Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bedlam: Season 1, Episode 2: Driven

So we return again to ghost central! And within 5 minutes of the episode starting I am given my reason for watching this programme – Theo James in a towel. What? I need something to encourage me to keep watching. Alas, Kate wants him to put some clothes on to do some handyman work... hmm... maybe a toolbelt.

Anyway, I digress. Molly's friend Zoe is still missing and Molly is going on blind dates, Kate is still sleep walking and hallucinating and being a not-very-pleasant person and Ryan's upset about his brother's killer coming up for parole. I dunno, not doing much but this episode follows the much distracted Leah (I don't blame it the 4 main characters of this programme don't exactly lead fascinating lives), another resident of Bedlam heights and Molly's new friend – who keeps seeing spooky tire tracks, ghosts in her car and spectral car trouble. Her car keeps breaking down but she daren't take it to a garage because it belongs to an abusive ex who has probably reported it stolen – if it goes into a garage, he can probably find Leah.

So Jed is looking for the ghost while pretending to fix Leah's car that its haunting – and Ryan is playing research assistant. And in their research they find there's a terrible thing in her past she's running from – and the deaths that are the real reason the ghost is pursuing her. And Molly's friendship with her is sorely tested with the revelation – as well as some pointed questions as to the reason for the friendship in the first place.

The Vampire Diaries Season Three, Episode Seven: Ghost World

Once again, Mystic Falls had another founders celebration. This week they were celebrating Illumination Night.  Apparently, they lit lanterns to tell the town that it was safe to come out at night again, after they had entombed all of the vampires.  I am really sick and tired of the weekly celebrations of the former slave owners.  Of course, The Vampire Diaries creators don't see it that way, but this is the truth of the matter.  

It seems that when Bonnie sent Vicky back to the other side she opened up a door that allowed all of the ghosts that had unfinished business to walk the town.  Because Elena was thinking of Lexy, Stefan's friend he came back and because the tomb vampires had unfinished business with the founders they came back with the aim of killing the descendants.  Mason came back to find a weapon to kill Klaus in order to save Tyler.

Wrapped up in all of the ghost appearances, there was a lot of relationship angst.  It started with Jeremy and Anna holding hands and then quickly escalated him to kissing her.  When Elena walked in on the shared kiss, Jeremy begs her not to tell Bonnie, but Elena tells him that after they finish with the witch business that he is going to tell her himself.  Of course, keeping Bonnie in the dark does not last long, and Caroline tells her about the kiss.  

To break the curse, Bonnie needs to destroy the necklace and so Caroline heads over to Damon's house to search for it.  When she cannot find it, Caroline tells Jeremy that Anna must have it.  Anna denies taking it but but Caroline tells Jeremy to wake up and open his eyes.  Enter Elena to save the day.  Elena tells her Anna that Jeremy has whole life ahead of him and they she is holding him back.  Jeremy tells Elena that he loves Anna.  The guilt finally gets to Anna and she hands over the necklace.  She says that she only took it because she does not want to be alone any longer.  Jeremy tells her that just because she will loose her foothold that it doesn't mean that he will stop seeing and interacting with her and then he guesses that what she real wants is to find Pearl.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How Much Would You Pay to have Lunch with Kristin Bauer Van Straten and Alexander Skarsgård?

The cast and crew of True Blood recently ran a charity auction for the Jesse James Cartwright Fund. Jesse was a member of the True Blood transportation crew and he lost his life earlier this year, leaving behind his wife and three children. The auction is to raise money for his family. I think that this was a wonderful cause for the cast and crew to get behind. I bet you're wondering how much lunch with Skarsgård and Kristin Bauer Van Straten for.

 Nope, your eyes did not deceive you. This auction closed for 28,500.00 dollars. This btw does not include flight or accommodation.  Though the money went to a worthy cause, you know damn well that the reason for this high bid was the chance to be on the True Blood set and the chance to Kirstin and Alexander.  This person must be one die hard True Blood fan.  How much would you have been willing to spend to meet these two and what question would you must like to ask?

Review: Spider's Revenge by Jennifer Estep. Book 5 of the Elemental Assassin's series

The plot was simple yet epic. It wasn't complicated with nuances and twists and there's not a lot to summarise of it without going outright into spoilers. Gin has reached the final showdown. Her or Mab. Mab has been targetting her sister too often and while Gin can hide her identity and be the ghost biting at Mab's flanks, Bria cannot. And the longer this fight continues, the longer Gin keeps to the shadows and plays the long game against Mab, the more and more danger Bria is in.

Especially now. Mab has put her vast resources on the table and sent out a call to every bounty hunter in the country. The Spider – dead or alive. Or Bria, Gin's baby sister, alive only. Except, with some of these bounty hunters, “alive” covers a great deal – and Mab herself certainly never hesitates at torture.

And this book is the showdown. Gin avoiding the bounty hunters and aiming to kill Mab, by magic or blade, even though Mab I the most powerful elemental there's been for 500 years. One way or another, she has to die and the people Gin loves have to be kept safe.

It is a direct plot. There are no side-plots, there are no real twists, no shades. This is an epic confrontation, the end game – side plots would be a distraction at this point and twists wouldn't make sense when we consider the careful planning of the Spider. Neither would fit this story and I'm glad they're not there. This is about one thing – Mab vs Gin and it isn't distracted from that.

Traumatised Youth in Urban Fantasy

'tears' photo (c) 2009, fairuz othman - license:
What shocked us most about this trope, as we went through our Book Review Master list, was how common this trope was. Literally, we went down our master list and struggled to find series where this trope didn’t apply. No, seriously - nearly every last series we’ve read included this trope. It has become less of a trope and more of a requirement in the genre.

Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series has Kate with a dead mother, a dead stepfather and a hard childhood training to be a killer

Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series has Gin who was tortured and her parents were murdered when Gin was a child.

L A Banks’ Vampire Huntress series has Damali who lost her parents to vampires and demons when she was a baby

Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series has Harry orphaned and then raised by an abusive (and evil) wizard.

Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series has Kat’s mother raped by a vampire who then brought Kat up to loathe herself.

Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire series has Sookie as a sexually abused orphan

LJ Smith’s Vampire Diaries has Elena and Jeremy both as having recently lost their parents.

The very premise of the Secret Circle requires that all 6 witches have lost a parent - or two.

