West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/22/23

Welcome back to West Week Ever – the…monthly (?) look at what’s going on in pop culture! So much has happened since last we spoke: Young Sheldon got canceled, CM Punk returned to WWE, and Jonathan Majors officially “fumbled the bag”, in regards to his future with Marvel Studios. A lot to cover, so let’s jump right in.

Yes, this movie came out over a month ago, but the beauty of being late with my thoughts is that the discourse is pretty much over, so I don’t get lost in the shuffle. I met up with my buddy Brock to see The Marvels back on Veterans Day, and I thought it was an entertaining movie. Honestly, heading into the credits, I was prepared to give it a “B+” – not quite a “return” for the MCU, but definitely a shot in the right direction. Maybe things were about to get better? And then the credit stinger hit, and I felt I needed to deduct points.


In the film, Monica Rambeau ends up in a parallel universe, in order to repair a tear in the multiverse. She had to close the rift from the opposite side, trapping her over there. In the stinger, she wakes up in a high tech med bay, where she sees her mom, Maria, sitting next to her. An emotional Monica tells her mother how much she’s missed her, and how sorry she wasn’t there when she passed away during The Blip. Maria looks at her daughter with confusion, and then you hear a familiar voice from offscreen. Is that Kelsey Grammer? Hold up – do you mean to tell me… The camera pans to the X-Men’s Beast, looking better than we’ve ever seen him before (yay, for advances in technology!). He says something about “Charles”, so you know what that means, as well as where she is: it’s Xavier’s School. He exits through a big ass X door, and when Maria stands up, you see she’s wearing the costume of Binary – one of the hero identities formerly used by Carol Danvers in the comics.

S0, why did this make me mad? Well, I thought it was unearned. While we had been introduced to the *idea* of X-Men existing in the MCU, via Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, I guess I kinda forgot about that. So, I’m sitting there, thinking THIS was going to be their big MacGuffin: “The X-Men always existed, in their own reality”, and this was setting up some future storyline to simply combine the universes, through an “incursion”, perhaps. Felt like they were going for what wrestling fans call “a cheap pop”. I thought about it a few days. Why did they have to go and do that, running a perfectly enjoyable film? Then, I remembered Xavier in MoM, and realized, well, the precedent had already been set there.

It’s just that MCU fans have waited for this day that we felt would never come: Disney regained the X-Men rights, and could finally *reboot* the franchise to fit into what has been established. This would also mean new actors, right? However, everything we’ve seen so far has included the involvement of the old actors: Stewart in MoM, Grammer here, Jackman in Deadpool 3. If we’re carrying all of this baggage over, I think it sort of lessens both the excitement AND anticipation of what Marvel Studios plans to do with these characters. Just my two cents.


So, the movie was fine, and it was sort of impressive how they managed to balance the merger of what was basically three different franchises: Captain Marvel, WandaVision, and Ms. Marvel. It was a heavy lift, with so many opportunities for something to go wrong, but they pulled it off. The strength of the film was the chemistry between the characters. You believed that Monica had felt abandoned by her “possible Mom-Aunt” Carol (the dynamics between Maria and Carol have never truly been fleshed out, and I think that’s intentional). You believed that Kamala was truly in awe of everything around her, and she was an effective insert for the audience. The 3 of them had a great rapport, and it was a joy just to watch them interact. And the stuntwork! I tip my hat to that stunt coordinator, because the teleporting fights must have been a nightmare to pull off. The story itself was kind weak, but the performances masked that.

Since I had skipped Ms Marvel (Disney+ was just cranking those things out too fast at that point), I didn’t know much about Iman Vellani’s protrayal of Kamala Khan. I’d seen a bunch of interviews, and chats on the red carpet, and I’m gonna level with you: I found her annoying as Hell. Whether she was arguing with Kevin Feige as to what Earth the MCU takes place on, or whether Marvel was announcing she’d be writing a new Ms. Marvel comic, I just always felt like she was a “try hard”. But she’s infectious. After about 20 minutes, I loved her, I was intrigued by her family, and I’m planning to binge that series during winter break. I’ve never been so glad to have been so wrong!

I loved Monica’s transition from WandaVision, as I felt they really gave her purpose here, as opposed to sort of serving as fan bait in that series (She’s gonna call a smart friend? Bet it’s Reed Richards!). Thought we’ve had Black women in the MCU already (Shuri, Riri Williams, Dora Milaje), she still brought a perspective we hadn’t seen yet. When Fury tossed out that “Black Girl Magic” line in the final trailer, I rolled  my eyes. Was she just gonna be a collection of “Black Womanisms”? Luckily, she was not, and I look forward to seeing what they do with that character.

