Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Castle Steampunk Episode-mixed review

Yes I watched it, and yes, I do have some strong opinions in favor of some things and against others, but will say nothing more here about it, as instructed by my wise mistress, until all of our friends have had time to watch the episode and form their own opinions completely independently of outside influence.  I will edit my commentary, which I have written, but am awaiting proofing by my editor (helpful with important and controversial topics), and add it here later.  I post this only to let you know I didn't blow this off and recognize the public opinion impact importance of this episode on national TV.  Later then.

OK...It's later, and I warn you, this review of the episode, script, costuming, acting, and, most importantly, social impact on steampunk subculture, contains a lot of spoilers for the plot, which I discuss more than a little indirectly, like actually talking about who the killer is, so if you haven't seen it yet, stop reading here and go watch it first.  (pause)

Since you are still here, I assume you actually want to her my very opinionated opinion about this episode, so here goes:

Most of the ensembles were fabulous, and I liked the Asian looking actor that was wearing the artificial arm and being sociable with the police.  His personal look, his ensemble, and even his manner and lines were excellent.  He only had a bit part though.  All the extras were wearing excellent outfits ranging from simple and elegant to something I would expect only on the most talented of our community’s inventor’s or fashion designers.  There were pneumatically driven brass bionic arms, leather gears on velvet uniforms, metal gears on…well, everything, and corsets, dressed up goggles, and color (which is often lacking) used in tasteful and elegant ways.  Unfortunately, the only other steam punk dressed people with lines were the Boss of the victim, who thought he had accidentally killed the victim as was silly enough to stage a duel with real pistols to get a girl’s attention, because they were such bad shots with those pistols, they surely wouldn’t hit each other, the murderer, who worked in the club, but thought the Steampunk people were silly and mentioned the victim "wearing that ridiculous outfit every night", and an extreme narcissist who seemed to care about nothing but himself, who was the president of their “private steam punk club“.  It would also have been nice if the wardrobe person had not dressed the club president as a dandy (historical heavily overdressed lady's man often wearing unusual colors and extravagantly expensive materials).  The rest of the actors were in truly excellent steam punk attire (absolutely outstanding!), so I was puzzled why the main actor was dressed in a manner that looked so extremely different from his supporting actors and all of the extras even.  He was clearly dressed as a dandy, a truly historical, though often not well thought of, figure (especially by the husbands or fathers of those he was flirting with). 

He was wearing a well tailored lavender formal suit with a burgundy collar and burgundy trim accompanied by what appeared to be gold chain trim a half inch further in, a tulle (the kind of net material often used in evening gowns) extremely ruffled ascot with gears in the fabric, and carrying the most elaborately over ornamented cane imaginable complete with heavy brass, a watch, lace ruffle, and a cut glass door knob at the top, while wearing multicolored pants more extreme than most hippies wore in the 60s.  It was certainly a sight to behold!  He just looked so unlike the rest of the cast, whom I assumed were, as had been rumored, members of the actual local steam punk community, with additional special pneumatic artificial arms etcs on some of them, (and later loaned apparently to the series star) making truly excellent wardrobes, but they could have at least let the Steampunk Community dress the club president (like the rest of the cast) instead of using whoever dressed this actor, unless it was intentional as I plot device, which I suspect may have been the case.  It turns out that I blame the script writer and director far more than the costume designer, because they were probably telling the costumer to make him look like his attire suggested he was just interested in the party and  making others laugh, even though a friend had just been murdered, as this made him a perfect false lead for the cops without the audience needing to actually have an IQ any higher than a bullfrog to follow why the police thought that way.  He was even wearing a straw top hat, which I actually liked quite a bit, but of course would almost never exist in Victorian Europe as the top hat represented the power and wealth of the upper class whereas straw was a hat material for the poor who could afford nothing else.  It was actually quite attractive, well crafted, with lovely little gears, and I might have considered wearing it myself either to protest the over emphasis in our community on top hats, or to make my friends laugh and celebrate it‘s clever and innovative, and very definitely unhistorical design.

