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I love Session 9

I’m a big horror movie fan. I love horror movies. I watch them all the time. My favorite horror movies are the ones with very few jump scares, the ones that just let the tension build. I love horror movies with a good sense of location, where the haunted house/hospital/whatever is just as much a figure in the movie as the main character(s). I love horror movies where the threat is ambiguous in some way. I love horror movies that get you deeply invested in people you know are going to die or have otherwise horrible things happen to them.

Session 9 has all of this, and it executes it, in my estimation, almost perfectly. It sets things up quickly and efficiently, it gives information without relying too much on exposition, it gives you time to figure things out on your own before sucker-punching you with gut-wrenching new information. It’s tense and desperate without being overstimulating or confusing. And it is creepy as all fuck.

It also takes place in a mental institution.

I recently told a friend of mine that Session 9 is my favorite horror movie and she was pretty startled. You see, I am myself mentally ill, and a pretty staunch advocate on behalf of other neurodivergent/mentally ill folks. Session 9 COULD have been exactly the kind of movie that I really have a hard time with. It could have pandered to society’s fear of the axe-wielding madman, or made up some history about the setting that glossed over the reality of state-run mental institutions in the 1900’s. But it does neither of those things, and as a result, it works better than it ever would have had it relied on those old tropes.

Session 9 is set in the now-demolished Danvers State Hospital, which was a sprawling psychiatric facility complex designed and built as part of the Kirkbride Plan. It’s layout is really similar to what I imagine Arkham Asylum’s layout to be like (it’s shaped like a bat! It has an intricate network of underground tunnels!), only a lot more open. The institution, like most Kirkbride plan institutions, was shut down in the 80’s, after massive funding cuts and multiple investigations of cases of patient abuse. Session 9 doesn’t dwell on this information, but it doesn’t ignore it, either. The actual patients who lived (and often died) there are humanized rather than objectified, often without being directly spoken about at all.

The first time I saw this, I watched it with a now-ex of mine, who said that the real main character was the Danvers State Hospital itself. I’ve watched it a few times since then, and I’ve come to disagree with that assessment. It’s not the building that’s the central figure of Session 9 - it’s the history of the building, all the unspoken stories of the patients, the abuse they suffered, the trauma that took place. It’s omnipresent, seeping in to every single shot of the movie. You can see the gradual understanding of it creep into the main characters’ minds and eat away at them. They want to run from the knowledge of the things that happened there. They start talking about quitting, about “exit plans”, but they all know, ultimately, that they’re not going anywhere, because even if they did they’d never really get away from it, just like they’d never get away from their class status, their real life responsibilities, their personal failures.

And each day they go back to the hospital to try to renovate it. They drape plastic sheeting over everything and try to clear it of asbestos as though that would erase everything that the hospital itself represents. And while they can, they explore the place privately, individually, each obsessed with different aspects of it, each trying to come to some kind of terms with all the things that took place there and in their own lives. But you know from the start of the movie that they’re never going to succeed.

You might not understand how deeply, how tragically, and how violently they will fail. Have already failed.

But on some level, you know. Just like they do.

And that is what makes Session 9 not only terrifying, but utterly emotionally devastating as well.

So, you know. Perfect holiday movie-watching fare. Merry christmas!

Oh dear. (TW: rape/rape culture, implied child sexual abuse)

Tonight my partner and I settled in to watch an old X-Files episode, as we are wont to do on miserable, rainy nights. We picked the second season episode Red Museum because neither of us had seen it.

I remember the X-Files being genuinely terrifying to me when I was a kid. My best friend and I would watch it together when we were probably about 9 or 10, and we’d turn off all the lights and get totally freaked out. It was like watching a series of hour-long horror movies, and I loved it.

Sadly, this is not something that seems to have translated as I’ve aged, because now every time I watch old X-Files episodes, I find them more funny than anything else.

There’s a moment in Red Museum where an old cattle rancher (hilariously played by Relic) is explaining to Mulder and Scully that some mysterious force has changed his town for the worse. People are more aggressive, angrier, more competitive.

"Did you know we had SEVEN RAPES last year?" he says, horrified.

