Pop Xulture Newsletter # 13
Focusing on WonderCon Friday 2023. 3/27/23
Welcome! This Newsletter is different from normal (not necessarily better…?) because my family and I were at WonderCon and I wanted to give you a summary of four panels I attended. But first, a quick overview on what I’ve been working on.
A couple weeks ago Christ and Pop Culture (CAPC) published my article “Yesterday I Had the Blues: Colorful Emotions & The Black Community’s Hopeful Tomorrow.” When my wife showed me the children’s book Yesterday I Had the Blues, as my title states, I had to write about how the book simultaneously deals with emotions and is inspirational. You can watch my mediocre Instagram promo video here.
I am currently working on my draft of So I Married An Axe Murderer. It’s the second in a series on the craziness of how many great films came out in 1993 (my first article was on Jurassic Park here).
And finally, I gave you the exclusive article “Wide Awake for Good Night Oppy” last week. In retrospect, it may have seemed like I didn’t enjoy Good Night Oppy, but nothing could be further from the truth. My article focused on manipulation’s motivation and I hope the greatness of the documentary didn’t get lost in that.
As I mentioned, this Newsletter is different because I’m giving you my thoughts on several TV/film panels at WonderCon on Friday, March 24, 2023. WonderCon is in Anaheim and put on by the same people as Comic-Con (the massive one in San Diego). I look forward to TV/film programming so I was disappointed to find I wasn’t interested in any panels for Saturday and Sunday. So it all rested on four panels on Friday.
I rated them by my very scientific, overall (screen content and panel) feelings and whether I’ll watch more:
#4 True Lies [Mediocre]
James Cameron’s 1994 film True Lies has an adaptation which premiered as a TV show earlier this month (March 2023). I’ve never watched the show, but we got to see an entire episode (forthcoming #5 - “Unrelated Parents”). The general plot of Helen Tasker finding out her husband Harry is a spy is the same – but (spoilers) now Omega Sector has recruited Helen also. This verged into Mr. and Mrs. Smith (which is also being adapted for television this year!) territory, which seemed unnecessary.[i]
After the mediocre episode, Matt Nix (showrunner), Omar Miller (playing Gib), and Steve Howey (playing Harry Tasker) were brought out for the panel. Miller and Howey were great panelists – charming, funny, great stories. But even Howey asked the audience to stick with them until the show finds itself. Not really a vote of confidence.
FINAL: I have no plans of watching more episodes.
#3 Fired on Mars [OK]
Originally we were supposed to get a few select clips of HBO Max’s new Fired on Mars, but they decided to play the entire pilot. The animated show centers around Jeff (voiced by Luke Wilson) who, oddly enough, gets fired on Mars. Okay, so there’s a little more to it. Jeff works at a tech company on Mars but when he’s fired, he must figure out what to do with himself (there aren’t a lot of shuttles making the trip!).
As creators Nate Sherman and Nick Vokey explained, the show is inspired by Office Space (they even got Stephen Root to lend his vocal cords to the show!). And that kind of brooding pessimism is not only intriguing when set in space but also sadly relatable to anyone who has ever been employed.
The panel was interesting and voice cast member Sean Wing was charismatic, but Sherman and Vokey were calm and soft spoken. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for Tom Cruise jumping on Opera’s couch, but it’s tough when it’s a team of three. Nevertheless…
FINAL: I plan on watching the show.
#2 Knights of the Zodiac [Pretty Good]
This live action film is an adaptation of the Japanese manga Saint Seiya, which debuted in 1986. For the panel, producer Yoshi Ikezawa was joined by cast Famke Janssen, Mark Dacascos, Madison Iseman, Nick Stahl, and Diego Tinoco. We got an exclusive viewing of the U.S. trailer plus a few clips from the film.
The film itself looks like it will be interesting, mostly an action flick but the source material seems strong. There were some cool tidbits: Famke Janssen talked about a “virtual production stage” that was moving as they shot, which was disorienting. Diego Tinoco talked about being a Latin role model, often in Spanish. And Ikezawa explained why they didn’t directly translate the title from Japanese. He felt the title was misleading[ii] so the manga’s French translation, Les Chevaliers du Zodiaque, pointing towards “Knights” and “Zodiac,” is more accurate.
FINAL: I’ll probably see the film, although I’m thinking it’ll be like the original The Fast and the Furious – action stars doing their best.
#1 Clone High [Also Pretty Good]
I struggled to chose between Knights of the Zodiac and Clone High for the number one spot. In the end, Clone High won out because the panel was better. Let me explain.
Clone High was a TV show on MTV in 2002 (which I’d never even heard of). The premise is that dead historical figures have been cloned and are in their late teens attending high school together. Now, twenty years later, HBO Max is revamping the show with the same cast and crew…kind of. After the hilarious extended teaser we were introduced to executive producers Christopher Miller, Erica Rivinoja, Erik Durbin (Phil Lord was sick), and actors Nicole Sullivan (playing Joan of Arc) and Will Forte (Abe Lincoln).
The panel was great. Everyone was funny (at one point Durbin got Will Forte to tell a story about blow drying his hair which Forte admitted was incredibly boring). Members of the audience sang the theme song a cappella and twenty or so of the show’s crew came out and sat with the audience (I had five or six next to me). But one specific member of the crew stood out to me: executive producer Erica Rivinoja.
Rivinoja was on the original series as the only woman staff writer. Now she’s an EP and informed the audience that currently half the writers are women and they have made sure to have BIPOC representation. There are many studies showing women have to outperform men just to be considered equal (although their pay rarely is).
So when Rivinoja was just as funny as her male counterparts, told fascinating behind-the-scenes stories, and talked about hiring BIPOC actors for applicable roles, no one should have felt threatened or rolled their eyes as if she was “another Hollywood progressive.” She worked so hard to get there. And then to hear that she is using her power for good - that gave me hope.
FINAL: I’ll be watching Clone High, not just to support Erica Rivinoja or because a panel with Nicole Sullivan and Will Forte was funny, but because the show looks genuinely good.
In general, I enjoyed Friday night’s programming. But it is saddening (to me) that not one of these were original content. Knights of the Zodiac is from a manga, True Lies is based on the movie of the same name, Fired on Mars is based on a short film, and Clone High is a continuation of a series.
This Newsletter didn’t have much of a spiritual/ethical theme, but I didn’t want to force anything. I hope you enjoyed a spotlight on some upcoming entertainment. And what are you going to do if you didn’t enjoy it? We’re not on Mars so you can’t fire me! Well, you could unsubscribe…please don’t do that.
Until next time (hopefully), in Him,
-Chris (the Bearded Wonder) Fogle
[i] Although I’m not sure how you would keep a show going when the wife has found out about her spy husband. But that’s why the premise is perfect for a movie, not a TV show.
[ii] In that “saints” is a misnomer as they are warriors and Seiya is only one character but there are five.