Kelley Armstong’s Otherworld series sets new records with unhappy childhoods - Elena lost her parents as a child and was traumatised watching them die then went through a series of foster homes when she was sexually abused. Clay was abused as a child and ran away. Jeremy’s father was abusive. Jaime’s father was dead and her mother was (and is) abusive.

Laurell K Hamilton smashes Kelly Armstrong’s record - Anita lost her mother, Jason had an abusive father, Stephen and Gregory had a sexually abusive father, Nathanial had an abusive father - and of course Meredith Gentry has been beaten, tortured and faced repeated attempted murders by her aunt and uncle and has an abusive mother. The majority of the characters have an abusive or tragic past.

I could go on - Morgan Rice’s Vampire Journals, Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thomas series, Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments, Yasmine Galenorn’s Sisters of the Moon, Seressia Glass’ Shadowchasers, Kim Harrison’s Hollows, Vicki Petterson’s Zodiac series, Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring, Lauren Dane’s Goddess with a Blade - on and on, but tragic childhoods seem to be standard throughout the genre - an inclusive list would literally involve referring to nearly every book we’ve read and every series we’ve watched. It’s almost as thought the authors believe that the reader cannot identify with protagonist unless they are suitably traumatised in some manner. And we’re not talking about loss of a parent - we most certainly know that there are innumerable single parent households where the children have had happy and joyful childhoods. But these are not them. Perhaps the greatest link between these childhoods is not so much the loss of a parent - but suffering, tragedy, pain and angst.

In some ways the ubiquitous nature of lost parents and suffering children makes it impossible to absorb the impact of any of them. It reminds me of Monty Python’s 4 Yorkshireman sketch (originally taken from “At Last the 1948 Show” It has reached the point where it's almost a competition). I can see it now:

Author A: My protagonist had a sad childhood, no-one understood her.
Author B: Well, my protagonist was misunderstood and had a tragic accident
Author C: My protagonist was misunderstood AND lost her best friend
Author A: hah, well My protagonist lost her best friend who died in front of her
Author C: in front of her? My protagonist was splattered by the blood
Author B: Well my protagonist lost her mother - who died tragically in front of her AND was splattered by the blood
Author A: Well MY protagonist lost her mother AND her father and held their hands as they died
Author C: My protagonist lost her parents and was tortured horribly my vampires for 2 weeks
Author B: 2 weeks? My protagonist dreamed of only being tortured for 2 weeks! She was tortured for 10 years!
Author A: MY protagonist was tortured for 100 years in a special pocket dimension of torture!
Author C: My protagonist was tortured in the pocket dimension of torture AND sexual abuse...

And so on and so on. It has reached a point where I read of a character with a terrible, tragic past and I feel no impact from it. It has been so over done that it has lost its emotional impact. It has been used and abused so often as a form of cheap and quick drama that it is demeaned and diminished. I dislike intensely that these life changing and often horrific experiences are reduced to cheap drama and empty characterisation.

And it is empty. Very rarely do these characters have much in the way of long term effects from their traumatic experiences. We rarely see any of them seek therapy, or any kind of help to deal with their past. At best we see a few nightmares or sad moments designed to make them look tragic (or to add a brief barrier in the romance before the magical healing sexing kicks in) rather than to analyse the effects of the abuse. It is offensive that these real life horrendous experiences are treated so cheaply and used so casually without the respect and caution that they deserve. I also believe that this minimises the difficulties of people who suffer with PTSD and similar issues. How many times does true love - or even just good sex - cure the troubled heart, the hurt mind and the scarred soul? Major mental illnesses, extreme past trauma, doesn’t disappear on the wave of a magic wand or by applying a penis the size of one’s forearm. It sets up the idea that if you just push the trauma aside it will either dissipate or become easier to live with over time, or that it is easily solved and cured. To be clear, these are life shattering events and it would not be a weakness to seek help nor are they always cured.

So why do we have this repeated? Well it’s easy characterisation. The traumatic past sets the protagonist up as an underdog, the wounded character that we’re supposed to feel sorry for. By being pitiable we’re supposed to instantly root for the character - we want her to succeed and do well simply because she has been through so much. It’s instant (and lazy) way to get us to identify with the protagonist and to like them. And, again, that is problematic because these really devastating experiences are being used so cheaply - so disrespectfully.

Another usage for the loss of parents also works in a way that it leaves the female protagonist open to the influence of the supernatural. They are isolated, vulnerable and often lacking role models or people they can trust to advise them. In some ways this adds to the predatory nature of many of these relationships especially when we also consider the age gap between the supernatural creature and the, often, school aged protagonist. They are easy prey - wounded, alone and often with less support - which is, in some ways, further victimising them.

Many of these traumatic experiences are also outright abusive. The thing about growing in an abusive situation, is that it is far more often that when one matures the abuse is so normalized that when it occurs again it is seen as acceptable. There is no recognition that they are repeating the past or how the past has influenced their decision to accept clearly abusive relationships. That the woo is used to excuse the violence, stalking and manipulation ends up giving them cause to justify their repeated acceptance of this behaviour thus continuing the cycle.

Of course this is all serves to enforce the role of woman as victim and is therefore highly sexist. Women are not the heroes of their own stories and are only redeemed by the love that enters their life rather than finding the inner strength to seek help or to refute the abuse entirely with a declaration that they deserve more out of love, life and relationships.

All in all, this trope of abused and traumatic childhood is problematic on many levels. It cheapens and exploits severe abuse. It demeans how much this affects your life and it uses severe abuse not as a topic to explore in itself - but as a tool to be used for cheap and easy characterisation. These topics deserve better - and, really, is it really that necessary for every protagonist to be that tragic?

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Okay, I found the following letter on tumblr and it cracked me up and so I am sharing with you.  If anyone knows who the author is please leave it in the comment section, as I would love to give them credit for their work.

Dear Alexander Skarsgård,

Stay away from my wife.

I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this relationship and I’m not about to let you swoop in with your slicked back blonde hair, black leather jacket, and impossibly good looks and steal my wife.  I refuse to let you waltz into my home (after being invited in) and use your trendy vampire skills to take a bloody bite out of the sanctity of my marriage. You don’t fool me for one second Mr. Skarsgård — I know you’re not really a vampire. My wife on the other hand, she appears to be too busy swooning to know the difference.

Until this horrible vampire fad passes and she snaps out of it, stay the hell away from my wife.

