There is an old joke we used to tell on playgrounds: Q. What’s worse than 300 dead babies in a garbage bag? A. One dead baby in 300 garbage bags.
That joke isn’t very good, no—it’s offensive, especially if you are a parent—but the horror of the punchline requires a specific emotional reflex. You have to implicitly trust in the (silly but incoherent) belief that the worst thing in the world might be a single body relegated to 300 separate bags (as opposed to 300 bodies stuffed into one bag, which I think might actually constitute a genocide). The joke relies on the horror, then, of being cut into multiple pieces—the more pieces, the worse the death. Ostensibly.
You can thank 1976’s The Omen for cinema’s first-ever decapitation; that same year, some dude’s hand was blown off in Taxi Driver.
The early 2000s did attempt to freshen up the slasher film. Unfortunately, these minor innovations were technological, and they usually relied on shiny computer-generated effects. Slasher movies had discovered only a single new contrivance: how to chop their predestined victims into two or more pieces.
This begat a short-lived new trope in slasher horror cinema: human bisection. The movies that explored this new trope were, ah, almost uniformly terrible.
One such movie, which has an incredibly auspicious beginning and not much else going for it, is 2002’s Ghost Ship. This horrible, awful, no-good flick was given a wide release (in lieu of the mostly-interesting, Darren-Aronofsky-coscripted, direct-to-video Below).
And here it is, my least favorite movie of all time, Ghost Ship:
The computer effects are dated, perhaps, but the image of partygoers slowly sliding off their own midsections—still wearing facial expressions of genuine, stoic shock!—has always stuck with me.
Then again, the cult science-fiction movie Cube used a similar “razor wire” death gimmick five years earlier, and while the effects are cheaper, they’re no less fun:
Edit: My friend Arthur recommends another outstanding “wire bisection,” and this one hails from 2003’s Final Destination 2. It is so expertly executed. This is a primo example of CG being employed at its cartoonish best:
The Final Destination series is great fun, anyway, because of its elaborate, meticulously-configured death scenes. Only upon the victim’s last breath will the viewer finally “get” what is really happening. This Rube Goldberg of a fate is so fulfilling for the audience: the splice isn’t so much shocking as it is a very pleasant “aha!”
That scene from Final Destination 2 is so noteworthy, and yet it’s hardly the best known bisection. In fact, this whole entire dumb essay was precipitated by only the mere mention of a scene from the terrible 2001 remake of Thirteen Ghosts:
You make a good point. RT <a href="https://twitter.com/bennatwa">bennatwa</a>: alex_navarro That part where the dude gets sliced in half by the glass.
The scene itself is probably NSFW because, besides being gory, there is a topless ghost-lady in it:
Then there is 2002’s brutally inelegant Resident Evil—a popcorn flick I actually liked very much—albeit the only bit I can remember with any clarity is its “laser room” scene:
(The scene is clipped at the end, but its real payoff is here. I couldn’t remember the laser corridor from any Resident Evil games, but apparently the cinematic sequence is so great, it was reappropriated for Resident Evil 4. Weird?)
This might not really count as a bisection, but Lucy Liu gets a little “shaved off the top,” thanks to The Bride’s specially-forged katana (2003):
Most bisections seem to occur horizontally, but this one from 2007’s Wrong Turn 2 is somehow more gruesome because it’s, er, lengthwise. (Not embedded, NSFW, and not recommended-viewing, but certainly notable, thank you.)
Finally, several other cinematic “death by bisections” (out of ideas, I googled) are located here and here. (This list includes a death scene from Slither I’d completely forgotten about.)
Part four concludes our series with some undercooked cultural commentary.
Science-fiction and horror movies have long investigated the idea of human bisection. My own earliest recollection of the “bisected person” arrives in the Alien sequel, 1986’s Aliens: by film’s end the android called Bishop (Lance Henrikson) is skewered and then torn in half. He’s isn’t exactly alive, all right—he’s “just” a robot, so we’re reassured he’ll be “okay“—but suddenly his lower half is missing.
