Tag Archives: Thomas Savage

Recommended Reads for Pride Month

With how big my yearly reading goals on Goodreads, I will occasionally do particular theme or topic for an entire month.  For instance, in March, most of the books I might read may involve Ireland in some way, since St. Patrick’s Day is on the seventeenth.  Or for May, a number of the books I read could involve mental health for Mental Health Awareness Month or I’ll read Star Wars novels because May is essentially Star Wars Month.  Not all books in a month will fit into a theme, nor will I do a theme every month of the year.  It’s just a way for me to find new books that I will enjoy and/or learn from.

This year, for the month of June, I have decided to read books with LGBTQ+ related in honor of Pride Month.  I’ve read a few books over the years with LGBTQ+ characters over the years, whether they be main or side characters, and I have a few I plan for this month, which I may do a recommendation blog at the end of the month.  Today, however, I thought I would discuss some books that I have read in case you are looking for something to read this month.

Apologies now if it seems like my recommendations mostly involve lesbian/bi women.  It was purely unintentional since I picked these up because they either sounded interesting or were part of a series I was reading (and enjoying).  My current reads and what I plan to read this month will be a bit more diversified.  

The Avatar Kyoshi Duology by F.C. Yee

Avatar the Last Airbender is one of my favorite animated series.  I’m not the only one to say that, I am sure, but it is a good series.  The themes, animation, story, and characters are all things that made it such a beloved show.  Characters like Zuko, Iroh, Toph, Azula, Aang, and Katara are just some of the characters that people have grown to love.  It got a sequel in the Legend of Korra and several comic tie ins.  The Rise of Kyoshi and The Shadow of Kyoshi are two books that are also included and focuses on one of the most popular Avatars, Kyoshi. 

Kyoshi became a pretty popular Avatar most likely for her stark contrast to Aang, the titular Avatar.  Aang was traditionally shown as being nonviolent and diplomatic (as much as any twelve year old in his potion can be) with a moral compass that could make certain decisions, like killing Ozai, difficult.  Kyoshi, meanwhile, had a moral compass and some level of diplomacy, but was willing to do what needed to be done.  With Chin the Conqueror, for example, she didn’t care if he died the day she separated Kyoshi island from the mainland.  It wasn’t really her intent, but she wasn’t opposed to it either since it got rid of a corrupt ruler.  

The Kyoshi duology by F.C. Yee goes over Kyoshi’s early years and finding out what it means to be the Avatar.  When her friend gets confused to be the next Avatar after the unexpected and sudden death of Kuruk, the revelation that it was actually Kyoshi is a secret and unexpected one.  During the books she will go through a series of trials and tribulations while trying to escape the people chasing her.  She even joins a gang that her airbending mother used to be affiliated with, who would be the beginning for Ba Sing Se’s, Dai Li.  This is also explains why Kyoshi used the two fans.  

As she makes allies and enemies, one person who stays by her, Rengi, a firebender who’s mother gets caught up in the conflict and eventual love interest for Kyoshi.  Meanwhile, her friend, who had gotten confused for her, becomes more of a threat than Kyoshi would have hoped for.

The Rise of Kyoshi and The Shadow of Kyoshi are books I would recommend if you like fantasy, are a fan of Avatar the Last Airbender, and/or are looking for a good YA book.  They build on an Avatar who viewers knew a bit about through her appearances.  And while a tough protagonist, these books humanize Kyoshi and let her have moments of reflection and emotion.  There is also a forward by Avatar co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino.

F.C. Yee did a great job bringing Kyoshi to life and has a novel on Yangchen, the Airbending Avatar before Aang, coming out in July of 2022.

Poison Ivy: Thorns by Kody Keplinger

I’ve read a few of these YA what if styled graphic novels.  The one I really enjoyed include Lost Carnival, a Dick Grayson story taking place during his circus days, Shadow of the Batgirl, a Cassandra Cain (Batgirl/Shadow Bat/Orphan) story, Oracle Code, a Barbara Gordon story taking place after she was paralyzed by the Joker, and this one. 

There are some good ones out there, like Shadow of the Batgirl, and some bad, like Gotham High.

I would say that Poison Ivy Thorns is one of the better of these YA what if comics, if not average depending on who you ask.  And similar to the other YA graphic novels in this line, this does take place with the cast being teenagers.  Which isn’t a problem per say, merely a common theme with these graphic novels regardless of it’s about an established character like Ivy or a new character like Tai Pham from the Green Lantern: Legacy story.  Regardless, Poison Ivy: Thorns is an interesting retelling of Pamela Isley’s story with a eerie mystery that hits close to home for our protagonist.

