"To Introduce our Guest Star, that's What I'm Here to Do..." The Hensonverse Fan Contribution Thread

Great post!

It’s very interesting to note that Portman’s win here would in fact make this in the third time in a decade that the ITTL record for the youngest person to both be nominated and to win the Oscar for Best Actress would be broken, with Molly Ringwald, Fay Masterson, and now Natalie Portman having all broken the record ITTL upon winning the coveted award (though Portman is considerably younger here than even Masterson and Ringwald were). That’s definitely going to be a cool little ITTL Oscars fun fact.
If Portman ever ends up working with either of them, I could honestly see them bonding over this fact.
One Crude Post
Guest post by @Plateosaurus with executive assistance from @Ogrebear, @jpj1421, and Harris Syed

Oil Rig Explosion and Spill in Scotland causes Ecological and Economic Disaster​

The Guardian, November 2nd, 1997


Something like this rig fire.
https://wpcluster.dctdigital.com/energyvoice/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2014/01/montara.jpg - link for the thread.

Last night at 4 AM local time, the Beatrice AD rig in the Beatrice Oil Field suffered a large explosion due to a rupture of the pumps, heavily damaging the Beta platform next to it in what is believed to be one of the worst disasters of its kind since the Piper Alpha explosion in 1988 and last year’s Sea Empress spill. The explosion awoke residents on the mainland to the sight of bright yellow fire burning on the Moray Firth, while many local sources have also reported extensive flooding on both sides of the Firth.

It is unknown what has led to the incident that triggered the rupture, though so far the inclement weather of the last few weeks may have played a part, and there was a storm deeper into the North Sea last night, leading some to suggest a rogue wave many have hit the rig, although so far mechanical failure cannot be ruled out[1].

Response to the explosion was rapid as the rig is only 22 kilometres offshore of Helmsdale, just south of Wick. Fire boats and rescue helicopters were dispatched, and within the hour forces from Coast Guard and the Royal Navy were out on the scene, bringing out oil booms to contain the disaster.


https://images.energy365dino.co.uk/standard/171948_a9cab079fe254eb5bed0.jpg - link for thread.

At the time of press, of the 180 people employed on the Rig, 40 are accounted for having been picked up by rescuers. The rest weren’t so fortunate as they had perished in the explosion before outside assistance could arrive.

It has been estimated that approximately 10 tonnes of oil may have leaked from the rig, and conservationists are now worried about the risk to the Moray Firth’s fragile ecosystem, as it is home to major habitats for whales, dolphins and many species of seabirds. Like last year’s Sea Empress disaster off Pembrokeshire, local residents are already walking the beaches of the Moray Firth looking for oil.

A statement from BP, the owners of the Beatrice Field rigs states that “we are investigating the catastrophic explosion on the Beatrice AD rig. The emergency services have been amazing in their response to this disaster. We will inform the families of the crew the moment we have any news of their loved ones.” BP’s share price has fallen in overnight trading by 20% after the disaster.

The fishing industry of the Moray Firth and the North Sea are expected to be hit the most hard by the spill, with fish and lobster stocks expected to decline by over 25% or more. Tourism to the area, such as with will also be expected to decline in the short term. Local fishermen have already been confined to port until all oil has been cleaned from the sea. There are calls from local politicians for the government to give financial support to the local fishing industry. Local Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness and Sutherland Robert Maclennan said “The government will need to support our local fishermen whilst any oil is cleaned up and they are confined [to port].”

Prime Minister Neil Kinnock has released a statement on the collapse, saying that “What happened was a tragic loss of life that should be avoided in the near future and we must work towards avoiding these disasters in the North Sea or elsewhere in Britain. I call upon oil companies to compensate the families of the victims ”. Similarly, Kinnock’s Labour Party has called on BP and other petroleum corporations to be “held accountable for their shady practices” and “lack of concern for worker safety”. On the opposite side of the political spectrum, the Conservatives have released a statement saying that the BP-owned Rig had been “stifled by a lack of investment due to the Labour Party’s red tape and environmental standard demands.” The Liberal Democrats have also released their statement mourning the deaths of the oil rig workers and calling for more environmental reforms. The Green Party was even more vociferous in denouncing BP and Shell and demanding more environmental regulations “so that tragedies like Beatrice can be prevented”. Finally, the Scottish National Party’s released statement called for the Scottish oil industry to be regulated by an independent Scotland, reminiscent of the party’s “It's Scotland's oil” rallying cries in the 1970s.

Opened in 1981, the Beatrice AD rig is owned by BP and is capable of producing between 30,000 and 25,00 barrels of oil a day, though at this time the rig was running on low production though BP have refused to say why. Alpha and Bravo platforms stand in water at a depth of 46m while Charlie is at 50m. The oil is piped ashore to terminal facilities at Nigg, though there have been no problems reported there. With the destruction of the Beatrice fields, it’s unlikely that normal work will resume in the near-future.

Scottish and English MPs clash over fallout of the Beatrice Oil Explosion​

From BBC News, November 5th, 1997

The aftermath of the Beatrice oil spill has spread into the political conversation in the UK with Scottish MPs (especially from the Scottish National Party) pointing fingers at English MPs for being outright negligent to the safety of the workers that perished in the incident or were severely injured by backing BP and Shell. English MPs have accused their Scottish counterparts of being overly judgemental and biased and said that the Beatrice oil spill involved the Scottish branches of the oil companies. Alex Neil of the SNP, said that “The English are responsible for this damned incident and must pay the price”.

Although SNP Leader Alex Salmond has not officially commented on the issue of Scottish sovereignty, several members of the SNP are utilising local resentment at BP to call for regulation of all oil fields in Scotland and organise rallies to boycott all English-founded oil companies. Demonstrators brought the historical and current flags of Scotland with them. One demonstrator burned the Union Jack and others got into a scuffle with local police, although no arrests have been made.

While all main parties have condemned BP for allowing the Beatrice Oil Rig explosion to happen some commentators believe the escalation of this row is hiding something more. Private Eye editor Ian Hislop commented “all this childish back and forth seems to suggest someone has a guilty conscience…”

No government minister was available for this report.

Margaret Thatcher calls for cooperation in the wake of the Beatrice Disaster​

The Daily Mail, November 7th, 1997

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher urged Scottish and English MPs “to remain calm and work toward a solution that benefits all of Britain” in the wake of heightened tensions within the UK over the explosion of the Beatrice AD rig.

“Right now, the SNP is demanding the nationalisation of all oil fields in Scotland and repossessing assets from the BP and other companies”, says the now-71 year old Thatcher, who works for the United Nations as a special Envoy for Climate Change[5]. “Not only will this have disastrous consequences for the British economy but such demands will lead to unemployment and hostility”. Thatcher even reiterated an old speech of hers from 1988 on the Conservative Party’s pro-environmental stance. "It's we Conservatives who are not merely friends of the Earth, we are it's guardians and trustees for generations to come. The core of Tory philosophy and the case for protecting the environment are the same. No generation has a freehold on this Earth. All we have is a life tenancy - with a full repairing lease."[7]

At the same time, she also castigated the non-Conservative public and press for their alleged lack of interest in environmental safety and the technical side of science. “If people really wanted change, they would be willing to pay attention to the technical specifics of the Beatrice rig. But how many of you practically fall asleep when they’re read out? This tragedy could have been prevented if you had listened to us”.

A spokesperson for the United Nations Environmental Programme said that “Thatcher is a valuable partner committed to ensuring a more healthy, climate friendly world” and that the UN is looking into the Beatrice oil disaster to investigate the details of what happened and provide their recommendations to the British government.

Looking Back on Beatrice and How It Changed UK Politics​

By Oswald McCormick of The Scotsman
November 2007

Ten years after the rupture of the pump, it has become clear that the Beatrice oil spill has affected not just Scotland, but British politics as a whole. Under Prime Minister Kinnnock, the Labour Party has made advances into solar and wind energy, as well as a successful push for regulations of the petrol industry. Legislation for ‘windfall’ taxes on the profits of energy companies had gone through and were popular with the public. By the time of the disaster in November 1997 the landscape had changed with the Conservatives under Michael Portillo (who seemed like a fresh face compared to Kinnock who had been in charge of Labour over a decade at this point) having successfully won several by-elections and also did well at the 1997 local elections.

The investigation of the Beatrice explosion showed systematic failures across the oil industry with BP, and American contractor Transocean[2] having failed equipment checking leading to the oil pump that failed on the rig during the storm. There were wifts of corruption and allegations of bribes in local government. Labour took the brunt of this fallout having introduced new oil industry regulations in 1995 that many blamed for bureaucratic meddling leading to a drop in standards. With the huge death toll of 120 and an oil spill across the Moray Firth, combined with political fallout from previous incidents, there were calls for Prime Minister Kinnock to resign.

A campaign to unseat Kinnock began in the Labour Party with many names pushed forward to replace him such as Roy Hattersley, John Smith[3], Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, or Margaret Beckett. Many would rule themselves out such as Smith who insisted he preferred his ‘quiet’ job as Secretary of State for Trade. However the knives were out and Kinnock would fall on his sword in March 1998 after the investigation into Beatrice AD came out having lost the support of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Kinnock chose to go then to help prevent Labour crashing out at the council elections. PM Kinnock would be succeeded by Gordon Brown picked partly as a compromise candidate with deputy leader Roy Hattersley’s support crucial in winning Brown the support he needed over second place Margaret Beckett who as per Labour rules would become Brown’s deputy leader.

But Beatrice AD didn't just change Labour. The Liberal Democrats would add strong environmental policies into their manifesto, stealing much of the Green Party's clothes. For the Conservatives, having made great hay of Labour’s seeming incompetence would struggle to keep the mometum going as the news cycles moved onto other things, and Brown cleaned house as PM. Portillo did add more policies regarding environmental protection and converting to a ‘green economy’. The Conservative manifesto for the 1999 election also outlined using subsidies for loft and cavity wall insulation for homeowners, and freeing the market to find its own pricing for solar and wind generation. Plus a promise of new nuclear power stations to replace old stock and create jobs. Images of the Beatrice rig on fire would appear in their election ads.

When Enfield Southgate Conservative MP Michael Portillo became Prime Minister he would enact a lot of the policies he promised. For Scotland this included a big program to build offshore wind farms over the next 25 years, including at the site of the ruined Beatrice AD rig[4].

The Time a Sitcom Humiliated the UK’s Oil Industry​

From WTF History? Netlog post “Crude vs. Big Oil”
November 2017

Time and time again, we have seen that those in the entertainment industry and the rest of the world can impact history in ways that you can’t even imagine or seem rather strange but true nonetheless.

It began in 1995 with Billy Connolly’s meeting some oil workers in the Scottish city of Aberdeen at a pub. It gave him an idea for a sitcom, and in 1997, he took a break from travelogues to produce Crude, a darkly comedic workcom about the lives of oil workers aboard the fictional Guim[6] oil rig in the North Sea. The show premiered in the spring of 1997 on ITV with English actor Ray Winstone playing Roy Scathers, the boss of the rig, joined by Connolly himself as Roy’s best friend Mark McGonagall and Billy Boyd as John Kean, a relatively young employee of the rig. Crude was a scathing satire of the British oil (or petrol, given the countries) industry with the workers of the Guim oil rig being depicted as rather unlikeable (yet endearing) and well rather crude as befitting of the show’s title. Their distant, disinterested Company manager Heath Hedge, played by Robert Duncan was shown to be corrupt and obsessed with politics/money over safety, in many ways cruder than the rig’s rough workers.

Crude did very well, getting good ratings and had positive reviews from critics who praised the comedy, satire and performances of Winstone and Connolly. However, opinions were less than positive among the oil industry. While many petrol workers did admit it was very accurate, it was rather mean spirited and too vulgar; to say nothing of the thinly-veiled expies of real life oil corporations such as British Shale (British Petroleum) and Clam (Shell). Many oil company investors and shareholders even reported dips in stock and environmental organisations promoting the show in provocative publicity stunts[8]. As a result, a few episodes in, ITV began to promote Crude less.

It was only a coincidence that Crude aired the same year that the Beatrice Oil rig spill happened. However, the incident brought greater attention to the show even outside of the UK, for its savage and biting commentary on fossil fuels industry. Connolly and the cast would soon be under heavy scrutiny from Shell, BP and oil companies from the UK for openly mocking them. ITV would cancel Crude after one series to help save face. Mind you, even Connolly admitted that given he was cast as Glóin in The Hobbit that year, the show probably wouldn’t have lasted long anyways.

However, Connolly and the cast wouldn’t just go down after their show was off the air. In 1998, they would go on to testify in Parliament on both environmental abuse and the abuses within the oil industry with former oil workers in front of the Beatrice Report, a committee of MPs dedicated to investigating potential abuses in the Beatrice rig. The testimonies would help increase public sympathy for Crude and created even more bad PR to the oil companies that the show ruthlessly made fun of. They’d even raise funds for ex-oil workers to get new and more green jobs.

While Crude didn’t exactly spark the decline of the British oil industry, the show was a factor in its downfall. It definitely happened not directly, but by being part of a larger body. One was long-running political polarisation in the Kinnock years, support for green energy, and the rise of the resurgent environmentalist movement in the UK with oil rigs being frequent targets.

