Connect with us


Why no one loves Che Díaz, the most controversial character in ‘And Just Like That’ | Culture

Of all The Simpsons’ best takes, perhaps the cleverest was a dog named Poochie. In an episode originally aired on February 9, 1997, the Itchy & Scratchy Show became the Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show. Itchy and Scratchy were a hyper-violent Tom and Jerry ripoff, and the premise of the episode was the cartoon gaining a “cool” character to reach a new audience. Poochie was a rapping dog who reminded the audience to recycle garbage. Wearing sunglasses, a backwards baseball cap and jeans, Poochie wanted to be radically hip, but only succeeded in getting viewers to hate him. The producers of the series killed him off after one episode. Poochie was a symbol of what happens when shows take shortcuts to redeem themselves from irrelevance. And today’s Poochie is And Just Like That’s Che Díaz, as portrayed by Sara Ramirez.

After six seasons and two movies, the Sex and the City reboot’s premiere was the most-watched in the history of HBO Max, and has come to an end after 10 episodes. Latinx, pansexual, non-binary and a stand-up comedian (they record a special for Netflix during the show), Ramirez’s character was supposed to redeem a series long accused of being too white, rich, heteronormative and cisgender (although in the late 1990s four women talking about fellatio or menstruation was groundbreaking). Che is not the only face of diversity: Black, Asian and Hindu characters are also present, and it is revealed that Rose, Charlotte’s child, now wants to be known as Rock. However, it is Che who has taken social media by storm with memes, while media including the Los Angeles Times, Vulture, Rolling Stone and the Daily Beast have dedicated pieces to analyzing why so many people hate the character.

The criticism has been unrelenting. “There is no exaggerating how insufferable this character is. To call them unwatchable is not hyperbole. ‘Cringing’ is not a strong enough verb to describe what the body reflexively does when they are on screen, like a physical defense mechanism… No one wants to single out the only new LGBTQ+ character on a series as the worst. Yet Che Díaz leaves us no choice,” wrote Kevin Fallon in the Daily Beast. Jackson McHenry was slightly more sympathetic in Vulture: “It’s easy to dismiss Che because the character has been written as this jumble of traits to serve a bunch of plot purposes… Che provides some of the reboot’s more embarrassing scenes, the kind that are necessary for the sort of social awkwardness that the original series thrived on.”

First, the character doesn’t seem to satisfy either new or legacy audiences. Young people spy an update of Poochie who tries to push all the buttons of woke culture simultaneously. While viewers who enjoyed the series in its day find the character unsympathetic and condescending. Che Díaz should mean representation, but the poorly drawn character may actually work against greater diversity onscreen, some argue. “Che Díaz is gonna get gay rights taken away from us,” joked playwright Matthew K. Begbie on Twitter. Another tweet went even further: “Che Díaz is our 9/11.” “You just know not a single functioning queer was consulted when they concocted Che Díaz in the writing room,” wrote comedian Charlie Lewin. In fact, the And Just Like that writers’ room was composed mostly of women of different races, including LGBTQ+-identifying people. And Ramirez themself (who came out as a non-binary person in August 2020) told The Hollywood Reporter last December they were advised by GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, in building their character.

“We have to ask creators for honesty. If you want to put a non-binary character in your series, have it written by a non-binary writer,” said Enrique Aparicio, a non-binary cultural journalist, and one half of the podcast show ¿Puedo hablar? (Can I speak). “They will be able to create a much more faithful portrait of the non-binary experience than a table of the best cis scriptwriters on the planet. And if you just want to throw in a non-binary character because it looks hip, you’re using our identities to add social capital to your work without any real knowledge of our experience.”

Estíbaliz “Esty” Quesada, a non-binary Youtuber, writer and actor, said tokenism was the issue. “I like the idea of a non-binary character appearing in the series; it’s necessary to bring these realities into fiction,” they said. “Che Díaz makes it clear from minute one what they are. But then they don’t know how to talk about anything else. They become a parody of a social vigilante who repeats woke terms like a souped-up algorithm. With Che Díaz they want to check all the boxes at once: POC, non-binary gender, polyamory, activism… and it’s exhausting. They are a character who seems to have no life or existence beyond social media. Non-binary people have lives that are just as complicated as everyone else’s. Our gender is a footnote, not our epicenter.”

