Monday With Mildred: “The Stand (2021)

The Stand (2021) miniseries poster.

The Stand (2021)

Sometimes a piece of fiction hits the world hard, for whatever reason. Back in the day The Stand, a novel by then newish author Stephen King took the world by storm, by totally destroying the world. The book is a konk you over the head Christian parable, misogynistic paean and embarrassingly racist tale.  I read the book several times, in both forms (too long, and extra too long), the first time while working at a mall kiosk during flu season. Seriously, that was awesome. This time around, it was mind blowing that the series was released during an actual pandemic.

The basic story is that a top secret government facility cooks up a deadly pathogen that gets into the general population and kills 99.9% of people worldwide in a few weeks. Those who don’t die gather into two groups, good and evil. Fireworks ensue. There are a LOT of characters, from cartoonish evil meister Randall Flagg, to heroic everyman Stu Redman and his eventual baby momma Frannie Goldsmith, to actually intriguing bad guys like Harold Lauder and Trashcan Man.

I’m pretty sure this is the novel that got me hooked on apocalypse fiction, leading to my zombie addiction. It’s also the book that put me off of Stephen King fiction. Never mind how many times I read and watched it, eventually my biggest takeaway was how awful his works really are in a zeitgeist kinda way. The passage that really did it was the one with Fannie ruminating one night that it’s a good thing she was surrounded by manly men, because now that civilization was gone girls like her would need the protection. You read that right. Men and girls. Except for a Magical Negro, don’t look for any African American characters, either.

The first mini series tried a bit to alleviate that situation, inserting an African American actor into a substantial supporting character. There were also quite a number of character shortcuts in the original series, like merging the aging New York City socialite and the young New England schoolmarm, because the two are obviously barely discernable from each other. One character that has only made it back into the expanded novel was The Kid, a man who rapes Trashcan Man. Small favors.

If you watch both versions the first thing you will notice is a large improvement in the cinematography. The new version doesn’t have the look of just-graduated-from-film-school cheap. There are occasional dips into the old version’s music, but mostly it’s not memorable. The new version also does away with characters. Some that we saw previously, like Brad Kitchner who turns the lights back on, disappear in the new version. Though they do get the lights back on.  I was happy to see a lot more diversity in the new version. Ralph Brentner, good guy, is now an indigenous American woman, and Larry Underwood, upscaled lounge singer, is played by an African American. I was very happy to see an actor portraying deaf character Nick Andros without looking away from speaking characters every time they talked to him.

Something you will notice with nearly every review of the new version is the question of why the current film skips around in time at first. I thought I must have put in the wrong disk and nearly took it out to check, because the very first moment of the new version is a scene from two thirds of the way through the book. Followed by a scene from the first quarter, followed by a scene from halfway through, followed by a scene from the very beginning. If this is the first time you’ve watched the story, the entire first hour will be an enormous mystery. Eventually the story becomes linear and somewhat follows the novel, with a few big changes like having Hemingford Home as an actual nursing home rather than the name of the tiny farmhouse Mother Abigail lives in. I didn’t mind that much, especially as it gave the filmmakers a chance to insert a funny Stephen King cameo into the story. A large part of the last quarter of the book is also completely absent.

Another thing you will notice with nearly every review is discussion about how the end of this mini series is so different than the last one. There are two endings at work, one from the unabridged novel, and one that is entirely made up. I shook my head at that one, because it gave the filmmakers a chance to have a second Magical Negro character. Progress.

The thing with reviewing The Stand is that it is a ginormous work, with lots going on and a lot of characters, and so very, very many angles it can be looked at. I know this story very well, as I was pre-feminist and very attracted to the apocalypse approach so I read and watched it a lot. If you have a very long Sunday to devote to the current mini series I say take a look at it. Won’t be a great loss if you never see it, but if you’re curious about a work that has often been described as a masterpiece, check it out.


CFR: In Addition

Nope. Nope. Nope, nope, nopey, nopey, nope. I did not like this at all.

Granted I saw the original miniseries and liked it. There were parts I could not get into as I am a Unitarian-Universalist and must of the Christian black and white of this tale annoys/just doesn’t work for me.

Now I hated this new one right off because I did not like the jumping around in time. I felt that if I were not familiar with the story I would have been totally lost. I was quite angered as I feel the show would have been better/understandable if it had been shown in proper linear order.

Also for some reason I worried about the animals in this version all the time so that kept me from enjoying it.

I also argued with the characters about their silliness.

I stopped watching half way through. I won’t watch more.

I do think Alexander Skarsgaard was a good choice for Flagg.

Oh and the ending of the book and this mini-series (I read a summary on Wikipedia) is so racist I can barely breathe. Really Stephen? Really Paramount? Really?


But hey, you might like it or you did like it and good because there is something for everyone out there.

OH WAIT!!! There is something I really like. I like the poster – see top of post. I think that is cool.

One response to “Monday With Mildred: “The Stand (2021)

  1. I neglected to mention that the casting/acting across the board is much improved, except maybe Stu, Tom, and Trashcan Man. The first two are about even, but the new Trashy just doesn’t cut it. Skarsgaard is so much better it’s not funny, and the new Frannie gives her greater depth than a sidewalk puddle.

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