A.V Club

How you spell “The Berenstain Bears” could be proof of parallel universes

“You need to look up the Berenst#in Bears problem.”

It was this innocent comment left on a post about parallel universes that first pulled by Rob Schwarz of Stranger Dimensions into one of the internet’s strangest theories. It involves The Berenstein Bears, a loving family of anthropomorphized bears who taught children life lessons via hundreds of picture books and two TV shows. But the problem is they aren’t The Berenstein Bears, they’re The Berenstain Bears.

Though a startling number of people remember the name as BerenstEin, it’s in fact spelled BerenstAin, just like the authors Stan and Jan Berenstain. But is it possible that so many people are just wrong about the title? Back in 2012, blogger Reeceoffered up another explanation: Some of us have recently crossed over from a parallel universe.

He argues:

… at some time in the last 10 years or so, reality has been tampered with and history has been retroactively changed. The bears really were called the “BerenstEin Bears” when we were growing up, but now reality has been altered such that the name of the bears has been changed post hoc.

Somehow, we have all undergone a π/2 phase change in all 4 dimensions so that we moved to the stAin hexadectant, while our counterparts moved to our hexadectant (stEin). They are standing around expressing their confusion about the “Berenstein Bears” and how they all remember “Berenstain Bears” on the covers growing up.

Those who remember the name as “Berenstain” are native to this “A” Universe, while those who are sure it’s “Berenstein” traveled over from the “E” Universe.

More at avclub.com

I wrote in my review of last season’s finale that the Castor clone introduction was startling and a little disappointing, since Orphan Black has done such a phenomenal job exploring themes of female agency that have rarely had room to breathe on television in such an expansive way. But I also wrote that the Castor line could have some equally poignant things to say about destructive standards of masculinity, and this episode certainly seems to be moving things in that direction. The contrast between Castor and Leda is clear. While Castor clones undergo military exercises and mental agility tests, Leda clones are subject to invasive physical examinations and (literally) manhandled. The Castor clones answer to their “mother,” while the Leda clones try to parse out the shadowy motivations of men, from the clinical Dyad doctors to Topside’s “cleaners.” Seth’s “glitch” seems to be the Castor equivalent of the ovary-based illness to which the Leda clones can fall. There is no other show on television that’s trying to tackle gender constructs and expectations on such a detailed level, and for that, Orphan Black will always be more compelling.
—  Transitory Sacrifices Of Crisis review by Caroline Framke, The A.V. Club

The slowed-down Chipmunks are both brilliant and terrifying

By now, we’re all pretty used to people speeding up vocal samples to make them sound like Alvin And The Chipmunks. It’s how Kanye West launched his career. But what happens when you slow down Alvin And The Chipmunks so much that the vocals sound like they were sung by a regular human? As it turns out, you get an amazing collision of pop vocals and sludge-filled doom metal instrumentals.

Toronto-based electronic musician Brian Borcherdt, best known for his work with Holy Fuck, is the mind behind chipmunkson16speed, which is the result of finding both a bunch of old Chipmunks records and a suitcase record player with 16 RPM setting.

More at avclub.com

Made with SoundCloud

The way Annalise’s history with Eve unfolds doesn’t play out like a schlocky plot twist. It’s nuanced and emotionally visceral. It has the emotional beats of honest, character-driven storytelling. There’s no fanfare about it at all, and as a result, it feels completely natural and not self-congratulatory on the writers’ parts. The only reason we didn’t know about it before is because we simply just don’t know very much at all about Annalise’s past.

The underdevelopment of Annalise was one of my biggest recurring issues with season one. Annalise, largely due to Viola Davis’s Emmy award-winning performance, has consistently been one of the best parts of the show. And yet, early on, we know so little about her—about her motivations, her desires, her emotions. Any time the show does uncover any of those psychological underpinnings of the character, it often leads to some of the best moments on the show. The vulnerability of the scene where she removes her wig and makeup last season certainly stands out. Annalise is often a larger-than-life character. Her students certainly view her as a god-like figure with all-knowing power. And sometimes she’s so good at her job that she does indeed have a superhero quality to her. But season one eventually made significant strides toward complicating Annalise and letting us learn more about this woman outside of the fact that she’s a tough teacher and ruthless attorney. Small character moments shed light on who she is and what she wants. This dynamic and history she has with Eve continues that work.

This episode, written by Peter Nowalk, really just proves how easy it is to write queer characters and queer narratives into a show. The fact of the matter is, most straight characters on television never explicitly state that they’re straight. It’s because heterosexuality in media, just as in real life, is often just assumed as the norm. Annalise’s past with Eve isn’t random or out of nowhere. Sure, her queerness was never explicitly stated before now, but neither was her straightness. The writers have as much freedom to write in an ex-girlfriend as they do an ex-boyfriend. The fact that Annalise is married to a man absolutely does not erase her queerness, and the How To Get Away With Murder writers understand that.

