Single Payer Health Insurance

Despite the fact that President Obama has done nothing to ensure that representatives from single payer groups (like nurses, doctors, and social justice advocates) have a seat at the health care reform talks, or at least that is how it has been presented by media, the right continues to make propaganda posters blaming Obama or their imagined “coming doom in health care.” Here is one such image:

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The things that makes me laugh: this is exactly what it is like to go to managed care. When I go with my mother, who works in a hospital, to get her medications we take a number and wait in line for up to 1.5 hours just to get already prepared bottles. When I go with my father to check ups, we take a number and wait 1-3 hours past his appointment time to be seen.  And sometimes, he arrives and they tell him they sent him the wrong day or the wrong time and tell him to come back.  Once, he was actually having a serious health issue and they sent him to wait. After 30 minutes, I had to resurrect my old client advocacy voice and my professorial tone and demand my father be seen. I was lucky I had both training and social capital to trade on b/c when they did see him 5 minutes later, they determined that had he waited much longer he would have died.

Don’t let the conservatives fool you, managed care is what is managing to keep you from care, not single payer.

Ways to get involved:

  • learn about the different types of health care systems offered around the world (don”t just search online)
  • educated others or learn together about the issue
  • research the differences in health care prior to the HMO-ization of N. American Health Care and after it
  • learn about current plans put before Congress including HR 676: US National Health Insurance Act and S 703: Health Care for Every American (click individual boxes for more info on each piece of the plan)
  • volunteer at local clinics serving underserved and high needs populations to see first hand what they go through
  • spend some time sitting in those waiting rooms of big HMOs talking to people about their stories of health care and publish them (w/permission) on your blogs, tweet about blogging about it, etc.
  • write a letter to the President demanding that he make good on his promises

I have lived with state sponsored health care and I have endured without it. While my experience does not reify, I can tell you there is nothing like going in for a check up, being seen at your appointment time by people who genuinely care about your health, provided free meds to manage any conditions, and then getting a follow up phone call (and once even a home visit after I missed my appointment) by my primary care physician when the only thing wrong was managing my disability. Comparing that to crying first in the doctor’s office as he explained I had a false “lapse in coverage” mark on my medical history that prevented him from giving me the medication I needed for my disability under my plan and that to re-establish care I would have to take an expensive test to prove I was differently-abled all over again, to sobbing uncontrollably in my car in the parking lot, unable to drive. 45 minutes later, a social worker and a nurse came out and handed me a sample of meds and told me they wished they could do more, several people had apparently alerted people inside that I was sobbing in my car. No matter what propoganda either political party uses to say that the later form of care or some modified version of it is better than the former, there are millions of stories like mine that say different.

You can read more about Pres. Obama and Democrats’ plans here.

Disability and Queerness: Meeting at the Intersections I (Devotee Movie Review)

devoteeTomorrow is our first summer reading group meeting on the intersections of dis/ability and queerness. The text for tomorrow’s session is the film Devotee. The film is about a 43 year old man named Herve who was born without arms or legs who is looking for love. After an unsuccesful and somewhat humiliating moment with a sex worker, Herve thinks he has found the perfect man, played by Guillaume Quashie-Vauclin, in an online chat room for devotees, people who are attracted to various kinds of physical difference.  Unfortunately, Herve discovers that like so many devotees he has met before, Guillaume’s character is only interested in his own gratification. Despite the resulting painful breakdown of their friendship, and abrupt end of their sexual one, the film does not end on a desolate note. Instead, at movie’s end, Herve finds himself deep in conversation with a man with his own physical issue about the meaning of difference, the role of humor and pain, and the potential to find love in a world that finds fault in any number of differences. The film ends with the promise that Herve may finally have found what he was looking for.

Despite the film’s official description that Herve is hoping to meet overly attractive men, I think he is no more interested in ideal bodies than any other gay man, which is to say he lives in the same culture and therefore has the same desires however idealized they maybe. I also think the official description of the film over emphasized Herve’s differently-abled status and ignored his age, weight, and demeanor as additional factors that make it harder for him to find a partner in a “perfect body,” youth obsessed culture. The poster itself depends on this same culture by putting Guillaume, not Herve, front and center, as well as in the background photo on the wall. Note, while Guillaume is naked and alluring, Herve is little more than 1/2 a head on Guillaume’s shoulder.

