farder coram send newsletter

His Dark Materials, Chapter 4, was too dark for a thirst ranking. HOWEVER

Newsletterer’s Note: If you’re not watching His Dark Materials, I want to say I see you not smashing that unsubscribe button, and I appreciate you. I promise MalonEmail will return to its regular programming soon.

Okay, so this episode, “Lost Boy,” featured child murder. Felt a little weird to do a proper ranking, so I shan’t!

That said, there is something we need to discuss. Yes, it is Farder Coram. James Cosmo has been running circles every other actor in this series (save perhaps Bad Mommy Ruth Wilson) with his portrayal of the Gyptian patriarch. The whole thing has been the opposite of what I’d expected; I’d originally side-eyed the idea of this Game of Thrones old white legacy actor in the role of the old man described as being the eldest Gyptian by far, with a “skull-like face” and walking with a cane and constantly “trembling as if with an ague.”

Little did I know that this guy would spend 50% of his screen time ruthlessly picking at emotional scabs, crying openly about the death of his son and star-crossed breakup with the love of his life. Little did I know that he would comprise one half of a dynamite relationship dynamic that bucks almost every archetype on TV or film these days. (Before you argue: he’s not a softboi! He has legitimate reasons to be sad and doesn’t—can’t—hold Serafina Pekkala’s emotions hostage for her attention!) Is Farder Coram the dark horse pick for HDM Thirst Trap champion??? It’s looking likely.

As I put it in my recap this week (*cracks knuckles* lemme flex and quote myself here real quick):

You can tell [Coram and Serafina] never went to couples therapy (let alone individual), because she made Coram cry within minutes of her arrival.

They immediately settle into what feels like a very familiar script: He’s embarrassed about how old he looks; she reminds him that she’s 300 “or more.” (Do witches just … stop counting at 300?) He urges her to stay, this time to help rescue children from evil. She explains that Asriel is right and of course the witches have known about the multiverse for millennia; surely we talked about this when our son died and we were both ravaged by our conflicting griefs? I’m all in favor of boundaries, and intellectually I do love this archetypal dynamic — the stoic, quasi-immortal witch and the aging, unabashedly heartbroken man — but in the moment, I just want to yell at Serafina Pekkala for giving such an emotionally unavailable response to Coram’s entreaty and then bouncing.

At first I was mildly troubled by this development: isn’t James Cosmo a bit too seasoned to be coming up so hot on the heels of Ariyon Bakare and Ruth Wilson in this horny race that I made up for absolutely zero reason other than I mostly write tech marketing content now and need to be inappropriate somewhere? I don’t know, but my inquietudes were soon placated, to my surprise, when my friend Tiana (who makes amazing ceramic art, by the way) posted this photo:

So. Yeah. I guess it makes sense now. And unfortunately this means I must now begin another campaign: Hollywood Gods, Please Bestow Upon Us a James Cosmo x Kristofer Hivju (AKA Game of Thrones’s Tormund Giantsbane) Father/Son Drama and/or Romcom. No rest for the wicked(ly thirsty), I suppose. Carry on, James Cosmo.

P.S. (Parting Shot! For old time’s sake!):

Over the past couple weeks since I rolled out this revamped MalonEmail, a few of you have actually become paid subscribers?? I know there are so, SO many newsletters out there—many of them vastly more substantial than this silly bonus feature—so thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart. I’m verklempt. Really! I did cry about it a little!

Panserbjørne are furry Klingons, do not @ me

Thirst Trap: His Dark Materials Ep. 4, "Armor"

This week’s Hot-or-Not ranking benefits from the fact that I teared up almost immediately upon laying eyes on Iorek Byrnison, one of the best characters of the entire franchise, if not the best outright. (Will Parry’s cat is a strong contender also.) I mean, look at him! Does that look like a bear who gives a flying fuck about tHe MaGiStEriUm? No! Fuck your patriarchy! All he cares about is ripping into deserving flesh and keeping promises to little girls! He’s Worf, is what I’m saying.

Also it looks very cold in Trollesund, which means cuffing season is drawing to its inevitable close.

