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February 2, 2015

The joy of continuity
Posted by Teresa at 11:08 AM * 146 comments

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter have been pandering to me expertly. (Humongous Spoiler Alert: if you don’t want spoilers, skip this entry entirely.)

Some examples:

The substance that brought Coulson back from the dead came from the preserved corpse of a blue alien:

TNH: The effing Blue Kree are mixed up in this?

PNH: Kree as in Kree-Skrull wars?

TNH: Sort of. Blue Kree are the Kree Empire equivalent of Batista-era super-right-wing Cuban refugees: blah blah blah no surrender, blah blah blah they will be avenged.

Agent Coulson finally decodes that weird diagram and displays it as a 3D blueprint of a city:
Coulson: We don’t know where this city is.

TNH: It’s in the Blue Area on the moon.

PNH: What?

TNH: The Inhumans moved their city there.

PNH: What?

TNH: Black Bolt and Medusa’s guys.

PNH: Oh.

TNH: Also, Uatu the Watcher.

PNH: What?

TNH: I think he’s there. I can’t keep track of Uatu.

When Agent Carter’s friend Dottie the Waitress is threatened by the sinister, trigger-happy Mr. Mink, she unexpectedly pulls some spectacular martial arts moves and drops him cold:
TNH: Red Room!

PNH: Huh?

TNH: She’s Russian.

PNH: Red Room?

TNH: Sinister Cold War-era organization that trained Natasha Romanov. Dottie’s using the same moves as Black Widow.

Watching the shows has reminded me how much pleasure there is in piecing together continuity, even when that continuity is derived from some fairly cheesy ancestral narratives. Story is greater than the sum of its parts.

What happens in my head when I spot one of these Marvel universe connections feels like a bigger version of the little burst of pleasure you get when you figure out an inobvious word in a crossword puzzle. It’s a physiological response: your mind rewards your success.

I’ve since learned that the term for this kind of thing is “continuity porn”. Someone’s bound to point out that it can be overdone, which is true; but in general, I’m for it. It makes stories more interesting, and multiplies the payoffs the reader or viewer gets in return for assimilating some bit of exposition.

One of the more useful properties of interconnected continuity is the way it provides a bridge for new exposition, making it easier to assimilate. Say I’m looking at a comic book panel that shows an unfamiliar superhero team. What I find myself automatically doing is scanning the picture for characters I’ve met elsewhere. If any are present, who they are and how they’re drawn will tell me a lot about this new team and their storyline. If no characters overlap with my previous reading, I feel it as a slight additional burden: I’m going to have to figure these guys out from scratch.

Note: I’m not saying any of this is good or bad. I’m saying this how something works.

Comments on The joy of continuity:
#1 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 12:09 PM:

I was never a comic book reader...the extent of my exposure was Superman and Batman on TV, "Dracula" in high school (I was on a vampire kick courtesy of Dark Shadows, ok?), and "ElfQuest" in college...

So I came to the Marvel Movie Universe as a total novice. When I have a question, my local expert is my oath-sister, Jan. I was surprised by how much I've enjoyed all the movies and Agents of Shield.

So we're watching Agent Carter last week when Dottie took down Mr. Mink, and I exclaimed, "Whoa -- she has to be from the Black Widow school!" And Jan beamed with pride...

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 12:14 PM:

Yes! If you do it right, every connection that gets made is a plus, and the ones that don't connect slide past unnoticed.

Downside: not everyone does it right. Oh well.

#3 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 12:32 PM:

It's a nice feeling, knowing that one was into something long before it became cool. Things have reached the point where I could tell my pharmacist, who's a bit older than me, about the Superbowl bet that the actors playing Captain America and Star Lord had taken about the loser having to go to a children's hospital in costume, and she knew what I was talking about and didn't think I was weird because of that.

(In other news, welcome back, Teresa.)

#4 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 12:34 PM:

When I worked out what was going on with Skye, it's entirely possible that I kicked my feet and made squealy noises. My roommate mocks me (in a gentle way that she's checked I'm okay with) for it, but I liken it to attaining nerdvana for a bit.

#5 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 12:36 PM:

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy does this in an unexpected way -- because each version (radio play, novels, TV show, movie(s), audio drama ... etc) tells some of the same jokes BUT WITH DIFFERENT SETUP each time, you kind of get to see it coming and be surprised all at the same moment.

I bet this joy-in-story, call it continuity porn I suppose, is part of why humans keep reinventing and retelling and working with existing stories -- why transformative works, fanfic, etc, even EXIST.

It's not everyone's kink, and that's ok, but it is a legitimate thing to enjoy out of a story.

#6 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 12:49 PM:

I wonder if it's why little kids enjoy reading the same bedtime book over and over? There's a pleasure and comfort in knowing things and having that knowledge confirmed.

#7 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 12:50 PM:

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is in an interesting place with regards to the comic book universe, aka Earth-616. They don't have rights for many of the parts of it, so they get to cherry pick and retcon much more than they can in the books. I've taken to assuming there are few, if any, accidents in what they're setting up, though. They seem to be treating this the same way they've done the comics forever. Writers get a lot of freedom to tell the stories that they want to tell, but continuity is managed, and there are occasional points dropped in by editorial fiat that add little to the story, but set things up for the future.

I think SKZB was talking about the other side of this last week, also. Knowing more about the world than you put on paper lets you reveal those bits when they are useful, without contradicting yourself.

#8 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 01:06 PM:

(Dottie the ballet dancer, right? As opposed to Angie the waitress.)

The other side of the coin is when you think the show is on the same page as you, and it turns out they're not. (E.g.: gur nyvra pvgl jnfa'g ba gur zbba nsgre nyy.) It's a shock of disappointment which can taint the show disproportionately, if it hits you on a mental fault line.

(Or, if it hits you differently, can lead to the unplanned production of fanfic.)

#9 ::: LongStrider ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 01:18 PM:

Dottie is the blonde "ballerina from Iowa" who took Mary's room after she got kicked out for having a man over. She's the one who killed Mr Mink and took his interesting gun.

The waitress is a brunette and is named Sarah.

#10 ::: LongStrider ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 01:20 PM:

#8 Andrew is righ. The waitress's name is Angie not Sarah. My initial googling failed me.

#11 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 01:22 PM:

You're absolutely right, Teresa. The way that the MCU has been playing with the tangle that is Marvel continuity has been a joy to behold.

It's one of the great strengths of franchises: eventually, they can shout out to themselves. DS9 going back to the "Mirror, Mirror" universe, what Trek now just calls the Mirror Universe, for example. It got old, and dumb, in later seasons, but the first time, it was a surprise and a delight. And then the brilliant "Trials and Tribble-ations," also DS9, that built on the original "Trouble." It's a way of paying off a fan's investment, I think.

And what the MCU has been doing so well is keeping enough to engage the sense of wonder, but picking and choosing what to keep (from what it has available, of course, given licensing deals) so that it isn't bogged down in continuity snarls. It's a fresh reset of the universe, looking at everything through a new lens.

@8 and 9: The waitress is Angie, and yes, a brunette. The "ballerina"/Red Room agent (in light of the preview for next week I think it's fair to say Teresa's on the money) is Dottie.

(Note also that the Age of Ultron preview has brief scenes of young children in a ballet class...)

#12 ::: Scott Edelman ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 01:30 PM:

What you felt is exactly what I felt when Crusher Creel finally got his ball and chain after first appearing without it. Odd the things that can bring one joy!

#13 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 01:36 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden@2: If you do it right, every connection that gets made is a plus, and the ones that don't connect slide past unnoticed.

I've been enjoying this in layers:

  • The thrill of recognition of a comics element that isn't made explicit.
  • The appreciation when they balance hints for the comics fans with making the story self-contained for the new viewers (when they do it well, which is often).
  • The guessing game when I notice something they're going to have to change from the comics due to issues with rights or with the MCU timeline.
  • The discoveries from doing deep dives on the web (and on Marvel Comics Unlimited) after I recognize something I don't know thoroughly.

#14 ::: Devin Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 01:43 PM:

I have been very much enjoying this phenomenon even as a non-comic-book-reader. After every episode (of either show) I get to go to the media section of my website and read what my team of elite geeks has figured out about it and read all the links! It's like getting gossip about the characters. So much fun, and, despite knowing exactly how I'm doing it, my girlfriend is still always impressed when I explain the backstory.

