West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/19/24

Happy “Let’s All Pretend This Is An Awesome Album” Day! I kid, I kid… If you don’t know any White girls, then you might not realize that Taylor Swift’s newest album, The Tortured Poets Department, was released at midnight, with 31 (!) songs. There’s no way they’re all good. You just don’t give away 31 good songs. If this were 1996, I’m sure half of those would have been spread across various European CD maxi singles. Anyway, it’s not a bad album, but from what I’ve heard so far, it’s just not what I was expecting. Maybe I’ll do a full review down the road.

Speaking of pop music, I was so wrapped up in the Gambit stuff from last week’s post, that I forgot to mention one of the most important aspects of X-Men ’97 Episode 5: the needle drop! As Rogue descends into the Genosha gala, a familiar intro starts playing. Immediately, I thought “Where do I know this from?” As the song continued, you began to hear Latin chanting, and I’m thinking “I know this isn’t from Pure Moods…” That’s when it hit me: “Happy Nation!” Ya see, most Americans know 2 things about the band Ace of Base: “The Sign” and “All That She Wants” (3 things, if you count how everyone knows the blond guy was briefly a Neo-Nazi, but I digress…). I, however, was an Ace of Base SUPERFAN. Not only did they sort of usher me back into pop, from the land of Adult Contemporary, but they also laid the foundation for my boyband fandom.

What’s important about this choice of song, though, comes down to its original intent. You see, it was reportedly released in response to those Neo-Nazi allegations, and instead of formally addressing them, Ulf Ekberg (The Blond) kinda just brushed it off in a “Hey, that was the past! Can’t we all just get along” kind of way, which was the fashion at the time. So, the official Ace of Base stance on the song is that it’s “an anti-fascist song and a hymn to life”. With that in mind, it’s sort of clear why mutants would decide to play this at the gala celebrating their newfound home, but also explains why the production side of things thought it to be a good fit. Still, that dude was totally a Neo-Nazi…

Trailer Park

Transformers One (Theaters, September 20)

When I first heard of this project, my first thought was “Why?”, so going into this trailer, I really wanted to hate it. While I loathe the Mortal Enemies Were Once Friends trope, this looks interesting. I’ve never really thought of Transformers as anything more than toys, so I know nothing of the lore and various storylines out there. So, I’m something of a blank slate here, but I’ve also never seen more than 2 of the “Bayformers” films, so is this in that continuity? Remember back when Hasbro tried to have their own channel, with The Hub? This looks like it would have been a cool story on there, along with G.I. Joe: Renegades. But a movie? I dunno. What I do know is that it will probably yield a bunch of awesome looking, yet way overpriced, toys.

Next Stop Paris (Summer 2024, TCLtv+)

So, I saw this trailer pop up in a few different places over the past week, mainly as part of the “OMG! A.I. is coming for our jerbs!” discourse. I get the fear, but I don’t think it’s time to sound the alarms just yet. You see, this trailer is to promote an upcoming romantic short film from budget television manufacturer TCL. They’re launching their own streaming app, called TCLtv+ (Gotta have the +), and this is something of a “proof of concept” of what their in-house A.I. is capable of doing. So, it’s…something, but I don’t think Clooney’s out of a job just yet. This is a “film” comprised of what’s basically video game cutscenes. It’s certainly different, but if this is “The Future of Hollywood”, that future is a long way away.

Trap (Theaters, August 9)

