A Couple of Close Calls
On Hayden Panettiere's pop music stint, AppleTV+'s new series Calls, and inevitably, the Snyder Cut.
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All my friends in the UK are gearing up for their island’s big reopening. I’m jealous, of course, as the island I reside on seems to be in a perpetual state of pandemic denial. I would actually give anything to be at a pub somewhere in London ordering less-than-pleasant halloumi fries to go with the buttermilk chicken burger I know someone else will order for me.
I didn’t realize how much I missed that part of my life. As much as I enjoy saving money and reveling in my sobriety, I do miss going out with my mates. I miss losing my mind when a Prince song would come on at a bar-club-brunch spot-hybrid we accidentally stumbled into. I miss rolling cigarettes for people who don’t smoke unless they’ve had a couple of drinks. I miss romanticizing my youth on the bus ride home across Waterloo Bridge.
For now, I’ve had to live vicariously through mid-noughties music videos that are set in obscure nightclubs. One of my favourites, and one I stumbled upon years ago in a stage of Sebastian Stan Brainrot was Hayden Panettiere’s Wake Up Call.
There’s a lot to unpack in this video. For one, Sebastian Stan plays Panettiere’s love interest, if not the antagonist within the video’s plot. This was after they had worked together on The Architect (2006), where they had played siblings. In the context of Sebastian’s career, this was post-The Covenant, during Carter Baizen’s short disappearance from Gossip Girl, and pre-Political Animals; a period of time I have a sweet spot for. I’d like to think that this was actually Carter Baizen in the video, getting played by the cheerleader from Heroes that can’t die.
The song itself is bizarre, at least lyrically. This Buzzfeed article by Ira Madison III breaks down what Hayden is trying to get across in this track. The lyrics chronicle an escalation in the lengths Hayden and the listener should go to to keep their man. The track itself is this beach cabana, pseudo-reggae white girl music that Paris Hilton does a much better job of executing. It sounds like the video is meant to be set on a beach.
But alas, and actually to my delight, the music video is set in a nightclub. Hayden splits time between singing into a microphone and exchanging knowing looks to an oblivious Sebastian Stan across the bar. She shows him what he’s missing a lot of the time, mingling in the crowd and dancing the night away. I wish there was a VEVO official version of this video, one I could stream in at least 720p for better screengrabs of the different set pieces.
The lighting doesn’t do anyone justice, and this is evident when Hayden begins phase two of her plan to give Sebastian the titular Wake Up Call. She heads into the nightclub’s bathroom with a purse full of clothes. It also seems like she’s planted a rack of outfits in said bathroom, or maybe it’s part of the facility’s amenenties.
She changes into a little black dress, as per the song’s lyrics, and dons a Dark Betty from Riverdale wig. I love it when blonde girls take their “dark sides” very literally, meaning when they decide to be brunettes. Hayden puts on red lipstick and heads back out onto the dancefloor, only for Sebastian to be as unresponsive as he was before. I’m convinced that a lot of the footage of him by the bar might be the same clips looped over. The lighting is so off that Hayden’s face is so washed out, save for her red lippie.
Hayden retreats in an attempt to regroup her attack plans. She takes us into a room with disco balls, free of her Dark Betty alter ego in a white dress and her blonde curls making a return. The next stage of her plan involves her going brunette again, she wears a black hoodie and zips it up to the top. The bridge of the song brings her an opportunity to “krump” in this outfit, and I use krump very loosely as it’s more reminiscent of the “krumping” she does in Bring It On: All or Nothing. Post-krump, she gets on stage to sing the rest of the song in front of her audience of club-goers. Sebastian is in the crowd, nodding along, realizing the lyrics are getting a little too personal for his liking. Hayden takes off her wig in true Hannah Montana fashion to reveal her real identity: the blonde girl Sebastian just kept staring at.
The reveal takes Sebastian by surprise, as evidenced above. From his facial expressions alone, you could tell that Hayden won. The titular Wake Up Call, woken up and called.
There’s not much surrounding the video’s conception, aside from how short-lived Panettiere’s pop career was and how she eventually found success musically starring in the hit drama Nashville. Candie’s, a clothing brand I hadn’t heard from since I stopped buying up copies of Teen Vogue in Kuwaiti bookstores, actually provided an ad campaign for the single in the summer of 2008.
I think Wake Up Call stands on the shoulders of giants. It’s a very enjoyable experience for me watching this late-2000s slice of life that has slipped through the cracks. However, I think Wake Up Call’s video does owe a lot of its existence to the music video for Ashley Tisdale’s 2007 single, He Said, She Said.