My immediate reaction was to just burst out laughing. Yeah, who would have thought there’d be SEVEN RAPES in a town of about 5-10,000 people? Seven seems pretty astronomically low, when you consider actual rates of sexual assault in North America - not to mention that one of the key characters in the episode was a voyeuristic pedophile who had until recently been in charge of a daycare.

It was supposed to be a sobering moment, but instead it just seemed absurd. I felt mildly irritated that the writers thought that this statistic would be shocking to anyone over the age of twelve. I mean, it’s one thing to ask me to buy into the idea of aliens, vampires, demons, various different types of monsters, and cyborg cockroaches from outer space, but come on, that’s just insulting to my intelligence.

Ethan vomits out his unoriginal thoughts on Dexter

ethanology:

whaaat! EXPLAIN YOURSELF.

Oh gosh, for reasons? I have them, I’m not sure if they’re good/I can articulate them well but here it is behind a cut so no one gets spoiled… Also Tw for mild graphic imagery in the beginning?

Read More

Putting this here ‘cause it got a little lengthly.

This is really interesting, because for the most part I’ve been so. frustrated. with this season of Dexter.

The Doomsday Killer had really, really great potential. I loved the snakes coming out of the guy’s belly, too! And I loved the obsessive attention paid to small details of scripture. And I feel like the serial-killer-who-believes-themself-to-be-chosen-by-god thing is probably a little overdone, but I actually find it to be a generally really interesting and compelling concept.

So I felt like the season had potential.

I mean, one of my biggest pet television peeves is when a show doesn’t live up to it’s potential, so I think that’s actually a big part of why I had a really hard time getting into this season. It set things up really well and then… meh. And that wasn’t just this season; I was really nonplussed at how many of last season’s revelations just failed to carry over into this season at all. I mean, LaGuerta and Batista’s marriage was ended off-screen between the seasons, talk about a cop-out. And there wasn’t even a mention of Astor and Cody all this season. Or of the many personal epiphanies that Dexter came to while working with Lumen - rather, he seemed to have forgotten about all of that entirely, especially when Bryan showed up.

It could be that this season was supposed to be a direct answer to last season - last season had Dexter getting closer to the “light”, as it were, than he’s ever been before, helping Lumen to reclaim her life and eventually actually falling in love with her, whereas in this season he can see the “light” and makes a deliberate decision to avoid it, delving into the darkness until his behavior starts to verge on risky, impulsive, and psychotic.

But it just didn’t read (watch?) that way to me. Instead, it felt like everyone on the show had amnesia. Quinn is an asshole, yeah, but he seemed like an entirely different guy this season, and god damn am I tired of Deb and LaGuerta reaching a truce only to have the writers roll that back whenever it’s convenient.

Plot-wise, watching the writers desperately pretend that no one figured out by Travis’s second appearance that Gellar had been dead to begin with got really old really fast. It was a weak point that could have been forgiven if it hadn’t dragged on just so. Long. Sooooooooooo looooooooonnnngggg. And the creepiness of the tableaus seemed to sharply fall off as the season went on. (I mean, the Lake of Fire? Travis just dumped a bunch of gasoline into the ocean. COME ON. HE SEWED CORPSES TO MANEQUINS AND RIGGED THEM UP TO LIVE HORSES JUST A FEW EPISODES AGO. SHOW US THAT CREEPY CREATIVE FLAIR.) And the b-plots seemed to drag on as well - too little material spread out over too long a season, padded out with weirdly moralistic writing and in the case of the thing with Mos Def’s character, verging into some really uncomfortable territory.

Oh! And speaking of b-plots, I totally disagree that Debra realizing that she’s in love with Dexter was out of the blue! I called that shit in the first season. Or rather, I called that Dexter would announce his love for Debra - I’m a little surprised that it happened the other way around, because I always figured that Dexter would be the one with unspoken ~romantic feelings~ and Debra would be the oblivious one, but I guess this does fit with their well-established dynamic of Debra having really intense feelings and reactions to things and Dexter just being kind of in the dark re: what to do about/for his emotional-train-wreck sister.