Pamela is a social outcast at school, who enjoys working with plants in the school’s greenhouse and is an avid environmentalist.  Her mother has been sick for as long as Pamela can remember, but for those who don’t know, it would seem as though her mother is out of the picture.  When she’s not at school, dealing with the day to day life of a teen, she’s at home with her father who performs a series of tests and experiments on Pamela.  She has a hard time trusting people, men especially, so she usually keeps to herself.

After an incident at the park, she meets Alice Oh, who she starts to open up to.  And as the two grow closer platonically and eventually romantically, the truth about Pamela’s mother starts coming to light.  And while Pamela is hesitant for change, she realizing how problematic her father’s treatment of her and the situation with her mother.  As Pamela’s life seems to be changing around her, there is more to Pamela than she may have even realized. 

 If you like Poison Ivy, you might like this.  I know I did as someone who enjoys Ivy from time to time.  The art is really neat to.  It has a neat almost sketchy line-art and though the color palate may appear simple, it really suits the style they were going for.  The art also kind of reminds me of something Tim Burton-esque with maybe a pinch of anime and/or art from Greek mythos.

The Witches of Thistle Grove Series by Lana Harper

The second book of this trilogy, From Bad to Cursed, came out on the 17th of May of this year.  Meanwhile, the third book, Back in a Spell, is expected to be released in January of 2023.  I’m currently making my way through it now (I own both books) and thought now would be as good of a time as any to recommend the series.  That way, if any of you wanted to give it a try, you could get started before the third book is released.

So far, each book will focus on a different witch from Thistle Grove.  In Payback is a Witch, our lead, Emmy Harlow returns to Thistle Grove after several years of self-exile.  While her magic isn’t as strong as it used to be due to her time away, Emmy finds herself pulled into a competition against her ex, Gareth.  Teaming up with her friend Linden and the dark magic expert Talia, both of who were involved with Gareth around the dame time and want some good old fashion revenge, the trio works together to come out on top.  Along the way, Emmy finds herself drawn to Talia, and not just in a magical sort of way.  The two end up spending time together and developing feelings for each other.

While both Emmy and Talia could be considered bisexual, since they dated Gareth before getting together, I’ve noticed a number of reviewers on Goodreads have this tagged under the Lesbian sub-tag in the LGBT shelf/tag.  Of course, I’m not trying to imply that the characters aren’t lesbians, who maybe dated a guy before realizing they preferred women, just that they could be interpreted as bisexual to some people.  Personally, I interpret them as lesbians, and I am assuming that was Lana Harper’s intent.

Payback is a Witch is a spellcasting romance that is charming and enjoyable.  The only critique I would have is how some of the dialogue comes off.  The deliver of some the more sassy/cursing phrases seemed a little weird.  Not always, because in some instances I enjoyed it, but other times, it felt a little weird.  Either way, it doesn’t hinder the overall enjoyment I had with the book.  Also note, this is an adult romance.  And while not happening every chapter, there are at least three “spicier” scenes in it.

I just started on From Bad to Cursed recently, so my thoughts on it aren’t set in stone yet.  That said, I think I will enjoy this installment.  When it starts off with such a fun opener about how you have to think outside of the box sometimes when summoning demons, I think that says something about what to expect.

From Bad to Cursed will focus on Isidora Avramov, a thrill chasing demon summoner.  She dreams of one day leaving Thistle Grove to pursue an indie fashion designing career.  However, when trouble brews the Beltane festival, resulting in the injuring of one of the Thorn family members, the Avarmov’s rival family.

Fun Fact: The Beltane Festival is a Gaelic/Celtic celebration 

Because the Avramov family and Thorn family are rivals, suspicions fall on Isidora’s family.  To save her family’s name, Isidora works alongside Rowan Thorn to get to the bottom of it.  Along the way, Isidora will realize just how little she knows about Rowan, and a relationship will start to grow more with each day.  

That’s how this book can be summarized.  Or at least my summarization of the synopsis provided.  Since I am only starting the book, I can’t exactly say what their relationship will be like.  And from what I’ve seen on Goodreads, there are a few people who have tagged the book with the LGBT sub-tag.  And given how Emmy and Talia from the first book were apart of the LGBTQ+, I’m assuming that Isidora and Rowan’s relationship will fall under the LGBTQ+ as well.  And since I’m just starting and don’t know what Isidora will learn about him, what Rowan’s sexuality is has yet to be seen.  While I can’t confirm, I am speculating that Rowan might be a trans man.  I can’t confirm yet, but given how this series does have LGBTQ+ mains in the first and third book, I don’t think it’s a stretch to make that speculation.  Whatever is revealed, this is looking to be as fun of a book as Payback is a Witch, and I have a feeling I will enjoy it.

