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Erin Watches: The Resident season 3; The Good Doctor seasons 1-3; Carol’s Second Act season 1

Nothing like a bunch of hospital shows to fill your quarantine media-watching needs…

The Resident

You know how in some medical procedurals, half the conflict is from the characters’ romantic drama? Well, in this one half of it is from medical abuse, corruption, over-the-top unethical schemes, and general shadiness.

Just finished season 3. The writers are trying a little too hard to make a couple of those shady characters feel sympathetic, without substantially changing their behavior. But in general, it’s been good.

Production of the last few episodes was cut short by COVID-19, so they did some hasty shuffling to turn episode 20 into a reasonable finale. At least the case-of-the-week was appropriately dramatic, and creepily timely — it’s the back half of a 2-parter about [how unethical medical exploitation led to] a super-infectious fungus propagating in the hospital, and the perpetrators scrambling to cover it up before anyone with a conscience notices.

The writers even managed to slip in a couple last-minute lines like “at least it’s not airborne like the coronavirus.” Per the producer: “The way we were handling the superbug is very different from the way that you would handle a virus like COVID-19. We wanted to make sure the audience didn’t get those two confused, because it would have made us, as storytellers, look irresponsible.”

I wonder if, when the pandemic recedes enough that they can start filming season 4, they’ll set it during the outbreak? Or will they do a time-skip to the aftermath?

I’m wondering this about a lot of medical shows, tbh. But this is the only one I’ve seen where they managed to reference it in-universe before going dark.

The Good Doctor

This is the one with the super-anvilicious trailers, characters yelling “Do you REALLY think he can be a surgeon when he has…AUTISM?!?!”

And the first few episodes were about as bad as you’d expect, based on that! But then it settled into a groove, chilled out about the main character, and I made it through all 3 seasons on streaming.

There were a few deeply off-putting episodes, but they were basically isolated incidents, not ongoing plotlines. The standouts:

  • A patient is a mute kid who signs, so everyone repeatedly conflates “nonverbal communication” (the kind without words) with “sign language” (which is language, as complex as any spoken language, with words and everything!)
  • A 17-year-old trans girl, brought in with complications that turns out to be caused by her puberty-blockers, so she wants to skip straight to a double testectomy. Her parents are generally supportive of her gender, but don’t consent to this because it’s “a permanent change” that she’s “too young to decide to make”, never mind that the physical changes brought on by puberty are also a permanent change and they’re deciding to force it on her, and the doctors end up not doing it, and everyone’s insufferably smug about how it’s for her own good
  • (note to the parents: your daughter will always remember this as the moment when she learned that, no matter how much you profess to love and support her, she can’t actually trust you with anything important)
  • In a separate episode, a teenage cis girl comes in with a fake ID to get genital surgery without her parents’ consent, and, guess what, the doctors move heaven and earth to sidestep the rules and make it happen
  • In another separate episode, a cis man comes in with complications that turn out to be from taking estrogen, and wants a testectomy as an alternative — the reason he’s trying to crater his libido is because, although he’s never acted on it, he’s physically attracted to kids — and the physicians won’t do that either! He’s an adult, he gives his full consent, but they want him to go through a 3-month psych evaluation (you know, just to confirm that he’s sure he wants to stop being aroused by children??), and, long story short, he unsuccessfully hurts himself and then successfully jumps in front of a bus. Exactly one (1) doctor feels any kind of regret about this, while another outright says “eh, the world’s probably better off this way”
  • (you know what would really make the world better, is if doctors heard “I want to volunteer for a treatment that unequivocally helps prevent child abuse” and went “hot diggity dog, we love preventing child abuse, get this patient to the ER, there’s not a moment to lose!”)
  • …So that’s not exactly an isolated incident, it’s a pattern of the show being convinced that “ability to produce sperm” is more important than anything else, including patient wishes, mental health, child safety, and human life

…Put all together like that, it sounds pretty awful, but this was spaced out over 56 episodes and there was a lot of more-palatable stuff in between!

