How the Patriarchy Screwed the Starks

How last night’s shocking deaths reveal Game of Thrones’ biggest theme

flickr/IP Anónima_ T he King In The North is dead. In Game of Thrones ' latest ridiculously daring narrative move, it killed off Robb Stark, a character who could easily have laid claim to the role of “hero” on the show. Robb was handsome, talented, and possessed of an intrinsic decency rare to find in the show's world of Westeros. He was also the son of the first season's protagonist, Ned Stark, himself killed in the big twist, which positioned Robb as a traditional fantasy hero. And unlike his rival would-be kings, Robb was motivated in an entirely positive fashion. He rebels against the crown in order to free his father. He allows himself to be crowned King In The North in order to free his people, winning battle after battle for that cause. Even his tragic mistake is motivated by the best of intentions—instead of fulfilling his lordly obligations and marrying for strategic gain, Robb chose to marry for love. For the crime of being insufficiently cynical about the world, Robb, his...

Cable News Is a Third of a Century Old

A snapshot from CNN's first hour on the air.
This Saturday marks one-third of a century since CNN debuted as the world's first 24-hour news channel in 1980 (if you're looking to get them a gift, the traditional 33rd anniversary gift is amethyst). Prospect intern/sleuth Eric Garcia came across this video of the network's first hour on the air, which begins with Ted Turner giving a speech about the new era of global understanding they're launching. He makes special note of the fact that he's standing under three flags: the U.S. flag, the Georgia flag (its old confederate version, which was adopted in 1956 as a protest to Brown v. Board of Education or to honor the nobility of the Confederacy, depending on your perspective), and ... the flag of the United Nations ! Cue conservative spit takes. Back in those days, of course, the UN was considered a well-intentioned if often ineffectual organization, and not a sinister black helicopter-wielding global conspiracy to take your guns and impose a one-world government with George Soros as...

"Arrested Development" Gets an "Elvis"

And now the story of four reporters who lost their weekend watching all of Arrested Development season four, and the Gchat conversation they had to put it all together.

AP Photo/Starpix, Marion Curtis
If you're an Arrested Development fan, chances are you spent over seven hours on the couch this weekend binge-watching the 15 new episodes that premiered on Netflix early Sunday morning. Don't worry, we did too. We had two staffers sit down in a "Something" hangout with two Mother Jones reporters to hash out the fourth season and its best moments. Warning: potential spoilers. Jaime Fuller, associate editor Ok, so Arrested Development season four! what did everyone think? Asawin Suebsaeng, reporting fellow at Mother Jones I give it an "A -". First off, to the haters: Fuck the haters, because who the hell in their right mind would be expecting this to be as good as the original run? Abby Rapoport, reporter I'm not done yet. But midway through I'd give the first episode a "B" and then everything else an "A." Tim Murphy, reporter at Mother Jones I was originally a lot more down on it. If you had me after five episodes, I would have given it a "C+" or what Maeby's school would call "Elvis...

Star Bleck

The second entry in the J.J. Abrams' reboot doesn't have the fun of the first outing, and all that's left is one more humongazoid, cluttered summer blockbuster whose gobbledygook plot just spackles over the interludes between kaboom-happy CGI set pieces.

flickr/skookums 1
Q uick quiz: which movie currently in theaters does worst by a beloved national classic, "modernizing" it in ways that violate everything people cherished about the original? If you picked Star Trek Into Darkness, let's have a beer one of these days. At least The Great Gatsby' s director, Baz Luhrman, puts his purple heart on his zircon-studded sleeve with a romantic pizzazz F. Scott Fitzgerald might approve of. From my lonesome perch, the cement-mixer racket from Gene Rodenberry's corner of the Great American Cemetery is a lot more deafening. Just so you won't misunderstand, a Trekkie I'm not. My indefensible affection for botched WW2 spectaculars apart—really, Is Paris Burning? does have its moments, folks, and I guess you had to be there as a susceptible tyke in 1966—I've never been an anything-ie, really. But I admire hell out of Rodenberry, who created the Shatner-Nimoy Star Trek almost half a century ago, for his humanism and humor. No other series as vividly evokes the liberal...

Veep's Much Improved Trash-Talking Minuet

AP Photo/HBO, Bill Gray
T he second season of Veep kicks off on Sunday with a very entertaining montage of Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia-Louis Dreyfus) on the campaign trail. She's delivering a clunker of a stump speech—"Freedom isn't 'Me-dom.' It's 'We-dom'!"—that climaxes with a peachy parody of the Anecdotal American our pols so love to describe encountering when being out on the hustings pokes a hole in their bubble. Yes, it's midterm-elections time. Selina's efforts don't stop the White House from going into meltdown mode once its Congressional majority heads into the dumpster. But she's done well enough at stanching the hemorrhage to try parlaying her success into more clout inside the administration. That puts her at loggerheads with a new nemesis: Gary Cole as hired-gun polling guru Kent Davidson, brought in to cynically shore things up à la Dick Morris after Bill Clinton's 1994 midterm drubbing. Cole is one reason this is a new and improved Veep. Starting with gaffe-prone, ambition-addled...

