1.13e “Why All the Death Threats?” Neon Genesis Evangelion, Part 4

Part 4 concludes the Nostalgia Hangover Season Finale with a long discussion about the two endings of Neon Genesis Evangelion: first, the final two episodes of the television show which provoked a major fan backlash (that included death threats sent to the creator of the series), and second, the movie that was made to ‘fix’ those problematic episodes.

This all happened in the mid-1990’s and in many ways anticipated the relationship between contemporary creators and modern fandom. We discuss the episodes themselves, the ferocity of the fan backlash, how to respond to art that disappoints, and whether or not the movie was worth it.

Content warning: depression, PTSD, suicide

Outro: Cruel Angel’s Thesis (AmaLee)

1.13d “Is Kaworu a Psychopath?” – Neon Genesis Evangelion Season Finale, Bonus

This didn’t quite fit into any of the other episodes so it got spun off as a bonus.

In this episode. We discuss the character of Kaworu, who appears in only a single episode yet has a phenomenal fan following and popularity (the “Boba Fett” of Evangelion). He is an enigmatic love interest for Shinji, though you could also view him as a psychopath grooming a victim.

1.13c “A Perfect Microcosm of the Series” – Neon Genesis Evangelion Season Finale, Part 3

Part 3 is a deep dive discussion on the character of Asuka, who stands in perfectly as a microcosm of the series as a whole. Asuka originally appears in episode 8 and is introduced as a shrewish cliché with a lot of problematic elements. But by the end of the series, she is one of the show’s most compelling characters: an arrogant, unlikable, unstable adolescent girl full of self-loathing acting out on severe unresolved childhood trauma.

We hit upon the fact that how close you are to the age of the adolescent main characters of the series definitely shapes your perception of the series. In particular, the protagonist Shinji Ikari, who is about as far from your standard action/adventure hero as one can get. Shinji is wishy-washy, uncertain, depressive, confused, and generally passive, i.e. a very realistic portrayal of a traumatized adolescent in an extreme situation. But a realistic portrayal of adolescence at its worst is not necessarily what you want to see when you’re in the middle of it.

Content warning: depression, PTSD, suicide

Outro: Fly Me to the Moon/Lucky in Love (Rick Hale and Breea Guttery)

1.13b “Put It in My Veins” – Neon Genesis Evangelion Season Finale, Part 2

In part 2, Usman and Noah cover episodes 8-24, the bulk of the series, and go into more depth about how the tone and content of the show fluctuates over the course of its run. Starting with episode 8 Evangelion veers away from its more serious elements involving war/trauma/depression into a sillier and more cliché teenagers & fighting robots show. It snaps back around episode 14 before ultimately culminating in the psychological destruction of every character. Fun stuff!

Content warning: depression, PTSD, suicide

Outro: Fly Me to the Moon (The Macarons Project)

1.13a “Life During Wartime” – Neon Genesis Evangelion Season Finale, Part 1

Nostalgia Hangover Season Finale: Neon Genesis Evangelion

Part 1: Life During Wartime

Neon Genesis Evangelion is an iconic Japanese animated series (now on Netflix!) that uses a common anime premise (teenagers piloting giant robots that fight monsters) to tell a story about depression, loneliness, PTSD, parental estrangement, teenaged angst, and life during wartime (content warning for all of those things, btw).

The series is difficult to summarize in large part because it veers so wildly in tone and content from episode to episode. What begins as a promising take on a cliche premise veers into hack territory around episode 8 before going hard on psychological rumination and brutality around episode 14. It also veers from fantastic highs (its handling of the lived experience of mental illness and existential despair) to unpalatable lows (sexualizing its adolescent characters).

There’s a lot to unpack here, so the discussion has been divided into 4 parts. In part 1, Noah and Usman begin the discussion with a focus on the premise and theme of the series as well as the first seven episodes.

Outro Music: Fly Me to the Moon (Sungha Jung)

1.12 “Commodity” – Ewoks: Caravan of Courage & Ewoks: Battle for Endor

Michael comes on the show to talk about the Star War. Specifically, two live-action made-for-tv Ewok movies. Did you know that two original live-action Star Wars movies were made in the mid-80’s after Return of the Jedi? Noah didn’t!

We discuss these lesser-known pieces of Star Wars media and how they compare to both the prequels and more recent Disney products. They function as self-contained children’s movies, but have a refreshing lack of mindless nostalgia references which makes them interesting in light of more recent Star Wars movie trends. And while the production quality is (obviously) lower, they have an originality and willingness to go in a different direction that the recent movies have sorely lacked.