So one of my early childhood traumas is this profoundly horrific image of Bishop, now only a torso, flailing helplessly as he is dragged along the floor of the loading dock:
It’s frightening because the realization of Bishop, ripped into halves yet still animated, establishes him as another type of alien—what creature, besides a rooster, can move with its own head cut off?—but worse, it establishes Bishop as emotionally human. That’s because the scene is as much about the character’s pathetic resolve as it is about special effects.
Then again, anybody being cut in half is scary. (To wit: here is a short history of the pendulum in cinema.)
Bisection is a terrifying, and famous, illusion. It speaks to some innate horror:
The “sawing-in-half” illusion is not so different from the “floating in midair” illusion, by the way. Let’s say, at home, you seemingly lie down across two chairs, a quilt over you. In actuality, the quilt conceals two broomsticks pretending to be legs, with ordinary sneakers attached to the handles. You pronounce your hocus-pocus, then lift the two broomsticks using your underarm strength. The entire bedspread lifts with them, and if your family squints, you might seem to be floating. Of course, your feet are either resting on the opposite chair or, if the quilt is long enough, set on the floor.
This is how the “bisection” illusion works, too. You can use mirrors in place of a quilt, if you have the money. (You might also hire a second person to play the role of “legs.”)
In the “slasher,” an entire ensemble is systematically whittled, by either a single killer or a small murderous “club,” until a last character—usually a “final girl“—remains.
The onus falls on that last character, as part of his or her endgame, to thwart the alien threat. She must set the chaos “right.” And for extra motivation, the Final Girl must also spend the last quarter of the movie tripping over the corpses of her missing loved ones, all of whom have met heretofore-unseen, grisly ends. (Black Christmas , my very favorite slasher, has an especially titillating reveal: the killer’s first victim has all along been dead in the sorority house’s attic.)
The “pile-o-bodies” revelation is an important one: horror movies are almost always driven by guilt, even if this simply means “survivor guilt.”
By movie’s end, though, the Final Girl’s “success” typically needs to be underscored as unfulfilled or incomplete. Any just-before-the-credits “jump scare” will do it: some Jason emerging from placid waters, or a Freddy popping through a doorway, or a ghost appearing in a mirror, will establish the Final Girl’s ultimate failure. How else to have audiences leave satisfied but unsettled? (And how else to develop a horror franchise? How else to raise the stakes for some supernatural villain’s return?)
But convention dictates—and don’t get me wrong, any pop scholar is already familiar with this trope—that slashers must enforce a black-and-white, often anachronistic value system. The bare minimum of wrongdoing—having premarital sex or an extramarital affair, dressing skimpily, bullying the main character, gambling, drug addiction, vanity, or chewing bubblegum during class hours—tacitly suggests a sure and gruesome fate down the line. Even the least-studied of viewers can usually anticipate which of the cast will “die,” and in an inevitably precise chronology. (There are other gnostic signifiers, too, like whether ensemble characters have full names; even Star Trek marked its character-fodder with red shirts.)
There’s a reason for this inbuilt value system, and it isn’t even to preach to the audience: it’s to absolve the viewer of her very guilt. The average viewer, for all her personal idiosyncrasies, is morally binary. Nobody wants to see an innocent character killed, same as no rightheaded person can stand to see a dog murdered. So when a character “earns” his death—even if the “morality” of the death is a type of cheat—the average sane audience member is all too willing to enjoy the subsequent moment of comeuppance.
The “slasher” enjoys myriad genre variants of its own, of course: zombie, alien, robot, haunted house, disease pandemic, demon exorcism, chainletter, dinosaur, and so on. Nonetheless, all of these subgenres rely on three things: an “unseen killer,” a “bottle” environment, and a “final girl.”
And even so, all these tropes can be inverted, subverted, perverted, or otherwise undermined.
Satires like Scream, or many science-fiction movies, use the “final girl” trope to effective advantage: in 1979’s Alien, for instance, there is no real indication at the outset that Ellen Ripley will live. For one, the actor playing Ripley—Sigourney Weaver—is a relative unknown. (Or at least, she’s no Tom Skerritt.) Moreover, the Ripley character cannot be called the most “competent” or “ethical” of the Nostromo’s crewmembers. Consequently viewers must wait until the last possible moment for resolution wherein Ripley is finally named sole survivor. Until that revelation, though, Alien maintains a white-knuckled tension: no one crewmember is more likable than another, and if you aren’t taking Alien‘s many sequels into account, Ripley’s survival comes as something of a surprise. (She survives even at her most vulnerable, too: she is down to her undergarments and whisper-singing, as if in a fugue of psychological, lyrical word-salad, “You are my lucky star. Lucky, lucky, lucky.”)