—  It’s Time To Move On review by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, The A.V. Club

Today is the 10-year anniversary of the “Shoes” video

It may not seem like it, but 2006 was a different time. The concept of viral fame didn’t really exist yet. Even the creators of YouTube hadn’t quite figured out what it was for. (They thought it was going to be place where you could easily access “big, newsworthy footage,” like Janet Jackson’s nipple slip.)

It was into this online Wild West that comic and actor Liam Kyle Sullivan uploaded his massive hit “Shoes.” The folks over at Noisey interviewed Sullivan to get his thoughts on “Shoes” a decade after its birth.

More at avclub.com

When I’m writing, I’m trying to immerse myself in the chaos of an emotional experience, rather than separate myself from it and look back at it from a distance with clarity and tell it as a story. Because that’s how life is lived, you know? Life is not lived 10 years ahead of itself—there’s a lie to that. The conventional wisdom is—people say this all the time—you should only write something when you’re far enough away from it that you can have a perspective. But that’s not true. That’s a story that you’re telling. The truth of it is here, right now. It’s the only truth that we ever know.
—  Charlie Kaufman, from here

There’s no denying that Zim has been pinned with the whole ‘random humor’ label. For me, it’s never been, 'Hey, let’s throw that in there because it’s so random. That’s why it’s funny.’ Especially in terms of Gir. Gir does what he does, and there’s no better explanation for what Gir does is the fact he’s made of garbage.

Zim himself doesn’t act like Gir. Gir acts like Gir, and Gir acts like Gir because he’s broken. He’s made of garbage, so anything Gir does makes sense. It’s not random at all. It makes perfect sense in the world of the show because Gir doesn’t make sense. He inherently does not make sense. He’s broken. Sometimes he functions properly, but for the most part, he has a head full of garbage that the Almighty Tallest put in, so he can do whatever he wants. You know? And it’s not random.

Similarly, there’s also an episode that returns from the commercial break and Zim is fighting this Ham Beast that was never mentioned before and never gets mentioned again. That’s not random to us because the joke is clear… to us, anyhow. In between the time it took for the commercial break to start and end, a Ham Beast attacks. [Laughs.] The joke is clearly aware of it. We’re aware that’s just dumb, but that’s the reason. We gave you the reason. The reason is that it happened during the commercial break.

One thing Broad City has always been great at is incorporating more progressive jokes and storylines without fanfare. It doesn’t congratulate itself for including things like queer characters, interracial relationships, and sex toys without judgment. The show’s refusal to adhere to stereotypes is almost casual, like it has never realized that it’s doing anything unusual. The fact is, the team behind Broad City is just younger and more diverse than most in television, which naturally contributes to the show’s more relevant reality. Yes, the show’s fans span beyond Jacobson and Glazer’s immediate millennial demographic, but the reason it’s become the phenomenon it has is because people who couldn’t see themselves in other shows see something familiar in Broad City.

Today in Smash Mouth: Now there are even more ways to mess with “All Star”

Inverse the order of the lyrics of Smash Mouth’s “All Star” and you’ve still got an ageless hit on your hands.

More at avclub.com

The centrality of the Stark children is not a mistake: they are where the show began, and the characters who have been most changed by the broader narrative strokes of the series. While Bran is literally journeying into his family’s past, Arya witnesses a farcical reconstruction of the events of the first three seasons in a Braavosi play, and Sansa reconnects with her stitching days by reconstructing Ned’s finery from memory for Jon (along with a new dress for herself). With each of the three Starks are turning points in their respective journeys, reconnecting with who they were tests the paths they’re about to embark on.
—  The Door review by Myles McNutt, The A.V. Club

Really, the very first memories of why I thought this would be an idea to develop was the idea of an alien disguised on Earth who was so clearly an alien. The whole show is built around that dumb idea of nobody else knowing that this green kid was an alien, which just sets up the Earth and humans to be the dumbest, dumbest people alive. One kid did, who like you or I would, would be like, ‘Hey, that kid is green. He’s clearly not human. What the hell is wrong with everybody?’ And that, basically, being why the reason Dib has kind of gone mad. It’s the meanest thing in the world. It was just a mean thing to do to a character, to have them be the only person who knows anything about anything, but nobody else believes him because they’re that dumb. It’s a very nasty joke. [Laughs.]

That was what popped up first, that dynamic of Zim and Dib, the constant hounding of one another, kind of alone. No one else really joins in. Gaz knows the truth. She knows Zim is an alien, but she doesn’t really give as much of a shit as Dib does. Everyone else around them is kind of this oblivious idiot, as these two kids are just sort of responsible for incredible destruction around them. I think I just like the idea of highly-advanced beings resorting to childish behavior, regardless of the technology that they wield.