Readers may have to wait until 2023 for the third and final book, Back in a Spell, but I think it’ll be worth it.  What do know about it, outside of it’s title is that the lead will be a woman named Nineve “Nina” Blackmoore, who was left at the alter by her fiancée.  Once back on the dating market, she meets with Morty Gutierrez, a nonbinary individual who owns a business called The Shamrock Cauldron.  They get off to an awkward start that turns rocky when Morty (He/Him according to the synopsis), but finds out Nina’s last name.  Nina’s family, it turns out, is trying to acquire Morty’s company.  Then one day, Morty starts exhibiting magical powers alongside Nina, and it’s up to Nina to figure out what’s going on, how to help herself and Morty as well as navigating their growing romance. 

The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley

One series I have found myself enjoying is Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sister series.  It is about six sisters adopted from all over the world.  Each one is named after one star in the Seven Sisters constellation, hence the series’ name.  When Pa Salt dies, he leaves each daughter with a letter, a name, and a set of coordinates to where he found them.  As well as the eventual location of the seventh sister that they never found.  The reason for this was to give each sister a chance to find out where they came from, if they were interested.  The Pearl Sister is the fourth book and focuses on CeCe (Celaeno).

In it, CeCe has left Star (Asterope), who was searching into her own heritage, in order to find out more about her own.  Her investigation brings her to Australia, where she finds out more about Kitty McBride, the person Pa Salt had left for her to learn about.  Part of the story, which is a common style with this  series, does focus on Kitty’s story from Kitty’s perspective.  As CeCe learns more about Kitty and her Aboriginal roots, she finds her creativity returning and meets new people.  This includes Chrissie, an Australian who helps her in her journey.  Though officially confirmed in a later book, CeCe and Chrissie do end up together.  CeCe was curious about her sexuality with Chrissie being who she thinks she might have feelings for.

With that in mind, she would be questioning at first and a lesbian when she does end up with Chrissie.  It’s been a while since I read The Pearl Sister, so I don’t recall CeCe having relationships with anyone other than Chrissie, so I can’t say she is bisexual.

The Pearl Sister might not be one of my favorites in the series (my favorites being The Seven Sisters and Moon Sister), but it is a good read in my opinion. You don’t have to read the entire story to understand this book, since each story focuses on one sister and the only times the others are referenced are sparsely used and you don’t need to read every book to know that Pa Salt died.  However, reading the rest won’t hurt either, and if you are interested, I would say go for it. 

The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage

Let me just start of that the LGBTQ+ context is more so implied.  This book was written in 1967 by a gay man, who I believe was closeted at the time.  Fun Fact: Thomas Savage may have had a relationship with Tomie dePaola, a children’s author who wrote books like Strega Nora and The Art Lesson.  The Power of the Dog is listed as a western, which isn’t my usual genre, but after seeing the Netflix adaptation, I checked it out and really enjoyed it.  

Going into this book, the only disclaimer I feel is necessary is that Phil Burbank is a bit of a sexist and racist towards Native Americans.  As well as terms used that may be considered problematic today.  This book does take place in the 1920’s, so while I won’t say there isn’t problematic elements, it’s a timepiece where that kind of thing was normalized more.  Phili is also the character that is implied as being gay given how he talks about his friend Bronco Henry and how he grows to like Peter Gordon, his sixteen year old step-nephew.  People like to speculate if Peter Gordon was gay and/or ace, and that he might have had autism, but it’s never fully stated.  

 

I would consider this a western where details and their implications/nuances are well written and interesting.  That might be why I enjoy it when compared to other westerns.  The movie has a similar air, but with more ambiance/quiet moments.  It’s also a book on how people are not always what they seem.  This is especially true with Phil and Peter.

The story itself is pretty straight forward.  After the death (suicide) of Rose Gordon’s husband, she remarries George Burbank, one of two brothers who owns a ranch.  She and her son, Peter, are tormented by Phil, George’s brother.  The torment is mostly directed to Rose, but Peter does make snide remarks towards Peter.  Peter Gordon is a quiet, sickly young man who’s dream is to become a doctor one day.

After returning to the ranch for the summer, Peter is living in the guest bedroom.  And after several less then stellar run ins with Phil, something seems to change.  Phil offers to teach Peter how to ride a horse and show him how 

to tie a rope, the one Phil is working on Phil plans to finish before Peter goes back to school.  

Initially this could be seen as Phil trying to isolate Rose, much like she had with Phil when she married George.  However, that seems to be less of the case as readers get closer to the end.  Readers also find out that Peter will do whatever it takes to keep his mother safe, especially with how his father died.  Even if he doesn’t seem physically imposing.

Though the LGBTQ+ context is more subtextual in nature, it is something that can be inferred upon.  Of course, since this was written in the 60’s, Thomas Savage probably couldn’t have been as forward with that message as much as he might have liked.   With that in mind, the author was a gay man.  So even if it doesn’t have a straightforward gay character, it was written by a gay author.