I know M. Night had a few slow years where everyone loved to hate on him, but between Knock At The Cabin and someone else helming a lackluster live action Avatar adaptation, I think folks are ready to forgive him. That said, I always loved him for his patented twists, the absence of which made the aforementioned Knock somewhat disappointing to me. So, it was kind of refreshing to see the twist IN the trailer. This looks great, and I’m glad to see Josh Hartnett back to Leading Man status, as his trajectory fell off in the mid 00s. Based on who I know to be my primary audience, though, let me let you in on a little secret: In US racial politics, there is NO WAY a Black retail worker is going to share “hot goss” with a random milquetoast White guy. It was a nice touch that Hartnett introduced himself first, to establish familiarity. Still, you’ve got to be at the fabled “Cookout” to get that kind of intel, and not off to the side of an arena’s concession stand. Every Black person in that place was safe, because dude was gonna make sure they were all informed. Harnett, though? Nah. But now Black dude’s gonna die because he was too free with the information. Let that be a lesson!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Wanna feel old? This week marked the 30th anniversary of Space Ghost Coast To Coast, as well as the 25th anniversary of the Backstreet Boys’ massive hit “I Want It That Way”
  • It was a big week for TV cancelations, as CBS announced that The Talk would end after an abbreviated 15th season, Paramount announced Star Trek: Lower Decks would be ending with season 5, Netflix announced The Witcher would be ending with season 5, and CNN canceled the Gayle King/Charles Barkley weekly “experiment” known as King Charles.
  • Meanwhile, ABC’s The Conners may be on the chopping block, as it’s starting to look like next month’s season finale may actually turn out to be a series finale.
  • A new season of Behind The Music was announced, now streaming on Paramount+. Artists covered will include Bell Biv Devoe, Trace Adkins, and Wolfgang Van Halen.
  • It was reported that Ncuti Gatwa’s Fifteenth Doctor would be gaining a second Companion next season on Doctor Who. While it was originally reported that Varada Sethu’s unnamed character would replace current Companion Ruby Sunday (played by Millie Gibson), it now appears they’ll share space in the TARDIS for a while.
  • In what has to be a record in terms of turnaround, This Is Us – a show that has only been off the air for 2 years – is getting an official rewatch podcast, hosted by Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, and Chris Sullivan. Now, I KNOW Sterling is too busy to be messing around with this, so that must have been a nice check. Plus, do y’all think Chrissy Metz turned this down? I mean, if so, RESPECT.
  • Another week, another A.I. scandal. First up, A24 is in trouble for using A.I. generated images for the posters promoting Civil War. I mean, I guess the studio was expected do an actual war-torn photoshoot in major cities? Anyway, Meta introduced Meta AI which is now powering the search for all Meta products, such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc. So, the machines officially have all your data now. See y’all in Zion!
  • Crazy Rich Asians is being turned into a stage musical, with lyrics written by Singaporean music producer, and my a cappella buddy from Cornell, Tat Tong!

This one was pretty easy, as this Saturday Night Live sketch was hands down one of their funniest in the past 5 years. It plays to a very particular demographic, and I just happen to be in that sweet spot. Yes, Beavis and Butt-Head was recently revived on Paramount+, but in no way has it re-entered the zeitgeist as during its original run. 90s Beavis and Butt-Head was iconic, while the revival is something akin to a “reunion tour”. It’s the same Beavis, but the world has changed. Considering most kids basically turn into Cornholio after consuming too much sugar these days (thanks a lot, chemtrails!), it’s not such a weird thing to witness anymore. But this sketch wasn’t for the youth of 2024, but rather the youth of 1994.

As an added touch, they slipped in a reference to some behind the scenes drama, that might have missed folks not plugged into the pop culture scene. You see, a few weeks back, a Tik Tok user by the name Jahelis posted a video where she argued that SNL doesn’t hire “hot” women, because they’re afraid to show that a woman can be both hot AND funny. She felt that SNL, instead, hired funny women, but no one who would be considered conventionally beautiful. She specifically targeted cast member Heidi Gardner by pointing out how Gardner is constantly placed in sketches as The Pretty Girl, when, according to Jahelis, she’s not that hot. To say this video went “Black Plague viral” would be an understatement. It eventually caught the attention of the actual female cast members of the show, who went on to address the video in various ways. Jahelis, meanwhile, went on to delete the original post, after claiming to have received death threats over it. At the end of the day, she’ll be fine, as she’s clearly a shitposter who doesn’t seem to give a shit about what folks think about her. I mean, a lot of folks say that, but few actually mean it. I think she means it, but the death threats/insults were still a bridge too far. So, in the sketch, when Heidi’s NewsNation moderator character is asked if she’d ever watched Beavis and Butt-Head, she replies, “No, I was pretty, so I was going to parties and hooking up.” Gotta love that double down!

Anyway, I loved it, folks I know who aren’t typical SNL fans loved it, and it was clearly a hit on set, as you saw folks break who typically don’t do that. Between Kenan being Kenan, and Gosling and Day earnestly committing to the bit, the whole thing is just a perfect storm of funny. So, with that in mind, Saturday Night Live‘s Beavis and Butt-Head sketch had the West Week Ever.