Outro Music: Return of the Jedi Victory Celebration

“Commodity” – Ewoks: Caravan of Courage & Ewoks: Battle for Endor

1.11 “Men in Rubber Suits” – Monster Zero

Ben talks about Monster Zero, a Godzilla movie his mother created a bootleg copy of from a VHS tape borrowed from a grocery store video rental chain. He watched it over and over again as a child, and from this humble beginning came a lifelong affection for Godzilla and other kaiju.

Monster Zero features most of the staples of a typical Godzilla movie: terrible dubbing, rubber-suit monsters, great set design, overly long and ponderous dialogue scenes, and so on. But it stands out in Ben’s memory for how profoundly odd it is. The plot begins with a race of aliens from Planet X that want to borrow Godzilla and Rodan from the people of Earth. Much of the movie takes place in outer space, and it just gets weirder from there.

Outro Music: Godzilla by Blue Oyster Cult

 

“Men in Rubber Suits” – Monster Zero

1.10 “Family (obviously)” – The Fast and the Furious

This weeks’ guest Classy Cassie saw The Fast and the Furious in theaters with her parents when she was about eight. What’s more remarkable is that Cassie and her parents went on to see every Fast and Furious movie together in theaters since, marking that afternoon in the year 2000 as the beginning of a now twenty-years-running family ritual.

We discuss the appeal of ‘comfort food’ action movies, how this movie is like taking a time machine back to the year 2000 (oppressive beauty standards, unbearably awful popular music, pre-CGI special effects, a have-it-both-ways combination of simultaneous female empowerment and objectification), and just how goshdarn young Paul Walker and Michelle Rodriguez look.

The episode was filmed outside so there’s more than the usual amount of background noise – just pretend all the car noises are there on purpose to fit the subject of the episode and you should be fine.

“Family (obviously)” – The Fast and the Furious

Outro Music: Watch Your Back

1.9 “I Can’t in Good Conscience Recommend it to Anyone” – Thoroughly Modern Millie

Julie Andrews stars in Thoroughly Modern Millie, a 1967 musical that features catchy songs, fun dance numbers, delightful performances, and egregious racism. The movie is about Millie, a ‘modern’ woman of 1922, trying to make her way in the Big City. While Millie’s attempts to find love is the main focus of the movie, the plot also heavily features Millie’s landlady and her two Chinese accomplices drugging and kidnapping white women into slavery (played entirely for laughs, of course). It’s as bad as it sounds.

Elizabeth watched this movie over and over in her childhood, and discusses what makes it great (the singing and dancing) as well as what makes it impossible to recommend (the aforementioned racism) plus more! We talk about how to process something unforgivably problematic, and how it feels to have something you loved as a child that you can never share with actual children.

1.8 “Unexpected Inspiration” – The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Dream

Ben “Not the Playwright” Johnson ordered an old Berenstain Bears book on Amazon last month and wanted to talk about it. The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Dream, like every other book in the series, tells a simple, wholesome story for children that imparts an equally simple, wholesome moral or message. And that’s it.

What sets “The Bad Dream” apart from all the other Berenstain Bears books, though, is its superhero art, which visually looks nothing like any other Berenstain Bears illustrations and really captivated a young Ben Johnson’s imagination. We discuss how this experience may or may not have influenced Ben’s subsequent love of superheroes, as well as the phenomenon (or lack thereof) of the Berenstain Bears more generally.

And yes, we talk about the stupid conspiracy theory.

Episode image snapshotted from this Youtube video.

Outro Music: The Berenstain Bears Theme (PBS Studios)

1.7 “It’s High Adventure With” – The Pirates of Dark Water

The Pirates of Dark Water is a 1990 cartoon Elizabeth has no direct memory of watching. What she does remember vividly, though, is playing make-believe around the idea of “The Pirates of Dark Water” in elementary school.

After the rewatch, Elizabeth delights in recounting the first five episodes of The Pirates of Dark Water in all of their glorious absurdity. The show is a fun, plot-dense, Mad Max-influenced, excessively swashbuckling, cliche-ridden romp with surprisingly good animation (by the standards of 1990 TV cartoons).

Bonus: we get schmoopy over fond memories of the early internet when we discover http://piratesofdarkwater.net/faq.html, a (mostly-functioning!) fan site that’s also a perfect example of 00’s internet preserved in amber.