Including things like “an alt-right radio host comes in with a ton of conspiracy theories about how he’s been poisoned, then it turns out he’s been sent to the hospital by his own brand of unregulated supplements.”

Until the end of s3, when the writers jump right off the MRA cliff. Our hero’s girlfriend dumps him because “you’re obviously in love with Woman #2, and you should tell her” (okay, this is part of another pattern, where characters chronically insist on contradicting the autistic guy about what his own feelings are), Woman #2 turns him down (as she’s already done earlier in the series), and he fixates on “women only want to date men who are tall, handsome, and neurotypical.” (Note: he’s only ever wanted to date women who are thin, beautiful, and neurotypical.)

Aaaaand then there’s a whole thing with a patient’s girlfriend finding out he’s been cheating and taking a golf club to his car, which inspires the main character to show up at Woman #2’s home with a blunt object, visibly agitated, and tell her “I want to smash your car. I want to hurt you the way you hurt me.” And her reaction isn’t “I’m calling the cops now”, it’s “I’m sorry.”

Two episodes after that…in spite of a pep talk from a patient who reminds him that he can find love in many places, he doesn’t have to fixate on a specific person who doesn’t even return his feelings…Woman #2 is kissing him and telling him how stupid she was for not agreeing to go out with him.

Mmmmmnope.

And the writers had previously spent so much time developing their dynamic as “a man and a woman can have a platonic friendship that’s healthy and loving and supportive”! I would’ve been disappointed no matter how they made it romantic, but might’ve kept watching, annoyed-but-not-surprised, if they’d done it another way. Like this, though? Hard no. I’m out.

Carol’s Second Act

Okay, gonna end the post on a lighter note. I haven’t seen the whole season — “which episodes are available for streaming” has been patchy and incomplete — but what I’ve seen is adorable.

It’s a sitcom about a schoolteacher who made a late-in-life career switch, so now she’s a medical intern, in a class of other interns who are young enough to be her kids. (Her actual kid, a pharma rep, shows up a few times too.) So there’s generation-gap humor, and “folksy teacher wisdom is surprisingly applicable to medical issues” humor, and Mom Jokes, and hospital-type workplace jokes, and it’s just absolutely charming.

You can tell they have a sitcom budget, not a network-drama budget. At least the rooms look like they’re in hospitals, not “a bedroom with white walls and one character wearing a stethoscope” — but they’re still low-res versions of the equivalent rooms in another show, and you can tell which part of the set is the fourth wall. Cases-of-the-week don’t involve anything too visually elaborate. Definitely no “close-up shots of the doctor’s hands mid-surgery.”

And, you know, they don’t go for horrible complications or tragic deaths. It’s not one of those shows where the setting is completely incidental — the writers have put some actual effort into medical details, there are plotlines about symptoms and diagnoses and treatments alongside “someone accidentally ate the senior resident’s lunch” or “one of the interns is secretly doing standup and the gang goes to watch her set.” But the tension in the patients’ cases isn’t “will they die horribly at the end of it,” and, sure enough…they don’t.

(Granted, since I haven’t seen the whole season, I can’t guarantee it’s not another “season finale takes a disappointing dive” show. I sure hope not. Either way, nobody spoil me.)

So if you generally like hospital procedurals, but right now you’ve maxed out your limit on stories about medical tragedies? This is the cheerful and uplifting version. Highly recommended.

The Secret Commonwealth review: It was…pretty underwhelming, mostly

Finally got the audiobook of The Secret Commonwealth checked out from my local library!

(Here’s my review of its predecessor, La Belle Sauvage, if you want to start there.)

It’s 20 hours long. Whoof.

As for the contents…look, it was well-written prose. I didn’t get bored while listening. (Rereading that last review, I realized I’d written the same thing about the previous book, too.) But in retrospect, there sure was not a lot that happened in those 20 hours. Some notable action bits, in between a lot of padding.

And my reactions mostly consist of…complaints. Not “this is hideous, time to ragequit the series, this is an unqualified anti-rec” complaints, more a low-level churn of frustration.

