This is an archive of collected Editorials/Analyses from the very first to the most recent. For what ever reason, the hyperlinks do not work and the written titles are not italicized, except for the headers.
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Editorial 43: Johnny Mnemonic
At the start of every June is the Electronic Gaming Expo (E3), an event where developers and publishers show off upcoming titles and demos to the public. This year was okay with not many worthwhile announcements other than the Cyberpunk 2077 presentation. While the footage shown was pre-rendered, it revealed that Keanu Reeves would play a character before the man himself appeared on-stage. His presentation became a meme within minutes, but he reminded me of a lesser-known movie from his past. He is best known for Neo in The Matrix, but years before, Reeves was Johnny Mnemonic.
The early 80s and 90s saw an explosion of cyberpunk films. Blade Runner was the first to put the genre to screen and influenced many a prospective director. Hardware, the Nemesis movies, Class of 1999, Cybernator, and Hands of Steel were low budget attempts to capture the essence of Blade Runner. Whether they succeeded or failed is debatable, but because of the volume of such movies, cyberpunk was pigeonholed into B-movie status for years.
By the time Johnny Mnemonic (JM) came out in 1995, many tropes were established in how these movies were supposed to look based on budget limitations. The genre was still in its infancy and I imagine not many producers would take the risk of dumping money into projects about cyborgs. As a result you get a false equivalency: most cyberpunk films are cheap and thrown together, so all cyberpunk movies should be cheap and thrown together.
Rather than begrudgingly accept this fact, JM embraces it. From the very start, the film is proud to be a B movie, and does a great job of appearing professional.
From setting to setting you feel the desolation and decrepitude of the world. The opening hotel scene appears clean and tidy, but it is packed with people and cluttered with stuff that likely does nothing except take up space. Then you get to the truly ruined setting of Newark that is lawless and disgusting with trash piled in corners of run-down buildings. There is this anti-corporate resistance group called Lo-Tek living in this fort built of scrap and garbage on a destroyed bridge with tons of make-shift elements inside.
The costumes leave a bit to be desired. Everything looks mostly thrown together or pulled right out of the closet hours before shooting. Even the borderline homeless Lo-Tek guys look like extras from a Mad Max knock-off. Early on, Dina Meyer’s Jane wears this chainmail top that looks so out of place and uncomfortable that she loses it not long after. All the Yakuza goons wear trench coats that were three sizes too big. Then Dolph Lundgren’s Street Preacher is dressed like a friar that slept in a dumpster for three days straight and somehow he is this powerful cyborg.
However, all the awesome props throughout make up for the lack of better costumes. From mini-cd readers the size of pagers to a giant VR headset made of computer scrap, there are so many little things to admire because the tech in JM is analog. It came from a time when no one knew how advanced wireless would become; hardwire seemed the only way to connect back then. On top of that, it works in favor of the setting because the world is so rundown it has not progressed beyond analog. As a result we get physical, unique props that someone put effort into making appear real.
Good production value can only get you so far without a good story. The titular Mnemonic is a courier that stores information in his brain for delivery. On his latest job, the data Johnny downloads is so overwhelming that it will kill him in a matter of days unless he gets it out. While tracking down a specialist to extract the data to give to the client, Yakuza under contract by a major pharmaceutical company is on the hunt for Mnemonic’s head to take the data.
Given what we know about the storage capacity of the brain today, the story is totally far-fetched. At the start, Reeves plugs a device into his head to give himself extra gigabytes, which does not make sense unless it removed data because the brain retains about 2.5 petabytes. Unless Reeves had a ton of uncompressed crap in his head from other incomplete jobs to the point he deleted parts of his childhood to make room, still nothing makes sense. That being said, the story has stakes and a ticking clock to keep things moving along. Once you divorce logic from the equation it works a lot better and makes for a great cyberpunk adventure.
It also helps that the movie is just about perfectly cast. Actors from a wide variety of fields take up the supporting roles like B-movie veteran Udo Kier, the late voice actor Denis Akiyama, rapper Ice-T, and Takeshi Kitano, a legend in his home country of Japan. The only bad casting choice was Henry Rollins. Whoever thought that was a good idea probably lost their job. Everyone else does very well, but Lundgren had such a tiny part that why he was cast remains a mystery. All he does it show up when the characters need to be in more danger, but he is so non-threatening it does not matter.
The way Reeves plays Mnemonic is related to why he picked the roles he did back then. For years he was the Ted-half in the Bill and Ted movies, a skater-punk that travelled back in time for reasons (haven’t seen it). The kiss of death for actors is to become typecast in the same part over and over again because casting directors think you cannot act. Reeves played a pretty convincing skater-punk and signed on to not only a second Bill and Ted movie (soon to be third), but a show as well. To audiences at large that part was him and Reeves knew he had to show off his acting chops elsewhere, lest succumb to slow career death.
And so he branched out after 1990 with Point Break, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Little Buddha, and did not stop for nearly 24 years. Each new movie he showed off his skills as best as possible with varying degrees of success. The self-imposed demand for diversity shines through in JM where Reeves plays not only an arrogant scoundrel, but also a petty one. Mnemonic’s a morally neutral criminal that takes most dirty jobs and the last thing he wants is complication. When he gets the data uploaded, everything turns upside-down, and he just wants it out of his head. What begins is a cascade of hardships that culminate in a hilarious rant by Reeves that should have been better remembered had people actually seen it.
While JM is not the most remarkable cyberpunk movie, it nonetheless had a look and feel that influenced some, most likely the developers of 2077. Blade Runner may be the grandfather of the visual style of cyberpunk, but it was JM that perfected it if you ask me. Casting Reeves was a no-brainer considering his role as Mnemonic, but after re-familiarizing myself with the movie, I noticed JM had a lot more to do with 2077 than Reeves’ casting.
If you take a scene from the film and put it against any 2077 footage, they almost blend together. The degradation of the setting, rudimentary tech, and clutter are inherent throughout the movie and game. There is some wireless tech, but the hardwire element is still prevalent in 2077 with the characters putting chips in their heads or plugging into each other. It is not a clean setting either with grimy, dirty rooms packed with people. Little things also appear busy and overbearing with oppressive neon advertisements and clothing on the characters that is so complicated I cannot imagine wearing it in public… except the Samurai jacket.
Johnny Mnemonic is based on a story by William Gibson, the father of cyberpunk, and Cyberpunk 2077 is a follow-up to the TTRPG Cyberpunk 2020, which references Gibson’s work as the progenitor of that world’s punk movement. And being the visual realization of a seminal work of cyberpunk, it would be fair to say that Johnny Mnemonic had as much to do with the creation of 2077 as 2020. Casting Keanu Reeves seemed almost necessary. Whether other members of the cast or figures in the cyberpunk genre will also make an appearance remains to be seen.
Obviously I am going to write about 2077 when it comes out next year. Before then I will review the “Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit” in August from the original creators of 2020. As a fan of the genre, the next several months are going to be great. Getting back into writing after an extended hiatus to talk about a cyberpunk movie was a great reminder of why I got into this hobby so many years ago. I apologize for the long wait and it will be a very long time before I leave you guys hanging like that again.
Editorial 42: Metro Exodus
Not long ago I was a videogame reviewer when I lived in Orlando. I would not have considered myself a games journalist; I have dignity, but I did not have a great time to say the least. It is far more fun to play videogames than write about them, which explains why real games journalists are cowardly degenerates. I would either make up nonsense I did not give a shit about or outright lie to meet the required word count. The only articles I am proud of are my review of Doom (2016) and an analysis on BroTeamPill. Everything else belongs in the garbage. That being said, I find it difficult to not write something about Metro Exodus.
When we think of the post-apocalypse many imagine barren blasted wastelands patrolled by raiders in makeshift cars and revealing attire. Road Warrior and the like have taken over our imagination of what the world would look like following a nuclear holocaust. The genre has been so impacted by this collective understanding there are hardly any deviations across cultures, except for Russia. Obviously, I am sure there are other localized interpretations, but the current benchmark for the Russian post-apocalypse comes from Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro trilogy.
Set in the Moscow Metro the story follows Artyom, one of thousands of people living underground 20 years after World War 3. In an effort to survive with little to no resources and under constant threat from mutants, the Metro is divided among a handful of factions that look to the past to survive the future. There is the egalitarian Hansa, the communist Red Line, and the fascist Fourth Reich. Everyone is trying to take over while the Spartan Rangers keep to the margins of society, taking down anyone or anything that threatens the Metro.
Metro 2033 was the first book and first game in the series. Originally released in 2010, I played the Redux version some months ago, and before that Last Light, the sequel. Both experiences are very different, but the core design ethos of the series is still there. Half-Life 2 set the standard for all first-person shooters, but I think Slav developers like Metro’s 4A Games perfected it.
The series is known for their immersion. You really feel you are underground not just because of the atmosphere and technical tricks, but how you progress from level to level. You as Artyom walk through long stages that have different ways of progression, either loud or quiet, with little to know direction. The developers were mindful to use light sources to guide players in a natural, unconscious fashion. On top of that is the sense of claustrophobia and danger. You have to maintain the power in your flashlight and keep a supply of gasmask filters in the event you stumble into a toxic area or journey to the surface. The tension is ramped up thanks to the fantastic sound design that make monsters scary and stealth heart pounding.
Metro Exodus continues the series traditions while taking a massive risk. After a certain revelation I will not spoil, Artyom, his wife Anna, and a handful of Spartan Rangers escape Moscow by train. When they find out Russia is not as desolate as they once thought, the group decides to search for a place to settle down and give the people of the Metro a proper future. With a greatly overhauled karma system, what happens along this journey depends on your actions.
Each level is the size of a small open world with points of interest that offer supplies to craft perishables and work/rest stations. Exploration is encouraged and not restricted by linear progression. You can start a level, go just about everywhere, and the characters will even bring up that you already visited certain areas. Character requested items are located throughout that can boost your karma if you get them. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from striking out on your own and if you follow just the main missions, you will miss a ton of extra content and negatively affect the ending.
This works in tandem with the game’s character development. The way you figure out where to go or to search for items is by interacting with your comrades. You do not speak as Artyom, but when you hover around characters they will talk to you. If you played the original games, this is how you gained karma between shoot-outs. When you listen in Exodus you not only get side objectives, but also learn about the characters and build rapport. Though not quantified in a way similar to Mass Effect 2, you get to know them like real people, and enhance your experience. For your wife Anna, not matter what, listen and interact with her whenever you can.
Gunplay is vastly improved. No one makes a better military shooter than Slavs and Exodus plays like Call of Duty made by artisan craftsmen. Every shot feels like it has so much power with each squeeze and with accompanying sound effects that sell the sensation. Modifying your weapons is far more fluid and easy. The more parts you gather from enemies, the more you can change. When you trade one gun for another in the field, you can take those parts and save them for when you get the same gun again. There are also several customization options. You could turn a revolver into a rifle or the Kalash into an RPK. There is so much you can do and the only drawback is you cannot replay the game and keep all of your attachments from your first play through.
I hope that changes in the future.
It is easy to call Exodus a “fans only” kind of experience. Newcomers will not be aware there is a karma system or how it works without research and miss out on some important character moments. It would be a learning experience, as it was for me. Where I was used to the claustrophobic tunnels and mild survival elements, I had to contend with wide-open spaces and a lack of resources to create what I needed to stay alive. Couple that with great character interactions and gunplay and you get a fantastic experience that is well worth your time, fan or not. It is certainly a more worthy purchase than Anthem or that new Far Cry expansion I cannot remember.
Editorial 41: Frank Castle, Ubermensch 2
So, the site in which this article was posted disappeared and all its contributor’s work with it. Thankfully, I have the original final drafts of what I wrote, including my favorite Punisher-related article. Enjoy.
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Any time I have the opportunity to talk about Punisher I go all out. Of the Marvel Pantheon, he is the most interesting character with great depth that many readers overlook. Garth Ennis was the first to delve into Frank Castle’s psychology in Punisher MAX, exploring his transformation during the Vietnam War and time as a vigilante. After reading so many comics, I have come to the conclusion that Frank is a Nietzschean Superman.
To the uninitiated, Fredrick Nietzsche was a philosopher that pioneered the concept of nihilism, the belief that morality means nothing because they are ideas adopted on the basis of human ignorance. He really spoke to me growing up and influenced how I see the world today. My knowledge of Nietzsche is cursory to say the least, so I recommend doing your own research.
One of his more famous concepts is the Superman or Ubermensch, introduced in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The Superman is an individual that can transcend the bounds of common belief and operate on his or her own terms. They are completely independent and function on logic alone, forming a set of values that supersede those of the majority, and shaping their destiny.
In fiction and history there are positive and negative examples of the Ubermensch. The Founding Fathers, Napoleon, and Hitler overcame society and did what they wanted. Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now discarded morality for instinct to fight the Vietcong. The Emperor from Warhammer 40k developed the logic based Imperial Truth to unite disparate human worlds across the galaxy. The Brotherhood of Steel from Fallout worshiped technology because it means salvation for the Wasteland.
The Superman concept fits right in with the pseudo-objectivism of superheroes. A hero using their powers to save people could be a form of showing how much better they are. Does Clark Kent really care about humanity or does he enjoy being revered? Why else would Batman enforce his own justice if not to assert his values? Does Captain America use his inherent symbolism as a way to show others how to act and behave? Though cynical, it is hard to deny the underlining motivations of vigilantes. What really drives someone to take up a symbol, a set of principles, and enforce it upon the people they do not like?
Castle’s transformation into a Nietzschean character happened in Vietnam. Overtime, he could not live without war because he loved fighting. In the story Born, America was pulling out and Frank actively prevented his unit from leaving their post. Later his war ended, but when he returned home, the incident that killed his wife and children forced him back into the mindset of a soldier.
He is driven by a bloodlust resulting from PTSD. Usually soldiers at home will want to go back to the front because that was the last place they felt normal. You spend a year in place where everyday could be your last and when you transition into a whole other environment, it can be difficult to accept the change. Hunting Vietcong was Castle’s normal and after his family was murdered, he saw the gangsters, murderers, and child molesters as Vietcong. Even after getting revenge he kept going because he believes he is fighting a war and does not want to stop.
Frank’s set of values as an Ubermensch is based on basic justice and pure instinct. His motivation is very simple: If you are evil, you die. He has no problem murdering someone for even associating with people connected to a major crime. He killed his partner Microchip because he worked for a heroin kingpin and executed a thug that helped him infiltrate a gang hideout.
He sees the world in a black and white moral spectrum. Castle thinks you are either totally bad or totally good with no in-between. When dealing with good, he acts with a compassion that penetrates his stoic demeanor. He was once a family man and when reminded of that life, he regresses into a father or husband. Frank is selective about what he cares about, but he actually cares and feels emotion. Mother Russia has the strongest example where he rescues a little girl from a missile silo and prevents her from seeing the worst of him. When fighting off waves of Russians, he made sure the girl was nowhere in sight of the violence and safe.
Castle holds so close to his values that there is no room for hesitation. He is a practical man, using his training as a soldier to function in all aspects of life besides work. If he owes someone a favor or they have something he needs, Frank is willing to play nice, which happened a lot in Punisher MAX. He is dismissive about working with others and moves on once he gets what he wants.
There is also no feeling behind his need to punish because to him it is normal. It takes a very specific event to really compromise Castle’s cold exterior. One time was a mobster filming himself defiling the corpses of his family. Another was a prostitute telling her story about being a victim of human trafficking. In those instances, Frank’s stoic bearing broke and he was a different man all together. After the deed was done he returned to a state of calm.
We idolize heroic figures because they transcend our notions of humanity. Inside us is the power to be something more and all it takes is the will to do so. Fredrick Nietzsche believed that the Ubermensch was the next step in human evolution as we drift further away from our primordial roots. Frank Castle is just one of many possibilities if we are to realize our potential. He may not be the most ideal, but even damaged of individuals have the capacity to become heroes.
Editorial 40: The New Thing
Neon Oldie is my second attempt at a serialized story. My first was essentially the same narrative years ago, but of less quality and time devoted to getting it perfect. I just jumped in without thinking and lost interest shortly thereafter. Later I figured out how to approach the story and format and here we are.
This endeavor is mostly experimental. I not only wanted to attempt serialization, but give my take on cyberpunk and noir. I studied the genres and worked up a decent understanding before putting pen to paper. My hope is I translated the various tropes and clichés well enough that readers will get what I am trying to do.
I have half the full story ready with roughly a quarter in final-ish form. Each completed chapter or installment is scheduled to post every Sunday morning EST. While some completed chapters wait to be uploaded, I will finish and edit more before getting them ready for posting in the future.
Keep an eye out every Sunday for new installments.
Editorial 39: What’ve I been up to?
Editorial 38: A New Thing
So, the past five months have not been great. I do not want to get into it too much, but back in December, a very close friend of mine broke my heart. It felt like a whole part of my life just ended, like a death in the family. As much as I have tried to move on, I have not felt the same since. I have a real job and I am arguably in a better place as of now, but I do not feel any different. I am still empty.
Usually, to get out of an emotional rut, you take anti-depressants or focus on your work. I am not filthy millennial, so pills are not a practical solution in my eyes. However, my writing has been stagnating as of late. There are less and less new movies I actually want to see and the ones I do are spread weeks apart. My last review was Infinity War and while waiting for Deadpool 2, I have seen it three times. I was going to write about Internet Blood Sports until the entire establishment imploded on itself. I could not find any motivation to write and I have no idea why. Sometimes I go back to what inspired me if I ever need help putting pen to paper, but even that did not help.
After a lot of thinking, I decided to do something new and different. I have been working on a follow up to my book Back to Valhalla. It is not a sequel, but a new story entirely. My plan was to go through the usual routine of publishing and releasing it sometime towards the end of the year. However, given what I am trying to do and my lack of motivation, I am going to release the story chapter by chapter on here, once a week.
As of writing this, I am halfway through writing the completed work. A small portion is a draft while the other is rougher than sex with a paint shaker. Obviously I have a ways to go, including getting a cover artist, and copyrighting the story. I cannot say when I will release the first chapter, but be on the look out in the near future.
Editorial 37: Muh Domino
Like Bryan Singer and Holocaust porn I am obsessed with how Fox ruined the X-Men. Other than X-Force, I never cared for that part of Marvel Comics. They never clicked with me, but when it comes to the X-Men movies, I am like a hardcore fan. The MCU set a standard that was not only achievable and infinitely more appealing than what was the norm until 2008. When I look at what Fox has done in comparison, I am dumbfounded they cannot grasp basic aesthetic and tonal concepts that would vastly improve the films. And while the man responsible is more or less out of the picture, the bleak seriousness of the Singer-Verse persists and it has affected one of my favorite characters.
Prepare for some high quality autism.
Domino is a mutant with the power of probability manipulation, a passive ability where she creates her own luck. It happens in random, small bursts where she will hit a target via ricochet or score big at the tables. In terms of character, there are a lot of places you can take the idea of a person who basically gets whatever they want. Based on what has been written, Dom is a fun-loving free spirit, living life fast and loose as one of Marvel’s many mercenaries. She is a great action character and her premiere cinematic incarnation in Deadpool 2 (DP2) looks like pure dog shit.
Before I get into: no, it is not because the actress is black. Zazie Beetz is pretty good on Atlanta and I have hope she will do Dom justice. However, whoever picked her make-up and outfit should lose their job forever. DP2-Dom looks like a cross between a spinster stuck in the 70s and an extra from a Mad Max rip-off like Land of Doom. If there were ever a time and place for Singer-Verse tight leather, it would have been perfect for Dom. Instead we get a failed Black Widow cosplay made by someone who is colorblind. There are blue patches on the sides, a flesh-colored stripe down the middle that was clearly unnecessary, and lots of dirt-stained vinyl.