1.6 “She’s a little #$%!, but I still love her” – Harriet the Spy

Katherine From Sweden returns to revisit a childhood favorite, Harriet the Spy. The book is about an 11-year-old girl, the titular Harriet, who lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan circa 1964. Harriet wants to know everything there is to know about anything, and obsessively writes down the things she observes in a series of notebooks. From this premise comes a delightful and surprisingly dark coming-of-age story about alienation and abandoment. Also, a list of hilarious cat names.

Katherine identifies a very personal connection to the story and muses on the child-rearing practices of the 1960’s that are inadvertantly revealed in the book. There is a bit more swearing on this episode than is typical of the podcast, although in our defense, Harriet really is a little #$%! (but Katherine still loves her).

Outro Music: The “I Spy” Theme Song

1.5 “Growing Up” – The Adventures of Pete and Pete

Babyface Conor chooses to revisit The Adventures of Pete and Pete, a live-action Nickelodeon Show about the surreal suburban adventures of two brothers, both named Pete. The show aired in the early 1990’s before Conor was born, so we start by discussing how one can be nostalgic about something they didn’t live through.

We then discuss how it has aged well (wholesomeness, sense of humor) and how it hasn’t (cheap-looking, complete and utter absence of minority characters). In the process, Conor discovers that he completely missed the point of an episode he had a strong personal response to in childhood.

Outro Music: “Hey Sandy” by Polaris

1.4 “Was South Park Ever Good?” – South Park Season 1

Noah and Elizabeth head on down to South Park and revisit its very first season from 1997. South Park has been continuously produced to the present day by its original creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The 23rd Season premieres this Wednesday.

The show’s legacy is. . .complicated. Trey Parker and Matt Stone made (and continue to make) most episodes week-to-week – literally over the course of six days before they air, and rely heavily on episodes that riff on current events in almost real time. Because of this episode content as well as the fact that it’s been the same two primary people making the show since its inception, you can track a fairly clear worldview through much of the series. In South Park’s heyday, this worldview was that of mean-spirited adolescent nihilism: everything sucks, everybody sucks, and screw everyone who claims to care about something, they’re lying.

Noah, a long-time South Park viewer, wants to see if South Park was always like this from the beginning. Elizabeth, not a fan of South Park, discovers to her surprise how much early South Park she actually remembers from her childhood despite never having really watched it. We discuss South Park’s origins as an brilliantly inventive use of construction paper, the cultural phenomenon of its early seasons, how it curdled into bitterness, and how its sensibility overlaps with the modern internet reactionary movement.

Outro Music: “Pokerface” – Lady Gaga

1.3 “If We Never Have a Chance to Forget. . .” – Star Trek: The Next Generation

Everyone loves Star Trek: The Next Generation. But with over a hundred episodes spanning 7 seasons, there’s just too much to choose from. So for this discussion, Noah and Elizabeth each picked an episode they remembered vividly from their childhoods.

We shortly discover that the two chosen episodes, “Masks” and “Genesis”, are two of the worst of the entire series. But still fun! In this discussion we talk about the delightful goofiness of TNG at its worst, what makes for “real” Star Trek, and if we will ever be allowed to move on from popular intellectual property.

Outro Music: TNG Episode Guide Song (I would credit the author if I could find out who it was)

1.2 “The Need to be Taken Seriously” – The Dark is Rising

Katherine From Sweden revisits The Dark is Rising, a 1973 children’s fantasy classic by Susan Cooper. The book combines beautiful prose, English folklore, dull fetchquest plotting, and an overpowering sense of fatalism. The unique result of this is not quite like anything else in children’s literature.

Our discussion touches on not only Katherine’s experience reading the book both as a child and an adult, but how it would or would not appeal to the right type of child in 2019. We also discuss how unusual it reads by the standards of modern franchise-building YA, both in terms of content (too boring), writing style (too fancy), and whether it could have been written today (no way).

Outro Music: The Lego Movie – Batman’s Song (Untitled Self Portrait)

1.1 “A Freudian Nightmare Bollywood Remake of Psycho” – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Near-Doctor Brigit walks us through her childhood favorite, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Easily the most divisive film of the series, Brigit walks us through its pile of contradictions and what it meant to her as a child. At once it is:

*A live-action cartoon
*A fantasy metaphor for relationships with abusive parents
*A primer on intersectional social justice for five-year-olds
*Nearly misogynist

Outro music: John Williams Indiana Jones Orchestral Medley