  1. Dr. Martin Lanselius: Witch Incel. Weird steampunk libertarian vibe. I don’t like him. Never have. (-100)

  1. Lee Scoresby: Enters singing (-50). Continues singing (-50). Patronizes 12-year-old girl (-5). Out-bureaucrats a bureaucrat (+10), steals from men abetting his friend’s unlawful imprisonment (+10). Hester (+75). We’ll see.

  1. John Faa: Is the king of the Gyptians (+1), does absolutely nothing this week (-1). What are you even for, John.

  1. Iofur Raknison’s Helmet: Give it to me. (+2)

  1. Mrs. Coulter: Transcends demotion by powerful Church leaders via strong negotiation skills (+1), is playing a bunch of asshole alpha-males off each other to get what she wants (+10), ventures into a cave alone to manipulate a panserbjørne with absolutely zero backup (+5), tells daemon to shut up (-1), smacks daemon when he tries to hold her hand (-10).

  1. Lord Boreal: Physically intimidates pedophile (+5), ultimately chooses not to make good on pedophile intimidation (-10), demonstrates ability to pin a person to a wall in any capacity (+30), close-talking (+5). Murder Zaddy still got it.

  1. Iorek Byrnison: Deep alcoholic depression (-1), refuses friends’ help (-1), cool nose scars (+1), roars in triumph (+5), intends to squash his spineless captors’ head against the frozen earth like a watermelon (+10), ultimately spares said captors (+100). I would die for Iorek Byrnison.

  1. Farder Coram: Openly and unselfconsciously cries about his dead son (+100), coolly legitimizes tween girl when random asshole (Scoresby) condescends to her and attempts to get fraternal with her perceived male superior (+1,000,000).

BEYOND THE THIRST

His Dark Materials effectively hinges on the idea that Lyra Belacqua is one of the only people anywhere who can read the alethiometer without consulting the texts, right? It freaks adults out, not only because that quality puts her at the heart of a great, spooky prophecy, but also because it represents a child’s ability to survive and even thrive without their tutelage. Lyra, for her part, more or less shrugs it off every time some old dude is like 😱.

A. of all, That’s the most Gen Z, “OK, boomer” shit I’ve ever heard.

B. of all, is it really that impossible to read a device that relies on a combination of symbology and the ability to lightly dissociate from one’s surroundings? Like, of course the hourglass with the skull on it foretells imminent danger and/or death. Of course the dolphin means play or intelligence. Even if it’s some sort of universe-specific limitation that keeps adults from intuiting these answers, we’re talking about a world where people’s souls literally take the form of the animal they’re most like, in a sort of reverse anthropomorphism. Their entire existence revolves around metaphor, and you’re telling me they can’t figure out what a beehive represents? Get real.

Anyway, enjoy the long weekend if you’re stateside. Celebrate by learning something about the indigenous land you’re living on. Angelenos, here’s a compelling 101 on the Tongva people.

Thirst Trap: HDM, Ep. 3

more like BDE power ranking this week, i'm afraid

Feeling a little chaotic today, so I’m going to break all the rules I created for Thirst Trap last week (i.e., every adult with a speaking role) and do a new less-thirst, more-BDE-based rubric based on the dynamics specific to this episode, “The Spies”:

  1. Mrs. Coulter: Whatever is going on with Bad Mommy this week—the spy-flies, the bedding, the tightrope walk of death, the attempted murder—it ain’t cute!

  1. The Master: My dude. I understand that Mrs. Coulter brought the Gestapo with her to tear his college apart, but even Ma Costa was able to successfully keep Lyra from discovery, and she’s on a boat. Could he not have put that alethiometry book somewhere a bit safer? Also could he not have at least acknowledged how ironic it was for Coulter to talk about bloated privilege and “tired, old men” in academia, given one of her own bosses literally hunches over like he can’t decide whether to invite children into his gingerbread house in the woods or to lie down and take a nap? Anyway, he rates a bit higher because his resignation over Coulter’s anti-intellectualism—in this economy!—is a big mood.

