Call For Comments: Pouring Some Gritty On It

From Mav: I’ve had this idea rolling around in my head for a bit. It started to really formulate back when we had our “Pour Some Sexy On It” episode. There, and in its Call for Comments, I talked about the concept of making a show (especially an IP reboot property) more seemingly mature and adult by simply “pouring sexy on it”. That basically means finding superheat actors to star in the property and then implying the fuck ALL THE TIME. The CW is master of this as a show running technique. And, as regular listeners know, I have no qualms here and in fact kind of love a lot of these shows. But I think there’s another similar piece. Sometimes we modernize stories by “pouring some gritty on it!” What does that mean? There’s a whole TV Tropes page on it, but basically I’m thinking about the “darker reboot.” Sometimes it does mean pouring more sexy on. In a lot of cases, it basically just means “lets make everyone anti-social and add some swearing.” A lot of times it’s “and this time they kill”. Basically, I’m thinking of any time some property is rebooted with the promise that “this is not your daddy’s _____.” In some ways, this is maybe a specialty of the CW. At the very least, it is part of what happened with both Riverdale and Nancy Drew as we said on the episodes devoted to those shows.

We also spoke about this a bit on the superhero deconstruction episode. Comic books have used the “and now we’re gritty” technique to drum up sales since at least the 1990s. Sometimes this can be to what I’d call useful or at least interesting effect. Of course, Watchmen and Dark Knight come to mind here. But often this just becomes a meaningless trope. The Dark Age of superhero comics was in many ways part of the downfall of the industry. Not entirely… I think it’s way more complicated than that. But it mattered. In a lot of ways the early Image comics (particularly Youngblood and WildCATs) were just thinly veiled gritty versions of the comic titles that their creators were already working on at the time(X-men and X-force, which was already just a grittier New Mutants), but lacking much of the soul or character work that the originals had. Often this can just come across as pointless and bad. We didn’t really talk about it at the time. But when I was researching the “Pour Some Sexy On It” episode, I came across the script to the failed pilot for the live action adult Powerpuff Girls show and… OH MY GOD was it rough.

I would argue that this is much of the problem with the Snyderverse films as well. They have their fans because the things that he is doing — reveling int he excess of grittiness — he does very well. But, I would argue that those of us who don’t care for the films don’t like them because they’re largely empty of anything OTHER than the grittiness and maybe some trademarks. I personally want more in my gritty. And it’s possible to get that. For all of my criticism of the Snyderverse, I would argue that Amazon’s The Boys is largely trying to do the exact same thing. It just succeeds better in every way. And this is a case where I love the TV show but really didn’t care for the source material comic. I’d similarly say that something like Battlestar Galactica (2004) is essentially also just pouring some gritty on the original series. It just so happens that the gritty was vastly needed. Perhaps it’s like a seasoning or condiment poured on any dish. A little taste helps bring the flavor out but too much can be overpowering?

Now, of course this isn’t limited to comics or even classic geek shows. When I mentioned the topic, Hannah brought up the possibility of discussing Anne with an E. I’d say Once Upon a Time was basically predicated on this topic. And maybe this will be the show where Monica and I finally geek out about The Magicians as basically pouring gritty on Harry Potter (and then just increasingly trying to out-gritty its own previous seasons). But really, I’m looking for recommendations as well as explanations. What are some good (and bad) examples. And why do you think this does or doesn’t work?

Edit: So after I originally posted this, the trailer for the new Chip’n’Dale Rescue Rangers movie came out. It is everything to me and we will absolutely be talking about it.

3 Comments and 15 Webmentions for “Call For Comments: Pouring Some Gritty On It”

  1. Not a reboot, but a sequel… I’ve found Korra to be grittier than Avatar. The violence is more ubiquitous and the villains are more subtle and treacherous. But I’m not sure if that’s planned growth vs “pour some gritty on it”.

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