DP2-Dom is a microcosm of the problems with Fox’s X-Men. It is devoid of class and style and reeks of embarrassment. The people that make these movies hate the material and do everything they can to distance themselves from the comics. There were moments when the X-Men films embraced their origin. X-Men First Class was a step in the right direction and Deadpool could not have been better. DP2 looked like it was keeping up the momentum until I saw what they did to muh Domino.
There is a lot that goes into character design in comics. First and foremost is the color scheme. Everything has to match and look good on the page. You can have a terrible looking costume and make it great with the right choice of color. I am not a fan of Wolverine’s traditional outfit, but the use of color makes him look awesome. The same can be said for Mitch Gerads’ Punisher with a combination of tan, black, and white. What matters is how color is arranged into the character design. The MCU understands this and translates the costumes directly from the page to screen.
Like other characters Dom has a simple three-color combination. This changes depending on the artist, but the usual scheme is ash-white, black-blue, and black. The arrangement of color is typical Marvel character design, particularly in regards to the X-Men. If you need to make a ton of different mutants, easiest way to do it is change their skin color, hair color, or put some weird marks on their faces. In Dom’s case she has a giant blue-black spot over her left eye and ash-white skin. Her lips and hair are also blue-black, giving her a geisha look that was common among 90s era characters. The black in Dom’s design lies in her costume, though this changes between artists.
Most Marvel characters are visually striking, but what sets Dom apart is her high contrast. Her color scheme is heterochromatic with intense light and dark shades, allowing her features pop. Her emotions are clear as day thanks to her blue-black lips and her left eye practically glows surrounded by her signature spot. The high contrast also makes Dom aesthetically pleasing. Her features are not too busy or outlandish. She is beautifully simple and stands out among the Marvel pantheon with little to no effort. I would go so far as to say her design belongs up there with the likes of Captain America and Iron Man.
So, what did DP2 do to Dom? They gave her a gaudy ‘fro, did not paint her skin, and put some white shit around her eye. I gather the thought process behind the make-up was to add contrast based on the actress’ natural skin tone. However, the tone of white they used does not pop enough to qualify as contrast. The spot should have matched her hair or a darker color that would have stood out. Muted is the operative word here because nothing about DP2 Dom’s design pops. I also have no clue why they went with a fugly-ass ‘fro that would be impractical in a gunfight. It is more of target than a hairdo.
I can just feel the laziness in her design. No one bothered to paint her in the standard colors. I understand if Zazie Beetz did not want to be painted; Jennifer Lawrence hated being Mystique so much, she was barely in full make-up. If it is so irritating wearing body paint, then why are so many actors in the MCU okay with it? From what I know, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, and almost everyone else in the Guardians movies wear body paint without complaint. It is not even that much: just the face and hands. That is all Dom needs unless she is wearing something other than her costume. It is so easy and I cannot believe the make-up department was that lazy.
A faithful incarnation of Domino would have not only been easy to pull off, but fit perfectly in line with Deadpool 2. Again, this is not a matter of casting choice; this is all about aesthetics and the continuous failure of Fox to shake the pedophilic stench of Bryan Singer from their X-Men. I am going to see Infinity War this week and I hope, when Thanos uses the Infinity Gauntlet, he merges the MCU with the Singer-Verse and erases it in favor of something to be proud of.
Editorial 36: I Built a Thing III
I apologize for the recent lack of content. I have been pretty busy this past weekend at a book fair, shilling my story, and hanging with friends. Furthermore, nothing came out that really struck my fancy. Red Sparrow looked like another boring spy movie, Death Wish was a remake, and A Wrinkle in Time was clearly not made for me. This week shows promise and I have another Netflix review in the works. In the meantime, I built a thing.
I am of the opinion that every movie, book, and videogame is an experiment by creators. Rather than do the same thing over and over, they attempt something new with follow-up projects and sequels. Whether it is to test new mechanics or challenge themselves, experimentation in the arts is key to future success. When I decided to start building scutums, I went through trial and error to nail down a process that produced the best results. Even after I succeeded I knew I could do more and change up the formula to make it better.
There were a number of elements I wanted to address with this new Centurion Scutum (CS): weight, handling, appearance, and painting. With the commission I was given after my first, I found using thinner panels cut down on the total weight and made the shield easy to carry. However, I used fence slats that were 4” wide, which made them 1.5” bigger than the cross beams holding them together. The steps on the beams are 2.5, leaving enough room for overlap, thus more protection. More overlap made the panels flimsy because they do not have enough support from the beams. I should have double pinned them to the steps, but there was a risk of cracking the beams. Instead I made sure to cover the steps in extra glue to secure the panels.
To solve this problem I decided to make the new panels 3” wide. On top of that, I wanted to give the CS a curve and the top and bottom. I do not know if it is historically accurate, but I borrowed the design from the show Rome where Verinus and other Centurions used a curved variant of the scutum. The problem was the segmented design would throw off the curve. Because they are staggered across the beams on the steps, the line of the curve would break between each panel.
This was partly why I elected to paint the scutums after assembly rather than before. I knew if I applied a pattern on the panels laid flat, the inside edges would be hidden by the overlap, covering an otherwise complete design. Because this new shield was an experiment, I elected to test this theory. I also added a laurel crown around the eagle and reversed the blue/white color scheme. I was inspired to make white the primary color from a painting of Caesar in combat on foot, which he did on occasions like at Pharsalus. Apparently the painting was of the Battle of Alesia, but I do not know if Caesar was actually with his men during the final battle.
After assembly I took account of the results. The curve was inconsistent, but only at the two side panels and not to the extreme I suspected. One problem I found was the pattern. Not only were the designs broken up across the panels, parts of each one were hidden under the panels or too far apart to look correct. All that survived was the thunderbolts, eagle, and SPQA. The stars and laurel were more or less destroyed. Lastly, the total weight of the CS was significantly reduced at the cost of making it smaller. It could still provide adequate cover, but a little more would have been better.
With these failures I have learned a lot. I feel more confident about painting, determined the proper size of panels, and I now know that I can make a curved variant that does not look terrible. Moving forward I understand more about the construction process. There is always room for improvement and I cannot wait until I am inspired to try something different again.
Editorial 35: I Built a Thing II
For about a year and a half, my parents have been building an apartment in the back of their house. With all the construction, they ended up with a surplus of scrap wood that I collected for future use. As the months went by the wood remained in a pile taking up space. I am not one for being an inconvenience, but I could not think of what to do with the material until I found inspiration.
If you read my book “Back to Valhalla” (check it out (http://a.co/bTui8sN)) you can tell I am a fan of Vikings and Norse Mythology. I find their way of life and beliefs fascinating. Their morality and concept of heaven hinged upon dying in battle and most of the Norse Pantheon are personifications of war. I would not have written a book about it were it not awesome.
However, when it comes to rating warrior cultures, the Romans take the cake. Their training, tactics, and impact on the world are a treasure trove of military history. For such an antiquated period, Rome had the most modern conception of an army. They had a salary, unit organization, and equipment designed to be as efficient as possible when meeting a foe.
The most important piece of equipment was the shield called a scutum. It was cumbersome and awkward, but was an essential component in the legionary’s arsenal. It was so effective at crowd control when up against groups of hostiles that police riot shields take after the scutum. Next to the late Imperial Era body armor, the Roman shield is iconic, and I wanted to build one.
For practical use or otherwise, I wanted to make a scutum. Maybe I would use it at a protest to bash Antifa thugs in the teeth or for exercise; I did not have plan. My only concern was putting one together. After two first attempts I did not bother documenting because I was embarrassed, I figured out a system to put build a scutum that was functional and semi-faithful to the original design.
The first problem was the curve. Your standard Roman shield is rounded plywood, but I did not have sheets that size or the tools to bend it into shape. To compensate, I made a stencil for two curved crossbeams to hold panels or fence slats to simulate the curve. To protect the user I settled on a shape and length to hold nine panels between 2.5” to 4” wide. I also took an artistic liberty and made the beams with ½” steps in a fashion similar to a Viking long ship.
Next came assembly. The beams were positioned nine inches from the top and bottom ends of the panels and pinned with shaven chopsticks. I wanted to use bolts, but 22 metal bolts with nuts can be expensive and one of my goals was to use materials that were already available. The pins were also glued in place with expanding epoxy. The carry handle was placed at the center on the third and seventh panels with two pins. Once the glue was dry the panels were sanded down.
The final step was painting and I cannot paint to save my life. Using stencils I drew beforehand, I had a better time of it. I also learned to never touch spray paint ever again. Scutums were usually pained red and gold, but I wanted the shield to look contemporary. Many argue America is the new Rome, so I decided my shield should reflect that sentiment. After masking off the gaps from the back, I settled on a dark blue field with gold trim.
Borrowing from history for the main design, I picked a Roman eagle perched atop the acronym SPQA. Originally it was SPQR, “Senatus Populusque Romanus” or “The Senate and People of Rome.” Latin Nazis will correct me, but in my case I switched “Romanus” with “Americanus” to fit the contemporary aesthetic. Beneath that I added a pair of thunderbolts and crowned the whole thing with 13 stars, representing the original American Colonies.
Weight and handling aside, I was very happy with the end result. I finally figured out how to build a semi-faithful scutum while making it artistic. Whether it would be useful in a riot or reenactment remains to be seen, but I feel good knowing I accomplished something.
I shared my work on social media and people were more or less impressed. A friend of mine wanted one and I could not help but oblige. Being of short stature she did not want the scutum to weigh a lot and requested I paint a Gorgon head on the front in reference to the Aegis of Athena. To capture the detail of the design, I drew out a Gorgon on paper, and traced the lines onto the wood with a thick piece of wire. I then followed the indention with white paint across five panels. After finishing the design I went back to touch it up.
My friend and I settled on a price for my effort and I am working on getting the shield to her in the near future. I really enjoyed building these scutums and I want to make more. If you like my work and want your own, please use my email below. If you want a design other than a scutum or a particular color scheme, I would be willing to work with you. Prices may vary depending on labor and transportation required.
Editorial 34: The Great Marvel Purge
Following the Russian Revolution, Joseph Stalin began consolidating power in what became known as the Great Purge. Military officers, prominent Bolshevik actors, and political dissidents among the citizenry were executed or sent to the gulag. Leon Trotsky, a major figure in Marxist Theory, fled to Mexico where he was assassinated in 1940. It is believed that 1.7 million were killed and several others erased from history. After Stalin’s death, his successor Nikita Khrushchev condemned the Purge and spent his time in office releasing prisoners and clearing names from one of Russia’s darkest moments in history. Marvel Comics is having its own Great Purge and I could not be happier.
The politicization of entertainment has persisted for about three years now. Creators and committees have infected movies, videogames, and comics with politics and PC dogma. Left leaning opinions, fake diversity, and anti-Right sentiments can be found in a variety of media. There were the casting choices of Rogue One and Star Trek: Discovery, the Social Justice takeover of MTV, and lionization of fictional characters based on race and gender. You cannot escape politics because it is everywhere. What we used to forget the world is now a constant reminder.
Of course, I appear bias in my assessment. I have on several occasions made jokes at the expense of Democrats, Blue-Hairs, and Post-Modernists. I imagine you think if more media leaned Right I would be satisfied, but you are very wrong. Politicization from any side of the isle would be ignored, regardless if I agree or not. I consume entertainment to be entertained. I will not watch, play or read pro-gun or pro-capitalist media because I do not need a reminder that both those things are awesome. If I wanted propaganda, I would seek out propaganda. I want to be entertained and I almost gave up on Marvel Comics because I was not being entertained.
Following Jonathan Hickman’s exceptional Secret Wars event, the Marvel universe was reset. This is nothing new as events are a chance for comic publishers to realign their continuity and introduce new stories. At the start of 2016 Marvel Comics began to trickle out a host of books with a twist. Familiar characters were changed in terms of gender, race, and put in new situations. Again, this is standard practice and no one had a problem with any of the changes. I was interested to see how Falcon would fare as Captain America, Iron Man as a 15 year-old black girl, and Jane Foster as Thor.
And then people started reading these books.
Most of the titles I am about to mention I have not read. Comics are an expensive hobby depending on how many you pick up. Thanks to politicization, however, the number of titles I buy can be counted on one hand. I knew ahead of time what to avoid and have enough information to explain why these books have been excised from the roster. The following three stories are no longer in circulation or the characters have changed writers since my reading.
My first experience with politicization was the “Unsolicited opinions on Israel” line in Angela: Queen of Hel. The titular heroin encounters the character Bor who spouts off insults. His dialog is blacked out with descriptors like “A lot of misogynist filth” and “Red Pill MRA meninist casual racism” written over them in white. What the author is trying to say is male characters opposed to a female hero are motivated by misogyny. It has nothing to do with having different beliefs or conflicting ideologies. It is just good old fashion sexism.
The biggest perpetrator of politicization was Nick Spencer’s run of two Captain America books. Aside from his blatant misunderstanding of the character (a trend among these hacks), Spencer used his position to sermonize Progressive politics. Rather than continue where Steve Rogers left off, Sam Wilson was made into a “crowd-funded hero” beholden to the community. There are themes of the plight of the African American, Wilson questioning if Rogers actually stood for the people, and a villainous group called the Americops (how subtle). Spencer also made the new Steve Rogers Captain America an agent of Hydra, leading into the failed Secret Empire event that was an allegory for the election of Donald Trump.
There were many more examples of politicization, but I had the good sense to avoid them. However, there were others who bought these books just to criticize them on YouTube. Thanks to Diversity & Comics, Razorfist, and Micah Curtis, I have more than enough information to make my point. I am only scratching the surface because there is a lot more to this problem than bad stories. The following books have both political elements and show symptoms of the greater disease.
America follows the exploits of America Chavez, a dimension hopper. Seen in Young Avengers and the new Ultimates, America is a decent character with an interesting power set and attitude that sets her apart. In her own book, she was narrowed down to being gay, brown, and a vindictive bitch.
Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, was my new favorite hero until she was not. The character had a decent run with writer Kelly Sue Deconnick. When Deconnick left the mainstream, Carol was given the illusion of depth in a new book. She caused the Civil War II event and was put in command of Alpha Flight, but rather than explore how this affected her character, Carol was relegated to sitcom antics and sermonized about refugees. Good idea, author Margaret Stohl. Take a former Air Force captain with superpowers and put her in the Big Bang Theory.
Iceman is about X-Man Bobby Drake being gay. That is it.
Mighty Thor is about Jane Foster becoming the new god of thunder after Thor’s fall from grace. I actually did not have a problem with this change. I wanted to mention it because someone reading this might wonder why I did not include it. There was one line about feminism, but I think it was isolated and everyone just overreacted. Jason Aaron remains one of Marvel’s best writers.
After Civil War II, Riri Williams, a 15 year-old wunderkind, replaced Tony Stark as Iron Man. Her characteristics include being a girl, black, and borderline sociopathic. Her friends and family coddle her and always say she is a genius. As a result, Riri is a Mary Sue who is not allowed to experience conflict because some people might get offended a person of color can be a character.
And that is what I am trying to get at.
None of these books and characters has anything to them. They have been boiled down to basic traits that a minority of a minority of people will care about. Do you think anyone gives a shit that America Chavez is gay or Carol Danvers has a vagina? Nobody reads comics for the superficial. I did not read Captain America or Invincible Iron Man because the characters were straight white men. I read them because they were cool stories. Comic readers want narratives that put the characters through their paces, but I guess we are not good enough to see them struggle. What could be interesting and a great read is nonexistent because these characters are not allowed to work hard. They are special snowflakes and must be praised for doing nothing because we do not want to make someone sad.
The lead-up to the Great Marvel Purge is not a lesson in avoiding politicization, but in miscalculation. In an attempt to appeal to Blue-Hairs, Marvel Comics alienated its core audience. They transformed beloved characters into sock-puppets for Z-tier authors to prove their Gender Studies degree was worth becoming a debt slave. The people Marvel has tried to appease do not read comics. They are two-dimensional thinkers and accept the superficial over depth and complexity. They prefer simplicity, a character narrowed down to their skin color and whom they like inside of them. Blue-Hairs, Soy-Boys, and Post-Modernists care only for what fits their basic and illogical criteria, disparaging the normal or anything that questions their sensibilities.
And Marvel learned the hard way that such thinking does not sell comics.
Following the departure of Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, his replacement CB Cebulski looked at the monthly sales figures of Marvel’s books. It was clear that politicized and/or underperforming stories were not meeting their quota to warrant continuation. Cebulski had not choice but to pull the trigger. In early December it was announced that America, Iceman, Luke Cage, Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Gwenpool, and Generation X were cancelled. Some of the writers took to social media to express their dismay. Gabby Rivera, the writer of America, chose to have a tantrum instead.
It is unclear if other books will last through 2018. Only the numbers can say and it is not looking good. As of November 2017, Champions, a political lite book sold 21 thousand copies, Captain Marvel 15, and Ms. Marvel, a pro-Muslim book that used to be good sold 15 thousand. There is no better proof of the failure of politicization than the numbers; no emotion behind it; just plain facts.
Blue-Hairs, Soy-Boys, and Post-Modernists do not operate on fact. They think based on feelings and seeing books they never read cancelled drives them into a frenzy. They do not care about real art with nuance and complexity because it does not fit their worldview. They prefer the obvious, relish the simple, and cherish superficiality. To them, a character is not defined by who they are and a story is not conflict. To them, a character is what they are and a story is meant to reaffirm that the character is perfect in every way. All you get with that kind of thinking is failure and Marvel Comics has a long way to go before it can recover.
I am not one to praise a communist, but I am sure Stalin had only Russia’s best interests in mind when he slaughtered millions. I am being sarcastic, of course. The man was a paranoid psychopath who was desperate to hold onto power. As a writer, I cannot imagine what the authors and artists of those cancelled books must be going through. They probably devoted every waking hour to planning out issue after issue to fit within the limits of the medium. Believe me, that is hard work, and it was all for naught. Thousands of words and hundreds of pages of art will be lost in the Great Marvel Purge. They will be remembered as a tragic misstep in the publisher’s history to remind us what happens when you stop caring about telling good stories. I should feel bad for those artists and writers, but as Malcolm McDowell once said, “They started the fire; they can burn in it.”
Editorial 33 Redux: Whoops
So, I had a bit of a moment of panic early last night. I discovered there were a number of minor errors in the ebook I published in November. Back to Valhalla was a massive achievement and it scared the shit out of me knowing I messed something up after getting ready for publishing for so long. I went a little too far trying to correct my mistake, deleting the original Editorial on here and some promotional materials that had links to the book on Amazon.
When it comes to panic, I am a nothing if not thorough.
Anyway, I deleted the book from the store, made adjustments in a new manuscript, and uploaded the finished file shortly thereafter. It should look better and I will not make the same mistakes again. If you are a reader with an original copy, I apologize for missing those errors. And if you are not a reader, follow the link below if you are interested.
Editorial 33: I Wrote A Book (restored)
The title says it all. I had this story sitting around for a while until I worked up the courage to get it published. I left it alone a year after writing the book until I went to school and learned a lot more about writing and storytelling. When I flipped through the manuscript I realized how much I got wrong and spent another year getting it almost perfect.
I have always been fascinated with Vikings and Norse Mythology. While they were one of many warrior-based cultures, they were the most prolific. The Vikings radically changed Medieval Europe, traveled farther than any other people at the time, and were unmatched when it comes to combat. The gods they worshipped are even more interesting. Each one, in addition to personifying their respective element, is a war god. Freya is the goddess of fertility, but she is still a warrior. Bragi, god of skalds, does not personify war, but sings to the warriors in Valhalla. One way or another they have some connection to war and I found it all straight up cool.