Regarding the dilemma of whether an LGTBQ+ character has to be sympathetic to provide positive visibility, Aparicio argued: “It would be great if there could be villainous non-binary characters without it being a debate, but I don’t think enough time has passed. We come from centuries of negative queer coding (how many Disney villains are akin to drag queens?) and it’s too soon for a queer bad guy not to be judged by their queerness rather than their behavior.”

Sara Ramirez, who plays Che in the show, and its star Sara Jessica Parker.
Sara Ramirez, who plays Che in the show, and its star Sara Jessica Parker.

Visibility without clichés

“On streaming platforms, you get the sense that they are way ahead with diversity, but I have never been told ‘your cast is too white,’ ‘too straight’ or ‘too rich’,” explained Antuña, a screenwriter and executive producer behind series such as El Vecino (The Neighbor), García and Sin Huellas (Without a Trace). “In some cases they have indeed asked us to take care of the proper representation, without falling into clichés, but as a creator that concern has to be yours beforehand.” According to Antuña, what raises the viewer’s eyebrow is when “you try to put everything in.” She explained: “There are areas of Spain where the local migrant population is almost exclusively sub-Saharan African, and there are hardly any Latinos or Asians. If all these groups are represented at once you are building a strange mosaic, which local viewers do not recognize because it is not real. If your gang is all straight, white, Spanish men, you’re leaving out a very large part of the world. But if your gang has a black woman, a Latino, a disabled woman, a lesbian, a trans man and someone non-binary, it’s nobody’s gang either, it’s an advertisement.”

A few have come to Che Díaz’s defense. Rolling Stone magazine dedicated a column to them and celebrated their presence as representing not a collective, but the opposite of what Sex and the City always was: the trials and tribulations of four white, privileged, heterosexual women. Sara Ramirez defended her character when they met with journalists to promote the series: “We have built a character who is a human being, who is imperfect, who’s complex, who is not here to be liked, who’s not here for anybody’s approval. They’re here to be themselves.” In Spain, the comments about Che in a Facebook post of the magazine Fotogramas show that society still considers inclusive language for non-binary – such non-gendered adjectives in the case of Spanish – an object of ridicule: “It’s absurd, ridiculous and stupid,” wrote one viewer.

The question of laughs

There is another uncomfortable issue regarding Che: their character is supposed to be a kind of comedy legend, with a special on Netflix and invites to host fundraisers on the Upper East Side. But when Che begins their routines on stage, only the assembled characters laugh because that’s what the script is telling them to do. Even Rolling Stone, in the article which defends the character, calls the show they perform in episode three “staggeringly unfunny.”

Jean Smart in ‘Hacks.’
Jean Smart in ‘Hacks.’

Asked if there is an added risk in trying to make humor sobering and even moralistic, Xavi Puig, creator and director of the Spanish satirical newspaper El Mundo Today, explained: “If the public is mainstream and the humor alludes to things that are not yet established in the common imagination, you will lose part of the audience and gain the loyalty of another. But I am in favor of taking that risk, because the mainstream gradually catches up with the new and that’s how we evolve. Fiction has to work on its own, as without that meaning it becomes a slave to the language and subject matter of the majority.”

Paloma Rando, a scriptwriter and EL PAÍS television columnist, believes that “Che is a preachy character, without conflict and without weaknesses. Their monologues do not primarily seek to make people laugh, but to make them reflect. They are a preacher with more or less funny jokes, not a comedian with good intentions, and nobody likes to be preached at.” Rando points to other shows where today’s self-conscious humor is pitted against the dark comedy of yesteryear more successfully, such as Hacks (also on HBO). “It’s always irritating when someone lectures you, but all series and movies carry a message. Whether it’s subtle is another thing,” added Antuña.

Che Díaz will leave a strange legacy: irritating for some, but perhaps revelatory for millions of viewers over 50 confronted with non-normative sexual and social realities in the context of a beloved series. Michael Patrick King, the character’s creator, told Variety he believes all the backlash against Che is because she is Miranda’s conduit to divorce her husband, Steve. “What everybody else is projecting on that character has a lot to do with what they want to have happen to Miranda in the story. It has so little to do with Che.”

Source link


U2 concert uses stunning visuals to open massive Sphere venue in Las Vegas | Culture

It looked like a typical U2 outdoor concert: Two helicopters zoomed through the starlit sky before producing spotlights over a Las Vegas desert and frontman Bono, who kneeled to ground while singing the band’s 2004 hit “Vertigo.”