But yeah. I mean, it had some really enjoyable moments, all of that aside. I liked the introduction of Angel’s sister, I liked seeing Deb unravel the train wreck of her life in therapy, and I did really like the finale, mostly because it felt like the show was FINALLY getting some of it’s old sense of pacing and high-stakes drama back. And the very final reveal - talk about ending on a cliff hanger. THAT’S gonna be a game changer, and honestly, it’s what’s going to make me turn in next season (I’ve been waiting for them to bring Deb in on Dexter’s secret life as a serial killer pretty much since the show began - and it will be nice for her to have to wear the idiot hat so much when it comes to concealing Dexter’s dark passenger from the people in his life). That and the promising set-up with the creepy intern. Hopefully they don’t end up rolling that back, because I found just the set-up of that more compelling than anything Travis did in the last several episodes.

Anyway, yeah. Thanks for prompting me to think/write about this - I’d been meaning to jot some thoughts down for a while. Ultimately, I felt like this was one of the weaker seasons of Dexter that I’d seen, but that it at least set things up to be better next season. So, yeah.

In (half-hearted) Defense of Prince Louis

Oh, Louis. Louis, Louis, Louis. You had so much promise. You could have been so many things! Charming, erudite, intellectual, somewhat shy, with a flair for the dramatic - a prince who wanted a woman who was down to earth and independent enough to hold her own in his world - all of which, being hinted at in your introduction, made you seem like a perfect match for Blair. Blair would be a perfect princess - if I was a ruler of a small country, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have advising me on global affairs and diplomacy than Blair Waldorf (who I’ve long suspected of actually being some kind of mentat, bred and raised to be the ultimate schemer and manipulator of individuals and situations and secretly destined for a role of serious political influence and power). But you’ve quickly become an afterthought, not even pathetic in that you fail to elicit any pathos. You’re so hopelessly out of touch and unimportant that when your fiancee was in a car accident, nobody even thought to call you.

It’s a shame, really. I wanted to be a fan of Prince Louis, I really did! Part of me still wants to champion his place in the world of Gossip Girl. Mostly because I’m tired of the back-and-forth, will-they-or-won’t-they(-get-married) endless cycling and recycling of Chuck and Blair. It’s tired, okay? There, I said it. I’m bored of it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the characters of Chuck and Blair - especially Blair, who is played with a cartoonish perfection by the only actress who seems to realize what kind of a show she’s starring in - but the whole arc of Chuck’s supposed reformation and reconciliation with Blair just seems rushed and forced this season. He’s trying to be good! But he has to be bad because that’s the only way to be good by getting Blair to think that he’s bad! But he adopted a dog so he must be good now! But the only reason he ever went bad was because he lost Blair, and in order to be good he has to lose her forever! But she wants to be with him, and accepting her would be good, but somehow also bad? OH MY GOD WHO CARES. And when I start saying that to a show that only works by somehow successfully convincing me to care whether or not a rich, white, famous celebutante manages to hang on to her ridiculously unnecessary day job without alienating her overwhelmingly self-absorbed ex-boyfriend, I know that things are starting to go downhill.

I put up with a lot of ridiculous crap from Gossip Girl, is what I’m saying. But I draw the line at this season’s endless toying with Chuck and Blair.

Enter Louis. Louis could have been a viable, graceful way of putting the Chair pairing out of it’s misery - at least until such a time when it could be revived without being utterly predictable self-parody. All the writers had to do was make him a believable love interest for Blair. But they just. Couldn’t. Do it! By now the only thing left is for him to grow a moustache to twirl whilst cackling like the villain in Rocky and Bullwinkle. (I thought there was a chance of redeeming his character when it seemed like he and Serena were going to team up, but that fizzled out into nothing in one episode. One! Remember when scheming alliances on Gossip Girl lasted whole seasons?) I’d say he’s out of character, but his character never really got a decent fighting chance to establish itself in the first place. Part of the problem is the fact that his actor (whose name escapes me, ugh he’s that bland) has absolutely no chemistry with Leighton Meester. They have negative chemistry. They are a chemistry-sucking void of dispassionate conversation and apathy. But mostly, I blame the writers for not being able to contain their boners for Chuck long enough to give him a believable romantic rival.