The fall of the British petrol industry was not to last. Eventually starting in the late 2000s, BP and other oil companies would see a rise in production and rising profits and support, helped by the inevitable backlash against left-wing implement changes to promote worker safety and prevent incidents such as the Beatrice from happening again. That’s not to say that the abuses within the oil industry have been stamped out but in a way Crude and Beatrice would pave the way for more reforms. But nevertheless, Crude left its mark on history in a way few briish sitcoms did.
– – – – –
[1] While unknown at the time of writing, a study in 2001 points the answer indeed to a rogue wave, with faulty pumps being the main cause of the explosion. Fourth-order butterflies caused the company that supplied the machinery for it to be different than OTL's and be lower-grade and more likely to break in particularly cold temperatures.
[2] Transocean ran the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico during their oil spill.
[3] Since John Smith was not leader of the opposition from 1992 onwards he is a lot less stressed and therefore does not suffer his second and fatal heart attack in 1994 of OTL.
[4] The rigs of the Beatrice oil field were decommissioned in 2017 OTL and the area was turned into a huge wind farm. With a ruined rig ITTL, it is not likely to be fixed and brought back into service; instead BP will write it off and convert it to a wind farm earlier.
[5] Thatcher was very concerned about the environment and wanted an eco-friendly UK as detailed in a September 1988 speech she gave to the Royal Society. Due to butterflies affecting British politics, Thatcher will be part of the UN Environmental Programme and have a say on the Beatrice incident.
[6] For those who have never heard the word outside of OTL’s The Avengers, Guim’s name is a play on “Quim”, the antiquated version of the C-word (albeit with slightly different spelling). Given the kind of show Crude it is, it would make sense for Connolly to include this word.
[7] Iron Lady hat tip to @jp1421 for suggesting this Margaret Thatcher quote.
[8] This basically becomes an inverted Red Stapler, where a mention of products in media increases demand, but here Crude causes massive backlash against the oil industry simply by showing them in a very bad light.
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The Dead Speak!
Dad of the Dead (1996) and Carmilla (1997): The Strange Link Between These Two Films

From Ron Mayfield of Bloody Scary[1] Netsite, October 31st, 2016
Guest post by @MNM041 and Mr. Harris Syed with assistance from @Plateosaurus
= this film

Today in this Bloody Scary film article, we commemorate the 20th anniversary release of Tom Savini’s meta horror[2] flick Dad of the Dead from Disney’s Fantasia Films but it’s not the only film that we will discuss or even commemorate here. We’ll also be discussing the first horror film directed by, produced by, and starring Mel Brooks, Carmilla, a 90s reinterpretation of Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1871 classic vampire novel released by the masters of horror Universal Pictures and how Brooks was crucial to getting both films made.

While Brooks is of course best known as the man behind classic comedic spoofs such as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Spaceballs, through his work as a producer, Brooks found himself working (often silently) on many dramatic films (most notably David Lynch's Elephant Man), and even a few horror movies (such as David Cronenberg's The Fly). 1997’s Carmilla was Brooks’ first dramatic film in which he wasn’t just the producer but director and actor and you can thank Dad of the Dead for Carmilla’s existence.

You see, not long after the release of 1991's Final Girls, Brooks would meet and end up striking up a friendship with that film's director, George A. Romero, after meeting him at that film's premiere. As fans of each other's works, the friendship between the two resulted in Brooks being inspired to write a love letter of sorts to Romero's work: Dad Of The Dead. The Fantasia-released low budget film[3] starred Nightmare On Elm Street's Robert Englund as a fictionalized version of Romero, making a zombie movie when a real zombie outbreak starts. The fictional Romero, ever the professional, decides to simply incorporate the outbreak into his new movie, much to the horror of his cast. Much of Dad of the Dead’s plot involved Romero trying to make a zombie movie amidst the outbreak whilst keep his cast members and especially his family safe from the flesh-eating zombies with many a Romero zombie movie trope thrown in from the anti-authoritarian left wing satire to humans being secretly terrible people especially when a virus gives them the excuse to kill and steal from each other sometimes for pure amusement and not out of survival. However, the film had a lot of metatextual analysis of Romero zombie movie tropes and the darkness was balanced out by some genuinely heartfelt moments with Romero and his family as well as surprisingly effective bathos to keep things from being too depressing or nihilistic not to mention that (spoilers) Romero and his family survive the outbreak and recent news reports give our protagonists hope that the outbreak will be contained as evidenced by the military making great progress against the zombies. Over the years, Dad of the Dead has been hailed as one of the best meta-horror films of all time as a fascinating exploration of Romero’s ever-lasting influence on the zombie genre and the man himself with great writing, good practical effects and an outstanding performance from Englund. Much like the Chiodo Brothers’ Hawaiian Vamps, Savini’s Dad of the Dead wasn’t exactly the biggest hit at the box office as it was overshadowed by other movies (horror included) but nonetheless gained a cult following over the years from horror fans and you’ll find clips or quotes of the film on horror websites not to mention making Top 10 lists of best ‘90s horror flicks including this very netsite.


An earlier version of this with a much bigger budget and no found footage aspect.

Now, here’s where we get into the nitty and gritty details of how Brooks ended up directing Carmilla. Brooks wrote the script for Dad of the Dead and originally intended to direct it as well, but became intrigued by a project he had heard about through Romero and Tom Savini: a then-contemporary adaptation of the 1871 classic vampire novel Carmilla by Irish author Sheridan Le Fanu. Much like Dad of the Dead, Carmilla was going to be directed by someone else, in this case, Wes Craven, who wrote the screenplay for the film as early as 1993. The more seasoned Craven had become bogged down by other projects which delayed Carmilla’s production for a few more years. He attempted to sell the project to others but had yet to find any takers; this is where Brooks came in. He read the script, liked it and briefly suggested to Romero that he work on it. As Romero put it during a 1996 interview on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien "... And I pretty much remember telling Mel, "Why don't you do it? You're talented enough." Additionally, Romero was too busy directing the Witch Mania flick Season of the Witch and so Brooks would end up taking Romero’s suggestion with Universal, given their long, illustrious history of horror films.

As a result, Fantasia’s Dad of the Dead would be directed by Tom Savini, who was originally brought on to just do the makeup and practical effects. Unlike his previous horror-related film An American Werewolf in America, Carmilla would be a drama about the danger-fuelled relationship between a young college student named Laura Hollis (based on the original character from the novel) and the seemingly ordinary Carmilla Karnstein, a lesbian vampire harboring dark secrets. Brooks had worked on serious and sometimes bleak, hopeless films before, but he always tended to hide his involvement so that audiences wouldn’t mistake them for comedies but Carmilla would be the first time he decided to put his name on a serious film as mentioned above. He knew it would be challenging to make Carmilla and expected the film to be somewhat controversial upon release, given the titular character's status as essentially the prototypical example of the predatory, lustful lesbian vampire. To avoid potential pitfalls for Carmilla, Brooks decided to turn Laura into an outright lesbian, the hero of her own story, so that he wouldn’t face accusations of homophobia and appeal to LGBT audiences. He also made Carmilla herself into an anti-hero who hunted evil vampires and human stalkers and genuinely didn’t want to hurt Laura for good measure in addition to an entirely new character named Dean Harland Griffin as the antagonist who hunted our protagonists and their loved ones with his band of vampire goons[4].

The film itself is a somewhat loose adaptation of the novel, with the setting changed from 19th century Austria to then-present day America and our main character Laura (played by Alicia Witt) is studying journalism at the fictional Silas University in New York. When her original roommate, Becky, goes missing, she's assigned a new roommate, Carmilla (played by Clea DuVall), who is described as "something of a brooding loner", a student that doesn’t have any friends or spend much time around campus. Doing some digging into Carmilia’s personal history, Laura and her friends discover that her former roommate isn't the only girl to have abruptly gone missing from Silas. The movie follows Laura's investigation and her relationship with Carmilla, which progresses from hostile to romantic over the course of the film. Meanwhile, the university's mysterious Dean Harland Griffin (played by Leslie Nielsen) is up to something that can't be good, and they’re proven right when they discover Carmilla isn't the only vampire at Silas, with the Dean, and several members of staff being revealed to be vampires as well and they’re responsible for killing Silas students, but most don’t know about it nor do they believe that there are actual vampires on campus since as Laura’s father Richard (played unsurprisingly by Brooks himself) puts it “Everyone believes they’re the stuff of legends and Universal movies”. Richard and his old friend William Spielsdorf (played by Gene Wilder) believe that Carmilla and her friends intend to turn Laura into them so they decide that they must die. In true Carmilla fashion, Carmilla reveals herself to be Mircalla but this is where things go off in an unexpected direction. At first, it looks like that Carmilla might be the villain only for her to reveal to Laura that she didn’t want to harm her and just wanted to be her lover before William and Richard come in and try to kill her only to be stopped. It’s later revealed that the Dean had been pulling the strings all along to eliminate Carmilla and her friends because he knew she would try to put a stop to his bloodthirsty quest for power and had some of the university staff or students to kill her. Laura and Carmilla team up to take down the Dean once and for all. After the climactic battle with Griffin and his goons, Laura and Carmilla enter into a full-blown romantic relationship and finally become lovers even if Laura may never see her father again given his distrust of vampires ending the movie on a hopeful, bittersweet note.

Upon release, Carmilla was well-received by critics and audiences for it’s performances, cinematography, the chilling score and depiction of its LGBT protagonists. Many were impressed that Brooks could do drama and was more than just the guy behind funny spoofs. Horror fans were delighted to see a modern adaptation of Carmilla that preserved the essence of the novel although novel fans were mixed over the film’s changes especially whether it was a good idea to make Carmilla more heroic or not. Coupled with the success of Brooks’ other horror outing An American Werewolf in America, Carmilla did very well at the box office grossing $67 million on a budget of only $19 million and won a large LGBT audience in the process thanks to its portrayal of the titular vampire as a flawed yet sympathetic person who doesn’t want to turn Laura into a vampire. Nowadays, many hold up Carmilla as a testament of what Brooks can do as a director, producer and actor of a dramatic movie, as well as Leslie Nielsen and Gene Wilder earning praise for taking on much more serious roles than many were used to prior.

Despite the sharp differences between these two films, they remain inexplicably intertwined with Brooks. While Dad of the Dead is a meta-horror, befitting of its premise, Carmilla is a film that plays all of its ideas (ironically) very straight. Many were shocked to see this gothic vampire film come from Mel Brooks, but nevertheless, Carmilla certainly opened doors for him to direct, produce and act in more dramatic fare over the years most notably the time travel Holocaust film The Devil’s Arithmetic with Scarlett Johansson[5]. For all of us horror aficionados out there, Brooks brought us two amazing horror films that are still fondly remembered to this day.

[1] Basically it’s the Hensonverse equivalent to OTL’s Bloody Disgusting.
[2] Meta-horror is a sub-genre of horror unique to TTL that analyzes common horror tropes and see how they would play out in real life or to viciously dismantle them and create something new in it’s place. In both cases, there are a lot of existentialist and philosophical themes and ideas explored in these films that separate them from your typical horror flick. The genre started with the Smart Slashers of the mid to late 80s and has since extended into non-slasher horror flicks in the 90s and beyond.
[3] The budget for Dad of the Dead is $7 million if you’re wondering.
[4] From MNM041: “I’ll admit the property related to Carmilla that I'm most familiar with is the web series, so I based the movie off that”. Plus, given the existence of works like The Song of Susan and No Worries not to mention the Anita Hill scandal, Brooks would be compelled to portray Carmilla in a somewhat more positive light than the original novel.
[5] And just what will Brooks do with The Devil’s Arithmetic…stay tuned.
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Well, I should point out that, in my head, Blackadder: MI5 is canon. And I'm sure we were going to fix up that entry so it was made canon - because Blackadder: MI5 was a great idea and there was no au fait reason as to why we couldn't fit in.

I think we can retcon something...

I've been thinking about this for a while now -- my main problem being that I don't like the idea of the sixties-set Blackadder coming before the fifties-set one, but pushing it forward means it hasn't happened yet, which is annoying but doable. But that was before the For King Queen and Country post, and I'm now quite prepared to say that as far as I'm concerned, Blackadder 005 is Non-Canon. I just don't see Atkinson doing two Bond spoofs so close together.

I'd also like to mention that I'd never been sure about Blackadder in the Fifth, because whenever I pictured it, it was Atkinson and Robinson making fools of themselves in short trousers and peaked caps, and the idea of just having some more age-appropriate recasts is genius.

Oil Rig Explosion and Spill in Scotland causes Ecological and Economic Disaster

Good lord. TTL me ... probably couldn't quite see that from his window, but close!
A Bus and a Rock
Chapter 20: A Sporting Chance (Cont’d)
Excerpt from The King is Dead: The Walt Disney Company After Walt Disney, an Unauthorized History by Sue Donym and Arman N. Said
Guest post by @jpj1421 with assistance from Mr. Harris Syed


Scouts watching top football prospect Lawrence Phillips practice. Source (https://thelab.bleacherreport.com/the-final-fateful-days-of-lawrence-phillips/)

April of 1996 would set the stage for much of the oncoming drama for the Disney sports affiliates of Anaheim and the Los Angeles area. The Avengers would once again lose to the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs while the Angels would try to bounce back after their fall collapse. The Angels would hover around .500 for the first couple of months of the season, before going on a complete collapse starting in July on their way to being the worst team in the American League[1]. It would be the NFL Draft at the end of April that would bring to a head the conflict between the practicalities of team development and the more culturally focused ownership that had been brewing under the surface during the 1995 season. It revolved around Jerome Bettis and the potential acquisition of a replacement running back.

