Welcome to Mack’s Weekly Musings, where I list some of the things I’m reading, listening to, or watching from the wonderful and expansive world of popular culture. Some of these selections are new releases, while others are old classics I’m revisiting. Whether it’s a YouTube channel, movie, television show, podcast, video game, or comic, if it’s something I’m enjoying, I’ll include it on the list. These are the picks that brought me joy this week, and I wanted to share them all with you in an ongoing weekly series. Let’s kick things off with my favorite pop culture picks from the first week of May.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch
The Bad Batch premiered May 4th on Disney+, and the latest entry in the Star Wars animated universe promises a thrilling (and uneven) return to a galaxy torn apart by endless war. The show is smaller in scope than the proceeding Clone Wars, as it narrows its view from the galaxy-wide conflict of the Jedi and the Separatists to Clone Force 99, the titular “Bad Batch” as they struggle to find their place amidst the birth of the Galactic Empire.
While The Clone Wars told of the Jedi’s exploits and struggles against the Confederacy along with the new Grand Army of the Republic and Rebels focused on the formation of the Rebel Alliance, The Bad Batch features the rise of the Empire in a way we haven’t seen onscreen before. This is a chaotic and dark time for the galaxy (honestly, when isn’t it?), and everyday citizens are still adjusting to and reeling from the news of the destruction of the Jedi Order and the dissolution of the Republic. It’s one of the strongest elements of the show.
Dee Bradley Baker does phenomenal voice acting as all the clone troopers in the Bad Batch unit, and the show boasts beautiful animation similar in style to The Clone Wars. I’m looking forward to exploring this era of Star Wars, and I have to admit that I’ve warmed to the Bad Batch more than I thought I would. When the Bad Batch first appeared for a guest arc in The Clone Wars that served as somewhat of a backdoor pilot to their own series, I was less than impressed. Each clone felt like a walking singular trait (Wrecker liked to blow things up, Tech was the sarcastic tech genius, Crosshair was the aloof sharpshooter), and when Disney announced they would star in a spin-off sequel series, I was skeptical. In my opinion, the characters themselves didn’t seem to have the star power to carry a series, but after watching the first episode, I realized I was wrong, and I was actually excited for this new show.
This isn’t to say The Bad Batch‘s first episode wasn’t perfect, and the series has a whitewashing problem (seriously…the clone troopers, Kanan, and Depa Billaba are considerably lighter).I found the character of Omega didn’t make as much of an impact as I was hoping or as the rest of Star Wars Twitter claimed she’d make, and sometimes I find myself rolling my eyes when she’s onscreen. I’m hoping I’ll feel more attached to these characters soon, and I’ll be patient since the series has only aired two episodes. Still, I’m looking forward to seeing more of what the show has to offer, because when Star Wars succeeds, we all succeed. The Bad Batch is currently streaming on Disney+.
Dead Meat James- The Kill Count
“Welcome to the Kill Count, where we tally up the victims of all our favorite horror movies!”
Dead Meat is the type of YouTube channel every horror fan needs in their arsenal. Hosted by the charming and hilarious James A. Janisse, the channel is dedicated to all things horror, with a podcast ran by Janisse and his fiancé Chelsea Rebecca (a kickass lady who puts any Final Girl to shame), the What’s Your Favorite Scary Movie series, and the gem of the channel, The Kill Count. As its name suggests, the Kill Count tallies all the victims of various horror films, like the poor souls who meet their untimely demises in the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises or the victims of obscure flicks like Ice Cream Man and President’s Day.
There’s something for every horror fanatic to enjoy, and Janisse’s videos don’t just stop at counting horror movie victims. Each entry in the Kill Count series carefully examines its respective horror film, and Janisse offers in-depth behind-the-scenes facts and a rundown of the film’s plot and characters.
Decider once referred to the Kill Count as Cliff Notes for Horror Fans, and while the channel shouldn’t be treated as a substitute for watching the actual horror film, it’s a fantastic resource and celebration of all things horror. I’ve watched Dead Meat for a little over two years, and it’s one of my all-time favorite YouTube channels. It’s exciting to see Dead Meat grow bigger every day, and I can’t wait to see some of my favorite horror movies end up on the Kill Count.
This week I stumbled across Khadija Mbowe‘s video essay on Bridgerton and became hooked by their YouTube channel. Mbowe’s natural charisma shine through in every one of their videos, which range from in-depth explorations of equity and representation in performative arts to conversations around the history of topics like digital blackface and colorism and even conversations around mental health and every day life. Mbowe’s channel feels like a surprise buffet, one in which you’re not always sure what you’re going to find but you’ll walk away satisfied and fulfilled nevertheless.
One of the best parts of Mbowe’s channel (aside from the profoundly educational and thoroughly researched videos) is their enthusiasm for knowledge and learning. Their excitement and passion for research are entirely infectious, so not only do we as viewers learn insights and perspectives that enhance and broaden our own perspectives and challenge our limited world-views, but we have a blast in the process. Mbowe takes complex issues and lays them all out on the table for their viewers, exploring each topic with zeal and enthusiasm that hooks viewers from the very start of each video. With their killer fashion, their sense of humor, and their appreciation for research, Mbowe makes quite an impression, and this was one YouTube channel I couldn’t subscribe to fast enough.
“Remember, you can always change your mind, because you can.” -Khadija Mbowe
Mario Tennis Aces
Alright, let’s be honest here: the main reason I play Mario Tennis Aces is that, for the first time, Pauline, Mario’s OG girlfriend and Nintendo rising star, is a playable character (not counting a modded version of the original game Pauline appeared in). Pauline made her way out of relative obscurity with her role in Super Mario Odyssey, in which she’s the mayor of New Donk City and sings the smash hit “Let’s Do the Odyssey/I’ll Be Your 1UP Girl”. It was only a matter of time before Pauline became a mainstay in the Nintendo universe, and her future looks bright after appearing as a playable character in Mario Tennis Aces and Mario Kart Tour.
Available for the Nintendo Switch, Mario Tennis Aces consists of playing fast-paced and off-the-rails tennis games with various characters from the Super Mario series. The game boasts stunning visuals and a vast selection of characters to choose from. The game promises several hours of exciting tennis play with an adventure mode and free play, but it’s online where Mario Tennis Aces truly shines. I could sink hours into the game just playing against other people from around the world, and you can bet I’ll be choosing Pauline every time.
And there you have it! This was an exciting week for pop culture, with the debut of the Bad Batch and the release of Resident Evil: Village (which I’ll probably include in next week’s selection, so stay tuned). I hope you found something to add to your pop culture arsenal, and make sure you check out my website.
What are you reading, playing, or watching this week? Let me know in the comments and stay nerdy!