Saturday, November 21, 2009

Poodle Bitch is Irritated by the Latest Episode of "Glee"

"Glee" has become one of Poodle Bitch's favorite shows. Overall it is a well-written, well-acted, and well-sung look at human high school life that is surprisingly sensitive and complex. With some exceptions, of course. Poodle Bitch feels that they have yet to fully explain why Will Schuester would have married the venal, manipulative Terri in the first place (other than the fact that she bears a superficial resemblance to Jessalyn Gilsig, the actress who portrays her), while at the same time the writers seem to be trying too hard to "humanize" the entertainingly venal, manipulative Sue Sylvester.

However, for this week's episode, "Ballad," there was not a single moment that rang true. It felt as if Poodle Bitch were watching just another television show, in which some of the characters occasionally break into song. Awkwardly.

For starters, why would Mr. Schuester break everyone up into pairs to sing ballads to each other? Poodle Bitch is a close watcher of shows she likes, and she cannot for the life of her remember his justification for doing this. Moreover, why was it that Mr. Schuester felt the need to offer himself up as a "partner" to one of the students? There seemed no reason for him to not just say "We'll wait for Matt to return," or "We're going to have one group of three." He's the teacher, the authority figure-- this despite the fact that he is young, hip, and clearly portrayed by an actor who is only a few years older than the students.

But even accepting that he allowed himself to be selected as a partner by one of the students-- and Rachel, no less-- why would he allow her to bully him into performing "Endless Love" with her? He knew the song well enough to sing it, so he knew the lyrics before they started. It is one of the most effective expressions of over-ripe teenaged emotions ever put to music ("you will always be my endless love"); of course it was going to have a hypnotic effect on a teenaged girl whose hormones are aimlessly raging.

Poodle Bitch questions the judgment of a teacher who would sing this song with one of his students.

Mr. Schuester's decision to sing "Endless Love" with a student was especially moronic and irresponsible given his past experience with student crushes. As he explains to the delightful Emma Pillsbury later in the episode, he can't just tell Rachel to stop and leave him alone because the last time he did that with one of his students, she attempted suicide.

Poodle Bitch is not joking. But the writers were; for, in a flashback scene played for laughs, the brokenhearted object of Mr. Schuester's previous rejection, Suzy Pepper, attempts to kill herself by ingesting the world's hottest hot pepper (she'd ordered it from somewhere in South America, Poodle Bitch believes). Paramedics are barely able to save her in time, and she requires years of psychotherapy and an esophagus transplant.

Poodle Bitch wonders why it is that the writers found this to be suitable comedy fodder. There is certainly a layer of darkness to some of the episodes, but she found this subplot to be bleak and insensitive.

However, for plot purposes it was necessary to explain why Mr. Schuester couldn't just tell Rachel to straight up "cut it out and leave me alone." He's worried about another attempted suicide. (Poodle Bitch would wryly note that, given the fact that Mr. Schuester married the abominable Terri, and has yet to realize, after several months of living together and sleeping in the same bed that she is not actually pregnant, there is perhaps little need to explain his lapses in judgment.) For this reason, Emma Pillsbury, who has her own crush on Mr. Schuester and, not surprisingly, her own decision-making problems, suggests that Mr. Schuester express his feelings in song. To let her down gently.

To that end, Mr. Schuester creates a mash-up of the songs "Young Girl" and "Don't Stand So Close to Me," altering the lyrics of each to make them even more combative and abrasive. Just so Poodle Bitch has this straight: Hearing the object of her crush sing to her, "Young girl, you're out of your mind, your love for me is way out of line," and "Don't stand- don't stand so- don't stand so close to me" is intended to be the sensitive way of letting her down. (As an aside, Poodle Bitch would like to note that any power contained in the song "Young Girl" by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap rests in its idea that the narrator did not realize that the object of his affection was so young-- she's deliberately misrepresented to him her age-- and he is therefore struggling with his desire for her, which he now realizes on a rational level to be inappropriate. What Mr. Schuester did to the song, in addition to awkwardly "mashing" it into "Don't Stand," was to turn it into an angry diatribe that would belittle anyone with even a little self-awareness.)