As I know how important many people from our steam punk subculture thought this national exposure might be to how the public views and thinks of us, I thought long and hard about this episode (and probably too long and hard overanalyzing it no doubt), but here is my analysis of it anyway as a social impact statement.  I felt it was very unfortunate that the writer chose to make the president of their club come across as so narcissistic and shallow, with an apparent total lack of feeling for his murdered friend that it appeared to the police as though he thought it was all a joke to him until they mentioned something that might endanger him personally, like the fact the murder weapon might be from their club.  If that's the sort of person they want people to believe we would choose to head our organizations and look up to, I don't really think it paints us in a very good light. He did say something very nice, but canned, about not liking the world as it was, and wanting to create a world where man’s ingenuity and creativity was limitless and they could find poetry in all aspects of life, even death.  At this point though, I must ask you, seriously, how many of you want friends that would go out to party and spin off shallow platitudes like that about your death less than 24 hours after you were murdered?  I'm not talking about a warrior dying in battle, or even someone that died from cancer.  We are talking about a good friend they believed was murdered in the park that night.  Am I the only one that felt the scriptwriter made them all seem like such rich spoiled narcissistic brats that they care absolutely zero for others? 

Actually it was made clear that they were portrayed as ultra rich, spoiled, and generally socially inept people that were mostly, if not all, from computer or finance fields, but that is a minor matter even though it is one more stereotype that helps to make people think we are strange outsiders rather than people they would want to know.  The other aspects concern me more.  Perhaps I read too much into this as I am a professional counselor and read body language for a living.  I thought the actor who was playing the club president was incredibly good as an actor however!  He did an excellent job of what the script writer told him to do, which was to act like nothing and no one mattered to him, other than adulation of his fans, and of course he cared about himself, he gave the police a good reason to suspect him immediately, made a lot of high minded platitudes while showing an almost complete lack of emotion about any of those statements in voice intonation, body language, and dead pan eyes (very hard to do actually),  and then looked suddenly very seriously concerned when they mentioned that he might know something about the murder weapon.  I had a strong positive reaction to the rest of the people, mostly extras, and such an extremely bad reaction to him, that I wrote my opinions, but fortunately thought about this long before publishing anything.  To be fair; however, I should mention a little history about fops, which is the only sort of historical character he could have been attempting to re-create as they really did exist in the Victorian age.  Fop's were bored, wealthy men that made a habit of wearing extreme fashions put together in a rather garish way that showed off their ability to purchase the most expensive materials possible without too much concern for actually making them look good, although they did manicure themselves quite finely and wear things perfectly tailored.  They were generally disliked by most decent people historically as many of them tried to seduce other men's wives and daughters without any concern for the aftermath, but they were usually too rich and influential for people to say so out loud.  They generally would have been shunned (or possibly killed) otherwise, and would not have been able to afford such clothing if there weren't extremely wealthy.  As a performance artist, I also read into scripts and in dramas as well as literature, fop's were typically villains almost as often as "the butler" and with much better reason as they were, by nature narcissistic scoundrels.  Even so, they are historical figures, though generally hated, figures in that society. 