#15 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 01:56 PM:

I don't know a darn thing about the Marvel continuity so I'm not getting these WOWS but I am BLOWN AWAY by these new shows, especially Agent Carter.

I watched last week's episode last night. My reactions could be summed up as "Wow! Wow! Wow!"

The bit with the agent trying to empathize with the rummy, as a fellow veteran dealing with civilian life and blowing it. The show could have depicted all the guys as misogynistic cartoonish types that Carter has to cover for, but they do have some competencies and dedication. Makes them both more interesting and more of a problem.

The scene with Dottie and Mr. Mink. The *angle* they shot it from, so you could see it was filmed in a real place with a wooden floor.

And the total surprise when Dottie admires his evil little machine pistol and then takes out that evil fuck.

Man. The 70s and 80s had based-on-comic-book shows, but they were mostly sloppy. Or worse, spoofish, because the scriptwriters couldn't imagine comics as anything other that something to be mocked.

Continuing something I mentioned on the Open Thread: Now we have screenwriters who teethed on comics, games, and written SF. They're turning out shows that not only respect the material, but that are *good television.*

#16 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 02:04 PM:

I know exactly what you mean Teresa. Searching for back issues of various Marvel series in Manhattan and other diverse places in the 80's now vindicated!

#17 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 02:33 PM:

Elliott Mason #5: I bet this joy-in-story, call it continuity porn I suppose, is part of why humans keep reinventing and retelling and working with existing stories -- why transformative works, fanfic, etc, even EXIST.

Certainly! Humans have a deep drive to make the world make sense, part of which is learning what's going on and how things work. And it's easy for us to sublimate that into a fictional world.

#18 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 02:39 PM:

Speaking of Agent Carter, who else thinks that Howard's speech about his childhood is meant to indicate Jewishness? Could be Jewish or Italian, and I, out of self-representation desires, want to see it as Jewish. Other perspectives?

#19 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 03:22 PM:

I also want to give a shoutout to PNH's superlative skills as a straight-man. :-)

I've been enjoying Agent Carter because, among other reasons, for once we have a leading lady who is fit, gorgeous, and actually has some meat on her bones. A physique a mere mortal woman could reasonably aspire to. (Modulo hours of physical training....)

#20 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 03:24 PM:

Oh yeah and: Yaaaayyyy!! Teresa's back! Yaaaayyy!

#21 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 03:38 PM:

Incidentally, Uatu is currently dead, having been killed at the start of the "Original Sins" crossover event. I don't expect him to stay dead for more than a few years, any more than I expect Wolverine to. (There are hints that the Marvel Universe is heading for a line-wide reboot, which will be carte blanche to bring back anyone anybody wants to.)

#22 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 04:21 PM:

There's a tendency to make everything "* porn" - I first saw it on Reddit, but it could be from anywhere. I don't know what else I'd call it, but I would like it to have a different name, please.

#23 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 04:48 PM:

I’ve seen a (not very serious) theory floating around that the recurring Stan Lee cameo is the MCU’s version of Uatu, showing up in disguise.

#24 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 05:17 PM:

Avram... Stan Lee as Chromedome, as Ben Grimm nicknamed Uatu?

#25 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 05:29 PM:

I think it was Nick Lowe who called the Marvel and DC universes the largest fictional constructs in human history. So, yes, lot of continuity gets tangled, and there are periodic attempt to untangle and declutter. Marvel recently announced that the Marvel universe as we know it is ending this summer with the new 'Secret Wars' series. They're allegedly drawing a line under all those decades of history and a new, more 'streamlined' universe will emerge from the ashes. If so, you can pretty much guarantee it will look a lot like the cinematic MU.

With regard to AoS, I was particularly pleased to make the connections when they revealed Skye's real name is 'Daisy'. "Ah," I said to Avedon, "that means she's Daisy Johnson aka Quake ans will soon be manifesting earthquake causing abilities, and that her father is Calvin Zabo aka Mr Hyde." I don't know if they'll ever call him that, but he did say his name was 'Cal' so it's him alright.

#26 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 05:37 PM:

Something I was going to mention in the previous post was how the tail is now wagging the dog when it comes to the relationship between the comics and the cinematic universe. Because Marvel doesn't have cinematic rights to the X-Men characters but they want to firm up their claim over Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch they've recently revealed Magneto isn't in fact their father. I fully expect the fursther revelation they're actually Inhumans. Marvel has a lot of work to do in establishing the Inhumans as their mutant-lite alternative before the INHUMANS movie drops in 2018, and they're working it on all fronts. Since the Kree created the Inhumans that's it's been obvious way from the start of this series of AoS that that's where they were heading.

Oh, and Uatu is currently dead. He was murdered, and his eyes removed.

#27 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 05:38 PM:

Rob Hansen @25, ACK! Spoilers! (I don't know the Marvel Universe and had NO idea where they were going with Skye....)

#28 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 05:57 PM:

Casey: Sorry, I didn't think speculation about stuff they haven't actually said counted as spoilers. I mean I'm pretty sure I'm right, but....

#29 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 06:07 PM:

Cassy, I'm pretty sure it was said up top that this is a spoileriffic thread specifically for talking about what we can figure out about the future from what we know of the comic iterations.

#30 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 06:38 PM:

By the way, I was just as happy as TNH to see someone with the Black Widow training and to realize that the program started around that time... Natasha's a lot older than she looks.

#31 ::: Dia ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 07:22 PM:

Amen to this post!!!

Me, I love the continuity porn. Even though Kevin Feige has given us Thanos without Adam Warlock and a right-handed Infinity Gauntlet, Thor without Balder, etc. etc., the MCU makes my comic-book-raised heart go "squee!"

But the fact that the Loki fangirls have no idea who Thanos is drives me nuts, i.e., to write continuity porn fanfiction. The flip side of all the joy of recognition is the annoyance of realizing how many viewers of the movies just don't get it.

#32 ::: Dave* Twiddy ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 07:42 PM:

I discovered superhero comics in 1983, at age 10. This turned out to be very good timing. Because in those years, Marvel & DC released major skeleton key works: Secret Wars/The Official Handbook and Crisis on Infinite Earths/Who's Who.
In reading these, I found precisely the joy Teresa is talking about.

Secret Wars and Crisis featured these wonderful splash panels containing dozens of characters. I vividly remember not knowing who most of these amazing people were, and the hunger I had to find out. The reference comics told me. I compared and learned, absorbed, became part of it. Piece by piece connected, forming an immense composite picture. It was like a person wandering in the
desert, coming upon a vast temple, a temple decorated with monolithic statues and covered with elaborate glyphs. I compared the glyphs, connected them with the statues, realized I was in the presence of a System of Things vast
and old.

And really, this is an intimate part of Western Civilization. This is the urge that propelled
each successive wave of Renaissance, from the Carolingian through to Petrarch. This is what moved translators across the seas to Spain and Byzantium, in search of the grand design, the ultimate jigsaw puzzle.

(The first superhero comic I loved was All-Star Squadron, which was a proper springboard for everything I have described above. Much gratitude to Roy Thomas, who always kept up the banner of the Golden Age, and never faltered in his quest to remind comics they had a history)

I don't know if my kids could possibly have the same experience with mainstream comics now. There
have been so many reboots and retcons, the reference comics would have so many caveats and alternates, that I think that rather than finding themselves in the presence of something ancient and silent, it would seem as delicate & disposable as tissues. But the video versions-those are still together.
They haven't been redone to death. So I think there is some of that blessed sense
of construction & connection.

#33 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 07:42 PM:

Natasha's a lot older than she looks.

Obviously Zola's databanks are corrupted, or he was loaded with the wrong data in the first place. This is the problem with trying to keep a sentient being on tape drive. (When that room was revealed, my first thought was "Hey look, it's about the computing power of my laptop!")

#34 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 08:01 PM:

I pity da foo' who tries to Geek Check you on this sort of thing. As to the subject, yes, continuity is glorious, it's a huge aspect of why I (and so many) go off on rants when historical details are wonked.

(p.s. my iPad remembers me here...even from twitter, and I have a integral keyboard for it which seems to not drive me batty).

#35 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 08:30 PM:

While Marvel and DC try to streamline things, Kurt Busiek's AstroCity goes the other way: even though it's been around for only 20 years, it has a continuity that goes at least as far back as the Ameican Revolution.

#36 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 08:42 PM:

MCU has been doing this for years. In the first X-Men movie, you could tell who in the audience was a comics fan because we were the ones ROTFL at "What would you prefer, yellow spandex?"

Serge, #3: And now it turns out that they're both going to visit both hospitals. Class will out!

Stefan, #15: I think the mockery ones can all be traced back to the Adam West Batman.

#37 ::: Dave* Twiddy ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 08:50 PM:

#35: Astro City really managed to encapsulate the magic of the DC/Marvel continuities. Reading those first collections was like going home again.

#38 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2015, 09:24 PM:

I alluded to this above, but I'd like to make the recommendation explicit: we've been subscribing to Marvel Comics Unlimited since shortly after we got back into Marvel comics (i.e., since shortly after my amazing spouse discovered Kelly Sue DeConnick's fantastic Captain Marvel) and, if you can stand reading comics on a screen, it's a really nice way to read lots of backstory. It's not flawless—there are lots of comics missing from the collection, and plenty of annoying bugs in both the app and in the metadata—but you get access to a pretty large segment of the Marvel comics universe, ending roughly six months back, with some cross-indexing, and the ability to download a handful at a time for offline reading on the bus or train. It's especially nice for those, "ok, what was actually in that crossover last year (or ten years ago) that I refused to pay time and money for at the time?" moments, and for the times when Wikipedia leaves you wanting more detail and the Marvel wiki is incomprehensible.

Of course, as I've described it, it's also one of the best time sinks we have access to.

#39 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 01:16 AM:

While I’ve generally been enjoying the heck out of Agent Carter, I’m unhappy to note that I can’t recall seeing so much as a single non-white character with a speaking part on the show so far. (Actually, I can’t recall any non-speaking either, but that’d be easier for me to miss.) This, in a show set in a famously multi-ethnic city. And right after Agents of SHIELD seems to have killed off its two black characters.

#40 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 01:21 AM:

The second episode had an African-American crime boss, didn't it?

#41 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 02:00 AM:

David Goldfarb @40, oh, yes, I’d forgotten about him! Still, they could do better than a one-shot criminal. (Doesn’t he get killed off?)

#42 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 02:04 AM:

David@40: Yep, played by the actor who was Bubbles on 'The Wire'. Avram@39: Look up the trailer for the next episode. I actually have a similar complaint about London. Dramas set in the present day that don't show diversity are seriously misrepresenting the multi-ethnic nature of the city.

#43 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 02:32 AM:

One of my favorite "bring diversity to Agent Carter" headcanon crackfic crossover suggestions:

#44 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 03:40 AM:

I am slow.

I was reading the post and nodding along and agreeing, that yes I do some of this too. And only belatedly registering that hey, Teresa posted this! Hurrah!

#45 ::: Emma in Sydney ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 05:46 AM:

This is the exact pleasure I get reading Trollope's many novels, when a known character from another book is dimly sighted in the distance or mentioned as an example, or even makes a brief appearance. Trollope was a world-builder who worked with a world eerily similar to his real one.

#46 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 07:39 AM:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single corporation in possession of a good continuity, must be in want of a reboot.

#47 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 09:00 AM:

Elliott Mason @#43 -- I haven't even seen a single ep of Agent Carter and I love that! Thank you for sharing it!

Sandy B. @#22 -- I am also interested in finding some different names for this stuff, especially because they are different. For instance, "competence porn" (a phrase popularized by John Rogers when discussing his heist show Leverage) is a shorthand for portraying characters who do things they are good at, because viewers/readers deeply desire to see those depictions and get visceral pleasure from it. I know I get a certain kind of joy when experiencing connections in art to other or larger works, but it isn't filling the same kind of need for me that portrayals of competence do. When I notice a continuity-type connection, I feel a joy of mastery. These feel like different enough reactions that I want different terms.

#48 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 09:16 AM:

Rob Hansen @28, Elliott Mason @29, you're both right. I just wasn't expecting Agent of Shield spoilers in this thread. My bad. I understand they're NOT spoilers to people who have actually read the comic books....

#49 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 09:22 AM:

I'm really tickled at the thought of Teresa fansplaining all this stuff to Patrick, gotta say.

#50 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 10:47 AM:

Lee @ 36... I think pretty much everybody expected that, no matter which team won, the kids would win both Captain America and Star Lord.

#51 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 10:49 AM:

Dave Twiddy @ 37... Especially when one picture within the story has a footnote referring to an earlier story, like Marvel/DC used to do, even though Busiek never told that story.

#52 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 10:52 AM:

Lee... Off topic, but, regarding your Adam West comment, Adam Troy Castro recently wrote a post on Facebook about what if the different Batman continuities crossed paths. My favorite was what if Frank Miller's Batman met Cesar Romero's Joker.

#53 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 10:59 AM:

Spoilers are an interesting problem when there are different media involved, released on different timeframes. The Making Light Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spoiler thread seems to have settled on avoiding comics-based spoilers (likely spoilers? spoiler hints?) except in rot-13, since there are people participating who want to discuss the show without that kind of foreknowledge. There were also issues around the time of the movie releases last season, since not everyone watching the show was able to see the movies promptly; and in that case it's actually the same continuity, not just a very similar parallel universe.

#54 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 11:32 AM:

BSD @ 18:
They seem to be borrowing some of Benjamin Grimm's backstory, who was always absolutely intended to be Jewish, although it is not mentioned in the books until 2002.

#55 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 12:53 PM:

To extend Dave @32 on "the grand design": The Arthurian/chivalric-romance materials converge a good deal, the most comprehensive result being Malory. And of course before that there's Homer > Virgil > Dante (or, for that matter, the synoptic mythologies that run from Hesiod to Bullfinch and Edith Hamilton, and their Germanic and Indian-subcontinent equivalents). We just love comprehensive and cross-linked narratives--I recall the strong attraction I felt to Heinlein's Future History a lifetime ago, outlined in that chart, which eventually broke out of its original banks and flooded through most of his output.

On the subject of the new Marvel telly product: I've never been much of a comics reader (beyond Scrooge McDuck and Little Lulu, before I dedicated myself to words without pictures), but I do love me some historical-setting intrigue. The period look of Agent Carter isn't quite up to UK standards of fubsy-funky, but it's not bad for American TV, which often tends to make the past look way too much like the present in mildly-retro clothes and unconvincing hairdos.

#56 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 12:55 PM:

Late to the party (as usual): I don't have the sort of encyclopedic memory or depth of exposure to the Marvel universe that is able to name things I see--but I catch them and make that little "Ha!" noise of appreciation.

Then Danny pauses the TV and says "What?" and I have to launch into one of those explanations which is all "that was a--um, reference, that's wrong, it's--it was--in Guardians? I think?" And he shakes his head in disappointment and unpauses the TV.

#57 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 01:54 PM:

Something else I just remembered: Natasha Romanova * had ballet training AND used "ballerina" as a cover at one point when spying for the USSR .

(My feeling about porn-porn is that it isn't famous for giving you a feeling of connection and satisfaction. I still don't have a good alternative phrase, though.)

* Did I ever tell the story on here of going to the Czech Republic and seeing posters for the new book by J.K. Rowlingova? Well, now I have.

#58 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 03:48 PM:

On the subject of diversity in Agent Carter--I think I'm willing to give them a little more time to get it right (except for the street scenes; that's just silly). Peggy life is being lived largely in the context of two notoriously segregated institutions, after all: the Women's Hotel and a 1940s US intelligence agency. I'm not positive, but a little googling backs me up: I don't believe that the CIA started employing African American agents until some time in the 1950s. The SSR should be smarter than that, given the Howling Commandos example--though that team was put together by Steve Rogers, not by the brass, and they are just barely smart enough to accept a woman as an agent, at the moment--but we shall see. Soon, I hope. For now, I'm willing to accept that adding racist cracks to the sexist ones would make the SSR staff so unpleasant as to be irredeemable--and I don't think the show is going in that direction.

As for what direction it is going in--I'm really looking forward to the next episode, because I'm enjoying the continuity hints as much as anyone! The show would work without them, I think, but they do add a level of delight . . .