The promo for the film creates this same erasure of the main character Herve. When he is pictured, the shots are tighter than they are in the film in order to erase his physical dis/ability:

The marketing problem seems at odds with the point of the film which is to center Herve as fully realized and completely deserving of love and passion like anyone else.

Thus, in the film itself, Herve is a fully realized character in his own right. He talks openly and honestly about his dis/ability and his life. When Guillaume’s character finally arrives at his home, Herve is quick to correct Guillaume’s selfishness in the bedroom and point out how that selfishness stems from ablism. He let’s Guillaume know what works for him and what he needs from a partner with a directness and honesty that I wish all of us could pull off.  And when his forthright discussion of why Guillaume must take him seriously as an equal participant in the bedroom leads Guilluame first to angry denial, then horrified sorrow at his own selfishness, and finally to break it off b/c he isn’t willing to accept Herve as a subject in his own right, Herve confronts him and then let’s him go.

The film also contains an interesting discussion about visible dis/ability and non-visible dis/ability and what they mean for one’s access to equality in our society. Herve assumes that being able to “hide” one’s abilities is easier than having them written on the always visible body. His conversation partner argues that visible or not discrimination occurs from the moment  one is marked as different. And he further points out that once you are aware of the way people will react you live with the same fear of rejection and sense of loss as anyone else stigmatized by ablism.  It is an important conversation that does not resolve itself nor take sides.  And like those moments when Herve is talking about who he is, his family, or his desires from a partner, I wished that this scene had lasted longer.

Unfortunately, Devotee often struggles with the gaze of the filmmaker to make its point about Herve’s agency. The film begins with a long slow shot running the length of Herve’s body. The camera lingers on the edges of his limbs and the position of his right arm in the morning. In fact a considerable amount of time is taken up watching Herve manipulate his body that would have been better spent on the poignant story. Thus the gaze serves to otherize Herve in many ways and to exoticize him for the curious and the devotee alike.

Devotee also mobilizes the spectre of race in really trite ways. Guillaume is black and beautiful. While nothing is made of his race in the movie, his blackness stands out as the counterpoint to his own ablism. In fact, both of the men Herve sleeps with are men of color and both react negatively to him. The sex worker he hooks up with in the beginning of the film takes a double take at his body, and even goes in the bathroom to puke, but ultimately wants to be paid. Guillaume takes better care of Herve’s feelings, but ultimately only wants to satisfy his own desires and curiousities regardless of Herve’s needs. It is only when Herve meets the white neighbor of his Parisian friend, that he makes an emotional connection and a potentially gratifying sexual one. Tho the issue of race is unspoken then, the laying out of difference on the screen clearly argues that qoc are more ablist and implies, including a line from Herve about thinking Guillaume would be “different,” they should know better given the racism they experience. It’s a comparison I wish the queer community would move beyond so that we can address both homophobia and intersectionality in fruitful rather than divisive ways.

The film is also extremely low budget with little to know character development and extended storyline. As I said, time wasted on a sort of ablist voyeurism could have been spent telling us a more in depth story about Herve and his relationships. Given how well the moments where this development does happen were handled, it could only have made this a better movie.

I am looking forward to our discussion tomorrow about the film. If any of you all have watched it, please weigh in, I’d love to hear from you.

Terminator Salvation? (Minor Spoilers)

News7_0The big news of the weekend, even tho it is 2 days from over, is that Night at the Museum II trumped long anticipated Terminator Salvation in box office take. This news reminds me of a certain vein of discussion around the AI finale (and no I don’t watch that show, but who in queer media studies isn’t watching the aftermath?); some people argue that the AI winner is a reminder to a Hollywood invested in slick production and hype, that most people in N. America just want something “real” w/ a dash of triumphant storyline. In the world of Memorial Day Weekend openings that means that box office take is telling Hollywood that while CGI is fascinating for Directors, Actors, and gamers, most of the N. American viewing audience is still drawn to storytelling and recognizable plot lines. And just like the AI finale, that admission in no way undermines what is lost when we steer toward the middle. In both the triumph of Night at the Museum II and Kris Whatshisface, we lost diversity and complexity while we gained “entertaining enough”.