Back to Valhalla takes the premise of the Viking afterlife and applies it to the whole of Mankind. What if the concept of going to heaven by dying in battle included everyone, from every time period, across the globe? You would have Roman Legionaries drinking with GIs, Zulus fighting Samurais or any number of crazy combinations because they are all in one place: Valhalla.
The story follows Specialist Frank Roehm of the Georgia National Guard. He is deployed to Baghdad during the last months of the Iraq War when a booby trap gives him a face full of shrapnel. Instead of blackness or Heaven, Frank is greeted by a Valkyrie, and flown to the cracked world of Asgard. He is brought to the hall of Valhalla where he meets his father who died in Operation Just Cause and his childhood friend Kevin who bought it in Afghanistan years prior.
I had a lot of fun writing Back to Valhalla and I hope you have fun reading it. The book is available on Amazon in the Kindle store for $3.99USD. Even though I have a background in formatting ebooks, the upload came out decent. Once I get a print version off the ground, it will look much better. I am still working on ways to promote the story, giving out free copies to friends and others, but I have some ideas for spreading the word. Click the link below if you are interested.
I hope you enjoy my first book as a real author and be on the lookout for a certain screenplay that is three years late 🙂
Editorial 32: Vacation
As the title suggests, I will be gone for a couple weeks. I am taking a break from writing to focus on personal stuff. For that reason, I will not be able to review Thor: Ragnarok, much to my dismay. However, I will be seeing Last Jedi in December; bought the ticket and everything.
To be clear, I am not doing this because I have given up on writing reviews, given my sparse posting as of late. I can assure you, if movies I actually wanted to see came out once a week, I would post a review for each one. Please pardon the inconvenience.
I will be back.
Editorial 31: I Built a Thing
Jordan Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and the most red-pilled Canadian in existence. I will not get into the man’s politics for fear of losing friends, but he has a lot to say in regards to subjects of the social/cultural persuasion. During his time in the Internet spotlight, the meme “Clean Your Room” was born. Peterson explains the act is a form of meditation, fixing what is out of order. It means get yourself together, stop lying, and come to terms with reality.
I like to think I have a decent head on my shoulders, but he makes a point. Everyone requires some sort of re-orientation. Chaos can only get you so far before you need order to redress the balance. When I discovered this meme, it just so happened I needed to clean my whole apartment because I am getting a roommate. I also took advice from a friend to cut down on clutter, of which I had a lot. And while I was throwing things out or moving them into boxes, I discovered a surplus of cardboard sitting in my closet.
I was inspired by ComicBookGirl19 when she made a full RoboCop costume entirely out of carboard. I figured I could do that myself and hoarded the material from boxes. After doing nothing with this hoard for years, I finally found the desire to build. As I was replaying Fallout 4 for the first time in a while, I wanted to build an Automatic Laser Rifle (ALR).
In terms of scale I went off of an old BB gun I had lying around. It is the size of an M4 and close to a standard scale rifle. Each piece was made from single parts of cardboard. I cut them out according to grain and made lines to help them bend without compromising integrity.
I ended up with five pieces: the receiver, rotor, barrel, handguard, and buttstock. The top pieces were connected by a skewer running through the middle before they were glued together. I wanted the rotor to spin, but the way the ALR was assembled made it impossible. Once they were glued, I attached the handguard and buttstock before spraying the whole thing in black Plasti Dip for added sturdiness.
The finished weapon came out bigger than I planned. Instead of a rifle used by a foot soldier, it was the size of a Mosin Nagant, a very long bolt action. Given the complex shapes and balance, the length made it totally impractical. Unless you were a giant no ordinary human could use it.
That being said, I saw this failure as a stepping-stone to success. I learned how to build it, the dimensions of each component, and developed its second incarnation. As of now I am adjusting measurements and selecting the material I will be using. Whatever may come of this next endeavor I will make mention in another post.
Editorial 30: Difficult Question
I have come to realize that what I say in writing has negative connotations. Regardless of intent or context, there is always the possibility someone will be offended. As a consequence, what I say creates a persona that does not reflect who I am. When you are trying to gain a following, it is important to understand how people see you. And because no one ever gives me feedback, I am forced to ask outright:
Based on what have you read (hopefully), who do you think I am, regardless if you know me or not, and what do you think I believe when it comes to religion, politics, etc?
Please be as honest as you can. I will take anything I can get.
Editorial 29: Sam Wilson
My schedule has been pretty hectic for a lot of March. I have been housesitting, looking after my dog, and I just quit my other job. At the moment I am technically employed, but that does not change the fact I need another job. For these reasons I have been absent on the blog and for that I apologize. I hope to review Trainspotting 2 if it comes out to a theater near me and I patiently await Ghost in the Shell. In the meantime and because I am skipping Power Rangers, (I’m sorry, but it just looks terrible) let us talk about Sam Wilson.
If you are an avid reader of my work (I hope), you probably notice I mention the name Nick Spencer in a negative light quite a lot. He is a comic book writer for Marvel and one of the many hacks responsible for the politicization of the medium. It is no surprise he was an up incoming “progressive” politician, the same people who see the Working Class as racist, misogynistic, homophobic and Islamophoic (yeah, that’s definitely a thing that’s real). And Spencer is in charge of not one, but two Captain America books.
Reading his work it is easy to spot the man’s backwards ideology. He made Red Skull a President Trump parallel with dialog plagiarized from MSNBC sound bites. The villainous Americops are paramilitary policemen that target people of color. Steve Rogers was turned into an Agent of Hydra (also Nazis, but not really according to pre-MCU comics), and the new Captain America, Sam Wilson, a diehard Liberal martyr. Most of this nonsense can be found in the long, droning speech bubbles and thought boxes that cover each panel. Spencer’s work is so notoriously idiotic you can find scans of choice pages around the Internet.
The man’s politics are good enough a reason to ignore his books, but for me it comes down to his gross misunderstanding of his assigned character. Rogers being a part of Hydra I can forgive being the result of some Cosmic Cube stuff. My concern is the mantel of Captain America and Sam Wilson as its bearer. And no, it is not because he is black.
My issue is Spencer has no idea what Cap is, what he has always been. I have no clue why the man was put in charge of the character given his utter ignorance. To Spencer, Cap is a tool of the US government, an apostle of the status quo whose sole allegiance is to the State. In one issue he was even referred to as “Captain Establishment.”
The first couple issues of the Wilson arc were spent setting up the titular new Cap as a man of the people, making him a free agent reliant on crowd funding. This was meant to distance the character from this idea that the original Cap was a pawn of the government. In Wilson’s dialog and thoughts he questions if Rogers actually represented America. He feels being one with the people makes him a better Cap, hence the Liberal rhetoric.
That is all well and good, but it does not change the irrefutable fact that never, in his nigh 80-year existence, was Cap ever a part of the establishment. To think he would adhere to the status quo proves Spencer has never read a Cap book in his life. He spits in the face of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon with such detritus. It is clear to me that the man had an agenda and did not care what he got wrong.
Where DC characters are mythological figures, Marvel’s Pantheon is symbolic. Punisher is death, Daredevil justice, and Iron Man is technology. Captain America is symbolic of liberty in its purest form. He is the US Constitution brought to life, the walking, talking manifestation of the Founding Fathers’ ideals. He does not exist for the American government, but what America means. Cap is truth, justice, and freedom rendered flesh and does not represent a minority or a majority group.
You can find plenty of evidence in comics of his anti-establishment underpinnings. He gave up the shield when he discovered Nixon was the Hate Monger. He was the first to oppose the Superhero Registration Act in the first Civil War arc. He later turned himself in when he found all the fighting caused more harm than good. In Born Again, Cap defied the government by putting down Nuke, a psychotic super soldier created by the Pentagon to be a merciless killing machine.
You do not have to read too much into the guy to realize how little he cares for the establishment. Even as a product of the Military Industrial Complex he has never willingly given in to bureaucracy and petty partisan bullshit. With a shield, Cap makes a point that he is trying to fix the world, not destroy it. He also sat out of Vietnam, but I doubt it would have made a difference. Like Columbia, he is the personification of America and what it means to be free, to be in total control of your destiny.
Nick Spencer does not think so. The self-loathing Liberal pig is one of thousands of swine that see America as the ultimate oppressor, the enemy of the world that must be brought to heel for all the bad things it has done… a century-and-a-half ago. To Spencer and his ilk, Captain America represents the very worst of ideals: Patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism.
It was only right that he would make Sam Wilson the complete opposite, a man of the people devoted to the community. However, by giving Cap a “side” to fight for in opposition to another “side,” Spencer has made Cap into an establishment character. Like your average socialist system, Wilson is a paradox, a never-ending contradiction that supports a status quo while claiming to upend it. It is like Democrats and Republicans: no matter which one you pick, you are still a part of the government and beholden to the system you mean to change. Wilson just traded in arguably Centrist ideals for those of the Left, which argues for more establishment control, something the original Cap would have fought against.
It is bad enough that Spencer does not understand Captain America. That alone makes him unqualified, but I think he missed a huge opportunity with Wilson. Furthermore, using SJW logic (which is a titanic misnomer), he is also unqualified to write a character that is black because he is white. I have a feeling he shames himself and apologizes to no one for using his genetic privilege to take a job meant for a person of color. It is almost as if he has a double standard, falling perfectly in lock step with the common SJW practice of Doublethink.
Big Brother would be proud.
Obviously the history of black people in America is tumultuous. Slavery, Jim Crow, and the Klan are pretty bad to say the least. It is important for an outsider to understand the situation in as clear a light a possible without bias. I will never fully get what it is like to be black, but Spencer certainly thinks he does. He thinks because they are not white, black people are oppressed, and require liberation. Intersectionality is the name of the game where all non-white, non-male, non-hetero people are victims of the Patriarchy who must stick together and work as a community. Spencer sees black people through a Liberal ideological lens, a group that needs help, and is not in control of their own destiny.
Again, we are talking about a pasty white dude.
This brings to mind what could have been done with Wilson as Cap. Given our history with black people, what would it mean for Wilson to be the embodiment of America? Does he follow in Roger’s footsteps and continue his good work or supplement the symbolism with his own experiences? An American is an American, but every culture has a their own interpretation of being an American.
In the end, all any outsider can do is pretend to get it. I will never understand what it is like being Latino or Asian in America, but if I had to write about it, I would not pick one experience over another. Going the opposite route, you are basically perpetuating a stereotype based on a minority of experiences. You would be better off ignoring such a detail and writing the character as a character. Robert Heinlein wrote Johnny Rico as Johnny Rico and not as a Filipino named Johnny Rico. Then again, I doubt Spencer is enlightened enough to ignore skin color.
Wilson as Cap presented an opportunity to explore being black in America. He would have to question if he is a part of the image usually associated with whites or that of blacks. Is there even a difference or does he have the right to change the meaning behind Captain America? He could be the egalitarian Martin Luther King or the militant Malcolm X. At the end of the day, it should not matter because he is supposed to be a symbol, but for a story that requires conflict, Wilson trying to figure out what it means to be America and black is interesting. I would have read that book and stuck with it, unless the art sucked.
The politicization of Marvel Comics has meant the death of many a story I used to enjoy. Beloved characters have become bogged down in nonsense and the mouthpieces of writers that have no right to be writers. I was interested to see what would become of Sam Wilson as Captain America, but Nick Spencer could not keep his Liberal rhetoric to himself. Cap was my fist favorite superhero and I can only hope Punisher puts him out of his misery before it is too late.
Editorial 28: Fixing Ukraine
It is an American past-time to support and/or intervene in various conflicts around the world. From the Boxer Rebellion to Arab Spring, we are there in some capacity trying to sway one side over the other. Despite the instances where we have failed or made the problem worse, there have been times where the end result was worth the trouble. South Korea is our greatest success story. Compared to its neighbors, the little country that could is a major player in world economics and a haven of technology and industry. We did not need to be in Iraq, but by toppling Saddam we freed the Kurds, the most egalitarian people in the region. As I right this they are fighting ISIL to the death and they could use more support.
Why would we waste men, materiel, and money on countries we do not care about? Why go to the trouble of helping a group of people that will probably stab us in the back in the aftermath?
America was founded on democratic revolution. Fighting back is a part of our cultural identity. Whether you were born here or immigrated, there exists an insatiable need to revolt against those that mean to control us. Looking at the rest of the world, it is sickening to Americans when we see people living with oppressive systems. Our ancestors lived under one such system until we unshackled ourselves in warfare. We understand what it is like and want to share liberty with others.
However, more often than not our devotion to revolt leads to unintended consequences or outright failure. Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Iran, Somalia, and more recently Syria, where blind spending by the previous administration helped create ISIL. These mishaps prove such untempered intervention needs to change before we can move on. And one place to start is Ukraine.
While everyone was dumping buckets of ice water on themselves, Ukraine was in the middle of a sociopolitical realiament. A majority of its citizens wanted to pursue stronger ties with the West. When pro-Russia president Viktor Yanukovych refused, protests and riots proceeded in the capital of Kiev, setting off the Euromaidan Revolution. Thousands were in the streets clashing with police, turning the city into a war zone that allegedly left many dead (watch at your own peril).
In the midst of chaos, the Crimean Peninsula was annexed by Russia. Shortly thereafter, the War in Donbass began with pro-Russia separatists demanding the region of the same name secede from Ukraine. It was later revealed that Russian Special Forces were embedded with the rebels. NATO was put on high alert, US troops were deployed to advise the Ukrainian army, and Russia built up forces on its western border. After a number of failed ceasefires the war is currently in a stalemate.
So, why should you care about Ukraine?
Well, you should not. Though trying to liberate is our goal, most Americans do not care about other countries unless they have a personal stake or good reason. Some people just want a cause to believe in, no matter how pointless and ultimately damaging it may turn out to be (looking at you McIntosh and Sarkeesian). In this case I have been following the situation in Ukraine for a while and have a cursory knowledge of the country’s relationship with Russia. You would think these two Slavic nations would get along until you read about the Holodomor, the Chernobyl Disaster, and many other incidents as result of their association.
Given the War in Donbass and the annexation of Crimea, I was compelled to find a way to solve this problem. Had Hillary Clinton been elected the solution would be nuclear. Thankfully and I say this absolute sincerity, we do not have to take such drastic action. Because I am a pretentious dick with a blog, I know nothing of real diplomacy and do not expect this to make a difference. What I have to say on Ukrainian/Russian relations is from the perspective of a casual observer and must be taken with a grain of salt.
The Donbass/Crimea Resolution
Section 1. Donbass Region
a. All separatist forces in Donbass must lay down their arms and surrender to the Ukrainian government.
b. All Russian advisors within separatist forces must return to Russia.
c. Separatist forces will be granted amnesty by the Ukrainian government unless accused of war crimes. Such individuals will be prosecuted under the full extent of the law.
d. Local municipalities will submit to the jurisdiction of the government before traditional order can be restored. Heads of state appointed by the separatists before the signing of this resolution will not be recognized.
Section 2. Civilian Population in Donbass Region
a. Russia, Ukraine, and NATO affiliates will provide humanitarian aid to the displaced and/or disaffected civilian population. This includes rebuilding city centers, homes, and supplying food and medicine.
b. Displaced civilians will be considered refugees and resettled within Ukraine until humanitarian efforts are complete. Displaced civilians will have the option to resettle elsewhere if they so desire.
Section 3. Military Activity
a. Russia may be free to conduction military exercises on its western border if it so desires. This permission extends to its neighbors and NATO affiliates.
b. Ukraine will be free to accept US military advisors to use at their discretion. This permission is not limited to the US and NATO affiliates.
c. Ukraine will be allowed to accpet materiel support for whomever it desires.
Section 4. Crimea
a. The Crimean Peninsula will remain under Russian control.
b. While US President Trump is in office, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will make no military attempt to retake Crimea.
c. The local government of Crimea shall hold a referendum every six months to gage if they want to remain under Russian control or return to Ukraine.
d. If returned to Ukraine, Russia must remove all military elements from Crimea. Government control will be reestablished within the region.
e. Resistance to the transition will be treated as an insurgency.
Once again, I am not an expert of any kind. I wrote this based on what I thought would help the situation according to my basic understanding of diplomatic compromise. What I hope to accomplish is that people realize there is always a way to fight conflict without fighting. Just like warfare, that means giving up the things you want in the end. Ukraine has a right to exist on its own terms and I think this resolution is the best it can hope for.
Editroial 27: Nitpicking
Because of my budget, I can only afford to see one movie a week. After I saw LEGO Batman I saw another film because I was asked to by a friend. This is a person I respect more than anything and when she saw John Wick: Chapter 2 despite her apprehension, I was honor bound to see this other movie. When I sat down to watch it, however, I found I was correct in wanting to skip it. Because I respect my friend and I will have nothing but negative remarks, I cannot in good conscious write a review. Instead, here is something I have wanted to talk about for a long time.
To the uninitiated, Nitpicking is to point out elements or ideas in a given work that are meaningless and treat them as major problems. It is to complain about shit that does not matter. Little things and actions, regardless of their insignificance, are weighed and measured as if they have a broader purpose. Elements in service to style are also considered as though they are anything but. The only way to satisfy a Nitpicker is to have each detail, action, and line of dialog make sense in real world logic and explain everything as clearly as possible.
Like Political Correctness, Nitpicking hinders creativity. An artist is not allowed to be subtle or challenge the audience because they must leave no questions unanswered and give away the punch line. This is not to say plot holes and plot conveniences are permitted. Those are real mistakes that any good writer knows to avoid at all costs. What I am referring to are symbolic elements and story details that serve a purpose that is not made explicitly clear. Even if they do not make sense those ideas exist for a reason. Rather than use subtlety or leave the audience to simply enjoy their experience, Nitpicking has created an environment where you cannot do either, lest you invite criticism. The more creators follow this pattern, the worse their work becomes.
One of the most nitpicked movies in recent memory is Dark Knight Rises (DKR). For many, the little problems of logic were enough to write whole film off as trash.
“How could Bane trap all of the cops in the sewer?” “Why is it suddenly night after the stock market heist?” “How did Bruce Wayne get back to Gotham so quickly after getting out of the pit?”
Audiences and critics asked these questions and there was only one answer.
“Because it is a movie.”
Yes, these elements and others did not make logical sense, but who said they had to? Why would you complain about logic in a superhero movie in the first place? It is the same argument you can apply to style versus substance. Do aesthetic choices mean something or are they there just for show? In DKR, the style choices are in service to the story. A plot convenience is something there just to move the story along that also does not make sense. The “problems” with DKR actually make sense in the context of the overall experience, ridiculous though they may be.
Bane trapped the cops in the sewer because that was his plan and he is the villain. It is suddenly dark after the stock market heist because Batman only comes out at night. Bruce Wayne made it back to Gotham because he is the hero of the story.
Those perceived issues were not significant enough to be issues. You can have as many style elements as you want, but if they do not serve the whole, then what is their use? When a film just does things just to do them, then you can nitpick. DKR was not that bad, but everyone was too busy questioning little things that did not mater to enjoy it. If these ideas did not serve the plot, then they would be conveniences and DKR would have deserved the vitriol it got upon release.
A major contributor to the epidemic of Nitpicking is blatant ignorance. For some reason, people do not look at what a movie is anymore. They see what a movie should be and judge it based on personal expectations. They have standards that must be met or the work in question will be labeled garbage. Videogames receive similar treatment with the added technical caveat. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a gift from the gods, but the sometimes choppy frame-rate, the fact it does not hold your hand, and micro transaction were enough for critics to deem it middle-of-the-road.
Take for example the Final Fantasy (FF) spinoffs Spirits Within and Dirge of Cerberus, a movie and game. Many fans see both as an affront to the series and do not consider them a part of the brand. Putting aside the fact not all FF titles have much in common, these titles were judged in regards to what fans thought FF was supposed to be. Chocobos, a fantasy setting, and a save the world narrative are a part of the series identity. Spirits and Dirge did not fit those criteria because they strayed so far from the collective identity.