Now, for the bad: It’s sort of amazing to me that Carol Danvers is the most boring part of her own little corner of the MCU. I am just not digging what Brie brings to the table as that character. It’s been said that Marvel’s Ultimate Universe served as the starting point for a lot of the MCU planning, and I’ll admit I don’t even remember Danvers in that universe. I remember her existing, but as far as  personality, powers, etc – don’t remember that. If that’s the case, that’s on me. The thing is, though, is that most Ultimate Marvel versions of familiar characters aren’t all that unfamiliar to classic “Earth-616” Marvel readers. So, I’ll preface by saying that my comparison is MCU to 616.

I have said from Day One that I hated the casting for Carol/Captain Marvel. Just as I felt with Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, I didn’t feel like the choice matched what I had envisioned reading those stories all these years. With Ritter, I felt like she didn’t fit how she’d been drawn. In the case of both characters, I’ve said I wanted an actress “with a few miles on her”. Someone who’s bold and striking, but also looks like they’ve *lived”. For Jessica Jones, I would have chosen someone like Yancy Butler. Yes, she was too old, but her TV portrayal of Sara Pezzini, wielder of the Witchblade, was basically Jessica Jones. So that’s why I say “someone like” her. That wasn’t Ritter, from the build to the portrayal.

With Carol Danvers, Brie doesn’t bring anything that I think of when I think of the character. In the movies, her portrayal could be best described as “cold & lost”. She’s not close to anyone, and she’s got those memory gaps. She was basically used as a weapon by her adopted people’s military forces, and now she’s trying to atone for the wrong she’s done. Congratulations, that’s Wolverine.

In the comics, Carol is USAF veteran who – in the “Marvel Way” – is sometimes kind of a fuck-up. She messes up. A lot. But she’s always trying to improve, and she often succeeds. I am not going to claim I’m some Carol Danvers expert. I missed a lot of what’s been done to her in recent years, through the runs from DeConnick and Thompson.

I got into a comics during a period when it was clear nobody gave a shit about Carol Danvers. Like, not even on the editorial side. She seemed like this character you were allowed to do all the worst things to. For a long time, the most memorable thing about her was that her powers ended up going to Rogue, turning her into the X-Man we know now. After that, she went through a ton of identity crises. Used just see her in the background sometimes. She rebranded as Binary, and joined the Starjammers. So, now, you’d see her in the background, but IN SPACE! She would return to Earth, but as Warbird. It wasn’t until the House of M event that things started to change. You see, when you’re a character from which no one expects much, then there’s a ton of potential to unlock. You can do whatever, because nobody cares. So, during House of M, Danvers got a glimpse of another reality where she was known as “Captain Marvel”, taking up the mantle that had been vacated by the previous Captain Marvel. When everything was restored to “normal”, that vision stuck with her. “She believed she could, so she did.” She stepped up. After the Civil War event, she took a leading role on the pro-registration Mighty Avengers team. And she never looked back. Next thing you knew, she promoted herself to Captain Marvel in the “regular” universe, and folks began to take notice. And that’s how we got to where we are today.

To me, Carol Danvers – like most Marvel heroes – is broken. She’s a recovering alcoholic, she’s struggled with PTSD, most of her closest friends are what could be considered “D-list heroes”, so you’ve got to wonder if that’s how she sees herself at the end of the day. She’s in an on-again/off-again interracial relationship with another capable and accomplished Marvel hero, who often finds himself relegated to being Tony Stark’s caddy. “Birds of a feather…” Through all of this, however, she has never let it stop her. “She persisted”. Carol Danvers is a SURVIVOR. And I don’t get that from Brie. As far as casting, you need someone who’s old enough to have fucked up a bunch. I know there’s a bunch of timey-wimey stuff going on, but I’d have cast Charlize Theron. Unfortunately, she’s now been wasted on what will probably be a throwaway role, as Clea in the Doctor Strange franchise.

Anyway, the Danvers portrayal didn’t exactly take away from the experience, but a better understanding of the character could have vastly improved things all around. Still, it was an enjoyable film, and I find myself once again excited for the future of this shared universe.

Will Around The Web

Trailer Park

The American Society of Magical Negroes (Theaters, March 22nd)

This looks dumb. Plain & simple. And don’t say that I “don’t get it” because it’s “satire”. No, it’s heavy-handed and dumb. The concept itself feels like an unused Key & Peele sketch that someone found in a drawer somewhere. Sorry to Bother You was satire. This, wants to be Dear White People, set against a backdrop of Black Harry Potters. Or Harold Poitiers. Then, the biggest slap in the face, is that it turns out that it’s actually a rom-com? I’d watch this for David Allen Grier, because that man always delivers, but this…this is just a clever title to start conversations and thinkpieces.