#59 ::: Shawn Bilodeau ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 05:52 PM:

Speaking of continuity, and the SSR, I wonder... Isn't the SSR SHIELD's forerunner? And if that is the case, is it already infiltrated by Hydra agents? When, exactly, was the cancerous seed planted that bloomed so disastrously in Winter Soldier? Is it possible we'll see some hint of this in Agent Carter?

#60 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 06:28 PM:

Shawn Bilodeau @59:

You've got it -- SSR (modeled on the OSS) becomes S.H.I.E.L.D. and I think that Peggy's boss is a member of Hydra.

#61 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 07:24 PM:

Mary Frances @58, since the SSR seems to be a domestic agency, a better parallel might be the FBI, which employed its first African-American agent in 1919. Furthermore, the SSR is fictional, allowing the creative staff latitude to be more diverse than reality if they cared to.

Serge Broom @52, are you aware of the Planetary/Batman crossover “Night on Earth”, which has the Planetary characters encountering six different versions of Batman?

#62 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 07:53 PM:

Oh, I didn't say the SSR shouldn't be more diverse, Avram! I agree completely; it should be. I'm just willing to give them a few more episodes to get there, I guess, because it seems it might be a slightly tricky balancing act. (Unless they are just planning to pretend that 1940s America wasn't overtly racist, which--never mind.) But they can do it, and do it effectively, and it will be a stronger show for the effort, in my opinion. If they never even try, never get there, I will be--annoyed. Because at best, that's a wasted opportunity, and at worst . . . well. It's stupid. (See above, about "pretending.")

You think the SSR is more like the FBI? I was getting the impression it was more like the OSS/CIA, but that might be because I keep thinking of it as the forerunner to SHIELD. Anyway, it doesn't really change my original point much: there were African American agents in the early FBI, but presumably few because none graduated from the FBI Academy (founded in 1935) until 1962. The SSR ought to be able to do better than that from the get-go!

#63 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 08:22 PM:

I don't think we have a good reason to think of Hydra as particularly racist (though they might prefer keeping the races unmixed) -- they seem to have been happy to use competent evildoers of various races.

I like playing the continuity game as well, and used to geek out about it with early Marvel comics. I'm glad to see how much of that early stuff keeps showing up in Agents of SHIELD and the movies. Haven't been watching Carter.

#64 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 09:21 PM:

Sandy B. #57: (My feeling about porn-porn is that it isn't famous for giving you a feeling of connection and satisfaction. I still don't have a good alternative phrase, though.)

My impression is that the "foo porn" construct gets naturally generated for content which caters to the appetite associated with some strong drive. (Sometimes more than one.) Thus "porn porn" to the sexual drive, "food porn" to gustatory interests, "killporn"¹ to aggression and perhaps threat-awareness. The various sorts of "shopping porn" (tools, homes, cars, and so on) most obviously cater to acquistive interests, but I'd say that drive for "topic mastery" that we've been discussing also has a role there.

¹ The first example of the form I ever encountered (I believe in a John Brunner story), and it was as a single word.

#65 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 10:18 PM:

This feels related to Jo Walton's concept of a spearpoint.

#66 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 10:40 PM:

Well, this week looked more like the CIA.

#67 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 10:44 PM:

janetl: I would agree they're related, in that they scratch a similar itch. I would disagree that they're quite the same, though; the fact that they're linking comics references into the cinematic universe makes it more of an Easter Egg thrown in for a certain kind of longstanding fan, someone who will be happy to put those pieces together and speculate. And they're going out of their way not to alienate anyone who wasn't a fan beforehand -- IOW, the story's core spearpoint has to be supported with or without those details.

And it's not just little things, either; the very sub title Winter Soldier for the second Captain America movie was a big flag for one major movie revelation for comics fans that non-comics fans would miss (Not the same one that caused issues for those watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Winter Soldier in potentially the wrong order).

Who gets more fun watching, the people anticipating the revelation or the people gobsmacked by it... well, it depends. I've felt both at different times, there are some stories I am eternally grateful to have walked into unspoilered, and others where I've taken great joy in putting sly references together or seeing how something I predicted actually falls out on screen.

#68 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2015, 10:56 PM:

According to this article, the bowler hat gets its name from a Mr Beaulieu, chief hat-maker at the place where it was first made.

#69 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 01:23 AM:

Stefan, #15: Now we have screenwriters who teethed on comics, games, and written SF. They're turning out shows that not only respect the material, but that are *good television.*

Just for a moment here, I'd like to compare-and-contrast what's going on here with the Star Trek reboot. This comes in two major points:

1) The two Marvel shows are clearly being written by people who are some level of comics geeks. The Trek reboots are being written (and directed) by people who are not Star Trek fans. Seriously, they're not. There was an interview with the writers and director in the extra material on the first movie DVD, in which it was mentioned that none of them knew what "NCC" meant in the Enterprise ID, and when someone asked them about it they had to make shit up. How many Star Trek fans would not know that it stands for "Naval Construction Contract"? And even if you didn't know, it's a 5-second Google to look it up.

2) In an e-mail conversation, a friend pointed out to me that the first New!Trek movie was treated like a superhero origin story -- not just that we get some background about the main characters, but that the entire movie is origin story -- and that the only genre which regularly does that* is superhero movies. But Star Trek never has been a superhero story, and shoehorning it into that format loses a significant part of what made the TV shows popular.

Not wanting to hijack the discussion here, but Stefan's comment made me think about this.

* And does it over and over and OVER again, as in the cases of Spider-Man and Batman.

#70 ::: madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 01:38 AM:

I was piqued and delighted to see that the girls of the Soviet training school were learning their American English from Snow White, and are getting subliminal messages from "The Dover Boys at Pimento University." Someone not only gets comics, but has a history with obscure Warner Bros. cartoons.

#71 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 02:54 AM:

Lee @69, I couldn’t have told you, off the top of my head, what “NCC” stood for, and you’d have been hard-pressed to find a bigger Star Trek fan than 10-year-old me. But you’re right about JJ Abrams not getting it. He was on some interview show promoting the 2nd recent film, and mentioned that he’d never been a fan of the show as a kid, and had thought it was too intellectual.

Madeleine Robins @70, those choices might have had something to do with ease of clearing rights. Snow White is a Disney film, owned by Marvel’s corporate parent. Wikipedia says the “Dover Boys” cartoon has fallen into the public domain.

#72 ::: Stanoje ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 05:54 AM:

I don't know about giving the show more time to deal with matters of race, or just have more than one minor POC character (a sleazy criminal). Two now, with the Asian guy in the most recent episode, I guess.

If the setting of the show has been whitewashed so far, why should we assume that future episodes won't continue the practice? And even if future episodes get less ridiculous about race, that's still no excuse to remove 99,99999% of the people of color from the show's setting in the episodes that aired so far.

The makers of the show chose to set it in a time of even greater racial discrimination than the present, and they chose to deal with that issue by removing the people of color from the historical setting. The way the show almost entirely denies the existence of people of color isn't just something that happens, it's a deliberate choice on the part of the people making the show.

#73 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 06:15 AM:

On a smaller scale the TV shows Arrow and The Flash are trying the same thing. For example, in the pilot of The Flash there's a cage with the bars torn open. On the cage is a sign reading "Grodd". Oh, it's an Easter Egg, I think. But later there's a flashback, and let's just say that I personally cannot wait to see if it's awesome or a disaster, or (most likely) a horrific blend of both.

Also Arrow FINALLY had a boxing glove arrow.

#74 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 08:06 AM:

Side question about the spearpoint link@65:

What *does* it mean when someone has lost their hat?

#75 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 09:03 AM:

True enough, Stanoje, and--as I think I at least implied?--I'm not disagreeing with the people who are furious and upset about the show as whitewashed. Nor am I saying, "You should give them more time." You (and "you"in general) shouldn't. Nor should people refrain from stating their offense and pointing out the omission--complaining is the way change starts.

In other words, mine was a purely personal and individual response, and one with an expiration date of sorts. I suppose it's at least partly because I watched how some reviewers responded to the way the show treated sexism ("It's over the top! Too obvious! Yeah, we get it things were bad--but with a side implication of not-that-bad!"). What started out as almost slapstick turned into a punch in the gut--again, for me--by episode 3, and then again by ep 4. So I'm willing to wait a bit to see if English Peggy is going to trip over the US colorline any time soon . . . but just a bit. (I admit, I'd be happier about reserving judgement if any of the show's creative people had responded to this particular criticism in a positive fashion--as in "we have plans, we'll get there"--but I don't think they have. Or did I miss something?)