Is this song creepy? Poodle Bitch would like to point out that the narrator is attempting to distance himself from the girl who led him to believe she was old enough to give him love. He isn't inviting her back to his hot tub for champagne and quaaludes.

Of course this terrific plan doesn't work. Rachel lacks the self-awareness necessary to see that Mr. Schuester was belittling her, and Emma Pillsbury, who was also there to watch his performance, sits in dazzled awe of his skills as a performer.

It's not until Suzy Pepper, who apparently has returned to the school following her therapy and transplant (Poodle Bitch is unaware of how human schools work, but she wonders why anyone, from the psychiatrists to the administrators to parents, would believe it a good idea that she return to the school where Mr. Schuester teaches) corners Rachel in the bathroom and admonishes her about the dangers of becoming too attached to Mr. Schuester that she comes to realize how poorly she's been acting.

For his behavior, Mr. Schuester is let off the hook.

Meanwhile, there is pregnant Quinn. She has yet to tell her parents that she's pregnant (although most of the school already knows and anyone with access to the internet and Jacob's gossip blog can find out), and is, in her first scene of the episode, trying on her gown for the "chastity ball" (good golly Miss Molly-- isn't the term "chastity ball" oxymoronic?), with her mother's help. Mother, mildly tipsy, notes that the gown doesn't fit as well as it did last month, and Quinn explains that she had a big lunch that day.

It is clear that Quinn's mother realizes her daughter is pregnant, but is in a state of, perhaps, alcoholic denial. And, of course, she is a Christian who is preparing her little girl to attend a "chastity ball."

Quinn's father staggers into the room declaring Glenn Beck is on television, drink in his hand (Poodle Bitch does not watch Glenn Beck, but she has just googled him and discovered that his program airs at 5 PM weekdays, which means Quinn's parents have started getting drunk before five o'clock. This seems early to Poodle Bitch.), offering words of pressure about his lovely, chaste daughter.

Poodle Bitch harbors no particular animus toward religious people, nor conservatives, nor those who watch conservative television programs. Nor does she have any particular affection for them. But she wonders why it is that the writers of this show, who have displayed real sensitivity toward, as an example, Kurt's father, should present Quinn's parents as little more than typical right-wing caricatures?

And speaking of Kurt, Poodle Bitch notes that he, too, became a cliche in this episode-- the sensitive gay man in love with the dumb jock he can never have, who nevertheless offers advice and encouragement to said dumb jock in his pursuit of the woman he kinda-sorta loves. Although in this case, Kurt's advice was universally bad. Of course, in the ballad pairings Kurt was paired with Finn, who believes he is the father of Quinn's child. He is upset because Quinn is planning on giving up the baby for adoption (to the execrable Terri Schuester), and so he won't get to be part of his daughter's life. Kurt suggests that he sing a ballad to his daughter-- his suggestion is The Pretenders's "I'll Stand by You," which is a song Poodle Bitch admires, but has been used so often in movies and television shows as to have become an obvious cliche. Why not select "My Baby," or "Kid," or "Hymn to Her" (Poodle Bitch's own personal favorite) instead?

There were plenty of Pretenders songs to choose.

But that doesn't compare to the monumentally bad advice Kurt gives Finn later in the episode. When he encourages Finn to serenade Quinn-- during a dinner with her parents-- with the song "You're Having My Baby."

"You're a woman in love and I love what's going through you." Poodle Bitch is happy she has been fixed.

Perhaps the high school student Kurt is too young to realize this, but Poodle Bitch's humans are certainly old enough to know that that particular song has been a punchline almost since it was recorded. Poodle Bitch wonders if perhaps Cal Smith's "Country Bumpkin," or Terry Jacks's "Seasons in the Sun," or The Captain and Tennille's "Muskrat Love" will be sung in upcoming episodes?

And why did it take two verses for the parents to realize their daughter was pregnant? The very first line of that painful song is "You're having my baby." It doesn't get much more obvious than that.

