Archive for serial killer

Why We Are Not Following The Following


Guest post by skippy the bush kangaroo (@skippybkroo)

nobody likes good tv as much as we do, and nobody is as thrilled with the evolution of long-form story-telling on television as we are. add that to the fact that mrs. skippy loves kevin bacon, and we were incredibly excited to see the new fox tv series starring mr. bacon, known as "the following."

 photo following.jpg

"the following" which airs on mondays nights on fox-tv, tells the tale of an imprisoned serial killer played by james purefoy, who manages to communicate with his cultish acolytes on the outside to manipulate them into gruesome, bloody and shocking murders at his behest, like some sort of cross between charles manson and hannibal lecter. bacon plays the fbi agent who originally caught purefoy's character, and is now back on the case to try to figure out...wait for it..."the following."

now, we have no problem with explicit violence in service of a good scary or interesting story. we think breaking bad is one of the greatest piece of popular entertainment of all time, and we are big fans of dexter, justified, and the walking dead as well. but the difference between those afore-mentioned shows, the following, is simply this: "the following" sucks.

and it sucks in a big, big way. firstly, all the cops are really, really stupid. secondly, all the bad guys are really, really smart, and really, really evil. and that's about it. what other, little characterization there is seems to be lifted wholesale from a thousand previous police procedurals (bacon's character is world-weary! and alcoholic! purefoy's character is charismatic! and handsome! the black guy gets killed! almost right away!).

but wait! there's explicit violence, just like on those cable shows! stabbings! immolations! eye-gouging! and all in the name of edgar allen poe, who is supposedly the inspiration for all these killings, in the worst mis-reading of the works of american literary giant since disney animated the legend of sleepy hollow.

the problem with all this gore-nography, as we call it, is that there's nothing else very interesting in the show to hang it on. breaking bad isn't about drug dealers killing each other; it's an intricate study of the moral breakdown of a man already being beaten by the system. dexter isn't about slicing people up, it's a complicated analysis of the definitions of good and evil within each of us, asking if the indulgence of one can serve the other. and walking dead has zombies, so...

we expected so much more from kevin williamson, the creator and executive producer of the following. williamson wrote the scream films, which happily played with the tropes of horror movies even as they worked as a horror movies themselves. but in the following, williamson doesn't do anything with horror/serial killer tropes, other than steal them from thomas harris and criminal minds. even ryan murphy at least has fun juggling horror tropes around in american horror story. williamson seems to be writing this crap in his sleep, or else farming it out to some junior high creative writing class somewhere.

last week's episode was a prime example: the fbi followed (no pun intended) the clues to a specific individual's house. he wasn't home, but his wife was. the fbi interrogated her and decided she didn't know anything about the murderous cult her husband was involved with. now, at this point, we literally shouted at the tv "yeah, sure she doesn't! like paterno didn't know about sundusky!" but the fbi let her go back to her house, and sent one agent (the afore-mentioned one black guy in the cast) to guard her. even worse, he felt really safe turning his back on her in the kitchen where they keep all those knives and cutting implements. well, if you couldn't see his extremely bloody death coming a mile away, then we've got an original story about killing a man and hiding his still-beating heart under the floorboards to sell you.

there is something to be said for the subplot of two straight (bad) guys who pretended to be gay to get close to the ex-wife of purefoy's character in order to kidnap her son, only to later realize that maybe they liked being gay, but there's an evil girl involved who doesn't like them being gay, so she stabs one guy, who goes out and kidnaps an innocent lady and beats her up and keeps her in the basement. well, ok, there's really nothing to be said for that subplot, now that we write it out and look at it.

we are sorrier than you know to say this show is a turkey. we like to think that television has entered a second golden, or at least a silver, age of story-telling, with shows that demand actual attention paid by its audience, and multiple views of every episode to suss out the nuance and layers of human interaction. lost, the sopranos, fringe, as well as the shows mentioned above, are great examples of complex, substantive examinations of human folly.

"the following" is just a pale imitation, a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. if you ask us if we are going to keep watching it, we'd quote poe's raven.



The NRA Protects a Potential Serial Killer


Guest blog by Cliff Schecter:

What does the leadership of the National Rifle Association have to do to finally convince anyone paying attention that they are extremist, self-interested, and devoid of all principle? Here's an idea: They could blatantly lie about the law in an attempt to block authorities in Daytona Beach, Florida, from accessing information that would help law enforcement catch a potential serial killer.

Oh wait, they've already done that.

You see, Daytona Beach police have determined through forensic evidence that the same kind of weapon was used to kill three women (and maybe a fourth) over the past few years, so they have taken what could be considered a logical next step. They didn't go on a fishing expedition (in fact this is exactly the way a gun dealer who cooperated put it), but asked gun dealers located in the specific counties where the homicides took place if they could see their records during a specific period of time (2004 and 2005), to determine who might have bought this weapon and used it to kill people.