Jerome Bettis had been a shining star for the 1993 and 1994 Rams, even securing Offensive Rookie of the year in 1993. That was exactly why the Disney marketing campaign picked him for their ads, well that and the feeling that the other star Dwayne Johnson didn’t fit the image. But Bettis would actually struggle in the 1995 season, in what some journalists and even coaches thought was a sign that he was already past his prime, but really stemmed from the management designing plays not to his strengths. Bettis was asked whether he would be willing to return to fullback, a position he had played in college but he declined[2]. When word got to Ron Miller that the word trade had been floated to Bettis, he sought to nip that talk in the bud and instead advocate on Bettis behalf and encourage plays that better suited his skill sets. This, of course, was very annoying to the coaches and scouts tasked with improving the quality of play but was largely tolerated because of Miller’s cache; besides, the scouts could just look for a replacement player regardless. This made the back half of the season incredibly awkward behind the scenes, which may have contributed to how the Rams only won two games after Halloween in 1995.

Awkwardness turned into outright bitterness and warfare behind the scenes when scouting set their sights on Lawrence Phillips from the University of Nebraska, a running back who was widely considered a top 5, if not the top, prospect in the 1996 draft. The problem was a series of violent crimes, most notoriously an alleged assault against an ex, that led to his arrest and whose temporary suspension, rather than permanent ban, from the team was controversial and drew national attention[3]. Miller, and Rams media partner Disney, were horrified at this prospect. Phillips didn’t match the Disney brand, which had actually gone to lengths to clean up their sexism and harassment issues after the Anita Hill case (to varying degrees of success), and didn’t someone around who would sully their names and could very well face legal difficulties without helping the team. Bettis was a known quantity, marketing wise, who wouldn’t possibly sink the whole Disney-Rams relationship. As the Draft was approaching in April 1996 tensions boiled over with Miller and team development in shouting matches over the possibility of trading Bettis and taking on Phillips. Disney was threatening to pull their marketing arrangements and washing their hands of the whole affair, which could be considered a bluff if Disney’s discomfort with Dwayne Johnson’s harmless antics hadn’t been made clear. Team development dug in their heels to say that the decision was theirs and theirs alone. Which proved to be wrong, as the newly minted St. Louis Stallions[4] ended up scooping up Phillips on their on to stick it to the Rams for not coming to their town; all of the drama had of course been in the press, and the benefactors of the new team were the same that had sought the Rams in the first place. This left the Rams in an awkward lurch, picking wide receiver Terry Glenn as their backup draft pick and leaving them with Bettis who knew the coaching staff and scouts wanted him gone. In the long run, petty move for St. Louis would blowback on them far more than the Rams as Phillips and his off the field tendencies came to the fore in the 97 season, but the Rams had the summer to try to put all of the ugliness behind them before season began in the fall.

Training camp was marred by quick tempers and poor communication. Bettis was, understandably, distracted and the rest of the team struggled to navigate the tension between the coaches and Bettis. The various ownership blocks were quite chilly with each other making any communication strategy for the team quite muddled and the press were hanging around the camp to see the fallout from the whole draft controversy. Despite his behavior driving some on the corporate side crazy during the past season, Johnson hamming it up to the cameras and drawing some attention away from everyone else may have been a relief to some on the team and its orbit. The chatter in football circles was over how the team was doomed to backslide and flounder due to the top down level of disorganization and distrust. Going into the first week everyone was expecting a disaster. Their first game was against the Cincinnati Bengals, who had done exactly as well as the Rams the previous season, but with all the drama with the Rams and also the Angels were completely collapsing in the back half of their season proving to the Disney skeptics once again their belief that Disney and sports did not mix. Of course, this did sell tickets and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was actually full to capacity to see how bad the Rams would actually be. But then they just won the game 22-16[5]. It wasn’t exactly pretty, and the disorganization was there but Bettis could still run the ball and Johnson could still sack a quarterback. Rookie Terry Glenn turned out to fit in quite well with that new passing scheme they were trying. They proved that whatever else may be going on that wasn't just going to roll over.

Of course, the next week they got walloped by the San Francisco 49ers the very next week, managing only a field goal, providing ammunition to the doubters; even if it was against the previous year’s #2 seed. This was followed by a bye week to stew in that loss only to bounce back in a win against the New York Giants[6]. They would go onto a losing skid for a few weeks before a narrow win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The rest of the season fell into a back and forth where they would win one game and then lose another, shaking off much of the off the field issues that dogged them during spring training and in the early season. While they would only split the season 8-8,there was plenty to be optimistic about. Their lopsided 62-12 win over the Atlanta Falcons was the highest point tally since 1989. Also, they beat the meddling Stallions by a touchdown helping to send them on their losing 4-12 season. And due to a general weakness in the NFC, the 6th seed went to the also 8-8 Vikings[7] who edged them out in the tie-breaker. After everything, they almost fell backwards into the playoffs anyway and would have managed it if not for field goal losses to the Panthers and Cardinals during their season. Despite everything, there was potential in the team if everyone involved could just hold together. And potential there was for the Rams next season and beyond.

[1] As per IOTL
[2] All of this is also per IOTL
[3] Unlikely the same exact situations as IOTL, but alas I see no reason why similar situations wouldn’t occur.
[4] This would be the original Cleveland Browns team that moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens IOTL. In this case, Art Modell remains the majority owner of the Stallions with James Orthwein and Stan Kroenke as minority owners as a result of Orthwein and the city of St. Louis offering a sweetheart deal for a new stadium in exchange for the former becoming a part-. Lastly, the Browns get a similar treatment from OTL in which the original Browns’ records and history are left behind for a new iteration of the team in 1999 while the Stallions are considered an "expansion team" as noted by @Geekhis Khan. From @jpj1421: Apologies to my brother in law for butterflying away his favorite team.
[5] Replaced a Rams touchdown with a field goal compared to the OTL game.
[6] The Rams actually did worse in their division in 1995 ITTL despite having the same record to IOTL due to butterflies in the NFC giving the Panthers and Saints an extra win relative to IOTL
[7] The Vikings had to face the Saints instead of the Panthers knocking them down by 1 game, but they still beat out Washington and the Rams for the tie breaker.
Aum on Trial
Chapter 8: A Cult of Terror in Japan Continued
Excerpt from Lost Decade/Found Decade: The Transformation of Postwar Japan from 1989 to 2009 By Daniel Ambrose Retrieved via Netsite Archive
Guest post by @ajm888 with assistance from Mr. Harris Syed and @Plateosaurus


Shoko Asahara being transported to Hachioji Branch of the Tokyo District Court (Source: Getty and BBC)

The Assassination of Shoko Asahara

On June 5th 1995, the international press was assembled along Koshu-Kaido Ave outside the Tokyo District Court Hachioji Annex. Security was tight, the police expected armed members of Aum Shinrikyo to attack, they had riot police and the SAP (Special Armed Police) ready to repel any attack. But with the Aum organization essentially in a state of near total disintegration as most non-fantaical members had left after March and April. Many fanatics were arrested after April 15th. A small handful remained in the wind.

The Russian and American governments had declared Aum Shinrikyo a terrorist organization and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government was going to revoke its religious status even going to the Supreme Court of Japan as no one had revoked religous status since before World War II. But that was still off for later in 1995[1]. The world wanted to see Shoko Asahara’s first day in court.

It was decided by senior government officials that the press would be allowed to swarm the “perp walk” as Asahara was being led down a gauntlet of cameras that the media had been allowed to set up. This would be big news so the Japanese government had wanted this arraignment to be sort of a pageant parade showing the guilt of Asahara and they would allow all the eyes of the world on the Hachioji Court Annex[2] and the case.They planned for the case to go perfectly. But Asahara would not even enter the building.

The gauntlet was set up with random media outlets getting their spot assigned by lottery. This was a result of complaints by the international press not getting hardly any spots before. So the Tokyo Police Metropolitan Department, wanting to look good as did the Tokyo prosecutor’s office, made a lottery system that would allow the press positions along the “gauntlet”. It allowed a wide variety of Japanese and international networks to mingle. Televisia and TV Asahi cameramen were next to each other, reporters from France 2 and ABC (Australia) were chatting, CNN and ARD were making sure they could connect with their head office, and even Biwako Broadcasting Co. had gotten in the lottery by sheer luck so they had a clip of Asahara walking into court for the next morning’s morning news show.

At 9:15 AM, Shoko Asahara left the Shinjuku police station, he was escorted by a massive convoy of police with military support ready along with the recently publicly revealed Special Assault Police unit was on the way to Hachioji. The whole convoy was watched by helicopters and monitored closely. It arrived at 10:30.

Upon leaving the van, Asahara was swarmed by reporters from various Japanese and international newspapers. The news broadcasters were going to ask questions closer to their cameras. It was chaos as some of the more mobile camera units were able to keep up as they kept Asahara at a brisk pace. Twenty meters from the door Asahara and his police escort were stopped by the sheer number of reporters that were asking questions. It was in this blockage Asahara suddenly grimaced and let out a sharp pained gasp.

Standing in front of Asahara was a man with a press badge from a local newspaper from Tottori, the man was in a brown suit and wore glasses, he was slightly taller than Asahara. Asahara was still letting out these pained noises, no one one knew what they were for a few seconds until the knife appeared. The assassin went from stabbing Asahara in the stomach to hitting him in the neck, face and chest. Suddenly, police officers were trying their best but this man seemed to have a lot of strength in his stabbing of Asahara. The assassin made no noise other than grunting and straining noises. The first knife the assassin used, was a gyuto knife, was an all purpose chef’s knife for cutting flesh of fish and beef. The stabbing motions and cuts the killer was making seemed to be as if made by a man with experience in use of a knife. A cop after a few blows by his police baton to the assassin’s arm was able to get the knife loose and sent it into the crowd. The assassin quickly then pulled his second knife, a nakiri, a type of Japanese cleaver, small but effective for chopping vegetables. With the nakiri, the assassin began chopping at Asahara’s neck, arterial spray hit reporters, police, and the crowd that was curious to watch the terrorist enter the courthouse[3]. The police after two minutes were able to pull the assassin from Asahara’s body. Chizuo Matsumoto who renamed himself Shoko Asahara was pronounced dead at Tokyo Medical University Hachioji Medical Center forty minutes later.

The CNN, Biwako Broadcasting, RTE, RAI, VTR, TF1, TV2 (Denmark), KBS, ABC (Australia), NTV, ITV, and Televisa reporters and cameramen were the closest to the assassination those networks had the lead over their peers. Biwako and CNN had the best views of the assassination with the killing happening right in front of their locations. Though it once again caused people in the UK to think they had footage when it was Biwako Broadcasting Company (BBC), leading to an alleged meltdown of a senior member of BBC News management[4]. CNN would, with some edits, show the assassination on not just their channel but CBS[5]. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation would run a special piece on the assassination on their version of 60 Minutes[6]. Many other broadcasters ran specials on the public assassination of Shoko Asahara which many in Japan compared to the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald after he murdered President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

After his feverish attack, the assassin calmly gave up as the adrenaline and excitement wore off. The assassin stayed quiet apart from telling the police to look in his hotel. Eyewitness reports of the assassin from the time state he was in the Hachioji police station, staying quiet and shaking. He entered a zen like state. Though the initial media reports stated he was cackling like a mad man, he was sobbing, or just incoherently mumbling[7]. Later reports stated he was silent only telling police to go to his hotel room.

In the hotel room of the reporter's identity they found a drunk man tied up and gagged. This was the reporter that the assassin had borrowed his identity. The reporter, Takejiro Chiziwa, was with the Nihonkai Shimbun, a regional newspaper based in Tottori[8]. They then found the identity of the assassin, left in the rooms were passport, driver’s license, insurance card, government ID badge from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, family pictures of a man that was not Takejiro Chizawa, but head of the Tottori office and Chugoku deputy regional director of the MAFF, Kenichi Hoshino[9].

Who was Kenichi Hoshino?

Kenichi Hoshino was born outside of Tottori in 1944. His father had avoided military draft due to his job as a postal worker, the elder Hoshino was 42 when his son was born. Kenichi’s father after the war opened a small izakaya in Tottori.

His childhood was dealing with the post-war wreckage and rebuilding of Japan. As a 16 year student he was supportive of the Miike Mitsui Miners in their strike, he opposed the American-backed Security Treaty, was supportive of the Space Race, and despite the atomic horrors unleashed on nearby Hiroshima he supported nuclear power. He would go to Tottori university. At university he dealt with classism directed at him as his father and family were Burakumin, a low born class of people in Japan often viewed negatively for a large swath of their history. Despite efforts of the Burakumin Liberation League (BKD) and others discrimination still existed at that time. But Kenichi persisted, graduating from Tottori University with degrees in agricultural engineering he went to Osaka for degrees in administration and government.

Kenichi Hoshino would join the government bureaucracy. He was recruited right from university for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Fisheries would not be added until 1978. He was a slow climber at first being shifted around the whole of Japan. He often received the ire of local farmers when he suggested alternative pesticides, tried to warn farmers the risk of chemical run off, and stated that forcing Japanese people to buy rice from Japan only would be taxing on poorer families. He voiced his disdain for Tanaka, Nakasone, Takeshita, and others

“Hoshino found a way to fight his fights, quietly but still with a passion. He was like that in the bureaucracy of the MAFF.” said Chojiro Shiraki, a Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries bureaucrat who was Hoshino’s apprentice and later a senior aide to Hoshino in the Tottori Agricultural Administration Office of the Chugoku-Shikoku Agricultural Administration Bureau.