As someone who doesn’t like westerns, I would recommend this book and it’s Netflix movie adaptation.

Conclusion

These are a few books I would recommend if you are looking for LGBTQ+ centered reads.  I should have a few more at the end of the month when I do a blog on LGBTQ+ books I’ve read this June.  Books that I might have forgotten had LGBTQ+ aspects didn’t make it onto the list since… well I couldn’t remember which books those were.  I also didn’t include the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.  While it does have a one or two gay background/minor characters, I honestly prefer the other series in that universe, Alpha and Omega, from a story perspective.  

Regardless, I hope I was able to help find a book for you to check out.  And if you have any suggestions for me and/or would like to mention an LGBTQ+ book that you enjoyed, feel free to include it in the comments below. 


When Genres Compel Me: Five Books I Enjoyed From Genres I Don’t Normally Read

Has you ever read a book in a genre you don’t normally read that you found yourself enjoying? With so many genres out there, no one is going to like all of them. And sometimes, the genres we do enjoy may shift over the years.

Personally, I tend to enjoy fantasy, historical fiction, and general fiction with the occasional science fiction and nonfiction read. Fantasy has been a staple for me, having read and watched it since childhood. Historical fiction is a genre that I read when I find an interesting synopsis, though I typically will avoid World War 2 since I was never really a fan of the older WWII movies as a kid. Fiction, in my opinion, is a simple one that can’t go too wrong.

Genres I typically don’t read because they never really catch my eye include, westerns, romance, mystery/thriller, the aforementioned World War 2 historical fiction, and horror. All of these are good genres I’m sure, just not my cup of tea. And if you enjoy them, that’s great. Just because I don’t enjoy it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

With that said, I’d be remiss if I said I haven’t found at least one book in a genre I don’t particularly fancy. In fact, I have found a few books from genres I don’t normally read that I actually enjoyed.

The Power of the Dog

By Thomas Savage

Western

This is probably one of the most recent examples of a book that I found interest in from a genre I don’t normally read. Westerns have never really been my thing. I think I can pinpoint that to me not really liking John Wayne movies as a kid. I can understand why people like westerns (and John Wayne movies), but I do believe that my disinterest in John Wayne movies, at least in part, resulted in a disinterest in westerns as a whole.

However, a few months ago, while browsing social media, a person I follow was kind of discussing the Netflix adaptation of Thomas Savage’s The Power of the Dog. In it, she was inquiring about a particular scene, specifically a scene towards the end of the movie, and how much one of the characters might have known about the situation. It got me curious and I am thankful that she didn’t spoil it for me in the comments.

So I checked it out. The movie first and then the book. And let me just say, I really enjoyed it. It’s not a typical western, a.k.a. what you might picture when you hear western. Rather, a western that explored things like appearances not always being as they seem, the cruelty of one man, and the implications of being a closeted gay man in the 1920’s.

It’s a book that I can enjoy as I really appreciated how the author broke down the characters and how you shouldn’t judge people based on what you see. I would recommend giving it a read and/or a watch, though I know it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

The Star and the Shamrock Series

By Jean Grainger

World War 2

Here’s my World War 2 series. Much like westerns, I think I was never really a big fan of them because of John Wayne movies, and war movies in general not being my favorite in general. The history of wars is important, no doubt about it. However, when it comes to historical fiction, books centering around war don’t typically catch my interest.

The reason I picked this one up was because it sounded interesting and I have a bit of a soft spot for books involving Ireland, Irish culture, Irish history, and so on. When Liesl and Erich Bannon, the children of a Jewish German woman, are sent to live with family via one of the last Kindertransport, they must learn to get used to their new lives. Elizabeth, their aunt, does whatever she can to keep them safe. Though it’s not as peaceful as they would have hoped. Meanwhile, their mother stays behind trying to do what she can to survive.

As the series progresses, we get to see how the family grows. How they may one be reunited with their mother. As well as what Liesl and Eric’s lives are like years after the war ends.

The series is a bit of a quick read with there only being four books and roughly two hundred to two hundred and sixty or so pages per book. While it might not be as action packed as some World War 2 centered books, this is a series that is a nice read.

Sherlock Holmes

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Mystery

Mysteries, fiction, and romance seem to be the big three when it comes to sections. Especially at libraries, which I can confirm given I work at two. While fantasy and science fiction may be lumped together (not always, but I’ve seen it). If I had to rank fiction, mystery and romance in which I would be most likely to read, it would probably be fiction than mystery than romance. I can say that I’ve tried more mysteries than I have romances, but even so, it’s not a genre that I actively enjoy. Finding the right mystery is part of the problem. The overabundance of James Patterson releases is another.