"Jackass" Goes Geopolitical

Vice's foray into doumentary film may make you shake your head, but you can't deny it's good television.

Vice Productions
Vice Productions HBO's new Friday-night newsmagazine, Vice —as in the uppity print-mag dudes turned YouTube stuntmasters who recently made news by sending Dennis Rodman to North Korea, not the police beat—comes on like a revved-up 60 Minutes for the tats-and-testosterone set. Trouble spots around the globe are high on the menu; either danger or the threat of it gets amped up with shameless music cues and attention-grabbing cutting. All three regular correspondents are, as may go without saying, male, with original Vice co-founder Shane Smith in the Mike Wallace Yoda slot opposite a couple of younger wiseacres: Thomas Morton, Vice 's anxiety specialist, and Ryan Duffy, the show's jaunty answer to Kid Rock. The whole thing comes to us courtesy of executive producer Bill Maher, whose contending yens to be a thoughtful guy and a hip one often remind me of a ventriloquist who hasn't caught on yet that his dummy is psychotic. All the same, any of you who still keep an Edward R. Murrow...

A Season of Swords

Game of Thrones, otherwise known as every origins story trash-compacted into the "ultimate extrapolation of Dallas," returns for its third season this Sunday.

Once again, it's that splendid time of year when we get to cast aside human decency without a backward look. Let's savor ruthless ambition, revel in permanent war, and realize we don't give two hoots about the huddled masses being ground underfoot like cigarillos for conquest's sake. Kicking off its third season on Easter Sunday, and so much for piety, HBO's Game of Thrones may be the closest that high-minded lefties will ever come to experiencing the buzz Paul Ryan feels at CPAC. Meanwhile, virtuous conservatives get to gorge guilt-free on rampant carnality and unrepentant paganism, and who says there's no such thing as common ground anymore? Try Westeros. If you can believe it, GoT has gotten even more murky and brooding this season, creating an enjoyable illusion of depth where none exists. That's even true of the latest iteration of the title sequence, which is, as ever—thanks partly to Ramin Djawadi's theme music—among the most brilliant summonses to addiction in TV history...

Always Be Monologuing

Al Pacino's endless arias are the only thing that save David Mamet's Phil Spector from being mere propaganda.

Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
"This is a work of fiction. It's not 'based on a true story.'" So goes the disclaimer preceding director and writer David Mamet's Phil Spector , which premieres Sunday on HBO, and what sense are we supposed to make of that Bizarro World claim? The movie features Al Pacino in a surprisingly convincing impersonation—or maybe I just mean a disconcertingly affecting one—of the 1960s record producer now doing time for the 2003 murder of Lana Clarkson (real name also used). Nothing already known to the public deviates from the record, including Spector's cuckoo array of wigs in the courtroom. As if Pacino's participation doesn't already lend enough heft, Helen Mirren, flagrantly miscast—but, as ever, classy, and cowing us into being predisposed in her character's favor is what she's been hired for—plays Linda Kenney Baden, one of the battery of legal eagles who represented Spector during his first trial. (It ended in a hung jury; a 2008 do-over convicted him.) The real Baden is also...

Obama: The Republicans' Devil

Courtesy of the History Channel
Courtesy of the History Channel Mehdi Ouazanni in the History Channel's The Bible I n the Bible, the Devil doesn’t show up until relatively late. Most people assume he’s the snake in the Garden, but actually the Devil’s first appearance is around Chronicles, the two books that sum up the rest of the Old Testament. While it wouldn’t be accurate to say that the Devil is an invention of Christianity, it would be fair to suggest that he doesn’t have the kind of mythic resonance for Jews that he has for Christians or, for that matter, Muslims, perhaps because in Judaism no single figure embodies God in the way that Christ and Muhammad do in the religions founded in their names. Over the millennia, as Christians have revised Jesus himself from the at-once historical and obscure figure in Mark (the gospel actually written before Matthew, whose more fantastical and spectacular take on Jesus and particularly the resurrection upstaged Mark and thus became definitive) to the judgmental, fire-and...

How "The Bachelor" Explains the Real World of Women

Forget falling in love, the show says a whole lot more about our hidden anger

I t’s March in America, and if you are any kind of average citizen in this plugged-in, un-buckled, vegged-out nation, you’ve been soothing your winter malaise with a tsunami of television watching. You might even be seeking a little insight into the human experience, tuning into HBO and Showtime for their critically lauded helpings of suspense, hard-to-watch sex, and pathos. But there is a show, neither subtle nor intellectually sophisticated nor on cable, which contains greater nuggets of insight into the most written-about, lusted-after, projected-upon creature of American popular life—the modern woman—than premium-channel dramas ever offer. ABC’s The Bachelor, behind all the beefcake and buoyant breasts, unsparingly depicts the central struggles of women’s lives—and no, that doesn’t mean fighting for a guy. While the quest for true love might be the raison d’être of the show, it’s the prickly bramble of societal expectations, bilious intra-sex competition, and internal crescendos...