“My Senpai, Hoshino-san was a pain to some, he would help many others in his assigned department, wherever they put him. Eventually he came back to Tottori. It was here he had his fights, well, disagreements with Takeshita and Shin Kanemaru in the neighboring Shimane Prefecture. He also knew the Abe Family, but seldom clashed with them.” Shiraki said in an interview.

“Hoshino-san was for all purposes a normal Japanese bureaucrat, who you may see visiting a farm, a forest, maybe doing a report on the Tottori Sand Dunes. But his home life was normal, his wife did some jobs to help pay the bills, his kids he was devoted to. But on rare occasions he would show us his talent for cooking. He was a masterful amatuer, as he said.” Shiraki states.

“I was a pain in the ass. I know they weren’t happy with my pushing for American and other foreign rice as they depend on local farmers for their votes. But I kept at it, I was known as a hard case but they still promoted me slowly. Finally after the end of the economic miracle I really started climbing… Then my wife gets cancer.” Hoshino told an interviewer from the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). “The doctors say they can help her and they do but the cancer had spread too far by that point. She died in September of 1993. She at least got to see Takako Doi become Prime Minister in 1993. Makiko was everything to me. She was a passionate woman who could say things better than I ever could. To see her just wither away… It gnaws at my bones still.” Hoshino was reported to have been crying at this point.

Makiko Hoshino had given birth to two sons in the 1960s with Hoshino, he later revealed that the couple had a third child, a daughter but they had given the girl to Hoshino’s younger brother, Souta. The two sons were Kiyoshi and Daiki.

“Makiko loved my nephews, while she loved the daughter she gave birth to, my wife and I loved our daughter Keiko.” Souta Hoshino told reporters. “Makiko’s death hit Kenichi hard. He really was adrift. Then Daiki found Ayaka. Daiki was in college at the time and met Ayaka at a karaoke party”. They eventually would marry in early 1994. And in early September 1994 they would tell Kenichi that Ayaka was pregnant. Things seemed to be turning around for Kenichi. Then…


Kobe, Japan after January 17th, 1995. A city in ruins. CREDIT: GETTY IMAGE

Kiyoshi was working for a shipping company in Kobe and was likely asleep when the Great Hanshin Earthquake hit on January 17th, 1995. His home was an older style house design to counter typhoons, not built to earthquake safety standards. Also Kobe had not had a major earthquake hit the city in 400 years. Kiyoshi’s home twisted and buckled and fell on top of him. An autopsy was not sure if he died from the collapse, gas leaks or the fires. His corpse was found partially burned.

This disaster hit Kenichi Hoshino hard. To him a son should not die before the father. That felt unnatural. “Kenichi would pour himself into helping his youngest son and his daughter in-law with their future. Using some old connections from college, Kenichi got his surviving son an interview slot at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries on April 15th, 1995. He would at least try to give his son an edge.” Chojiro Shiraki said this to interviewers from the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) in 2015.

It is unknown if Daiki Hoshino made it to the interview. The interview was scheduled at 11:00 AM. He was on the 10:17 train that arrived at Kasumigaseki. A survivor from the collapsed subway station said he heard Hosino crying for a few minutes before he went silent.

Ayaka was informed of this and Kenichi had to go to Tokyo and identify his son. “I don’t think he said a thing other than asking for directions the whole time.” Souta Hoshino said in a CNN Japan interview in 2015, “Ayaka was hysterical and Kenichi had to be strong. Kenichi always had an anger in him and it is never good when he is quiet that long. I know my brother, silence in him is something, something that is building. Then when Ayaka gave birth, it was a difficult pregnancy.”

“My daughter-in law died from complications due to childbirth. I still believe she died because Daiki died. I saw my granddaughter, Moriko. I was happy some part of Daiki was alive, but the fact that this monster Asahara took my child from me, took Ayaka from her parents, and denied Moriko from knowing her parents. I was angry…” Hoshino said in his NHK interview in 2015.

Hoshino began talking about how he was worried how Asahara would get off from the crime. “They’ll drop the case because they’ll get scared they don’t have enough evidence for that 99% conviction rate! Or worse they’ll charge him with a lesser crime they can get him on!” That is what I remember Hoshino saying when he got blind drunk one day before going on grief leave.” Chojiro Shiraki remembered.

“I knew he’d get off, I knew it. Or the trial would take a decade and he’d be out on bail or something because he was blind. I mean Kakuei Tanaka stayed out of prison from October 1983 until his death in 1993![10] He was still a major powerbroker despite being found fucking guilty!” Hoshino told interviewers in 2015, “If anyone could get away with it it was Asahara! Man was a master manipulator and if the courts fell for Tanaka’s bullshit they’d fall for Asahara’s woe is me, nonsense.”

Witnesses saw Hoshino become more deranged, angry, hurt and also close to an old friend. Takejiro Chiziwa, a college friend from his days at Tottori University. Close friends that both families seemed uneasy about their eerie close resemblance.

“There was a reason for the resemblance, something that only I and my parents knew, Chizawa is our sibling. We were a poor family back then, unable to feed so many mouths, so my parents gave Chizawa up for adoption back then[11]. Kenichi's older brother Aoki. “By 1954 we could afford Souta but in 1947? We were lucky to get our business off the ground.”

Takejiro Chiziwa was not used to being a part of the story, “We caught up and I was bragging about how I was going to be on the Asahara “perp walk” for the paper’s reporting on the event. I must admit, I was beaming. I did not know Hoshino was plotting. He told me he had lost his sons and I drank with him. I did not expect to see him in Tokyo the day before the arraignment.”

“I already had the knives, I liked to cook. But I really don’t remember too much of my planning.” Hoshino recalled.

The day before the arraignment, Hoshino arrived in Tokyo with a suitcase with two knives. A gyuto knife as the primary and the nakiri knife as the backup. As soon as Hoshino saw Asahara, he rushed to stab him to death.

“I remember bits and pieces of that day but I am not sure of everything I did. I just remember arriving in Tokyo and taking Chiziwa out to drink. I don’t remember killing Asahara, all I remember is what I saw on TV. I know it sounds insane but I have no memory of it.”

The Trial and Fame of Kenichi Hoshino

“The thing I remember from the pre-trial was how the prosecution went from a certain win to them losing all confidence.” Attorney Tomiji Koda would recall defending his client Kenichi Hoshino, “Proving insanity in Japan is difficult but my client’s lack of memory of the incident and his change in attitude at the police station proved to me that he had a mental break. So I made sure to request a psychological examination. While typically they think he is a normal member of society when such a tragedy occured and so much happened, he had a psychological break. I used a previous incident of Hoshino’s. As a teen he’d beaten up a bunch of bullies after his grandfather’s death. Prosecutor’s in Japan do not want to be a losing prosecutor and even if they could find holes in my defense most of the judges, the prosecutors themselves, and court staff knew victims from the Tokyo Central Court. They dropped the case. They found he had suffered temporary insanity and while he could have been held liable under Japanese law, prosecutors did not want to touch this case and lose as Hoshino was a sympathetic defendant. The judges would have felt some sympathy for him. I asked one of the judges some years later and he said, “It is hard not to feel sympathy for Hoshino.” Koda stated.

“I bet they wish they would put me in prison. I lost my job as no way would the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries want me working there. After getting off in late 1996, my attorney suggested that I was not responsible for my actions, that the government was responsible as they had failed to stop Aum from these attacks and the media had helped spread the group’s message and enabled them to go after opponents. As we would see the lawsuit of that lawyer’s family against Tokyo Broadcasting Systems (TBS)[12] and I would open my big mouth and expose many open secrets I knew. Embezzlement, corruption, a vote in the country is worth two in the city, and the ties to organized crime and many politicians and businesses, just to name a few.”

Hoshino would conduct his first post-trial interview with actor, musician, comedian, director, and TV personality Takeshi Kitano. The interview at one point got heated when Hoshino scolded Takeshi, “People like you enabled Asahara and his cronies to get as big as he did. If the press was more interested in an actual story and not a funny story about a weird cult lead by a blind guy who probably suffered from Minamata disease who preached the end of the world maybe thousands would not be maimed by sarin nerve agent, and thousands would not be disabled from the April 15th attacks! You’re made the decision to not be newsmen! But to have this freakshow you call informative entertainment television!” Hoshino would leave the interview in a huff.

No one thought the assassin of Shoko Asahara would become a regular on Japanese TV talking about either cults, corruption, or one time on the Tottori Sand dunes but something about Hoshino resonated with the people of Japan. He was an everyman in a sense; he was not famous, he had suffered more than most, and he was frustrated. The very fact that Asahara was responsible for the worst terrorist attacks in Japanese history brought plenty of controversy to not just Aum Shinrikyo but Takeshi Kitano, the media, and the govenment; and Hoshino was seen as a hero in the eyes of many Japanese.

Legacy and Worldwide Impact

Kenichi Hoshino’s assasination of Shoko Asahara would be a major event in Japanese history. Much like the televised killing of Japan Socialist Party leader Inejiro Asanuma by ultranationalist Otoya Yamaguchi in 1960 this was recorded on numerous cameras, and was broadcast live or rebroadcast later in the day to the rest of the world. The assassination was considered a hard ending for Aum. The changes that his killing brought about cannot be understated in the decades since it happened. Now when a high profile suspect in Japan is brought in they are required to wear a stab vest, they are brought in by the back of the courthouse, and security is much tighter.

Many members of Aum’s “cabinet” who were captured and arrested were given life sentences as a minimum, while 18 members were given death sentences, including most involved in the brutal Sakamoto family murders. The trials spanned over a decade as many cult members would be tried across Japan, most would go to jail for only a year or two for minor crimes, the 18 who faced the death penalty were connected to abuse cases, the Tokyo Sarin attack, the 4/15 attacks, the Matsumoto attacks, and numerous murders that the cult committed. Some of the trials went fast as the defendant had confessed to their crimes, others refused to confess. They would become known as the Tokyo Trials and to this day, they remain the most famous trials in Japanese history. Only two major Aum Shinrikyo attackers remain at large, Akira Yamagata, the mastermind of the 4/15 attacks; and Hideo Murai, a perpetrator of the Sakamoto family murders and the number two man at the Cult’s Ministry of Science and Technology and later it’s minister.The missing Yamagata and Murai in particular launched numerous Internet conspiracy boards of alleged sightings of the men from places like Anaheim Disneyland to Cape Town, South Africa. There were serious investigations with the two being on the FBI’s most wanted list and Interpol putting a Red Notice on both men. As of 2012, they were not found[13].

The impact on Japanese media of this killing was noticeable with plots in detective shows having a victim’s father (and on occasion mother or son) kill the suspect in a public manner. The first such recreation outside of detective shows happened with 15 April, a 2002 NHK miniseries on 4/15 and the subsequent assassination of Shoko Asahara. Kenichi Hoshino in the series was played by actor Ken Tanaka, who had met with Hoshino to get permission for Hoshino himself and understand what Hoshino remembers. “He is an interesting character. He was like anyone else you’d see on the nightly commuter train. And then some event happened that made him this way.” said Tanaka in a press release in 2002 for the miniseries. Footage of 15 April would also be used in A Year of Terror, a PBS miniseries in 2006 that showed the attacks in Tokyo and the American response to the Sword of Liberty’s Washington DC bombing and other attacks by exteremist groups around the world[14].

The killing also had a huge impact on anime and manga in the 1990s. For instance, a chapter and episode of Gosho Aoyama’s mystery series Detective Conan[15] had the titular character investigate the case of a cult leader killed by the brother of a terrorist attack victim. However, there was another murder that was happening during the assassination that was committed by a reporter present at the incident. In Satoshi Kon’s surreal psychological thriller Perfect Blue[16], Rumi stabs a photographer to death for taking nude photos of idol turned actress Mima Kawagoe in a manner similar to Kenichi Hoshino killing Shoko Asahara. Kon stated on the 10th anniversary of the film's release that he told his animation staff to watch the Asahara assassination as a reference point for how Rumi would kill the photographer. "Cowboy Funk", an episode of the space western Cowboy Bebop[17], had bounty hunters Spike Spiegel and Andy kill a Shoko Asahara-esque leader of an Aum Shinrikyo inspired terrorist organization in retaliation for a deadly bombing on Mars that claimed hundreds inside a high-rise building. Similarly, Studio Gainax's Neon Genesis Evangelion included it's own references to 4/15 and the Asahara assassination with the Angel Ramiel blowing up a government building in Tokyo-3 followed by Shinji Ikari fatally stabbing after severely weakening him with the EVA-02 Unit's gun[18]. The shonen action series One Piece and Rurouni Kenshin[19] had a few allusions to the event such as Himura Kenshin going after a cult leader conducting a campaign of terror against the Meiji government or Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates fighting a group of religious fanatics from an island. Additionally, an expy of Aum Shinrikyo would also be featured in the 2000s superhero series Birdy the Mighty, an adaptation of a manga series that ran from 1985 to 1988 with George Gomez, the main antagonist, leading a terrorist cult committing attacks throughout Japan and the world only to be killed by Birdy with her alien knife. Even the children’s anime franchises Doraemon and Sazae-san had their titular characters deliver public service announcements on national television urging viewers to donate to the victims of the 4/15 attacks.