Sherlock Holmes seems to be the one I am drawn to the most. After checking out the third season of BBC’s Sherlock (yes, I watched it out of order, but it couldn’t be helped), I got hooked. So I ended up checking out the all in one book as well as some of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes DVDs (which I would recommend) and enjoyed every bit of it. I also plan to add the complete collection to my leather bound classics collection because I’d rather have the whole series together instead of the individual volumes (Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow, and The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes).

I may not read a lot of mysteries but this is one I would go back and read. Sherlock Holmes is a classic and I would recommend it.

Atlas of the Heart

Brené Brown

Self-Help

Nonfiction is a genre that I’ll occasionally read. Typically about animals, biographies/autobiographies, psychology and mental health, entertainment, and writing. Self-Help books aren’t normally on my radar for no other reason than none appealing to me. Along came Brené Brown’s book “Atlas of the Heart” and after reading the synopsis, I was curious.

It’s a book that I personally enjoyed. It’s set up in a way that didn’t seem condescending or overly positive and provides insight from the author. I enjoyed how it breaks down several emotions and seeing the author’s perspective on them. I ended up purchasing the book after finding it in a shop while at the airport since it was a book that I wanted to ad to my collection.

It’s a book that I personally enjoyed. It’s set up in a way that didn’t seem condescending or overly positive and provides insight from the author. I enjoyed how it breaks down several emotions and seeing the author’s perspective on them. I ended up purchasing the book after finding it in a shop while at the airport since it was a book that I wanted to ad to my collection.

Dracula

By Bram Stoker

Horror

This might be cheating a little since I haven’t started Dracula yet, but it is on my To Read list and I own the leather bound edition. However, I wouldn’t say horror is a genre I really read. Not because I don’t enjoy horror, but because I’d rather watch horror instead of reading horror.

I will admit I was that kid who hated horror as a kid because I never liked “scary” movies. Chucky freaked me out and I don’t recall liking Jurassic Park or Jaws for how gruesome they were. Though looking back, they aren’t that gruesome on a technical level, but kid me perceived it as such.

Since then, I’ve grown to enjoy horror and will watch the occasional horror flick as they play on tv or through streaming services. Especially around Halloween. So the enjoyment of horror isn’t lost on me.

But watching it is different than reading it. And I feel the essence of horror is different between reading it and watching it. Watching it gives viewers a spectacle. The ambiance and tone gives off a chilling and unexpected experience. Reading it, I feel, lends itself to chilling and more detailed descriptions and scares. However, that difference could be how I am perceiving it at the moment.

As for why Dracula, I guess it just sounds appealing. It’s a classic and one that I feel like I would really enjoy reading. And since I enjoy the occasional gothic classic (Hunchback of Notre Dame and Phantom of the Opera), Dracula feels similar in style.

Conclusion

While these five genres are not genres I usually read, they are genres I have found at least one book that I enjoy. Are there any books that interest you from genres that you don’t usually read? Are there any you would recommend?

Peter Gordon, Trauma, and Psychology: The Power of the Dog Introspective

Trauma. It can have an array of effects on people including nightmares, fear, and depression, among other responses. In media, it can be used to explore a type of trauma and/or to help the character grow. It’s not uncommon, yet not an everyday occurrence.

In The Power of the Dog, both the book and movie, it’s something Peter Gordon, one of the main characters is familiar with. The death of his father. Having seen his father’s lifeless body after he killed himself, which the book goes into more detail on, to say that Peter was effected by it might be an understatement.

Then comes the Burbank brothers. While George is a wonderful gentleman, it’s his brother Phil who makes the home a bit more hostile.

They way his father’s death not only effected him personally, but how he perceives his duty. Because he never really had a father figure in between his father’s death and Rose’s marriage to George, he in some ways had to grow up and take care of his family. And though not as expressive or emotional, readers and viewers never really get to see how he grieved. If he did.

Through various quotes and moments, I wanted to take a deep dive into Peter Gordon as a character. Mainly how things like his father’s death, alcoholism in the family, and Phil may have contributed to some form of trauma.

“When my father passed, I wanted nothing more than my mother’s happiness. For what kind of man would I be if I did not help my mother? If I did not save her?”

-Peter Gordon (The Power of the Dog)

The movie starts off with this quote. Because of the death of his father, Peter essentially was the “man of the house” and was in charge of making sure his mother was safe. This also foreshadows how he approaches Phil later on in the story, specifically more towards the end, giving what he did more motive.

He has to worry about his mother, since he is all she had until she marries George Burbank. And when she does get married, he still worries about her.

While Peter did become independent, his relationship with Rose could be seen as a form of parentification. He genuinely loves his mother and wants to protect her, because of his father’s death. However, in some ways, Peter had essentially become a caretaker for Rose.

Parentification is defined as a child taking on the role of parent for other children and/or parents. There are two main subsections in parentification: instrumental and emotional parentification. Instrumental is where the child performs duties that might normally fall on parents, like making dinner for the household, taking care of sick family members, and taking other children to and from school. Emotional parentification is when the child takes on the role of emotional confidant/counselor/caretaker to their parents.