#76 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 11:07 AM:

Well, last night's episode had an SSR agent who was Chinese (based on his name, given as Li/Lee), and he even had a couple lines. And I believe that the one Commando was Gabe Jones, though I don't think he was the same actor as in the film? (I'm quite bad at recognizing people on TV, so I could easily be wrong.)

#77 ::: Stanoje ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 11:09 AM:

Oh, I wasn't ripping into you, I was talking about the show's failures.
My opinion of the show's handling of sexism depends on how it proceeds from the latest episode's events.

Spoiler for the latest episode:
I hope the show doesn't do that thing where a woman "proves" herself to some sexist asshole and suddenly all is fine on that front. That sends a rather insidious message, in my opinion.

#78 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 11:16 AM:

Carrie S @ 76... And neither of them died.

#79 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 11:45 AM:

In re Flash, Grodd has shown up (well, been hinted at; a cage with a name on it and some shadowy motion) in the post-credit scene of a later episode that takes place much earlier. I think it said five or six years before the reactor blowing, in the setup.

I don't remember which, which makes it easier to avoid spoilering; it was somewhere between 6 and 10, I just watched all of those in a binge.

#80 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 12:23 PM:

Meanwhile the "X-men"movies couldn't be bothered to be consistent with their own internal continuity.

#81 ::: Stanoje ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 01:16 PM:

@serge broom #80: Would sticking to continuity have made the movies better? First Class's flaws didn't come from a lack of consistency with the previous movies, for example. Continuity isnt a virtue in itself.

#82 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 01:38 PM:

Lee @69: The Trek reboots are being written (and directed) by people who are not Star Trek fans.

Oh good, another reason to avoid the reboots.

#83 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 01:47 PM:

Oh, I didn't think you were ripping into me in particular, Stanoje! (Here at ML? Nope, not a chance.) But I've run into a couple of responses to the whitewashing complaint that have been--shall we say, less than optimal? And I wanted to make sure that I wasn't coming across as trying to dismiss anyone's complaints or invalidating them, either. Haven't seen ep 5 yet, so I'll get back to you on that--but yes, I really hope they don't go that way with the sexism, too. As for the racism--I'd better wait and watch the episode, first, since it is out . . .

#84 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 01:49 PM:

Stanoje @ 81... Yes, it would have made for better movies. That's my opinion, anyway.

#85 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 03:09 PM:

My heart sank a bit when I read the latest news on the next Star Trek: The Reboot movie:

Bryan Cranston as the new villain!

Because everyone knows what made Star Trek great was having big name stars as villains!

#86 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 03:24 PM:

Because everyone knows that Trek is all superheroes! /s

Like Jacque, I'm avoiding the reboots. (Unless I can treat them as some kind of AU, which is much easier with fanfic.)

#87 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 03:28 PM:

I really quite liked the first Star Trek Reboot movie, and I think part of that was that I wanted to get into Star Trek and was absolutely intimidated by the sheer quantity of it. I wrote fic! Lots of fic! Brand new shiny universe to play in without getting canon wrong! The original series to me read, when I finally found time to watch it about four years ago, as about 20% very good, 80% really cheesy and sexist*. They do still manage to have continuity nods for folks who did really like the original series, and I liked that - the tribble on the desk, for instance. I was surprised when I went to a convention and people were ranting (well, people were complaining. One person ranted, at length**.) about the Uhura/Spock romance, because when I watched TOS, one of the more memorable scenes had Spock playing the harp while Uhura sang and pretty much draped herself over him. The subtext was definitely there, for me.

I suspect that what made Star Trek great is the timeliness of it - a show about space during the Space Race was bound to be topical - and the good writing in the episodes with good writing in them. They did have some big-name stars, I think. I could be wrong, but wasn't DeForrest Kelly a relatively big name? Bryan Cranston isn't just a big-name actor, he's a really good actor, and I reckon that's good news for the next film. Which I'm excited about.

*Sexism not necessarily fixed, which is one reason I was very disappointed in the second one. Cheesiness... possibly not fixed, but certainly updated.
**At Loncon this summer, another fan of the original show had a good long rant after I said I liked Reboot, which included a comment - that I'm reasonably sure was aimed at me, given that my first favourite Trek character was Riker because "he has a beard so he looks like Daddy!"- about people too young to have taste. I wanted very much afterwards to go to her and ask what age a sense of taste kicks in, and how old she was when she first watched Star Trek.

#88 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 03:29 PM:

IMHO, the best thing to come out of reboot!verse in the ST continuity is the fanfic Graduate Vulcan for Fun and Profit:

It is amazing.

#89 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 03:42 PM:

I felt the urge to quote all my favorite lines from "Graduate Vulcan", and then realized that doing so would lead to quoting about 30% of the fic...

#90 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 04:05 PM:

Bryan Cranston is one of the hardest-working and adaptable actors of our time.

Benedict Cumberbatch is the cat's pajamas.

It's the notion that you have to have a villain that I'm bugged about.

#91 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 04:10 PM:

Well, last night's episode had an SSR agent who was Chinese (based on his name, given as Li/Lee)

Considering the time period, FBI agent Jimmy Woo should be knocking about, fighting a certain sinister oriental menace and making eyes at said menace's niece...

#92 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 04:14 PM:

One of the corresponding frustrations with seeing your favourite superhero up on the screen is when they botch the continuity, when the movie or tv people think they know better than the comics and something doesn't pan out.

The Marvel movies mostly have been good at avoiding that, even if the heroes are too cozy with the military-industrial establishment for my liking. But than that's the case in the comics too at the moment.

#93 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 04:30 PM:

Stefan @90, "It's the notion that you have to have a villain that I'm bugged about."

That, I am totally on board with.

#94 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 04:59 PM:

Martin Wisse, by the way, have you seen the Marvel critique vid "Hey Ho"? If not, I think you might like it.

#95 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 05:51 PM:

Stefan Jones @90 It's the notion that you have to have a villain that I'm bugged about.

Em @93 That, I am totally on board with.

Soooo.... you want a Star Trekian version of "Twister" or "Armageddon" or "The Day After Tomorrow" or "Cloverfield" or "Gravity" or some other disasters films/stories? I have a fondness for disaster movies so I'm on board with this. However, making a gripping movie with a low cheese/audience snark factor without a live villain is hard. Mother Nature (or the Universe, in this case) doesn't really care about the protagonist. No live villain, no upping the stakes. No maneuver/counter maneuver. No best laid plans going awry. No car chases. (Running away in a car/truck/random motorvehicle does not count as a chase in my opinion. That's simply lack of proper planning and situational awareness.)

"To Build A Fire" by Jack London is the first thing that comes to mind when people talk about villainless stories. It's also the first story I ever remember reading that had no villain. It had a huge impact on me. To do something similar with Star Trek would have to borrow heavily from the plot from "Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin. Both are very effective. Both are short stories. Both run counter to the Star Trek cannon rules.

#96 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 06:04 PM:

Victoria, I'm sure Stefan and Em will answer for themselves, but my response to your comment was something on the order of, "but the antagonist doesn't have to be a villain OR a force of nature! He/she/it just has to be the antagonist, the other side of the conflict!" Think of, oh, the Gorn in TOS--sometimes the antagonist is someone or something that you don't understand, someone who has something you want/need and doesn't want to give it to you . . . even an enemy who is less villain than rival or opponent.

In other words, the crew of the Enterprise may not need a specific Evil Archenemy just for the sake of lots and lots of action.

#97 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 06:11 PM:

Lori Coulson @302, it’s not so much the continuity details that bug me. Star Trek (the original) didn’t manage to match its own continuity. (A conversation between Spock and McCoy in “Conscience of the King” implies that the Federation conquered Vulcan. Or maybe I should say Earth— in early episodes, Kirk and crew seem to be working for an organization called “United Earth Space Probe Agency.” It took the writers a while to come up with the United Federation of Planets.)

The thing that bugs me most is the shift in moral center. On classic Trek, Kirk was the kind of hero who would go out of his way to offer friendship to a defeated enemy. In the movie, that very attitude is mocked, used as the setup line for a cheap joke and stupid explosion ending.