The former was a science fiction animated movie about alien ghosts taking over Earth. The latter was a third-person shooter about the FF7 character Vincent. Because they had “Final Fantasy” in their titles they were judged according to what was defined as Final Fantasy. People looked at them as they should be instead of what they are.
Take FF out of the equation and judge these two titles on their own merits. Spirits is not as terrible as you think, except for some ridiculous moments you can only find in anime. As a shooter Dirge was also okay, but I am a little biased because I am the only one in existence that likes it. The fact they were called Final Fantasy meant nothing because I saw them as they are.
However, we have become so brand oriented as consumers of entertainment that we do not think according to personal taste. What we like is based on what we liked before, our perception of quality grounded in brand recognition and nostalgia. If it has a major name on it, we consume and judge it based on the name. Just because Rogue One is connected to Star Wars does not change the fact it was boring and mediocre. That is like saying Transformers was good because it made a lot of money.
The brand name is applied most often when finding elements to complain about. With a series, Nitpickers take the whole into consideration instead of the fraction. Some say FF13 was a good Final Fantasy, but was not a good game. BvS was terrible for many reasons, but all everyone could talk about was how Batman killed people like it was the only reason that movie sucked. It was judged as an adaptation of the source material, ignoring the rushed and corporatized nature of the film. Fans went on a tirade against critics that had a problem with Suicide Squad because it had their favorite character.
Sometimes Nitpickers take the opposite approach and judge a series based on the last best entry. The Marvel movies following Winter Soldier are measured according to that movie because it is widely considered a masterpiece and I do not blame them; I do the same thing. Coming back to Final Fantasy, FF7 is the standard from which all predecessors are judged. The same principle applies to Call of Duty with Modern Warfare being the last great entry.
The origin Nitpicking is nebulous to say the least. Since I do not have time or interest in researching years of article by other critics (I’m such a good writer, you guys), I am going with the most obvious culprit: Internet Reviewers (IRs).
From Nostalgia Critic to Spoony, for about a decade IRs have relied on Nitpicking for their content. Spoony is probably the worst because most of his videos are insane, extended rants over nothing. Obscurus Lupa and Phelous also contribute to this problem and their brand of comedy does not help either. Cinema Snob nitpicks, but he is playing a character. As his true self, however, he will fixate on issues that are not issues when talking about new releases on Midnight Screenings. Todd is the Shadows, a pop music critic, is so irritating I stopped watching his videos. The channel Cinema Sins’ entire existence relies upon Nitpicking for some of the pointless shit I have ever seen.
Lindsay Ellis and Red Letter Media are the few IRs that avoid Nitpicking and actually criticize. Your Movie Sucks partakes, but he is intelligent and articulate enough that he makes it entertaining. Razorfist judges works on their own merit, even if he is a little biased with his massive Chuck Norris boner.
So why would IRs nitpick? I am of the opinion it is for entertainment purposes. Thanks to the Internet, irony and anger have become legitimate forms of comedy. I myself enjoy watching people lose it over bad movies and videogames and try to emulate their success. Some of my major inspirations, including those listed in the previous two paragraphs, built their careers on getting mad. Nitpicking is a part of the act and I do not hold it against them.
That being said, it has gotten so out of control and unchecked that it has affected the way audiences and others see art, which in turn affects the creators. Many do not see entertainment media as entertainment and fixate on little details that do not matter. The smallest of inconsistencies in logic can turn audiences against a given work like flipping a switch. Nitpicking is now the standard through which they consume and criticize.
When I was learning to write for entertainment, I was taught to leave nothing to chance. I had to explain everything in my stories and keep it short because audiences are too slow and stupid to understand certain ideas. Personally I like using symbolism and leaving it up to the reader to decide what is happening. I trust them to understand what I am going for and do not give a shit about the 10% that will have trouble.
All I can say to them is git gud.
Maybe I am being a snob. Maybe I really am terrible at explaining myself and am a pretentious hack with delusions of grandeur. But what would you rather have: Big Bang Theory or Blade Runner? I never claimed to be a good writer, but I can say with absolute certainty that I am less disingenuous and condescending than the people who gave Jim Parsons a reason to be relevant.
The more we create for the lowest common denominator, the more we contribute to the downfall of art. Every day there is a new show or movie that repeats the process of those that came before. Every day I see more of the same copying itself ad nauseum, flushing real entertainment down the toilet like an aborted fetus. Soon works that are challenging will be overshadowed by crime procedurals, open world adventures, sitcoms, military shooters, pop music, and lawyer shows that are no different than the last dozen. All because some retards could not figure out what was happening on screen.
The faster we abandon this way of thinking the smarter we become as consumers. Like Political Correctness and its sister language Newspeak, Nitpicking will keep us dumb and ignorant to true art. While we complain about bullshit, new works are dumbed down and suited to fit the needs of those who do not appreciate real works. It is the laugh track telling you what is funny and when to laugh. It is the terrible music choices telling you how to feel. We need more Neon Demon and less Blair Witch. In the end, it is up to us to stop Nitpicking and start elevating art that transcends the bounds of mediocrity. Better yet, get off you ass and create your own.
Editorial 26: Political Talk
The current political climate is such that many people cannot help but air their grievances. Everyone has an opinion they want to express because they are so affected by current events. It is understandable, but political talk has gotten to a point where I see it in media I used to enjoy. Instead of listening to a funny review or reading a comic, I listen and read about the author’s politics, regardless of their spectrum. But rather than use political talk for deep introspection or satire, the author is trying to convince the audience or explain why they are right and you are wrong.
Some political talk is unavoidable no matter how hard you try. Many of the reviewers I follow are located in the Midwest and Northeast, two of the most Left-leaning regions in America. If you even casually follow mainstream news you know those same regions are currently losing their minds. Of course Obscurus Lupa is going to call the term “old man” ageist. Of course Todd in the Shadows feels depressed after Hillary lost. And of course Movie Bob is going to insult two-thirds of the country in every video following the election results.
Because reviewers specialize in entertainment media, inherently pointless issues related to said media becomes a part of their commentary. Not long ago other Left-leaning personalities made a big fuss (as they are want to do) over the casting of Scarlet Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, turning it into an insult against Asians. In a more significant case, Ghostbusters (2016) was declared an important feminist film until everyone discovered the movie was a giant piece of shit. Then others called Jessica Jones groundbreaking because there was a lesbian character.
The point I am trying to make is by talking about/injecting politics into their work, reviewers have missed the point. If you look back at their past work, they did not talk about anything except the subject. Spoony did not wax-poetic about the election of Barrack Obama while losing his mind over Final Fantasy VIII. Movie Bob used to be one of my biggest inspirations because he approached videogames with an open mind rather than condescend to his audience. The subject was the focus, free of outside influence because entertainment is escapism. You watch, read, and play things to forget that the world sucks, not to be reminded.
I believe a likely cause of this paradigm shift was a loss of self-awareness. Even though Doom (2016) is a masterpiece, it does not matter. Ripping demons in half with a shotgun does not pay the bills or get you a job. Real life is real and you cannot hide behind a controller forever. Eventually you need to get your balls up to do something constructive. To be self-aware, to understand the meaning of what you are, is to know the world. Most reviewers are content to live in their own, made-up worlds of entertainment. They grew up and instead of taking real life seriously they took works of fiction seriously to cope with the problems of being an adult.
I am not a psychologist or an expert in really anything, but the total lack of self-awareness and scale of seriousness are so incredible, there has to be something more. Why would anyone make such a big deal about fiction to the point they interject political sentiments into their rage-induced commentary? That is like calling comic books graphic novels or creationism intelligent design. Dirt is still dirt and there are no mental gymnastics you can do to make it otherwise.
The worst part of trying to take entertainment seriously is it stops being fun. You do not see a cool game or hear a great joke anymore. You see something problematic or offensive to a group of people you know nothing about. Jonathan McIntosh could not be happy that the Overwatch character Tracer was gay because he thought she was designed to “appeal to the male gaze.” Anita Sarkeesian, the matriarch of no fun, built her entire career on making others feel bad about playing games. Suddenly people that do not exist in fiction are oppressed individuals created by the Patriarchy to control women. At the same time, she will speak out against violence in videogames and movies, compounding the detachment from reality.
There is plenty wrong with people like McIntosh and Sarkeesian (especially mentally), but there is also an agenda they are trying to push not unlike many reviewers who proselytize. They want to shame gamers into hating themselves for having fun. McIntosh takes every chance he gets to project his guilt complex onto other straight white men for being straight white men. Then there is his blatant Anti-Semitism that I do not want to get into. Sarkeesian takes political talk to a whole new level by turning her videos into Marxist Feminist propaganda. In the series Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, she took the time to interpret outdated clichés in games as misogynist attacks on women by the Patriarchy.
In the realm of comics there is Nick Spencer, Marvel’s new writer on two Captain America books, and the reincarnation of Joseph Goebbels. Both of his series are rife with Progressive proselytism. From Red Skull as an analogy for Donald Trump, to the use of Political Correctness rhetoric in dialog, Spencer wants to make a point and forgets he is writing about superheroes. I could go on about this guy and others losing Marvel valuable customers as a result of their proselytism, but I feel it best to move on before this essay gets any longer.
Now, I know I am guilty of political talk in my work. For anyone that reads my blog they know my proselytism boils down to “Fuck you, guns are awesome,” and other Right-leaning sentiments. By talking about my own beliefs I am a hypocrite. What gives me the right to criticize others for ruining their work with politics when I do it myself?
What I always try to do when I bring up the subject is to serve the overall criticism or analysis of the piece in question. In my Rogue One review I made it very clear my opinion that the diverse cast was just a marketing tactic. I also explained that it was not real diversity as if I had a formal understanding of the subject, which I do not. I went on a rant against the CIA in 13 Hours, talked about anarchy in Mockingjay, touched on class warfare in High Rise, and my opinion on Christian propaganda is well publicized.
Where I stand in terms of politics is obvious, but whatever I say is always in service to criticism. I lean Right, so the commentary I provide will stem from that side of the spectrum. You should always write what you know and because Right-leaning is what I know, that side of me will come out in my writing. In the heat of the moment, my pro-Capitalist/anti-Political Correctness ideals will reveal themselves. It is just a matter of keeping in mind self-awareness and that I am writing about movies.
There are plenty of better critics and Internet personalities that approach politics in the same fashion. FunHaus relatively avoids such topics all together in exchange for an anarchic style of humor. BroTeam takes the same approach a step further by making a joke out of politics and those who talk about them similar to Sam Hyde’s Million Dollar Extreme. The Rageaholic is very far Right, but he is articulate and competent enough to separate his beliefs from his commentary. ComicBookGirl19 opts for the spiritual side of things in a refreshing turn. Red Letter Media, probably the last bastion of great Internet criticism, makes a habit of critiquing the use of politics in entertainment while making jokes about it.
People like them give me hope politics have not completely taken over what I used to love. I wish we could just enjoy entertainment media like it was entertainment again. I want to see Rey from Force Awakens as a good character without someone who dyes their hair way too often explaining how she is the perfect strong female character or a Mary Sue. The more we try to politicize, proselytize, and take entertainment seriously, the more we stop having fun. Take heed and continue to enjoy the things you love while they last.
Editorial 25: How to Fix the Fantastic Four
I could write quite a few pages on how the Fantastic Four movies get everything wrong about the characters, premise, and Doctor Doom. Instead of talking about a superhero team like I am an expert and explain how to make a great film adaptation, I just wrote one.
A story treatment is a precursor to a screenplay that describes plot, action, and character in a prose format. I have not written one in years, but I wanted to express myself in a more accessible fashion, as opposed to a script.
Even though I can count the number of Fantastic Four comics I have read on two hands, I have many ideas on how to adapt the team in ways Fox Studios seems incapable of. Honestly, how hard is it to write a family of super scientists that fight a wizard dictator, who refers to himself in the third person?
While Fox holds the movie rights, I wrote the treatment in the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is definitely a meaningless gesture and it will not go anywhere like my Punisher script. My only hope is I prove you can make a Fantastic Four film that epitomizes their family dynamic and big idea scientific underpinnings where so many have failed.
Enjoy and please let me know what you think.
Editorial 24: Aug Lives Matter
If prospective readers are offended by what I write I cannot stop them. These days everyone gets offended over stupid things that do not mean anything. Not long ago we had GamerGate, a pissing contest of idiots arguing over the political/cultural nature of videogames. While I am a game critic, I know they are just toys, and making a big deal out of them does nothing for the world. However, I still like playing and writing about them, regardless of my nihilism. It is ironic considering I am about to articulate why I will not be buying the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda for political/cultural reasons.
At the time of this posting Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is out and I am playing it for review. Earlier in month concept art of the game was revealed with the phrase “Aug Lives Matter” in reference to Black Lives Matter. I find this appropriation quite clever considering the game’s story of cyborgs being treated like second-class citizens. As cultural satire the slogan is also brilliant and relevant to today, but not everyone thinks the way I do, unfortunately.
Enter Manveer Heir, gameplay designer for Andromeda at BioWare. Unable to mind his own business, he expressed his opinion on the slogan via Twitter, saying the team behind Mankind Divided does not understand the real issue enough to use a similar name. Andre Vu, brand director for the game, responded to Heir that they were not pretending to know anything, and the similarity was coincidental. The two went on with both sides maintaining their position, Vu explaining himself the best he can, and Heir remaining critical. The entire conversation can be found following this link.
In today’s videogame culture, this kind of dialog happens everyday. You have Anti-Israel activists, ultra-nihilists, and post-modern feminists arguing amongst themselves about toys made to entertain. After GamerGate this behavior became a common occurrence that I have accepted as part of social media. The drama with Heir and Aug Lives Matter would have ended a day later if more sinister details did not come to light shortly thereafter.
Apparently, Heir harbors his own racist opinions he has published to Twitter over the years. They include jokes, insults, and doublethink where he believes his racism is a form of standing up to racism. To avoid making this paragraph cluttered with descriptions, here are a few choice quotes from Heir’s Twitter. As a wise man once said, brace your ass:
“I follow too many white dudes, so if you get culled, tough shit. Blame the dominance of your species/race/gender.” (20/4/’14)
“Some people think America’s past-time is baseball, but it’s actually protecting white fragility.” (30/10/’15)
“No class required when murdering white people (we all know only white people say “snowquester”)” (6/3/’13)
“Sorry, I only accept cut off ears of white men as payment.” (14/6/’15)
“The real terrorists are already on American soil and they are white.” (10/9/’15)
You are probably thinking I am blowing this situation out of proportion. You might say, “But you’re privileged,” “You have it coming,” or my personal favorite “You can’t be offended because you’re white.” Well, disembodied voice representative of liberal, left-leaning readers, allow me to count the ways you are wrong.
Like Adam Jensen from Deus Ex, I never asked for this. I was born a white male of Scotch/Sicilian descent because that is how I was supposed to be. Regardless if I was the result of fate, a god, or chemical reaction, I was irrevocably made. I cannot change who I am, what I have become, and where I have been. For years I struggled to define my character and figure out who I truly am. After going to school, making friends, losing friends, and leaving home, I have finally discovered me:
I am a man who respects what he is because nothing can change what has been done. In the end, I will be judged not by what I am, but how my choices have defined my character.
Of course, skin color is the only determinate people see. To them, I am not a writer with his own opinions and life experiences; I am a white heterosexual male that is inherently evil because dead people did some bad things in the past like slavery and imperialism. To Manveer Heir, I am not a loyal fan of Mass Effect and a gamer; I am an unperson that does not deserve to be recognized as a human. I am defined not by character, but by color, genitals, and the acts of people I have never met. My existence is an affront to women and minorities, who are so hurt by my presence I must be shamed and segregated, lest I make them cry.
A part of me would like to retreat, to remain in my own world, and ignorant to the turmoil culture and politics have wrought upon what I used to enjoy. I could still love videogames, comics, and movies if I shut out all the noise. I wish I could be like Super Best Friends Play and just enjoy games like they are games. But that part has long since died, snuffed out by the experience that has defined my character. I cannot and will not stand for this blatant hatred of what I cannot change. No one should be put down for their color, chromosomes, sexuality, or the sins of corpses. These whiners and agitators are ignorant troglodytes without the intellectual fortitude to see beyond their sophistry and doublethink.
Solving the problem of people like Manveer Heir is impossible. Unless Twitter bans him, he will continue to flaunt his poison. Hatred is inevitable, but small actions always lead to bigger results. In the case of Heir, to defeat him, the only ethical and moral solution is to not buy Mass Effect: Andromeda. Money talks and if we come together in protest, the game will fail and Heir would be disgraced because the failure would be on him.
I did not want to talk about some twerp at a major game studio that could not keep his opinions to himself. I try to avoid political topics in my writing because I make the subject personal. When you bring up race, regardless of who you are targeting, someone is going to say something. Because I respect myself and not whiners and agitators, I will be missing out on Mass Effect: Andromeda. It was probably going to suck anyway. If you are reading this, Mr. Heir, I want you to remember that Aug Lives Matters.
Yours does not.
Editorial 23: Frank Castle, Ubermensch
I think this was the most fun I ever had writing about the Punisher because I equated his psychology to the Superman concept of Fredrick Nietzche, one of my favorite philosophers. Follow the link below if you are interested.
This is also my pseudo-official first post to the Writer’s Cohort as a contributor. Expect about two posts a month in the future. I will be sure to mention them here as well as on the Facebook page I made for all the writing I do on the internet.
Editorial 22: It’s Not You, It’s Ghostbusters
It is superfluous to talk about Ghostbusters (2016) because other personalities have made similar statements. Let me be absolutely clear and please remember this if you continue reading: Nobody except stupid people cares that the cast is all female. The problem is that Ghostbusters (2016) is a remake of a perfect film and the gall of Sony to conceive this detritus is offensive.
While stomping all over a classic to capitalize off nostalgia, Harold Ramis has been in the ground for just two years. To besmirch the legacy of one of the most important comedy writers of the last four decades is beyond the pale of insult. I know Bill Murray does not care and Ernie Hudson is just trying to live, but I guarantee that hack Dan Aykroyd allowed this to happen.
I do not have a problem with Paul Feig as a director. Spy was terrible, but I do not like him because he made Melissa McCarthy’s career. I will never understand why people think she is funny. Her humor consists of reactions, fat jokes, and insults that are not creative. Chris Farley had great energy and enthusiasm that made him iconic and he just happened to be obese. McCarty uses her weight as a crutch for her dearth of talent and I do not want to sit through another one of her movies.
The rest of the cast is pretty great. Kristen Wiig is phenomenal, Kate McKinnon makes Saturday Night Live watchable, and Chris Hemsworth is the kind of actor that makes the most of situations. Leslie Jones, however, I could care less about because she cannot get through a single sentence on SNL unless the cue card is five inches in front of her face.
So, yeah, Ghostbusters (2016) looks like utter dreck that has no business existing. I want to say again that nobody cares that the cast is female. Nobody. Because of the Internet and Corporate Hollywood, we cannot appreciate the past without hacks trying to capitalize. I have said nostalgia is dead, but it is because of nostalgia I am so livid. I grew up on the original Ghostbusters and I do not want to see its name dragged through the mud because Sony is butt-hurt over losing Spider-Man. I cannot emphasize it enough that the cast being female means nothing. Obviously I will be skipping Ghostbusters (2016) and I hope you do the same.
Editorial 21: Writer’s Cohort Guest Blog 3 and 4
I apologize for being so late on sharing this. I would like to thank my friends at the Writer’s Cohort for letting me ramble about how Man of Steel is a good-bad movie that can be enjoyed for its failings. I should have posted it when BvS was out, but that film was so depressing I forgot.