I would say that Peter could suffer from a combination of both. Because while he does care for his mother and had cause to confront Phil on her behalf, he shouldn’t have been required to. And while Peter was mature for his age, he was still a sixteen year old who was dealing with the lose of his father with his mother. He shouldn’t have had to with him being sixteen, but he did. Things were also much different in the 1920’s too.

While I am not a psychologist, I can’t say that he does exhibit that behavior. However, I could see how Peter could have developed a sense of parentification after his father’s death. The trauma of losing his father and how Phil treated her could have culminated into something along those lines.

“…Yeah, your father. I guess he hit the bottle pretty hard. The booze.

Until right at the very end, then he hung himself. I found him, cut him down. … He used to worry I wasn’t kind enough. Then I was too strong.

You, too strong? Huh! He got that wrong. Poor kid. Things will work out for you yet.”

-Phil Burbank and Peter Gordon (Power of the Dog)

At this point of the movie, Peter is back home for the summer and finds himself essentially under Phil Burbank’s guidance. The man, who for the most part, was belligerent to his mother and picked on Peter, wants to start over by helping Peter and get to know him. During a moment of peace, the two end up discussing Rose, Peter’s mother, and her alcoholism. This discussion takes a turn when Phil asks about his father, resulting in the excerpt above.

The alcoholism is discussed, but rather it being a tale of abusive alcoholics, it’s more a tale of how depression and distress can lead to it. While his parents’ alcoholism might not have effected Peter in the way of physical or emotional abuse, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t effect him in the long run. Whether that be in the form of inheriting their alcoholic tendencies or being completely turned off by drinking entirely.

Essentially, while not being abused due to a drunken rage, it could have caused Peter to be turned off from it. Seeing what happened to his father and how his mother fell into a drunken state because of Phil, he could have hated how it effected the people close to him. And seeing the spiral it caused, it could have made him hate it and maybe fear losing people because of it.

Antisocial Personality Disorder as a Result of Trauma

Antisocial Personality Disorder, also commonly referred to as sociopathy, can be defined as someone who has a hard time in social settings, may have a hard time caring for right and wrong, and can be seen as manipulative. Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) is a term that was used to describe sociopathy, however ASPD is a bit more complex than that.

While I am not a psychology major, I do like to look into psychology from time to time. Especially if I want to better understand a condition. When it comes to ASPD, I’ve found that there doesn’t seem to be one set definition or ruling on the condition. DSM or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental defines it as

Do I Think Peter is a Sociopath?

Yes and No

I feel this really comes down to how the character is interpreted. Some might say that he was a sociopath given the nature of his plan and/or sympathizing a bit with Phil given where his character ended up. Some might say no, because of Peter’s motivation and Phil’s antagonistic behavior towards Rose.

One thing that could add to a viewer’s interpretation of Peter is Peter’s father. While the movie addresses that he dies, viewers are never really shown what lead up to it. As such, it could be easier to infer that Peter had no qualms with killing Phil and how he could have been behind his father’s death.

I have also seen the case made that Peter could have autism, and how the director, Jane Campion, may have brought that to the foreground of his character. ASPD, Autism, and Psychopathy, while all different conditions, do have some overlap in symptoms. Similar to how ADHD and autism may have similar or overlapping traits. Yet, despite the similarities, an individual can have one or both.

In the case of Peter Gordon, I think he has ASPD, but isn’t a sociopath. Because while his actions may have been manipulative, may not be as empathetic, and crosses a line of morality, his motives weren’t out of indifference. Rather out of love.

Because while he nay have a hard time expressing emotion, it was out of love and a sense of duty to keep his mother safe. Based on my interpretation of the character, and with the general research I did, I would say that Peter has a comorbid (two or more conditions diagnosed in an individual) diagnosis of autism and anti-social personality disorder.

Autism would help explain things like areas of his interest in becoming a doctor and the repeated behavior with running his thumb through the teeth of the comb in a repetitive and relaxing way (stimming). The manipulative tactic he used and disregard for whether it was right or wrong could be explained by anti-social personality disorder. While both could explain why he seems emotionless, not particularly social, and seen as awkward in social interact.

It might not be a perfect diagnosis, but it is a reasonable explanation. With Campion putting it to the foreground according to some sources and some of his behaviors being associated with it, it’s not hard to see why he would have autism. And with the movie taking place in the 1920’s, it wouldn’t have been diagnosed and could have been a factor in people making fun of him. Not because he should have been made fun of for it, but because understanding of autism wasn’t as understood back then as it is today.

