there goes the last great american dish best served cold
On ABC's Revenge, spending too much time on Disney+, and, of course, the latest in Pedro Pascalification.
Welcome to Hyperfixate! If you’re new here, hello! And I hope you consider signing up! If you’re returning, hey baby! How you doing? Did you have a good Tuesday? Take a break from your Slack notification emails and come sit with me here for a little bit.
To remedy my burnout and prepare for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier premiering on March 19th, my mother and I are rewatching ABC’s Revenge, a pseudo-soap opera starring fellow former Captain America flame Sharon Carter (Emily Van Camp).
The story follows Emily Thorne (Van Camp) who arrives for a summer in the Hamptons renting a house originally belonging to deceased terrorist David Clarke (James Tupper). Thorne turns out to be Clarke’s daughter, Amanda, returning to her childhood home to seek revenge (hence the title) on the Grayson family for framing her father, led by matriarch Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe).
Amanda/Emily has spent years training and plotting her titular revenge, with unexpected allies like her warden from juvie, some guy her dad invested money into, or a Kill Bill gap year-esque Japanese businessman (Hiroyuki Sanada) who taught her how to fight. What is it with white girls and getting a “sensei” to empower them? Who do you think you are? Reverse Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange? Don’t you have a Megyn or Megwyhn for that?
Her father left behind an engraved wooden box filled with his old journals and photos as a roadmap to destroying his enemies. I’ve only just started Season 1, but if I remember correctly, her father doesn’t actually turn out to be dead? If that’s the case, then Miss Emilamanda has just been committing crimes against rich folks, right? Oh, to be her. Now that’s what you call a class traitor.
Whenever Van Camp looks out onto the Hamptons shoreline contemplating her next move, I’m immediately reminded of the last great american dynasty, the third track on Taylor Swift’s folklore where she romanticizes the purchase of her own patch of Rhode Island real estate, Holiday House.
the last great american dynasty chronicles the arrival of Rebekah Harkness (née West) to Rhode Island after marriage to the heir of the Standard Oil fortune. The surrounding community blamed her eccentricities and lifestyle for her husband’s death, and continued to vilify her throughout her time there. Swift parallels Harkness’ notoriety with her own experience under media scrutiny, right down to the inaccuracies of gossip and rumour in tabloid sensationalism. Much like Harkness, the surrounding residents of Watch Hill raised concerns about what Swift’s arrival meant for their community.
The lyrics “There goes the most shameless woman this town has ever seen / She had a marvelous time ruining everything” stands out to me as the unifying umbrella between Swift, Harkness, and Emily Van Camp’s character Amanda Clarke/Emily Thorne. Thorne becomes the subject of much curiosity, rumours of her arrival travelling fast across the Hamptons.
All three women exist in their own mythology among the arduous town chitter-chatter, but somehow find ways to embrace it. Harkness continues living her life the way she always has, Swift navigates her fame and fortune with the odd blunder here and there (like Twitter bringing up how she used to sign her boyfriends out of high school), and Thorne uses the paranoia of the ultra-rich to capture their attention and carry out her plans seamlessly. Revenge also screams no body, no crime (feat. HAIM) for its obvious proclivity for murder and framing other people for shit you did.
I don’t think white womanhood will ever look this good on network television ever again. All the cool white girls moved to a streaming service or HBO. You get the Amy Dunnes, Beth Harmons, and Mrs. Fletchers of the world for more nuanced examinations of white American womanhood or whatever fresh, obtuse, American exceptionalist hell Emily from Emily in Paris (read: pa-ree) is.
I should probably mention how much I love Madeliene Stowe on this show. MILF-ery at her finest. We often forget to celebrate MILFs during Women’s History Month, and here’s me doing my part. Stowe’s Victoria Grayson ends up being one of the few characters on the show that know what guilt is, both humanizing her and making her all the more dangerous. Victoria, much like Emily, has near-endless resources at her disposal but is always looking over her shoulder to see who’s plotting her downfall. Both women battle it out in a warzone of privilege and sheer audacity, their complicated lives becoming more and more tangled up in each other. Revenge is a dish best served cold, it is also a show best watched when you’re feeling a little cold. You don’t have to think very much, but you’ll be sucked right in.
I loved watching this show growing up. I find rich people doing very horrible rich people things to each other eternally fascinating. I long for the destruction of the 1% by their own hands, and in petty, scrupulous ways. My mum endearingly calls Revenge a “sinetron bule”, akin to melodramatic Indonesian soap operas complete with car crashes, comas, and wicked mother-in-laws, but with white people.
Revenge aired in Asia on Star World, a reliable cable channel curating the not-so-latest and greatest in American television. Star World was where my friends and I would park to catch up on How I Met Your Mother. It was where I became acquainted with Abed Nadir’s favourite TV show, Cougar Town.
I don’t think Revenge tries to be anything more than what it is. For an early 2010s network drama, it has a confidence and self-awareness that a lot of shows today seem to lack. It knows it doesn’t have to be cutting edge, grounded in reality, or “woke” to avoid public relations nightmares. All it ever wants to be is dramatic and extra and a little trashier than it would like to admit. And she succeeds! I love that for her! Who knows? If she never showed up, what could’ve been?