  1. Thomas: When he’s not violating civil liberties and putting the lives of innocent children at risk at the behest of an extra-dimensional fascist, he’s probably an alt-right 8chan troll to boot, but he did get up a little courage to confront said fascist about the fact that he’s probably using this information not for a righteous cause but for personal gain, pure and simple, and he admitted that he’s too afraid to cross into Boreal’s universe, despite multiple opportunities to do so. Points for…I don’t know, resisting toxic masculinity?

  1. Whoever Booted Boreal’s Tesla: I’m sorry your work was so understated and we didn’t actually get to see Mr. Cool struggling through the process of figuring out what you have to do to un-boot a car. You deserved better.

  1. Sophonax: The preeeettiest caaaaat (dæmon) in the wooooorld.

  1. Benjamin: Red: the blood of angry men! Black: the dark of Coulters past! +10,000 for the dramatic one-man trust fall to your death rather than reveal precious intel, the way Coulter’s faceless Gobbler so easily gave it up when the Gyptians caught (and tortured? unclear) him. I guess that’s the difference between the two sides, though, huh? Rule No. 1 when you’re pursuing nefarious ends: die-hards only—no mercenaries.

I’ll leave you with a couple final points, all of which came up over brunch with my freshman college roommate (!) this weekend. I pointedly avoid forums and subreddits while shows I’m covering are in progress (the one exception was maybe Westworld), but these things she mentioned are worth considering:

  • The journalist’s butterfly dæmon didn’t disappear when Boreal crushed it. (Both she and her dæmon were twitching in the final shot.) Hilary posited that it’s because she’s not actually dead and will inevitably be used further by the Church. I shudder to think how, considering what horrifying state a human must be in if their dæmon is gravely incapacitated but not dead, but if the usual rule is “you’re not dead until we see a body,” maybe that translates in this universe as “you’re not dead until we see your dæmon disappear in a puff of Dust”?

  • An (white) actress named Cath Whitefield has allegedly been cast in an “unspecified role” on the show. MARY MALONE, IS THAT YOU?

  • Finally: I might have to just stop writing recaps altogether because this woman named Chrys K is doing these Tumblresque screenshot recaps on her blog and they’re better than anything I’m doing with 10 times the word count. I mean, look:

Thirst Trap: His Dark Materials, Ep. 2

Because we are adults now and it's our Authority-given right to thirst

As you all know by now, I’m recapping His Dark Materials over at Vulture. But why stop there, I ask you? In the wake of last week’s premiere, I tweeted that there are certain…aspects of the series that I cannot in good conscience get into in a recap. Say, for example, oh I don’t know…how beautiful every actor onscreen is?

(Please note, I’m calling this thing “Thirst Trap” because I’m entirely sure that it will eventually extend to other properties, too—starting at the end of this very newsletter.)

The HDM premiere was quite rife with thirst material, first and foremost in the form of sweaters and prominent gray streaks:

Then including some utterly devastating lady suits:

But you can get caught up on last week’s beauties on your Tumblr dashboard. Let’s move onto this week’s episode, “The Idea of North,” and ogle every grown-up with more than one line. I give you, in descending order of whomst can get it:

Thirst Power Ranking, His Dark Materials Episode 2

  1. Father Garret: The lurker priest who comes with Father MacPhail to Mrs. Coulter’s flat to threaten her about the gobblers getting sloppy. Being creepy and weird to a child you don’t know, having a hellish bug dæmon, also being named “Garret”? Why? Get thee behind me, Beetle Face. I’d rather die.

  1. Cardinal Sturrock: Gross, old Igor also has a bug dæmon, but adds a stoop so forced, it’s borderline ableist. (*Mugatu voice*) Doesn’t anyone in this universe notice how ghoulish the Magisterium’s leadership is? What is the incentive for being a Catholic here, exactly? Anyway, the actor, Ian Peck, is clearly having the time of his life, chewing up the scenery like he’s the evil sorcerer in a high school drama production; for this reason alone he ranks infinitesimally higher than Garret. In the words of a master: wow, no thank you.