As for anti-social personality disorder, I believe the death of his father is what triggered it. While the movie doesn’t show what happened to his father, it’s understandable if people would see Peter as more of a sociopath and possibly killed his father. However, if someone has read the book, it does state that his father took his own life. Whether he had autism or not, seeing that at a young age would have effected him negatively. I suspect that seeing this was what pushed him into the quiet, introverted state readers and viewers got to see. I also think it could have been what caused him to feel it was his duty to go as far as he did to protect his mother. conclusion

Conclusion

With everything Peter has been through, I believe he has had his fair share if trauma and struggles. From the death of his father to the way Phil treated Rose, he probably had some baggage. He felt like it was his duty to keep his mother safe, he probably had animosity towards alcohol, and due to seeing how his father died probably contributed to an ASPD diagnosis on top of a possible autism diagnosis.

Sources

The Power of the Dog (2021 Movie): A Review

Believe it or not, I am not one for Westerns as a genre. A big reason probably has to do with me not being a fan of a lot of John Wayne movies, and most of his were either Westerns or War movies, the latter being another genre that I never really had an interest in. And while my exceptions for war films include Imitation Game, I never really had that one exception for western, aside from Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which I feel is just as much of a horse movie as it is a western.

Then along came a video that popped up on one of my socials talking about a scene, specifically one of the last scenes, in the Netflix adaptation of The Power of the Dog with the least amount of spoilers possible. It got me a bit curious, and when I asked about it, thankfully, they kept it spoiler free and recommended I check the movie out. So, after about two weeks of getting motivated to, and getting the book it was based on, I finally sat down and watched it. I recently finished reading the book, which I may review in the future, but today, I thought I would discuss my thoughts on the movie.

With that in mind…

Spoilers Ahead!

I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but it goes without saying that spoilers are bound to occur.

Story

The story itself is certainly a curious one. It takes place in 1920’s Montana, two brothers work on a ranch, Phil, a crass and somewhat feared cowboy who deep down has a more complex and surprising nature, and George, the kinder and more soft spoken of the two. George marries Rose Gordon, a widow, who’s husband died by his own hand. Rose is tormented by Phil throughout the story, who doesn’t seem too fond of her or her son. Peter, Rose’s son, is a young man studying to become a surgeon. He is protective of his mother, feeling it is his duty to keep her safe after the death of his father. To others, he appears gentle, fragile, and feminine (by 1920’s standards), however, like Peter, he is not all that he appears to be, having an inner strength, confidence, and intellect that no one would expect.

The story focuses on these four characters, the ranch, a hill that, depending on ones point of view, looks like just hills or a barking dog, and what one sees vs what is really there.

The story might not be for everyone, though it does have good qualities. While some people may find it as slow, simple, and/or straightforward, others might see it as intriguing, I’d argue the characters, and how they are characterized are something worthwhile. It doesn’t need a lot of action to get it’s point across. The slow burn type movie that really utilizes this technique really well.

As someone who doesn’t normally watch westerns, this was one that caught my attention because of the story it was telling. Yes, at times it feels straightforward and slow, but given the small details throughout the film as well as the characters, there is a story about appearances not always being met. Secrets that wouldn’t be expected based on perceptions at the time and how seemingly unimposing people can hide inner strength and manipulation.

Nuance

Nuance is something that has significance in this movie. Details that have more meaning than one might think. For instance, what Peter does with the rabbits he finds in the movie. Body language, like how Peter caries himself when walking passed Phil and his men to check on some birds. He ignores the less than friendly reactions, holding himself with a sense of unfazed confidence.

Quiet moments, like the scene in the barn during the climax, says something despite very little being said. Dialogue has importance as well. Like when Phil and Peter are talking about Peter’s father. How he died, how Peter feels it is his duty to protect his mother, and how Peter’s father told him to be kinder. That he was “too strong”. And while Phil would scoff at the notion, it does foreshadow what’s to come.

Things like this is what I enjoyed in the movie. While I may not always need a movie that makes the viewer think, when done well and in a

Casting/Characterization

What really makes this movie stands out is the casting. Even if viewers don’t like how the story is presented, the characters are something worth enjoying. The main four characters are casted and acted perfectly. Kirsten Dunst plays the role of Rose Gordon, a widower who was living with her own demons (Phil, grief, and growing alcoholism) really well. Jesse Plemons really played off of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Phil as George Burbank. And I think the background characters were pretty well too.

However, if there were two performances I was really drawn to, it was Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Peter Gordon. Not only because of some of the underlining subtext between the characters, but because of how the actors portrayed them. Both characters can be seen as different sides to the same coin, and viewers can get that feel from the actors.

While the story focuses on the main four characters, these two have a lot of focus, and the dynamic is really intricate and interesting. Phil appears masculine and intimidating, deep down, there’s actually an intelligent and a softer side to him. Peter, meanwhile, appears introverted and feminine (by 1920’s standards), yet, he has an inner strength and is more cunning than he seems.