The Plot & The Director

terminator-salvation-baleThe basic plot of T4 is that John Connor and Skynet-modified Marcus Wright have to work together against a resistance “final battle” time clock to save Kyle Reese. In the process, the major figures of the resistance are revealed and/or re-invented, and each has to come to terms with the meaning of humanity.

Long before T4 hit the screens, fans were complaining about the decision to hire McG, a 41 year old director who got his start in music videos and was once best known for his contributions to the Pop Up Video genre and feminist-lite Charlie’s Angels remakes. People were concerned he might miss the subtle nuances of the Terminator franchise. Unlike popular opinion, formed largely off the innovative liquid technology of T2, the Terminator has always been about the storyline as much as scary Arnold/Skynet coming to get you.

McG doesn’t disappoint critics. The first 30 minutes of the film are throwaway. Many less invested viewers will stopterminator_salvation__the_future_be caring or wanting to understand the storyline before the plot actually starts; my movie companion was one of them. In a special on the latest installment, McG said he made sure to get “the best actors” he could find b/c he wanted to make sure that he did proper homage to the franchise. You can have the best actors in the world, but an action film without strongly written dialogue, well conceived and executed plot, and an overarching story that multiple audiences can follow, is little more than a video game. While the film does an amazing job in the last 1.15, the first 30 minutes are a video game. (And I’ve just found out the video game is already on sale, set in the the interim period between T3 and T4, and all of the characters in the film are introduced there. Hence why the film starts as if it is in the middle of the story, without explaining anything. Way to sell out the film franchise McG. So we don’t get the story we all wanted so you can make bank at the gamer store?!? Oh and Christian Bale refused to be in the video game . . . ugh)

The film also fails in its shift from Sarah Connor’s story to John Connor’s life. His mother, a once slightly vacuous waitress turned brilliant and slightly unhinged bada** is reduced to little more than old tapes that I am not sure are even Linda Hamilton’s original recordings. (They are the original script, but I would like to know where he got a tape player in 2018.) Worse than that, when we last left John, he was locked in a bunker with his future wife as the world came to an end. For most fans of the entire franchise, the next piece of the story should have been how 20 something year-old John emerged from that bunker, cultivated a global movement, and became a hero compelling enough to stop the resistance from executing vital orders from the resistance command. McG skips over this story to the film and franchise’s detriment. As one person said as we walked out the theater, “I don’t get why John Connor is so exceptional or why anyone would follow him over anyone else [in this movie].”

The Good News

tmarcus2Part of the reason that viewer, and the companion I took with me who has never seen any of the Terminator franchise either, were confused is because the film’s focus is not John Connor. Instead, we are given two equally compelling stories that revolve around Connor long after he has become both legend and thorn in several people’s side. One is the story of Marcus Wright, a convicted killer whose actions result in the death of his only brother. Wright, like Connor, is somewhat of a time traveler and victim of Skynet. In scenes that recreate the original T1 in reverse, Wright becomes central to the film. His presence amongst the resistance forces them to re-evaluate what makes them human and what defines heroism. Unlike Angels and Demons, these lofty questions are central to the entire storyline and carried through every scene. Thus much of the film is taking up with vignettes that explore the human condition, from marauding rapists, to people hording or sharing precious resources, to families just trying to stay alive. All of these are seen through Marcus’ eyes.

Marcus’ journey is ultimately one of redemption from killer to hero. He fights against an unexplained anger inside him to do the right thing & he is initially inspired by Kyle Reese. Andtmarcus while that inspiration comes into question when he finally reaches Skynet, Marcus makes the right decision in the end. And even it is accomplished in a scene stolen from another Cameron original, Dark Angel, it’s a message that seems particularly poignant on Memorial Day weekend and for a nation that continues to debate what it means to be N. American.