Not that Chuck even NEEDED a romantic rival at this point - I really enjoyed Blair’s struggle last season between asserting her independence, and giving in to her desire to fall back into Chuck’s arms. It’s the memory of this Powerful Woman Blair of episodes past that made me roll my eyes at her entire struggle of the last episode - should she be with Chuck, or Louis, or Secret Option C, Dan? She needs to choose ONE man, obviously, because she CAN’T be alone! It’s not like she’s wealthy, independent, and resourceful, or blessed with a huge support network of doting friends and family who would help her raise a baby on her own… oh, wait.

But I digress. The point is, Louis sucks. But that’s not his fault! I get really sad when I see people bashing Louis, and hating on the Blouis pairing. IF ONLY YOU COULD SEE WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN, I want to tell them! If only you could look past the writer’s confused mediocrity, and see the true potential of Prince Louis.

He could have solved so many problems. He could have made Blair happy, driven Chuck and Dan to Machiavellian extremes, drawn Serena back into a life of scheming, and basically been a vehicle for creating all kinds of new and interesting direction.

But alas, it was not to be. And worst of all is how few people seem to appreciate exactly what was lost.

Once Upon A Time

I realize that it might seem a little misleading to start off a blog called Why Do I Watch This with a post about why I DON’T watch a certain show, but that’s just how I roll, you guys.

So. I have a confession to make. I don’t watch Once Upon A Time. I consider this to be a somewhat shameful confession because most of the TV-watchers I know -by which I mean, most of the people who actually follow specific TV shows, have opinions on them, etc, whose judgment on the subject of television I usually trust - love Once Upon A Time. It’s got a solid cast, lovely scenery, it’s dynamic and fun, and it’s got fairy tales! What’s not to like, aside from the fact that one could argue it’s basically just a conceptual rip-off of The 12th Kingdom?

My problem with Once Upon A Time isn’t one that I’ve really seen addressed that much in reviews and fan reactions - I mean, I saw it brought up once, and it was then immediately shot down by fans doing their usual “It’s a STORY!!!!” routine, and so I put my hands up and slowly backed away. But no more! I’m just gonna come right out and say it, all right?

Once Upon A Time is FUCKED UP when it comes to the issue of adoption.

Look. We’ve got this kid, this ten-year-old kid. He’s grown up more or less in the lap of luxury, in a charming little town with an adoptive mother who, as a single mother who apparently works a lot, has still managed to make sure that her son always has whatever he needs. It’s clear that mother and son have a hard time relating to each other - she’s kind of distant, he spends too much time in his own head - but as families go, they’re far from dysfunctional.

Then he finds out he’s adopted, freaks out, and runs away from home. At TEN. He steals his mother’s credit card, tracks down his birth mother, and goes to her home in a large city he’s never been to before.

And his birth mother brings him back, swears up and down to his panicking mother that she’s going to leave town - the kid’s obviously having some issues, he’s confused, and what confused, hurting kids need is stability, not some figure from their distant, long-forgotten past hanging around, throwing everything he knows about his history and world into doubt.

But she DOESN’T LEAVE. She sticks around, MEETING THE KID IN SECRET, playing into his fantasy world (which, all the adults in his life agree, seems to be a delusion that he’s created for himself for some reason), fucking up the adoptive mother’s property, and generally behaving like an unstable stalker because she’s determined, after ten minutes of talking to the adoptive mother, that the adoptive mother doesn’t “really love” her son.

And the adoptive mother is supposed to be the bad guy here?

I have to admit, there’s a really personal reason why I can’t seem to suspend my disbelief for this show, the way I can do for shows that contain equally problematic shit (Gossip Girl’s “serial rapist gets a dog, becomes completely reformed” plotline; pretty much everything about the Debra/LaGuerta rivalry). And that reason is that everything I wrote just now is pretty much exactly what happened with my family when my brother’s adoptive father showed up out of the blue. The money theft, the secret meetings, the convincing my brother that our family doesn’t “really” love him. The only difference is that instead of a bail bondsman (er, bail bondsperson), my brother’s birth father is an abuser and a drug dealer.

Yeah.