I know she loves me, but clearly your influence is something beyond her conscious control. On Sunday night as I sit dutifully by her side on the couch during True Blood, I can’t help but notice how she looks at the TV. She stares beyond the plasma screen hoping that if she concentrates hard enough she’ll be transported right into the broadly drawn stereotype that is Bon Temps, Louisiana.

Do you know how tough it is to watch the future mother of my children sexually mesmerized like that? Of course you don’t — you just glamour any woman you want with your vampire stud powers and drag her down to your underground sex chamber.

This vampire bullshit does not follow the rules of engagement. Let’s just pretend that my wife is garlic encased in sterling silver outside at noon on a hot summer day.

Why couldn’t we just battle this out on a level playing field? East Coast software guy with social anxiety versus Swedish actor once nominated for a Guldbagge Award. That’s a battle I feel like I can win. But instead you’ve got to stack the deck and make sure that every couple of episodes contain a completely unnecessary extended shot of your naked ass. It’s essentially another vampire spell, just with more sweaty glistening ass. You’ve also cameoed in both the movie Zoolander and Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi video. If that doesn’t completely corner the tastes of the world’s women (and I suppose gay men as well), I don’t know what does. Don’t try so hard Skarsgård, it’s kind of pathetic.

Would you prefer to hear it in your native tongue? Stanna borta från min hustru.

The vampire killer in me has been awakened and I won’t rest until my wife notices my own sexual inadequacies during our occasional lovemaking sessions rather than envisioning a pale Swedish vampire on my also pale, but otherwise completely different frame. I’ve read ahead in the Sookie Stackhouse books and the good guys win.

In conclusion: Stay away from my wife.



The Stars of The Vampire Diaries Share their Halloween Plans

When you get to be a vampire or a werewolf everyday, it must be hard to come up with something truly awesome to wear for Halloween. Watch as the cast gives it their best shot.

American Horror Story, Season One, Episode Four: Halloween: Part 1

This episode opens with Chad carving pumpkins in an attempt to make the house pretty to sell it.  Patrick and Chad  immediately get into an argument, when Chad tells him to wear a condom when he goes to the gym, because he suspects that he is screwing his twink trainer. Patrick admits that he is having an affair and says, "I don't give a shit about carving pumpkins, I want love, I want a relationship with a man not Martha Stewart." Chad responds with, "Then leave. Oh you can't, I forgot all of your money and mine is tied up in this house, which we agreed to flip and make a mint on, but now we can't because the economy is in the shitter". Patrick reminds Chad that they were going to have a baby and a great life.  It's seems just like Ben and Vivien, the house plays a major part in ruining their relationship.  While Chad is carving pumpkins, a man appears dressed in Black leather from head to toe and then proceeds to throw Chad across the room and drown him in his bobbing for apples station.  When Patrick walks in, he finds the man and a very dead Chad.  

For the record, this is the second death of a gay man that we have seen in a scant four episodes on this show.  I think it is highly problematic that the only people who seem to die on a regular basis are women and gay men. The portrayal of Chad and Patrick's relationship falling apart was very real and true; however, why do we need a dichotomy between a BUTCH man and a camp man in a relationship? Why does there always have to be one of each? Ah yes, gender roles. Being camp in and of itself isn't problematic, it's that gay men are always constructed as camp in the media.  There is also the issue that despite the fact that we are dealing with people of the same sex, the media often tries to model gay couples after heterosexual couples.

In the present day, Vivian and Ben are still trying to sell the house to no avail.  They accuse Marcy of not trying hard enough, and she suggests a fluffer.  That was a quaint use of the word, considering that a fluffers function is to give male porn stars erections. She recommends a woman and a gay man.Yes, a gay guy who just happens to bean interior designer, and note that gay is part of his qualification. She's not saying "oh I have these two people who can do it" no, no - he's a gay. Because it's an interior designer that they are discussing, the GAY is important. Can you imagine saying "oh hey, I have a straight mechanic to fix your car?" or "hey you're ill? I know a bisexual doctor!"The other point worth mentioning is that Marcy suggested gay men, which leads me to believe she knows more about the house than she has previously indicated.  Is she even alive?

The other issue with Chad and Patrick's appearance on the show was the vicious snipping - remember they are supposed to be working for Ben and Constance. If that were not enough, when Ben goes upstairs with Patrick to take care of a cut, Patrick comes onto him by grabbing his crotch and says, "Come on Ben, we're the same I can tell. You play the role of the dutiful house husband, but you like having that cock sucked often and well. I can do that four minutes, no one will know." When Ben tells him that he's not gay, Patrick responds by saying, "yeah, neither was I until I got head from a guy."  Yeah, that screams of predatory gay man trope. Ugh, gay men creeping on straight men and being predatory and sexually assaulting straight men is an awful vile trope. It is used to justifying beating them, killing them and as a legal defence over and over again. I'm sick of the trope and, frankly -- it hardly ever happens because gay men have to be extremely careful propositioning anyone.

Feast of Fools by Rachel Caine, Book 4 of the Morganville Vampires series

In the last book we were left with a cliffhanger. The Bishop, Amelie's father has come to town – and so has Claire's parents. The Bishop is dangerous, threatening and powerful...

And we open the book basically in the same situation. Big threatening bad guy and Claire's parents hanging round. And then we enter a holding pattern. I said the same thing about Midnight Alley and, sadly, I have to say it again, there's very little plot to review.

There are events. Claire spends a long time worrying about the big bad vampires, worrying about her dad, worrying about Shane, worrying about Myrnin in his cage, worrying about, well just about everything. But nothing actually happens. No plot moves forwards, nothing is advanced. There are events – but even less of them than there were in the last book. Claire goes to university, Claire drinks coffee. Claire's relationship with Shane continues (without developing), Claire keeps studying the vampire disease, Eve's brother Jason hangs around and is creepy. Eve's father dies and they go to the funeral. Shane and Claire go to the blood bank and give blood. Michael plays the guitar at Common Grounds and is good at it

I hate to present a long paragraph with just random bitten out events but that's pretty much the book.. Even in Midnight Alley there were more events to reference, but not here. I wouldn't mind if the events were good for foreshadowing or character development or world building, but even then there were too many of them without plot scenes interspaced - but most of them don't seem to add anything. They feel like filler scenes - and most of the book is like that. Worse, all of the foreshadowing of the Big Bad is told and told and told and told and never shown, it's vexing.