(There’s one scene I know has made someone else outright refuse to read it, though, and I think it’s totally reasonable. More on that later.)

So I’m gonna try to unpack a bunch of it here. Hopefully in enough detail that, if you haven’t read it yet (and don’t mind spoilers), it can help you make an informed decision about whether it’s worth spending 20 hours of your life on.

Spoilers start here!

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Super Drags review: It’s the most pure distilled fabulous queerness I’ve ever seen in a cartoon (and I say this as a Steven Universe fan)

The post where I do my best to spread the Good News, that there exists a saucy gay drag-queen magical-girl animated comedy and everyone should watch it.

Okay, not everyone — I’ll give some caveats at the end — but definitely a heck of a lot more people than Netflix has bothered to advertise it to.

Look at this! Why did nobody tell me about this??

Super Drags posing

'Was anybody going to tell me' meme

What is Super Drags?

Fast facts:

  • It’s a 1-season, 5-episode adult animated comedy series, released in November 2018
  • Here’s the official page, with a free-to-view trailer
  • It packs more explicit, unashamed queerness into those 5 episodes than any other cartoon I can think of
  • The only possible competitor would be if you took the whole 5000-episode run of Steven Universe and pared it down to a supercut of Just The Gay Parts
  • This in spite of being produced in Brazil, which (in my broad understanding, as a total non-authority on the subject) is more oppressively, dangerously homophobic than the US
  • The original is in Portuguese
  • There is an English dub, fabulously voiced by contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race
  • It’s wrapped in “for adults only!” warnings, not because the content is any less child-friendly than (say) your Bojacks Horsemen or your Ricks and Mortys, but because Brazilian authorities tried to get it shut down on the grounds of this much gay being Harmful For Children
  • It was (heartbreakingly) not renewed for a second season

Here’s a promo video, in which the main characters (Portuguese, with subtitles) play Drag Race judges for Shangela, who ends up voicing Scarlet in English:

And here’s a beautiful flashy music video of the big musical number! (Also Portuguese, no subtitles, but the melody and the visuals stand on their own.)

Plot and worldbuilding stuff!

The elevator pitch is “What if Charlie’s Angels, but also drag queens, with superpowers, because magical-girl transformations?”

In this universe, all LGBTQ people have magical energy. The Big Bad is an evil magical-drag-queen nemesis who tries to drain our energy for her own purposes. It’s like if Ursula from The Little Mermaid was a first-season Sailor Moon villain.

…sidenote, in case you were worried, the representation isn’t “cis gay men and nobody else.” There’s a butch lesbian in the recurring cast, a genderfluid person (ETA: that word is exclusive to the English dub; a Brazilian viewer tipped me off that the original Portuguese dialogue includes “bissexual”, which means exactly what it looks like) as a one-off love interest, and all the ensemble scenes are wonderful collages of different races, body types, and gender presentations.

Group shot of queer characters

Group shot 2 of queer characters

Our heroes also fight non-magical everyday homophobes, who get written with scathing realism.

The moment I knew the show wasn’t pulling any punches was in the first episode, where a newscaster complains about being Silenced by the Law of Political Correctness, then chirps “however, we have a special guest who is thankfully above the law!”

According to the reviews I’ve found from Brazilian viewers, it’s also pitch-perfect when it comes to local queer culture, community dynamics, slang and speech patterns, even memes. All of which flies right over my head, so here’s a post (with no-context spoilers) about one viewer’s favorite details.

The handful of reaction posts on Tumblr have a dramatic split between “Brazilian viewers fiercely defending the show as culturally-accurate, uplifting, and brave in a terrifying political moment” and “American viewers complaining that the show is problematic because it’s a comedy about drag queens with no perfect role models and lots of sex jokes.”

As the Super Drags tell their nemesis (and this is also in the first episode): “How dare you try to turn the LGBTQXYZ community against each other? We do enough of that on our own!”