Baby Bjorns and Dis Knee Plus
As documented in this newsletter, all I really use Disney+ for is comfort nostalgia and The Mandalorian.
Speaking of which, I was reminded of a bit from the fifth episode of Big Mouth where Nick’s sister Leah (Kat Dennings) says that women can find things like a “faceless man carrying a baby in a baby bjorn” sexy.
I agree with her. I think that statement captures The Mandalorian perfectly. He is essentially a faceless man carrying a green baby in a canvas tote standing in for a baby bjorn. And that makes him incredibly se–[GUNSHOT]
On the subject of baby bjorns, Nick Kroll, co-creator of Big Mouth announced his fatherhood with an image of him and mini-Kroll in a baby bjorn! Maybe Apollo imparted the gift of prophecy to me, or perhaps it’s just mere coincidence. A big congratulations to Nick Kroll, my second-favourite The League cast member and first-favourite Oh, Hello on Broadway old man.
Back to Disney+, I’m a little embarrassed over the hold The Big Mouse Corporation had on my childhood. I idealized it so much. One of my first big adult purchases was a trip to Paris including a trip to Disneyland. Make no mistake, I am no Disney Adult. I am not a white millennial woman having an existential crisis over hypothetical Gen Z ridicule about side parts and skinny jeans. My ‘98 ass has a middle part and owns a pair of skinny jeans. Despite that, I have spent a lot of my time lately consuming Disney Channel Original Movies, sitcoms, and acquired properties alike.
It’s scary to me how Disney in a way has become an extension, if not one of the more successful arms of the American empire. Maybe that’s what Imperialism Lite looks like: building theme parks (I wanna go to Galaxy’s Edge so BAD you have no idea) and making sure any and every talking animal can and should utter the phrase “ya think???”.
In the Revenge piece above, I started thinking halfway through how weird it is for me, a Southeast Asian woman, to be critiquing white womanhood or Americanness. I’m eternally fascinated by how much of those two things have subconsciously seeped into my brain, how I consumed and continue to consume media, how I write and “create art” and how I can actively combat this for the sake of my own mental health.
In his cover profile for GQ, Steven Yeun said:
“We profess that we're caught in the white American gaze, and that's true. But we forget that we are also that gaze. That gaze is encoded into us, and the last boss is yourself.”
This was on the subject of his performance in Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari and how the film’s been categorized as a foreign film in this year’s Awards Season. I can’t speak to his experience as an Asian-American, but I think there’s some commonality with how Asian identities are often caught up in the white American gaze.
Take Raya and the Last Dragon, for example. Disney has finally decided to engage in the Moanafication of Southeast Asia. I’ve never seen anything remotely close to my culture in “mainstream” (essentially Western/American media) throughout my childhood. I get excited when Jakarta gets mentioned on Westworld—I’ve been taking crumbs my whole life! Enough is enough! I love seeing films like The Night Comes For Us or Perempuan Tanah Jahanam (Impetigore) breakthrough on the global stage because it reminds me that global recognition isn’t the means to an end nor is it any measure of “success”. Good work will find its way. Good stories will find their way.
I’m excited to give Raya a chance, to lightly rib at how there’s no snow in Southeast Asia unless it’s Trans Snow World Bekasi. But I also hope we’ll be able to tell our own stories and share them with the same reach Disney has had. Without all the monopolizing of an entire industry and the not paying their theme park employees during a pandemic thing.
In the meantime, I will be seated for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Whatever throwback DCOM itch that needs scratching, I’ll gladly rewatch Princess Protection Program to soothe it. I paid for a yearly plan, might as well use it.
country boy, i love you
I would be remiss not to bring up the PHOTOS from Steven Yeun’s GQ cover. They are a gift to all humankind. A happy International Women’s Day to ME.
My personal favourite is this one:
The Yee Haw Agenda prevails. Thank you, GQ. And thank you, Mr. Yeun.
It’s true that whenever the temperature reaches double digits (i.e. 10 degrees Celcius), British people take it as a sign to go outside, as the sun may not come back again for a very long time. Having lived in London, I’ve learned to cherish the sun whenever it comes out to play.
Apparently, so have former Narcos co-stars Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook. The two have taken to share cute selfies they took enjoying the London sun on a park bench they shared somewhere. March 7th is now a holiday, a blessed day, a day where Amy Sedaris thought to comment “cutie patrol!” underneath Pedro’s post!
Four different people thought to send the photos my way on Instagram, and for that I am grateful. Thanks for thinking of me, you know you you are.
Pedro captioned his post with #MurphyandPeña4EVAH whilst Boyd affectionately refers to their meeting as “just what he needed.” So true, Boyd Holbrook! It’s just what we needed too! We love seeing you happy, sweethearts! Enjoy the sun, enjoy the work, can’t wait for The Sandman and Judd Apatow’s pandemique contribution to hit our screens!
In other Pedro-related news, he’ll be in AppleTV’s new series Calls, what I assume will be a series of phone calls connected by some supernatural occurrence. His episode will be alongside my favourite The League cast member, Mark Duplass. It also comes out on March 19th, the same day as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. God save us all, I will be insufferable.
That’s all for this week! And a very happy birthday to the artist currently known as Elvira Lind’s husband!