And it continues like this until we get to nearly 90% - and that is when the bad guys make their move, there is a great big showdown and the powerful, dramatic aftermath and hints of a long time campaign to come. Bishop makes his move, Amelie responds and fights back, lines are drawn, humans and vampires come together it looks like a rocking battle and a truly great story will begin here, filled with tension and reluctant alliances and fights for the whole town... except it started at 90%. It's really sad because she could have put this at the beginning of the book and gone on from there and actually had a fascinating plot. At least I have some hope for the next book

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stephen Moyer Is Not a Fan of Edward Cullen

I just lost it watching Stephen Moyer's take on Edward Cullen, (though using genitalia as a pejorative is not cool.) and hearing the reaction of the Twilight fanpoodles. Enjoy.

No, we're not picking on the Twilight juggernaut, this is just irresistible.

Lover Enshrined, by JR Ward, Book 6 of the Black Dagger Brotherhood

The plot for this book is actually surprisingly involved for the Black Dagger Brotherhood. While we do have a relationship between His Whineyness Phury and Cormia front and centre but it's relatively easy to ignore and you can see the true action beneath.

The Omega has decided to combat the Dhestroyer prophecy with both a new fore-lesser and to tap his son – the son of a powerful vampire aristocrat. Bringing him back into the fold not only brings a powerful warrior with terrifying abilities but also bringing with him powerful intelligence that allows the lessers to hit a lot of extremely high profile targets which in turn leads to the looming shadow of politics in the glymeria

John Matthew's story develops a lot with his relationship and the relationships between him, Baylock and Quinn growing. The trio are more firmly ensconced in the Black Dagger Brotherhood and I think these 3 are the most engaging characters in the series

Rehvenge has to continue to negotiate his half-sympath side, and the things he has to endure to keep it hidden. And to cap it all we have Lassiter, a fallen angel, coming to the Brotherhood with something they had lost

Wednesday Reboot: Vampires

Every Wednesday, we will bringing you an urban fantasy reboot and this involves taking a critical look at movies from the genre across the decades. This week, we will have a look at the 1998 movie staring James Woods, Daniel Baldwin and Sheryl Lee: Vampires.

This movie could easily go down as one of the worst films, I have ever had the misfortune to see.  For the purposes of full disclosure, I am going to admit right off the hop that James Woods is one of my least favorite actors of all time.  From the beginning, I could see why he was attracted to this role.  He got to play an ass kicking vampire slayer with a gun and a cross bow.

The basic premise of the movie is that a group of vampire hunters assembled by the Vatican roams around the states clearing out nests of vampires.  James Crow played by James Woods, was actually raised to be a vampire hunter after he killed his parents because they were bitten. In the first nest that Crow and his crew attempt to clear out the miss the master vampire but manage to get all those whom he sired.  This of course is cause for celebration and that means getting a hotel room, getting drunk, playing loud music and using the services of sex workers.  Crow is approached by Katrina played by Sheryl Lee for some one on one time and he hands her his key to wait for him.  While she is waiting, Jan Valek the master that he missed in the raid comes looking for his revenge. Valek bites Katrina on her thigh in a position that looks like he is going down on her and the proceeds to kill all of Crow's crew including their in house priest Father Giovanni.

Interview with Clay & Susan Griffith, authors of the Vampire Empire Series

This week, we're lucky to have a written interview with Clay and Susan Griffith, authors of the Vampire Empire series, The Greyfriar and TheRift Walker. Both books we enjoyed immensely and we're happy to fanpoodle shamelessly.

While we wait eagerly for the third installment in this series we have these 10 questions and their detailed answers to whet our appetites

1) Urban Fantasy is very popular right now and there are a lot of variations on the theme but they generally fit similar patterns - yet your world and series is very different from most of what has become standardised in the genre. What prompted you towards paranormal steampunk - and this era in history?

To be honest, we never set out to write either a paranormal or a steampunk book. We had a story in mind, and writing it naturally blended genres that intrigue and excite us. Alternate history, pulps, romance, action/adventure. We are both lovers of Victorian history and fiction. The steampunk and even the paranormal elements came out naturally from tampering with that timeline.

2) How much research did you do - both historic and mythological - for this series?

There is always a great deal of research done by both of us on every project. Being a two person team doesn’t always mean we are both fluent on a subject. Sometimes it is a passion of just one, which means the other has to play catch up. There are a lot of nights in libraries and scouring source books. We love reading autobiographies or travelogues from the period we are targeting. We hope it gives us a unique and more believable voice in developing characters.

3) Vampires are very established in our mythology and you put a new spin on several of the old legends (vulnerable to heat rather than sunlight, the effect of crucifixes, being born rather than turned  etc) When dealing with something with such an established canon, to what degree did you feel bound to follow these established traditions and how closely?

We certainly didn’t feel bound to follow tradition. Vampires have always been very flexible in fiction. Different authors take different paths. That said, we wanted to use many of the most familiar traditions and twist them to create something very new. Our vampires aren’t undead humans; they are a parasitic species bound by natural law. So we determined that our ancestors would have formed vampire myths to explain the mistunderstood behaviors of these strange, elusive predators. This allowed us to play with the mythology and to change it subtly, giving the readers something new but yet something familiar as well.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Buffy vs Edward

Okay, I simply couldn't resist. You know that you have thought about what would happen if these two were to ever meet.

Once Upon a Time: Season One, Episode One: Pilot

Okay, I know that this is a bit of a stretch but fairy tales are fantasy after all.  Sunday night was the ABC premier of Once Upon A Time staring,  Ginnifer Godwin, Jennifer Morrison,  and Robert Carlyle.  The story is based on the idea that fairy tale creatures are now living in the modern world but are unaware that they are fairy tale characters thanks to a spell by the wicked witch.  

The story begins with Snow White and the handsome Prince Charming.  As we all know, Snow White was presumed dead and the seven dwarfs were mourning her when Prince Charming rode in and saved the say by giving her a true love's kiss.  At their wedding, the evil queen shows up to make them a promise, "everything you love will be taken from you forever. Out of your suffering will rise my victory. I shall destroy you happiness if it's the last thing that I do".