Super Drags team-up attack

In between missions, our girls work sitcom retail jobs and deal with other everyday problems. All of which are written in amazingly nuanced and thoughtful ways for a show that also features “defeating an orgy monster with a lip-sync battle.”

Detailed character stuff!

Our heroes are Color Coded For Your Convenience!

The Super Drags themselves go by “she” in-uniform, and a lot of the time when out of it. Like the Sailor Starlights, only more so. I’ll roll with that.

Super Drags out of costume

In blue: Safira Cyan, or Ralph by day, an excitable college-age kid who’s built like a football player and squees like a fangirl. (She’s an anime fan in the original, and for some reason all the otaku references were replaced in the dub, but you can see them in the subtitles.)

Safira anime pose

Ralph lives with her younger sister (they play video games together!) and their dad, comes out to them mid-series, and is very shippable with another young guy who starts out reciting the homophobic beliefs he was raised with but whose heart clearly isn’t in it.

Safira’s weapon is a classic magical-girl wand that casts protective force-fields. Which are shaped like condoms. Because of course.

In yellow: Lemon Chiffon, aka Patrick, the oldest of the group and generally the smartest/most strategic. In most cases, the other two treat her as the de facto team leader — unless she pushes it too far.

Lemon and strategy

By day she’s a single guy with thick thighs and thinning hair, who has some body-image insecurities on the dating scene. And this show has Things To Say about unrealistic beauty standards within the community…not to mention, about masc guys who look down on anyone too flaming or femme because straight people disapprove.

Lemon’s weapon is a fluffy boa that can be used as a whip or a lasso, especially when there’s a bondage joke to be made.

In red: Scarlet Carmesim, also Donizete, the loudest and most aggressive teammate with the most cutting insults, who refuses to suppress that attitude in an attempt to appease racists. (But will give it a shot when trying not to get fired.)

Donny with insults

Donny still lives in her religious/homophobic mom’s apartment, and I’m pretty sure it’s because neither of them can afford to move out. Her rock-solid sense of fierce self-confidence is the reason it doesn’t bring her down.

Scarlet’s weapon is a fan that she uses to throw shade. Yeah, you knew that was coming.

The Charlie to these angels is Champagne, who runs operations from a cool magitech compound and breaks the fourth wall at the end to petition for viewers’ support in getting a second season.

Champagne with a contract…we let her down, folks :(

So here’s a thing. The show never draws a sharp line between “people who become drag queens because it’s a way they’re driven to express themselves as gay men” and “people who become drag queens because they were trans women all along.” That’s consistent with how South American LGBT+ culture works. (Again: best of my knowledge, not personally an authority on this, etc etc.)

Many of the characters, including Champagne, never describe themselves in ways that translate to one of our sharply-defined Anglo-USian identity categories. And I’m not going to try to impose any English labels on them here.

But I can say (in contrast to Safira, Lemon, and Scarlet), Champagne never switches out of her “drag” name/voice/presentation, not even in the most candid off-duty scenes, and still has the same bustline when naked in the tub. Make of that what you will.

Super Drags fans

You Should Watch This Show

If you have a Netflix subscription, watch Super Drags!

If you ever do a Netflix free trial month in the future, make a note to yourself to watch Super Drags!

It’s one of their original productions, so there’s no risk of missing your chance because the license expired. But it’s absolutely not getting the promotion it deserves. Which means potentially interested viewers won’t find it, which means Netflix will think there’s no interest, which means they’ll keep not promoting it…etc etc etc.

No idea if there’s any chance of getting it un-canceled, but maybe we can at least convince them to release it on DVD.

Super Drags hero walk

And the sheer gutsiness it took for a group of Brazilian creators to produce this show in the first place — that deserves to be rewarded with your attention.

In spite of various anti-discrimination laws that sound good on paper, the country has serious problems with homophobia, transphobia, and anti-LGBT violence (warning, article has a violent image which is only partly blurred).

Maybe the creators could’ve gotten a second season if they made this one softer, less sexually-explicit, more restrained…but honestly? I bet that wouldn’t have helped.

