Using Animation to Imagine Terrifying, Glorious, and Queer Futures in ‘Love, Death, and Robots’

Let’s face it: we live in a terrifying world. Every piece of news seems to further illustrate our awful reality and it’s hard to feel like anything is ever going to get better. But, in times like this, a little imagination can work wonders in imagining what different versions of the future would look like, futures that contain wondrous machines, bloodthirsty monsters, and powerful figures that fight oppressive systems. Netflix’s animated series, Love, Death, and Robots works to harness the power of imagination in the creation of 18 different futures that are dark, terrifying, hopeful, and even queer. Sure, it is not perfect, but it is a beautiful example of how animation can provide us images of a previously unimaginable future, one that discusses queer representation, oppression, and bodily autonomy.

Controversy sprouted on Twitter when one user pointed out that the order in which the episodes were served up to viewers was potentially based on their sexuality, which is a terrifying prospect in itself. Even now sexuality is being used to judge what content to give us, even if Netflix so vehemently denies this is the case. This is only one small example of the terrifying digital future that is expanding exponentially by the minute, one that provides us with tools to educate, build community, spread hate, and harm. Even in the face of the irony of its distribution, Love, Death and Robots expands on these tools into previously unimaginable possibilities.

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‘Special’ is a Delightful and Nuanced New Slam-Dunk by Netflix

When scrolling through Netflix’s recent catalogue, it’s gratifying to see a lot of content focusing on under-represented minorities, especially in genres that are commonly concentrated on white, straight stories of privilege. While some, such as Pose and Everything Sucks!, manage to establish effective narratives of inclusion, others, such as Insatiable, fail miserably and feed into dangerous prejudice. It’s a relief that Special – the world’s first dramedy series about a young gay man with cerebral palsy – is not only respectful towards its subject, but also conscious of other struggles surrounding him.

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‘The OA’ Season 2 is very different to its predecessor, but it just as gripping

Whatever your stances towards the streaming service and its hyper-capitalist nature, it’s hard to deny that Netflix has given a platform to a specific group of high-quality serials. They share a firm grasp on the modern zeitgeist, push boundaries in terms of representation and bring original dramatic concepts to the table. It’s obviously a completely different story how the company treats their output —there is an easily comprehensible tactic of catering and extreme calculation. Netflix has understood that taking risks can pay off, but as soon as they don’t, any “misinvestments” are avoided —case in point are the recent cancellations of excellent, culturally significant shows such as Everything Sucks! and One Day at a Time due to insufficient viewers. That being said, it’s great to see some strong, original television being brought to the mainstream. One example particularly stands out in this context; co-created and written by regular collaborators and North-American indie darlings Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, The OA is a tightly plotted and character-focused genre mishmash that handles its concerns of trauma, belief, death and human relationships with a stunning amount of suspense, vigor and pathos.

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The show’s premise is one that is hard to encapsulate. A hurricane of mysteries sets the ground for the events surrounding Prairie Johnson (played by Brit Marling), her mysterious disappearance—and return. Prairie used to be blind, but has her sight has been restored after reappearing on the radar. The incident draws a lot of attention to her and her adoptive parents, who particularly struggle to understand what happened. Instead of opening up to them or the authorities about the events and why she calls herself The Oa, Prairie contacts five people that couldn’t be more different, orders them to leave their front door open in the middle of the night and meets up with them in an abandoned house to tell her long, incredible story and the role they each play in itThe group, first plagued by skepticism and mistrust, slowly grows to be some sort of family and the fact that their only prior connection was being members of the same school, fades away.

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The Mundane as Extraordinary in Alex Lehmann’s ‘Paddleton’

Ever since his role in The Big Sick in 2017, Ray Romano seems to have made a comeback and proven to audiences that he can play both comedy and drama in equal measure. Netflix’s Paddleton allows him to prove this yet again, cast alongside indie film veteran Mark Duplass.

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This is the second film that director Alex Lehmann has worked on with Mark Duplass, having released Bluejay in 2016—which is also labeled as a Netflix original. Mark and Jay Duplass have been powerhouse producers of the independent cinema scene for years now, and it was announced just last year that Netflix would have the screening rights to their next four films, with Paddleton being the first of that contract.

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‘Polar’ Is A Fun, Over-The-Top, Polarizing Action Romp

Adaptations of graphic novels can either extremely hit or extremely miss. It’s difficult to capture their larger-than-life style, acts of violence, and over-the-top characters that are confined to the panels on the page. With Jonas Åkerlund adaptation of Victor Santos’ Polar for Netflix, he proves it is possible to translate a graphic novel’s gore and violence onto the screen with even more stylistic flair than its source material. Åkerlund took Santos’ minimalist illustrations and made something bright, oversaturated, and delicious.

Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen plays Duncan Vizla, or the Black Kaiser, who is days from retirement from his life as an assassin. He starts to settle into retired life in a small town in Montana, shopping at the local grocery store, frequenting the town’s diner, and striking up a quiet friendship with his neighbor, Camille, played by Vanessa Hudgens. But, just a few hundred miles for his snowy, idyllic set up, a hit is put on his head so his employer, the Damocles Corporation, won’t have to pay him his $8 million pension. So, a group of younger, showier, and somehow more violent hitmen set out to kill the Black Kaiser. What follows is a trail of blood, revenge, and Mads Mikkelsen’s beautiful bare ass.

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The Inconsistent Sexual Ethics of Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’

High school-centered media is always incredibly tricky to get right. It’s a time in our lives when we are incredibly vulnerable, as we come into ourselves socially, professionally, and sexually. So it makes sense that it’s such a popular genre. People want to see their experience mirrored, in a relatable fashion, on screen. So many films and television shows seem to miss the mark when it comes to this time period, especially when it comes to sexual exploration. Many sexualize teenagers to an uncomfortable degree, others disregard issues of consent and respect outright, and many works seem to make a joke out of a character’s understandable inexperience around sex. It is no exaggeration to say that this odd, uncomfortable depiction of sex can be harmful, especially to the developing young adults consuming this type of media.

So, as we near the end of the first month of 2019, we clearly have an evolved sense of sexual respect. We are coming off of a year where much popular conversation surrounded sex and respect, or lack thereof. So clearly we should have art that reflects our new, mature sensitivities around sex. We should hope so, at least.

A lot of the discourse around the recently released Netflix original miniseries Sex Education has been about just this: the show’s treatment of sex. Rightfully so, as the show makes no illusion that it has something to say about sex in high school, as its title would suggest.

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‘Bird Box’ Tries to Soar But Instead Falls Flat

Netflix’s newest film, Bird Box, was supposedly a smash hit. The notoriously tight-lipped streaming service proudly reported the film had reached over 45 million streams, the first time they have openly declared any site metrics. This led to Twitter questions about completion rates, watch time, and more. On top of that, the conspiracy theories began to flow about Netflix paying people to tweet memes about the film, or that they were employing bots to help with their marketing. In the year of our Lord 2018, we are now seriously concerned about companies paying people to secretly make memes. This is a lot of attention, conspiracies, and fixation on a film that is really just OK.

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