The other compelling story is of Kyle Reese, John Connor’s father. When I heard they had cast Anton Yelchin, the somewhat bratty teen from Huff and Chekov from the Star Trek update, I admit I was disgusted. While Yelchin did a brilliant job on Huff, I felt he was too young, too whiny, and too tyelchinvisually different from Michael Biehn to be convincing. I was wrong. Yelchin makes this film.

(Note to other directors, Yelchin is a big Terminator fan, he even had Terminator toys as a kid. When you remake movies and old television shows, these are the types of people you want to find. Unlike people who have never “really watched” or worse, are snide about the shows or their fans, you want people who will rise to the occassion under any circumstances b/c they are as invested as the audience. I believe that part of the reason the Sarah Connor Chronicles suffered was b/c of how flippantly Lena Headly dismissed Linda Hamilton, viewers, and the franchise itself.)

Anton Yelchin’s Kyle Reese is infused with just enough youth and heroism to show us the boy who would become Sarahtmy Connor’s savior and John Connor’s best friend. He has an uncanny ability to infuse his heroic moments with the necessary indignation and guidance that transforms these moments from petulance and condemnation to hope and strength. Yelchin’s performance was inspired and subsequently Reese is inspiring.

The character’s story arc is extremely well written. Despite having no real resistance to support him and having clearly lost all of the survivors in his community, including his father, to the machines, Reese manages to keep both himself and a young mute African American girl named Star alive and fed. He reminds both Marcus and one of the communities they encounter together that what separates humans from machines is their ability to care about and for each other. And when he is captured, he calms the entire transport ship of captives and helps provide the leadership they need to stay alive.

His capture follows the narrative of the original Terminator film, unfortunately the writers undermine the logic in thistmbiehninstallment. Reese explains to Sarah that he and Connor met when the later saved him from a Skynet death camp. At the time neither Reese nor Skynet knew who his father was, so Skynet would have no reason to kill Reese while in custody. Despite neither T1-3 or Sarah Connor Chronicles ever revealing who Connor’s father was beyond Sarah and John, T4 starts with the assumption that Skynet already knows the truth which makes the death camp a wasted easy way to win the war. There is also an equally ridiculous scene in which Connor himself screams about Skynet killing his mother and father, and then names him, to a machine (!!!) as if he has completely forgotten that machines can be downloaded!!!  Meanwhile he is keeping it from the resistance fighters?!? This logic gap is never corrected in the movie and like another major logic gap involving Wright’s character, it serves to destabilize the entire franchise if you think about it too longterminator_salvation_movie_image_anton_yelchin_sam_worthington

Another frightening update to the Kyle Reese story in T4 has to do with the iconic clothing. When Marcus rises from the earth in one of the opening scenes, McG borrows heavily from Kyle Reese’s arrival in the past. This homage, that has a naked Wright choosing a long trench coat and combat boots that don’t quite fit, and later asking “what day is it,” reframes the original so that Kyle Reese’s clothing choices are actually modeled after Marcus Wright. And some of Kyle’s weapons knowledge also comes from Marcus. So where the original T1 implied that Kyle had learned most of what he knew from John and in turn, John learned most of what he knew from his mother Sarah who learned it from Kyle, the T4 narrative replaces Reese with Marcus. This same centering of Marcus in the overarching marcus-wright-kyle-reese-terminator-salvationstoryline of T4 also means the displacement of John Connor who would never have found his father or survived the Skynet assault without Marcus’ help. See the problems?

All of these issues are apparently the result of displacing James Cameron, the writer and creator of the franchise. Cameron wrote all three of the original Terminator movies and the best episodes of the Sarah Connor Chronicles. It is hard to imagine why McG thought he could pull it off without him, but according to the IMDB database, Cameron is back on the team in an unspecified role for T5.

If Marcus’ journey is meant to make us reflect on the redemption of humanity, Kyle’s is to remind us of the human spirit and the heroism that lurks in all of us.

Race and Gender

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While T4 is a decidedly male centered storyline, there are several important women in the cast from the first shot to the very last.  What is exciting about these women is that they are both racially and age diverse. They are also intelligent and an integral part of the storyline and the team. Thus we are giving female scientists, doctors, fighter pilots, and community leaders. Their work is implicated in the progress of both Skynet and the Resistance and at least two of them, one a small child, ensure that the resistance lives to fight another day.