The scene flashes to the real world where Emma Swan, Snow White's daughter is capturing a man who ran out on his bail.  When she returns home, she is met by Henry Mills, a little boy who claims to be her son.  It seems that Emma gave him up for adoption 10 years ago and he has come to find her because he believes that she is the key to changing the small town that he is from. When they arrive in the town of Storyville, she meets Henry's psychiatrist, and he informs her that the man is actually Jiminy Cricket.  She is resistant, but returns him home to his stepmother.  On the way out of town she hits a deer in the middle of the road and is arrested for drunk driving.  

In the morning she learns that Henry has run away from home again and so she visits his school with Regina AKA the evil queen and meets Mary Margaret Blancahard AKA Snow White for the first time.  Mary tells Emma that she gave Henry the book because he was having a difficult time and she beleives that he needed something positive to believe in. After Regina walks out in frustration, Emma learns that Mary does indeed know where Henry is.
When she finally find Henry at his castle, Henry once again tells her how miserable she is and that he believes that his adopted mother Regina does not love him.  Emma tells Henry about the fact that she was left on the side of the road and that her parents didn't even love her enough to take her to a hospital but Henry tells her that they helped her escape the curse and did what they did to give her, her best chance in life and this is why he understands that she gave him up for adoption.  At this point it is clear that she is touched by Henry and so when she takes him home and Regina turns vicious and tells her that she is to have nothing to do with Henry any further, Emma takes the opportunity to ask if she loves Henry.  Though Regina answers in the affirmative, it is clear that she does not.

American Horror Story, Season One, Episode Three: Murder House

This episode, we learned quite a bit more about the animosity between Moira and Constance.  It seems that in 1983, Moira had an affair with Constance's husband Hugo, but when he tried to initiate another sexual encounter, she turned him down claiming that the first time was a mistake because she was lonely.  Hugo simply would not take no for an answer, and was attempting to rape her, when Constance walked in and shot Moira and her husband. Constance should must certainly angry for the one time that Moira consented but what was going on when she walked in was most clearly rape.  I believe that what we are seeing is the ghost of Moira because I highly doubt that anyone could have survived being shot in the eye the way that she was.

This episode, Ben spent a lot of time blacking out and waking up in his backyard.  When he does so at Vivien's OBGYN, she runs some tests and discovers that Ben has laudanum in his system.  When he accuses Moira of drugging him, Moria simply answers "prove it" and walks away. Moira now feels safe because earlier in the episode, when she was coming on to ,Ben, he grabbed her and told her that she was fired, just as Vivien was standing in the doorway.  When she separated them in the kitchen, Ben finally told Vivien that Moira had been coming on to him, and that no matter how many times he rejected her, that she kept trying.  Of course, all Vivien could see is the older version of Moira, played by Frances Conroy, and so Ben's claims seemed ridiculous.  When Vivien suggested that for the good everyone that Moira leave, she threatened to sue and press charges for Ben's violence. After Moira leaves the room, Vivien accuses Ben of letting his guilt effect his emotions.

Vivien decides to take the "murder tour" to discover more about the history of her house.  I thought that this was a bit ridiculous, considering that a simple internet search would probably reveal anything that she wanted to know.  On the tour, the bus stops at the place where Sal Minio, an award winning actor and gay man was killed.  Apparently he was being followed someone whom he thought was cruising him, but the man yelled, "I'm not a faggot," and then proceeded to bludgeon the actor to death. Stan the tour guide, even made a point of saying that Sal lead a closeted life because his father could not accept the fact that his son was gay.  We are told that a Black man was sent to prison for his death but everyone knows that he was not guilty and that the murder constituted a hate crime. This is third episode in a row in which we are seeing homophobia in action.  Not only do we have a violent murder, but a gay slur was used during the commission of the homicide.  This show has yet to introduce a single reoccurring GLBT character, but it seems to have no problem having gay people die on a weekly basis, or tossing in a few homophobic comments throughout an episode.

In fact, when you think about it, all the people who have died thus far are marginalized in some way.  The only men that have been killed are gay.  The rest are women and children. This tells us which bodies are seen as disposable.  I was particularly disturbed with the death of Hayden, Ben's pregnant lover.  Even though Larry Harvey supposedly killed her to stop Hayden from telling Vivien that she was pregnant, it still amounts to the death of an inconvenient pregnant woman on television.  We all know far too well, how often pregnant women are murdered when their pregnancies are seen as inconvenient by their male partners. The third leading cause of death in pregnant women is homicide, and in fact 20% of deaths during pregnancy are homicide.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fangs for the Fantasy podcast, Episode 38

This week we discuss Vampire Diaries, the Secret Circle, American Horror Story, Once Upon a Time and The Walking Dead and the tropes within all their latest episodes as well as shows we plan to watch that are coming up

Please note: next week our podcast will be moved to Tuesday 1st November

InDepth InterView: Connie Britton Talks AMERICAN HORROR STORY, Neighborhood Playhouse, African Children's Choir & More

Acing the tailor-made lead role in GLEE creators’ Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s new supernaturally-themed FX series AMERICAN HORROR STORY, the former FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS star Connie Britton is finding herself at a career peak (look no further than the cover of this week‘s Entertainment Weekly that just hit newsstands yesterday). Britton’s bright beginnings at The Neighborhood Playhouse and study under acclaimed acting instructor Sanford Meisner - as well as her Off-Broadway and stage work - have clearly prepared her well for the tricky ROSEMARY’S BABY-esque role of a lifetime that Murphy, Falchuk and company have devised for her on the star-studded nighttime soap thriller - which also features TV heavyweight Dylan McDermott, as well as two-time Oscar-winner Jessica Lange and Tony-winner (and TRUE BLOOD’s King of the Vampires), Denis O’Hare. Discussing all aspects of the first three episodes of the surprise hit horror series, as well as offering some hints as to what we can expect from the forthcoming two-part Halloween special and upcoming episodes (including a Rubber Man tease), Britton and I dissect the complex inter-workings of the Harmon family and the house from Hell that they now reside in - as well as its ghostly inhabitants. Will they somehow make it out alive? And, who exactly is the new ghost in house, revealed just this week, played by previous InDepth InterView participant Lily Rabe? What can we expect from Zachary Quinto’s first appearance coming up this week? And, what about The Infatata? As Murphy’s original pitch’s tagline states, “The House Wins,” but, as far as AMERICAN HORROR STORY goes, the actors do, too. In addition to all about AMERICAN HORROR STORY, Britton and I also discuss her passionate dedication to Bono’s ONE charity, as well as her participation in supporting the African Children’s Choir, who will be performing at a gala raising awareness and funds on Monday at The Highline Ballroom.