The story beats are similar; Tisdale is making eyes at some guy in the club, in Panettiere’s case “some guy” is Sebastian Stan1. Girl sees Boy across the dancefloor, Girl dances, Girl provides product placement, subtle or overt, in the nightclub bathroom, leading to a resolution of some kind with the Boy. The major differences are that Tisdale’s video has a choreographed dance sequence and decent lighting. He Said, She Said was peddling Disney-approved sensuality and LG slide-up phones without degrading the Girl’s role in this reciprocal Girl Meets Boy scenario. Wake Up Call is fun, but comes across confused. Whereas He Said, She Said isn’t afraid to step into its power of being (to quote Tisdale herself) “Jessica Alba Fantastic”.
I love coming back to Wake Up Call for a little wake-up call of my own. I’ve been struggling to have fun again, things I usually enjoy falling into the trap of becoming a chore. But for some reason, this strange moment in both Hayden Panettiere and Sebastian Stan’s careers is reminding me to take it easy. I’m yearning for a good night out, and I’m not sure if and when I’ll be able to do that again, but in the meantime, this music video can keep me company.
Pedro Can’t Come To The Phone Right Now, He’s Across The Street
I got another AppleTV+ trial just to watch Calls. Okay, that’s a lie, I did it to rewatch Ted Lasso, but I digress. Calls is actually pretty good! I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It’s eerie, distressing, and bizarre; I’m considering tracking down the original French version of the show for comparison, I’m sure it’ll be just as thrilling.
The premise of the show is pretty straightforward; a series of seemingly unrelated calls are tied together by bizarre occurrences. The origins of these occurrences I’m not quite sure of, they could be supernatural, they could be some weird techie alien thing, who’s to say? The show starts at the end, literally, with an episode entitled ‘The End’. It’s a creepy but strong way to open the show, as an ensemble cast starring Nicholas Braun, Karen Gillan, and Lilly Collins that get caught up in The Leftovers-style disappearances and creepy intruder dopplegängers. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays a scared father-to-be who discovers he’s not where and when he’s not meant to be in the following episode.
And then came Pedro.
His episode is the third in the series, titled ‘Pedro Across The Street’. The episode is only about 12 minutes long, opening with Patrick (Mark Duplass) calling his wife Alexis (Judy Greer) about what they want to eat for dinner. Alexis seems uninterested in most of the things Patrick has to say, as she’s busy on a shift at her job at the bank. Patrick suddenly gets a phone call from a contact he doesn’t recognize, a number he’s saved under ‘Pedro Across The Street’. Alexis tells him that it’s their neighbour Pedro (Pedro Pascal), and he shouldn’t pick up his call as Pedro might want something.
Against Alexis’ wishes, Patrick picks up. Pedro asks Patrick a favour to secure some valuables he left behind in his frenzy to get to the airport. Things start to get weird when Pedro starts predicting what Alexis is going to say to Patrick before she says it. It turns out Pedro has been involved with some illicit activities, the valuables he’s asked Patrick to secure revealed to be a bag full of unmarked bills. Both Patrick and Alexis start to panic, Alexis suspiciously so. Each episode has a different Weird Occurrence. I think Pedro’s episode has the mildest outcome and consequences, the others can get pretty scary. My favourite part is when Duplass’s character discovers his wife has been having an affair with Pedro, finding her missing earring on Pedro’s bedside table along with some “lube” and “extra-large condoms”. Patrick ends up leaving with Pedro’s duffel bag of cash, never to be seen again.
I think the show is definitely interesting, like a very gripping audio podcast. A lot of the visuals lend themselves to parallel the Weird Occurrences that happen during each call. The sound designers are definitely the real heroes of these pieces; every police siren, unlocked car door, or broken window you’ll hear as if you’re there. It leaves a lot of room for the imagination if you can suppress that part of you that hates being told what’s going on instead of being shown it. The cast is stacked. You’ll definitely get some actor combinations you never knew you needed before. Part of me wants it to be more immersive, and the other part of me wonders if this is going to spark up the tired discourse of what constitutes “television” anymore.
If you’re interested in peculiar sci-fi anthologies, this might be right up your alley. If you like listening to Pedro Pascal’s voice through a filter that makes him sound even more like The Mandalorian, this’ll be nice for you too.
The Cut Was Released
Last Thursday, I willingly subjected myself to Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a four-hour re-cut of the 2017 J*ss Whed*n flop. I grew up watching Justice League cartoons whilst I did my homework and reading Justice League comics once I figured out how to pirate comic books at a very young age. It’s a part of my pop culture consumption that I’ve unconsciously buried.
A friend of mine called the Snyder Cut a “quantum film”. Schrödinger’s Cut, if you will. In a way, at least for me, the film is both is and isn’t awful at the same time. It’s both too much and not enough. If you left Zack Snyder’s Justice League with a bottle of poison and radioactive material inside a sealed box, will it become four hours longer and shorter simultaneously? Perhaps length isn’t even the problem.