On the tokusatsu side of things, several Super Sentai series, Kamen Rider, Ultraman and other shows of the genre from the decade would use the plot of a cult triggering an ancient evil, a monster, aliens, or other various evils. They also had the hero who defeated these evils not be the main heroes of the show but a side character who was meant as a Hoshino-esque everyman.

Outside of Japan, the attacks and assassination of Shoko Asahara would also have a large influence on American media given the country’s familiarity with militant cults. In comics, Marvel’s Punisher would take out the terrorist organization God’s Will and stabbed their leader with the assistance of a cop after they detonated a truck filled with deadly explosives in New York City killing thousands of innocent people while DC and Vertigo’s John Constantine fought a deranged group of cannibalistic, murderous cultists who bombed various locations in London and achieved a goal to summon a powerful demon. Such storylines were not limited to trenchcoat anti-heroes either as the Big Two’s most famous superheroes such as the Justice League and the Avengers fought supervillains modeled after Aum Shinrikyo and received help from average citizens wanting to destroy these cults even if it meant enacting brutal justice. The Aum Shinrikyo attacks and Asahara assassination along with fhe Sword of Liberty's campaign of terror also inspired the depiction of Gilead in the 2001-2006 HBO adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale[20] in which the fundamentalist terrorist group the Sons of Jacob used a truck to blow up the Pentagon along with sarin attacks in the Washington DC subway and Offred (real name Kate Osbourne) fatally stabbing Commander Fred Waterford with a knife. Meanwhile, the attacks and assassination would be most famously used in CBS’s Law and Order as a plot device in in a 1997 season opening two part episode, where a right-wing doomsday Christian cult known as New Dawn posioned a New York City subway car and then later detonated a massive bomb near New York City Hall. The manhunt for the cult leader finds Isaiah Goodman (played by William Sadler) caught in a high-profile arrest by the NYPD. In the first part, the detectives after Goodman’s arrest have to deal with his babbling and Goodman’s take on the end times only to be killed by a woman who lost her son (played by Ann Dowd). In the second part, Jack and his Associate District Attorney have to deal with Fiona Franks (played by Lesley Ann Warren), a teacher and cornerstone of the community, and her attorney Glenn Masters (played by Christopher McDonald) after they’re revealed to be members of New Dawn as well as the other leading members of the cult. Franks is discovered being the number two in the cult after Goodman being chiefly responsible for security, indoctrination, and propaganda. It is discovered that Franks had persuaded a major news network (NNC as a nod to CNN) to break confidentiality on a lawyer that was going to sue the cult for financial fraud and emotional damages. The New Dawn cultists killed the attorney that was suing them. Franks is found guilty and Masters loses his law license and is arrested by federal agents for tax fraud and using the US Mail to send fraudulent checks. Despite New Dawn being taken down as District Attorney Adam Schiff (played by Steven Hill) warns, “Some other shaman, religious leader, strongman, or some nut is going to come along and promise to find a solution to the ills of the world and it often leads to violence. I saw it with Hitler and Stalin, we saw it in Texas, Tokyo, and Washington with those cult leaders. And we saw it here in New York with Goodman. There will be other Goodmans sadly, their stories will be different, but what they sell is all the same. Bloodshed and misery.” Right as the episode ends Schiff gets a call that Franks was killed at Rykers by a prisoner who lost a brother in the subway attack. The episode was given numerous Primetime Emmy nominations and won three for Outstanding Supporting Actor (Steven Hill), Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series.

Aside from Law and Order, many other Western films and television shows used the Asahara assassination angle in their stories, even if they didn’t deal with religious extremism. For instance, an episode of NYPD Blue had an Italian mob boss (played by Alex Rocco), kill his rival (played by Gianni Russo) and the son of the slain mob boss stabs the surviving boss in a public press conference witnessed by the main characters, (the son was played by Jason Cerbone). Several action or crime films used the Asahara assaination as a way to kill off a powerful Mafia character or crime boss. Even a low budget attempt to make a film based on the terror of Asahara and his end that was filmed in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto. In 2004, the American film studio TriStar Pictures and the Japanese film company Toho made a film based on the Shoko Asahara assassination and the 4/15 Attacks titled Melancholy directed by Yoji Yamada with Hiroshi Abe as Asahara, Ken Watanabe as Hoshino, Tatsuya Nakadai as Prime Minister Murayama, Masato Ibu as Police Inspector Nakagawa, Kiichi Nakai as JGSDF Major Takeo Fushida, Akira Onodera as Ichiro Ozawa, Issey Ogata as Yoshiro Mori, Dennis Quaid as President Al Gore, Corbin Bernsen as FBI Agent Franklin Moreland, John Karlen as Secretary of State Brzezinski, Kaori Momoi as Makiko Hoshino and many more[21].

In literature, Japanese author Toyoko Yamazaki[22] would use the April 15 Attacks and the Asahara assassination to write a novel inspired by the events, titled A Time of Terror (Kyofu no Toki), first serialized in conservative magazine Shukan Shincho. The novel followed reporter Isamu Anzai, a reporter with a newspaper based on the Mainichi Shimbun, in the mid-1980s starting to follow a new “self help group” as it begins during the years after the Plaza Accords and the “Bubble Years” in Japan. The political corruption is noticed, the aftermath of the National Air Lines 123 scandal (mentioned in her previous novel The Sun Never Sets (Shizumanu Taiyō), which was inspired by the JAL 123 Miracle crash and the subsequent scandal)[23]. The cult here is called the Oracles of the Divine. They had their first offices in Shinjuku, Tokyo and would set up their headquarters near Mount Haku along the border of Gifu and Ishikawa[24]. Yamazaki shows the cult led by Divine Kusanagi (Born Fumio Miyazawa), a blind man from Minamata, Kumamoto. The seeming lack of interest by the police and government and the cheerleading by the media disturbs Isamu. “How is it when there are these family members saying they can’t see their loved ones or that lawyer and his family went missing in Chiba, we didn’t cover it? Why are we protecting this bizarre group?!” One character Isamu Anzai encounters in the novel several times is Home Affairs Ministry bureaucrat Hiroshi Nakamura. The cult finally commits their attacks (Gassing the Osaka Subway and bombing Japan's banking center Marunouchi, and the US Yokosuka Naval base) and as Kusanagi is being taken to the court house Anzai sees Nakamura murder Kusanagi after he lost his son in the attacks. The novel also dealt with the political and economic situation in Japan in the era with characters based on leading political figures of the time. The novel was serialized between 2002 to 2005 and released fully in 2005. A film adaptation would be released two years later by Toho and a series based on the novel will be released in 2012 for TV Asahi. In 2008, author Haruki Murakami would publish his latest novel 1Q85 which took place in an alternate 1985 that dealt with a woman from a reality similar to ours going into this world she calls 1Q85 due to differences like the police having semi-automatic pistols instead of revolvers and an extremist group who had a standoff with the police in the Hida Mountains she does not remember. In one scene from the novel, a salesman stabs the leader of the extremist group after his daughter was killed in a deadly bombing in Hiroshima instigated by them.

In music several heavy metal and industrial rock groups from North America, Europe, Australasia and Japan used footage of the assasination in their videos, cover art, and even parodies. One band had a member stabbing the lead singer with a guitar, both dressed similarly to Asahara and Hoshino. Even Japanese hip-hop and alternative rock would reference the assassination with songs such as Hoshino Hideo (Hoshino the Hero) and Toushi Kaishuu (Payback) though J-pop largely stayed away from singing about the assassination to keep their clean image.

While the political changes brought about in Japan were not as much caused by the assasination of Asahara but the Aum Shinrikyo attacks, some political changes were expedited by the assasination and not just after the government passed very strict laws that banned chemical weapons and ammonium nitrate[25]. Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama would resign from office a month after the Japan Socialist Party came in third in the July 1995 House of Councilors election. Murayama resigned a day after the fiftieth anniversary of the Japanese surrender in World War II after giving a controversial speech which apologized for Japanese actions in World War II. He was replaced by his deputy in the coalition (Socailist-LDP), Yohei Kono, though Kono’s term was brief as he would deal with a wrench in US-Japan relations with the rape of a 12 year old girl by three American servicemen which enraged the Okinawan populace resulting in the three servicemen tried and convicted in Japanese court, but the anti-American sentiment amongst the locals remained. Then there was a violent robbery at a JUSCO supermarket[26] in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture resulting in three dead female employees, each shot in the head. But at the end of October, two attacks occurred. One by Aum remnants was after the final game of the Nippon Professional Baseball Japan Series[27] at the Chiba Marine Stadium when the Chiba Lotte Marines beat the Hiroshima Toyo Carp[28], the explosives were small and only resulted in injuries but no actual deaths. The other incident was an ANA 747 hijacking by a mentally disturbed bank employee with a screwdriver and “plastic explosives” in June. The Special Armed Police (SAP) responded and after negotiations failed and he injured several passengers and crew, lethal force was authorized[29], no indication the hijacker was affiliated with the cult. Also later in June 1995 were members of a smaller cult arrested in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture with the most odd thing about this cult was it was led by a woman[30]. In November 1995, Prime Minister Kono would face an internal party coup against him led by Ryutaro Hashimoto resulting in Kono losing in the leadership contest. And behind the scenes as the grim task of clearing debris from the devastated Kasumigaseki was underway, a plan to rebuild the devastated district would begin, it would later be discovered as one of the largest embezzlement, price rigging, contract rigging, and corruption schemes in Japanese history, that plan was the Kasumigaseki Redevelopment Fund. But the laws were being changed to reform the National Police Agency as a truly national investigative agency instead of the administrative one it had been before. There was also a multi-partisan attempt to alter the constitution of Japan. The process would begin in fall of 1995 but finish a year later with Articles 9 and 96 altered[31].

At the same time there was an ongoing backlash towards Buddhism, as well as new religious movements since Aum Shinrikyo was influenced by the religion and was a non-Shinto religious organization[32]. Already there had been several incidents where Buddhists or members of new religious movements were met with death threats or were beaten and attacked in the streets for Aum’s attacks along with vandalism directed at Buddhist and new religious temples. The increasing hostility towards new religious movements by the Japanese public led to the government taking a stricter stance against these groups which included mass surveillance and in some cases their religious status being revoked to much controversy among some segments of the Japanese public that were anti-Aum Shinrikyo and pro-Hoshino Wave but didn’t oppose the new religious groups. The backlash from 4/15 and the Asahara assassination was so prevalent that Buddhist and new religious organizations had to release statements denouncing or distancing themselves from Aum Shinrikyo.

The assassination’s biggest impact in Japan was that Hoshino in talking to the press, unleashed many secrets of the bureaucracy in which money was embezzled, how the LDP had managed to have a stranglehold on power that was unchecked since the 1950s and the government’s failure in keeping an eye on Aum Shinrikyo or similar organizations. And even if people didn’t totally believe his claims it did spur the media to investigate many of these allegations and discover even if Hoshino wasn’t totally correct he was not totally wrong. This changed the media of Japan who were reluctant for a long time to go after politicians. Some of it was due to the larger papers backing the LDP and not wanting to lose sources. Another reason was simply that the papers were scared of being wrong and being sued. But mostly as Hoshino stated, Japanese politics, bureaucracy, business, media, and organized crime often worked in a uniform manner to push forward Japan Inc. Hoshino’s anti-establishment and anti-corporate activism would soon lead to an entire social movement named after him known as the Hoshino Reform Wave[33] which sought to punish politicians, business owners, newspaper magnates and even some celebrities for their lack of accountability, potential ties to the Yakuza or inability to stop if not sympathy for certain extremist organizations such as Aum Shinrikyo and the uyoku dantai[34]. The Wave swept every corner of Japanese society with many prominent figures either resigning, losing their seats in the National Diet or getting arrested for ties to criminal organizations. This reform wave amplified the calls for further reforms after the massive waves of political scandals in the 1980s (the Recruit Scandal was the biggest scandal led to more scandals[35]) brought significant political reforms but it did not go far enough. Another major side-effect of the Wave was the passage of the 1995 Police Reform Act which allowed the National Police Agency to not only reform itself but crack down on organized crime and white collar crime as well as uyoku dantai groups with strong ties to the Yakuza[36]. If there was one politician who was especially a victim of the Hoshino Wave it was then LDP General Secretary Yoshiro Mori; who during the 4/9 attacks had been with one Yakuza boss prior to that boss being killed, on the 4/15 attacks was golfing with the head of Japan’s largest criminal organization the Yamaguchi-gumi[37] and did not leave his game after hearing news of the attack, the failure to clap and improper bow he did at the public funeral for the victims of 4/15, and his numerous gaffes (In a joke about his 1969 campaign for the Diet, “When I was greeting farmers from my car, they all went into their homes. I felt like I had AIDS." or “All the murders come out when blackouts happen in America.”[38]). Mori’s influence in the party dwindled due to these actions and gaffes and left him open for rivals to attack him politically, both in the LDP and by the opposition. Eventually, Mori would step down from his position with Hiroshi Mitsuka succeeding him as General Secretary of the LDP though he would later become the Minister of Construction during the Premierships of Yohei Kono and Ryutaro Hashimoto.