Other contemporary directors play with the “final girl” trope, too. One director who is particularly adroit at genre play is Kiyoshi Kurosawa, while another is named Brad Anderson (director of the ghostly horror Session 9, the time-travel rom-com Happy Accidents, and his best-known, The Machinist). Even David Fincher is adept at subverting the trope: in movies like Fight Club, Seven, and The Game, the killer often reveals himself as not only the Final Girl’s ally, but also as, in whatever way, a “benevolent” killer.
In other movies, like Dawn of the Dead or Night of the Comet, the trope of the “bottle” can be switched to something as provincial as a shopping mall. In fact, the simplest shortcut to social satire is by switching the bottle to any unexpected setting: a hotel, a school bus, a church.
For any horror aficionado, cataloguing the “slasher” visionaries is simple. You might name John Carpenter, George Romero, or Tobe Hooper, right along with Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale). They are all linked in that, instead of establishing only one “unseen killer,” these movie directors explore environments that are populated with five, ten, a hundred killers at once. (How do you name a single killer when they are all Spartacus? Isn’t that idea much more horrifying?)
But none of this is intended as over-praise. In fact, I’d venture, it’s easy enough to avoid a by-the-numbers horror movie. Any quirk, any circumvention of the preexisting “ruleset“—whether the Final Girl of Haute Tension, the underground caves of The Descent, the sewers of Marebito—can be interpreted as somehow transgressive. It is very, very easy to break any of these normative rules and to be subsequently applauded by international audiences.
There is a list I enjoyed very much over at the Tangential, “Guys Who Every Girl Thinks She’s the Only Girl Who Has a Crush On.” It could as easily have been titled “Electra Complex” but otherwise it is rock-solid—except, notes Mike, for the exclusion of Bob Balaban. (I would like to add, too, that many ladies find William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi to be pleasant on the eyes.)
My friend Mike and I created our own list, this one for heterosexual males and other people. I guess you could probably as easily name our list “smart cool chicks.”
When I saw the headline “Liv Tyler’s Leaked Lingerie Pics,” I freaked. I freaked because I am a patriot, and nothing is more fundamentally American than freaking out over nakedness.
Nip-slips and leaked nudie pics are two celebrity trends that, for the most part, I am down with. I can’t lie: I’ve been loving every new wrinkle in this whole Blake Lively scandal. And you can’t keep Blake down! Now she’s on a boat! Now she’s strutting around the MTV Movie Awards! Now she’s at Disneyland with Leonardo DiCaprio! The girl has undeniable moxie.
Oh, my God, and then there’s Khloé Kardashian, who took to her blog yesterday to all but outright admit that she manufactured her own nip-slip on Fox & Friends. How bad does Khloé want you to see her nipple? She flat-out refused to wear a bra, even after her stylist insisted she put one on. If that isn’t hustle, what is?
And let us never forget the ongoing saga of Representative Anthony Weiner, who only recently copped—in a press conference—to posting pics of his junk onto his own public Twitter account. By accident. Ah! It would be tragic if it weren’t soamusing.
But Liv Tyler? Sweet, all-American, intensely private Liv Tyler? Leaked photographs of Liv Tyler?
“A desperate bid for relevance!” I thought to myself giddily.
Punk’d again, self! Here are Liv Tyler’s alleged Leaked Lingerie Pics:
The truth is, I’m not disappointed, exactly. How could I be disappointed? These are most hilarious leaked pics I have ever seen. Liv is so fresh-faced and cute, so anachronistically covered-up, so endearingly not titillating, I just want to pinch her cheek and pat her G-rated shoulder.
And now I feel like I have to reassess. Maybe Liv Tyler is onto something. Maybe I don’t want to see nip-slips and crotch shots at all.
Maybe I would prefer:
“Oh, no, High School Musical darling Vanessa Hudgens! ANOTHER leaked photo??”
“That Miley Cyrus is tweeting from the shower AGAIN!”