Then there’s the fact that the movie plotlines just make no sense. Star Trek Into Darkness reveals that the Federation is reacting to the possibility of war with the Klingons by building bigger and tougher starships— and establishes early in the movie that they have super-transporters that can beam someone from Earth straight to the Klingon homeworld, making starships irrelevant.

#98 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 06:19 PM:

Stories about impossible choices and undefeatable truths are really compelling, I think, and not necessarily counter to Trek canon rules. A while back I had a neat conversation about the darkness of Star Trek, which we found people tended to forget about, possibly because it's so goshdarn colourful. There's one episode almost right out of the gate where Kirk has to terminate his best friend, and it's heartbreaking. Things do go wrong in Star Trek, and there aren't always happy endings, which is one of the things I do like about it.

Star Trek as I understand it is an exploration story -- that's a lot like To Build A Fire (and the rest of the Jack London canon) is. The Enterprise, on its own in an environment that's hostile to the life forms aboard it, boldly going and occasionally freezing to death.

The most reliable antagonist as far as I can tell is the holodeck. You'd think they'd have made that thing more reliable at some point. Though, (she says, in a desperate effort to relate this back to the thread topic) at least the running "the holodeck is malfunctioning again, why is it even possible to disengage the safety protocols?!" gag provides continuity.

#99 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 06:41 PM:

One the Jim-Dandyist Star Trek movies didn't have a villain!

Hint: Whales.

* * *

$.02: The Trek reboot movies were flashy, loud, generally agreeable mindless adventure movies that happened to have the Star Trek characters and settings (sort of) in them. Kind of like those theatrical Doctor Who movies that have no connection with (and different actors from) the Doctor Who TV series. None of the idealism of the original remains. Science and technology are bent to fit the flashy, loud story.

Maybe the new director will create less bombastic entries than Abrams.

Well. Anyway. I think the Marvel/Disney folks have found a way to make movies that are both smart and exciting and have interesting characters. I watched Guardians of the Galaxy when my father was dying (sad but expected), or had recently kicked the bucket (a relief), and I must say the mere sight of that "frames of comics flickering past" logo sequence just immediately took me someplace else. It has become a signal that I'm getting a few hours of escapist stuff I trust and adore.

Agents of SHIELD (eventually) and Agent Carter (right out of the gate, and getting better every episode) give me the same feeling.

#100 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 06:59 PM:

Or the Horta.

#101 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 07:17 PM:

Haldane: "The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose."

I wish there was a Star Trek reboot that took a shot at proving that wrong. Exploration. Strange new worlds, new life, new civilizations, and etcetera. Star Trek (at least the TV shows and movies) hasn't been about that for a very long time.

#102 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 07:26 PM:

That Haldane quote should be used somewhere in the Queers Destroy Science Fiction anthology.

#103 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 07:29 PM:

I was pleased with a lot of the continuity shout-outs back in the early seasons of SMALLVILLE as well -- along with a crew of very good actors with one glaring exception (Kreuk). The bit about drying Krypto with a red towel was one of the more amusing references....

Later seasons, not so much.

#104 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 10:32 PM:

Star Trek Into Darkness went off the rails (I theorize) when they cast Cumberbatch. Not because he was bad at the part, but because the scriptwriters were then unable to visualize as anything but the villain.

It seems clear (to me, and who knows what that's worth) that some early draft of the script had Admiral Peter Weller as the villain, setting up the honorable Khan under duress to drum up his pet war. That is a pretty classic Trek storyline, after all -- the limited military viewpoint versus the greater good, and a "villain is us" theme.

And they kept *most* of that; except they couldn't resist the idea of Khan crashing a starship into a city and getting punched out by Kirk. Which makes a ham sandwich of the entire point.

#105 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 10:58 PM:

Stefan, #90: That's another piece of the "superhero movie" angle. Star Trek sometimes had villains, but they didn't need a villain to be good. Just looking at the movies: ST1 didn't have a villain, it had a logic problem. ST2 had a villain. ST3 had a Quest, as did ST4. ST5 had a villain and an Alien Encounter. ST6 had a conspiracy. ST7 had a villain. ST8 had a conspiracy. ST9 had a villain.

That's about half-and-half if you count the conspiracies separately from the individual villains. But perhaps more to the point, even when there were villains, the movies never became superhero movies; the goal was never just to defeat the villain, it was to keep the underlying goals of the Star Trek universe alive.

Victoria, #95: Some of the best ClassicTrek episodes weren't about "Kirk in danger" -- they were about "Kirk has a decision to make".

Think, for example, about "The City on the Edge of Forever" -- Kirk has to make a choice between the woman he loves and the entire future. That's plenty of upping the stakes for me! But there's no villain.

Think about "The Devil in the Dark". That sure looks like a villain -- something is killing all those miners. But as we find out more about it, guess what? It's a mother! The miners are killing her children, and she's fighting back in the only way she can.

Moving up to NextGen, think about "The Measure of a Man". Is Data human? Does he have the rights of a flesh-and-blood crew member, or is he property that can be requisitioned and disassembled at will? Lots of suspense, angst (Riker has to make the case against Data, and he has to do so to the best of his ability), and upping stakes. But no villain.

Think about The Voyage Home. The Federation is in danger of being destroyed because an alien society thinks we've exterminated another intelligent species. In point of fact, we have, and the Enterprise has to go back in time and rescue some specimens. You might think of that as having a villain, but I don't; that's two societies with different priorities having to find a way to make peace with each other, and an old mistake being fixed.

These stories, I suspect, are the sort of things that Abrams considers "too intellectual". He seems to want to remake Star Trek on about the fourth-grade level. Lots of things that go bang, and all the conflicts are very clear-cut black and white -- no nuances, no ethical issues. He wants superhero stories, but Star Trek has never been about superheroes.

#106 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 11:14 PM:

Em... Best use of the holodeck was Voyager's Paris recreating a Flash Gordon adventure that gets deflated when 7 of 9 vanquishes the evil clanky robot by pulling out its power pack.

#107 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 11:14 PM:

Em... Best use of the holodeck was Voyager's Paris recreating a Flash Gordon adventure that gets deflated when 7 of 9 vanquishes the evil clanky robot by pulling out its power pack.

#108 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 11:58 PM:

Lee lays things out more eloquently and knowledgeably than I could.

I can accept, I expect snarling arrogant villains in superhero movies. They need good villains, personalized evil, and over-the-top threats. Seeing a sneering putz like Loki getting rag-dolled by the Hulk . . . oh, what a joy!

I expect more from a Star Trek story. I expect some idealism, a touch of "cowboy" because that's a tradition, and fair mindedness.

#109 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2015, 11:59 PM:

So, saw ep 5 now. Nice as it was to see the Howling Commandos again--some of them--Peggy does seem to have gained the respect of her co-workers a bit too . . . rapidly? Hard to say easily. On the other hand, she seems to have done so by becoming "one of the boys," the female exception. Which would have been uncommon in the time period, but doesn't seem all that interesting, long term. Still, she's evidently got a downswing next week; we'll see.

That said--okay, we get a couple of POCs on the SSR and Commandos side. But it's not mentioned, not acknowledged, so evidently we are just going to pretend that 1940s-style racism does not exist. Yeah, no. If they were going to go that road, they probably should have done it from episode one, and the streets of NYC still ought to be a lot more diverse.

So it goes. I'm still enjoying the show, but from now on in I'm watching a fantasy, more or less. I suppose that isn't inappropriate, but it could have been a richer fantasy. Ah, well. The Red Room girl, the last scene with Dottie--both were chilling, and flawlessly executed, as well as being shout-outs to both movie and comics continuity.

#110 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 12:01 AM:

Rats. "Which WOULDN'T have been uncommon . . ." And I previewed twice and everything, too!

#111 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 01:56 AM:

Lee @105 Some of the best ClassicTrek episodes weren't about "Kirk in danger"

Remember how TV Guide used to have those brief episode summaries in its listings? (Maybe still does?) A friend of mine told me that there was a period where, week after week, the listing for Star Trek said either “The Enterprise is in trouble, and only Captain Kirk can save it!” or “The Enterprise finds an idyllic planet, but Captain Kirk suspect all is not as it seems!”

#112 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 03:02 AM:

I'm all for continuity porn -- and if someone comes up with a better name for it, I'm fine with that.

