Redheads Who Never Learned To Swim

In my last post I introduced the idea of starting The Pilot Project, where I would watch a pilot of a show on Netflix and detail my thoughts and reactions. My intention is not to review the episode and rate it from a scale of green unidentified splatter to a fresh tomato. Just consider it as a journalistic nonfiction writing prompt.

Earlier this evening, I decided to start of the project by checking out one of the classic American procedural dramas, Hawaii Five-O. Netflix told me this series started in 1968, which elicited a groan out of me. Right off the bat, I had a feeling this was going to be cheesy. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate a movie produced before I was born; but procedurals aren’t exactly noteworthy for aging gracefully.

Mr. Hennessy after a rough night.

Mr. Hennessy having trouble with a sausage stuffer.

Episode one titled Cocoon: Part 1 signifies the problems I may encounter as I take on this project. Watching only the pilot and forming an opinion isn’t really fair when the first episode is lacking any closure. Needless to say, I carried on and told myself I wouldn’t have to subject myself to Part 2 if I wasn’t into it. The episode opens up with some weird SCUBA experiment at some top-secret testing facility. Some guy with a pipe tells Wo Fat to get on with it. And Wo Fat does as told. He and the crew carry the mystery SCUBA guy, who we learn is called Mr. Hennessy (who probably was on the receiving end of insensitive jokes about his alcoholism), out of the pool and begin to check under the gas mask on his face. Ominous music plays and [spoiler alert] we see that Mr. Hennessy has dried-up toothpaste all over his eyes.

Cue the best part of Hawaii Five-O. Ah, the fun and iconic theme song! We learn that the main character is played by a pivoting Jack Lord. David Caruso may have trademarked the sunglasses move with the ridiculous one-liner, but I think the quick-reaction pivot is a Jack Lord thing. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Anyway, so we see the rest of the cast, which is only three other men (but hey, two of them are POC! – way to go, 1968!)

We learn that McGarrett (Jack Lord) knows Mr. Hennessy from AA (no he doesn’t but let’s roll with it). The cop on scene thinks that the now-deceased Mr. Hennessy was out for a swim but McG quickly shuts down that theory. “Wrong. Hennessy couldn’t swim.” And why couldn’t he swim? Well, McG lays it out for us. “Hennessy was quite a guy. He hated this island paradise he was assigned to. One of those redheads who got sunburned walking to the grocery store. That’s why he never learned to swim.” 

Excellent deduction skills, detective exposition. Now that McG is aware that something fishy is going on, he asks his staff to help him out on the investigation. He learns that it wasn’t Crest on Hennessy’s face, but Gutta-percha, something used for teeth fillings so I wasn’t too far off. He decodes burnt strips of paper using a projector screen, that I’ve seen used as recently as 2007. Apparently Hawaii Five-0 had some swanky tech sponsors in their time. One of McG’s subordinate detectives finds this mysterious Quong girl, but he doesn’t take her to the girl until McG promises to trade his orange juice and sandwich. Priorities, man.

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I’d rather pour some old buttermilk on my hot ulcer, too, Mr. Second Banana.

McG meets Quong girl and there’s a little flirtation going on between them. Some more action happens, but things get interesting when McG finds the time to go on a date with Quong girl, who swears she was only Mr. Hennessy’s good friend. McG doesn’t care; Hennessy’s dead so who cares about their dating history? She dances all groovy but throws in some subtle hula moves to remind you that this show is set in Hawaii. McG asks her why’d she become a hippie and Quong girl replies, “because I care.” Apparently the same answer applies to McG’s chosen profession of law enforcement. I wonder if cops in Ferguson will give you the same answer.

McG goes undercover working maintenance at a ship. We get a good glimpse of McG being all sweaty and sexy, just to remind us that he’s not just a pretty face solving crime; he’s also a rugged relatable blue collar Joe if the situation calls for it. Using his undercover skills, Detective McG explores the ship to find [dun dun dun] the not-so-top-secret testing facility. We won’t know what happens next or who killed Mr. Hennessy (don’t drink and SCUBA) until we watch Part 2.