What a beautiful springtime Saturday we had! The sun was shining, the birds were tweeting, and people seemed unsure whether to don scarves or skorts. But it was Free Comic Book Day, and if Craigslist Chicago is to be believed, romance was in the air.
When I first opened the door at challanger’s today it was packed because of free comic book day but you were standing right in front of me and we both just smiled at each other. I noticed you kept looking at me while I was waiting in line to get a sketch. You were so cute and I couldn’t help but look back.
You helped me choose a Vertigo comic book after I turned down the half zombie girle tale. I thought you were cute and sweet, and I’m enjoying the comic you picked out for me. Maybe we could grab coffee or a drink sometime?
And finally, some darling young fellow has this prose for his dream bookworm lady:
You were in the fiction section at Myopic Books. I was with my friend, who was wearing a ridiculous hat, when I saw you. We walked past and you smiled. I carried that smile with me all day. I’d like to see it again some day.
I’d had influenza for exactly one week and was beginning to feel the symptoms of crazy, and I think that is why I accidentally double-booked myself for bar trivia. I’d never done trivia in a bar before, and then somehow I managed to join two different quiz teams, each playing at 8PM CST on opposite sides of the city. Whoops! But I was very committed to meeting my friend Robyn for the quiz because, put together, we are a dainty, shrieking Ken Jennings.
I read somewhere that pub quizzes are more stressful than first-person shooters. I think I read that somewhere, anyway. (No, I just checked. It’s an actual video game called Pub Quiz, I see, that is so stressful, as opposed to a digital pub quiz.) But this sounds believable, right? Studying for the GRE is stressful. Taking tests is stressful. Public speaking is stressful. If I could only be on Jeopardy!, I could at long last fulfill my dream of vomiting on television. Without Robyn to steel me, I am not much like Ken Jennings at all. I have a numb brain and a slow trigger finger.
I felt both social and bloodthirsty, so I started my shit-talk well before the quiz began. But then, as our competitive spirit waned, Robyn and I decided to combine forces with our friends Brian and Ben. They let us join their team even though I had been emasculating them for an hour. That was a pretty shrewd move by all of us, though: Brian and Ben are versed in politics, movies, and history, but especially sports. They both are writers, too. Four writers at a table! And for as smart as we are, we are awfully loud and awfully good-looking.
I don’t mean to be a creep, or smug, but I did announce that we had the best-looking team by miles.
The quiz started. Guess what! Just one member of the team had two thumbs and zero idea who Clarence Darrow is: this gal!
The actress from Saving Grace? I started to write down “Brenda Blethyn.” Robyn slapped my hand. “Holly Hunter!” she hissed. Oh, a TV show! Not a movie!
“Oops, there is also a movie,” I told Robyn. Which I took my parents to see! Eleven years ago! I picked it! I drove us there! I’d already seen it once before! It’s about marijuana! And! My parents loved it!
Midway through the quiz, Robyn and I, who do not have the sports streak or zeal for self-improvement and exercise that Brian and Ben have, admitted that we each had become incredibly competitive. We had gone from giggling and slacking in round one to MIGHTY by round three.
“I have tasted blood, and I liked the flavor!” I said to Ben.
“See?” Ben said. “Now you are thinking like a winner.” Ben high-fived me.
“I think I should keep this feeling!” I said to him. “I don’t know when I stopped being competitive, and I think it’s my biggest problem. Content with my station in life.” Robyn and I nodded at each other, then, frowning.
What I remember best about trivia night last night is me-not-knowing-things, but the truth is, combined, our team knew almost everything. Brian knew the names of both Chicago restaurants (Alinea, L20) with three Michelin stars. Offhand, he knew! Fuck that guy! (I’d thought Brian was saying “Millennia,” also, so even after I’d been told the answer, I still did not know the answer.)
Robyn: “What’s a Michelin star?”
Me: “It’s, uh, the highest top honor. That you can give… food.”
The highest top honor you can give food. Great.