It’s not as ~enchanting~ when it’s happening to your family in real life. Because the legal protections for adoptive families? Well, to be tactful about it, they’re lacking. They’re lacking for birth parents, too, and MOST OF ALL they’re lacking for kids. (If I was going to not be tactful, the rest of this entry would just be a string of profanity.) And community attitudes towards adoptive families and adopted kids are terrible. As Harriett J puts it (and if you have some time, please go read that whole article there, it’s really incredible and I cannot recommend it more, as someone whose family includes “local” and internationally-adopted kids):

Adoptive parents? People – really and truly – will tell them to either give the kids back or shut the fuck up, as if they are nothing more than a headache you are obnoxiously complaining about. Because these children aren’t theirs, the pain caused by raising them is optional. Which means adoptive parents don’t get to complain, because in the minds of non-adoptive parents, they could always take the ibuprofen. Every time an adoptive parent attempts to vent – a very normal and necessary human interaction – they have to first step back and judge What This Will Say About Adoption. The other person – the ventee – may decide that what the adoptee does is so wild, so perverse, so outside the norm that all adoptees are damaged goods. They may go around espousing this, out loud, to others, a la “Oh, no, don’t adopt! My brother adopted and all adopted kids totally fuck cats.” Or, the ventee may decide that any adoptive parent with a difficult child has brought this upon themselves. You chose to adopt, and you choose to keep this kid that’s not even yours, so you don’t get to complain anymore. Take the ibuprofen, or shut up. If your biokid was fucking cats, you could probably find somebody who knows you and respects your abilities as a parent and will say, “I don’t even know how this could have happened, I know you always did your best. They must be so angry or hurt to do something like this; did something happen that you don’t know about? You’ve got to get them some help.” But if your adopted kid fucks cats, it will be, “What is wrong with that kid? They should count themselves lucky that you’re willing to put up with that. I don’t know why you are. Are you going to keep them? I can’t see why you would, the grief they give you.”

People think that adoptive families are easy to tear apart. The adoptive mother can’t REALLY love her adopted son, after all, it’s not like he’s her REAL kid, so why should it bother her that his birth mother refuses to leave town, is talking to his therapist and his teachers, etc? It’s clear she barely puts up with him, why can’t she just turn him over to his birth mom, anyway?

And yes, I know that Regina isn’t just an Adoptive Mother, she’s the Evil Queen who has put a spell on everyone and blah blah blah. But the thing with fictions like this, is they have a real impact. The stereotypes and bullshit they carry is so insidious, so pervasive in our societies that it just seeps into our minds, and we don’t even stop to question the implications of it. How could there be any? It’s just a TV show.

But these implications, they mean real things. To a lot of people - people like my mom, and my brother - they mean real-life danger and crises. They’re not just reflected in TV shows, they’re reflected in the lack of legal protections for adoptive families and for birth families and kids; they’re reflected in the lack of community support for adoptive and birth families and kids. They’re reflected on major, systemic levels. 

Adoption isn’t a fairy tale. It’s real. And it often gets fucked up.

And that is why I do not watch Once Upon A Time. Because I can’t bear to watch something so real to me right now get turned into a trite little fairy tale where the biokid ends up with his biomom because his adoptive mom was an evil witch. I just can’t. It’s too offensive.

And that’s coming from a rape survivor who watches Gossip Girl, and a former sex worker who watches Dexter. So. Uh.

Yeah.

I don’t watch Once Upon A Time. That shit’s fucked.

Edit: So this post was up ten minutes before a buttmad fan reblogged it and chewed me out for daring to write about the show after saying that I don’t watch it. For the record, I watched the first four episodes, and every one of them was like having my teeth pulled. I do not care about your feelings about Emma, I do not care that “she saw a lack of love in Regina’s eyes” (once again, after talking to her for just a few minutes! EMMA IS PSYCHIC ENOUGH TO TELL IN FIVE MINUTES THAT A MOTHER WHO SHE’S NEVER MET BEFORE LOVES HER OBVIOUSLY DISTURBED SON - yeah, I’m sorry, that’s a really weak plot point, it just is), what I care about is the lives of my family members and other adoptive families, kids, and birth families. So if you don’t know anything about those things, please sit the fuck down.