Recently, I finished watching a series on Hulu called “Reprisal.” It would take too long to explain what it is, but I will sum it up as best as I can. Doris used to be called Catherine Harlow, and before she became a chef, she was the little sister of the head of a dangerous gang of folks known as the Brawlers. They dragged her behind a truck and left her for dead and somehow, she survived, because of reasons. So, Doris, is on a mission of revenge, akin to the Count of Monte Cristo, in which she gets help from a number of different people to infiltrate the Brawlers as well as start a gang war with the Ghouls, while she pulls the strings.
Doris is a massively flawed character and winds up misjudging or screwing up a lot.
But, the reason you watch Reprisal is because of the aesthetic. It is a rockabilly-fueled world that could exist in some strange alternative-history world. It is the bastard child of a Tarantino flick (right up to the Red Apple cigarettes) and a David Lynch multiverse. Throw in some Sons of Anarchy and pretty much this is the world these people inhabit. Instead of motorcycles, you’ve got rat-rods, glorious fuel guzzling oxidized bodied early model American cars which would make George Miller blush. You won’t see a Japanese car or anything built after 1983 in the show either. Just about the newest technology anyone has is a flip phone.
One episode encapsulates exactly why this is not the USA we all know. It begins with a WW2/Korean War type newsreel about a war over “The Archipelago”. Nothing much is mentioned about it other than a lot of veterans carry the scars of horrendous fighting and everyone seems to get really silent whenever it is brought up. This seems to be this world’s Vietnam or even your pick of Gulf War/Afghanistan wars.
The world is such an interesting blend of old and new that I found it mesmerizing. A group of errand boys known as the 3 River Phoenixes cruise up and down a vast highway known as The River, collecting money for the gang as well as profits from Bang-A-Rangs, which are sorta like the Titty-Twister roadhouse from the Robert Rodriguez movie, “From Dusk Til Dawn.” The strippers are burlesque girls who pack sub-machine guns and the whole thing could be out of an old grindhouse movie in the 70s.
I was hooked pretty quickly. The world-building was fascinating. The characters are all endowed with plenty of hubris and there is a magical-realistic element to it that pulls the story along. The story of Doris/Catherine could be right out of Isabella Allende or Dumas.
I enjoyed the hell out of it.
That being said, I can see that it will be a show that falls victim to a lot of this Wokeness going around. Because I liked the show, I tried to learn more about it. The voices of other writers who might be enjoying it the same as I am. There’s not a lot out there, really. But the reviews that I have read got my eyes rolling. What was worse than that were the comments.
One writer complained that the women dress like pinups or flappers and the men dress like they are going bowling. Only one character “bridges the gap with gender neutrality.” Fuck. Really? We’ve got to bring this up in literally every conversation now? Other commenters said the Femme Fatale trope was dead and it was 2019 and they just need to let it go.
Well, let’s just write everything by a committee and literally just beat the life out of anything that doesn’t fit someone’s delicate sensibilities.
I guess they missed the whole “noir” part of the show. The fact that this show has been infused with the vibe of the world 40 or 50 years ago, if not longer. A world where femme fatales, tough guys, Star-crossed lovers, fast cars, exploitation, and gritty dirt-under-your-nails stories were what people saw in the drive-ins. It’s a callback to a generation that has just about breathed its last. Smothered in its bed by obnoxious, disobedient children with stupid haircuts, being offended, and for a surprisingly short time on this Earth, perhaps the most-documented generation of people, who have probably accomplished the least in the history of the world.
This show won’t last, because people don’t want fun. Or they have entirely too much say in what someone else might consider fun. Why does everyone wear vintage clothes on the show? How come you never see a Honda or Toyota? What’s with River Phoenix’s name getting thrown out there? Who the hell knows!? Sometimes a writer ought to just be able to create something because it is fun, or cool, or silly. Not everything has to be a fucking cinematic masterpiece or propaganda tool.
When did we all have to take everything so seriously? Having morality thrust upon us in the guise of “equity and representation” is as dishonest as the Hays Code of the 20th Century, which demonized the nipple, limited kissing to no longer than three seconds, and damned anyone to hell who used “curse words.” Ironically enough, not showing sex in movies probably didn’t slow down any of the fucking that was going on, because we still have people. All this was done at a time when men were watching their buddies get blown to pieces on beaches all over the world. This is how you go from Louise Brooks to Doris Day in less than a generation.
Today, you can’t smoke, you can’t drink out of a garden hose, you can’t disagree with a little Swedish girl who got to chide the United Nations over an ideology. Anyone who doesn’t agree with you is a fascist. Or shamed as an “Incel.” Comedians can’t make jokes anymore, and anyone not in the Club can be completely ostracized for voicing their opinions, because the Woke are the gatekeepers. I saw it plenty of times when I used to write fiction for SF/Fantasy magazines. And the moral/intellectual superiority of so many people who buy into this shit just leaves me baffled. The White Knights of Wokedom. Little do they know, but they are next on the barbecue once it gets to them.
There is a divide in this country. Rural/Uban. Left/Right. Conservative/Liberal. Boomer/Millennial. But no one should confuse any of these with Right/Wrong. I think the reason there is so much contention is rather than just let people live their lives, just like this show, someone always thinks they know better and have any license to speak for them.
I have worked in Higher Ed for over 20 years. I have seen it evolve from Marxist bullshit they used to jam down our throats in literature class (when it wasn’t Freudian interpretation) and now I have seen it just compound itself into what it is today. A room full of people jabbering in their own echo-chamber about social justice and privilege, when they themselves are enjoying these privileges. I wonder if a day will come when people start to throw their mortar boards into the reflecting pool like some sort of last gesture of rejecting Thulsa Doom’s Cult of Academia because the whole thing has just gotten completely ridiculous.
I’m not angry. I’m just disappointed.
This is how we get a game show host in the White House and a woman who literally appropriated a culture to pay for college as the opposing candidate. The whole world is nothing more than a bunch of competing Children’s Crusades. What in the actual hell?