Further information about the African Children’s Choir 3rd Annual Gala on Monday, as well as tickets to the event, can be obtained here!

Tainted Luck

PC: Given BroadwayWorld’s gigantic GLEE audience, this is like the perfect marriage of the two Ryan Murphy worlds now that I am talking to you about AMERICAN HORROR STORY.
CB: Oh, that’s so awesome! I love that.

PC: Are you a GLEE fan or is this your entrée into the Ryan Murphy universe?

CB: Well, you know what? It’s not that I’m not a big GLEE fan, it’s just that I am not a big TV watcher. But, what I have seen of GLEE I just love and admire so much. It would not be doing justice to the real fans out there like you have if I said that I was a true fan - but, I do really, really appreciate it and what it is. And, that was part of why I wanted to do this show with Ryan - because I think he and Brad are such innovative filmmakers, really; even though we are doing it on TV, but whatever.

PC: It’s so outright filmatic - just this week’s episode had Dario Argento touches and a million other homages, plus that unbelievably powerful music cue from Coppola’s DRACULA.

CB: Yeah!

PC: DON’T LOOK NOW and ROSEMARY’S BABY seem to be the main influences on AMERICAN HORROR STORY, so are you taking anything from the great female performances in those films - Julie Christie and Mia Farrow?

CB: Oh, yeah. Honestly, I watched all of those because I knew those were big inspirations for Ryan, and, in fact, they are so kind of pertinent to what we are doing. So, I watched them all, and, then - it’s funny, because it’s always a tricky thing with doing a send-up to something like that - I want to really have the performance have a reverence to those things, but, at the same time, I could never even hope to match them or duplicate them. So, then, it is just about being inspired by them and kind of taking it and running with it.

PC: Right before our eyes you seem to be creating a totally idiosyncratic horror heroine - and a strong, fierce woman, too.

CB: Aww, thank you so much! Well, that’s my hope, so I really appreciate you saying it.

PC: I’ve heard that when you first read the script that that is the aspect that grabbed you immediately - that she wasn’t just some big-breasted bimbo. Do you know what I mean?

CB: [Laughs.] Totally! No, no - it was very important to me. In fact, what was interesting about her - I really love playing, and, obviously, in FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS I was playing something very regional...

PC: Of course.

CB: ... and it was very true to my experience of the Southern woman - but, it’s also every woman. And, here, you know, this is a woman from a different region and she has lived a different kind of life - and I really love to get those kinds of specifics and details, but, at the same time, I also want her to feel very true and very accessible - again - to every woman. So, it’s kind of that fun balance of accessibility, but, also, with real specifics. But, always - across the board - I always really want the women that I play to be characterized by a certain strength. Even if they are in the midst of a full-on breakdown!

PC: As your character is on the show.

CB: Even if they are in crisis; even if they are in conflict - you know, I want there to be something that feels strong about them. So, that’s something that I always look for in every character.

PC: Ryan Murphy writes such strong female characters - on NIP/TUCK his characters for Joely Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave were unforgettable. Even his direction and collaboration with Julia Roberts on EAT PRAY LOVE - he is one of the best female storytellers.

CB: I agree with you. I thought [EAT PRAY LOVE] was beautiful - I thought what he did with those characters was amazing. I am always fascinated to find men who can write women so well - and, you know, he’s just got great insight into it! [Laughs.]

PC: Indeed he does.

CB: And, he’s also very collaborative - he really listens to my thoughts on it, as well, and, I think, really appreciates that and tries to incorporate it.

PC: How great.

CB: Yeah, that was one of the things that was really important to me about this project, too - I got a very collaborative feel from him and he has been very true to that.

PC: Have you ever felt uncomfortable filming any scenes so far - the insemination scene with the Rubber Man in the pilot is…

CB: Yeah, I know! [Laughs.]

PC: Was that really terrifying to do? I can only imagine.

CB: Well, you know, honestly, I was dreading it so much that by the time we actually shot it, I was kind of like, “Eh. Ok! That wasn’t so bad.” [Big Laugh.]

PC: Are you depicted as the pregnant woman with the Rubber Man - in any way - on the poster?

CB: No, it’s not me. I’m not sure who it is, but I think that ended up being a very acrobatic photo shoot, and, so, I think they hired a dancer or an acrobat who actually shot those pictures. So, when I first saw them, I said, “Wait! I think that’s supposed to be me!” [Laughs.]

PC: I don’t even think a lot of people noticed she was pregnant, at first, given the angle and everything.

CB: Yeah! I know.

PC: I am so glad I get to speak to you after Episode 3 - I think it was the best episode ever, which is saying something.

CB: It was such a great episode, wasn’t it?!

PC: Of course, Lily Rabe made her first appearance as the first homeowner  of the house - and she has done this column, as well.

CB: Ugh, she’s just so great!

PC: What was it like working with her? She was so great as both the modern and the 1920s woman - I’m assuming the same person/ghost - and the kitchen scene was perfectly pitched, which was no easy feat.

CB: Yeah! That was so fun. I’ve actually known Lily for a while and I was so excited when I heard that she was going to do the show. I think that she does those kind of characters - those very period characters - so well.

PC: I agree - a predilection, it seems.

CB: I think that she has such a beautiful grasp of playing every nuance of that and I knew she would just knock it out of the park - and she did. And, it was just so fun to work with her in those scenes and watch her create that character.

PC: Can you tell me if she will be back?

CB: Yes. She will.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews, Book 5 of the Kate Daniels Series

Kate Daniels is back in action in post shift Atlanta. After killing her aunt in Magic Bleeds her secret is rapidly becoming unfrayed as more and more people notice her powerful magic and powerful blood – and more and more people know exactly who she is and who her father is.