Civil War (Theaters, April 26th)

We don’t need this, and A24 needs to stay in their lane. That is NOT the studio that is gonna produce a compelling, “balanced” portrayal of a “fictional” American civil war, when we’re on the brink of the real thing kicking off. The timing seems bad. You know how when there’s a brutal murderer on the loose, the news warns that there could be copycats? I don’t need folks watching this and getting any ideas. First off, it doesn’t make a ton of sense. How in the Hell do Texas and California become allies in a civil war?! I know, I know: “Watch the movie to find out.” I dunno, man. We all know A24. This is like getting financial advice from your weed dealer. I don’t need them anywhere near anything like this right now. Let society get its shit together first. This is just as bad as how Songbird was rushed out before most of the country’s Covid restrictions had been rolled back.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • It’s the good ol’ boys, never meanin’ no harm – ya know, unless you’re a sitting US president. Yup, John Schneider, of The Dukes of Hazzard fame, came off placing 2nd on The Masked Singer, only to take to X to threaten lives of the president and his son. After Fox canceled his press tour for the show in response, Schneider released a statement, saying that people needed to go back and read what he said, as he did not threaten the president’s life. Um, there’s really no other way to interpret what he wrote, but here you go:

  • It’s rumored that there are talks of a Warner Bros Discovery/Paramount merger. This is just starting to get embarrassing. Everybody wanted their own streamer when the market couldn’t support it, and now they’re forming alliances like this is Big Brother. It’s only gonna get worse before it gets better. But, hey – maybe fans will end up with that DCU/Star Trek crossover they’ve been fantasizing about since this rumor surfaced.
  • Mayim Bialik took to social media to announce that she was informed by producers that she would no longer be hosting the syndicated version of Jeopardy! The wording was precise, leading folks to wonder if she would still host the primetime specials, per her original agreement.
  • It has not been a great season for Chandler & Monica, as Courteney Cox’s most recent series, the horror comedy Shining Vale, was canceled by Starz after 2 seasons. Not just canceled, but also removed from the Starz streaming service. They are DONE!
  • Speaking of shows ending, it was announced that FX comedy What We Do in the Shadows would be ending after its upcoming season 6.
  • South Park “stealth dropped” a new special, “Not Suitable for Children”, on Paramount+ this week, where they tackle OnlyFans. To me, this begs the question: In the Year of our Lord 2023, the South Park audience is comprised of whom, exactly? They used to be an easy crowd to peg. However, in a Rick and Morty, post Seth MacFarlane/Bojack Horseman world, the market has been cornered for Animated Nihilism.
  • Shannen Doherty continued her podcast assault on former Charmed sister, Alyssa Milano, saying that she didn’t quit, but that Milano got her fired from the show. I should point out that Doherty’s cancer has spread to her brain, and her condition is terminal. This means her words carry more weight, since these podcast episodes could be seen as “the last words of a dying woman”. The dynamics are kinda messed up, if you ask me.
  • As The CW’s acquisition strategy of importing international series has failed miserably, it was announced the network had acquired the broadcast rights to the first 5 seasons of Roseanne spinoff, The Conners. Meanwhile, new episodes will continue to air on ABC.

We’re gonna keep this short & sweet. I’ve always been a big fan of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and while I was disappointed when it ended back in 2015, I was very satisfied with its finale. Then, last year, Adult Swim started airing online shorts, called AquaDonk Side Pieces. It was great seeing the characters again, but I also didn’t understand the purpose, as the finale had been pretty, well, final. Then, Adult Swim announced a new movie coming to the Max streaming service, called Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Plantasm. I have to admit I skipped this, because I actually hated the first ATHF film, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (Trivia Time: I was actually in this movie while the Virginia Tech shooting was taking place…). So, I was fine catching it whenever. However, to my surprise, they announced there would be a new, twelfth season of the show, comprised of a mere 5 episodes. Well, that 5-episode run concluded this week.

I’m not gonna lie to you: It wasn’t amazing. It was, however, consistent. There weren’t any time jumps, no weird voice actor changes, no new approach to the writing. It was like we picked up where we had left off. And for a longtime fan, that’s all I could ask for. So, I don’t know what the future holds for the franchise, but for delivering as it always has, Aqua Teen Hunger Force had the West Week Ever.