My high school drama coach signed me up for competitiveextemporaneous speaking once. She had done it without consulting me, and then she assured me that I was smart, confident, composed, polished. She had a hunch about me. Isn’t that nice? And I had honestly never realized how inarticulate, blubbering, and gaspy I am, and then one day I am 16 and standing, frowning at the ceiling, in front of a human nightmare of smirking faces, and I feel myself turn red with watery eyes, and my voice is trembling violently. And also, I am twitching. This is crying in public! I would rather vomit in public, bleed in public, or be naked in public, than cry in public. And this was domestic extemporaneous. Can you imagine if it were foreign extemporaneous? That was when I learned to write down what I am going to say before I ever make a phone call. Not an outline; a real script. I will even plan my responses out. I will plan my responses to the AT&T service representative on the other end of the phone. Do you know what is more stressful than even the most stressful video game? The phone! Defusing a bomb! The humiliation that is making a show of your own incompetence! A pub quiz!
Robyn: “Oh, OK.”
Me: “Chef’s food. French?”
Robyn: “Michelin stars.”
I was on the verge of explaining the history of the Michelin Man, Bibendum, using gestures and magnetic poetry diseased brain pidgin alcohol word salad hemodynamism. And instead I ruefully clamped my jaw shut, in case another infant thought tried to fart out. Do you see why I picked Robyn as my teammate? Do you see how splendid and patient she is?
Brian successfully deduced that Madagascar is the fourth-largest island. He did this by pointing at nothing and counting on his fingers.
What tree uses all five vowels? Sequoia.
What’s the ‘G’ in “G-spot” for? Gräfenberg.
“Gräfenberg,” Robyn and I whispered together.
“What?” Brian asked us. He had the pen.
“Gräfenberg,” we whispered simultaneously, louder.
Brian wrote a ‘G’ on the page. “What?” he asked us.
“Gräfenberg,” Robyn hissed.
“Gräfenberg,” I repeated in the same hiss.
Brian balked. “How do you spell that?” he asked me.
“How can you spell something that doesn’t exist?” Ben howled, slapping the table.
Then I needed help with celebrity gossip. “The star of Edward Scissorhands plus Kate Hudson’s son. Brian? Kate Hudson was married to a musician, but who, again?”
“Kate Hudson was married to Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes,” Brian replied. He is so cool and you would never know he is a dork, because he is unkempt but sharply dressed (my friend Whitney is accurate when she refers to the phenomenon as passing), but Brian almost gives himself away socially, because he uses complete sentences. Like, in casual, spoken conversation, he uses subjects and predicates. Isn’t that strange? Weird, right?
“WINONARYDERROBINSON!” I said. “Wonderful!” Other answers from that round: Holly Hunter S. Thompson, Daryl Hannah Montana, Pee-Wee Herman Melville, Jennie Garth Brooks, Soulja Boy George, et cetera. That last one, “Crank That rap artist and Karma Chameleon singer,” I did not even have to think about. I had command of the pen for that round only, and I’d just started writing.
“Whoa, whoa. Wait,” Ben said. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, OK, no yeah, ha ha. I know the words to ‘Crank That,’” I said. “It is the worst song. So I’m very sure.” I’m sure that it is an entire song about splooge.
“Wow!” Robyn said.
One question stumped us all, however: “What 1981 Journey album includes the song Don’t Stop Believin’?”
We sat there, staring into our drinks.
Brian regretted aloud that the question wasn’t about Foreigner. He would’ve had the answer for sure! That’s a pretty good joke.
After another terrible silence, I whispered, “If we can’t think of anything, try Self-Titled. No! Wait! I know! Write in ‘Greatest Hits’!”
Ben roared. I was a genius! “1981,” Robyn sighed. Then we all sighed. I was not a genius.
Robyn made little invisible circles on the table with her green glass Woodchuck bottle. “I can sort of see the album cover in my head. It’s blue.”
She said that, and it jogged my brain. If my brain is a constellation of neurological lights, a too-small Ursa lit up. “If only this question were about the Journey game for the Atari,” I frowned, “I’d be useful.”
Can you believe that I said that aloud, even. About a videogame from 1982. Can you already see how I am an imbecile?
I played through the whole game in my head. There is a discordant, chippy version of “Don’t Stop Believin’” playing, and then the game really begins. You are an actual member of the world-famous rock band, Journey. You have just played a show, and because you are so famous and good-looking, you now have to escape your lovestruck fans (represented by hearts with legs), escape from conniving unscrupulous concert promoters, and escape the paparazzi flashbulbs. It’s an entire video game about having social anxiety! So you are racing toward your spaceship, yes, spaceship, which is shaped, hmm, is it shaped like a trilobite?