Kate now runs her own agency, joined by Andrea whose attempts to make the Order accept her humanity failed in the face of their prejudice. And the Red Guard has come to her with a job – they were guarding a weapon. A weapon of incredible power. And it has gone missing, along with its inventor. Under the cloak of necessary secrecy and discretion, the Guard need Kate to find the weapon and the inventor, preferably before its power is unleashed

But as magic has eroded technology, so there are humans who long to return to technology – and who loathe magical people. The Order is not the only ones who refuse to accept the humanity of magical people. The Lighthouse Keepers are a deep cover terrorist organisation that have infiltrated many organisations in the hope of bringing them down. And with their hands on the weapon they will use it to kill as many magical people as possible, perhaps annihilating Atlanta in the process

As magic lasts longer and technology frays and collapses The threat they poses unites all the magical people of Atlanta – witches, druids, the people of the dead, the shapeshifters, vohls, shamans – all unite to take down a threat that risks them all in an epic confrontation.

Against this background, Kate must also face major personal crises. Julie, her ward stands on the edge of death unless Kate can find the magic to save her – and more of Kate's past comes to light, destroying many of the illusions she held about her parents, revealing a much uglier truth

American Horror Story, Season One, Episode Two: Home Invasion

Once again, this episode begins with a flashback. The year is 1968, and a few young girls are getting ready to go out.  A young girl named Maria is asked if she would like to go and see The Doors, but she turns down the opportunity in order to study for a test.  A young nurse walks in and tells the group to leave Maria alone, and then sneers that she hopes they get the clap. This comment is met with, "Right, I guess you lessies don't have to worry about that."  I wonder if it is going to be a tradition to start each episode with a touch of homophobia?  I suppose not having any gay characters thus far, this is their version of GLBT inclusion.   After they leave, a young man knocks on the door asking for help because he is hurt.  Maria lets him in and after treating him and discovering no wound, he knocks her unconscious and chases after the nurse.  When Maria awakens, the man tells her to strip and put on a nurses uniform.  He then hog ties her on the couch and then stabs her in the back.

In the present day, Ben is once again counseling Tate. In the middle of the session his phone goes off, and Ben excuses himself to turn his phone off.  This week, Tate wants to talk about fucking Violet and this does not agree with Ben at all.  When Tate tells him that Violet is a virgin, and virgins get wet so easily, Ben tries to redirect the conversation by asking if Tate turns to these thoughts to get rid of the stress.  When Tate tells Ben that Violet told him about the affair with the girl in Boston, and that she was not much older then Violet -- Ben ends the session. As Tate walks out, Ben's phone rings again. He answers threatening to change his phone number, but the voice answers back, "I'm pregnant".

Violet and Leah sit by an abandoned pool, and Leah tells Violet that she cannot sleep.  Leah believes that she was attacked by something that wasn't human, but Violet tries to assure her that Tate was wearing a mask.  Leah is wearing big dark glasses and a huge floppy hat to cover her new grey hair. Leah believes that the grey hair is her body's response to being terrified.  What I don't get, is why these two are suddenly buddy buddy. It makes as much sense as their earlier animosity.  Whoever is responsible for writing this section of the story is dropping the ball big time. 
That night, Tate stands at the foot of Violet's bed watching her sleep.  I wonder if he was taking tips from Twilight's Edward?  Yeah, I couldn't help it sorry. The house alarm goes off, and Ben hops out of bed to see what the issue is.  When he gets downstairs, the front door is wide open. When Ben goes to the basement,  he finds Adelaide playing with a ball, but what he does not realize is that she is playing with some entity that he cannot see.  He quickly escorts Adelaide to the door, and goes upstairs to tell Vivien that it was only Addy -- and that they need to call someone in to check all of the windows and the doors, because "if that little freak can get in, anyone can."  Vivien tells him that he should not call her that, which was a bit of a relief but honestly, I am starting to believe that where addy is concerned, we are going to see nothing but disableism.

Ben then asks Vivien if she is okay, because he notices that she is shaking him. Vivien tells him that she has not been sick with this pregnancy, and that when she was pregnant with Violet, that she was sick for two months straight.  Vivien tells Ben that she is worried that something is wrong with the baby, but Ben tells her that this baby is why they moved there, and that the baby is their salvation.

The next day, Ben is in a session with a young woman named Bianca, who complains of having a dream where her body is sliced in half by an elevator. (This involves some truly gruesome imagery.) Ben tries to counsel her, but she asks him if it is "weird living in a murder house?".  Ben then asks if she was aware of this when she came to see him, and she tells him that he is on the "murder house tour" Ben tries to bring the conversation back to the counseling session. At the end of the series, Ben calls Tate's mother to say that Tate has cross the line with his daughter, and that he wants to recommend a new psychiatrist. Ben says he understands Mrs. Langdon's concern, but he is just not comfortable continuing treatment in his home. Okay, does this mean that Tate is not a ghost after all?

In the next scene, Adelaide is looking through a fashion magazine and she asks Constance, who is baking, why she does not look like the other girls.  Constance replies, "Cause you don't; it's just the way you were born. Accept it, you were born with other gifts."  Constance asks Adelaide to hand her the ipecac syrup from the cupboard.  Ipecac is used to treat an overdose because it induces vomiting. Constance puts a healthy dose into what she is making.  Constance then encourages Adelaide to spit in the mixing bowl.

Ben is out for a jog, but when he runs through a tunnel he stops to cry.  Larry Harvey comes out of the shadows saying, "people will say we're in love." When Ben asks him what he wants, Larry tells him about a desire he has to act, and that he wanted to pursue it before, but was worried about what it would do to his family.  When Larry asks Ben what is wrong with him, Ben answers nothing. Larry tells him that the house is tearing him apart. Ben tells Larry that Hayden, the woman that he cheated with is insisting that he go and see her. Larry tells Ben that he is trying very hard not to judge him.  Ben is shocked and points out that Larry murdered his entire family but Ben responds, "yes, but I was never unfaithful."  Larry tells Ben that he is going to have to do the honorable thing to save his family, he is going to have to lie. This by far was the best scene this episode. How can anyone not love Denis O'Hare?  The description that I wrote, most certainly does not give it justice.

The Walking Dead, Season Two, Episode Two: Bloodletting

The episode begins with Lori talking about her marital problems with Rick. Right after that she admits that she loves him Shane -- who is not dead -- pulls up and tells her that Rick has been shot. Even then you can see Shane looking at them with a weird sort of desire.