  1. Father MacPhail: The primary errand boy for the Magisterium reaps the hot-by-association benefits of working off Mrs. Coulter. She uses her chaotic sexuality as a defense weapon when he comes to her home to threaten her, conspicuously stuffing something (the key?) in her shirt and stepping into his personal space, once they’re alone in her study, to offer him a beverage she knows he won’t take. Dude is miles from being Hot Priest, but it was at least fun to see him squirm.

  1. Farder Coram: I mean, somebody out there has to have a thing for kindly Santa Dads. I will also offer the Gyptian patriarch a handicap, in the form of “he once was hot enough to seduce a witch queen” (if this means nothing to you now, it will soon enough).

  1. Ma Costa: Oof, Ma is breaking my heart, especially in the moment with John Faa. She’s not the Ma Costa we truly deserve, if I’m being honest—Ma is supposed to be a “solid” (fat) woman who could win a physical fight with a man, if necessary—but if she screamed at me to go find our son, I would probably walk into the sea (or river) before I came home empty handed.

  1. The Master: A tired scholar telling a powerful bully to go fuck himself? Yes, good. Also: his dæmon, some sort of raven or giant corvid, is terrifyingly beautiful.

  1. The journalist: A dead ringer for Gugu Mbatha-Raw, the woman crashes a party held by the most dangerous woman alive, at her own apartment. That alone would be enough, but she then attempts to free a little girl from an abusive home with the truth. While she may have died in the process, her efforts were not in vain. Also, she does it all in a perfect petal-pink outfit that would make the Harry Potter costume designers sigh with envy. Only the good die etc. etc.!

  1. Marisa Coulter: She lost points for being an abusive monster, naturally, but Ruth Wilson’s Coulter remains devastatingly good in her big episode, moving from charmingly mesmerizing through deeply haunted into animal rage so seemingly effortlessly it makes me want to check that Wilson has a good therapist. She’s got that “step on me” energy of Rachel Weisz, with a touch more chaos in the mix. We fear and thirst in equal measure.

  1. Benjamin: I almost forgot to include this guy, but then I remembered this Gyptian—a new character, I’ve gathered he’s a sort of supplement for Tony Costa, who is five or six years older in the books—directing practically all of the on-the-ground logistics and intelligence in the hunt for the kidnapped children. Love a smart dude who contributes more than his fair share to the group project.

  1. John Faa: The way Faa moves Tony out of the way to quietly but earnestly comfort Ma Costa, the mother of their tiny, bespectacled, sweater-vested kidnapped boy? Damn. This dude will rehabilitate the fedora’s brand by season’s end, mark my words.

  1. Lord Boreal: Obviously. Obviously! As I mention in the recap, he’s got this “James Bond and James Bond villain rolled into one” thing going on that feels impossible not to award the top spot, even as he murdered a journalist in broad daylight by crushing her butterfly dæmon in his hand while staring her dead in the eye. Dude is cold and sneaky and totally banging Coulter and hell fuckin’ yeah.

    He also benefits from sheer contrast. In the books, Lord Boreal is gray-haired, aging, very tanned, and physically “smooth,” a description I now find absolutely hilarious, given it’s the only part of his appearance the show kept, and they made it figurative as well as literal. It also makes me wonder: what made the original Boreal like this?! Was he getting Botox and self-tanning on his trips to our side??

Anyway, I’ll keep doing this until I get a hand-written cease-and-desist letter from HBO’s legal department, which is unlikely given they have plenty of bigger fish to fry at the moment. Besides, I feel like Philip Pullman would be fine with this spin on a book series he wrote about how much he wants to fist-fight God? Don’t ask me how I know.

But, wait there’s more

I saw Terminator: Dark Fate over the weekend, and while it’s not quite Mad Max: Fury Road (the plot is pretty standard, not a lot of retooling the Terminator formula), it’s fun, made me involuntarily scream with delight when Linda Hamilton shows up, and everyone in it is super hot. I recommend it!

