John’s Roundup – 13/1/06

Hello! Here I am, having taken two weeks off to work on getting my web company off the ground, and all I’m doing is wasting time doing G&T stuff and DwarfWiki. I should go and demand compensation from Doug Naylor. Who quite clearly earns millions from T-shirts, despite there not even being any currently available in the UK. Hmmm.

CANADA DELAY: Although this hasn’t been confirmed by GNP, it looks like the release of the VII DVD has been delayed in Canada to January 24th. Amazon.ca now lists this date, as do all Canadian online stores – and anecdotal evidence on the Webboard suggests it hasn’t been released yet. However, the R1 release has gone ahead as planned in the USA, and is available now.

STARBUG PLAYSET: Word is from Andrew on the Webboard is that these are about to disappear – so if you want one, now is the time to order it. Whilst I do think its worth it, and stand by my review, I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed by the product these days – the dodgy sound is irritating, but worse, the thing is prone to breakage. Poor little back landing leg…

ESSAY: Yesterday, I recieved my copy of British Science Fiction Television: A Hitchhiker’s Guide. Which includes the following essay: ‘OK homeboys, let’s possee!’ – Masculine anxiety, gender, race and class in Red Dwarf. Now, I’m not the kind of person who moans on about this kind of thing being irrelevant drivel; and, indeed, some bits are quite interesting. But when you get to things such as the following, you’ve got to wonder slightly about some of the interpretations of the show:

“…in ‘Backwards’ (Series Three, 1st tx. BBC 2, 14th November 1989), they must rescue Rimmer and Kryten. While the white duo find a way to survive on this reverse-running Earth (largely due to Kryten’s efforts), Lister and the Cat play the fool, exemplifying US myths of black male ignorance and failure as they misread signs and decide they are in Bulgaria.”

Erm, yes. Being stupid in Red Dwarf is a fairly common occurance, as it is in most sitcoms – the fact it happened to be split across race lines in that episode is pure coincidence, and it rarely happens in any other episode. The essay is quite interesting in parts, but when you start reading far too much into things, you undermine your point.

If I get a chance, I may review it, or at least provide a critique of the piece – but if you’ve got the cash, it looks worth buying. You’ve got to admire a book that has a piece about Hitchhikers called Counterpointing the surrealism of the underlying metaphor

GUV: Buy this. No excuses – just look at how much you’re saving. And to tie this into Dwarf slightly, the extras are some of the most impressive I’ve seen outside a Dwarf release – and the restoration of the show is nothing short of miraculous. For a show so old, the effort put in is quite remarkable. If only Network had been in charge of the Brittas releases.

Newsround later – and, hopefully, we’ll have a review of Flibble. Short version: it’s fantastic.

26 Responses to John’s Roundup – 13/1/06

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  1. “…in ‘Backwards’ (Series Three, 1st tx. BBC 2, 14th November 1989), they must rescue Rimmer and Kryten. While the white duo find a way to survive on this reverse-running Earth (largely due to Kryten’s efforts), Lister and the Cat play the fool, exemplifying US myths of black male ignorance and failure as they misread signs and decide they are in Bulgaria.”

    They’re trying to be funny. They HAVE to be. No one is stupid enough to write that and think it’s correct.

  2. Yes, I am fantastic, aren’t I?

  3. I was just thinking about the racism thing too – perhaps some people just notice more than others.

    I wouldn’t think of the black pair being stupid and the white pair being clever in Backwards unless it was out of character – which it isn’t.

    I suppose others could argue that the two stupidest people in Dwarf are black…

    The thing is, you can read racism into anything you like, if you try hard enough.