No, no, it is shaped like a plain old beetle type of bug. Or like a scarab beetle, that’s what I had been trying to think of. Your sprite is running toward a big scarab. You would never know that the bug icon is supposed to be a spaceship, judging the television screen itself, but if you had taken the time to look at the box, you would know that there is a scarab-shaped spacecraft on its cover. Ha, ha! That’s right! The whole game concept is based entirely on the nonsensical cover art fantasy painting of a bug-shaped spacecraft exploding—I’m sorry, escaping—from a, uh, a, uh, a big blue spherical orb. Blue. Blue.
I clapped a hand over my eyes.
“Oh my god, I’m sorry,” I whispered to my teammates. “I’m so sorry. I am so dumb. The Atari game is called Journey Escape, and it is based on some weird album art, and I bet that means the album is called Escape.”
Everybody was amazed.
The point is, we won. We won first place! And we didn’t just win by a handful of points. The distance between first and second place was incredible. We amazed even ourselves. We were the greatest butt rock metal band ever. We agreed that our team was made of magic and that we would meet the very next week to DESTROYSOMEMOREDREAMS and also, to spend our gift certificate.
We also won koozies.
Outside, a man was belittling Robyn, so I walked over and stood next to her. He introduced himself as a member of team Third Place. Then he was mean to me. I was grinning so big, just the sorest winner ever. His ire was like a high five and a slap on the back. His ire was greater reward than any piddling gift certificate. ALL IS FAIR IN ROCKANDWAR, MISTERTHIRDPLACE.
When I was a child, I and the other latchkey kids played long games of Imagination on the playground. The games would last for days or even weeks, all these arcing time/space operas with good guys, villains, damsels, and shopkeepers.
But most of the players were girls. And so, when we embarked on a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles narrative in the summer of 1990, one boy was cast as Michelangelo, another girl volunteered to be Shredder, and all the rest of us alternated turns as April O’Neil.
It’s as if none of us realized that, in a game of Imagination, any girl on the playground was permitted to play the part of a Ninja Turtle. That’s true. But we all certainly wanted to be April O’Neil, too, because April O’Neil was a badass. She was no-nonsense, competent, and always talking about “a big scoop!” She was tough but lithe; her only weakness, foolhardiness. If she had been used less as a prop on the Saturday morning cartoon, she might have been a kind of contemporary, “real”-world She-Ra.
I had (and still have) a 1988 April O’Neil action figure, which was the second version of April produced by Playmates. This version had flat helmet hair, a yellow jumpsuit with blue piping, and a handgun concealed inside a camcorder. Also, she still had those killer white boots.
She was redesigned later that year, this time with cuter hair and uncanonical orange details on her jumpsuit, along with those horrible orange boots (what). And while the action figure’s blister card was awfully inconsistent (this YouTube video cites no fewer than 15 minor idiosyncrasies), April O’Neil’s “biography” on the back of the card was left unchanged.
It describes her thusly:
VITALNEWS: Accessories: Camcorder, Gun, Wireless Microphone, TMNT portable Computer, Ninja Star Birthplace: The Valley Height: 5’5” Weight: 115 lbs. Age. A young 25
April’s a determined tv news journalist, always prepared for the late breaking news feature with her camcorder strapped ‘round her arm. Her eagerness, however, gets her into trouble and makes her a big pain in the shell for the Turtles, who always end up saving this damsel in distress.
Still, Aprils no air head and is a valuable member of the Turtle Team. Being a pretty human has its advantages, like getting into places the Turtles can’t. When the situation calls for more than a news flash. April’s ready with a trusty gun, which is secretly locked inside her camcorder.
I like that she was described as “no airhead” and a “pretty human.”
But by the time new! improved! versions of April O’Neil were produced, I had already aged out of my interest in TMNT. Imagine how startled I might have been, in girlhood, to discover this newer incarnation of April:
OK, fine. I do like the updated accessories a lot—what kid would’ve been just thrilled to clip that old gray briefcase into April’s little plastic hand? I ask you—and I especially love her new handgun, which is massive. The fingernail polish is a nice touch, if a bit matchy-matchy. Also. I appreciate that Revised April is sensible enough to wear a watch.