The next guest blog came out two weeks ago in time for Captain America: Civil War. In it I explore the first two Cap movies from the perspective of a fan. Afterward I was invited by the Cohort to be a regular contributor twice per month. I will be sure to link those posts on here for those who are interested.
Editorial 20: Scarlett Johansson as Major Kusanagi
I have made no bones about my standing on white washing. Getting angry over the skin color of fictional characters is about as pointless as gun control; it solves nothing and it will only make your life worse. People who do not exist have no agency or bodily form in the real world. Why would you waste your life getting into arguments of color for characters in entertainment? That is like calling television homophobic because some disposable characters that happened to be gay were killed off. I complain about the Walking Dead being mostly trash, but it is not this thing of world-ending importance.
When looking at a film that takes a story from another medium, those in charge of production must adapt said work for the screen. This includes making costumes, drawing concept art, building sets, and casting actors that reflect elements of the story. What does not matter (most of the time) is the color of a character’s skin unless it is pertinent to the narrative. As long as the production gets the character and story right, who cares about the actor’s race, or gender for that matter? Rey being a woman and Finn being black in Force Awakens was not on my mind because I liked them as people.
Romeo and Juliet was about Italians, but Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation was set in Los Angeles. The new Battlestar Galactica featured gender-swapped characters that were better in comparison to the older characters. Everyone in Troy was Anglo-Saxon, but they captured the essence of Homer’s story about war. The many personas of Bob Dylan being played by diverse actors in I’m Not There worked because they represented the singer’s stages of creativity. Exodus had white characters, but it told the complete story of Moses. Last but not least, Gods of Egypt was about deities personified as humans, living among mortals, on a flat Earth, with the Sun dragged by Ra on a boat…
The case of Scarlett Johansson playing Major Kusanagi is no different, but it is of special consideration. Ghost in the Shell, the movie, show, and OVAs, are adaptations of Masamune Shirow’s manga from the early 90s. In fact, most anime is based on manga. Over the years, Major has undergone a swath of changes with many incarnations spread across the series. First she had black hair, then purple, and then blue. She was also short and stocky, tall and slender, and borderline illegal in Arise. What never changed was her character.
She is a combination of cold realism and philosophical introspection with enough heart to remind her of the good in people and the world. She is devoted to her job as leader of Section 9 and functions with the efficiency only a cyborg could produce. Confronted with hard questions, she often considers the broader implications in terms of spirituality, politics, and technology. When it comes to her team, her family, she makes time to have fun and enjoy their company.
The fact Major is Japanese means nothing. You do not think about her hair, build, and skin because you like her regardless. To that end, Johansson taking up the mantel for the live action adaptation is just another incarnation. The only thing that matters is if she can get the personality right. Based on her ability as an actress, I think she has what it takes. Furthermore, while the new Ghost in the Shell will by default deviate from the source material as an adaptation, nothing will (hopefully) change the fact it is same story we all know and love. If they made Harry Potter with black actors, it would still be Harry Potter. This live action version is simply a different take on the character and world.
Calm down, everyone.
Editorial 19: Getting Angry at Movies
A few weeks ago I watched the film Extraction for review, a direct to video action movie that is poor to say the least. It has awkward acting, amateur editing, a messy story, and is terrible overall. The only reason I watched it was because it had an under utilized Gina Carano, again. Why bother hiring a proven stuntwoman and make her a damsel? Despite its faults I was not offended, it did not make me angry like Taken 3 or Aloha, and I did not hate it. When it came time to write the review I was presented with a conundrum: what I had to say about Extraction was rather boring and devoid of passion. In the past my heated reviews garnered some attention, but in those cases I was actually mad. To that end, is it right to feign frustration and anger for views?
Nobody watches Best of the Worst for a thought provoking analysis of schlock; they want to see Rich Evans and company laugh to asphyxiation. Nostalgia Critic and Spoony built their identities on nitpicking and screaming about movies. The venerable BroTeam created his persona by acting like a psychotic maniac. Internet critics, reviewers, and let’s players attain notoriety by over-reacting as much as possible for entertainment. It is quite enjoyable and I find watching them more satisfying than other forms of media. Of course, all of it based on opinion, but when Brad Jones and friends work up a rage against a movie like Ted 2, the act becomes brutally apparent. It also misrepresents the work being critiqued, regardless if the review in question is meant to be serious.
Just because everyone lost their minds over God’s of Egypt does not mean it is bad enough to even talk about. I was shocked when people freaked out over Pixels because of course it is terrible: it is an Adam Sandler movie. Since these films are always bad, reviewers create a narrative that perpetuates this idea to monolithic proportions. Moviebob’s review of the same movie was so vulgar and crass he was later interviewed by the New Yorker. Furthermore, when reviewers attack media that is marginally okay or inoffensive, those watching are going to form conclusions based on misinformation.
That is my dilemma with Extraction. It is not good by any means (except for the opening track) and I see it as an affront to Gina Carano fans that expected to see her pull a dude’s brain out. The quality of the production, acting, and writing is just terrible, but not enough to get angry about. If anything, I am more disappointed because its mistakes are that of a college student’s short film. In better hands, it could have been a decent direct to video action movie and I will not overreact or show vitriol for entertainment. I am not a popular critic and I do not expect this to go anywhere once posted, but I refuse compromise honesty just to make fun of a movie. That I save for contemporary horror because fuck that shit.
Editorial 18: Daredevil Season 2
It was great.
Season 2 brings Daredevil into an expanded world with more problems and developments that put the characters through rigorous trials (pun intended). Matt struggles to maintain his dual life, while Foggy is forced to take the initiative, and Karen pursues an agenda that conflicts with the group. With the advent of the Punisher, Matt questions if what he is doing is good for the city, and if he is actually making a difference. Things come to a head when his old flame Elektra returns and everything spirals out of control.
And that is all I am going to say.
To be honest, I had a lot of trouble writing about Season 2. My vision was clear, but I could not put the words to paper because I do not think I understand the show as well as I should. I spent all day Friday watching Daredevil in anticipation for review and when I sat down to write none of it worked. Even when I wanted to talk about Punisher I struggled until I gave up.
Instead of posting what I already have, I think it is best to go through the show again and post a review focusing on the Punisher at a later date. I know that sounds biased, but what do you expect from me? Regardless, Daredevil Season 2 is great and you should watch it.
Editorial 17: The Greatest Show Ever
As a kid who grew up in the 00s I am no stranger to the garbage that is American reality TV. It began with programs about failed celebrities marrying prostitutes, teenagers fucking each other, and obese whores with their whore families. The Kardashians remains a testament to the failure of my generation and truTV is an abomination that must be scourged and crucified. Thankfully, I checked out a long time ago, but the only reality show I cherish to this day is one you have never heard of: Kenny Vs. Spenny (KvS).
Kenneth Joel Hotz and Spencer Nolen Rice are Canadian Jews that have been friends since childhood. In the 90s they failed to break into showbiz before they realized the potential that was each other. When you are friends with someone it is natural to be competitive. It can be anything from who can score the most phone numbers to who can pound the most shots. And so was born KvS, a half-hour program where the boys got into a different competition each episode, and the loser would endure a humiliation by the winner.
What make the competitions work are the boys’ dueling personalities:
Spenny is the archetypical Canadian, a neurotically self-conscious individual fixated on how he appears and what people think of him. If he feels you are defaming his character, he will either correct every transgression or call his lawyer. He is also quick to anger and will lash out if threatened. He is fervently politically correct, doing everything in his power to avoid using hurtful vocabulary, and offensive behaviors. He is so terrified of engaging the world for fear of doing something wrong he resorts to seclusion.
Kenny, on the other hand, is the absolute antithesis. He is arguably the most levelheaded where he does not worry about how people see him and acts in an extroverted manner. Making jokes are his forte, jumping at the chance to twist someone’s words into a gag, but his intent is never malicious. He is able to enjoy life and people because he does not take anything seriously.
Both personalities come to a head in the show. There is always a set of rules for each episode and Spenny, being a good citizen, follows them without question. Kenny does not care in the slightest, a cheater through and through, and is clever enough to exploit Spenny’s anxieties. Some times he jokes about being god or the better of the two just to get a reaction. Since he cheats, Kenny technically loses a lot of competitions, but he is so good about hiding it, Spenny does not find out until the editing process. Their competitive interplay is cathartic as you witness two radically different people going after the same goal. One is easily offended and the other is a self-proclaimed diabolical genius. Even without exploiting Spenny’s issues Kenny can come up with a ploy to win the moment there is an opportunity or rig the competition entirely.
In “Who Can Put on a Best Concert,” the boys had to form a band to play original music before judges that would decide the winner. Kenny took the sympathy route and organized a children’s choir to sing about dead kids, while Spenny put together a generic rock group. Since Kenny’s tactic was not a guaranteed victory, he called Spenny’s band using edited audio that told them not to show up. Come the day of the concert, the only group to make it was Kenny’s. The ending was hard to watch as Spenny got up on stage, alone, and walked the judges through the structure of his song. It made me cringe because you see this poor guy, who wanted to be a rock star for a day, trying his best to salvage the situation.
One of my favorite episodes is “Who Can Sell More Bibles.” What begins as a simple competition turns into a Hollywood story where Spenny receives a call from producers about adapting a script he wrote. Little did he know, Kenny engineered the ploy to build up his arrogance and trick Spenny into buying his Bibles. When the competition ended, Spenny was stranded at LAX waiting for a ride that never showed up.
Sometimes Kenny will use his cleverness just to watch Spenny suffer.
In “Who Can Handel the Most Torture,” the boys competed in a number of mini competitions that involved pain and Kenny lost them on purpose. The challenges included drinking Tabasco sauce, a full body duck tape wrap, and how far can you stick a sausage up your own ass (I am not kidding). Another was who can take hardest whipping from a pair of dominatrices that Kenny paid off to only beat Spenny.
In “Who Can Stay Blindfolded the Longest,” Kenny used Spenny’s gullibility to basically torment him as he wore a blindfold, throwing pop-rocks at his head, moving furniture, and writing on his face with marker. The whole time, Spenny thought it was Kenny’s friend who he supposedly bribed to harass him in the three days the competition took place.
Some times cheating does not work and it backfires.
In “Who is the Better Rapper,” Kenny faked a gang threat on Spenny’s life using props, a phone call, and an actor as a detective. Spenny, however, saw right through it and was able to get the win after Kenny, confident in his plan, gave up on the final rap event before the judges.
In “Who Can Stay Handcuffed the Longest,” the boys were bound and at each other’s mercy. Though extremely annoyed, Spenny remained steadfast before Kenny invited their obnoxious friend Wolfish to stay at their house. Spenny hated being around him more than anyone and after a day, even Kenny found himself at his wits’ end and conceded to a draw, which he turned into a victory by exploiting the rules.
KvS lasted six seasons before it was unceremoniously canceled in 2010. The only way you can watch it is buy the DVDs, download episodes online, or look them up on YouTube. Kenny himself had the entire series on his channel until the site’s copyright system had them blackballed. The links I used are from other sources that work around the systems to avoid a takedown.
I have always wanted to tell people about Kenny Vs. Spenny because it deserves recognition. The Kardashians and MTV may have ruined reality TV, but in Canada two men, an idiot and a crazy person, knew how to do it better than anyone. Kenny and Spenny are cult legends worthy of veneration. If more people knew what I know about the greatest show ever, we would get a seventh season, and perhaps others.
Editorial 16: On Nugent
If you follow this blog, you know I am a fervent supporter of the 2nd Amendment. For those who do not know, it is the reason America has lasted as long as it has and the most important part of the Constitution. I am also a vocal dissident of those who directly and indirectly undermine this vital human right like the current administration, that limey Papist subhuman Piers Morgan, Liam Neeson, and Australia. The world is full of people who think they know what they are talking about and a majority think taking away guns is a good idea.
For years the National Rifle Association (NRA) has fought to secure our right to bear arms and safeguard the Constitution. I do not financially support them, but I agree with what they stand for… some of the time. As a nihilistic anarcho-capitalist, I am not at all for their religious ideology and their propensity to support politicians I do not agree with. Regardless of what the Association believes, I can say with certainty they cannot possibly agree with Ted Nugent, a prominent member on their board.
About a day ago, Nugent posted a photo showing a number of politicians’ head-shots with an Israeli flag beside each one, and annotated with anti-Semitic remarks. In the post he referred to the individuals as the real “punks” behind gun control. Whether he was alluding to the fact they are against guns because they are Jewish is not clear, but the photo says it all. Either he did not understand what it really meant and posted it without thinking, or Nugent hates Jews.
Regardless of what he was trying to say, this makes all gun owners look bad. This is like getting doxed for saying something PC Nazis do not agree with or being accused of terrorism because you are Muslim. There are more than enough gun owners, conservatives, even Christians who believe in the cause of Israel, and treat the Jewish people with respect. Nugent’s little spat is not representative of who we are and I speak for all of us when I say he has gone too far. I agree that the people in the photo are enemies of freedom, but they should not be attacked for any other reason than their politics. The best we can hope for is Nugent is excluded from the NRA and fades into obscurity.
Thanks, Ted, you fuck.
Also, you’re from Michigan; take off that hat, you filthy Yankee.
Editorial 15: Writer’s Cohort Guest Blog 2
When I get to talk about Metal Gear Solid, I go all out at the risk of overdoing it. Extended tangents can hurt any would-be essay and I would like to thank my friends at the Writer’s Cohort for setting me loose. In my second post to their humble blog, I explain why Quiet from MGSV is a character not defined by her appearance, contrary to what a lot of idiots think in regards to women in entertainment media.
I hope you like it and please support the Writer’s Cohort.
Editorial 14: Man in the High Castle
The rise of Internet television has presented an interesting opportunity for many a perspective show runners. With the ease of access comes lax content regulation depending on the provider. If you have the ability and competence to make it appealing to both audiences and producers, you can air just about anything in this burgeoning market, subverting conventions of the rotten mire that is regular television. But sometimes it is hard to break old habits, lessons from a long irrelevant past, and Man in the High Castle (MHC) is the Internet equivalent of a hipster using a typewriter to send tweets.
I have not read Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, but after watching just the pilot episode, I was more than enough convinced to pick it up… which I have not done. The instant appeal for me was the element of alternate history, one of my favorite subgenres next to cyberpunk and post-apocalypse. It takes an event(s) we are familiar with and imagines a different outcome of said event(s). This can be anything from JFK avoiding assassination to Crassus conquering Parthia, but the most compelling to me is what if the Nazi’s won WWII.
There is nothing more disturbing than Hitler’s ideal world, purged of any and all the regime deems undesirable, and under the thumb of constant control. It is Orwell with a racist streak, motivated by delusional beliefs of genetic superiority, and expansionist ideals. What makes it interesting to me is what never happened because we won the war.
With a wealth of information on what went on in the Third Reich, there is even more on what Hitler would have done after taking over, specifically weapons and architectural designs. The Sonnengewehr was an orbital weapon that reflects sunlight to burn whole cities; the Ratte, an impractically giant mobile fortress tank; the Ho 229, the world’s first stealth airplane; and Albert Speer’s vision of Berlin, a cold concrete landscape that would be ugly if it were not beautiful in its stylish monotony. It is the stuff of pulp science fiction that Hitler’s insanity would have brought to fruition had he lived to see it.
My first exposure to the Nazi brand of alternate history was Wolfenstein: New Order, a first person shooter videogame and fourth entry in the series. Mechanically it is as simple as you can get: point and kill whatever is not you, but when it comes to characterization and world building, the game excellences where many shooters fail utterly. While B.J. Blazkowicz is a thoroughly fleshed out character, the setting is a fully realized nightmare of Nazi domination.
In addition to what was described in the last paragraph, the game features laser weaponry, robots, super soldiers, and a space program that has colonized the moon and explored neighboring planets. In minute ways it captures life in an oppressive regime where you read memos about city purges, the enslavement of the Japanese Empire, or you overhear citizens in Berlin telling the authorities about their neighbor’s son putting on make-up, and others talking about the continuing war in Africa.
New Order peaked my interest in alternate history entertainment. I even bought the art book and I cannot wait to see what they do with a sequel. I also sought out other works that imagine a world taken over by Nazis. Richard Harris’ Fatherland was the first novel I discovered and I heard about MHC when its pilot was first circulating on Amazon. It was interesting, but it did not grab me like New Order. Come the release of the full roster of episodes in November, I watched the entire season, and here I am to tell you all about it.
MHC is basically a day in the life of occupied America. During WWII, the Nazis and Japan invaded the States from both coasts, each laying claim to territory. Between the two a neutral zone was established in the Rocky Mountains where the last remnants of a true America remain. Germany and Japan are locked in a Cold War where they struggle to maintain peace against mounting tensions regarding the former’s technological superiority and the latter’s deteriorating hold on its colonies. Within both territories there is a resistance movement using propaganda films called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy that imagines an alternate reality where we won WWII. The maker of these rather omniscient films is the titular Man in the High Castle.
The story follows an ensemble cast of characters that experience a different side of the world with the main focus on the Pacific States. Juliana is an ordinary citizen who joins the resistance. Frank is Juliana’s boyfriend who wants to live a normal life, but is under constant scrutiny by the secret police because of his association. Blake is an undercover agent trying to infiltrate the resistance. Smith is an SS officer who wants to move on from his past. And Tagmoi is a government official that wants to better his country in the name of peace.
The fixation on the Pacific States plays well into the show’s theme of race because it would not work in the Greater German Reich. In San Francisco, non-Japanese peoples appear as equals, but are treated like second-class citizens under Jim Crow. They live in relative squalor as they do less desirable tasks in service to the Japanese like physical labor and general servitude. The secret police watch their every move and are never above suspicion.
What goes on in the occupied areas epitomizes the overarching theme of totalitarianism, a depth-full examination of life in the guise of the Axis Powers. Careful consideration is taken to breath life into every level of society. In the Reich, picturesque neighborhoods play host to Nazi flags and everyone says “Sieg Heil” when greeting one another. Police and other authority figures are clad in military regalia with a Swastika armband of 13 red and white stripes. Hospitals practice eugenics as they kill off those with severe afflictions and cremate them. The other side of the coast is no better despite its open racial laws. Maintaining order means monitoring phone calls and kidnapping people in the night. Whether they are guilty or not, citizens are killed when they do not cooperate or must be sacrificed as an example to the rest.
Each character provides a different perspective of the world. Frank is an oppressed minority pushed to the brink of sanity when his normal life is turned upside down for superficial reasons. Engrossing herself into the covert world of the resistance, Juliana goes deep into the minutia of Imperial government to help pick away at its grip on the country. Blake is compelled to work against his country under threat of death by the SS. Smith and Tagomi represent the mindset of the governments: one fixated on maintaining perfect order, and the other trying to achieve the success of his counterpart.
Performances can make any fiction a reality and the cast did an admirable job. My personal favorite was Rufus Sewell as Smith. His character is a man who is content in what he did in the past, but is in some ways struggling to move on. I got the feeling he kept working at his job to keep his mind off the guilt of being a mass murderer and Sewell’s subtlety sold it home. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa had great turn as Tagomi, one of the only non-villain characters I have seen him play. It was almost disconcerting watching Shang Tsung trying to talk a General out of making a nuclear bomb or meditating in a garden, but he seemed to pull it off. The rest of the cast was quite serviceable and not bad by any means. They drove home what the world is like, yet did not do anything to really standout.
The main problem with MHC is one congruent with regular television. Even before I went to an entertainment school and learned all this in a classroom, I understood the simple schemes that keep bad shows popular. Whether it is the fault of the producers or the brain dead drones that watch it, television has a way of keeping your attention, even if you know you are being played for a fool.