What is disappointing about these characters is that despite all of this, they never seem to escape traditional gender roles. Jane Alexander’s considerable talent is wasted in her role as a sort of earth mother elder who challenges the hoarding of the “younger” members of her group. The role made sense and she plays it well, but it was just so much stereotype as twilliams1evidenced by her complete reduction to caretaker in the Skynet prison. For a woman who entered the movie putting gun toting men 1/2 her age in check, standing there hugging children to her in a prison was hardly the way one would have imagined a true earth mother would go out.

The self-proclaimed bada** fighter pilot, Blair Williams, played by bi-racial Asian American Moon Bloodgood, spends much of her infamous fight scene knocked out or off screen while Marcus comes to her rescue. She does get in a few good punches, but there is considerable screen time where she is literally passed out on screen or missing from the shot all together. She is quickly reduced to “girlfriend” or “love sick” as a result of her “hero coming to the rescue.” Despite having been in the resistance long enough to be one of Connor’s major confidants, Williams sells him out within 24 hours for a man no one is actually sure is still human. She even tells him the Resistance code language in a similarly ignorant move; given that not all of the humans are on board with the Resistance, spelling out their special code to mark hideouts to a man she just met is unthinkable. Accept, you know, she’s a girl and he’s hot. And tkatedespite all of the talk about humanity, her brothers in arms turn on her with the same 5 second precision when she “ma[kes] her choice.”

Kate Connor, the resistance physician, is Connor’s pregnant wife. She spends the bulk of the film giving him longing glances and acting as his comforter in a world that just doesn’t understand what he is going through. (cue small violins please; seriously, Thomas Dekker did angst and conflict much better than Bale did in these scenes with Howard. I found myself wondering why these moments were included when all they did was negatively engender Howard’s character and take away from Bale’s mostly spot on performance; maybe the DP was walking by again.) While Kate clearly has the skills, she lacks an intelligible subjecthood in her own right. Those who remember T3 will find the transition from Claire Danes to Bryce Howard’s Kate a serious decline in the depiction of an outspoken and free thinking equal to John Connor.  If we think about Sarah Connor’s transformation from T1 to T2, Kate’s transformation is a complete reversal. Where she should have been getting stronger, she is turning into supporting cast. And again, this is the reason the storyline would have benefited from starting back at terminator_4_Claire_Danes_2the bunker where Kate still wasn’t sure she liked John all that much.  We could have seen her develop the skills that made her the Resistance’s key physician; remember, at the end of T3 she was a veterinarian not a medical student. We could watch her grow closer to Connor as they fought alongside one another to build the Resistance. And then the pregnant, doting-eyed, Kate would be a single facet of a complex women. The failure to do that, More than leaves those of us who remember T3 concerned about what this means if the death of John Connor is not ultimately prevented, as it was not in T3. (And for the record, I do think that is the moment T3 went off the rails, b/c according to T1 John Connor was moments from destroying Skynet tjessewhen Kyle was sent back in time. “Skynet was defeated” and its last ditch effort was to send Arnold back. If that is true, there is no way that Skynet would have had time to kill John Connor and send back the T-X while Kate Connor modified a T-800 to send back to stop it.) To her credit, Howard  infused the character with enough strength that I think given the right script and character development can turn Kate Connor back into something more than John’s care taker.

Ultimately, both Kate Connor and Blair Williams could have taken a page from Jesse Flores, a bi-racial Latina character played by bi-racial Portuguese-Asian Aussie Stephanie Jacobson, who was both bada** and loyal. She was in love with Kyle’s brother and tstaroften motivated by the death of their unborn child. However, she managed to balance feminine with strength in ways these two characters miss. She also had many fight scenes in which no man needed to come to her rescue. In some ways, I noted a bit of Jesse in Howard’s Kate that I am looking forward to seeing in the next installment.