All in all, the assassination of Shoko Asahara was a visceral event that would impact many aspects of Japanese life just as the attacks that Asahara masterminded did too. The shocking fact is, the killer of the most hated man in the country was a guy you’d see at a Lawson’s[39] or 7/11, on the commuter train, at the bar with his subordinates, or at the office. It made many people realize not all criminals were unfixable and that sometimes crime was forced upon people by the failure of the state’s inability to act. As for Kenichi Hoshino himself, he was involved in raising his granddaughter Moriko despite initial hesitation from Ayaka’s parents. He is most of the time a happy grandfather that spoils Moriko when he can but still has to be a parent. “I’d give everything for all my family to be here with me and Moriko, but Moriko makes me happy enough. I have had to explain how I make money to her and what I did. But she understands and she does not think I brought shame on the family.” Hoshino told British broadcaster BBC in 2010.

“In tragedy, all we have is each other, but that helps get us through it.” Hoshino stated.

[1] In our world Aum Shinrikyo did not lose its religious incorporation rights in the broad sense, it was split up by members and the Supreme Court of Japan defended the group’s rights. Here it will be different and Aum will lose these rights due to their much worse spree of terrorism. Additionally, the post-Aum Shinrikyo
[2] While the High Court Annex no longer exists in Hachioji, the facility was moved next to the Japan Self-Defense Force base in Tachikawa.
[3] Remember stabbing somebody and then chopping them causes a lot of splatter. I expect some comedians joking about it like a morose Galagher.
[4] Auntie Beebs not getting the drop while Biwako Broadcasting getting lucky again.
[5] CNN and CBS are in the same boat so the footage would be available to CBS.
[6] I will say Australia’s 60 Minutes exists as it started probably before POD (February 1979 for 60 Minutes Australia)
[7] 24 hour news cycle, it is chaos.
[8] Tottori is the capital city of Tottori Prefecture, the newspaper is real.
[9] He is an original-to-TTL character who affects Hensonverse history in a significant way akin to Yuri Kovalenko.
[10] He was able to walk for so long because he had the largest political faction in his party. He helped PM Nakasone early during his Premiership.
[11] Adoption for larger families was a way to ensure children could get a chance at a future in post-World War II Japan
[12] As explained before, they (TBS) betrayed the confidentiality of a source so they could get a good story from Aum. This lead to the Sakamoto family murders.
[13] In 2014, Akira Yamagata was found by authorities in the Philippines. He was arrested on the site of his construction job after a fight with his boss. Local police had a new “aged up” picture of him in the station and matched fingerprints of him to those on file. Hideo Murai on the other hand was found but never faced justice for his actions. He was murdered in Sao Paulo in 2017 by a mugger. The Military Police of Sao Paulo found no evidence the attacker knew he was Hideo Murai. The mugger was never found.
[14] In the case of the Sword of Liberty, the Gore administration will crack down very hard on not just this group for it’s involvement in Washington and Jackson but other Militant White Nationalist Organizations (MWNOs) with SOL and others being designated as terrorist organizations along with the radical Islamist Al-Qaeda and Aum Shinrikyo making it illegal to be a member of or provide support for them. There will also be a nationwide backlash against white nationalist ideologies such as Christian Identity, neo-Nazism and the Ku Klan Klan since the SOL shares these beliefs.
15] Detective Conan was still dubbed by Funimation and failed to find an audience in the States due to having mature subject matter interspersed with slapstick comedy and a teen turned child investigating mysteries. It also aired on NGAGE instead of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.
[16] The film is mostly similar to OTL aside from the incident above.
[17] The episode in TTL has the Teddy Bomber look very different and he goes under another name along with allusions to 4/15. As for the show itself, the ending is more or less the same; it ends up airing on Cartoon City specifically it's adult animation block Adult Swim as part of the network's expansion into anime alongside The Legend of Galactic Heroes and other programs. It also ends up being as successful as OTL and still gets a critically acclaimed dub with the OTL voice cast.
18] Will air on Neptune’s NGAGE and unlike Detective Conan become a huge hit for the block in the same vein as Sailor Moon for Vaultoons or Magic Knight Rayearth for Sunburst.
[19] Recall in @Otakuninja2006’s Meanwhile, on Neptune post that One Piece aired on the 3-Headed Squid block of Neptune and was very successful thanks to having far less edits than OTL’s 4Kids version and a dub done by Funimation with a different voice cast. As for Rurouni Kenshin, it still airs on Toonami but with the third season being syndicated and an uncut version on NGAGE much like One Piece. It will be a huge hit for the network alongside the likes of Dragon Ball Z, The Justice League and Gundam (both the 1979-80 original and Zeta respectively).
[20] The 1990 film adaptation was butterflied ITTL because studios rejected it for its material and the fact that it was made eleven years after the POD. Here, the effects of the Aum Shinrikyo and Sword of Liberty attacks along with post-Anita Hill third wave feminism sparked a renewed interest in the novel leading HBO to adapt it. The HBO series will resemble the OTL Hulu show in most respects aside from some character names and a few other details.
[21] The film will garner plenty of critical acclaim for it’s performances, screenplay and score earning it numerous nominations and accolades from Japan and the West respectively.
[22] Toyoko Yamazaki was already a popular author long before POD. Her most famous work in Japan and internationally is probably Shiroi Kyotō or The White Tower. The novel is a medical novel that deals with two doctors in a fictional medical university hospital. She had also written other novels but The White Tower is her most popular novel being adapted to film and television many times since publication in 1965.
[23] Unlike the original-to-TTL A Time of Terror/Kyofu no Takei, Shizumanu Taiyo is mostly based on OTL’s novel and film including Ken Watanabe in the lead role but with the JAL 123 Miracle Crash instead of the disaster from our world.
[24] One of the three Holy Mountains of Japan along with Mount Tate (in Toyama), and of course Mount Fuji. The Cult HQ was moved in the novel so it was not at the foot of Fuji like Aum Shinrikyo’s.
[25] Very similar to OTL’s Chemical Weapons Prohibition Law with some slight modifications.
[26] JUSCO/AEON is one of Japan’s oldest supermarket chains so naturally it was included in the post. The JUSCO incident is inspired by a real robbery that occurred in Hachioji at the end of July, but with the massive police presence in that city they picked a different city to rob. Robbers are never found in OTL or ITTL.
[27] IOTL it was the Tokyo Yakult Swallows and Orix BlueWave that were in the 1995 Japan Series. First and second-order butterflies affecting North American and Japanese sports to an extent resulted in different teams going to the Japan Series.
[28] NPB’s Japan Series is essentially the Japanese equivalent of the MLB’s World Series.
[29] Based on an OTL incident that happened in June here it happens in October. The SAT (then known as SAP at the time) was able to talk down the suspect in our world. However due to butterfly flaps the suspect stabbed more people with the screwdriver. None is killed in OTL in ITTL the suspect is.
[30] The woman in question is Sachiko Eto AKA The Drumstick Killer. A serial killer and cult leader responsible for six murders in Sukugawa between 1994 and 1995. A self proclaimed guru who is alleged to have psychic abilities. Ordered several cult members killed in rituals involving taiko sticks. Discovered when a cultist and victim escaped. She was sentenced to death in OTL and likely the same in ITTL. Multiple murders is a fast track for execution in Japan. She was hanged in 2012.
[31] For those unfamiliar, Article 9 is a clause in the post-war Japanese constitution that prohibits Japan from declaring on another nation while Article 96 is one for ratifying new amendments. Given recent events and Aum Shinrikyo’s presence in the USR, the Japanese government decides to partially repeal Article 9 to allow Japan to declare war on behalf of an ally after they had altered Article 96 to make such changes possible.
[32] Buddhism for the record is the most popular religion in Japan outside of Shinto. The religion first arrived in the Land of the Rising Sun through China and Korea in the 6th century though it took the Soga clan and others to make it as widespread as it is in Japan today and it’s going to face a slight decline in total adherents in the 1990s since Aum Shinrikyo appropriated elements of the religion for their nefarious deeds. As for new religious movements, let’s just that groups like Ryuho Okawa’s Happy Science will be seen unfavorably by most Japanese for very obvious reasons.
[33] Think of the Reform Wave as the Japanese equlvanent to the post-Anita Hill third wave feminism or the Ark Waves of @gap80’s Kentucky Fried Politics which sought to go after people that may or may not have done did sexual assault just as the Wave is going after specific influential figures for possible corruption and sympathy for extremist groups or the Yakuza.
[34] The latter is a term used to describe Japanese ultranationalists with xenophobic and jinogistic views who support the military-dominated regime of 1936-1945 and deny their various war crimes such as the Nanking Massacre or the barbaric experimentation of Unit 751 the Bataan Death March though some are pro-American while others dislike foreigners in general and not just Koreans or Chinese. Uyoku dantai are a common sight around major rail stations and shrines in Japanese cities proclaiming their message from sound vans covered in patriotic imagery and Japanese flags (particularly the Rising Sun flag). A majority of Japanese people ignore their messages, but a sizable minority do listen. Remember these idiots hold an anniversary of Otoya Yamaguchi’s suicide in Hibiya Hall where he murdered Inejiro Asanuma, every year. In Western terms, they’re essentially the Japanese equivalents of neo-Nazis or Stalin apologists in Europe and North America along with the internet offshoot the netto uyoku being one for the alt-right. With the Hoshino Reform Wave, the uyoku dantai won’t escape unscathed since some of these groups historically have ties to the Yakuza and there will be an effort by pro-Wave groups and the Keisatsu to convict members of the uyoku dantai for potential criminal activities.
[35] One of the biggest political scandals in modern Japanese history akin to Watergate for American politics. The scandal involved the Recruit Company, a human resources group which had a new subsidiary in the form of Recruit Cosmos with the chairman of Recruit and the company officers offering politicians from the LDP, Komeito, and Socialist parties shares in said company before it went public. Prime Ministers Nakasone and Takeshita had shares, as did many leading LDP politicians, businessmen, and bureaucrats. This would be first discovered by the Asahi Shimbun (Morning Sun Newspaper) though the bosses at Asahi quashed it and the Shimbun Akahata (Newspaper Red Banner) would publish the story leading to it becoming a major story. Takeshita’s senior aide would commit suicide and lead to further scandals being outed like Takeshita using the Yakuza to stop a uyoku dantai group who were doing a praise killing campaign during the LDP presidential election. The chairmen of NTT, Yomiuri Shimbun (Reading-Selling Newspaper), and The Nikkei newspapers resigned. Recruit did recover in OTL and likely ITTL and now owns job hunting websites Indeed and Glassdoor.
[36] In OTL, the Keisatsu-cho/National Police Agency is a much more administrative agency. They more coordinate police investigations and are not as active part of investigations involving prefectural level police agencies. Often the Commissioner General of the NPA is from the police bureaucracy. They also have never shared more than fifty files on the Yakuza from their police computers since they joined international policing computer networks. In the Hensonverse, the police of Japan are forced to change due to their inaction, and the FBI, MI5, the Australian Federal Police, Korea’s National Police, and many other police agencies in helping reform the NPA are very insistent on opening those files. The Japanese police leadership cave into these demands, resulting in the Japanese opening their files on the Yakuza regardless of the political mess it could create especially since some have ties to business, media, and politics but the Hoshino Reform Wave will sway public support in favor of locking up high-profile and low-ranking yakuza and stricter enforcement of anti-tattoo laws. Though some anti-tattoo laws may be weaker so foreigners with tattoos and people with tattoos are not denied service if they are not connected to the Yakuza.
[37] Inspired by a picture of Mori in OTL’s year 2000 that political magazine Shukan Gendai (Modern Weekly) took of Mori with a high level yakuza and when the American submarine USS Greeneville and the fishing ship Ehime Maru collided in February 2001, Mori as PM was golfing at the time when informed of the collision off of Hawaii, he did not stop his game.
[38] The gaffes come from our reality, or reworded in this case.
[39] A popular convenience store chain owned by (at the time) Daiei Inc. Lawson’s history is a weird one. It started in the United States (specifically Ohio) as a small number of stores, expanded to a large number stores then Daiei enters and arrangement with Consolidated Foods (who owned Lawson’s in the 1970s) with the remaining American Lawson’s locations closing or were sold to Circle K in the 1980s while the Japanese branch rapidly expanded. In OTL, Lawson’s has 18,000 locations as of 2021 and with some locations in Hawaii, they’re slowly planning to return to the United States. In short, Lawson’s was one of those American brands that lost popularity in its home country but became popular in Japan. In OTL’s 2001 Mitsubishi became a majority owner and then in 2017, Lawson is under Mitsubishi as a subsidiary. Daiei is one of the infamous “Zombie Companies” (they can pay interest on debt but not the debt itself) of the 1990s. This led to the sale of Lawson’s. Daiei was bailed out in 2002, since it had 90,000 employees at the time. It was deemed too big to fail.
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There Goes the Spider-Man!
As promised in my Oscar Bait Guest Post, here is the guest post on ITTL Spider-Man 2. I'll be doing a guest post for Spider-Man 3 soon as well, for those wondering, as well as a guest post when the timeline reaches 1999 for the late 1990's Spider-Man cartoon (not to be confused with the one from the early 1990's) and X-Men: Mutant High shows that were mentioned in my Excelsior! guest post.

Spider-Man’s 2 (1993) Retrospective
Post from Geeks and Capes Net-blog, by Jacob Buller. April 6th, 2018

The 90’s were certainly a big and notable decade for the Amazing Spider-Man. In the world of comics, Peter Parker’s Aunt May, after decades of hanging on to life, finally died and Peter Parker himself officially retired as Spider-Man after he became a father to the first of what would ultimately be three children [1], passing the torch to his clone Ben Reilly who would become the second of the current three main Earth-616 Spider-Man’s [2]. On television meanwhile, the Spider-Man animated series was wowing kids and fans alike in what most fans consider to be the ultimate adaptation of the web head ever put on screen, to be followed later in the decade by a separate comic book adaptation.