The less Poodle Bitch says about the Glee Club's serenading Quinn and Finn with "Lean on Me," the better. But she would be remiss if she did not further add that Puck's admission to Mercedes that he is really the father of Quinn's child did little to advance her opinion of either character.

Over all, a very weak episode of what has been a very entertaining and uplifting show. Poodle Bitch is hopeful that next week's episode won't be quite so bad. Poodle Bitch is an optimist.

Glee cast photograph source.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

RE: Owen Wilson as Marmaduke

Poodle Bitch rarely reads comic strips. She prefers the humor of authors such illustrators as Roland Topor and Edward Gorey. She is not a snob, but she does readily admit to having refined taste. She also readily admits to having no idea what exactly about this is supposed to be funny:

That is today's, November 3's, installment of a daily newspaper comic strip called "Marmaduke." First of all, Poodle Bitch will suppress the urge to make a joke about newspapers being good for nothing more than picking up her dirt during walks. Plenty of people still read newspapers. But she has to wonder how much enjoyment they get from them, when comics such as the above appear in their pages. Poodle Bitch has studied this illustration for far too long already, and still she cannot see where the humor is supposed to be. Is the humor solely to be found in the fact that the dog is so monstrously larger than the human girl? Is it somehow contained in the dog's mannerism, with the right forepaw pressed to his forehead? Is it in the caption-- is the little girl being ironic? Is the dog?

Poodle Bitch cannot understand.

Nor can she understand why it is that such a comic strip might inspire a feature film.

[I]t’s being reported that Owen Wilson has signed on the dotted line to voice the role of Marmaduke, a giant clumsy CGI dog based on the 1954 comic strip of the same name. ... The plans for a Marmaduke movie have apparently been around for a while now as it has a cast of known names that will surely regret ever agreeing to appear in it down the road. The names include William H. Macy, Judy Greer, and Lee Pace as live-action characters, while Steve Coogan, Emma Stone, Damon Wayans, George Lopez, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Marlon Wayans, and Fergie will all voice CG characters.

Poodle Bitch has only read a few "Marmaduke" comic strips, while composing this blog entry, but one thing she has noticed about every one that she has seen is that the dog does not "speak." She is unsure therefore as to why anyone would bother to create a film based on a comic strip and then change something so fundamental about it. There are plenty of comic strips in which animals "speak." No, Poodle Bitch cannot name any of them, because she does not read comic strips. But she knows at least one human who does with alarming regularity. So she knows a little something about this. But she wonders why it is that the filmmakers don't just purchase the rights to one of these other talking animal comics.

Then again, she wonders why filmmakers don't create original material themselves.

And why is Owen Wilson, a talented and charming performer whose work Poodle Bitch has admired in the past, making yet another cute dog movie? Poodle Bitch reminds the reader that Mr. Wilson recently appeared in the execrable "Marley & Me," in which an obnoxious Labrador seems to take forever to die. (Poodle Bitch did not offer a spoiler alert warning because "Marley & Me" is so rotten that it cannot be spoiled.) The film made light of canine mental illness and neurosis to the point of being offensive. It also manipulated the viewer in the most casually cynical way.

But at least "Marley & Me" starred real dog actors. Poodle Bitch notes that "Marmaduke" will feature CGI, or "computer generated imagery" dog characters. Poodle Bitch wonders about the future for animal performers. Soon they will all be out of work; CGI dogs don't need to be paid scale, don't need to be fed, and don't need to be picked up after.

They also don't turn up their noses at material based on manipulative, treacly books and unfunny comic strips.

Exasperating Nonsense from Massachusetts

Massachusetts is the state which, as Poodle Bitch recalls, wanted to increase its animal companion licensing fees by $3.00. At the time, Poodle Bitch wondered about the soundness of demanding more money from responsible animal companions during what is being called an economic downturn-- but now, Poodle Bitch has the disturbing answer as to what it is that animal control authorities in that great state do with their money.

In one case, they steal animal companions and present them as gifts to police officers' girlfriends.