Benedict Cumberbatch pulls off the abrasiveness of Phil’s character really well. Watching a bit of the behind the scenes, it’s noted how Jane Campion really wanted him to embrace the character, which he did well.

While one could argue that he feels out of place, I’d argue that he plays a range of character types. So things like westerns and portraying a character who is more crass or confrontational weren’t impossible. Because while Benedict Cumberbatch is known for intellectual roles like Sherlock Holmes and Alan Turing, as well as Dr. Strange, he’s also done other types of roles.

For instance, he’s portrayed menacing and sly persona as Smaug and Khan. He’s played more comical characters like Rory in Fortysomething. Roles in animated features like the Penguins of Madagascar and The Grinch. As well as several stage performances. So Benedict Cumberbatch was bound to break onto the western scene eventually.

Then there’s Kodi Smit-McPhee. What I really enjoyed with his performance is how he portrays Peter. Peter throughout the movie, is seen as someone who isn’t all that imposing or strong, which he is belittled for. Especially by Phil.

It isn’t until later in the film that viewers get to see that Peter has an inner strength and the mind of someone who can do things that most wouldn’t expect. That this seemingly weak character has a deeper strength and cleverness to him alongside his intellect and kind heartedness.

Considering the character being described as particularly introverted, slim, sickly around the time of his birth as the book mentions, and not appearing particularly masculine/macho, I feel like Kodi Smit-McPhee also brings a physical accuracy to the role. Considering how the character is described in the book, I feel that Kodi was able to pull off the physical ingenuous impression that was required for the role. And as far as the characterization of someone who’s introverted, appearing emotionally detected, and unthreatening, yet intellectually crafty and caring, I don’t think I could picture someone else in the role. It goes without saying that, much like Benedict Cumberbatch, Kodi is not a type cast actor while still pulling off a role like this really well.

Overall, the movie has a great cast of characters and actors. Each bring their own personal touch to their roles and have great performances. Whether viewers like Phil Burbank, Peter Gordon, or any of the others will depend on their preference, but each character has their own story.

1920’s and The Company of Men: Phil, Peter, and Bronco Henry

This is the one thing that can draw in a number of discussions. Especially in regards to Phil and Peter. I may do a post breaking down my thoughts on it as well as a post discussing Peter Gordon specifically. That said, I did want to touch on this considering it does have a significant point.

It starts with Phil and his stated admiration for Bronco Henry, a man who taught Phil everything he needed to know to get where he’s at (riding, rope tying, etc.). With how much he talks about Bronco, it’s easy to see how much Phil respected the man. Yet, it isn’t until later that viewers would get to see the true depth of said admiration.

As the movie goes on, viewers come to realize that Phil, with all his admiration towards and fond memories of Bronco Henry, that he was a closeted gay man. Given the time period this takes place in, Phil’s relationship with Bronco Henry would be scrutinized more than it would be today. So keeping up the façade of not being gay most likely contributed to why he comes off as hostilely as he does (or toxic masculinity as it has also been described). Or at least partially. And in keeping up with this façade, that could help explain why he was so demeaning towards Peter at first. While that might not excuse all of his actions, forcing that part of himself to stay secret, probably didn’t help.

As for Peter, while his motives would become more apparent and dealt with the vitriol alongside his mother, he left an impression on Phil. It isn’t until Peter finds Phil in the woods that things seem to take a shift. Phil seems to want to start over with Peter, claiming they “got off on the wrong foot.” While this could also be seen as a way to bother Rose, things tend to shift a bit the longer the two are together.

Phil does mention Bronco Henry, at one point even stating that Peter was a late rider much like Bronco Henry was. And when Phil finds out about his father, he seems sympathetic, only really disbelieving his father’s statement on him being ‘too strong’. While the book may go more in depth about the death of Peter’s father, the sympathy was apparent in both.

However, I think if there’s one scene that really shows off how both characters shifted, it was in the climax when Phil finds out that Rose sold the hides he was going to burn. Both the book and the movie have details that make this scene impactful. From body language to dialogue to the details described in the book, the moment Peter offers to give Phil the raw hide he found, how Phil reacted was one of gratitude and a form of sentiment.

Whether it be one-sided or not, this interaction has symbolism. This moment and the conclusion told viewers what it needed to.

The Ending

Whether viewers see the ending as justified and what Peter’s motive was could be debated, I do think that the ending was a great way to conclude it. Whether viewers think Phil was the true villain and deserved his fate or if Peter was the true villain or was justified, it was a suitable conclusion. This was a story that didn’t need a happy ending to be good.

Conclusion

All and all, I would certainly recommend this movie. I know it might not be for everyone, but the subtle details, cast, and story was interesting. I would give it an 8 out of 10.