Consider Danger & Eggs, an Amazon original cartoon. It was made in the US, thoroughly child-friendly, and restricts its LGBT+ representation to things like “characters go to a Pride celebration…where nobody ever names or describes the quality they’re proud of.”

And it didn’t get renewed past the first season either.

(Note: it had a trans woman showrunner and a queer-heavy creative staff, so I blame all that restraint on executive meddling, not the creators themselves. The showrunner even liked the tweet of my review that complains about it.)

So there’s something very satisfying about how Super Drags went all-out, balls-to-the-wall (sometimes literally), all the rep explicit and unapologetic, packing every 25-minute episode with all kinds of queer content that would be censored or muted elsewhere — but here it’s exaggerated and celebrated and just keeps coming.

(…as do jokes like that, and I’m not sorry.)

Super Drags rainbow powers

Okay, there are a few legitimate reasons to not watch this show

Some caveats.

None of these things are Objectively Bad Problems that the show itself should be shamed for…but maybe they’re genuinely not your cup of tea.

It does have actual Adult Content beyond “the existence of gay people.” This show loves to swing barely-clothed cartoon genitalia in your face. There is, as mentioned, an orgy monster. If that kind of humor is going to bother you too much to appreciate the rest of the show, give it a pass.

I wasn’t kidding about how realistic the homophobes are. Opening of the first episode has a guy trying to murder a busload of people while shouting slurs at them. If that level of hatred on-screen is gonna crush your soul, even in a show about sparkly queens flying to the rescue with dick-shaped magical weapons, don’t push yourself.

Any fiction with this much crossdressing and gender-transgressing is going to hit some trans viewers in a bad way. Because trans people are such a broad group, with so many different experiences, that Every Possible Trope Involved pushes somebody’s buttons. (See also: “some trans readers complain about a storyline that turns out to be drawn from a trans writer’s actual life experience“.) If this show goes does gender things that turn out to be personally distressing for you…or even just distressing for this specific time in your life…don’t feel obligated to keep watching.

It has aggressively-sassy queer characters making jokes and calling each other things that are affectionate in-context, but would not be okay coming from straight/cis people. If you can’t wrap your head around that, go watch something else.

Other Than That, Go Watch This Show

For all its big heart, big ambitions, and big gay energy, Super Drags is tiny enough that I’ve binged the whole show 2 times in the past 2 weeks. Thankfully, it’s highly re-watchable — lots of fun background gags and subtle foreshadowing that you don’t catch on the first round.

(Pausing one last time to appreciate that a show with elements like “the high-tech robot assistant is called D.I.L.D.O.” can be subtle at all, let alone be this good at it.)

I’ve also paged through all the fanart on Tumblr and Deviantart, looked up the single fanfic on the AO3, and started brainstorming plans to request it in Yuletide next year. Someone, please, come join me in (the English-language side of) the itty-bitty fandom for this ridiculous, glittery, over-the-top, fabulous series.

Super Drags hero splitscreen

 

I’m so confused by the publishing sequence of Jane’s World

Okay, I’ve spent way too long trying to puzzle this out, so now I’m inflicting it on the rest of you.

Jane’s World is a gay-centric sitcom-style comic — a lot like Dykes To Watch Out For, but with cartoonier art, and less topical political commentary in favor of more surreal misadventures.

It was launched in March 1998, picked up for syndication in April 2002, and concluded in October 2018.

Here’s a review of the printed omnibus volume 1, if you want a bit about the contents without diving into the full online archive.

This post is just about the order things were published in. Continue reading

Avengers: Endgame miscellaneous spoilery thoughts

This and Captain Marvel are the only two MCU movies I’ve paid to see while they were in theaters. Both late enough that there were only a dozen people in the audience. (I also saw Black Panther and Spider-Man: Homecoming on a big screen, courtesy of the CWRU Film Society.)

Just gonna leave a block of spoiler-space and then jump right in.

(I have a non-spoilery Infinity War post over here, too.)

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