But honestly, I have no interest in Part 2 so I’ll go on living thinking McG died because of dental work gone wrong. Hawaii Five-O was before the time of DNA and all the cool, dope stuff that have come out of forensics. That explains why McG collected evidence with a handkerchief and proceeded to stuff evidence into his jacket pocket, or why “intelligence” handled a potential murder weapon with bare hands. My instinctive reaction was to yell out “nooo, you bloody idiot, you’re compromising evidence!” And I can’t have that. I need new technology – the kind that can zoom in and turn megapixels into ultrapixels and turn those into googlapixels so you can read a license plate from a dash cam 500 kilometres away from the suspect’s vehicle. It’s either that or bust, McG.

For it’s time though, I can see why it was popular and why there was a 2010 remake with a clever zero instead of the letter O. But it didn’t hold my interest enough to even care about what happened to Mr. Hennessy or why he thought it was a good idea to get dental work on his eyes. No, Mr. Hennessy, go home to Quong girl. Your buddy, McG, is about to steal your girl.

Detective Guapo Approved: The Pilot Project

I have to confess.

I really, really like procedural dramas. I like them like you would a bad boyfriend. I go on binges then I do everything in my power to stay away – bury myself in actual work or get off the grid. It’s the kind of stuff that affects me to an unhealthy degree. I’m not being hyperbolic, I swear. I could talk about that one time I received an ominous email from a company about a recent ‘immediate termination’ of someone I was supposed to meet with. I began speculating reasons for his termination by looking at past behaviours and conducting interrogations in my head. It was a little unhealthy. (If anyone’s curious, the interrogation room in my head is the cold, clinical, dimly lit, concrete-walled room characteristic of the ‘local’ precinct; you’ll also find a really sexy detective, by the name of Detective Guapo, slamming his fists and demanding the truth.)

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Law & Order SVU is owned by NBC, but let’s be real, it’s the Mariska Hargitay Show.

No need to call the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit; I’m not crazy (yet). But please feel free to call Shemar Moore. The thing is, I get really invested in TV shows but I also fall out of them relatively quickly. I give a lot of pilots a shot; maybe watch a few episodes in, and then I’m over it. There are a handful of shows that I’ve watched religiously from start to finish, and then there are the fast loves – the ones that take over my life as fast as they burn out. Procedural dramas fall under fast loves.

Where am I going with this?

Looking over this list from Wikipedia, I can say that I’ve seen at least ten on this list; but I’ve never watched them in their entirety. Granted these shows are usually a case-a-week with a story arc spanning a season. So it’s not totally necessary to see every episode chronologically. Still, I have this unhealthy addiction and it’s not going anywhere so I might as well make something out of it.

This is the part where I introduce an idea for a blog project. Let’s call it The Pilot Project, because alliterations are cool and it sounds a lot more important than it actually is. Every week or so, I’ll go on Netflix and check out a pilot I’ve never seen before. Maybe it’s a hyped up show that I never got into, or maybe it’s one of those shows that the studios cancelled mid-first season. I was thinking of starting with my fast loves (procedurals) and working my way to more critically acclaimed, dare I say more intellectual, shows.

It's going to be tough keeping up with this mind-bender. Pretty Little Liars (TV series) is owned by ABC Family.

It’s going to be tough keeping up with this mind-bender. Pretty Little Liars is owned by ABC Family.

It’s probably not fair to watch a pilot and surmise an opinion of the show based on one episode alone. Didn’t a lot of people say that the first episode of Breaking Bad was shit? I personally didn’t think so, but a lot of people were afraid that the first episode wouldn’t be enough to hook people in. The same story’s told with the first season of Parks and Recreation, and it’s one of my favourite sitcoms. So yeah, this is probably a terrible idea. But my intention is not to review the shows. Chances are most of them premiered over ten years ago; so no one will be checking for my posts. I just want to write my reactions and see if I can find a pattern to determine whether or not I personally think a show is worth pursuing.

I don’t know. These are just ideas. I’m still not sure where this blog is going. Right now, it’s kind of a clusterfuck, which is fitting because it perfectly describes where my head’s been for the last decade.

So keep your eyes peeled. The first installment of The Pilot Project will be up sooner than you can binge watch all three seasons of House of Cards. Or, you know, you could prove me wrong.

Kitsch & Racism

Kitschy racism is historically cute yet persistently damaging. Racism itself isn’t cute and delightful like cupcakes and pennant banners. Live, love, laugh? You’ll probably find a few hundred faux typography images of that, but you’ll be hard pressed to find some racist quotes to pin to your board (please let me know if I’m wrong). I’m talking about the campy images and monuments from the past that were often portrayed as charming and whimsical. I’m talking about seemingly innocuous things from the pre-civil rights, pre-women’s rights era that are so evocative they become exempt from criticism.