It was not until [Janet] Torren threatened to call police last month that she learned the Stoughton official in charge of finding stray dogs had given away her “little princess,’’ a 4-year-old Yorkshire terrier that Torren calls Shai.

The story is almost too exasperating for Poodle Bitch to relate. Apparently, young Shai slipped out through a back gate at the home of Ms. Torren's son. Shai was then taken to "the pound," where she was then presented to a police officer's girlfriend by the head of animal control, a reprehensible creature called Kristin Bousquet.

But Torren did not learn for 12 days that the dog had been brought to the pound and she spent nearly every one of those days knocking on doors and making phone calls in search of her beloved pet. She called the Stoughton pound many times, but was told they did not have her dog.

“I was frantic,’’ she said. “Our children are grown, and Shai is a baby to us; we treat her as our little princess. She’s a family member. She’s absolutely loving.’’

Shai had an identifying microchip implanted behind one of her ears, and Torren called one microchip company, thinking they would know if it had been scanned by a pound or a veterinarian. They had not received any reports. On Oct. 1, Torren called another company and learned the microchip had been scanned, by the town pound in Stoughton, on the day the dog was lost.

So, once again, Torren called Kristin Bousquet, the town’s animal control officer. There was no answer. After Torren left a message threatening to call police, Bousquet called back and tried to suggest someone else at the pound or the local rescue league may have scanned Shai’s microchip, even though Torren said the company told her that Bousquet had registered Shai.

Finally, Ms. Torren contacted the chief of police, who was able to locate the dog. Shai and Ms. Torren were reunited-- a happy ending to a story that Poodle Bitch finds very disturbing. Except. There is something within the article that causes Poodle Bitch to be still unsettled.

After Bousquet said the dog was about to be taken to Florida, Torren gave her a half hour to return her dog. Then Torren met with Chief Thomas Murphy of the Stoughton Police Department. They chatted in his office for a few minutes, and he walked out and came back carrying Shai.

“It was a huge relief,’’ she said. “It was like this whole, horrible story was over.’’

After a brief investigation, Murphy found that Bousquet had given the dog to a police officer’s girlfriend, who was planning to move to Florida with Shai. He found that the dog was well fed and in good condition. The officer and his girlfriend, neither of whom Murphy identified, did not know that the dog had been missing, Murphy said.

Perhaps it's just that the article is inartfully written, but Poodle Bitch wonders what the police chief did while he was out of the office? Did he know which of his officers' girlfriends had been given the dog? Where did he get the dog he was carrying when he returned to his office? And, perhaps most important, Poodle Bitch wonders why Ms. Torren, who was likely so overcome with relief that she was not thinking straight, should trust anything that any city officials tell her regarding her animal companion?

Poodle Bitch has been very lucky. She has, for the most part, encountered humans who have treated her with respect and decency. She has always felt relatively safe with her humans, and is of a sufficiently contrary nature that very few humans would want to spirit her away from her regular human companions. But she understands that this is a constant source of anxiety for many dogs; they worry over their treatment by humans, for they are essentially at the mercy of humans.

Poodle Bitch suspects that Shai will be a long time recovering from this sense of abandonment she felt when she was taken from Ms. Torren. And for that, Ms. Torren should do something.


Torren has decided not to press charges against Bousquet.

Again, Poodle Bitch believes Ms. Torren is allowing her relief to cloud her judgment. The reprehensible Kristin Bousquet scanned Shai's chip at the pound, gave Shai to someone else, and then repeatedly and over the course of 12 days lied about the fact, knowingly preventing Ms. Torren and Shai being reunited. Poodle Bitch believes there's a fine line between being polite and being a sap. It doesn't matter that the town manager fired the reprehensible Kristin Bousquet from her job in animal control. Of course she should have lost her job. But this human exhibited a pattern of deviousness that merited punishment beyond that.

The reprehensible Kristin Bousquet was drawing a salary that was paid for with taxpayer money. If Poodle Bitch were a resident of Massachusetts, she would compose a harshly-worded letter to Ms. Torren, telling her to press charges, if only for the other taxpayers.