This scene may seem customary, but the visuals were created by floor-to-ceiling graphics inside the immersive Sphere. It was one of the several impressive moments during U2′s “UV Achtung Baby” residency launch show at the high-tech, globe-shaped venue, which opened for the first time Friday night.

The legendary rock band, which has won 22 Grammys, performed for two hours inside the massive, state-of-the-art spherical venue with crystal-clear audio. Throughout the night, there were a plethora of attractive visuals — including kaleidoscope images, a burning flag and Las Vegas’ skyline, taking the more than 18,000 attendees on U2′s epic musical journey.

“What a fancy pad,” said Bono, who was accompanied onstage with guitarists The Edge and Adam Clayton along with drummer Bram van den Berg. He then stared at the high-resolution LED screen that projected a larger version of himself along with a few praying hands and bells.

Bono then paid homage to the late Elvis Presley, who was a Las Vegas entertainment staple. The band has rocked in the city as far back as 1987 when they filmed the music video for “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” on the Strip during a tour in 1987.

“Look at all this stuff. … Elvis has definitely not left this building,” he continued. “It’s an Elvis chapel. It’s an Elvis cathedral. Tonight, the entry into this cathedral is a password: flirtation.”

U2 made their presence felt at the $2.3 billion Sphere, which stands 366-feet (111 meters) high and 516-feet (157 meters) wide. With the superb visual effects, the band’s 25-show residency opened with a splash performing a slew of hits including “Mysterious Ways,” “Zoo Station,” “All I Want is You,” “Desire” and new single “Atomic City.”

On many occasions, the U2 band members were so large on screen that it felt like Bono intimately sang to audience on one side while The Edge strummed his guitar to others.

The crowd included many entertainers and athletes: Oprah, LeBron James, Matt Damon, Andre Agassi, Ava DuVernay, Josh Duhamel, Jason Bateman, Jon Hamm, Bryan Crankston, Aaron Paul, Oscar de la Hoya, Henrik Lundqvist, Flava Flav, Diplo, Dakota Fanning, Orlando Bloom and Mario Lopez.

After wrapping up The Beatles’ jam “Love Me Do,” Bono recognized Paul McCartney, who was in attendance, saying “Macca is in the house tonight.” He acknowledged Sphere owner James Dolan’s efforts for spearheading a venue that’s pushing forward the live concert audio landscape with 160,000 thousands of high-quality speakers and 260 million video pixels.

The Sphere is the brainchild of Dolan, the executive chair of Madison Square Garden and owner of the New York Knicks and Rangers. He sketched the first drawing of venue on a notebook paper.

“I’m thinking the that the Sphere may have come into existence because of Jim Dolan trying to solve the problem that The Beatles started when they played Shea Stadium,” he said. “Nobody could hear you. You couldn’t hear yourselves. Well, the Sphere’s here. … Can you hear us?”

Bono pointed into crowd and shouted out Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Iovine – who took in the band’s spectacular show. At one point, Bono became emotional when he dedicated a song to the late Jimmy Buffett’s family who attended the concert too.

Afterwards, Bono spoke about performing on stage for the first time without drummer Larry Mullen Jr., who is recovering from back surgery. He acknowledged Dutch drummer Bram van den Berg’s birthday and and filling in for Mullen.

“I would like to introduce you to the only man who could stand, well, sit in his shoes,” said Bono, who walked toward Berg as some in the crowd began to sing “Happy Birthday.” He handed the microphone to Berg, who offered a few words.

“Let there be no mistake, there is only one Larry Mullen Jr,” Berg said.

As U2 wrapped up their show, a bright light shined from the ceiling and the massive screen began to fill with images of birds, insects and reptiles above a lake. The band closed its first Sphere concert with “Beautiful Day,” which one three Grammys in 2001.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

Source link

Continue Reading


Star Wars: Whiny fans, nostalgia and streaming saturation: ‘Ahsoka’ and the most complicated moment of the ‘Star Wars’ universe | Culture

Satisfying the unrepentant, noisy, veteran fan, has become an insurmountable obstacle for the oldest money-making machine in cinema. Star Wars lives in constant fear of offending them. Their requests are long and obsessive. Don’t change the actors (better to rejuvenate them with artificial intelligence, instead – where will it end?), don’t alter the legacy of what they understand by “Jedi” and, above all, take note, don’t include too many women or racialized people. As everyone knows, there are only white men in this galaxy far, far away. This is ours and nobody else’s, those “true fans” seem to say.