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Pedro feigning happiness amidst clueless tourists

 

Less than a month ago, my family and I drove eighteen hours down to Florida to visit extended family. As we drove along I-95 and crossed the border between the Carolinas, we spotted these pun-filled billboards about the ‘best kept secret’ of the highway, South of the Border. The signs told us we’d always be a wiener at Pedro’s, so we gave it a shot. Bright colours and Space Age signs promising Mexican food was appealing after driving a long stretch of road on an empty stomach.

We parked the car and as soon as I stepped out onto the pavement to stretch my legs, I got this weird feeling. It felt like I was in the twilight zone. The place itself was interesting to look at with all the bright colours and the googie architecture reminiscent of the 1950s. It made South of the Border the perfect tourist trap with all the little signs and statues that were ideal for that social media photo-op. Stores were selling kitschy, novelty items that were probably mass produced, but in that particular setting, they could’ve been original, artisanal junk from etsy. But there was also something off about the place. It had this seedy, ghost town vibe; and it was this sad circus quality to it that made it appealing to me as a photography hobbyist (the day I call myself a photographer, I better be published on NatGeo). It had the same sort of appeal as wanting to photograph an abandoned factory.

It felt bizarre. The whole time, I walked around and snapped pictures like a typical, unassuming tourist. I wondered if Dillon, South Carolina had a big Mexican community that I just hadn’t heard about. Maybe they had given the go-ahead on the project. But there were the signs that mocked a bad impression of a Hispanic accent. There was Pedro, the mascot, who was a racist caricature of a Mexican bandido. There were so many negative stereotypes being perpetuated, that I was convinced it was simply a racist tourist trap. I went from being this thoughtless tourist to feeling like my presence in that particular place was supporting something derisive and distasteful.

We intended to eat so we followed the sign that read, in huge red letters, ‘Hot Tamales‘. We went inside and found fluorescent lights, linoleum floors, cafeteria trays, and the most uninspired menu of hot dogs and French fries. At this point, I wasn’t totally surprised; in fact i was a little relieved. I was relieved that we ended up not eating there; and I was relieved that unsuspecting tourists wouldn’t taste South of the Border’s version of Mexican food and let it tarnish their experience of the real thing. We ended up driving further South for food, but not before we passed a sign telling us to ‘back up amigo’ and now ‘Pedro sad.’

Pedro’s not a real person though. Pedro is some man’s racist caricature of a culture and people that are very much real. I can’t speak for Mexicans so I don’t know what the consensus is on South of the Border, but I can only imagine it’s seen as just one of many classically, kitschy attractions from the past that still hold on to vestiges of racism. It’s like the whole Pinterest-approved trend of plantation weddings. So romantic and also simultaneously ignorant. People just latch onto what’s old and aesthetically pleasing without understanding its history or why it’s problematic. The thing is, before anything is said and done (I’m not campaigning for all antebellum-style houses to be torn down or anything), all I want is to have civil, open-minded discussions about race. I want to talk about the cute and kitschy stuff, the traditional team mascot,  and the ‘way things were’ and I want to scrutinize them without retaliation.

“You’re being too PC” or “You’re so easily offended.”

Ouch. That stings. Pass the hydrogen peroxide. No, but really, what are you supposed to say after someone calls you out for being too politically correct or offended? I’m sorry I’m a more enlightened individual? I’m sorry society has prejudices that affect my life? But this post isn’t here to discuss hypothetical scenarios and badass comebacks to obstinate douchebros. We’ll save that post for another day. For now if there’s anything you should leave with, its these words of advice: if you see punny billboards inviting you to join Pedro at the South of the Border, keep driving.

Tessomancy with Bubble Tea

Two 20-somethings, dressed in a carefully curated mix of thrift shop and intentionally distressed Urban Outfitters, find themselves at their local record store. The man behind the register is wearing an ironic pornstache, and it isn’t even November yet. He’s engaging in a discussion with a girl who’s convinced Taylor Swift is the Joni Mitchell of this generation. “She speaks to the hearts of young, impressionable girls all over the world.” The camera pans back to the two 20-somethings. As they browse through the Old Skool aisle, their hands touch, and sparks fly (or it could’ve been a pinched nerve). They look up and exchange that ‘I-just-met-you-but-I-think-I-want-to-breed-with-you-on-top-of-The-Sugarhill-Gang’ kind of look. She giggles and blinks like she’s trying to speak morse code. He awkwardly scratches the back of his head, suddenly mortified by the flakes of dried scalp floating between them.

