Read, Watched, Podcapped: ‘Overdue’ tackles context while ‘The Rewatchables’ glosses over important discussion

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The recapping of podcast recap episodes continues this week, moving on to the next novel and film for discussion in each show. On Monday, “Overdue” moved into the world of science fiction, delving into the rare sci-fi novel written by a woman of color. Meanwhile, on Tuesday “The Rewatchables” didn’t stray too far from last week’s episode, focusing on another action film.

 

Overdue

This week Andrew and Craig jump right into the topic of aliens, with Andrew joking that Craig sounded alien-like in his introduction to the show. Craig read this week’s book: Octavia Butler’s 1987 “Dawn,” as recommended by one of the show’s Patreon supporters.

“Dawn,” the first in a trilogy entitled “Lilith’s Brood” (sometimes referred to as “Xenogenesis”) centers on the character Lilith Iyapo. Lilith, a Black woman, wakes up from a centuries-long sleep to find herself on the spaceship of an alien race (the Oankali), who she learns have saved the surviving humans from a decaying earth.

Andrew and Craig spend a significant amount of time discussing the context of the novel, beginning with its author. They note how rare it is for a science fiction novel to be written by a woman, let alone a woman of color. They discuss interviews Butler has given in which she emphasizes her desire to write stories about people of color — just not tales about the oppression or struggle that black people have faced through history. Butler even wanted to place more emphasis on Lilith being a woman rather than her being a person of color.

Further diving into the research of the writing process, the hosts discuss how “Dawn” was very much a reaction to the time period it was written in — specifically to the Cold War. Butler spoke publicly about how she viewed the Cold War as a political war between the United States and Russia, just without physical nuclear violence. “Dawn” began as an imagining of what could have happened if the tension between the two countries had actually become a nuclear war. Thus Lilith’s long sleep began at the violent end to that kind of imagined war, which is what destroyed the planet and led to the alien race abducting every surviving human.

Later, Andrew and Craig delve deeper into the aliens of the book. Craig remarks that the aliens of the novel are hard to describe: “(They’re) gray and tall and vaguely androgynous . . . [there’s] tentacles.” Lilith marks meeting the alien as “true xenophobia.” Andrew and Craig discuss how fear of the other is typically euphemistic for bigotry within society. Science fiction, they explain, often uses an alien race to show a true “other” — making the concept of one human fearing another human seem almost absurd. Craig praises Butler’s ability to depict this thought process through the character of Lilith.

While the hosts could have spent more time on overarching themes of the book and a bit less on context, overall this episode succeeds in providing a detailed look into “Dawn.”

 

The Rewatchables

This week, Bill is joined by Sean Fennessey and Shea Serrano — both staff members of The Ringer — to discuss Walter Hill’s 1979 film “The Warriors” in anticipation of its upcoming 40th anniversary. “The Warriors” follows a New York City gang and their travels after they are framed for the murder of another gang’s leader.

Shea had actually never seen the film before watching it for this episode, providing a slightly different perspective than is typical on The Rewatchables. He voices his dislike for the film, asserting that it is one you would have had to have seen as a kid to enjoy as an adult.

The three of them, however, agree on the strength of Hill’s general concept. Sean praises the world-building in the film, citing it as an early example of something that is now very prevalent in current movies.

Bill then brings up the violence that plagued various screenings of “The Warriors” when it was first released in theaters. There were multiple instances of violence breaking out at showings and even three deaths. The hosts quickly move onto another topic, completely glossing over the significance of this. What does it mean for a film about gangs to elicit actual violence at its screenings? Is the violence depicted in the film at fault? These questions are left unanswered for “The Rewatchables” listeners.

Later in the episode, Bill notes that the book off of which the film is based includes only Black characters. Paramount Pictures, however, decided they did not want an all Black cast — thus the cast is mixed (but mostly white). Again, the hosts miss an opportunity to have a critical and constructive conversation on what this significant change means for the original story and the film as a whole.

Instead, the three of them move on to the awards for the episode, where they spend the remainder of the episode’s running time. They agree that all cast members of “The Warriors” were at the height (or “apex mountain”) of their careers with this film — with the exception of James Remar, who may have reached his peak with “Sex and the City.”

For the category of “Who won the film,” Bill initially suggests Hill for helming the strong world-building and overall effectiveness of the film. Sean disagrees, suggesting the city of New York, which is often made its own character in film. He argues that such personification is done well in “The Warriors,” noting one scene included in the movie that occurs in the rain due to unexpected weather while filming on location.

While these categories are fun and entertaining, they are glossing over important discussions on race in film or the impact of violent depiction in film. There was clearly a lot to unpack with “The Warriors,” both in content and in context; the hosts of “The Rewatchables” didn’t even crack the surface of all that was ready for discussion.

Nikki Munoz covers podcasts. Contact her at [email protected].