I don’t know that it’s ever explicitly stated in the show, but I think that’s always been the big gag. As powerful as you are, you’re still just a kid lobbing explosives at one another.


Celebrate Leeroy Jenkins Day by reliving one of the internet’s finest videos

It’s hard to remember, but there was a time when the name “Leeroy Jenkins” didn’t elicit knowing nods and sage murmurs among every living human on the planet. But it’s true: It was 11 years ago today that an impetuous World Of Warcraft player was caught on camera bellowing his name, storming into battle, and getting himself and his entire team killed in a glorious mélange of chaos brought on by his impulsive action. Today we honor that fallen hero by watching—some of us for the 11,000th time—the beautiful behavior that sent him plunging forever into the annals of meme history.

More at avclub.com

[T]here is another significant thread of exposition in “Sons Of The Harpy” that is one of the rare cases where its presence is just as valuable to readers as it is to non-readers. At three very conscious moments in the episode, viewers are given pieces of history that flesh out characters the show has largely elided to this point, but which are crucial to a prominent fan theory. For non-readers, it’s exposition that one can presume will become relevant as the season and series progress; for readers, it’s potentially confirmation of R+L=J.

I certainly read it as confirmation, at least. For the show to have Barristan reflect on his time with Rhaegar in the streets of King’s Landing is one thing—his presence with Daenerys is based on his experience serving her family, and seeing her grow into a ruler would no doubt make him nostalgic. However, for that to happen in the same episode where Littlefinger recounts Rhaegar favoring Lyanna following a tournament despite them being either married or betrothed to others is suspicious, collecting back story for the characters as a rapid speed. But when you combine this with Stannis very casually remarking to Selyse that he doesn’t believe Ned Stark would ever father a bastard with a tavern wench, this is either the biggest troll job in television history or the showrunners have shown their hand on the subject that helped them get the job.

It’s possible to read this as the first significant “spoiler” caused from the show passing the books, but is it really a spoiler? The “R+L=J” theory is something I came to in reading about the show online—I cannot claim it occurred to me while reading the books, but when I was confronted by the theory it made perfect sense. This is not one of those “out there” fan theories that require numerous convoluted reworkings of existing knowledge—this is a clearly constructed mystery, answered in a way that both fits our understanding of the characters in question and works to connect Jon to the larger narrative and the series’ likely endgame. And so to see it moved from subtext to text here—including Melisandre noting there is “power” in Jon, and that he resists it—is not necessarily surprising, but it is still thrilling in light of Martin’s withholding of the same information.

—  Sons Of The Harpy review by Myles McNutt, The A.V. Club

David Bowie’s last music video was most likely meant as a sort of goodbye

With the sad news of David Bowie’s death comes confirmation that his latest record, Blackstar, was meant as a sort of goodbye to this mortal plane. Specifically, fans are putting a lot of weight on the track “Lazarus,” for which Bowie released a video just four days ago. In the song, Bowie sings as a man who knows he’s dying, but who needs to say goodbye to the world. With lyrics like, “Look up here, I’m in heaven,” and lines about having “nothing left to lose” and being “free like a bluebird,” the suppositions certainly seem to hold water. The music video, below, also sort of foreshadows a lot of what we now know was happening in Bowie’s life, from the scenes in the hospital bed to a more animated Bowie both emerging from and slinking back into a wooden, some might say coffin-like armoire. Bowie even seems kind of frail and tired, in hindsight. It’s a bold and poignant clip, especially now, and should shed some light on where Bowie’s head was in his final days, weeks, and months.

More at avclub.com


Boxcar (Jawbreaker cover)- The Mountain Goats

“You’re not punk and I’m telling everyone”

Animorphs was not the first book series to dramatize the transformative aspects of adolescence, but it stands out for its especially direct metaphor. K.A. Applegate’s young-adult series was never timid about exploiting its gimmick—namely, that there are teenagers who can turn into animals. It’s right there in the name of the series, in the flipbook at the right corner of each book’s pages, and in the iconic cover illustrations. These illustrations, which show the protagonists in the throes of transformation, convey that the metamorphoses in Animorphs aren’t the usual child-friendly changes—a pumpkin into a carriage or a mouse into a footman. No, these mutations are messy, risky, and perverse…
In essence, Animorphs tells the story of a group of adolescents going through changes they don’t understand, surrounded by adults who at best will never understand them and at worst will force them to conform—or kill them. The heroes know the immense magnitude of their struggles, but no one can support them. In other words, it was pitched perfectly to teenagers, who are going through the same experience on a smaller scale.
—  Matt Crowley, The A.V. Club