That impossible balance between satisfying children (for whom Star Wars was always intended) as well as the most conservative followers has become a curse for Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and the entire Disney factory. But there is a guy who has known how to ride the wave and make everyone happy. His name is Dave Filoni. In his hands, even the concept of once again passing the force to the proletariat that those followers criticized in Rian Johnson’s magnificent and vilified The Last Jedi is applauded. He does it again in Ahsoka, the epic Disney+ series in which Filoni resorts to the characters of his animated series to delve into a space odyssey that is more fantasy than science fiction. The series appeals to the nostalgia of those prequels with which George Lucas returned to the saga in 1999, but at the same time it rewrites the mythology and its rules.

Disney+ 'Ahsoka'.
A scene from the Disney+ series ‘Ahsoka.’Lucasfilm Ltd.

A quick refresher: Ahsoka Tano is Anakin Skywalker’s padawan (Jedi apprentice) before the ill-fated hero became Darth Vader. This brave, wild teenager was created by Filoni and George Lucas in 2008 as an entry point for kids (especially girls) to the film and animated series The Clone Wars, an anthology of the conflict that overthrew the republic to give way to the empire. Lucas, thinking about his own daughters, wanted to appeal to the female audience whose interest Star Wars had not always caught. In the process, they gave depth and responsibility to Anakin (a Hayden Christensen today redeemed by nostalgia) in his passage to the dark side.

The critics first said that she was nothing but a half-naked girl designed to be adorable without much more depth, but, little by little, Ahsoka became the company’s newest toy (literally), a character that motivated women to join the club. Lucas was always clear that the secret was to convince the children, not so much the veterans. Girls around the world began to replicate her orange hue and alien pigtails, and her rebellious nature won over the fans – new and old – with a stroke of modernity. In the series, she even turned her back on the Jedi religion by throwing away her lightsaber and confronting them directly: you are a bunch of squares, you don’t understand the new times. Ahsoka was those new times, and her message was that the sect of monks was not as good as they thought they were. Thanks to her evolution, the young woman was already a Star Wars classic. Her story kept growing in books and comics.

Disney+ 'Ahsoka'.
A scene from the Disney+ series ‘Ahsoka.’Lucasfilm Ltd.

But how come we knew nothing about her before that moment? Did she die in battle? That was out of the question due to her growing popularity, so Filoni created a strategy for her to join the rebellion, but always in the shadows. Her journey continued in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels as a veteran, less impulsive force, and the plots and relationships that became established there continue in the current live-action series (with the hero embodied by Rosario Dawson) after her encounters with the Mandalorian and Boba Fett. She is a modern-day Princess Mononoke, an unaffiliated Jedi Master. She is the perfect meeting point for the ocean of Disney+ content.

After paying homage to the western genre in The Mandalorian – also created by Filoni with Jon Favreau – Ahsoka’s own series explores the most magical side of the universe: flying whales that teleport, witches, prophecies, dreams of the afterlife and hero’s journeys. Doors that the franchise sometimes has had trouble opening, even if magic was one of the many pulp subgenre elements that Lucas put in the mix of his original idea.

Disney+ 'Ahsoka'.
A scene from the Disney+ series ‘Ahsoka.’ Lucasfilm Ltd.

That layer of fantasy is one of the breaking points within the canons. The other is the concept of the force. What are the Jedi? Are they born or made? That is one of the debates that the repudiated Rian Johnson film put on the table: not only a family can inherit the force, it can also arise in peasants and commoners, in people who learn it. Filoni has always had this in mind with Ahsoka, the most rebellious among those decimated samurai monks, who, as in the classic film Harakiri, hide questionable rules and commands under a veil of honorability. In her new mission, she takes her legacy one step further: we can all learn from the force, giving more power to the people and to learning than to consanguinity, she tells her apprentice, the true protagonist of the series.

This mentoring work will be key in an adventure triggered by something as simple as the search for the missing protagonist of Rebels. A small but crucial discursive break that preserves the spirit of what Lucas started in 1977. And, yes, all the protagonists are women again, just like the president of Lucasfilm. In that sense, it is not far from some of the deepest messages of Andor, the most revolutionary Star Wars series and the best work to come out of this universe in decades, one that was truly groundbreaking and that could not reach all the fans it deserved.

Disney+ 'Ahsoka'.
A ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ mural at the Star Wars Celebration.Suzanne Tenner / Lucasfilm Ltd.