  4. Does the complete Sweeney boxset come with a free espresso machine?

  5. D’you know something, that is the first time I’ve ever even thought about the episode being split with two black and two white characters, and the two black characters showing stupidity. Maybe that’s because I’m not an obsessive racist idiot? The “exemplifying US myths of black male ignorance and failure” is probably just a little joke, but still there’s absolutely no need to start bringing up the fucking race of the characters. Kryten isn’t even a white character, he’s a mechanoid. Granted, he’s played by a white actor, but in the show he’s not human. Same goes for the Cat.

    Besides, in the VERY next episode it’s split differently, which again I’ve never even thought about. It’s just Rimmer and Lister, the two main characters on the show. I’m not one of those insecure people who are thinking oh my god it’s a black person and a white person doing a scene together.

  6. I know. I’d never thought of it before either. Stupid, isn’t it?

  7. Race is never an issue in Red Dwarf. Those characters weren’t originally written as “a white hologram, a mixed race human, a black humanoid, a white computer and a white mechanoid” – they went to the people who were best for the part. Rob and Doug judge people on their ability to portray a specific character, so why can’t everyone else?

    Besides which, Lister clearly isn’t stupid. There are a few gags that suggest he is (what’s an iguana/him struggling with a dot-to-dot), but most of the time he’s a bloody smart bloke. Whenever the crew are in peril, he can work out what’s going on (even if it takes Kryten or Holly to kickstart things) and act accordingly.

    (As a side note, I *love* the bit in Last Human where Lister works out that he doesn’t *need* Kryten to tell him things, it’s just that he doesn’t have the confidence in his own judgement.)

    Also, as monkey says, Kryten isn’t white. He’s a sort of creamy colour. Doesn’t matter who’s under the mask.

  8. Hmmm. Seeing as this has raised so much interest, I’ll try and do a review of the piece.

    There is some absolute rubbish talked in it – but there’s the odd interesting observation too.

  9. Just to confirm the Canada problem – Andrew on the Webboard:

    ———————————————-
    Just to bring us kicking and screaming back to the topic, I have an answer for you. Sadly, not a great one:

    Canada and the U.S. are supposed to street on the same day, but, after looking into it, BBC Worldwide were told by Warner Canada that they had to move their street date by two weeks due to an inventory problem at their warehouse.

    Unfortunately, neither we nor they were advised in advance, or BBCW would have taken all available steps to get them the inventory they needed by the date they needed. (News of this was very late. On the 10th Amazon.ca still LISTED the 10th as the due date.)

    The upshot is that you are correct – the DVD won’t go on sale in Canada until the 24th… Unless you buy from, say, Amazon.com. With the exchange rate the way it is at present, they might even save some money!

    Sorry for the delay. I can only promise that it IS worth the wait – and that you’re lucky the releases are separate for VII and VIII, or you’d be waiting until May…!

  10. Kryten has no race, as far as I’m concerned. He’s a mechanoid and obeys mechanoid codes, morals and reasoning. He’s as distinct from white as he is from black.

  11. Even Rimmer doesn’t guess that everything is backwards. Kryten is the one who tells him that Nodnol 871 Selim is London 178 Miles backwards, and Holly is the one who tells them both about the Big Crunch thing. Both of those characters are machines.

  12. That’s an *extremely* good point.

  13. Ah! So how about saying:

    “Red Dwarf shows, particularly in episodes like ‘Backwards’, that the white man is essentially an automaton, an adaptable machine. His abilities, it suggests, are not his own, but rather the product of programming. All three ‘white’ characters in the show – Rimmer, Kryten, Holly – are electronic/mechanical. They are emotionally messed-up and, were they not ‘useful’ – as a toaster or a computer is useful – they would be shut down, eliminated.

    “Meanwhile the black characters have no trouble at all staying in touch with their various emotional states. They know how to have ‘fun’ – something Rimmer, Holly and Kryten definitely have trouble with. Their responses to the situation is Backwards is flawed, and thus entirely human.

    “Backwards is telling us that white westerners have long since disregarded humanity. Their obsession for advancement and need to ‘succeed’ has bypassed their more natural instincts – taken evolution too far. Those from more diverse ethic cultures, on the other hand, have yet to be corrupted in this way. We should be learning from them, is the show’s ultimate message.”