“So you into old school hip hop?” asks the guy barely old enough to remember a time when MTV played music videos. She nods her head and giggles some more. At this point, he’s in love. They walk out of the record store, because neither one actually owns a record player. The two 20-somethings walk down the street and bond over duck confit tacos and truffle poutine. They realize they have a lot more in common than not being in possession of a record player, or a fondness for anything more nostalgic than what’s currently trending on Buzzfeed. Except the patriarchy; no one’s nostalgic for the patriarchy.

This common thread that coils around their lives and squeezes tight around their throats is this sense of being adrift in a really terrifying episode of Deadliest Catch. Only the reality show is actually reality and the Catch is an identity. Two 20-somethings in the post-2008-recession age without a map, a financial plan, or even an idea of what’s for dinner. He’s got a can of beans in the cupboard and a microwave his roommate refuses to clean; so he obviously won’t clean it either. She can’t check her online banking because she’s forgotten the password. The security question is asking for her first pet’s name, but she can’t remember if her first pet was the goldfish she flushed down the toilet, or the neighbour’s cat that she kidnapped for a week.

It’s the job market. Those baby boomers screwed up the economy and now they’re calling us lazy. It’s those supposedly entry-level jobs that require at least two years experience. Can you believe HR said ‘marching in Occupy Wall Street’ didn’t count under significant achievements? Back then, you didn’t even need a degree to answer the phone. Life is hard. Yeah, it blows. I want bubble tea. Do you want bubble tea? I know a place that does authentic bubble tea and you can ask them to remove those weird bubbles. So you want a sugar smoothie?

Wandering down a road of uncertainty, these two 20-somethings embark on a journey as fleeting as swiping your approval through a dating app on your phone. With promises of future Snapchats, our couple parts ways and resume their extraordinarily ordinary lives. The camera zooms away to an image of the Brooklyn Bridge lit in the evening. Across the bridge, Detective Olivia Benson is kicking ass. The two 20-somethings would fit perfectly into the world of Hannah Horvath. But even if they were played by Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, I would still side eye them so hard I’d fix my lazy eye.

I suppose life isn’t so bad once I realize I’m not in Girls. I hate that show. I watched the first episode of season four a few days ago because we have HBO. You pay for cable and suddenly you feel obligated to watch it. Can you sue HBO for entrapment? Anyway, I couldn’t stand Girls. People say it’s brilliant because anyone can totes identify with the characters. If you’re a sadist and you gain pleasure from secondhand embarrassment through the TV, then by all means go for it. But I think that’s what’s so terrifying about this show. I hate the characters so much because they’re entitled and insufferable and they knowingly put themselves in situations where these qualities shine. But in a big-picture kind of way, like me, they’re also adrift.

Watching her characters and cringing at the characters I’ve just written – it’s like staring at the mirror the morning after I’ve slept in my makeup. I’m facing my bad decisions and now I have to deal with my face breaking out. The world is mocking the 20-something Hannah Horvath trope that I’ve assumed. And somewhere in the world, Lena Dunham and Taylor Swift are laughing maniacally over macarons and mimosas. Girls is not a comedy. If anything, it should be renamed White Girl American Horror Story. I’ve cowered more times watching Girls than I ever have watching Japanese children crawl out of household electronics.

It’s not just the secondhand embarrassment; it’s watching the worst things about myself play out on screen without the Brooklyn apartment or the e-book publishing deal. It’s not wanting to be that oblivious 20-something so unprepared for the adult world, she hides her anxiety in giggles and identity pretension (wow, that sounded really pretentious); but being that girl anyway. I suppose the first step to surmounting the identity crisis of realizing I am one of those 20-somethings is acknowledging my faults. Face that mirror and accept that those dark circles are remaining under my eyes forever because a. genetics and b. Netflix instant queue. I need to recognize the things I want to change and make a serious effort towards becoming a totes together adult. It’s a work in progress, and I’ll try to record this pilgrimage to adulthood in this blog. The operative word being ‘try’. I don’t have a good track record with blogs.

If I don’t update, you’ll know that I’ve basically given into the spiel of how life is hard, and it blows, and other sexual innuendo. Then I would heave a sigh of sorrow and say, “Let’s just get bubble tea.”