Tag Archives: Michelle Trachtenberg

Cultural Catchup Project – “The Body” (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

“The Body”

August 5th, 2010

You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.

One of the qualities about the Cultural Catchup Project which many of you seem to enjoy is the ability to witness someone experience the show for the first time. However, you’ve likely all noticed to this point that, in my case, the emotional side of that is largely obscured by critical analysis: in fact, you need to read between the lines to find a true “personal reflection” in the majority of my reviews.

This isn’t a purposeful attempt to keep myself out of these reviews, nor is it a sign that I am a soulless automaton. Rather, it’s simply the way I approach television: Cultural Learnings tends to operate in a solely critical capacity, and the Cultural Catchup Project has been no exception.

However, I could tell from the response to my tweets about watching “The Body” that separating myself emotionally from the episode would be impossible, both because of how affecting the episode was and because of the admonishing I’d rightfully receive from the regular readers. I do intend to offer a few critical insights, and it is quite likely that those critical insights will end up being quite elaborate, but I also want to make sure that my experience watching “The Body” is collected as part of this project. While I think that this is a truly fantastic piece of work from Joss Whedon, even more important than the text itself is the text’s influence on its audience, and I hope to try to do both justice.

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Cultural Catchup Project: The Functionality of Ms. Dawn Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

The Functionality of Ms. Dawn Summers

July 19th, 2010

You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.

The conclusion to “Buffy vs. Dracula” is one of those moments where I wish I could go back in time and experience it without any future knowledge: the somewhat divisive introduction of Dawn Summers into the series’ narrative was something which I have known about since I started the series, but I had no idea that it was first introduced like this.

I had the benefit of being able to watch “Real Me” before writing about “Buffy vs. Dracula,” but if I had been a critic at the time, and if I had been following the usual episodic review strategy, I don’t know how I would have managed to really analyze the premiere without diverting the discussion towards “WTF”-like exclamations in regards to the conclusion. Every season begins with an uncertainty about what is about to follow, but the way Dawn is dropped into the narrative is the sort of risk which seems brazen to the point of self-destruction.

Through the first Disc of the season, the details surrounding Dawn’s arrival remain shrouded in mystery beyond a few clues, but her function within the story is much more apparent. She is an excuse to step outside of the comforts of the Scoobies, rethinking what it means to be a part of the group and seeing the existing dynamics in a new light.

And in a way, she’s sort of like Lost’s Flash Sideways.

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Season Finale – Gossip Girl – “Much ‘I Do’ About Nothing”

“Much ‘I Do’ About Nothing”

May 19th, 2008

This one is a bit late, but only because last night was a bit earlier than my previous ones. Considering the traffic that my review of January’s mid-season finale is getting, there’s a lot of people who want to see how Gossip Girl’s first season turns out, particularly in terms of the various romantic couplings the series is too often defined by.

That being said, the bigger issue is that this particular episode is defined by three separate relationships each with their own relative quality. As we wait and see how the Dan and Serena melodrama unfolds, or how the Lily/Rufus love destiny resolves itself, excuse me if I care far more about the delicious pairing of Blair and Chuck that the series has been playing with.

Yes, Chuck is the best part of this finale: smarmy with a purpose, charming with his usual edge, caring even through his usual harsh exterior. That he and Nate settle their rivalry, and that we discover his true feelings for Blair, is the part of the episode we relish in – meanwhile, the other storylines feel less resonant when the show has done them before (Lily and Rufus-style) and lack their explosive spark (Georgina disappears fifteen minutes in). Of course, even that part becomes a bit overplayed by the time the episode concludes.

So as we leave for the summer, which will be filled in by five episodes of material to come in August, everything is topsy turvy, and none of it is overly positive in my eyes.

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Gossip Girl – “Woman on the Verge”

“Woman on the Verge”

May 12th, 2008

Last week, Serena van der Woodsen revealed something that had the potential to cripple the entire series. “I killed someone” isn’t something that a show can just ignore, or gloss over – or, at least, not quite so quickly that this episode should approach anything close to normalcy. For her to interact with any characters in this situation would drag everything down. Luckily, at this point in the story, only Blair knows the truth, so everyone else can presume that it is only a downward spiral in her usual vein.

It’s a certain tragic note that fits the series well enough, although on occasion Serena’s complicity in continuing the lie of why she fell off the rails, and destroying her relationship with Dan, feels too melodramatic by half. I’m never a fan of characters who, after admitting what happened to one person, ignores the logical course of setting things straight and instead chooses to hide things – it’s a teen soap cliche that just doesn’t work for me.

There’s a lot of chiches at play here, almost too many – whether its Lily’s past with Rufus giving her cold feet, or Dan falling right into Georgina’s arms after the breakup, things are at such a low difficulty level that the execution needs to be excellent for the episode to really click. Even after the truth of the incident comes out, and it is expectedly exonerative of Serena to the point of contrivance, it just feels like the show isn’t willing to pull punches when it counts.

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Gossip Girl – “Desperately Seeking Serena”

“Desperately Seeking Serena”

April 28th, 2008

It’s SAT time on Gossip Girl, as our heroes and heroines are obsessing over their futures. Of course, how can one study for the future when your past is haunting you before you can even get there? Georgina Sparks is a dangerous catalyst of the old Serena, a Monday night synergy moment where it appears that Serena has a case of associative regression: when she’s around, something clicks inside of her.

Michelle Trachtenberg (Buffy) arrives on the scene just as Serena’s life seems too idyllic for this drama-filled universe – we are to believe based on the hype that even being stepsiblings with Chuck Bass is a cakewalk compared to weathering the arrival of this character. Here she is, with her entire academic future on the line, and now she has to try to avoid waking up an angry ghost from her, still, mysterious past.

Smartly, the rest of the episode avoided the uber-drama in favour of romantic entanglements of the adorable and/or intriguing variety, along with Blair’s usual scheming and Dan’s usual neuroses. It’s a sign of a show finding its balance, a show capable of taking its storylines and making them into something that affects the entire cast. Much as the pregnancy storyline before the break didn’t break down into something dominating, so too goes Georgie’s arrival on the scene.

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