Over all, I give a rating of about an 8 or 9 (out of 10) for the acting job of all the Steampunks in the show, about a 3 (out of 10) for my opinion of the script overall as I think it used shallow stereotypes on everyone including the regular cast for this episode.  To be fair though, I think the scriptwriter did exactly what the producer and director told him/her to do with the people's scripts even if it was very unflattering.  I disliked the rest of the script for the regular actors even more than the scripts for the steam punk actors, as I thought the whole episode made most of the normal cast seem silly and superficial as well, and they were supposed to be fully developed characters.  As for the costuming itself: I feel forced to give a mixed review.  Most of the  outfits were truly excellent (ranging from a 7 for the simplest to a 10 for the best with most in the 9 or 10 range), but the main steampunk actor's outfit was so very different that I am uncertain what to say about it exactly.  We may assume it was done that way on purpose either, like one of my close friends dresses, to rebel against taking life too seriously, and remind people to stop being fashion Nazis and have some fun in the community, or that it may have been an intentional plot device foreshadowing shallow character traits in the club president or something like that as a plot device.   I don't feel the “club president” character painted us in any way other than as rich, silly, superficial people without any depth or personality.  That's convenient for the script writer who wanted the character in question to appear that way as an easy (translate as lazy) plot twist, but it is sad that it might reflect that way on all of us as well.  Yes, I like the main actor of this series, and he was wonderful in “Firefly”, but that doesn't necessarily mean I like this series.  I haven’t seen any other episodes, so I have no opinion about the series itself, but I disliked this particular  episode script in general.  I also felt that their portrayal of our subculture came off to me as extremely superficial and at least mildly offensive.  They not only made the club president seem shallow, but made the murder victim and his boss, who though he shot him, but didn’t really, look more than a little foolish and pathetic in that, as the boss said when asked why they would stage a duel with real guns when they didn’t actually want to hurt each other: “a girl like that would never take any real interest in guys like us, but we thought, if we had a duel over her, one of us might have a chance.”  He thought that his friend’s math calculations of the probability that two amateurs could hit each other with ancient flintlock pistols at 40 paces made it a sure thing they would both miss.  Of course the show suggested that this may have been true as they greatly exaggerated just how inaccurate the guns were in a firing test, but it still made them both look very smart, very foolish, and very pathetic, which, I’m sorry to say, does not impress me with the writers much or make it feel they treated us fairly.  I, for instance, shot expert, the first time I was ever tested with a pistol and served as an infantry officer for years.  I am fairly sure, I would not have been silly enough to think it impossible I could kill my friend with a real gun, nor do I know that many men in our community that would have considered something so ridiculous just to impress a girl. 

The statement from the club president about trying to create an opportunity for people who dislike the world as it is to create a world full of ingenuity and creativity and find poetry in everything, could have been great, if the director wasn’t telling him to say this with such a lack of feeling, which I am sure is the case, based on his incredible emotional intensity a moment later when asked about the weapons.  He is a truly impressive actor and would not have delivered those fabulous lines about our subculture so devoid of emotion unless the director told him to.  It also would have helped if the script writer didn’t have him  saying this less than 24 hours after his friend was murdered and using it as an explanation for why he was joking and acting the clown right afterwards.  That would not be the time I would choose to make such a statement as it would be in incredibly bad taste to suggest we party and look for poetry in a friend's brutal murder.  This, in my opinion, anyway, shows that the script writer and director cared, as would be expected, only in convenient ploys to throw some bling, eye candy, trendy features, and freak show like appeal out there to raise ratings rather than actually do the work involved in “doing his homework” or any professional quality research to add anything approaching realism (heaven forbid in American television) to the show.  I dislike this not only as an insult to such a beautiful sub-culture movement, but also as an insult to the ideal of producing good art in television, which has pretty much died these days in the age of Jerry Springer, and a plethora of bad sitcoms that make OZZIE and Harriet or Leave It To Beaver look a revered treatise on wisdom from Socrates by comparison. 

I’m not saying that the show “Castle” is bad.  I actually hear pretty good things about it, and as I said before, I have no opinion about a show I‘ve seen only one episode of, but I have a rather low opinion of most typical television programming and feel this particular script fell victim to those standards causing an opportunity for us to shine to sort of fall victim to the ratings monster.  On the other hand, the steam powered bike was great and the star of the show said very nice things about us, our culture, and how much he liked our toys!  At the end of show he goes home to talk to his daughter dressed in some of the best of what he saw there including the bionic arm, purely as research for a book of course!  There were some bright spots in the episode, as it turns out after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment