“…Ready for It?” No, I Was NOT!

ready for it

I was really worried that I wouldn’t like Taylor Swift after all the anger she unleashed in her first music video “Look What You Made Me Do.” When I listened to her second single, “…Ready For It?” I still had doubts because it’s her most mature song, implying erotic dreams and having this dark bass beat. I felt a little better when listening to “Gorgeous” because it had actual music on the track, not just synthetic beats, but I wasn’t sure if I could love all of “reputation.”

Then Taylor dropped a teaser of a music video for “…Ready For It?” And I screamed like I just won Hamilton tickets. And when the music video dropped last night, I couldn’t sleep. I watched it multiple times.

There is no way that I could analyze this video completely. I can’t read the Chinese characters in the background. But I’ll do my best to give my own take on this.

The video begins with Taylor with electric blue eyes, wearing a black cape/hoodie, walking through a dark alley surrounded by robots. She pushes some buttons on a keypad and opens up a large room that has another Taylor, looking like a mix of Tron and Ghost in the Shell, trapped in some kind of glass box.

The first thing Swifties on Tumblr have pointed out is that Dark Taylor, the one in the hood, is her reputation in the media. The Dark Taylor is who everyone thinks Taylor is.  The Taylor in the glass box is the Real Taylor.

In the second verse, the Dark Taylor sings to Real Taylor while dressing her up as a cyber-warrior, with black armor.  Real Taylor calls Dark Taylor her “jailer.” This particular moment reminds me of the birdcage scene in “Look What You Made Me Do.” When I saw Taylor in the giant birdcage, I felt like I was looking at the state of her soul, trapped by everything that she’s been experiencing. Dark Taylor also personifies temptation, talking to Real Taylor about how boys are “Burton to this Taylor,” how “you’ll never be alone,” and “no one has to know.”

Another note: The different images that Real Taylor tries on in this video remind me of her music videos from 1989. The armored robot? Totally “Bad Blood.” Then in the 2nd pre-chorus, she’s on a white horse, reminding people of “Blank Space.” In the 2nd chorus, Taylor is holding a blue orb and then she’s surrounded by tiny blue lights, floating in midair, reminiscent of “Out of the Woods.”

As the song goes into the bridge, Real Taylor starts to channel lightning, as if she was a futuristic version of Frankenstein’s monster. I can’t help but think that it’s also a shout out to when she co-wrote Calvin Harris and Rihanna’s “This Is What You Came For,” since there’s a line about how “lightning strikes every time she moves.”\

My favorite part of this video, though, is when Real Taylor and Dark Taylor stand face to face. As the song goes into the third chorus, Real Taylor screams and breaks the glass. The shards cut into Dark Taylor’s skin, revealing her to be a robot. Towards the end of the video, Real Taylor walks up a stairway while Dark Taylor stands on another stairway, being struck by lightning as other robots run towards her. According to Tumblr Swifties, this represents Taylor taking back the narrative, killing off everything that the media has said about her. The video ends with Real Taylor smiling at the death of her reputation and then staring into the camera and asking the audience “Are you ready for it?” as her eyes glow that electric blue one last time.

I was basically waiting for this video. It blows “Look What You Made Me Do” out of the water.

There are some parts of the video that scare me, such as when Real Taylor is covered in snakes (I think) for half a second in the first pre-chorus. And the part where she channels lightning is almost demonic and I didn’t like the phrase on the stairway that Dark Taylor stands on that says “They’re burning all the witches!” I guess it’s supposed to mean that Taylor’s reputation became a witch hunt, but with the term “witch” becoming a badge of honor in liberal feminist circles, I don’t want Taylor embracing the idea of being a witch.

Nevertheless, there’s something in this video that “Look What You Made Me Do” didn’t have: Hope. This video is giving me hope that Taylor is starting this new era with love and happiness and not a desire for revenge and retribution.

Crush the heads of those snakes, Taylor. Grace will be coming for you.

Firefly Month: Solid Ground and Synchronicity in Out of Gas

Out of Gas is unique in the sense that it’s told in anachronistic order. I’ll start with what I call “present day”:

The episode starts out with shots of an empty Serenity, which already tells the audience that something is wrong. Just as we start to wonder where everyone was, we see Captain Mal Reynolds collapsing onto the floor of the cargo hold.

The episode then flashes back to the crew of Serenity sharing funny stories around the dinner table and celebrating Simon’s birthday, when all of a sudden there’s an explosion from the engine room. The explosion knocks Zoe out and disables the life support and auxiliary power. To make things worse, they’re flying under the radar which meant that finding help is next to impossible. Kaylee explains that the ship can’t be fixed without a certain part, meaning that they are proverbially “dead in the water.” Mal tells everyone to evacuate the ship while he waits for help.

A while after everyone leaves, another ship arrives, but unfortunately, the people who have that part that Mal wants turn out to be scavengers and not good Samaritans. Mal manages to get them off and get the MacGuffin, but collapses.

And now we’ll move on to the scenes where Mal’s life flashes before his eyes.

Mal bought Serenity with Zoe, back when the ship was in a supposedly dilapidated state. Zoe is wary of it, but clearly she’s never seen home makeover shows. Mal hires Wash to be the pilot and a mechanic named Bester. Zoe does not like Wash, which again makes me wonder how the two got together in the first place. Later on, we find the mechanic Bester in flagrante delicto with Kaylee in the engine room.. Bester said that engines make her hot. Mal points out that the ship needs to get off ground because they’re behind schedule. Kaylee, mechanical genius that she is, points out the problem and gets hired on the spot at Bester’s expense. Some time later, Jayne gets recruited to the team when he and a band of robbers take Serenity at gunpoint and Mal bribes Jayne into turning to their side, offering room and board and more money. Finally, Inara is taken onto the ship, citing that her status as a Companion will create a sense of credibility and status. She asks for 3 things: complete autonomy, that Mal never walks into her shuttle without permission, and that Mal never calls her a whore. Well, 1 out of 3 ain’t bad, right?

Going back to the present day, Mal is able to give himself enough adrenaline to get the MacGuffin into the engine room and get the ship running again, but passes out before he can send a call to the shuttles to return to the ship.

The next thing we see is Mal waking up in the infirmary and I start wondering if we’re watching the end of Inception because Zoe supposedly regained consciousness and ordered both shuttles to return to the ship, thus saving Mal’s life. Too bad we never see that scene and are left guessing whether or not Mal and the rest of the crew died and the rest of everything is just an afterlife thing. I’m not gonna say I hate you, Joss Whedon. Not yet. I’m saving that for later. For now, I’m gonna roll my eyes and roll with the punches.

This was not an easy episode to analyze. This episode runs on backstory, which doesn’t lend much to finding themes or questions about morality. But then this old adage came to me: “God draws straight with crooked lines.” Also known as “everything happens for a reason.”

Synchronicity, as defined by Carl Jung, is “two or more events that are meaningfully related, but not casually related,” a coincidence that actually means something.

 

One can also argue that synchronicity is another way of saying “divine providence.”

 

At the end of the episode, we see that Mal originally looked at a large rocket-type ship before choosing Serenity. We also learn that Wash and Zoe weren’t a case of “love at first sight” and Kaylee only came onto the crew by chance. Jayne joined the crew because there would be more money and better service, Inara joined the crew because they needed her as much as she needs them and the pilot shows that everyone else on the ship started out as passengers.

But eventually, we see what all these moments lead up to: Zoe eventually gains a husband, Jayne gets to act as the crew’s enforcer and muscle, Kaylee gets to do what she loves for a living (working with mechanics, not the other thing; get your mind out of the gutter), Inara has a sense of independence, the Tam siblings find refuge, and Shepherd Book gets a home. What does Mal get out of it? He gets a family.

I think it’s fitting that the first flashback we see in the episode is when everyone’s gathered around the table exchanging stories and celebrating Simon’s birthday. They’ve come a really long way from how things started.

Joseph Susanka of “Summa This, Summa That” says:

He’s “out of gas” at the beginning of the timeline, searching for somewhere to anchor himself. The ship is what he finds. But through the course of the episode, as we see everyone coming together (and eventually, his efforts to protect them all as the ship *seems* like it’s deserving/betraying him), we come to realize that it’s the people on the ship that really anchor him. The real “solid ground.”

So instead of taking the idea that everyone died, I’d like to think that Providence came in to turn things around for Mal. After all, there are bigger things that the crew of the Serenity has to face.

JMJ

Firefly and Morality Part 1: Serenity (The Pilot Episode)

Although I love Joss Whedon, I’m not one of those fans who thinks he’s perfect. One major flaw in his works is that he is amazing with finales, but not as good with beginnings. The first episode of Firefly has a lot of great establishing moments and a lot of worldbuilding, but the pacing is seriously slow. Mostly because the episode itself is an hour and 30 minutes long.

The episode opens at the battle of Serenity Valley. It’s your typical “against all odds” kind of battle and it doesn’t go well. I gasped at the sight of Mal kissing his cross necklace and watches as his faith shattered before his eyes as the Alliance closed in on them. The action of the episode, however, doesn’t pick up until the crew of Serenity lands on a planet to pick up passengers. On the surface, Mal claims that they’re just gonna make a rest stop in a moon called Whitefall. In reality, they’re smuggling a crate of foodstuffs that they salvaged.

The standoff in the cargo hold leads to the major moral conflict of the episode: What to to with Simon Tam, who is a wanted fugitive on the run from the Alliance. Dobson, a passenger that the crew picked up, turns out to be a mole, going after  Simon and River for the bounty on their heads. Mal is more than willing to let Simon go if it meant getting the Alliance off his back, but when Dobson shoots Kaylee and leaves her in critical condition, Mal has no choice but to let Simon put his skills as a doctor and surgeon to work. (Kudos to Book for knocking Dobson out, by the way.) Once the bullet is extracted, Mal checks what exactly Simon brought on board with him that the Alliance wants so badly. Enter River Tam, very naked and very afraid. Once River is unboxed, Simon reveals his backstory to the crew. The crew debates about what to do with Simon, River, and Dobson. Mal wants to leave the Tams on Whitefall but Inara disagrees and threatens to leave.

Jayne gets put in charge of interrogating Dobson. While he is able to get answers out of the mole without resorting to torture,  Dobson plants the seed of doubt in Jayne’s mind: Simon and River are worth a lot of money. This becomes a major moral dilemma later.  In the infirmary, Kaylee points out to Mal that in spite of what he says, he is a nice man because he always looks out for his crew. She points out that he needs to have faith in people. He proves to need a lot of room in that department because he decides to prank Simon in a scene I dare not spoil here. Unfortunately, while Mal, Zoe, and Jayne are making a deal on a distant moon, Dobson escapes and takes River hostage.

Things finally start picking up when the ship catches the sight of Reavers, a group of monsters known for putting their victims through fates worse than death. When Mal, Zoe, and Jayne return to the ship, Mal shoots Dobson dead and they take off running, escaping the Reavers by the skin of their teeth. Shepherd suffers a minor crisis of faith about the fact that he has no moral qualms about Mal shooting Dobson. Stuff between Mal and Jayne gets foreshadowed for a future episode and Mal makes Simon an offer: stay on the ship and work as a medic and they’ll keep them on the run and away from the Alliance.

The moral dilemma stems on the conflict of what is legal vs what is morally right. This conflict of ethics gets brought up a lot. In this verse, Inara’s job (a high class call girl) is considered legal while Mal and his crew trying to salvage a ship is considered illegal. While Simon getting his sister out of the Academy was morally right, it came at the cost of him and his sister becoming fugitives. Mal comes off as hardened and morally ambiguous, just wanting to survive, but the members of his crew, especially Inara, keep him accountable. He needs them just as much as they all need him. Ut still comes as a sigh of relief that Mal decided to keep Simon and River on board. But his prank on Simon was psychotic.

A theory that analyzes Mal’s change of heart in this episode explains that River embodies someone who was royally screwed and abused by the Alliance like Mal was and, in his own strange way, Mal wants to give River the help he never got. I’m actually one to vouch that it was actually morally right for Mal to shoot Dobson in the hostage situation. As much as I wished that someone wrestled River free from Dobson and that Dobson could’ve been thrown off the ship to starve on Whitefall, it wasn’t likely to happen. Mal’s friendship with River is hinted at throughout the series, but is best seen at the end of Serenity (the film). We have a long way to go until then, though. Stay shiny because tomorrow, I look at “The Train Job.”