Josh and I recently watched all of the original Sailor Moon anime series and movies, and we loved that stuff from season one didn't suddenly get forgotten in season two (for the most part). We'll be starting the new anime series soon, I hope.

#113 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 06:50 AM:

Mary Frances @ 109... one complaint that people like NK Jamisin had with the series is that, from what she herself knows from the era, not everybody in outfits like the SSR would have been lilly white.

#114 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 06:51 AM:

(It's Jemisin, not Jamisin, Serge, you fool!)

#115 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 10:13 AM:

Avram: those choices might have had something to do with ease of clearing rights. Snow White is a Disney film, owned by Marvel’s

Disney had a, shall we say, attitude towards Russia for a specific reason: I can't remember if it was during his HUAC testimony (short, biased version: Yes there are Communists in Hollywood, they struck against my studio, and here are the names) but he said that they sent one print of Snow White to Russia and it took them seven years to return it without payment, covered in scratches and splices. I assume that somebody knew their history.

And the use of Dover Boys makes me suspect it even more. Chuck Jones was the director, and an interviewer once did a fair amount of research before talking to him, including looking over the available info from when he worked at Disney. He asked "Why did your past jobs include lumberjack? I haven't seen that anywhere else?" Jones said "Oh, that was internal Disney code for communist."

Em: wasn't DeForest Kelly a relatively big name?

At least one of the obituaries when he died said he'd officially retired just before being cast in the series.

#116 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 10:23 AM:

I'll defer to Jemisin, Serge, in that she's certainly better informed than I am. Especially since, from what I've read, while it is possible that, say, at least the New York office of the CIA could have been almost completely white, I'm beginning to suspect that that doesn't really matter one way or another. NYC itself was definitely not "almost completely white" in any era, even with unofficial segregation by neighborhoods, so the show doesn't appear to be playing the "historically accurate whitewashing" card anyway. (If they were, they'd have African American staff at Peggy's hotel, for example.) Rather--based on last night--it seems to be playing the "POC? Oh, no one notices THAT" card, which is disappointing. With two major British characters (who would be coming to the US version of the colorline from outside, so to speak) I think they could do better, and that even without making racism a major plot point. I can only conclude--so far--that they didn't want to bother. Or maybe were so concerned about giving offense that they decided not to bother?

#117 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 11:13 AM:

Mary Frances... Maybe they wanted to keep the focus on Carter's own situation as a woman.

#118 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 12:38 PM:

That would be the excuse/reasoning for just casually dropping in POCs in the background, and I can accept it, personally--but they should have done it from the first episode, then, in my opinion. Still would have been weak (again in my opinion) but I can put up with a lot of ahistorical nonsense from a comics-based show. That they seem to be going that road now is . . . something, I suppose, but I suspect they've already alienated a small but vocal section of their potential audience (that could have been larger).

Not me, not completely, as I said. I'm still finding the show fun, the acting terrific, and Carter's situation relatively compelling. But I'm not part of the group that's being erased (or half-erased maybe, after ep 5).

#119 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 12:48 PM:

Okay, I take part of it back--maybe they WERE trying to do the POC in the background bit from the very beginning and just didn't do it very well. I tracked down a stray memory and checked, and the shoeshine guy in the Stan Lee cameo in ep 4 is African American. Not exactly a big part--I don't think we see much but the back of his neck--but at least acknowledging the presence of POC in NYC.

So, still weak, but even more possible as a deliberate strategy to keep the focus on Peggy's problems, then.

#120 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 02:49 PM:

One thing that Agent Carter has yet to reveal:

Why is there a waitress in an automat?

#121 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 02:53 PM:

Folks, correct me if my memory has gone astray, but isn't "West Side Story" roughly the same time period as Agent Carter, late 1940s/early 1950s NYC?

It's not just African Americans we're missing, but where are the Puerto Ricans? NYC had/has a thriving Chinatown, but we've seen only one Asian agent, and no Asians on the streets?

And didn't the UN set up shop in NYC about this time, adding even more nationalities to the area?

#122 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 04:03 PM:

Lori: As I said, as a deliberate strategy, they just didn't do it very well . . .

#123 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 04:16 PM:

Stefan: Welp, after some mildly intense googling, I have discovered that Horn and Hardart also operated a few restaurants that were run like standard diners. My source said that the first opened in Queens, in 1950--maybe someone involved with the show remembered?

I find out the most interesting things because I've been reading Making Light . . .

#124 ::: Michael Johnston ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 09:17 PM:

I get that little gasp of joy when those moments come. All too often, my wife, who enjoys the movies and show but doesn't like reading comics (she says she can't process the art as movement so it seems weird to her) asks what I'm reacting to, and then when I tell her, stops me cold--she doesn't want spoilers.

So now I just say "Comic Book Nerdgasm" and she waves it off.

#125 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2015, 11:40 PM:

I think it's asking a bit much of a network TV limited series, broadcasting 44 minute episodes, to adhere to perfect accuracy as to historical reality in NYC in the 40's. Yeah, it would be nice if it were perfect, but I'll settle for a B-plus.

#126 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 12:25 AM:

Oh, don't get me wrong, I love Agent Carter -- it really jarred me when the lack of diversity finally registered.

Does anyone know where they filmed this? If it was in the USA, a casting call would have brought them extras in all shapes, colors and sizes. (And they'd have had geeks crawling out of the walls for the chance to do so...)

#127 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 01:15 AM:

Lori: Filmed in LA, according to Wikipedia. I'm going to go back and review street scenes, etc. I'm wondering now if I'm the blind one, and what that might imply about me . . . curious.

#128 ::: Stanoje ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 02:12 AM:

Steve C #125: Can you quote, say, three people who have been asking for perfect accuracy here? Because I don't think anyone in this thread has done that.

#129 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 03:06 AM:

Steve C @125, are you talking about the waitress at the automat, the matter of racial diversity, or both?

#130 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 04:42 AM:

I had occassion today to read Ada Palmer again today on historical accuracy vs "historicity," and the innevitability of getting it wrong.

#131 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 09:00 AM:

So there are a couple of ways to handle 1940s racism.

One is the way they're dealing with 1940s sexism: make it a theme. They're already doing one "icky old-fashioned attitudes" theme, and probably don't want to have to work in another, so this one's out.

Two is to have realistic diversity in actors, including extras, but not mention the racism. This would be good for purposes of representation, but not particularly historical. Given how they handled the Howling Commandos in the Cap movie, I think it would have been the best choice--note that there's no instance where Colonel Phillips looks at Steve and says, "Son, it isn't even legal for two of these men to serve with you!" (Which is too bad, because it would have been a great moment for Steve to shut that crap down real quick.)

Three is the way they're doing it, which is to ignore both the historical racism and the historical diversity. It's less than ideal, especially given that the lead is white. At least we had Agent Li--though didn't the Red Room girl shoot him?

Someone who knows more about this than I do: I'm positive it would have been ahistorical for a non-white woman to be living at Peggy's hotel, but how ahistorical?

#132 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 09:06 AM:

Carrie S. @131: My favorite "deleted scenes" fix-it fic on that subject from Captain America is No Matter Where They're From.

#133 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 09:23 AM:

Carrie S.: I don't know how how ahistorical it would have been, but I recognized the hotel as a version of the Barbizon (well, mostly I recognized it from Sylvia Plath's Amazon Hotel in The Bell Jar). Based on that, the answer would be "very ahistorical, even probably in 1946." A quick google got me this description of the Barbizon: "A woman had to have three letters of recommendation along with impeccable manners and dress in order to be allowed a room at this dormitory style hotel." It was apparently for the daughters of the wealthy, seeking a "professional" career in NYC . . . so even wealthy young non-white women would probably have had their own, separate and segregated version of the women's hotel, I'd say.

I don't know if it matters, really, since (as you point out) the show seems to be going for a very selective form of historical accuracy--but it is another kind of an Easter Egg, I suppose!

#134 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 09:55 AM:

One stray thought is that we're not actually dealing with our 1940's, but the past of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At the same time, it's a significant enough difference from our world to warrant some explication.

More likely, of course, is that the writers and/or producers couldn't be bothered to think about such things.

#135 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 11:00 AM:

There are parts of downtown LA that stand in for New York City, a lot. (And sometimes other cities.)