The top 5 Devons of pop culture, ranked

A definitive ranking, and I should know

Judging by how many I know now, there actually were a lot of Devons in the world—and girl Devons, too, for that matter—while I was growing up. But when you live in a small town and it’s 1998, how are you supposed to know that?

The reasons my parents have given for naming me Devon are as follows:

  1. They didn’t know my gender, so they decided to pick one that would work in all cases.

  2. There was a character on General Hospital named Devon, allegedly, though I can find no evidence to this effect.

  3. They just liked it! Even though my dad’s name is Kevin and my mom’s name is Beverly, making us Kev, Bev, and Dev!

Whatever the case, like so many names that are weird and cool, being a Devon—specifically, being a girl Devon—was a low-grade nightmare for a kid (especially one whose last name also rhymes with “bologna”). It is easy to mispronounce as DeVon, or misspell as Devin, and easier to continue doing so purposely when you show weakness and reveal that it bothers you. And if you do manage to hide the fact that the passive-aggressive “De-VAWN” bothers you, it’s easier still for people to come up with all sorts of nicknames to really drive it home. Do you know how many completely unrelated individual people in my life have had the brilliant idea to call me DevDawg? Even if we ignore the vaguely problematic air of bestowing this moniker upon a tragically pasty drama geek in a wealthy, white suburban enclave next door to Inglewood and Compton, it still kind of sounds like you’re calling me Updog!

If I could go back in time to reassure tween me, here is what I would say: “Hey, kid. So, good news, bad news. The good news is, one day, your name will make a cool-as-hell byline, and you’ll be glad you didn’t start going by your middle name, or worse, by ‘Delia Denwyer’ [ed. note: still zero idea where this pen name originated, but I was very enthusiastic about it]. The bad news: one day, your name will also end up being a weirdly specific, ongoing joke in Hollywood, and you’re eventually going to get pushed to the edge and, ultimately, blog about it.”

So here we are. Now, look, there are a lot of names out there that are funnier than “Devon.” All the country-club names, for one (Trent, Blaine, Brooke, et al), are tragic if you’re not actually rich enough for it to match. The “Dating Profile is Just a String of Emojis” names are a newer set (Jeff, Trevor, and their ilk), while the Aggressively White “Let Me Speak to Your Manager” Boomer names (Karen, Linda, Greg) are at the blazing hot center of the joke zeitgeist right now.

But—and obviously, I’m biased—Devon is kind of in a class of its own, don’t you think? It’s wobbly, kind of chaotic, could fit any of the above categories if you framed the joke right. And because I met so few other Devons growing up, it never ceases to thrill me when a character is named Devon, even if the joke’s on me 95% of the time.

Anyway, when you’ve spent most of your life steeling yourself against tired cracks about your name, you tend to develop an unusually refined palate for those cracks. So here I am, on the edge, finally rising to the task only I (and other Devons who have known this odd experience) can take on: ranking the biggest Devon jokes.

5. Devon Who Comes with the House, Wine Country

At the bottom of the list here, on account of I just hate the character so much. The movie—which is very cute!—is about a group of longtime girlfriends who go to Napa for Rachel Dratch’s 50th birthday and each spiral over their own midlife crises. They rent a house from Tina Fey, who forgets to tell them that this guy Devon (Jason Schwartzman) “comes with the house” as tour-bus driver / chef of dubious qualifications.

Like so many Devons of pop culture these days, his name is half the joke. The problem is, the joke isn’t really even a good one! I have never in my life met another Devon who was the kind of NorCal good-vibes-only ayahuasca-at-Burning Man enthusiast who’d spend three days straight making paella from the cuttlefish he caught himself. It’s on the list because Jason Schwartzman and Amy Poehler do as well as one can with what’s on the page, but—not to spoil this months-old movie—if the funniest lines you can muster around this name are “he’s Devon, he comes with the house,” and “Guys, I fucked Devon” … I don’t know, man. Can’t relate!

4. Devon, “The Californians,” Saturday Night Live

Rated slightly above Devon Who Comes with the House only because it involves Bill Hader just about giving himself a brain aneurysm trying (and failing) not to break, and that in itself is so beautiful I can’t help but give it points.