The seen flashes back to Rick running with Carl after he has been shot. We learn that Otis shot a buck and it went straight through to Carl. Lori stops to look behind her when she hears the gunshot.  It worries her that Rick and Shane have not caught up. Darryl keeps them moving by telling them to stop worrying about Sophia and that she will be just fine, and that Shane and Lori are probably on the way. What I don't like about this is that they have set Darryl up to lead in the absence of Rick and Shane.  Why couldn't Andrea take the lead considering that she is such a strong character in the comics. Oh I get, Darryl a character made up for the show is a nature guy and therefore the natural leader. 

Back at the highway, T-Dog and Dale are still waiting for the crew to return.  When T-Dog shows him his arm, Dale discovers that it is infected and he needs antibiotics. Dale decides that they have scavenge the area again to and find some antibiotics. After a search, all T-Dog is able to find is a pack of cigarettes and some ibuprofen. Finally, with a look or resignation, T-Dog tells Dale that they were left behind because they are viewed as the weakest, and that he feels that his situation is precarious because he is a Black man. He tells Dale that there are two good ole boy sheriffs and a redneck that would cut off his own hand because he dropped a key. He believes that he is going to be the first to be lynched.  Dale tells hm that the sheriffs have saved their ass.  T-Dog responds by suggesting that  he and Dale  leave, because they are sitting there "like live bait," but when Dale checks his forehead, it's clear that he has a fever.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength, and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.
Stephen King  

The Secret Circle: Season 1, Episode 6: Wake

And within 5 minutes of the Secret Circle starting we learn that Nick had an older brother called Jake. See, see? I totally called it. No way were we going to go down to 5 witches. Someone call the advertising people and replace Nick with Jake (or, y'know, we could give Melissa some space... nahhhhh) and yes, the Circle is bound by bloodline! So Jake is a member of it as Nick's brother – replacement Nick!

And Jake is troubled... very troubled – and a thief and selfish and and and he jaywalks! EVIL, evil I say! And he used to date Faye (Mean Girl) and treat her terribly and he stole from Adam and Adam now haaaates him. And he's baaaaad. And they don't want him in the circle, no no no! Bad Jake! No Cookie

And something is threatening the young Circle – it set a fire and burned a crescent moon in the ground! This is a symbol of conquest and is used to threaten witches and is scary! (actually it's a symbol for Islam, by the look of it *side eye*) Naturally all attention focuses on the Big Bad Jake, which means it's definitely not him. And lo I'm writer- scary goth girl attacks Cassie in her house with... a spiky thing (honestly, grandma, get a security system or some wards or something!) And she wants Cassie's ! But Jake steps in to the rescue with a Pink Eye spell.

American Horror Story, Season One, Episode One: Pilot

Technically, an American Horror Story, falls outside of the parameters of this space, because it is actually horror and not any genre of fantasy; however, because it is so very compelling, it should be actively discussed.  American Horror Story has an all star cast: Dylan McDermott, Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy, whom viewers might recognize as Ruth Fisher from Six Feet Under and Denis O'Hare to name a few.  Actually, to be honest, the minute I found out that Denis O'Hare is on the show, I was compelled to watch.  True Blood fans will recognize him as the infamous Russell Edgington.

The episode begins in the seventies with two twin boys carrying baseball bats preparing to enter a decrepit old house.  Outside the house, stand a young girl, who is clearly neurologically atypical. She warns the boys that if they enter the house that they will regret it, and so of course they enter and they die.

This sets the stage for the introduction of Vivien Hunter, who is recovering from a terrible miscarriage.  Her marriage to psychiatrist Ben Harmon, played by Dylan McDermott is in trouble because she walked in on him having an affair.  In an attempt to save their family, Ben, Vivien and their daughter Violet Harmon move to LA. They buy an old house, which we are told has been restored by the two gay male former owners. Apparently, gay men are the only one's capable of house restoration.  We are told that these men die of a murder suicide. Isn't that lovely, 10 minutes into the show and we already have the dead gay trope alive and kicking. 

The house is obviously creepy, but the family moves in and attempts to build a life there.  Ben begins work by having a young man named Tate Langdon come to his come office to talk about his fantasies regarding murdering everyone in his high school.   Clearly the child is disturbed and I believe he is connected to the house in some way.  Tate walks in on Violet in the bathroom as she is cutting her wrists.  He tells her that she is doing it wrong, if she is attempting to kill herself, and that she really needs to lock the door.  This is clearly the start of an angsty teenage relationship.

Matters between Ben and Vivien continue to be rough, as every time he draws close to her she pulls  away.  Vivien keeps telling Ben that she needs more time and he accepts passively and withdraws. When they first bought the house, Vivien noticed some wallpaper covering murals, and as she is removing the paper, the same neurologically atypical girl enters the room and tells her, "you're all going to die." She is an adult version of the child we saw at the beginning of the episode. Adelaide's mother Constance enters the room and sends Adelaide off to watch Dora the Explorer.  In an interesting exchange, Constance tells Vivien that Adelaide has a "thing for the house."  Constance says that she is southern and had moved to L.A. to get into acting but having the "mongoloid brought everything to an end."  Do I even need how to say how ableist it is to refer to a disabled character as a mongoloid? Constance hands Vivien some sage to clear the spirits out of the house.

In perhaps the only scene that feels contrived on the episode, Violet is verbally accosted at the school for smoking on the school grounds.  When she apologies and drops the cigarette butt on the ground, Leah demands that she eat it.  Abby, the only person of colour in the entire episode tries to intervene saying that Leah is just upset because her grandmother died of cancer.  Uh huh.  When Leah grabs for Violet again, Violet spits in her face and walks away, while Leah screams you're dead.

At the house, as Vivien is hanging laundry to dry, Moira walks up and informs her that she is the maid.  At first Vivien tells her that she does not need help, but as they talk about the specific care that the old house needs, Vivien warms up to her.  When Ben walks into the room, the Moira that he sees is very different than the Moira Vivien sees. His version of Moira is young and extremely sexy.  When Vivien mentions hiring Moira, he is surprised but quickly agrees. 

Sure enough, Ben walks in on Moira masturbating.  As soon as they make eye contact, he rushes out of the room. Alone in his bedroom Ben masturbates.  For those that are fans of Dylan McDermott, there are a few nice shots of his backside to appreciate.  The moment he orgasms, he begins to cry.  I thought that this was really a great example of how the lack of intimacy between Ben and Vivien is hurting him.  When he lifts his head, he notices a man on the lawn staring at him, but when Ben runs outside to check, there is no one there.