‘Luke Cage,’ ‘Westworld,’ and Pizza Delivery Guys: This Week’s Recommended Reading

Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the Internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. This week, we recommend an in-depth piece on Eater about the history of the pizza delivery guy trope in porn, an interview with American Honey star Sasha Lane, pieces on two major TV debuts this week — Luke Cage and Westworld — and more.

E.J. Dickson has gone into impressive depth on how the pizza delivery guy became shorthand for pornographic masculinity — and, quite amusingly, the article appears in Eater. After describing the generic scenario wherein the stranger delivering rotund tomato-bread inevitably ends up involved in an act of fellatio, she writes:

The pizza delivery narrative is “actually a relatively new thing” in the many-thousand-year-long history of pornography, according to Joe Rubin, a co-founder of independent film preservation and distribution company Vinegar Syndrome, which specializes in cult films, including vintage pornography. He explains that in the history of erotica, the conceit of a delivery person showing up at a woman’s door and exchanging goods for sex is less than a century old. The trope’s roots were established, in pornographic “stag films” — short amateur clips that portrayed hardcore sex — in the first few decades of the twentieth century.

Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey wrote about Andrea Arnold’s American Honey this week, and particularly Shia Labeouf’s praiseworthy performance in it; he’d likewise spoken highly of newcomer/star Sasha Lane’s acting (or acting’s antithesis), saying “Lane is one of those performers who is so casual, it’s easy to take her for granted – you can’t catch her acting.” Indiewire profiled Lane this week, in advance of the release of the already-acclaimed film:

Lane was still just a teenager when Arnold discovered her on a Miami beach smack in the middle of spring break and cast her in the free-wheeling opus about a hard-partying magazine crew. At the time, Lane was a student at Texas State University in San Marcos, taking classes in psychology and social work, but she felt like something was missing. And she also felt like something was going to change for her once she went to Miami…“I went on that trip because something felt like it was missing and I was just so lost and kind of hopeless, but I had a feeling,” Lane recently told IndieWire. “I had the strongest feeling that there was something that was going to happen, and I didn’t know what it was, but I was just trying to hold onto that.”

The WIRED Culture Podcast (okay, so technically this is recommended listening) spoke with Luke Cage show runner Cheo Hodari Coker about the series that premiered just today on Netflix. He also spoke in an interview with Den of Geek UK about wanting to get the balance of “both superhero and drama” for the series, and how he aimed to make Luke Cage “very much an African American superhero rather than a superhero that happens to be black”:

I wanted the nuance you rarely used to see in the modern Black experience before shows like Queen Sugar, Atlanta, Insecure. It’s kind of a renaissance, because blackness isn’t one thing, it’s a lot of different aspects. The fact that Guy Ritchie is a different writer-director than Julian Fellowes. They’re both still British, but there’s nuance. What happens sometimes when you have black storytellers is that they try to make it like “This is THE black experience” whereas I wanted to make sure Luke Cage was diverse in its complexities portraying Black America.

Meanwhile, in TV Guide, Coker spoke a lot about the series’ vision of Harlem, and how assiduous attention to detail helped bolster the show’s performances: 

“With the cast that we had, we had to build a realistic, palpable place because it gave them the ability to say, ‘Okay, I can really do some serious acting here.’ At the same time, they can also serve the themes of comic books which also come from a very real place at well,” Coker says. “Sometimes when people do these comic book adaptations, it’s almost as if they aren’t taking it seriously, like, ‘Oh, it’s a comic book so we can’t go here.’…I want to have this [show] live in a world where we can compete with any drama in all of television. I would put this show next to anything.”

Westworld, which premieres this Sunday, October 2, is a series whose origins come with a bit of a history in Hollywood (there was, at one point, a remake of the original film that was supposed to star Arnold Schwarzenegger), and Brian Tallerico details in Vulture how the original, against all odds, got made in the first place: 

The most anticipated show of the season has a lineage that goes back much further — almost a half-century — to a hybrid sci-fi–Western that would change how special effects are processed and inspire future classics like The Terminator and Jurassic Park. It was a film that almost never happened. Studios turned it down, the rookie director had an incredibly low budget, and the special effects almost didn’t get done in time. And yet, everything came together for Westworld.

In an excellent interview in Esquire with the showrunners/creators of Westworld — Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher Nolan) — writer Matt Miller asks about how they decided on a look for the A.I. in the series — the way they sometimes appear to be made of wax. Nolan says:

I think we wanted the show to explore the uncanny valley completely. We wanted this idea of near AI (artificial intelligence), or near-human AI. It’s an interesting one, because as you approach the question of intelligence and consciousness and sentience, the fabric of that is very subtle. It’s the suspense of what makes us alive. Humans are so attuned to tiny behavior in each other, you know? We’re so aware of the tiny movements of eyes and hands, the tiny curl of a mouth into a smile.

Miller asks if the series is not only meant to reflect the ways people respond to video games and virtual realities, but the way we treat actual other peoples’ online presences. Joy responds:

We thought about it mostly with gaming, but … the way in which technology works now is it allows a barrier between people [discussing a subject] and the subject of what’s being discussed. And I think that within that you can start to feel an otherness with the person that you’re dealing with, and that leads to all sorts of bad behavior.