Nice try on the supermodel hair, I guess, except that April O’Neil is now permanently frozen in a gust of wind. (Would we were all!) The fuchsia accents on April’s jumpsuit are, at best, alarming. But can we talk about April’s face? Let’s. Because she looks like she face-planted into a shelf at Sephora.
New April is depicted as follows:
VITALNEWSTISTICS: Accessories: Crook Catchin’ Camcorder, 52mm News Makers’ Special, Leg Holster, Babe Belt with Detachable Microphone and Tape Player Favorite Headline: Ace Reporter Wins Another Award. Favorite Turtle: What? You don’t know? Weight: 105 lbs Without pad and pencil.
When news happens April is there—live! She’s the gutsiest gal reporter to ever cover the big city. April will do anything to get a scoop, even walk into Shredder’s hideout. Nothing can stop April from getting the story, not even the Foot Clan. Of course it helps when you’re best of friends with the Turtles. But when the Turtles are not around she has her news makers’ special and crook catchin’ camcorder to help her uncover the facts. And if the bad guys think they can intimidate her, they best be warned. She’s the master of the tossin’ tape player and no one can scream for help louder. So keep an eye out for April, cuz when she’s around news is bound to happen.
A couple notes:
I like the repeated use of “Newsmakers’ Special” as a squirrely euphemism for “gun”
Also, “gutsy” as euphemism for “headlong into trouble”
What, please, is a Babe Belt? Is that when a utility belt is pink?
I mean, there is nothing wrong with losing ten pounds, if that’s what you want. But at 5’5” and 115, no matter whether you buy into BMI, O’Neil was not exactly shattering the scales with her elephant thighs.
Here’s “Ninja Newscaster” April, all geared up for step aerobics. Her off-kilter smirk is winning, for sure, but the real draw here is supposed to be those baby-blue ninja accessories, pictured on the right.
Her updated biography reads:
VITALKICKTISTICS: Accessories: Samurai-style Camera, Brodcastin’ Bo, Cool Katana Blade, News Makin’ Nunchaku, Scoop ‘em Sai Favorite Headline: Ace Reporter April O’Neil Fights Foot with Foot Weight: 105 lbs. We think. She won’t tell us.
April O’Neil’s here to bring you all the news that hurts. She’s 105 lbs. of pure ninja. And that means the Foot will never make headlines as long as April, the Ninja Newscaster, files her reports. Sided with the Turtles, this seasoned Foot-fightin’ sister has the power of the press on her side—and this time, it kicks, chops and punches. Using her samurai-style camera and broadcastin’ bo, April’s always sure to get an interview with the Foot Clan—even if it hurts them. She’s hot, heroic and headstrong. She’s ready for rad reptile reporting with her newsmakin’ nunchaku and scoop ‘em sai. So stand back and watch April prove she’s the one and only ninja newscaster—the world’s first judo, ju jitsu jammin’ journalist!
There are a couple things I like about April’s reinvention. She has all the Turtles’ weaponry at her disposal, she has a Shredder-style gauntlet, and those arm bandages are also pretty cool. No longer content to be a “pretty human” or “the gutsiest gal reporter around,” Ninja Newscaster April is “hot, heroic and headstrong.” She’s the best of everything, all rolled into one lady! I guess.
Catalogue of complaints:
What is a Samurai camera? I’m staring at it, and I still don’t get it. This isn’t even wordplay.
That eye-catching leopard-print leotard is, um, kind of the opposite of “ninja.”
A HUNDREDFIVEPOUNDS, YOUTHINK?????
Listen, toymakers. April has already lost enough weight; you don’t have to suggest that she’s still ashamed of what a fat cow she is. “Oh, haha! She won’t tell us her weight! That’s a thing girls do!” Well, this lady isn’t afraid to tell you: I’m four hundred pounds, three feet tall, and shaped exactly like a steak fry. There.