Yet it was on the silver screen where Spider-Man made the biggest splash in the 90’s, as audiences in 1991 would pay witness to the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler making his first big appearance at the movies, played by none other than Seth Green. Becoming a smash hit with fans, critics, and audiences alike, the film would manage to release to an impressive $370 million at the box office. After making big bucks for Marvel and Disney when it was released, it was to the surprise of no one that sequels to the superhero film would be immediately announced and green lit, with the first of said sequels being 1993’s Spider-Man 2.


An early poster for ITTL Spider-Man 2, released in Summer of 1993. (Source: Image by Nerdman3000)

Seth Green would naturally return in his role as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, joined by a similarly returning Alfred Molina as Doctor Otto Octavius aka Doc Ock (who played a minor role in the first film). Rejoining them would be R. Lee Ermey in his most memorable role as J. Jonah Jameson and Jessica Tandy, in what would be her final appearance in the role of Aunt May [3]. Other new casting changes would include the addition of Joe Morton as Norman Osborn, as well as the first appearance of Henry Simmons as Harry Osborn, who plays the role in a brief cameo.

The biggest casting change however, as you're no doubt aware, was the recasting of Mary Jane Watson. Fay Masterson, who played the character in the original 1991 film, would famously leave the role due to a potential schedule conflict after she was offered her big break when she was cast as the lead role in 1993’s Redding and Weep, a role which would in fact eventually land her an Oscar and help cement her status as a A-list actress [4]. While said departure was quite amicable from all reports, it did nonetheless force Disney/Marvel to have to find a replacement to play Mary Jane, which they would eventually find in actress Alicia Witt [5].

Witt would certainly provide audiences with a different sort of Mary Jane than the one they were used to with Fay Masterson’s performance, as Witt ultimately chose to put her own mark on the character rather than just copying what Masterson did, something which Joss Whedon, who wrote the film, decided to actually incorporate into the story upon hearing Witt’s own suggestions for the character. Compared to Masterson’s more down to earth girl-next-door version of the character that reflected more the Mary Jane of the comics at the time in temperament and personality, Witt’s Mary Jane would begin to tone down on the girl-next-door aspects to instead introduce a more playful, energetic take on the character which heavily leaned into a lot of the party-girl aspects Mary Jane had during her early comic book appearances. Though not as apparent in the second film as it would be in the third, the character change did bring an interesting on-screen evolution to the character, with Witt doing a rather good job at playing the more party girl Mary Jane.


Alicia Witt, circa 1995. She would replace Fay Masterson as Mary Jane Watson following the latter’s departure from the role. (Image Source: Alamy.com)

Nonetheless, the casting and character personality change (even if it was later explained well in the film [6]) would undeniably divide fans when the film first debuted, with a number of fans to this very day still arguing who they think is the better MJ. I myself personally actually prefer Fay Masterson’s version (who’s version felt more genuine and honestly had much better chemistry with Seth Greene), though I can see why more fans nowadays might tend to prefer Alicia Witt (even if her version in the Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 felt somewhat more like a devolution of the character, at least when you compared it to her evolution in the comics), since she has the advantage of playing the character across more films compared to Masterson’s one film.

In terms of plot, the story follows a Peter Parker who in the year since he received his powers has grown to become a much more experienced Spider-Man, even as he is also working as a lab assistant to Doctor Otto Octavius. In fact we get a clear demonstration of this in the opening film, as we first see Peter, who’s already missed class, now finding himself being late to his work with Octavius, due to being busy battling it out with none other than the Rhino (played in a surprise cameo by former wrestler Randy Savage) [7].

While Peter does eventually make it to work, it’s clear that despite his experience he still has a hard time balancing both parts of his life, and Otto naturally chastises him. As we soon learn though, it’s not just Peter’s double life that’s causing him issues, as it seems that things simply aren’t going well for him in other aspects of his private life. Peter’s Aunt May, as we soon learn, has been dealing with health problems and financial issues caused by debts which threaten to see her lose her home, an issue Peter will be forced to deal with and stress over during the course of the film.

In truth, the only bright spot for Peter at this point seems to be his relationship with Mary Jane, who soon invites him to attend with her a pre-High School graduation party at Liz Allen’s house. Peter decides to attend, despite Otto informing him he will be conducting an important experiment that very night, and naturally tragedy strikes when an accident in his lab causes Octavius’s new mentally-controlled arms to drive him insane and take over his mind. Peter naturally feels a deep sense of guilt and responsibility for the fate of his mentor and blames himself. This in turn leads Peter to become laser focused in his determination to save Octavius and stop him, which only ironically leads Peter to become more cold and methodical like Octavius is now, a mindset he will eventually have to be brought out of by Mary Jane and Aunt May.


Alfred Molina as Doc Ock. Look-wise, he mainly resembles his NWH appearance, but with his jacket being a slightly more vibrant green color and his under sweater being a yellowish color, to reflect the classic comic Doc Ock color scheme. (Source: NWH Concept Art/Edited and Recolored by @Nerdman3000)

Eventually the film concludes with Peter, who has taken the time to learn to try to focus on balancing both aspects of his life and move on from the bad mindset, having his graduation interrupted when panic ensues after Doc Ock threatens the whole city, leading to a jaw dropping and memorable final fight on top of the Twin Towers in New York [8] that as a kid left me grinning ear to ear when I first watched it in theaters. Yet what had me as a fan the most giddy was the final scene in the film, where Peter arrives at his dorm in college and meets his new roommate Harry Osborn and Harry’s father Norman, while also learning that MJ’s own roommate is in fact none other than Gwen Stacy (who is name dropped but not shown) [9].

It terms of story, Spider-Man 2 in my opinion did a great job of showcasing the difficulties Peter faces due to his double life, did a great job of showcasing Peter’s personal growth, and the finally it greatly helped set up the events of the third film, particularly with the introduction of Norman, Harry, and mention of Gwen, as well as Mary Jane’s own growing party girl personality which would play a big story factor in the third film and lead to Peter and MJ’s relationship troubles in that film.

Meanwhile in terms of special effects, the film would manage to build off the innovations and techniques which were used in the first film and made great strides towards expanding on them, such as with improvements to the web swinging effects which thanks to innovations in CGI allowed Disney and Marvel to show a whole minutes worth of more screen time of Peter web swinging around New York. Yet more than improvements to what was done before, the film also featured quite a bit of innovation, particularly with Doc Ock’s robotic arms, which would use a mix of CGI and practical effects, including innovative animatronic robot arms designed by Brian Henson that would present a huge leap in audio animatronic technology [10]. Even the suit worn by the Rhino that is featured early in the film would be innovative, as it would use early versions of many of the same special effects techniques that would later be perfected and used to bring the Hulk and Thing to life.

It perhaps then should be no surprise that Spider-Man 2 was a massive hit with fans and critics alike when it hit theaters, becoming one of the biggest films of 1993 when it made well over $327 at the box office. To this day it’s often regarded as one of the best comic book movies of all time and one of the best Spider-Man films period, one only rivaled in terms of being a fan favorite by the very film which would follow it.


[1] - Ben Richard Parker and May “Mayday” Gwendolyn Parker, for those who don’t remember, are the first two children. Ben is born during the Clone Saga, while May is born in the early 2000’s when Peter returns as Spider-Man in the comics (though she notably first appears briefly in the finale of the early 1990's Spider-Man cartoon). A third child, Annie Mary Parker is introduced in the comics in ITTL 2014.

[2] - This won’t factor outside of comics for a while, but there will be a sort of earlier ITTL version of Miles Morales who gets introduced in the early 2000’s. To make a long story short, despite Marvel’s editorial mostly preferring Ben Reilly over Peter due to Ben’s single status and the more story possibilities they believe Ben offers, Marvel ultimately feels they have to bring Peter back as sales of Spider-Man continue to decline into the 2000’s. Part of this is believed to be due to new readers having a hard time wrapping their head around the Ben Reilly clone origin, which Marvel editorial feels in hindsight is taking away from the realism and ability to relate to Spider-Man. This means they feel forced to bring back Peter, despite many of the editorial staff (and fans) feeling that Peter has had his perfect ending and most writers at Marvel editorial feeling that Peter has ‘aged out’ of the role since he’s married with kids.

The solution to this ends up being introducing a third new Spider-Man named Stanley O’Brian, based on a suggestion by new writer Brian Michael Bendis, during Tom Defalco’s ITTL third run as a writer for The Amazing Spider-Man. O’Brian is basically a young teenage half-Irish Jewish kid who manages to get powers just like Peter (well more like OTL Miguel o’Hara, if you want a better comparison of power sets) when he also gets bitten by a radioactive Spider, leading Peter to return as Spider-Man to mentor him following the temporary depowering of Ben Reilly. Eventually O’Brian would get his own spinoff comic series written by Brian Michael Bendis, which is basically the ITTL equivalent to OTL's Ultimate Spider-Man but set in Earth 616. So basically picture Ultimate Peter Parker, Miles Morales, and Miguel O’Hara mixed into one character and you get Stanley O’Brian, the ITTL third Spider-Man.

[3] - Tandy would pass away in 1994 in both OTL and ITTL.

[4] - For more about this, you can read my Oscar Bait film guest post here. Fay Masterson will go on to have a major A-list career ITTL following her departure from Spider-Man, which she arguably wouldn’t have had if she had stayed and continued playing Mary Jane for multiple films. If she had stayed, she more than likely would have ended up like Kristen Dunst, who’s promising career basically withered away after playing Mary Jane.

[5] - Alicia Witt, coincidentally enough, was the actress whom Sam Raimi originally wanted for the role of Mary Jane Watson in OTL’s Spider-Man 1 before Kristen Dunst was cast. Ultimately Dunst was cast due to expressing interest in the role after Tobey Maguire himself got cast, and due to her being a bigger name than Witt, Sony forced Raimi to cast Dunst instead. ITTL she successfully manages to get the role even earlier than she would have in OTL.

[6] - In-universe this is basically explained as Mary Jane has begun to adopt a party-girl personality like she did in the comics for the same reasons she did there, as a way of escaping and keeping her mind off of the difficulties of her bad home life and abusive father. The major difference here to the comics frankly is that unlike the comics, in the ITTL Spider-Man films Peter first meets MJ mostly before she took on that personality defense mechanism, which she only begins to adopts by Spider-Man 2 and goes fully into by Spider-Man 3, and would eventually play a big factor in her relationship with Peter and Gwen in that film.

[7] - One interesting aspect of the ITTL Seth Green films will be that certain smaller but still major Spider-Man villains like Shocker, Sandman, Rhino, and Vulture will appear in short bits or be referenced, to demonstrate that Peter has indeed fought other villains between films. Mainly these will be villains that won’t headline any film, but will be confirmed to exist. Marvel's early plan for most of these villains was to slowly set them up in case they ever did a Spider-Man vs the Sinister Six film.

[8] - Similar to the original intended final battle against Electro in the PS1 Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro game and the final battle in Insomniac’s Spider-Man game.

[9] - With Peter about to retire in the comics and the massive success of the first film, Marvel and Disney begin loosening the rule they had in the first film which prevented Gwen and Norman from appearing.

[10] - To go further into this, the tech used to create Doc Ocks arms would eventually help innovate audio animatronics used at the parks by increasing the quality, speed, and flow of movement of animatronic arms, helping to make them much closer to today’s A-100 audio animatronics from OTL (like the Na’vi animatronic in Animal Kingdom’s Pandora) then the ones from OTL 1990’s at this point in time.


Anyways, that's that. Hope you enjoyed!
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Excellent work @Nerdman3000 - as much as I love the Sam Raimi movies, these sound like exactly the kind of Spidey films I would’ve watched over and over again as a kid. I’m especially interested that these films utilize the lesser-known comic villains more than they did in OTL…and on that note, I wonder who they got to play the Rhino? Or the Vulture? ;)
Excellent work @Nerdman3000 - as much as I love the Sam Raimi movies, these sound like exactly the kind of Spidey films I would’ve watched over and over again as a kid. I’m especially interested that these films utilize the lesser-known comic villains more than they did in OTL…and on that note, I wonder who they got to play the Rhino? Or the Vulture? ;)
It’s briefly mentioned, but the Wrestler Randy Savage actually plays Rhino. As for Vulture, you’ll have to wait until ITTL Spider-Man 4 to find out.
An Alan Smithee Production...
Films That Fooled The World: Who Is Alan Smithee?
From the Hoaxology netlog by Ima Joe-King, published November 2015
Guest post by @MNM041 with assistance from @Plateosaurus and Mr. Harris Syed


So not this

In 1997, comedian and actor Mike Meyers and director Penelope Spheeris appeared on The Tonight with Conan O'Brien to ostensibly discuss the success of Shagwell, but then towards the end Mike mentioned he was taking part in a documentary on a director who he felt Hollywood had never given his fair shake, a man by the name of Alan Smithee, whose name had unintentionally become synonymous with trash cinema despite actually being a very talented filmmaker. He then brought on Smithee, to share his story about how he had been blacklisted in the industry after executives mistakenly thought he made various bombs over the years, that were really the result of various filmmakers trying to keep their names off various horrible films.