    No, that’s not my opinion either – but with these things it’s all about what you see in the show, not what’s put there.

    While the guys go ahead and make the show with only rare attention to race issues (the rewrite on Dimension Jump, paranoia that Cat may be racist after the first script was written), people are always going to see their own levels. It’s no different from the ‘funny/not funny’ arguments. It’s there if you see it.

    It sounds like I’m going to disagree with the piece in the book (who wrote it?), but that doesn’t make it ‘wrong’. It’s like Whedon always said of Buffy – BYOS; Bring Your Own Subtext.

  14. It’s by someone called Elyce Rae Helford.

    And yeah, I’m aware about people bringing their own interpretations to it – I mean, *I* do that! – which is why I’ve been really careful not to just dismiss the piece out of hand. But I thought the bit I quoted was going a bit too far…

  15. I bloody love you, Ellard.

  16. Steady now.

  17. Anyone who watches Red Dwarf and thinks that Rimmer is supposed to be smarter than Lister is… well… an idiot.

    One of my favourite bits in the books is where it shows how Lister’s getting caught with the cat is all just an elaborate scheme to get put into stasis to make his return to Earth go more quickly. Juxtapose that with Rimmer’s crazy superstition and ridiculous lack of ability to sit down and revise for an exam, and you begin to see who the more grounded and together guy is.

    Plus, as pointed out, Kryten is a machine, not a “white guy”.

    But then, that piece is written by an American, and the line “exemplifying US myths of black male ignorance and failure” is very telling. Because I’m sure that *exactly* what Rob and Doug had in mind when writing it was the US perspective, eh?

  18. Juxtapose that with Rimmer’s crazy superstition and ridiculous lack of ability to sit down and revise for an exam

    I also have a ridiculous lack of ability to sit down and revise for an exam…

    Does that mean I’m as stupid as Rimmer?

  19. Anyone who watches Red Dwarf and thinks that Rimmer is supposed to be smarter than Lister is… well… an idiot.

    Oh, I would say he is smarter. He’s more cultured, without a doubt…he has a greater knowledge of history and discipline, as well. This is not to say that he has much knowledge of any of this stuff…but more than Lister.

    If I were trapped in a survival situation (unlike Red Dwarf, which is more an extended quarrantine) with any of the Dwarfers…my first choice would be Kryten, obviously…but I’d have to make Rimmer my next.

    Lister may well be the more “grounded” individual, I believe that whole-heartedly. But Rimmer is smarter.

  20. I also have a ridiculous lack of ability to sit down and revise for an exam…

    Does that mean I’m as stupid as Rimmer?

    Well, alright, my 14% in an Old English paper in first year of Uni will attest to my OWN lack of ability to sit down and revise for an exam… but it’s more just the whole way that Rimmer goes about approaching things…

  21. Depends what your definition of ‘smarter’ happens to be. People often mistake general knowledge for intelligence. Lister’s streetwise, Rimmer’s knowledgeable.

    There’s a bunch of precedents in other sitcoms: Del (streetwise smart) and Rodney (knowledge smart) being a lazy example. Obviously, this allows the characters to feel exasperation towards each other in equal amounts.

  22. Rimmer is NOT more knowledgeable. “Wilfred Shakespeare”, “Columbo”… and don’t forget that Lister can understand Esperanto while Rimmer’s hopeless at it.

  23. Bear in mind that while Rimmer frequently bungles facts (such as the two listed by antipodean), Lister has absolutely no knowledge of them. Somewhere in Rimmer’s mind is information–albeit full of holes. This is information that Lister doesn’t have at all…and so Rimmer–unintelligent by our standards–stands above Lister.

  24. Hey, was that the essay book thing where it was suggested that Rimmer was repressing his homosexual tendencies?

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