YK’s Corona Chronicles: Musings on Sharknado and Tombstone
Early April 2020
Occasionally, I try to glam things up to lift my spirits during quasi-quarantine, as I muse on our society’s failings. I say “quasi” because my former (?) Confederate home state is not taking the pandemic seriously. Were it not for a mayor and school board with sense and the proximity of a military base where facts matter, I might be the only one masked and gloved. As it is, I’m one of fairly few. In fact, at a local halfway-decent liquor store (essential business here, of course, like gun stores), I was the ONLY protected person in the store, including employees. But since I moved back from the great blue-state yonder to care for my parents who are both ninety, I take no chances. It’s not that hard to be the outlier because I never really fit in before (I survived desegregation, then left), so I’m no more alien now than I ever was.
Anyway, having glammed up the night before and made myself an Asian stirfry, I created a cocktail of white wine, limeade, cranberry-pomegranate juice, and Hangar One Buddha’s Hand Citron vodka. Each of these, added gently, result in ombré layers that look like an Indonesian sunrise, in keeping with the Asian theme, in fond remembrance of past travels.
The next morning I opt for a relaxed “lady of the manor” attitude, donning my variegated brown caftan and enjoying a brunch celebrating more of my travels, including café mocha made with one of my favorite Italian espressos, Lavazza d’Oro, and Belgian chocolate, a gift for a talk I gave way back in the day (three months ago). MSNBC’s AM Joy is just more coronavirus coverage with nothing new to tell. Time for a break.
Turning to another channel, I find the programming is in the midst of Sharknado 2: The Second One. Now, I like foolishness as much as the next person, but it is surprising to find that there has been more than one foray into this particular brand of foolishness. It’s hard to believe there’s only one film on real American hero Harriet Tubman, but three on fictional sharks in storms. (Okay, let’s detour around this because, as they say, that way lies madness).
The first thing on the screen is Al Roker with Matt Lauer, as themselves, reporting on the strange weather events. Lordy, the thoughts I was thinking about sharks in human form. Since the story is not exactly intellectually challenging, I skip to Tombstone Territory, an old TV Western in black and white, already underway. In this episode, sadistic outlaw Milo claims to love his younger sibling, Seth. The younger sibling doesn’t want to continue living a life of crime, particularly objecting when Milo kills and robs an old gold prospector who had fed them out of what little he had when they were hungry. Rather than let Seth slip away, Milo shoots him in the back. Cold-blooded. Seth falls off his horse, both horses are spooked and run off (more successfully than Seth).
Like most domestic violence perpetrators or our current Whiner-in-Chief, Milo blames his younger brother for running away, blames the horses for somehow being spooked by his gunshot, blames bad luck for everything else. Given the expected rise in DV instances during disasters like our current pandemic, with one in four women (one in seven men) suffering, this seemed to echo my Sharknado musings on accusations against Lauer.
So I flip back to Sharknado. Here’s a scene with a young blonde in a hospital bed with two doctors and a nurse attending her. She has just come out of major surgery. The main surgeon’s performance is a bit wooden, yet his face seems familiar. Then it comes to me: Billy Ray Cyrus, of “Old Town Road,” “Achy Breaky Heart,” and “dad of Miley Cyrus” fame, is playing a surgeon. A surgeon. Somehow this is less believable than sharks in tornadoes over Manhattan.
Like the Tombstone episode, there are two brothers in Sharknado 2. Martin, the older brother (turns out he is the brother-in-law but, whatever, I didn’t know that then) is a former daredevil who has settled down with a wife and their two teenagers. Fin, the younger, (yes, tiny joke — Fin, shark; yes, not funny), an unreformed daredevil who has apparently survived the original Sharknado when a shark swallowed him and spit him back up or something equally gross, is the hospital blonde’s ex-husband. Fin’s work partner or something is Vivica A. Fox. She is one of only two minorities I saw. The other was an unnamed Asian-American reception clerk still on duty in a building where Fin plans to fight the sharks.
I’d never seen this particular American flick. However, call me cynical, but I’ve seen enough American movies to know that the minorities are expendable. They’d be dead soon. I flip back to AM Joy to see Senator Tina Smith (D-Minnesota), Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington), and Rep Eric Swalwell (D-California) discussing ideas for a successful response to the pandemic and the manifest failures of the current White House incumbent. As I eat, uninterested in more repetition of what we already know, i.e. an ignorant-ass narcissist should not be in charge of stuff, especially international pandemics, I return to Sharknado.
Were you one of those who called me cynical before about expendable minorities? Eat your words. Water from the storms bursts into the hotel. Martin and his family are able to get to the stairs, escaping upwards. The Asian clerk is swept away. Well, one out of two’s not bad, you might be saying. But, Judd Hirsch, a white guy, who plays a cameo as a taxi driver (70s TV aficionados will appreciate the reference), is grabbed by a shark when the family and Vivica escape the cab that is nearly underwater on the streets of NYC. One likeable dead white guy is usually a trade-off for any number of minorities. But remember, Hirsch is Jewish. The 45 Admin, during which the frequency of attacks against Jews specifically for their ethnicity has increased in shockingly exponential fashion, shows that they are still minorities in the minds of alt-right bigots, not to mention un-classifiable bigots, and everyday bigots. Oh, by the way, after Hirsch is grabbed, younger daredevil hops on the backs of sharks circling the cab and gets to safety with his family. Sparing not so much as a second of grief for the cab driver, the older brother jokes that the younger has “jumped the shark.” Hardy-har-har. Not.
Nevertheless, you might scold, Vivica is still in the running. Slow down, pardna. She and Fin are trying to blow electrical circuits at the top of the building to keep two sharknados from merging into a mega-nado. She’s downstairs connecting electrical wires; he’s on the roof ready to make the connection between a chainsaw and the fencing. Remember that: she’s downstairs, he’s outdoors on the roof. The resulting charge blows both into one of the tornadoes where she is grabbed by a shark; he uses the loose chainsaw chain to ride one in the air, like bustin’ a bronco, or like that guy riding a bomb in Dr. Strangelove. That’s three minorities down. Three of three.
And this is why I like old Western TV shows. The major-league outlaw brother ends up in jail headed for the noose; his junior varsity-outlaw brother ends up with a nicked spine, so he’ll never walk again. Bad guys punished; good guys, except the prospector, prevailing. In more recent decades, the expendable minority thing gets on my nerves. Sometimes I’d rather watch an old show with no minorities than see them there and watch them die.
The entire Sharknado family survives, including daredevil brother and ex-wife miraculously recovered from traumatic surgery. Hair plastered down by shark blood, Fin takes a ring off the finger of a corpse whose arm just happens to be in the shark he has just chopped in half, kneels, and asks the ex-wife to remarry him. Meanwhile, on “live TV,” Matt Lauer stabs a shark that has somehow gotten into 30 Rock. Oh, Al survives, so that’s something. Happily ever after.
Time for Bat Masterson.