A franchise that lost its way

Meanwhile, Star Wars continues to put filmmakers through the meat grinder. Many creators have recently abandoned their projects, frustrated by the lack of development of their ideas: Guillermo del Toro, Taika Waititi, Damon Lindelof, Rian Johnson, Patty Jenkins, the Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss… they are the creative corpses of a lost franchise that is not sure what its followers want in the theater and is saturated by the excessive costs of the series (it is estimated that Obi-Wan Kenobi cost about $90 million and Ahsoka more than $100), created to fill a streaming offer that does not yield the anticipated benefits. A product that does not convince neither children nor veterans.

Considering that excessiveness, Ahsoka is at least an entertaining, satisfying product (it never stops being a product, one that does not reach the levels of Andor or The Mandalorian). That is more than can be said for contents as emotionally and narratively empty as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett, which rely on nostalgia, are structurally rotten and have no soul or entertainment value whatsoever. Unfortunately, the context will not make it easy for Ahsoka to capture anyone outside the die-hard fans. Perhaps the Hollywood strikes will be good for the empire. A much-needed pause to become culturally relevant again.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

Source link

Continue Reading


Revitalizing Fall Cinema As New York Film Festival Takes Center Stage

By Cindy Porter

The fall film season has been a muted affair, with major festivals in Venice, Telluride, and Toronto lacking their usual fervor.

Hollywood’s luminaries have been notably absent from red carpets, leaving an air of dormancy since the heady days of Barbenheimer.

New York Film Festival Takes Center Stage

New York Film Festival Takes Center Stage

However, as the 61st New York Film Festival kicks off, there’s a palpable sense of awakening.

Labor disputes are inching toward resolution, hinting at a resurgence in the industry. Considering this, the festival promises to deliver an exceptional array of films, showcasing some of the year’s finest cinematic offerings.

The Festival Lineup

Dennis Lim, the festival’s artistic director, expresses optimism despite industry uncertainties, affirming that cinema’s vitality endures.

The opening night feature, Todd Haynes’ “May December” introduces a playful yet poignant narrative led by Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, and Charles Melton. It sets the stage for a festival packed with noteworthy films.

Highlights at the Festival

Yorgos Lanthimos’ Venice sensation “Poor Things” starring Emma Stone, offers a compelling blend of wit and intrigue.

Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” with Cailee Spaeny portraying Priscilla Presley, promises to be a captivating exploration of a legendary figure’s life.

Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” brings Leonard Bernstein’s story to life, adding another layer of significance to its North American premiere.


The festival’s closing feature, Michael Mann’s “Ferrari,” emerges as a masterpiece.

Starring Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari, the film delves into a pivotal period in the auto maker’s life, culminating in the high-stakes Mille Miglia race.

Mann’s signature intensity permeates every frame, depicting the relentless pursuit of victory against the backdrop of impending peril.

Exploring Depth in Documentaries

The festival also showcases immersive documentaries, including Wang Bing’s “Youth (Spring)” Steve McQueen’s “Occupied City,” and Frederic Wiseman’s “Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros”.

These monumental works, clocking over 200 minutes each, delve into diverse realms, offering profound insights into the human experience.

“Youth (Spring)”

Wang Bing’s “Youth (Spring)” unveils the lives of young migrant workers, toiling tirelessly in textile factories near Shanghai.

Their hands move with frenetic speed, a testament to the demands of their low-paying occupations.

Considering this, Wang delicately unravels their personal stories of love, heartbreak, and aspirations, painting a poignant portrait of resilience.

“All of Us Strangers”

Andrew Haigh’s “All of Us Strangers” unfolds within the confines of a near-empty apartment building. Andrew Scott’s portrayal of a screenwriter, Adam, embarks on a journey of self-discovery, triggered by an unexpected encounter with Harry (Paul Mescal). Through intimate dialogues, the film navigates the complexities of memory, companionship, and the power of storytelling.

The New York Film Festival shines a spotlight on films that transcend the boundaries of time and space.

Its dedication to authentic cinematic experiences, unburdened by distractions, reaffirms the enduring power of storytelling.

Films like “Janet Planet” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker transport audiences to specific moments in history, immersing them in a world where silence and nostalgia take center stage.

As the festival unfolds, it offers a resounding testament to the indomitable spirit of cinema.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

— By Cindy Porter

— For more information & news submissions:

— Anonymous news submissions:

Continue Reading


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!