doesn’t matter. Nor am I referring to torture or prisoner organ harvesting. Heck, they do look after their own people well… if by ‘look after’ we really mean scrutinise dictatorially.

Wolf Warrior II was a clear and blatant propaganda piece, I suspect directed at helping with the China Belt-and-Road initiative in Africa. Swallow one tablet per day and if the delusions fade, take two.

More recently I was watching Designated Survivor. The first time I watched this show, I stopped early in the first season due to the obvious left-leaning nature of the show. When season 3 was released I thought I’d give it another go – there was an interesting subplot I was curious about. I watched the first two seasons, managing to overlook the political agenda.

Until I hit Season 3. Or should I say, season 3 hit me as subtly-as-a-brick-to-the-face.

On the third episode we find out the President’s deceased wife has a transgender sibling, Sasha (male to female, transition unspecified). I’m all for nuanced social debate and this can occur through TV shows (though I would argue not all shows are appropriate, nor is sport). But nuanced is the important keyword here. Don’t show only one side of an issue. Show all sides fairly and respectfully and let the audience make up their mind. It’s a hard balance to achieve, I admit that, but at least try for balance. Don’t preach at us Hollywood; you are not our moral betters. (Quite the opposite, often).

From a writing perspective the way in which they did it was deeply flawed to. First, the minor issue: Implausibly Sasha had been kept out of the spotlight until now due to privacy. Really? A President’s transgender in-law had been either hidden or all of the press gallery had shown unusual restraint? And Kirkman and his wife have never discussed her brother/sister even when alone? It’s a failure of good screen play writing.

If they wanted a transgender character they could have introduced Sasha in a far better way. If a family member, have Kirkman “discover” a previously unknown family member. Make it a step-family, a niece or nephew or a non-biological ‘extended family’ member. The point is, make them so distant as to not be newsworthy, while still close enough to still warrant an emotional connection. Better yet, in my opinion, have them be non-family, and introduce them in an event which creates an emotional bond. Kirkman’s wife has recently died. Have the transgender character be a teacher who was especially supportive to the daughter. There were so many better ways than a previously unknown close-family member suddenly appearing. Introduce them a few times early season 3 with a few in-scene shots and then late in the season they can plausibly take a larger role in an episode.

The worst part is the context they brought this character into. It is honestly so bad it’s cringe-worthy. It is self-defeating, an own-goal, and I’d argue demonstrates the stupidity of the politically-correct viewpoint of equality and relativism. It almost sends out invitations to be mocked.

The context: Penny Kirkman, the President’s young daughter experiences her first period. Having lost his wife recently to a drunk driver, the President doesn’t know quite how to broach the subject. Kirkman mentions Penny’s period to Sasha and this is how the conversation unfolds:

Sasha: “I’d be happy to speak with her if you like?”
Kirkman: “I don’t know…, I can-”
Sasha: “That’s OK. You’re correct. I didn’t actually go through it myself. It only felt like I did… but that’s the whole point. But don’t you think that she’d be more comfortable discussing it with someone who… looks like me rather than like you.”
Kirkman: “Yeah you’re right. Thank you.”

Okaaaay. So the President doesn’t know how to address the topic with his daughter. He doesn’t turn to her grandmother. He doesn’t turn to his long-term and highly-trusted female former chief-of-Staff. Or any of the other females in his personal or professional life. He thinks it’s a good idea to turn to someone who admits they haven’t experienced it, but feels as though they have.

And feeling like experiencing it ‘is the whole point’? Um, no. If I’m finding something embarrassing or confronting I’d like to talk to someone who has experienced it. I want to hear about their experiences, and the strategies and tips that might help me dealing with it in the future. I might have questions and I want them to be able to answer them from a position of wisdom and experience. Not feeling.

And if that was the most convincing rationale the writer’s could come up with, they really should have let the idea percolate longer.

So Designated Survivor this is where I find something better to watch. You won’t be missed.

Continuity: Examples from TV

My beautiful wife and I have just celebrated 11 years of marriage. Most of those years have been fantastic, even if there were challenges to overcome. Marriage is awesome when you both put in the effort to look after one another and keep the marriage healthy. It pays dividends like no other investment.

One of our traditions that has developed over the years is we like to celebrate our anniversary by completely relaxing. We buy the latest season of Law and Order SVU and NCIS and then binge watch over a weekend.

Today I’m going to blog about the observations I made on continuity watching both seasons. Continuity is important for all series, whether book or TV.

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How to make an Opening

Now that Netflix has come to town I am finally able to watch more of Falling Skies. The more involved I get in writing, the more I find myself able to see how the storyteller constructs their work. (Also, the harder it is for me to turn off this internal review system, to actually enjoy the show!)

Season 1, Episode 1 of Falling Skies is a great example of this. The premise of the show is that aliens have come to earth and destroyed civilisation as we know it; leaving the few bedraggled humans to mount a resistance.

This is the opening dialog of the show, spoken in the voices of several children, and with numerous shots of accompanying art work.

I was in school when the ships came… they were really big, and they said that we weren’t going to attack them with the nuclear bombs because they mighta wanna’d to be friends, but they didn’t want to be friends…  not at all. Then there was a bright light that makes like all electronics stop working… computers, radio’s… cars, satellites, TVs… everything. They blew up army bases, ships, submarines, the navy and all the soldiers are gone… now mum’s and dad’s have to fight… after that they blew up all the capitals New York, Washington DC, Paris… all the major cities… they then came. There were millions of them… trillions… everywhere… we call them skitters and mechs… they kill grown-ups and catch kids… they put on harness things… they put it on kids and control them… they say it hurts a lot… my parents went out to get some help… but I know they’re gone, they’re dead…

Falling Skies S01E01Now if you think about what is actually said, it is a horrific idea. Millions, perhaps billions are dead, We are no longer the dominant species on the planet, and we’re fighting just for survival. Everything is destroyed and humanity is really in trouble.

In the first 55 seconds of the show they manage to deliver a great overview of the background and set the plot up in an ingenious way. By using children as the point of view they are able to gloss over the details that we would expect from an adult, and bring in a heightened sense of pain, loss and fear.

Within the first episode they set up multiple lot hooks:

  • “Tom Mason” is the main protagonist: a tough-but-also-very-scholarly Professor of History. His knowledge of warfare is going to be invaluable. He’s made second-in-command of his group (2nd Mass.), and we know he understands the duty of the role… but he is also torn by the competing desire to care for his three sons: one of whom has been taken captive by the skitters (pre-show). Tom’s clearly “the mentor” role, with a group of young fighters around him.
  • “Weaver” the commander of the 2nd Mass. who prefers his soldiers over civilians (with an inferred comment that he could be a threat to the civilians)… and doesn’t particularly like Tom Mason… or agree with the orders handed down to him… trouble’s a brewing.
  • The enemy fortress and speculation of how to destroy it.
  • There’s a budding romance and a young love triangle forming.