The scheme is one of open-endedness, where plot points and certain details are intentionally left out or incomplete. It grabs audiences by giving them a reason to keep watching, a final mystery that will be solved if they stick around for the next episode or next season. If they are able to hook you after the first episodes, be it with character or story, a final cliffhanger is enough build a following that will carry over to the next installment.
In some cases it works. The new Battlestar Galactica had an open ending for each finale, but it was the characters and action that kept us around. The same goes for Spartacus and Game of Thrones. But when the other elements do not work, there is nothing to maintain interest unless the people who watch it need something to do on a Sunday night. Vikings takes open-endedness to a whole new level by gutting its own plot so it can maintain the same story points and never try anything new. 24 utilized this scheme so extensively it killed the show’s narrative integrity. And The Walking Dead is so white bread ordinary it lacks the courage to even try something risky like killing off a majority of the main cast. Three quarters of the group were already dead by the time they reached Alexandria in the books.
With the freedom of the Internet you would think show runners would try something new, but the long-term design of MHC is a determent. One subplot involving Smith and his son has a lot of emotional weight. After the set-up, however, there is no pay-off, and it is never mentioned again. Other plot points back track to arcs that were already resolved in anticipation for season two. By the time the show is over, it feels like nothing has happened. Characters go back to square one with no change to themselves or the story. The reasoning behind it makes sense in a pragmatic narrative context, but because fiction is fiction, why not do something different? Kill a few characters or take them to places off the beaten path. If you at least attempt to be compelling, people will like it more.
Had it not been for the fleshed out world and carefully constructed elements that make it feel real, Man in the High Castle would be another prime time piece of garbage that just happened to be an Internet show. It is the kind of story you do not see often in the medium, but its adherence to television conventions keeps it from coming into its own. There was great potential to really set it apart from the norm, squandered by a fear of doing something different. Seeing the fully realized world is enough to give the show a look.
Editorial 13: Jessica Jones
Feeling compelled to diversify my content output, I find it fitting to provide an analysis of the Jessica Jones (JJ) series that just premiered on Netflix. I spent a day mainlining all 13 episodes and I believe I have a good enough understanding to tell you what I think. I have never reviewed a show before, seeing as how television is contemptuous garbage, but since this series transcends regular television I thought I would give it a try. In terms of structure I am winging it, so please bear with me.
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JJ is based on the Alias comic by Brian Michael Bendis, a MAX series with adult content like Garth Ennis’s run of the Punisher. It follows Private Investigator Jessica Jones, who after years being a superhero, falls into a state of depression and alcoholism. That is where my knowledge of the source material ends. I find dark versions of conventional heroes appealing, but I never gravitated towards Alias because I am not a fan of Bendis.
JJ, essentially, is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) equivalent of the MAX line. It has very explicit themes like rape, PTSD, drug addiction, and alcoholism. It also introduces a gay couple with Carrie-Anne Moss’s Hogarth going through a divorce. Unlike a lot of the press, people calling it X-rated and too gritty, JJ is quite tame. Sex scenes were not graphic or revealing, the violence toned down compared to Daredevil, and the overall feel was closer to PG-13 or a revolting CW show. I was a little disappointed, but it was exceptional for how it handled its themes.
The MAX line is known for gratuity. Punisher MAX was notorious for its borderline racist caricatures and excessive violence. I like the books very much, but its depiction of… well, everything was a little too much, and this is coming from a guy who laughed while watching Green Inferno.
JJ is respectful about its subject matter and does not pull any punches. Jessica’s alcoholism is a serious issue that affects her attitude and lifestyle as she tries to cope with her various traumas. She has flashbacks that result in violent tremors, harbors intense shame, and lives an introverted lifestyle that pushes people away. It is even clear she has given up taking care of herself, wearing the same clothes everyday and neglecting her apartment.
Jessica’s objective is to apprehend Kilgrave, the main antagonist with the ability to control people. In the past he made her his “girlfriend,” taking her out to dinner, buying expensive things, and having sex with her while she was completely aware. On their last night, he dies in an accident, and she is sent on a downward spiral of depression. While working a new case involving a missing girl named Hope, the circumstances behind her kidnapping are eerily similar, and Jessica puts aside her anxiety to clear Hope’s name.
This sets the stage for the show’s main arc. While conducting the investigation, Jessica realizes her experiences could help not only Hope, but also others controlled by Kilgrave. Slowly she develops some semblance of empathy as she assumes the persona of a hero. Jessica starts caring about her junkie neighbor, repairing the relationship with her friend Trish Walker, and works toward genuine recovery by cutting down on liquor consumption. The personality of an anti-hero is still there, but her sense of being good and conducting herself in a professional manner is greater. She wants to do things by the book, no matter how difficult it can be. It is not an ideal situation, but Jessica sticks to her principles.
In that way, JJ is very frustrating. Killing Kilgrave would not have helped Hope, but it is a simple solution that could have saved everyone a lot of stress, not to mention lives. It is the curse of all hero stories: they are unable to act outside the law because it would make them no better than criminals, trusting the system to render punishment. This both helps and hinders Jessica’s arc. The idea she cannot do everything the easy way exacerbates her anxiety, affecting her thought process to the point she takes extreme measures to get at Kilgrave. Her heroism comes from not only sticking to the system, but also working with it in the face of trauma. It presents a realistic examination of the hero archetype, as opposed to Batman or Superman, who are always content adhering to a code of ethics. Jessica has a code and hates it with a passion.
One of the more impressive aspects of JJ is Kilgrave himself. For the first time in a while, I believe Marvel has found its most sinister villain yet. Ultron was pretty cool, but a homicidal AI monster is not as unique as a legitimate sociopath with mind control powers. He knows what he wants and does whatever he can to get it. He does not care about anyone but himself, casually using his ability to enslave and punish in horrific ways. His perception of reality is warped, failing to see the rape in controlling a woman to have sex with him or the obvious evil behind making people kill themselves or each other. It paints a grim picture that trumps most of the MCU’s current rogues gallery.
Kilgrave’s detachment is thoroughly developed over the course of the show, but his full introduction does not happen until six episodes in. Before then you have to endure a dragging plot where nothing really happens. Everyone makes and repeats the same points that were already brought up in previous episodes, nothing changes, and no one moves ahead from where they were, except for some minute details that do not matter.
The goal is simple: catch Kilgrave, but the lead up to what eventually happens is so frivolous, that about three episodes could have been cut completely. Daredevil took three to reveal Kingpin and the build up was potent because we knew next to nothing apart from reputation. Having such a prolonged build up for a guy we learn more about after episode two is totally redundant. I have a feeling the show-runners had a lot they wanted to introduce and took their sweet time cramming it in wherever they had available space, eating up whole episodes’ worth of time that could have been better utilized or discarded entirely. It is a great waste that does nothing but cause fatigue until episode seven.
Krysten Ritter plays Jessica and I cannot think of a better casting choice. She is absent heroic features, looking like an ordinary person. Her demeanor is spot-on with light sarcastic quips overshadowed by a cold dismissiveness that drives home her anti-hero personality. David Tennant, the best Doctor, pulls his weight as Kilgrave in his best performance in years. He is as entertaining as terrifying with a casual attitude that enhances his sociopathic tendencies. He is gleefully arrogant and happily selfish as he orders people to kill themselves and do his bidding with apathetic delight.
Rachel Taylor plays a total opposite to Jessica as Trish, a former child star turned paranoid radio talk show host. She is the most together of the characters, but she is also naïve and totally separated from Jessica’s world. She has heart, yet is too sheltered to operate in a volatile environment. Luke Cage pops up as another supporting character thanks to Mike Colter. Taking note from the source material, Cage is a pretty standard hero with a normal personality. To put it simply, he is just a guy with indestructible skin and Colter captured that just fine. Wil Traval takes the reins as Simpson, and if you know who that is, I am happy to report he nailed it with some welcome additions. I am eager to see what becomes of him in the following season.
If you can endure the first six episodes without quitting, Jessica Jones is well worth the struggle. It takes the Netflix side of the MCU into territories not often seen in television, let alone a Disney property. The compelling set-up and depth-full examination of the hero/anti-hero archetype makes for an interesting watch that anyone interested in the concept should find enjoyable. It is well worth your consideration.
Editorial 12: November
The next two weeks are going to be complicated to say the least. In addition to the holiday, I have a lot to do for my internship that requires my full attention. To that end I have made sacrifices to prioritize my time and write posts weeks in advanced. Movie Reviews have not ended, but because of the workload, I had to forego a showing of Ghost in the Shell: New Movie this week. I will try to see it some other time, but I would like to get enough work done to the point I am not worrying about deadlines.
Furthermore, the month in general does not look very good. If Mockingjay Part 2 was not coming out, I would proclaim November the new January with all the crap on the horizon. I think because of The Force Awakens, studios just gave up and cranked out whatever they thought would turn a profit without regard for quality.
Spectre was bad, but this week there was The 33, which looks like a boring Christian movie without the propaganda; Love the Coopers, a holiday film that makes me want to take an acid bath; and My All American, a sports movie that does not realize it is a sports movie. In the following week there is Secret in their Eyes staring Julian Roberts with a brunette jellyfish on her head. And last we have Victor Frankenstein, an ironic fantasy movie that thinks it is special.
It is good to know there will be at least one decent movie for every bad, so I will have plenty to see and post without losing my mind or possibly regretting my purchase. Still, that only compounds the coming stress I will endure in the next two weeks. Rest assured, I will do my best to keep up and continue to write until this erratic time has passed.
And the release of Fallout 4 has nothing to do with it.
Nothing at all…
Editorial 11: Writer’s Cohort Guest Blog
Not long ago I was asked to write for my friends’ blog on any topic that had to do with writing or entertainment and chose Body Horror. It is a subject that really interests me and I would like to thank everyone at the Writer’s Cohort for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts.
Editorial 10: The Punishers
Adapting superheroes was quite the challenge before the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Back then nobody could get it right and with every attempt came greater failure. In the case of Spider-Man, the Tobey Maguire version was on point until Sony ruined everything with bad direction and even worse writing. Then again, I think Spider-Man is a puss, so his movies can crash and burn for all I care. The same applies to the Fantastic Four who were just fine in their first incarnation before Fox got in the way.
Frank Castle, the Punisher, has undergone a similar evolution over the years. Any opportunity I get to talk about my favorite Marvel character, make fun of the UN, Australia’s government, liberals, or third-wave feminists, I tend to take it whole heartedly at the risk of going on an extended tangent. The character is my most favorite of the Marvel Pantheon and with the advent of his new incarnation on season two of Daredevil, I find it fitting to explore his evolution in film.
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Punisher is a simple character when it comes to concept, but he is complicated in origin and personality. In the Marvel comics continuity there are two versions of Castle: the Vietnam and Modern variant. Each version’s war origins are vehicles to explain Castle’s proficiency with weapons, but it is important to consider the broader implications.
The Vietnam War is one of the most shameful travesties in American history and no one experienced it worse than those who fought it. An ignorant public with no respect exacerbated the various problems soldiers brought home at the war’s end, resulting in suicides, homelessness, and addiction. If Castle fought in Vietnam, it makes sense he would fall into vigilantism. Here is a man who suffered a living nightmare shared by an entire generation, who comes home to his loving wife and two children, only to see them murdered before his eyes, destroying whatever humanity Castle had left.
All war is terrible, but in the context of modern asymmetric conflict, especially in a time when help for PTSD is more accessible, the concept of Modern Castle is not as strong. War is easier and efficient compared to the late 60s, not to mention the public and government’s treatment of veterans has definitely improved. The exterior factors that would facilitate a character like Punisher are simply not present.
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Personality probably plays a bigger role in Castle’s evolution. Both variants can posses either the Nihilism or Apathy types, and underlining both is Psychopathy. Reflected in the colors of his costume, Castle sees the world in black and white. People are either absolutely good or absolutely evil with no gray in between. He makes every decision based on this binary morality with no more thought than a squeeze of the trigger. Castle is also aware what he is doing is wrong. He understand vigilantism is illegal, yet continues his work because he believes in it. He does not care what laws he breaks or lives he ruins as long as he accomplishes the mission.
The Nihilism type is most prevalent in Garth Ennis’s Punisher MAX, which also uses the Vietnam variant. In the story Born, Castle assumes a kind of split personality on his final tour that would become the Punisher. This personality is driven by a hunger for war and bloodlust as a kind of PTSD that negates every other nonessential emotion. He is completely shut off from the world, relying only on instinct and his binary morality. He is efficient in his thought process and methodology, but retains the concept of innocence. He cares about protecting children like in the Mother Russia and Slavers books, yet has no problem killing women when they fall into the black side of his morality.
The Apathy type is more mainstream and similar to most action heroes, but not without the element of psychopathy. On that same logic, John Matrix, Paul Kersey, John McClane, Dutch, and Rambo are all psychopaths. They do not acknowledge nor care about killing scores of human beings and often laugh about it afterward. Apathy Castle is no different, throwing out the occasional joke like in Dark Reign when he used Pym particles to infiltrate a casino in a pizza before enlarging after being eaten. He does not acknowledge the implication of his violence, treating it like an everyday thing, while casually dispatching criminals without hesitation. In that regard, he has a lot in common with his contemporaries. Iron Man probably does not think about the long-term damage his repulsors, nor does Captain America when using his shield, or Thor with Mjolnir. The closest match to Apathy Castle is Black Window who immersed herself into the life of an assassin to the point she almost enjoys it.
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The film versions of Castle adhere to different combinations of his origin and personality variants. In some cases they subvert the comics and do something entirely different. The following summaries are ordered chronologically from the first incarnation to the last:
Dolph Lundgren, The Punisher (1989)
The most obvious choice for a character like Castle would be an action star if you were stupid. It is important to remember the comics were not what they are now, but what remained the same was the Vietnam origin. Unfortunately, the people behind 1989 forgot and made Castle a former cop, which dose not account for his very military skills and methodology.
Though Lundgren plays the Apathy type, he is too emotional in many cases. He cares about saving kids, but he also monologs about morality, God, and constantly questions if he is doing the right thing. Before the climax he turns himself in for no reason and whines in his cell. It also does not help that Lundgren is not the kind of actor for this material.
The way he kills is unbecoming as well. The opening was fine where he sneaks into a mansion, hangs a guy, and burns the place. Then he has a comical shootout in an abandoned theme park, a conspicuous fight on a pier that would have killed him in seconds, and a very loud infiltration of a building despite using a suppressed weapon. The worst scene was when he dropped into an illegal casino, told a Yakuza soldier to deliver a message to his boss, and shot up the slot machines and tables with an M60. The real Punisher would have dropped in, killed everyone, and left at least one criminal alive to carry his message because he did it about six times in Up is Down and Black is White.
Taking it as a pure action movie, 1989 succeeds when judged on its own merit. I could tell it wanted to be a Cannon Films production, but lacked the sheer insanity of Golan-Globus. However, when you use the name of an established character, be prepared for inevitable comparisons and judgments fueled by preconceived notions.
Thomas Jane, The Punisher (2004)
2004 is a complete reversal of 1989. Where Lundgren’s Castle was totally flawed, Jane was the second best and more accurate as a combination of Modern and Apathy. He brought a level of subtlety that defines the character’s emotional state because Castle is not one for expression. With a conservative use of one-liners Jane did a great job of epitomizing Castle’s action hero aesthetic without insulting the character. The alcoholism element was a little too on the nose, but it is not his fault because the rest of the movie is hot garbage.
Where 1989 was an actual 80s action movie, 2004 was trying to parody 80s action movies and failed. There was slapstick in some of the fight scenes, quirky roommates that get into shenanigans, and ridiculous villain characters that would have been better suited in another movie or with a different version of Castle. The movie is tone deaf and devoid of the irony that makes parody work. If you are telling a joke, it must have a point and 2004 is about as funny as an Adam Sandler movie. How can you make a story about a guy losing his family in a massacre, who turns to vigilantism funny? In what way is mass murder hilarious?
Do not get me started on the petty, boring tactics and lack of action scenes. Where the real Castle would find the people he is after and shoot them, 2004 Castle formulates a complicated scheme with many phases of planning that could have been simplified with a bullet.
Ray Stevenson, Punisher: War Zone (2008)
It took two movies and 19 years to finally get Castle right. War Zone is essentially a straightforward adaptation of Punisher MAX. It barrows the tone, a few ideas from In the Beginning, Kitchen Irish, and was the most accurate depiction yet. Ray Stevenson delivers a compelling dramatic performance with little to no lines and is built like a tank. On a physical level alone he nails the character as he delivers a fatal tackle here, a face-caving punch there, and efficient, calculated attacks that reflect better upon Castle’s military origins.
While it is a basic action movie, War Zone also successfully parodies the genre. By making the villains ridiculous to the point of cartoonish, it provides juxtaposition between the reality of killers and those of fiction. Castle is serious about his work and does not hide from the truth. He acknowledges he is a mass murderer and that there is no hope for any kind of redemption. The villain characters in War Zone do not care about what they do and enjoy it as if they were in an action movie. They are caricatures of criminal archetypes, like cosplaying Sopranos fans, and Castle is the naked reality of evil making them see the truth.
It is too bad the previous Punisher incarnations made War Zone poison to audiences. The movie opened amid behind-the-scenes drama and flopped, taking in only a third its budget. Thanks to fans like myself, however, the film has risen to cult status and director Lexi Alexander has been venerated for making the best Punisher movie to date.
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With season 2 of Daredevil just months away, there comes the question of how Jon Bernthal will fair as the new Frank Castle. Personally, I would rather see Ray Stevenson back in the part or even Michael Shannon in an adaptation of my script. However, I trust in Bernthal’s ability as an actor to do the very best he can while keeping in mind the history of the character. The quality of the incarnations has steadily grown over the years and it would be disheartening to see a back track into mediocrity. A bigger question is how the other elements will affect the character. Do the show runners and writers understand Castle or will they earn the ire of a very vocal fan base? We will just have to wait and see.
Editorial 9: The Casting of Captain Marvel
Pan came out this week, but it does not take a genius to see what is in store. The retelling of classic stories has been done to death. Oz the Great and Powerful, Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman, Jack the Giant Slayer, and Maleficent are basically the same movie with a prophecy subplot, giant battles, darker tone, CG overdose, and a known actor being eccentric. Based on the trailer, Pan has all that and I see no reason to bother. Furthermore, my decision has nothing to do with Rooney Mara cast as Tiger Lily because it is a non-issue.
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Speculative casting articles are about as played out as lists and countdowns in geek oriented journalism. As fans we all know what we would like to see in the adaptations of our favorite characters and complain if we do not get our way. When a studio chooses the absolute worst actor or actress, we rush to voice our disagreements to no avail. While casting choices remain pure speculation, however, we hold out hope that whatever we have to say on the decisions of studios has some margin of influence like today’s subject.
Not long ago, MMA fighter Ronda Rousey announced her desire to play Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, the female Superman equivalent of Marvel. She was human before an accident made her part Super Skrull with flying capabilities, super strength, and heat based powers. Danvers is also an Air Force Colonel and a skilled fighter pilot. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been in dire need of a totally female driven movie and Captain Marvel is probably the best option, as opposed to something about Black Widow or Wasp. Is Rousey the ideal choice to play Captain Marvel?
Here is the short answer.
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There is no denying Rousey is built to play a superhero. She has the look, attitude, and the skill for a stunt oriented role. Unlike the male actors of the MCU, her physique is made of real muscle and she knows how to kill people. Where she excels physically, however, Rousey cannot keep up in acting.
It is extremely unfair to judge new talent on a handful of performances. Rousey has been in three movies: Expendables 3, Furious 7, and Entourage, and based on those alone she does not qualify. Hiring an inexperienced actor for an expensive production is a big risk because it is impossible to gauge if said talent will come through in the end. Rousey simply lacks the acting ability, but she is not terrible as a Schwarzenegger type. I would like to see her in a Red Sonja remake if that ever happens. Casting her on the grounds of physical appearance is both dishonest and counter to the precedence Marvel has set since Iron Man.