The other major, but likely to be overlooked part, played by young African American actress Jadagrace, is a young girl who can hear the HKs and other Terminators coming before anyone else can. Her skills are invaluable to keeping Kyle Reese and ultimately John Connor alive. Though they actually carry her around like a rag doll prop in one scene (seriously, both Marcus and Yelchin tuck her under their arm and run about the set with her little legs flopping out from under their thick arms), she is also ever vigilant. She is the one who discovers the nuclear power cells that Reese and Connor use to hide behind in an outmatched fight (unfortunately no one covered their flank so it didn’t work) and she is the one who picks up the lost tstar1detonator switch and makes sure it is back in Connor’s hand at the critical moment.  She is also the one who finds Reese when Connor can’t and saves him from the Terminator.

On one level, her “disability” and how it enhances her abilities rather than “cripples them” is a testament to an anti-ablist narrative in the film. Little Star is watched over by all of the key players in the cast as a valuable member, and as I said, she is also mostly watching out for all of them.

At the same time, her skill replaces those of dogs in the franchise. As Kyle Reese painstakingly explains to Sarah Connor, dogs can hear the Terminators coming and can also sniff out “skin jobs” so they are “invaluable in the future.” Through injeepflashback sequences in T1, we see the dogs save Reese’s life and they are an ever present part of the series from that point forward. It’s as if McG has forgotten the basic tenants of the Terminator universe, even as he uses the infamous photo of Sarah Connor with a dog at her side. While those who do not remember this fact will happy with the depiction of both ability and blackness represented here, we cannot forget that in McG’s universe, the dog is replaced by a little black girl.

I also kept being reminded of the anti-hero in Wolverine played by Ryan Reynolds/Scott Adkins. General Stryker had his mouth sewn shut and then permanently sealed b/c he thought he talked to much. I couldn’t help but wonder if the natural haired black girl who couldn’t speak was a similar motif, in which she was welcomed for her cuteness and her smarts but Terminator Salvation: The Future Beginsexpected to be silent and shoved to the margin without complaint. You make think I am taking this too far, but when most black people in film are wise cracking side kicks, including little-Mr-needed-to-shut-up Jaden Smith in The Day the Earth Stood Still, the decision to make a silent black girl character, especially one that replaces a dog, cannot be overlooked.

The other black character in the film is played by ever pleasant on the eyes Common. He is under utilized in this film which is unfortunate. Common was one of the only entertaining parts of Smokin Aces and did a compelling tho throwaway part in last summer’s Wanted. If he’d been given a larger role, he would have made this film even more male centered but at least justified his presence. While he was never demeaned in this role and was clearly a trusted part Terminator Salvation: The Future Beginsof the team, it was hard to take him seriously as little more than background given that even the critical conflict between him and Marcus stemming from the death of his brother was handled with such short shrift. I can only hope he is given more to do in T5.

As implied earlier, Bloodgood’s role is much larger than Common’s. While she never escapes gender stereotype, and again I say if all you are is the pretty-girlfriend-in-tight-pants-and-low-cut-top then it doesn’t matter if you can carry a gun, the film does avoid typical anti-Asian gendered depictions of Williams. When Williams is attacked by 4 men who intend to rape her, they do not make engendered racist comments that dot much of N. American films particularly summer blockbusters staring Asian women. Where I expected something akin to Bruce Willis’ offensive comments in the resurrection fo the Die Hard franchise, McG gave us a scene that firmly demonized the male rapists and left much of their sexist and all of their potentially engendered racist comments to the viewers’ imaginations.

In fact, where McG fails in overestimating the entertainment value of multiple explosions, he exceeds at a vision of the future that actually reflects the diversity of the present. Soldiers and civilians alike are peopled with both white people and people of color, women and men, elders, youth, and 3o somethings, able-bodied and differently-abled. The crowd scenes also reflect the California landscape, which despite conservative Californian’s efforts, is a multi-lingual and multi-racial place. Thus people speak Asian languages and Spanish alongside English. Unfortunately, for all of the raciallinda-hamilton-terminator diversity in the film, Latin@s are still missing as characters in their own right. Relegating them to the background is one of the only major issues with race in this film I can really find. From crowd scenes to one liners to important characters, McG has done a better job than almost everyone else in ensuring visual diversity and up against Night at the Museum that casts white actors as Africans and Middle Easterners, it’s a shame the box office didn’t turn out differently.