I get really fucking annoyed when fans ruin things for me to the point I have to distance myself from the material. I understand the argument of “why should you be ashamed of liking anything, just enjoy it!” But some people take it a step too far. Maybe I’m a hater, maybe I want to enjoy some things in private and not air them out on my already too revealing Twitter account and newsletter. I haven’t been able to consume an episode of Rick and Morty without feeling a little gross about myself afterward. I know I’m not like the fans of that show that piss me off, so why the shame? I think it’s that being Extremely Online thing again and the face-value perception everyone has of everyone else. I’d like to think my online presence is a “bit” that’s passing itself off as elaborate.
This goes for things I publicly enjoy usually without shame either; there are camps within the One Direction fandom I’d like to stay far removed from, and the weird little invasive behavior from Pedro Pascal’s stans that I’m very glad I have no connection to. I’ve always wanted to write an essay about the overlap between those two fan spaces; how celebrity has become this monolithic fan experience where you have to ride or die for whoever or whatever it is you’re into. It can take on some extremes. Taylor Swift has 88.5 millon Twitter followers and she didn’t think twice about whether or not those fans’ll unleash their strength (if you can call it that) on the lead actress from Ginny & Georgia instead of the show’s writers after Swift publicly condemned a derogatory line of dialogue about her on the show.
This isn’t Fast and Furious, you don’t have to ride or die for something that may not ride or die for you. That isn’t to discount the facets of pop culture I enjoy Maybe it’s about decorum, maybe there’s something in the euphoria and adrenaline that comes from enjoying something communally in a time where physical communion could cost lives that makes people forget how to treat each other with basic human decency.
Perhaps it’s that whole thing of time being a flat circle, and everything being derivative, or whatever it was Amy Adams was going on about in Arrival. I’m seeing the same sort of “discourse”, both in lexicon and subject matter, on Twitter today that was around when I was a wee lass on Tumblr.
From what I’ve observed, it’s that thing of using personal taste as a measure of intelligence, or ammunition to support someone’s overcompensating into a moral high ground, but also a desire to save face once something or someone fails to meet the already impossibly high expectations of already-scorned fans.
The Snyder Cut is okay. I didn’t go in there expecting the world, was surprised by some clearly fanservice-y cameos, and feel incredibly confused as to why Mera was suddenly of the Beans on Toast community. I had a good time, and I enjoyed it much more than the 2017 version, but I’m not sure I would ever seek it out again. Nor do I think that it qualifies as “good”. But that’s just me. I’m glad people genuinely enjoyed it, I’m glad other people can still be critical of it. What I don’t appreciate, is how a certain sect of that fanbase has made it their mission to destroy anyone and everyone that disagrees with them.
Good Golly, Miss Bucky
Once again, I have fallen into the vibranium clutches of one James Buchanan ‘Bucky’ Barnes. That little slutbag has caused me immense emotional distress, or at least his assorted archiveofourown.org personas have. What is it with me and dudes covered in metal? What about tin can men is so appealing to me?
The pilot episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was a revelation. Bucky is just another guy without a bedframe who talks back to his therapist and is terrible at dating. He does, however, go on a date with an Asian girl, a concept that would render my high school self into a state of shock, elation, and jealousy.
What I was really surprised by is how much I adore Sam Wilson. I’ve always liked Falcon in the comics, but the MCU films never really gave me a lot of time to spend with Sam. He was written as an extension of Steve as his new bestie-slash-protege. Now, getting to know Sam, where he came from, and his more complicated feelings about Captain America’s legacy really has me on the hook. I’m excited to see where this show goes. They’ve successfully filled the WandaVision-shaped hole in my brain. Let’s just hope it stays that way.
It’s become evident to me that the members of the Avengers haven’t been paid adequate wages. I worry Peter Parker has been paid “in exposure”. In the pilot, Sam struggles to help his sister get a loan from the bank, something we’ve all attributed to both racism and the banking industrial complex’s rigid policies even after a global catastrophe that vanished half the universe’s population. It has also come to my attention that Steve Rogers is a Cancer (the sign, not the tumour), Bucky Barnes is a Pisces, and Sam Wilson is an Aries. These are dangerous yet exquisite combinations.
Whilst I am a fan of Bucky’s new look, I’ll miss his truly thotty Winter Soldier era. Yes, he was a brainwashed murderer, but what do you want me to do about that? He looked good doing it.
My pal Apryl has written a wonderful piece on the odd-comfort fandom, Bucky, and Sebastian Stan has provided her in her newsletter. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I think we’re all a little bit with Bucky until the end of the line, now, no?
Which he is. Sebastian Stan is just some guy, actually.