So out came this odd, disheveled looking bearded man sporting a Cajun accent, large ears, wearing huge sunglasses that obscured a large part of his face and a loud-colored coat that made it appear as though he had the shoulders of a linebacker. Smithee then announced that next year, he would be working on a project to help clear his name and prove his talents, and with the help of Meyers, who was also starring in the film, had hired a documentary crew to film the production and show the world who he really is.

Except… that wasn't really Alan Smithee, it was Mike Meyers's friend, fellow SNL alumni and Wayne's World co-star, Dana Carvey wearing an elaborate disguise. In reality, Alan Smithee was simply the pseudonym used by members of the Directors Guild of America that would replace the name of filmmakers who wanted their name removed from films they considered to be awful or had been fired and replaced by the studio. Thus began the infamous guerilla marketing campaign for one of the most well known mockumentaries of the 90s, Who Is Alan Smithee? Made on a shoestring budget[1], co-produced by Orion and Hyperion Pictures[2] and based on a joke Meyers and Carvey made between themselves that Smithee was a real director who was probably mad at Hollywood for using his name on disowned projects, Who Is Alan Smithee? is the result of two talented comedians deciding to pull in every favor they could for a single project, with Meyers himself directing in between being on-set for Shagwell, his other big project of the year.

While the actual main cast was made of mostly unknowns, save for Carvey and Meyers themselves, the two of them managed to pull a lot of strings getting famous people to cameo for this which included fictionalized versions of (among others) Rose McGowan, Bruce Campbell, Ernie Hudson, Tony Todd, Alicia Silverstone, Wayne Knight, Norm Macdonald, Drew Barrymore, Jim Carrey, Kyle MacLachlan, Naomi Watts, and Uma Thurman, all of whom were starring as themselves or characters in the fake film within a film, as well as from those behind the camera and from film scholars like Jim Henson, Lorne Michaels, Roger Corman, Gene Siskel, and Steven Spielberg to name a few.

As for the character of Alan Smithee, the film presents him as an immensely talented filmmaker who has never gotten the respect he deserved due to sheer bad luck. However, when he was first conceived by Meyers and Carvey, he was much different from the final result: he was written as a foul-mouthed, bad-tempered blowhard who took credit for contributions that were of a dubious nature at best, inspired by the likes of directors both had worked with and the con artist Alan Conway. However, after the first draft and the first public appearance, he was changed to a more idealistic character, because the two felt the more bitter and ego-driven version of the character, while funny in the short term, would be tougher to sell an entire movie around. Indeed, the final film would imply Alan started out cocky and self-assured but the constant setbacks over the last forty years humbled him out.

Smithee’s mannerisms and accent were based on several people the two of them knew, most prominently an elderly fisherman that Carvey was living next door to at the time. Various bits of his personality were also taken from Orson Welles, considered by some to be one of the best directors of all time, as well as Ed Wood, often considered to be one of the worst directors.

The Smithee disguise required elaborate costume and prosthetics, made by Tom Broecker[3] and Kazu Hiro respectively, but a lot more went into pulling off the hoax. An entire backstory was written for "Alan" a large portion of which isn't actually mentioned in the film (though some VCD and Blu-ray releases do go into detail), but in one of the larger examples of viral marketing of the time, a website that was supposedly Alan’s own, made for the film and is actually still up today[3]. The backstory in question for him was that Alan was born in the 1930s to Cornish-Americans growing up in the (real) town of Slaughter, Louisiana and developed a love for filmmaking at a young age despite the disapproval of his parents.

His first film would be a very cheesy (by his own admission, even for the time) monster movie called Terror of the Thing from Mars that somehow led to a forest fire and several members of the cast and crew being thrown in the county lockup, the first of many misfortunes his career would see. Into the 60’s and 70’s, he’d see minor genre hits that would show hints of potential, and even found love with actor Audrey Fayer (Kim Greist), but then his luck starts to take a turn for the worst after 1968, which was when the Alan Smithee credit started to be used, leading to him erroneously being attached to bad movies he had nothing to do with. The film implies that the pseudonym actually came about because someone at the DGA actually picked it out from a phone book and Alan happened to be the unlucky person he picked. He turns to working odd jobs in the rest of the industry to make ends meet and as a result rubbed elbows with famous Hollywood figures, all the while trying to make new films but constantly running into snafu after snafu that doomed them to obscurity.

The character showed up on other various late night shows throughout most of 1998, and even made appearances at both the Sundance Film Festival and the Oscars, as well as several publicity stunts that were designed to seem organic, including location scouting at various locations around New York, such as restaurants while ordering at them, four fake film shoots that go increasingly wrong (which even made it into the final film via supposed archival footage), and even a fake confrontation with Jud Taylor, the first director to ever use the Alan Smithee credit, at Fan Expo Chicago in Illinois. Helping the credibility of them were that these were subtle enough to fool people yet over the top enough to show the fictionality of it. Either way, it helped drum up buzz for the movie, with a few people even fooled into thinking Alan Smithee was real.

The film itself fittingly premiered in October of that year, and showcased Smithee trying to get his film off the ground, all while trying his best to deal with the (unnamed) studio interfering, worried that if the film isn't good then he'll be a joke forever. The film shows clear influence from Heart of Darkness, the making of documentary for Apocalypse Now. It follows a documentary crew led by Alan's nephew Jason (played by Jason Narvy)[5], and crewed by a bunch of film students who Smithee himself is paying (with help from Mike Meyers) who follow him during the production of his latest film, a heist movie titled 5 Days From Hell, about bank robbers pulling one last job under parole. The production, as one can expect, ends up becoming a nightmare, with Alan and co having to deal with studio mandates, rewrites being made, diva behavior from the stars and general infighting.

The actual film proper actually begins with Steven Spielberg talking about his experiences working with "Alan" mentioning him as being a boom mic operator for the original Jaws who ended up helping him with the script by doing uncredited rewrites to help them adjust for the malfunctioning shark animatronics. Throughout the film, other famous actors, producers and directors showed up to reveal what films he worked on, from helping fix and sew muppets for The Muppet Movie, serving as the prop master for A New Hope, working as a location scout for the second Godfather movie, doing uncredited rewrites for the first two Halloween movies and buying the iconic William Shanter mask, even a story of having to help put out a fire during the production of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, with edited photos and footage intercut to create a veneer of authenticy. However, after that the bottom fell off: productions went worse until he was blacklisted, especially when one production booted him off, replaced him with another director (even replacing the credit with Alan Smithee the alias). To top it off, at the same time a frustrated Audrey disappointed in his failures divorced him and took his kids with her. Smithee then struggled to find much work in the industry until he met Mike Meyers while working as an electrician, fixing lighting equipment for SNL.

As mentioned above, most of the documentary crew were played by actors who were virtually nobodies before this film, with the exception being Heather O'Rourke, who's last credit was almost a decade prior[6]. Most of the other actors such Debbie Rochon, Jennifer Renton, Andrew Levitas, Jed Rowen and Greg Sestero[7] had no real credits to their name outside of working as extras or bit parts in low budget films and TV shows, meaning that the audience would be unfamiliar with them and buy into the idea that they really were a bunch of recent film school grads, though it should be noted that according to Myers and Carvey, O'Rourke essentially had to give the rest of cast tips as she was actually in the film school at the time as a student of New York University.

Meyers and Carvey have said of the film, "We premiered it on a Monday because then we could have the apologies done by Wednesday." Indeed, many a moviegoer didn't exactly take kindly to the deception, though many did come to their defense saying that the film itself presents events that simply wouldn't happen if people were recording, most notably film critics Siskel and Ebert, who both noted that the film has multiple moments that are clearly supposed to show it as fiction. Indeed, Meyers and Carvey were also surprised by the amount of people who believed it was real, leading to a famous exchange on the Tonight Show where Meyers and Carvey both noted, "Several federal crimes were committed in full view of a camera during, so we figured that would be the point where some might realize ‘Wait a minute, this is clearly fiction’, and if you can’t tell, well that’s your problem, not ours."

That said, not all the film was fiction, as several scenes throughout the film actually had unscripted interactions with prominent figures in the entertainment industry. In a few cases, these meetings actually influenced the plot. One such example of this is that Alan becomes increasingly worried that the film may be scrapped and turned into a tax write off for the studio, which would mean he wouldn't even be able to sell it to another studio. That was actually something Meyers and Carvey learned about from one of the interview segments done, and the idea that someone could just have their work ripped away from them and prevented from seeing the light of day felt like something that could be used to up the stakes, though by Dana Carvey's admission it also suddenly something became they became worried could have happened to them. A few real life disputes from shooting actually also were worked into the film, such as an on-set altercation between two actors that was apparently inspired by a real life altercation between actors Steven Segal and Thomas Ian Griffin, who had both been involved in a movie shoot for Doom on the same lot[8].

Neither of them could say that everything wasn't worth it in the end, as the film ended up being a massive success due to how much people talked about it. Critics and audiences praised the clever satire and hilarious writing, and Meyers and Carvey both got praise from critics for showing some surprising dramatic chops. Carvey in particular was praised for the fact that he essentially had audiences thinking he was a real person talking off the top of his head for the entire movie, as well as being able to sell some of the more dramatic aspects of the film, even getting recognition in the form of Academy Award nominations (though not wins) for Best Makeup and Best Actor.

Even after the release, Meyers and Carvey would keep up the kayfabe for a while, with Carvey making additional appearances in character, most prominently on SNL and talk shows. His website would even receive updates into 2000, most prominently through web sketches of Smithee giving his thoughts on certain films and offering tongue in cheek filmmaking advice.

With the name of Alan Smithee now way more prominent, its use among film would naturally be altered. Long a bit of taboo topic, it arose because personalized aliases forbidden beforehand in order to avoid being taken advantage of. The Alan Smithee credit itself relied on obscurity to be used, the assumption that people wouldn’t look too hard at it. But with the movie being the culmination of growing awareness about it until the jig was up, the Director’s Guild was asked about how they would deal with such. Their response was to then allow personalized aliases from a case-by-case basis onwards from 2000, albeit still using it from time to time and in ways Hollywood couldn’t exploit[9]. Otherwise they were fairly good sports about it, even issuing a formal apology to "Alan" at the DGA awards that year. The film also shined a light on sketchy industry practices designed to screw over the creatives in order to get more money. Indeed, in 2009 as part of a federal act on entertainment company practices, one rule would criminalize such things, even being unofficially known as the Meyers-Smithee rule.

It also proved particularly noteworthy for the cast playing the crew, many of whom received big boosts in their careers. Heather O'Rourke essentially had a comeback because of this film and would go on to nab more roles in film and television along with some behind the camera work[10]. It proved to be a fruitful endeavor for the rest of the fake film crew, with most of them finding steady work after, most notably Jason Narvey who would continue to show off his comedic chops in later films and Greg Sestero, who used the money from this to help his friend Tommy Wiseau (who's also seen in a few scenes) with a passion project.

As for Meyers and Carvey, the endeavor was successful enough for the two to end up writing more projects together, and while they still would have more hits after this, none of them would quite capture the imaginations of audiences quite like Who Is Alan Smithee?

"I think Alan is something of an inspirational character," Meyers told Conan O'Brien in 2010, "because no matter how much goes wrong, in his work or in his life, he doesn't give up and stop chasing his passion and refuses to let his misery affect him - which you can’t say for the majority of Hollywood."

[1] About $3 million, and will gross $27 million total (including internationally).
[2] Cinergi (the OTL film’s maker) has been butterflied due to the merger of Carolco and Orion back in 1986, with Andrew G. Vajna not leaving in 1989 to form it, instead becoming its acting chairman in 1992.
[3] Broekner has been a costumer for the show since 1980’s, so Mike would no doubt know about him.
[4] To avoid the obvious issue of the risk of being mistaken for real and getting booked, messages were sent that Smithee was always unavailable as he was busy with another disastrous film.
[5] Narvey is probably best known in real life as Skull from Power Rangers. Since he wasn't in this timeline's equivalent, this movie ends up being his breakthrough role.
[6] The idea of Heather Rourke not being misdiagnosed with Crohn’s disease was approved by @Geekhis Khan in a private thread. Therefore, O’Rourke is alive but she will take a temporary break from acting at the behest of her parents until she makes her return as an adult a la Jonathan Ke Quan.
[7] You remember him best as Mark from The Room and not for his bit parts in other films and TV shows. ITTL, his role in Who is Alan Smithee will give Sestero more roles in mainstream movies and shows but not exactly an A-lister. As mentioned above though, he still met Tommy Wiseau in an acting class, and stay tuned for how that certain passion project will go.
[8] Recall in the post on 1998’s Doom that Seagal was prevented from starring in the film due to his frequent feuds with the director and his sexual abuse scandals which are referenced in Who is Alan Smithee?. Thomas Ian Griffin, who would replace Seagal in this movie, was working on the movie as a stuntman when this fight happened.
[9] IOTL, the very troubled production of Burn Hollywood Burn would result in director Arthur Hiller demanding that his name be taken off and replaced with Alan Smithee after writer Joe Eszterhas did a very bad cut of the film, ironically enough, leading the DGA to suspending its use, not helped by the also-nasty production of American History X the same year with Tony Kane and Edward Norton. With both of them butterflied, all their careers will be taking different paths all to different degrees.
[10] Just what will Heather direct in question? Stayed tuned!

Hope you don't mind MNM.
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