Otherwise: fuck this Devon. Fuck this Devon for the grief he and his pals have caused me, specifically by giving my parents the line from hell that has been weaponized into oblivion: “DEEEEVON? WHAT ARE YEWWWW DOING HEEERE?”

(It’s barely an accurate parody of people in L.A. anyway, but we’ll get back to that in a few paragraphs.)

In an informal poll of four (4) other prominent Dev(o)(i)(a)ns on Twitter recently, the only one to respond, EW’s Devan Coggan, also reported having been at the mercy of a few “get on the 405 and get outta here!”s. This sketch is a pox on my bloodline. I shall not rest easy until there’s a better Devon/Angeleno joke to be made that makes people forget all about this one.

3. Devon, Letterkenny

Okay, yes: this Devon is a meth head. Let’s get that out of the way up front. In the first two seasons of Letterkenny, he’s the second-in-command of the “skids,” one of the main cliques in the tiny town of Letterkenny, Ontario—the one that consists of underpass-cybergoth wannabe-kingpin gamers who cook drugs in their moms’ basements and tweak/breakdance outside the town’s 99-cent store.

[Aside: If you haven’t watched Letterkenny, I can’t stress this enough—do it now. It’s a deadpan It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia with the humanity of a Mike Schur show. It almost fills the cavernous, provincial void left in my heart by American Vandal (RIP). It owns Angelenos so hard with this riff on L.A.transplants—which includes actually accurate versions of both the accent and the directions joke from “The Californians”—that I can’t even feel bad about having said half of these things. It’s a pitch-perfect roast. Roast me, Jared Keeso.]

Falling somewhere on the spectrum between a lesser Droog and a young Uncle Fester, this Devon (Alexander De Jordy) is a misanthrope and an ideological purist who comes to resent his captain, a Tom-Cruise-cosplaying-Severus-Snape-lookin’ dude named Stewart (Tyler Johnston), for straying from their skid ways—dressing like shirtless Gymboree toddlers, loitering in parking lots, and never showering—to impress his new girlfriend, Katy (Michelle Mylett). He’s an excellent representation of what the name Devon does to a kid: it makes you really weird and try-hard, if I’m being perfectly honest.

While his name is certainly part of the joke, so are the names of all his compatriots: Devon, Roald (yes, named for Dahl) and Stewart all scream each other’s names with such alarming regularity and energy that the name “Devon” rarely stands on its own. The skids are all miserable creatures unfit for civilized society, and Devon is no exception.

2-1. Devin and DeVon, Big Mouth

In third grade, there was another Devon in my class—a boy, who (mis)spelled it Devin. He was popular, probably on account of looking like a cross between River Phoenix and Jonathan Taylor Thomas and being kind of an asshole. Our teacher decided that, for clarity’s sake, she would call us…Sir Devin and Lady Devon. It was a distinction that never ceased to mortify me, and still kind of grinds my gears for some reason, now that I think about it? Why not just call us by our last names? Or, pull what you could now describe as a Big Mouth, and make Devin go by Dev? Why make a bunch of nine-year-olds feel like they’re on a non-consensual trip to a Medieval Times in Scottsdale?

Anyway that’s half of the reason why the Big Mouth Devons—Devin and DeVon, to be precise—are far and away the best Devon joke on TV. I almost never associated with the other Devin, if only because I was busy trying to get my actual crush Ryan (definitely an Emojis Dating Profile name, btw) to pay attention to me. But the perfect, ambient awkwardness of multiple Devons of multiple genders in a grade-school setting hit me so hard I went out of my way to GIF it for later.

The other half is the fact that the Big Mouth kids live in another dimension known as 2019, where this line is possible. It almost makes all those years of “DevDawg” worth it.

Updates!

Okay, fine, one update: His Dark Materials premiered this week! As mentioned in my last MalonEmail, I’m recapping it for Vulture. Here’s the first installment.

Spoilers for people who haven’t read the books, but if you have, will you look at this fan breakdown of the title sequence? Tumblr deserves better than what it got.

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