It's All in the Game

House of Cards is irresistible, but by insisting that corruption, not fanaticism, is poisoning Washington, the series feels dated.

AP Photo
I t’s possible that people who live in Washington and work in a cottage industry that includes writing and reading this magazine feel about Netflix’s series of political intrigue, House of Cards , the way a resident of Los Angeles (me, say) feels about the guys on Entourage : I’m surrounded by assholes like these every time I walk into a coffee shop on Wilshire Boulevard, so why would I want to watch them on TV? Nonetheless my guess is that power couples like Francis and Claire Underwood don’t frequent the bars on the U Street corridor. Frank is the majority whip of the House of Representatives, and Claire is an activist, and together they consolidate their power in the shadows of each other, smoking at the back window of their townhouse in the wee hours; these moments of nocturnal rendezvous, right down to the cigarettes themselves, are post-coital except the coitus, which Frank and Claire have with other people but not each other. They divulge virtually everything when they talk,...

Riding Downton's Coattails

HBO's adaptation of Parade's End premieres tonight—too bad the show stole its soapy predecessor's formula but none of the fun.

AP Photo/HBO, Nick Briggs
AP Photo/HBO, Nick Briggs F irst published as four separate novels ( Some Do Not. . ., No More Parades, A Man Could Stand Up--, and Last Post ) between 1924 and 1928, Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End is one of the earliest and greatest entries in the swan-song-for-old-England genre that became ubiquitous once the 1956 Suez crisis turned Gone With Gunga Din into an ongoing national dirge. The whole cul-de-sac filled with rue is still with us today in, for instance, Alan Bennett's more melancholic plays, not to mention a certain popular soap opera whose glibness I've been known to deprecate while granting I'm still hooked. But there's something to be said for revisiting Stonehenge. I doubt anyone who's read Ford's masterpiece can ever forget his pained, eternally solicitous hero, Christopher Tietjens, the stolid but suffering incarnation of traditional English values under bombardment both figurative and literal by 20th-century situational morality and the ultimate calamity of World War I...

Gleefully Hate-Watching the Oscars

You can complain all you want about the Academy Awards, but admit it. They're fun, and the griping is nearly the best part. 

AP Photo/ Reed Saxo
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes M ost serious movie buffs—and not even only those of a certain vintage, which does at least provide an excuse for bitterness—never tire of expressing contempt for the Oscars. One of their favorite damning proofs of the Academy's puerility is that 2001: A Space Odyssey didn't even get nominated for Best Picture of 1968. That is, going on half a century ago, and talk about holding a grudge. In 1968, to put things in perspective, Christopher Nolan (director of The Dark Knight Rises ) hadn't been born yet. In 1980, when Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull scandalously— scandalously!— lost the Best Picture sweepstakes to Ordinary People, Wes Anderson was 11 years old. Perhaps the shock traumatized him into wanting to live inside painted boxes, but more likely it didn't. I don't recall any permanent damage myself. Nor do I get wrought up because, say, the obvious real Best Picture of 1990—at least to the handful of crazies who saw it—was Guy Maddin's gleefully...

You Can't Lip-Synch a Hip Shake

Beyoncé's new documentary Life Is But a Dream marks a brief pit stop during her rise to world domination.

AP Photo/ David Drapkin
AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn If you're as stubbornly naive as I used to be, you probably think that following up a performance of the National Anthem at Barack Obama's second inaugural with one sizzler of a Super Bowl halftime show would be exposure enough for anyone. A pop-cult twofer that unprecedented might tempt even the most driven of superstars to rest on her laurels until, say, early March. So it's a relief to learn that Beyoncé Knowles—known throughout the Milky Way, of course, as plain and simple Beyoncé—has her head screwed on right: "I don't want to never be satisfied. I don't think that's a healthy way to live." Honest, that's how she feels. If you're so minded, you can see and hear her say so in Beyoncé: Life Is But A Dream, airing on HBO on Saturday. She's credited as both "director" and executive producer, and adding "star" would be redundant at a level to invite the gods' mirth. Her 90-minute self-portrait hits cable under a month after she serenaded Obama's swearing-in, and...

An Addictive, Imperfect House of Cards

AP Photo/Netflix, Melinda Sue Gordon
AP Photo/Netflix, Melinda Sue Gordon S o help me, I almost gave up on House of Cards. After zipping through the first three or four episodes of Netflix's new 13-part, Americanized remake of the 1990 BBC miniseries about political intrigue, I figured I'd seen enough to cook up a reasonably brainy-sounding takedown, starting with how some of the supposedly sophisticated power plays executed by Kevin Spacey as scheming House Majority Whip Frank Underwood—a Democrat from South Carolina, and how likely is that in 2013?—would have left Machiavelli yawning at their crudeness in eighth grade. The idea that a single planted piece by a junior reporter could instantly vault someone into front-running contention for the job of Secretary of State had me groaning, and so on. Then I realized I wanted to keep watching, which was annoying. Especially given today's ever increasing surfeit of programming options—gee, thanks for getting into the original-content game, Netflix—critics trying to keep up...