T4 is one of the first big blockbuster films to envision a diverse world in which most of that diversity is positive. No one but Bryan Singer has managed to do that in a really long time and as long as McG returns to the original feminism of Cameron’s Sarah Connor then I think the women in this planned trilogy will also come into their own right in the end. Unfortunately for now, while there are lot of talented actresses, and critical female roles, in the film there are no women or girls who transcend gender stereotypes. At the same time, while Star Trek gave us the worst cast female cameo ever, T4 gives us the best one.

As implied there are no queer characters in this film.

The Machines

McG is also trying to be innovative with the Terminators themselves in this film to varying success. On the one hand, he t600gives us highly skilled water and road Terminators and on the other, devolved robots. In the T4 special, McG explained that he took the models from the original movies and intentionally devolved them in order to show a progression in Skynet’s innovations. It makes sense that just as the progression from the T-800 to the T-1000 made huge leaps, the T-800s were a huge advance. What does not make sense, is that while the Terminators are devolved in this film, the water based and motorcycle models are as evolved as non-liquid based technology could be. How do these two technologies exist? And why is McG so careful in his thinking about the Terminator models while violating one of the key tenants of the franchise: Terminators cannot swim. If Skynet can make vicious eel like terminating machines then why couldn’t they figure out how to make the T series swim?

Visually, the T series comes across as clunky and behind the times. While I both understand and applaud McG’s thinking on this issue, from a viewer standpoint it was the wrong choice. Many people iterminator_salvation_movie_image_christian_bale the audience I was in were bored by the T series, as evidenced by text messaging, talking, etc. To me, they came across as poorly funded Saturday movies on the Scifi channel or z-rate scifi from the 80s, hardly scary to a generation raised on CGI. The eels were much more terrifying. However, they not only exposed a logic gap but also seemed stolen from the Matrix (much like the supposed recap verbage at the beginning was out of place homage to Star Wars).

There is also a surprising cameo related to the T series which had this Terminator fan giddy. My companion guffawed and when I asked her about it later, she said “oh please. Isn’t he like the governor?!” While she thought seeing an “old” politician on screen was ridiculous, having not seen any of the prior films but knowing Arnold played the original Terminator, I thought it was both amazing and creepy. Creepy b/c we now have a freakish explanation for why the original series looked like Arnold; I mean, it is a Californian company and Californian lab thatterminator-salvation_71produces them . . . Talk about real life shifting the meaning of art. The rise of Arnold was much scarier than Tom Hanks drivel about statues in Angels and Demons.

One of the other major logic gaps related to the machines in this film is the existence of Marcus himself. I cannot give away the plot, but suffice it to say that if Marcus is a hybrid, why is he the only one? And if his body is 90% metal then what does his heart do and how are both it and his brain (which has been chipped ala the T series from the TV show Sarah Connor Chronicles) uncorrupted by Skynet?

Conclusions

Ultimately, if you are willing to ride through the first 1/2 hour of the film, you won’t be disappointed. The movie pays homage to many of the others in the franchise, including resurrecting beloved lines and characters. It also follows the storytmarcusandjohn Reese tells in T1 fairly accurately while violating some of the storyline from T3. While John Connor is certainly not the most compelling character in T4 (people actually laughed at the Batman like growling Bale did in much of the early scenes in the theater I was in), Yelchin’s Kyle Reese is  a profound presence from beginning to end and Sam Worthington and the character Marcus Wright do not disappoint.

While there are major logic gaps throughout the plot that if you discuss them long enough will completely undermine the entire film and the franchise, I think most people are willing to giver Terminator some leeway. Ultimately, if McG and his writers clean up some of the logic, focus their lens back on the question that plagues the majority of us, ie “what makes Connor exceptional,” and trusts his actors and his scripts more than his explosions, the new trilogy will shine as bright as the original. If not, there is always the final episode of TSC which blew this movie out of the water.