Crazy, right?

And the key elements here are that the police have only "asked" for, not demanded the records, and they are only seeking to look at them, not copy them. But for those who run the NRA, who would consider a law disarming Ayman al-Zawahiri a ride along the slippery slope to a general handgun ban, this is just beyond the pale. So they trotted out one of their lobbyist friends in Tallahassee to lie about the law, to say what the police were doing was illegal -- and of course launched the requisite faux-populist appeals to the same conspiratorial, anti-government, pearl-clutchers who Sarah Palin makes millions scaring the bejesus out of via rationality-challenged Facebook missives.

Good if you're a gun manufacturer or wealthy NRA lobbyist, not so much if one of these four women murdered was your daughter, sister or mother.

What's truly amazing, though, is how the Washington NRA leadership is always there for the worst among us. Do you want to continue to sell guns to criminals, terrorists, and those not of sound mind through the gun show loophole -- unlike 69% of NRA members and 85% of non-NRA gun owners who support a simple background check at gun shows to prevent this insanity? No worries, NRA Executive VP Wayne LaPierre has got your back! Do you think it's a swell idea to sell guns & explosives to those being actively investigated by the FBI, TSA or DHS? Excellent! Top NRA lobbyist Chris Cox is there to ensure you can continue to hawk your wares to those who can't even get on airplanes because they are being investigated for being members of violent, terrorist organizations -- something 82% of the NRA's own membership and 86% of non-NRA gun owners agree is just plain nuts.

Honestly, do you know of much else in the world that 86% of any group agree on, much less those you'd think would be most supportive of the National Rifle Association's leadership?

There may have been a time in the past when the NRA represented their members. When they might have cared about protecting the actual rights of honest American citizens to bear arms, as opposed to any thug with a checkbook. Not anymore. The NRA have become the elite, Washington insiders they always rant on and on about -- political mercenaries who care only about how much money they can raise doing the dirty work for wealthy gun manufacturers and how much power they can represent at Beltway cocktail parties. What their actual members think, or what the citizens of this country want, doesn't really matter. Instead, they've bought off virtually the entire Washington Republican Party (with some notable exceptions, like Mike Castle of Delaware, George Voinovich of Ohio and Dick Lugar of Indiana), not to mention a good chunk of the easily-purchased Blue-Dog Democrats who have decided that, in the interest of keeping the campaign cash flowing, "well-regulated militia" really means Eric Rudolph and the Son of Sam have gun rights too. So what politicians actually think also matters little to them. Or perhaps as one Washington Post reporter put it, "Terrorists who want to buy guns have friends on Capitol Hill."

Conservatives got a front row seat for the NRA's elitism and treachery during the recent congressional negotiations over the Disclose Act. The NRA made sure that they -- and only they -- would be exempt from requirements that interest groups disclose where their almost unlimited campaign funds will come from in light of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. Sure, they talked a good game about "free speech," but when it came time to stand up for their supposed principles, the Washington NRA leadership was all too happy to leave their comrades, such as the Gun Owners of America, out in the cold. Perhaps that's why the rabidly pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League called the NRA's leadership "bought off." Hmm, are you sensing a pattern here?

And now this compassion-cloistered organization is expanding the number of issues on which they distort policy, because, really, how can anyone vote on health care or the environment before knowing how a bunch of Washington elites owned by Big Guns think about these matters? Especially those who are trying to protect a potential serial killer or fight for the rights of the Nidal Hassans and John Patrick Bedells of this world to continue buying guns without limit or a background check. Or push guns into a bar near you, something opposed by every single police organization, as well as anyone with an ounce of common sense. Once again, it's the National Rifle Association's leadership against anyone who gets in their way, as was recently made clear by Tennessee Republican State Legislator Joe McCord, who summed up this particular madness as well as the general way in which the NRA serves the interests of its elites while making this country more crime-ridden and more susceptible to terrorism every single day:

"Essentially, NRA is saying to us, if you don't support and vote for carrying guns in bars, we will not endorse you," McCord said. "This line of reasoning borders on lunacy.""What line will we not cross for the NRA? At what point do we say that's too much?" asked McCord, who is not seeking re-election. "I'm sorry for those of you who feel you have to hold your nose and vote for it... because of the NRA."

Law enforcement officials in Florida are just the latest in a long line of groups forced to hold their nose while the NRA crosses yet another line that makes Americans less safe and dishonors the will of their own membership.

Would that it weren't so, Mr. McCord.

Cross-posted at HuffPo.