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So who is the best choice to play Captain Marvel? As someone who read the eponymous comics by Kelly Sue DeConnick, I think I have enough of an understanding to select the right person.
My first choice would be Lucy Lawless if Agents of SHIELD had not wasted her in a part that lasted two episodes for a below average show. She epitomizes the strong female archetype with the way she carries herself in not just her performances but also her personality. She has a quick whit to keep up with her male counterparts and the experience working in physical roles like Xena and Hercules.
My next choice is Amanda Tapping from Stargate SG-1. She played Major Carter, the scientist archetype back when science fiction television was watchable. Along with the ability to speak the elaborate jargon and seem like she knows what she is saying, Tapping can play a military officer with heart. Danvers is similar to Carter as an officer that is not straightforward or by the book like many typical military characters, but competent enough to be a leader.
The best possible choice and the one I want to see most is Katee Sackhoff. With my decision comes heavy bias; I am one of those people that will watch anything she is in, even if I know it is terrible. It started with the new Battlestar Galactica (BSG), one of the last great television shows. While her character Starbuck was a maverick and ace pilot, she also had a number of personal problems like alcoholism, PTSD, and manic depression, and Sackhoff made them feel real. She imbued Starbuck with a strong personality that does not take anything from anyone and is never afraid to do something reckless. It is not too often Sackhoff was physical, however. She did some fist fighting, played around with guns, and did her own stunts, but in a very limited capacity. In terms of physique she is on par with Scarlet Johansson with more brawny, almost half the size of Rousey. Above all else, Sackhoff has the acting skill to bring Captain Marvel to life.
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On concept alone this article is pointless. It does not matter what anyone says because studios will do whatever they think is best for what they want. I can write a tetralogy of Punisher movie scripts with Michael Shannon in mind, but it will not change the fact Marvel cast Jon Bernthal and made Punisher a Daredevil character. With Captain Marvel, I can only hope they make the right decision and consider someone other than Ronda Rousey.
Editorial 8: Wow
Last night I found a trailer for a movie coming out next year that I had to share. It is called I’m Not Ashamed, a biopic about the first victim of the Columbine Massacre. Seems simple enough until you get to the crux of the video. The victim in question, Rachel Joy Scott, was a Christian and the angle the movie seem to be going for is she was killed because of her faith, making the Massacre an attack on Christianity…
…I do not think I need to say anymore to articulate how offensive this is. Corpse Worshipers playing the victim is nothing new to their propaganda, but using a school shooting is blatantly disgusting. It is not even out yet and I can tell it is going to be the most repulsive Christian film I will ever see. I hope it never comes out because the ignorant insensitive twerps behind it do not want to know what I have to say.
Editorial 7: Podcast
As a part of my internship for the Drunken Odyssey, I had the opportunity to contribute to the site’s podcast. In this episode I talk a book(s) that changed my life, which just happens to be Garth Ennis’s Punisher MAX. If you have read these select posts you already know I am a huge fan of the character. On the podcast I delve more into Frank Castle’s personality and moral compass while the Death Wish 2 theme plays in the background. Enjoy.
Editorial 6: In Support of My Friends
Though I am weeks late, I want to let everyone know of a new blog formed by my college friends. It is called the Writer’s Cohort where various contributors post articles on various subjects within the realm of entertainment. From videogames to literature, they talk about the minutiae and issues concerning their respective industry with great depth. I know most of these people personally and believe me when I say they know what they are talking about. Give the Writer’s Cohort a look.
You might learn something.
Editorial 5: Videogame Reviews
I would like to formally announce I will be writing videogame reviews for the Drunken Odyssey, a collection of blogs overseen by Mr. John King. I will also be editing the audio for the site’s podcast as a part of an internship. Reviews will go up every Wednesday, consisting of mostly recent titles and ones that I have actually played. Movie reviews will continue on their usual schedule. You may find the blog at the provided links.
Editorial 4: Kojima’s Heaven’s Gate
Hideo Kojima is one of the most prolific figures in the videogame industry. He used the platform of the Metal Gear Solid (MGS) series to tell a complex narrative with themes that had yet to be explored. He revolutionized the way we perceive cinematic storytelling today. On the cusp of his opus MGS5, however, Konami, the company responsible for publishing his work, saw fit to excise Kojima from memory, disbanding his production studio and erasing his name from future products. How did this come about? Why did Konami abandon its saving grace before the release of its biggest game to date?
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The situation with Kojima and Konami is similar to director Michael Cimino and the studio United Artists (UA). Deer Hunter was Cimino’s biggest achievement, taking seven Academy awards for its story of three friends going to Vietnam. UA was known for letting its directors have complete creative control of their projects during the auteur era of Hollywood. Seeing the success wrought by Cimino, the studio gave him permission to make whatever film he wanted, and that film was Heaven’s Gate (HG).
HG is inspired by the Johnson County War, a series of skirmishes between mercenaries and European immigrants in 1890s Wyoming. The movie was essentially a western on an epic scale. With a cast of hundreds of extras, a town built from the ground up, and Cimino’s extreme attention to detail, hopes were high HG would be another quality title from UA’s favored artist. What followed was a drama of obsession and financial turmoil.
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Problems first arose over the casting of French actress Isabelle Huppert in the role of Ella Watson. UA was concerned about her ability to speak English, but Cimino pushed hard and got his way. Being in pre-production, UA began to wonder how the director’s demands would affect the movie going forward.
Authenticity was Cimino’s goal and ensured every detail was precise and exactly to his liking. This translated into actors and extras going through rigorous training to put them in the mindset of the old west. While it is not uncommon for such preparation before shooting, it was during the process Cimino’s obsession negatively affected budget and scheduling.
Many scenes were shot in multiple takes, some significant and others seconds long. In one scene where Kris Kristofferson cracks a whip, a two second-long shot, was done about 50 times. To get the perfect outdoor shot, he and the crew would wait from dawn till the afternoon before the clouds were in the right position. Different emotional versions of scenes were shot to save for editing. However, the overuse of film stock compounded, adding up debt and putting the release window behind schedule.
What was supposed to cost 12.5 million for a winter of 1979 release cost 44 million and was not put out in theaters until a whole year after the projected date. Cimino spent months editing the one million feet of film into a five-hour feature before another editing session. At three and a half hours HG was put out in theaters to the vitriol of critics, calling it overly long and boring. Feeling threatened Cimino pulled the film for one last edit and brought the runtime to two and a half hours. But the damage was already done.
HG earned a meager three and a half million at the box office. The cascading effect of its failure tarnished the reputation of UA and ended the auteur era in Hollywood. Directors with vision were too much of a risk and limits were placed on future projects outside of independent circles. Accountants and committees became the final word on how movies are made. Contemporary Hollywood has become so bureaucratic and business oriented creativity has been expunged and deemed problematic. Theaters are flooded with remakes and sequels because studios are too afraid to try anything different while turning film into product. The Amazing Spider–Man movies, Fantastic 4, and Transformers are built on the backs of not artists, but cretins who do not possess a creative bone in their collective body. All they see is money and not the rampant decay of their industry. And it was all because of one man’s vision.
I have not seen HG, but it cannot be worse than the trash of today.
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Before I start comparing Kojima and Cimino, I find it important to describe what MGS is all about:
The first game came out in 1987 under the title Metal Gear. It was the first stealth action videogame of its kind and won Kojima recognition in his home country of Japan. After a sequel and a couple other projects, the series we know today saw its first iteration in 1998. It was basically a remake of the original in a 3-D realm and an opportunity for Kojima to indulge in what he could not in 2-D.
Kojima is very much a fan of movies and takes inspiration from a wide variety of titles. The characters Snake and Big Boss are based on Snake Plissken from Escape from New York, a cyclopean stealth specialist. Snake also takes after John Rambo from First Blood (the only one you should see and the fourth) with his signature bandana and his commanding officer, Colonel Campbell, is a direct imitation of Colonel Troutman. Much of the dialog in MGS3 is packed with references to westerns and classic Godzilla. The Mad Max series influenced 5 as Snake is more of a silent protagonist experiencing the world around him.
Kojima’s interests are readily translated into how he handles cinematics. He appears to see things in film and anime and emulates them in the games’ cut-scenes. There is evidence of an extreme attention to detail in the way scenes are set up and shot. Camera angles are reserved in their movements and placement for clear visuals. Characters and set pieces are arranged in a fashion that best fit the shot in the manner of a tableau in some cases. The action is inspired by Asian action movies, using a lot of slow motion and acrobatic stunt work with the boss characters. The cinematics also strive for a dramatic presentation to convey emotion. If the ending scene of MGS4 does not move you to tears, you are not human. With each iteration Kojima’s style has changed. MGS1 and 2 were visually standard, 3 reminiscent of old spy movies, 4 modern in regards to a documentary style, and 5 wants to be a long-shot similar to Children of Men or Birdman as made evident in the prologue Ground Zeroes.
While the cut scenes are an opportunity for Kojima to indulge himself, they are an important part of storytelling and the expression of various themes. PTSD, war, and killing in general were subjects not often explored in games until MGS. In 1, Snake knew all he was doing is killing and never thought of himself as a hero. In 2, the character Raiden was afraid of being a father because the trauma from being a child soldier could pass on to his son. 3 was about how legacy means nothing in an ever changing world. 4 dealt with the idea of war becoming systematic with the rise of private military corporations and advanced technology. The spinoff Peace Walker criticized nuclear deterrence as a means to prolong conflict and a build up arsenals. And 5 might as well be called PTSD: The Game.
Perhaps he would enjoy making an actual film, but unlike the self-proclaimed auteur David Cage, a French developer who fancies himself a movie director for videogames, Kojima knows a game is not a movie. The cinematics and extensive codec calls are only half the experience. With an arcade style ranking system, players can choose how they want to play between killing everyone in a given level with abandon, or calm and collect as they evade capture. One could finish a game without killing anyone except the bosses before receiving a score. The gameplay is as important as the cinematics and stands on its own.
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Kojima and Cimino possess a common eye for detail and the focus of a perfectionist. Both have visions they want to realize and push hard to make it happen. Everything about their projects must be consistent with that vision, whether it is the position of clouds or the movements of a character, reaffirming their shared obsession. Like HG, Kojima goes for authenticity in his games’ military aesthetic, using a variety of accurate jargon and techniques under the advisement of military expert Motosado Mori. To get the best shots possible, Cimino would take his crew hours away from civilization to places he thought would look best. This was nothing new as Deer Hunter was shot in several locations across the US.
The two are also absent egotism, motivated by their obsession and vision. There was a calm determination on the set of HG as Cimino worked to the breaking point in his pursuit of perfection, disregarding the word of producers and mounting cost. Apart from the fact the Japanese are culturally a humble people, Kojima just does not think too highly of himself. He acknowledges the games’ impact and takes into consideration what they have done for fans as he works hard to make each game a polished memorable experience. His extensive mention in the credits is purely coincidental and his appearances in the games are simple cameos in the same vein as Hitchcock.
Where Kojima and Cimino differ is what their respective studios did at the zenith of their projects.
UA knew from the outset HG would become a problem as production went on. By taking his time and going to such great lengths, Cimino was costing the studio millions, so much so it was the most expensive movie in 1980. Despite the drama and financial turmoil, UA wanted something out of the situation. To not release a film after such a struggle would have been suicide. There was plenty of evidence at the time to suggest movies with troubled productions could come out on top like Star Wars and Apocalypse Now. Of course, HG was a disaster regardless, but unlike Konami, UA let Cimino finish filming and editing before he was fired and treated him with as much respect as they could muster on the eve of collapse.
To be clear, based on the information available, Kojima left Konami on his own. There has been no mention of him being forced to leave and that he will continue working on 5 until its release. But the fallout of his departure raised questions with a singular answer: Konami is does not respect its creators or their creations.
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After Kojima left, word began to circulate his name was struck from the box cover of 5. While this was still an allegation with so little information present, the latest trailer (notice the drop in quality compared to a trailer cut by Kojima himself) showed the Kojima Productions studio seal absent and the studio itself dissolved. Even by American business standards this is excessive, denying recognition to the artists on their own art. It is no surprise, however, that Konami’s CEO Kagemaza Kozuki hates Kojima and has been trying to push the company away from videogames in recent years. In their native country, Konami is best known for mobile games, gambling machines, and a variety of other investments. Kozuki has gone on record that mobile games are cheaper to produce and more profitable. Being a company that builds gambling machines, I find it odd Konami could not see the risk in folding their hand after investing 80 million dollars (10 billion yen) in its most important game since 4.
UA did not quit after dumping millions on Cimino. They did not see the potential downfall of their company and abandon ship because they wanted something out of the debacle. What is worse about the Konami situation is it was never in danger of failing. Not only was Kojima their last reason for existing in the industry, he was on the verge of rejuvenating Konami’s last great franchise, Silent Hill (SH), in collaboration with director Guillermo del Toro. Furthermore, MGS used to be a PlayStation exclusive whose numbers steadily dwindled between 1 and 4. With the advent of release on not only current but last generation consoles, 5 is also coming out on PC through Steam. It will reach audiences that would have never played a single game in the series years before. The possibility of recouping cost has never been more favorable, but Konami was too caught up in its delusion before forcing Kojima out. And by default the new SH was canceled.
This is not the first time Konami has mishandled talent and their games. It started with Team Silent, the creators behind the original four SH games. I am not a fan of survival horror, but I appreciate SH as a fantastic example of psychological horror. All of that changed when Konami thought it was a good idea to disband the team and put them to work on mobile games. The SH series was then passed off to western developers with abysmal results. Konami has made a mockery of its flagship titles with no regard for quality, more so than ever with the release of an SH themed slot machine.
A recent Nikkei report revealed the company does not treat the rest of its employs especially well. Workers are monitored in their offices and on social media and the time they take for lunch is heavily scrutinized. When certain employees out grow their usefulness, the company reassigns them to different jobs regardless of what they were doing before. Konami also regularly changes its internal structure and discourages communication between teams. These are all allegations, of course, contrary to eyewitness reports, but based on past and recent activities, it makes sense for Konami to behave in such a manner.
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Hideo Kojima and Michael Cimino are artists that succumbed to a system absent creativity. In an environment that runs on money, creators often fall ill to outside interference and cooperate tampering that stifle innovation. Regardless of internal conflict, United Artists respected the work of Cimino and let him realize his vision. Konami, however, is absent humility and has no appreciation for art. In conclusion, fuck Konami, fuck everyone who support their practices, and I hope it collapses harder than UA before the end of the decade.
Editorial 3: Who Are the Secret Warriors?
If you have read my Marvel Cinematic Universe review on Smashwords, you probably know my feelings on Agents of SHIELD. Unlike Daredevil, there is nothing that sets it apart from convectional television. It is boring, predictable, and not at all reflective of the quality of the movies. It has more in common with a run-of-the-mill procedural. Joss Whedon was at the helm and the show still failed to hold my interest, compounding my decision to give up on television as a whole. I must confess I have not seen season two or Agent Carter as I wait for it to become available on Netflix. I do not know if it has improved, but my instinct says otherwise.
Recently it was announced season three will feature the Secret Warriors (SW), a team from a story of the same name that I just happen to be a big fan of, as indicated in my profile picture. The first issue I bought was number two in my formative years as a comic junkie and I proceeded to read the entire series. The appeal was author Jonathan Hickman’s signature big idea concepts and the set-up of a team similar to Special Forces or CIA operators. It was a great series that inspired a part of my Punisher script and the idea of Hydra controlling SHIELD in Winter Soldier.
The last thing I want to see is my favorite team on a below average prime time slog fest. So, like any pissed off nerd, I am going to use this as an opportunity to explain who the Secret Warriors are and why they are the greatest. By the way, if you want an X-Men equivalent breakdown, look not further.
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The SW was formed before the beginning of Secret Invasion, a Marvel Event where Earth’s mightiest were captured and replaced by Skrull agents. Nick Fury (who had passed his position of Director to Maria Hill following Secret War) formed the team to expose possible infiltrators in SHIELD and later showed up to assist in the final battle. The Skrulls were defeated, but Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, delivered the final blow. To commemorate his victory, he was made Director of SHIELD, later renamed HAMMER. Fury then tasked the SW to cause chaos and pull apart Osborn’s regime in Dark Reign.
Colonel Nick Fury– The Nick Fury of comics of vastly different from Nick Fury of the MCU, apart from the difference of race. Where Black Fury is cool, smooth, and likeable, White Fury is the most unreasonable, secretive, and pragmatic human being that has ever existed. Imagine Snake Plissken, Big Boss, a little bit of Frank Castle, and Bruce Campbell’s hair combined into a singular cyclopean super spy badass, whose sole purpose in life is to protect the world and its people. Not only did he fight in WWII as one of the original Howling Commandos, he served as a CIA operator in Cuba, Vietnam, and Nicaragua. Even as a senior citizen with a bullet in his head he finds a way to keep fighting or uses his espionage skills to get others to do it for him. He has defied governments and destroyed friendships to accomplish his goals and has no problem making sacrifices without remorse. He manipulates anyone and everyone, even people who do not know him, hidden behind layers upon layers of secrecy.
Daisy “Quake” Johnson– As before, Daisy from the comics has nothing in common with Skye from Agents. The power set is the same with vibration manipulation, but the whole master hacker crap that does not make any sense for someone that beautiful is nonexistent. Their personalities are also contrasting. Daisy is by and large a tomboy who cuts her hair short to be proficient in her duties and has natural leadership skills. She is in charge of the SW, but treats it like her family, and respects Nick Fury as her superior.
JT “Hellfire”– The grandson of the Phantom Rider, JT is an Atlanta native that can set chains on fire. He is a suave character in the same regard as a frat boy who hits on anyone of the opposite sex. He is also loyal to his friends and eventually Daisy when they begin a romance.
Alex “Phobos” Aaron– Alex is the god of fear and son of Ares, who was an Avenger before his death in the Siege Event. On the outside he is an 11 year-old with thousands of years of godhood to his name. Alex can induce an extreme feeling of fear with just a look, leaving his enemies petrified and vulnerable to attack. Despite being a god with minor precognition abilities, he still acts like a child because he can get away with it.
“Yoyo” Rodriguez– Yoyo is a mutant with a super speed power set and daughter of the super villain Griffin. After completing a full run, her body automatically slingshots back to her point of origin. She is an innocent character who is thrust into Fury’s world and comes out stronger on the other side.
Sebastian “Druid”– Sebastian is a Hawaiian native and the son of Doctor Druid, a lesser-known magic user opposite Doctor Strange. He is the “fat-guy” of the team, a sad sack with low self-esteem and a skilled sorcerer.
Jerry “Stonewall” Sledge– The son of Absorbing Man, Stonewall has a power set similar to his father, without the antisocial tendencies. He can increase his size and his skin takes on the consistency of stone. Stonewall is also kind at heart despite his appearance and develops a close friendship with Yoyo.
Eden “Manifold” Fesi– Eden is a teleporter mutant that can create portals to accommodate more than one passenger and can reach wide distances. He is Aboriginal and has a great affinity for rock ‘n’ roll.
HAMMER– Though its concept is reflective of SHIELD, HAMMER is opposite in purpose. It creates the illusion of enforcing peace while perpetuating conflict for personal enterprise at many levels of crime.
Norman Osborn– Known as the Green Goblin, Osborn is the Director of HAMMER and used the fallout of Secret Invasion to take out heroes and supplant his control as Earth’s new top cop.