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all images come from Terminator Salvation and are the property of Warner Bros Studios except

  • Ben Stiller. Night at the Museum II. Dir Ben Stiller. studios
  • Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese. Terminator. Dir James Cameron. MGM, 1984.
  • Claire Danes as Kate Brewster. Terminator: Rise of the Machines. Dir. Johnathon Mastow. Warner Bros. 2003.
  • Stephanie Jacobs as Jesse Flores y Brian Austin Green as Derek Reese. “Today is the Day Pt. 1” Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. Writer James Cameron. Fox. 2009.
  • Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor w/her dog. Terminator.
  • Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Terminator: Judgment Day. Dir James Cameron. Lion’s Gate, 1991.

Gay Mayor Takes on Immigration

LOWNX3904 time Mayor of San Angelo, Tx, resigned today in order to both uphold U.S. laws and remain with his partner. His relationship is the latest casualty in the ongoing heterosexist immigration policy of N. America.

JW Lown missed his Tuesday swearing in ceremony to go to Mexico with his partner who was living in N. America as an undocumented person after his education visa expired. Lown wanted to help him re-enter the U.S. through legal means.

If U.S. marriage policies extended to all consenting adults and U.S. immigration policy included the right for gay families to petition for their loved ones, Lown and his partner would not have had to leave the U.S. Were our laws set up to honor loving partnerships between consenting adults regardless of gender or sexuality, they could have made a legal commitment to one another that reflected their emotional one; that commitment would have extended the rights of citizenship accordingly.  There is no telling how many immigrants and bi-national families have left this country because of these unequal standards.

While Lown and his partner’s plan should garner him a visa to re-enter, as long as no one puts a hold on his application for staying beyond the terms of his original education visa, visas are temporary. And U.S immigration policy continues to exclude queer families even in those states in which gay marriage is legal. Foreign nationals who are legally married in their own countries are also met with similar heterosexist laws when trying to enter the U.S. Alternative ways to gain citizenship granted heterosexual applicants, include: asylum (which as of now is rarely granted on the basis of homophobia in one’s home country alone), the diversity visa (limited to people from underrepresented countries & not available to those in the country without documents), obtaining skilled worker status (must be applied for by an employer & only good for 3-6 years).  None of these solutions create equity in the immigration laws governing the U.S. nor do they grant permanent status to bi-national queer couples who, if straight, would have access to family re-unification.

Then presidential-candidate Obama promised that he would extend family reunification protections to queer families as part of his immigration reform package outlined on his website. As of now, HR1024, the Uniting American Families Act, has not been passed despite 99 co-sponsors in the House and 19 in the Senate. As you can imagine, this puts loving families in jeopardy across this nation.

The community that elected openly gay Mayor Lown for 4 terms has responded to his attempt to uphold the law and love at the same time, by taking down all reference to the Mayor on the city’s website. Even his basic greeting that outlines the city’s history and makes no mention of him and/or his leadership, except for his singature at the bottom, has been removed. At the time of writing this, the main page for the city’s website was completely blank as a result.

This is a sad end to a Mayor the head of the ASU Government Department once described as “more than just a symbol of the city.” Until late in 2007 he had “never seen a cause he advocated go down to defeat” (Go San Angelo). In his tenure, he spearheaded sam.adamsschool and city street improvement initiatives, lowered taxes, and committed to leadership that included the education of both himself and his constituents on the issues impacting their city. Inspired by his own learning disability, he started two school based initiatives to help students become life long readers. When he made mistakes he owned them publicly and committed to being better educated about them in the future. And he did all of this on a salary of $50/month.

His decision to resign further illustrates his commitment to honesty, legality, and education that has defined his career.

Lown’s decision to leave office is not only brave but also helps to raise awareness of the ongoing plight of queer families because of DOMA and heterosexist immigration laws. While it is sad to see him go, it is nice to see a gay Mayor taking a positive stand on immigration after the Cesar Chavez street debacle in Oregon in which then-Mayoral candidate Sam Adams publicly denounced the Latino Coalition and its allies in a racially contentious & sometimes anti-immigrant meeting about the street, then upset the Asian immigrant and API communities by trying to move the street to China Town, before declaring “some people” (ie immigrants of color) unreasonable on a national television report.

We can all take a page from Lown’s example and I hope that we do.