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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars - The Last Jedi

I promised myself I’d keep this review spoiler-free. Though frankly, at this point I’m not even sure why; if the opening weekend box-office take is anything to go by, pretty much everyone in the Western world has seen this film. Hell, I bet even those aliens buzzing fighter pilots over the Pacific have seen it.

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Pennywise and Paper-Thin: Why IT’s clown is too two-dimensional to be terrifying

Pennywise by Caspian WhistlerSo, you know the drill: spoilers ahead.

A few months ago, when we rolled out The Official Pornokitsch Taxonomy of Villains ™, I promised two things: An Obsessed, and a Monster. Half of that promise was fulfilled last month with our look at Khan(s). This month, I deliver on the second half by focusing on the most notorious monster of 2017: Pennywise the Dancing Clown, from Stephen King’s It. I’ll mostly be focusing on the 2017 film version, but will reference other versions as appropriate, since the most famous portrayals – i.e. the novel, the 1990s miniseries, and the latest film – all differ in some respects.

So, let me start with the obvious bit, something we’ve all known in the deepest recesses of our beings since childhood:

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A Tale of Two Khans

Khaaaaaaan by Caspian Whistler

Spoilers ahead for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and S1:E22 of Star Trek the Original Series.

It was the best of Khans, it was the worst of Khans. It was the film that redeemed its predecessor, and the film that tarnished its predecessor. It was the voyage that went where many others had gone before.

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The Official Pornokitsch Taxonomy of Villains

Diagramming villainy

So we’ve been at this Villain of the Month thing for a while now – since August 2016, to be precise – and by this point we’ve accumulated an interesting roster of villains. There have been 8 in total (we lost a month in there somewhere due to shifting schedules), which break down along the following lines:

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The Operative: Joss Whedon’s most political villain?

Operative1

Warning: This month’s post spoils the shit out of 2005’s Serenity, the feature film culmination of Joss Whedon’s gone-too-soon TV space western, Firefly. So if you haven’t seen it, (a) what is the matter with you and (b) stop reading immediately.

It was Dolores Umbridge that got me thinking about the Operative. I know – because they have so much in common, right? One is a cowardly shrew of a witch with no discernible fighting ability, while the other is a mild-mannered, stone-cold killing machine. And yet they do have a lot in common, if you scratch just beneath the surface. They’re both government employees acting on behalf of something bigger and largely invisible. And they both belong to that rarest – and arguably most dangerous – species of villain, the True Believer.

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Dolores Umbridge is the scariest villain in Harry Potter

Slide1

Yes, you read that right. In a world populated with Death Eaters, Dementors, and Dark Lords, where giant snakes possess the dead and werewolves thirst for the blood of children, the diminutive, frilly-frocked schoolmarm from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the absolute worst.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a moment to consider the competition. Sure, the Dark Lord is all dark and lordly, but he’s also pretty one-dimensional. His motivations aren’t particularly complex or original. He’s hateful to everyone and everything, so there’s no chance of us sympathizing with him. He’s even hideously ugly, just to hammer the point home. In short, he’s so thoroughly eeeeevil that there isn’t room for much else, and as I’ve argued before, eeeeevil is dull.

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Wolverine rides off into the sunset - with heart, style, and more than a few scars

Logan

If you’re even slightly interested in seeing Logan, you probably know that it’s getting rave reviews. So much so that for some people, it’s going to be tough for it to live up to the hype. So let me say right out of the gate that Logan isn’t a perfect movie. But it is a very good one, and a significant enough departure from previous instalments in the X-Men franchise that your enjoyment (or lack thereof) of the earlier movies probably isn’t a very good predictor of whether you’ll like this one. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of Westerns – and specifically the gritty, melancholy, washed-up-gunslinger-reluctantly-takes-on-one-more-job trope, this film is for you.

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Al Swearengen - Saloonkeeper, Kingpin, and Total Cocksucker

Al Swearengen by Caspian Whistler
WARNING: This month’s post includes spoilers for HBO’s Deadwood. It also includes bad language, because Deadwood.

Let me say first that you should all be extremely proud of me for making it this far before indulging myself with my favourite villain of all time, Al Swearengen. Come to think of it, Al isn’t just my favourite villain, he’s my favourite TV character of all time, period. So the fact that I made it through five Villains of the Month before scratching that itch shows remarkable restraint, don’t you think? Yes, thank you, I think so too.

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The White Witch should have been badass - but isn't.

Caspian Whistler_White WitchLet me say right out of the gate that the White Witch is not like any of the other baddies we’ve tackled so far. As a children’s villain, she’s not bogged down by pesky things like realism or complexity. She can be as powerful, as outrageous, as pure eeeeevil as she likes. That makes her both larger than life and somewhat two-dimensional. Even so, it would be a mistake to underestimate her. Like all things Narnia, her simplicity belies a strong theological and mythological pedigree. And, like the oldest fairy tales and nursery rhymes, though nominally intended for children, the White Witch is bloody horrifying.

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