#136 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 01:52 PM:

Martin Wisse writes in #92:

One of the corresponding frustrations with seeing your favourite superhero up on the screen is when they botch the continuity, when the movie or tv people think they know better than the comics and something doesn't pan out.

Reminds me of how I feel, if we substitute "science" for "superhero" and "scientists" for "comics."

#137 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 05:10 PM:

Martin Wisse @92:

One of the corresponding frustrations with seeing your favourite superhero up on the screen is when they botch the continuity, when the movie or tv people think they know better than the comics and something doesn't pan out.

I have seen it in other places,

"Where Eagles Dare", book and film, has the General with the D-Day secrets flying to Crete for a meeting with the Russians. Crete was not liberated until the final German surrender in 1945.

They could as easily have said "Cairo" in the script and in the book, but nobody either remembered or bothered to check.

#138 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2015, 08:02 PM:

Those tidbits from Agents of SHIELD reminds me of a bit of dialogue I wrote for a piece of fanfic I never finished. It's DC Universe but very much in keeping:

Mad Scientist: These will be my best androids yet. The power source is Kryptonite, walkaway-stable and well-shielded. Their muscle tissue is holographically-generated Kryptonian.

Supervillain: Ah, the old imperfect duplicate system, eh?

MS: I have upgraded it. I call it near-perfect duplication.

SV: And the duplicate brain? Have you upgraded that while you're at it?

MS: Oh, no, holographic brain replication is still decades from being adequate. I'm using strictly Coluan technology for that. A sixth-level effector!

SV: The Coluans managed to achieve twelfth-level.

MS: Yes, and look where it got them.

Well, it was fun to write, anyway.

#139 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2015, 04:24 PM:

Looping back to the original theme of continuity rush, I've been mainlining Shakespeare and various English kings, all of a sudden. I've never paid a lot of attention to Shakespeare because, despite my desires to the contrary, I'm very easily blown by the language.

Gibson's Hamlet and Branagh's Henry V worked for me, but I've never been able to deal with much else.

Pieces started fitting together when I ran across Ada Palmer's The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare’s Histories in the Age of Netflix. Then, last night, I stumbled across PBS's Shakespeare Uncovered (Did you say David Tennant? Oh yeah!) (One of my chronology touchstones is QEI in "The Day of the Doctor." Also because I got to see Shakespeare In Love in the company of John Barnes, who at the time was teaching theatre, and was able to decode all the inside jokes and point out the easter eggs. Dame Judi's Elizabeth was particularly delicious.)

Apparently I was finally in the right frame of mind, because I think I finally "got" the whole "To be" speach. Since I was doing artwork while I was watching, I just binged on through most of SU episodes. What was really nice was having the stories told (with clips of various performances of the highlights) in modern English, plus the literary and psychological analysis (and discussions by the various actors of their interpretations of the roles), plus context of England of the time that these were written. Having them hosted by familiar faces added some squee.

I specifically looked for King Lear, because I remember the episode of Just Shoot Me where David Spade's Dennis Finch gets sucked into going to it with Laura San Giacomo's Maya Gallo (with the episode's plot being a parody of the play). Despite being dragged essentially kicking and screaming to this performance, Finch is a total wreck (surreptitiously, of course) by the end of the play. The Lear quote, "Howl! Howl! Howl!" stuck in my mind, for some reason. So with this ep of SU, I was finally able to fill in the rest of the play.

Damn. I begin to see why people make such a big deal about Shakespeare. (Previously it had mostly seemed like people make a big deal of Shakespeare because Shakespeare was canonically defined as a big deal. You know: in an "eat your broccoli and exercise is good for you" kind of way.)

Christopher Plummer, who hosts this ep, points out that Lear was a very risky production, produced as it was at the very beginning of James VI and I's reign, and [various political and dramatic innovations the specifics of which I forget, except that it could have been construed by the new king as, um, pointful. "Oh!" sez I to myself. I'd previously worked out that James succeeded Elizabeth I.

And the reason I had James tacked on my mental bulletin board (aside from his proximity to QEI) was because I've had Gunpowder, Treason & Plot on my to-watch list ever since I got hooked on Robert Carlyle.

So, I get to SU's Richard II with Derek Jacobi, and I squint, because I don't recall hearing about RII. RIII, now; I remember seeing Olivier's film, and then hearing about them stumbling across his (R's, not O's) skeleton in the Leicester parking lot, compliments of the Secrets of the Dead's episode—and that he's referenced in discussions of the, uh, Henriad? do they call it?

So, off to Google, which incidentally displays a portrait of Henry IV, which I immediately recognize from Jeremy Irons's SU ep about Henry IV & V. And then I remember Irons talking about IV's ambivalence about having come to power having deposed his predecessor—Oh! That's who that is...! Clickety clickety click, as the pieces fall into place.

So...yeah. Continuity rush...!

#140 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2015, 12:47 PM:

Occasionally, the REALLY good/sneaky creators mess with continuity savvy fans by using it against them in continuity judo. They got me in BATMAN BEGINS with Henri Ducard, one of Batman's trainers first introduced in Detective Comics #599.

#141 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2015, 01:14 PM:

Jacque -- maybe you have to hit Shakespeare at the right age (13-14). For me it was Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet. Not the star-crossed couple, but Mercutio!

At one time I had all Mercutio's speeches by heart. And bits and pieces pop up from the memory hole at varied times even today.

Shakespeare writes some of the meatiest parts an actor could ever hope to play. Funny, but I always wanted the male roles...

(And what does it say about my mental state in high school, that I understood Hamlet's "To be..." soliloquy the first time I read it?)

#142 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2015, 02:08 PM:

Hm. At 11 I was maybe a trifle young when that R&J came out. But I remember reacting to it as a foreign movie without subtitles; I could follow the story, and the costumes were pretty, but I couldn't really connect to it.*

::googles images:: But yeah; I could totally see getting hooked by Mercutio.

* I have this problem with poetry and song lyrics, too. It's like some sort of weird organic language deficit.

#143 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2015, 02:16 PM:

I got hooked on Shakespeare with a film of R&J, too, except for me it was Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes and Harold Perrineau's gloriously angry Mercutio. I was twelve when it came out and went to see it with my Pathfinder group, and then made my mother take me to see it again, and then bought the soundtrack and sat in my room and pined, as one does.

#144 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2015, 02:39 PM:

Zefferelli's R&J was incoherent to me in high school (we were shown it by our English Lit teacher, probably in the hopes that its titillating qualities would make us pay attention) because 90% of the main cast are perfectly identical to me. And it doesn't help that it starts in a masked ball.

Literally most of the main young characters are facially similar enough (especially the way they were shot) that I could not distinguish who was meant to be speaking at any given point. I think I used to be a little faceblind and have gained coping strategies since or something.

I also had that problem with the Beatrice-and-Benedick's-friends couple in the Emma Thompson/Kenneth Branagh Much Ado About Nothing: both of them were dark-haired, with pale round faces that were mostly agonized or schmoopy.

I hated Robert Sean Leonard for decades because I saw that and Dead Poet Society and he appeared to have two facial expressions (sulky and pained). It put me off House for years, because every time I tried to watch it my history of thoughts about the actor interfered with me actually seeing what was on th escreen.

#145 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2015, 08:43 AM:

A fanfic that brings this joy-in-continuity though also being probably comprehensible to someone who's never seen the movies it's a sequel to:

United States v. Barnes, 617 F. Supp. 2d 143 (D.D.C. 2015)

Being the court transcript and selected outside-media mentions of James Buchanan Barnes being put on trial after the events of Captain America II: Winter Soldier. For all the murders he committed while brainwashed.

It's really well written, makes callbacks to things (from the movie continuity, not the comics) that echo when you read them, AND really gets how social media around a media-circus controversial event plays out.

#146 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2015, 12:36 AM:

Lori Coulson @ 141: The first version of R&J I saw was a live theatrical version in which a woman played Mercutio. (As a woman, not as 'pretend you don't notice the actor's gender'). It worked. Every line, even the ones about being a man, in a backward mocking way that fit the character perfectly.

I've seen him played male often enough to reconcile that he's supposed to be. But regardless of gender, Mercutio remains my favourite character from that play.

I never had serious theatrical aspirations and when I tried out for school plays I did it expecting to get tiny minor roles just for the fun (Roughly the same reason I did some set painting and backstage stuff). But if I did, I would SO have wanted that role.

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