And now for Strumpet O’Neil, for April Under (the) Cover(s), for Foot-Kickin’ Leggings McGee, for April-for-the-Girls, it’s…
Flash! This just in: April is the world’s most ravishing reporter. What does that mean? That means you’re dealing with the gutsiest glamour gal to ever say, We’ll be back after these messages.” April’s one cool chick. She’s got the power of the bob ‘n wave—thanks to her real rooted hair. And what she lacks in brawn, she makes up in brains. This smart sister is super chic and turns heads wherever she goes. She never has a bad hair day when she’s armed with her katana blade curling iron. It’s bad news though, if this ravishing reporter hears a whistle in the wind from a flirtatious Foot fiend. She’s got a detachable skirt that lets her kick low and high. And no kiss is as deadly when April aims her lipstick nunchaku at a Foot face. Why would a bodacious bylinin’ babe like this be interested in a Mutant Turtle? Well, as one source reported, “Cuz they’re just so cute!”
Just, oh, my God, to everything, ever.
Look, I get that this happens. Over time, you sex up the female characters a little—you have to! You’re an executive! It’s your job!—because that’s what Little Girls Want. And anyway, that’s how you make female cartoon characters Relatable. You give them huge boobs for everyone to identify with.
If Masters of the Universe had been around just a little longer, She-Ra would be scampering around Eternia in her tiara and spandex hotpants, going, “Tee-hee! Swift Wind is totally the best horse! The best horse.” OK.
In what dimension, Pajiba writer Dustin Rowles, is it okay to scoff at “Stark Raving Mad”?
I mean, I liked your list, The 10 Least Must-See NBC Thursday Night TV Sitcoms, mostly. Maybe I am a sitcom junkie, but I appreciate your righteous indignation at televised farts like “Boston Common” and the rehash of “Coupling.” Even your jab at “The Single Guy” might be justified—although, as a young teen, I looo-oooo-ooooved Jonathan Silverman with an ardor that nearly matched my affection for Tom Cavanagh on “Ed.”
Perhaps all these cold TV dinner leftovers are best forgotten: fine. But you leave “Stark Raving Mad” out of it.
The year? was 1999. Young talent Neil Patrick Harris, fresh from a slew of lamentable made-for-TV movies, was still trying to shake off his Doogie curse (I remember watching The Christmas Wish with bewildered pity). In a more recent interview with the A.V. Club, Harris indicates those years of his life as plangent with mountain-climbing and introspection.
Meanwhile, Tony Shalhoub had established himself as a pretty good character actor on the big screen, even as he juggled a role as lovable cabbie Antonio Scarpacci on “Wings.” But “Wings” was over now, and Shalhoub, underloved as ever.
“Stark Raving Mad” paired the two actors as yet another Odd Couple, with Shalhoub as horror novelist Ian Stark and young Harris as his beleaguered editor and keeper, Henry McNeely. The characters, together, were two kinds of crazy, with obsessive-compulsive McNeely quietly rivaling Ian Stark for lunacy. A sloppier creator might have cast a woman as Stark’s editor instead, which could well have given the series a will-they-won’t-they frisson and longevity.
But as with any of the best-received sitcoms (“Black Books,” “Big Bang Theory”), the premise’s very triteness permitted the actors to shine:
“Tony Shalhoub is hysterical—I didn’t even think he could be so funny,” one IMDb user wrote in 1999. “Who would have thought Neil Patrick Harris had a flair for comedy?” another typed in 2000.
Of course the show was hamstrung by sitcom cheesiness—puns, tracked laughter, obnoxious jazzy interstitials with establishing shots of architecture and city traffic—but fine performances elevated “Stark Raving Mad” from banal to sublime.
Audiences were pleasantly surprised, too, by the network television show’s unusually grim humor; paid critics were not so kind. In its September 1999 review, Variety warned that “Stark Raving Mad” simply couldn’t compete with television shows like “Charmed” (ugh) and “Action.” (Remember “Action”? The only FOX sitcom with tons of bleeping? It was also wonderful, more authentically edgy, but its life was sadly cut short, too.)
From the end of the pilot episode of “Stark Raving Mad,” here is a bit about the writing process (beginning at 1:40 or so):
Soon after “Stark Raving Mad” won its People’s Choice Award for Best New Comedy, NBC canceled the series. Several episodes never aired.