The Thunderbolts– As Marvel’s equivalent to the Suicide Squad, the Thunderbolts are comprised of villains that do the jobs SHIELD cannot. During Dark Reign, however, they were given (for lack of a better word) free reign to do whatever they want. The team includes Ares, Venom, Bullseye, and Osborn himself as the Iron Patriot.
Hydra– The most prominent adversary of SHIELD, Hydra made a steady recovery after the Skrull Invasion with diminished numbers. In a HAMMER world, however, it became more of a threat as the two worked together in a secretive capacity.
Baron Wolfgang von Strucker– Compared to the film version, comic Strucker is far more sinister and plays a bigger role. He is essentially a Nazi version of Fury who founded Hydra after WWII with remnants of Imperial Japan.
Kraken– A mysterious and methodical figure, Kraken is Strucker’s second in command. He wears a helmet that projects a suit over his body and grants him powers.
Viper (Madame Hydra)– The matriarch of the organization, Viper is unmatched in her fighting ability and cunning as she manipulates others to further Hydra’s influence.
The Hive– Born from a symbiotic parasite attached to a reluctant victim, Hive is an anthropomorphic squid creature and conduit for an untold number of similar parasites Hydra uses to conscript henchmen into their ranks.
Gorgon– His real name Tomi Shishido, Gorgon is a skilled swordsman and agent of the Hand. As per his namesake, he can turn people into stone with a look and takes pleasure in honorable combat. He is also an extreme nihilist, his mind so empty his thoughts are equal to that of an abyss. His sword is Godkiller, an ancient blade forged by the gods themselves.
Leviathan– What happens when Hydra forgoes its Nazi roots in exchange for Communism? You get Leviathan, the Soviet equivalent of Hydra with a similar Cthulhu-ian aesthetic. They were a separate group to the KGB and remained dormant until the 21st Century. They posses one collective goal and do not allow personal needs to get in the way. They also make up for their inconsistencies in technology with superior numbers.
Orion– Not much is known about him, but Orion was a veteran of WWII and was there at Leviathan’s inception before going into cryostasis with other select operatives.
Magadan– Orion’s second in command, Magadan remained out of cryostasis to observe the progression of history and build up Leviathan’s influence before waking the horde.
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And those are the Secret Warriors. I could get into the story arcs (perhaps at a later date), but it would be futile considering Agents of SHIELD will be vastly different. I am more worried, however, about what will happen to the characters. I am fine with Black Fury because you can never go wrong with Samuel L Jackson, but I fear they will screw up as hard with everyone else like Daisy. I do not want these diverse and fleshed-out characters reduced to the department store catalog drones of the show. If Gorgon shows up and he is not my favorite undead nihilistic samurai, I will give up on all Marvel television, now and forever, excluding whatever they do on Netflix.
Editorial 2: Why I Did Not See Southpaw
My main reasons for skipping Southpaw are both monetary and personal. Usually I see two movies per week depending on what is out, but recently I have found my finances cannot handle anything more than one. Furthermore, certain things in my burgeoning professional life require my full attention. I would like to think I can focus on various projects, but as I have gotten older, the more I try the lesser the quality. My goal is to become a writer and if I want to git gud, I need to exploit my strengths while keeping in mind my weaknesses. The secondary reasons I chose to ignore Southpaw are more in regards to the film itself.
I hate sports movies about as much as Adam Sandler movies. I was young when I saw Miracle, a true story about America beating the Soviet Union at hockey. Sure, movies are predictable as I have said in my not-review of Pixels, but in Miracle I saw the same pattern of plot points reflected in others of the genre. There is always that dedicated coach or player on an apathetic team, inspiring them to do well until the moment of downfall, before they finally succeed. Remember the Titans, We Are Marshall, When the Game Stands Tall, Pride, and Friday Night Lights follow this formula ad nauseam and Southpaw is no different.
You have the set-up of a fighter down on his luck after the loss of his wife, who then loses his child, and to prove he can be a better parent goes back to boxing for a fight that will certainly win back his life. I guarantee the film plays out almost exactly like that. While sports movies are not as bad as Sandler’s, the monotony of their plots is enough to deter my interest. Compounding my decision is the reason the movie exists in the first place.
Jake Gyllenhaal has made strides in his career with Prisoners and Nightcrawler (I did not see Enemy) and he deserves at a bit more recognition for his efforts. That being said, Southpaw feels like the cinematic equivalent of over compensation. Most average movies can be elevated by the work of their actors, writers, or direction. However, when an actor works as hard as Gyllenhaal for a generic sports film, it might as well be called Trying Too Hard: The Movie.
No disrespect, but if you have to break up with your girlfriend for training, maybe you should tone it down and look at the bigger picture. You are not Daniel Day Lewis or Joaquin Phoenix. Their transformations take such a toll they sign onto new projects between long periods of time. Going to such lengths for a boxing movie in under a year since your last film shows how desperate you are to be recognized, when people already know who you are.
Take for example Leonardo DiCaprio, a by and large character actor. In just about every one of his movies he has an accent and applies his signature intensity. At the same time, he goes the extra mile and takes control of the part. In Django Unchained he smashed a glass with his hand and bled all over. In the quaaludes scene from Wolf of Wall Street he used his foot to open a car door and sustained a back injury.
What I am getting at is a dedication to the process of acting. Nobody cares about how you get into character as long the end result is exceptional. DiCaprio is selective about his roles and goes for whatever will allow him to play a different character each time and at a consistent rate. Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom was a character, but Billy Hope is no different than Rock Balboa, Jim Braddock, Maggie Fitzgerald, and Jake La Motta.
I do not hate the guy. I just find it disheartening that such hard work is wasted on a role that could have been done in his sleep. It does not make any sense for someone as talented as Jake Gylenhaal to put so much effort into a movie so ordinary. And for that reason I will not see Southpaw.
Editorial 1: Portfolio
As part of my last class I had to make a portfolio of selected works from the past two years. Some of them are already on here in one form or another and some are not. I will be adding more in the near future. Later I will make a page dedicated to the site, but here it is for your viewing pleasure.
Editorial 0: In Support of Jim Sterling
I do not normally do this, but I felt compelled to share this little discovery I came upon yesterday morning. It could be the funniest new thing on the Internet I feel more people aught to know about.
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To provide some context, Jim Sterling is a video game critic that I have been following since his time on Escapist Magazine. In addition to reviews he posted weekly reports and analyzes called the Jimquisition on the happenings of the industry with an informative and humorous tone. Not long ago he went independent on YouTube with great success. He has a Patreon and posts a slew of content to his channel, more so than his time as a contracted journalist.
In addition to his usual reports, Sterling has gotten a lot of mileage making videos related to the games of Steam Early Access, a digital distribution service for would-be developers. Said games are usually poorly made, barely functioning, and sold for prices that do not reflect their quality. To highlight the gross miss-use of this service, Sterling created “Squirty Play,” a first impressions play-through series that is not exclusive to Early Access. Each video is simple, short, and not at all a final critique, which are posted on his personal blog.
In November of 2014 Sterling released a “Squirty Play” for Slaughtering Grounds, a first-person shooter dubbed Worst Game of the Year. What started as a ten-and-a-half minute video turned into a saga when developer Digital Homicide released a counter-video called Reviewing the Reviewer. In it was a text over-lay on the original video of the developer defending his work and insulting Sterling.
Instead of making a point, Digital Homicide’s tantrum provided a great deal of entertainment. Sterling’s laughter-induced reaction perpetuated the developer’s anger to take futile legal action more readily defined in this episode of the Jimquisition. Sterling even replayed the game for two hours to prove he gave Slaughtering Grounds a fare chance, only to reinforce his previous argument.
But it did not end there.
Last Thursday, Sterling and Digital Homicide sat down for an interview of sorts on a special Jimquisition podcast. I do not want to spoil anything, as it is the most incredible 1:41:06 you will ever hear. It is the definition of paradoxical.
Why I Did Not See Unfriended
TRIGGER WARNING IF YOUR FEELINGS ARE EASILY HURT
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What started as an attempt to not see a movie rendered irrelevant a week after release, turned into something on a broader scale. It became apparent what I had to say would no doubt piss off more people than I care to count and lose me fans, if any. Through this blog, I wanted to express my opinions in a professional manner for the sake of critiquing film. But in a situation such as I find myself, I am going to be as honest as possible, no matter how much it will not help.
Unfriended brings up a variety of feelings in me, one of which being a movie shot on Facebook sounds like a movie shot on Facebook. I am all for experimentation, no matter how stupid, but what I felt most upon seeing the trailer was the underlying theme of cyber bullying. After watching a couple reviews, I was correct in my assumption, and here I find myself expressing my thoughts. I did not want to do this, but the more I thought about it, the stronger the urge became to put it all out there, and carefully articulate how CYBER BULLYING ISN’T REAL!
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It is strange how easily people go insane over a few words on the Internet. I understand there are cases where online harassment translates to real life consequences and those are the exception, but if you are affected by comments to the point you call yourself a victim, go back to high school, get some bullies that actually exist, and then you can be victim.
Getting rape threats every time you open Twitter or a troll on YouTube? How about you use the conveniently placed block button or report the user for abuse. If all you get are generally offensive comments, turn off your computer and walk away from the screen. It is impossible for cyber bullies to get you that way.
Do you know how to get rid of real bullies? YOU CAN’T!
Unless you go the Eric Harris/Dylan Klebold route of total massacre, you will always see, hear, and experience your bullies, with no escape or hope of fighting back without repercussions. Even worse is living with them and the constant repression of your desire to inflect the worst kind of vengeance.
There is no block button for what real people go through on a daily basis. In most cases, young people kill themselves after years and/or months of abuse because there was no hope of improvement. Even in situations of gossip and falsehoods, kids become convinced their lives are ruined, and give up without a moment’s hesitation. Hundreds die before they have the chance to live because no one bothers to help.
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I find it offensive when people call themselves victims in the context of cyber bullying, but it can be more than up lifting for real victims. The notion a person’s self-esteem can be destroyed with a Tweet inspires hope that you are strong enough to overcome harassment, solidifying that words will indeed never hurt. It shows you are tough enough to survive abuse when other people are rendered inert by 130 characters.
On a marginally sadistic scale, it is hilarious to see people lose their minds over something as petty as cyber bullying. People spend hours upon hours of their lives traversing social media and making a huge fuss over one or two comments that happened to be negative. Followers of those people will blindly support said fuss without regard for context or intelligence. Simple comments often morph into maelstroms of nonsense that evolve into controversies more hollow and meaningless than a black hole.
The most obvious controversy is GamerGate, a yearlong funeral march into idiocracy that continues today. It started with cyber bullying and has endured with self-proclaimed victims, mostly figures of the video game industry and journalism, claiming to be harassed by sexist and/or threatening Tweets.
Sure, if someone mails a knife to your house, it would be a good idea to call the cops, but if a random Canadian tells an insignificant joke about Armenians, then shut down the highways and airports because it is the apocalypse. Next thing you know it, social media explodes in a torrent of hurt feelings from people not even involved that twist the situation with a level importance totally unfounded, like a Soviet propaganda spin team.
A similar situation occurred when actor Jeremy Renner called the Avengers: Age of Ultron character Black Widow “a slut” in a sincere and joking manner. But idiots who obviously did not watch the interview in which the joke was said (https://youtu.be/7oMcFupuL78) blew it to a proportion so big, Renner had to apologize days later. Actually, I think both of them said something, but this issue is so unimportant, I refuse to research further.
All three controversies started out ordinary, GamerGate being the result of a perturbed boyfriend telling the Internet about his ex, before random people, who thought they had something important to say, applied their own take. Suddenly an angry blog post became the subject of sexism, feminism, ethics in games journalism, and women’s standing in the video game industry, a notion that renders the entire issue insignificant because it is about video games. I am a gamer and I do not take games that seriously.
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When an entire subculture loses their minds before your eyes, you become so dumbfounded it is hard to believe it is even real. It transcends humor into Lovecraftian horror, something that cannot possibly exist, but it is there and you cannot un-see it. You do not see a meaningless squabble over a few comments, but a world driven mad by delusion. You laugh a bit more until you realize you alone possess eyes to see the truth. When you tell people what they are doing has no merit, you are shunned and reviled, labeled another bully by a long list of fake victims. You exist a pariah, the only one with enough sanity to see everyone else is crazy.
That is what it is like to be a real victim. I revel in the glorious heartbreak of people easily damaged by a Tweet. It makes me feel secure in the fact I am stronger, but at the same time, I am angered to the point I wish they would shut their mouths and stop existing. Their lies and weakness do as much damage as actual harassment and they show no signs of going away. Until people get with the program and learn what it is like to have actual bullies, I am going to sit back and watch them suffer. It is certainly more entertaining than Unfriended.
Why I Refuse to See 50 Shades of Grey
As an amateur film critic, I have made it my mission to see and write about most of what comes out each week. I am going to school full time, but the free days I have are relegated to watching whatever has come out. For my holiday in December I saw four movies in a row and wrote a review for three of them. I hope to get paid for my work one day, but until then, I refuse see 50 Shades of Grey. No matter how many views I will get for my critique, nothing can convince me.
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Before I start, no, I have not read the book. I have done research and I will tell you right now, there is no reason for this movie to exist.
The book is fine because you can find a hundred just like it in the romance section, but why anyone decided to make an adaptation is a mystery. It is not that it is rewritten Twilight fan fiction, kind of stupid, or has misogynist undertones. On the contrary, I find the concept quite inoffensive, and this is coming from a feminist.
So what is my problem with Shades of Grey?
In general, I do not have a problem; it is a harmless trend that people seem to enjoy. It brings a touch of the risqué to the bland lives of stay-at-home moms and people with repressed hedonistic desires. It is a safe touch of “evil” that can be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. And we could all use a bit of that in our day-to-day lives.
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If is okay to have a around, then is it offensive?
From an outsider’s standpoint, the idea behind Shades of Grey; a woman submits to a man to fulfill his BDSM fantasies, would qualify it as simple erotica, that happens to be a best seller. Overall, it really is not that big a deal, but what I have found in my research suggests otherwise.
It is a consensus that Shades of Grey is poorly written and features a protagonist that is offensive to women. I have seen videos of people destroying this book because they were so angered by the submissive, naive, and dimwitted intelligence of Anastasia Steele. Normally I would agree, but here is where I present a differing opinion:
What were you expecting?
You are reading an erotic novel that started out as Twilight fan fiction, and you complain about the character not being a strong representation of women? I understand the need for better female characters, but you will never find it in BDSM erotica inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s evacuated abortion. Why even bother? In terms of genre, erotica is so minute it hardly qualifies as important. There is plenty more you can be doing with your time and money. Nobody has any reason to take this book so seriously.
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With that in mind, why do I refuse to see this movie, if I do not have a problem with it, and it is not offensive?
At the risk of ruining any reputation I hope to gain from this blog, I refuse to see Shades of Grey because it is not hardcore enough to be as infamous as it is. Believe me when I say that the real thing, a very profitable genre in the porn industry, is far more intense and female-friendly than this supposedly risqué book.
Let me explain:
When I first heard they were making a film adaptation, I asked myself why would you make a movie about something you can find on the Internet, if you know what to look for? Right now, I can find videos that make Shades of Grey look like Green Eggs and Ham, in less time and with less money it would take to turn out a feature length adaptation.
You think the book was something to swoon over?
I can show you Eva Angelina, a veteran porn star and mother, get bound by five to seven men, within the first 10 minutes of an hour-long scene. Your average stay-at-home mom will be reaching for the sleeping pills until the nightmares stop. In other words, Shades of Grey is amateur crap that stupid people think is professional.
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The most important takeaway from this whole breakdown is real BDSM, and porn in general, has more to say about feminism, and gender equality, than anything in Shades of Grey. You may not believe it because you have not been single as long as I have.
Here is what I mean:
Being in porn means you are having sex on camera for the whole world to see. You are exposed both physically and emotionally, something very few people can do. But those that can show they are proud of what they look like, no matter how they look.
In my opinion, doing porn equates to being a feminist because you are free of gender conformity and the bonds society puts on people based on how they physically appear. On top of that, women are paid more than men. An ordinary boy/girl scene has more to say about feminism and gender, in less time than it takes to read Shades of Grey.
If you think I am wrong, here are a couple articles by porn stars that support my argument:
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So that is why I will not see this movie. I have no idea how this analysis will affect my standing as a critic or as a person. My hope is that I have articulated why there is no reason for this movie to be important, or for anyone to see it. How it is a cultural phenomenon I will never understand. Unless I am being compensated for having to sit through it come February, I refuse to see 50 Shades of Grey.
Writing Frank Castle, the Punisher
As a student I must make it clear that I am not a professional in any sense of the word. The opinions expressed in this essay are based on what I have learned in my studies and personal observations. I just wanted to let you know.
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Frank Castle is one of the most under appreciated and under-written characters in Marvel Comics. Based on a variety of stories, I find he is considered a one-trick pony, a one-dimensional vigilante that is more renegade than paragon. Even other characters call him a psychopath and mass murderer. Usually he is placed in a supporting role for a book other than his own, and in titles that bare his name he is hardly the focus.
Why is this? Why do authors treat Frank like a one-off anti-hero with bland dialog and stories no different than an episode of Law and Order?
It is because no one understands Frank Castle.
All characters in fiction are hard to write, but Frank is the kind of person that requires an intimate knowledge of who he is on a psychological level. He is in no way an ordinary vigilante.
There are two versions of Frank’s origin. Both are the same, but different; one says he fought in Vietnam and another in the Middle East. For this analysis I will use the Vietnam origin.
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In Mark Millar’s Civil War, after a one-sided fight between Captain America and Frank Castle, Spiderman remarked: “Are you kidding me? Cap’s probably the reason he went to Vietnam. Same guy, different war.”
These few words speak volumes about Frank. It tells us he is or was idealistic about morality and justice, in addition to possibly being a fan of Captain America. All of that change, however, after Frank went to Vietnam, the single worst war in America’s history.
You could argue our modern wars are terrible, but when you take into account the physical and psychological damage done upon an entire generation of young men, the millions killed and poisoned, and the radical shift in public opinion against ordinary kids, fresh out of high school, who were forced to fight in a war, I could argue that you are a draft-dodging piece of garbage that doesn’t know shit about the world.
Of course war is an awful thing that creates as many heroes as victims, but Vietnam was a conflict that makes Verdun look like Grenada. There is not a single man or woman who grew up in that time that feels the effects of that disaster today. When you come home from the worst place in the world, after doing your duty to your country, to be called a murdering rapist baby killer, how would you feel about yourself? How can you move on knowing people think you are a monster? This mentality from the general public alienated millions of young men whom were already worse off with a flawed VA system and an even more incompetent government that had no idea how to deal with the situation after a series of domestic crises.
Frank Castle was one of the many soldiers affected by the war. He was a skilled sniper, but underneath his calm, stoic exterior was a man utterly changed by horror. Even Rambo could not cope with seeing his friends in roasted pieces of meat. On his return home he would have become one with disillusioned youth, had it not been for the one thing that kept him together: his wife and children.
Maria, Lisa, and Frank Jr. were his normal, his center, and reason for going on. Most returning vets would turn to heroin or suicide to cope with home life, but Frank had is family, and it was with them he was truly happy. They kept his darker side at bay, the part of him that killed hundreds, and seen the worst of humanity.
And on one fateful day, the horror is set loose after Frank sees his wife and children murdered in Mafia crossfire.
This is where the origins intersect and where most people find Frank an easy character to understand. It is the archetypical vigilante creation story; ordinary person loses loved ones and is inspired to go out and fight crime. It is Batman’s origin, a story even people who don’t read comics know about.
It is here most writers draw their conclusions about Frank. The problem is the blatant disregard for his past. Usually his military service is meant to justify his skill with firearms, but the psychological effects of war are completely disregarded.
Combat and a year’s worth of horror are taxing on a person’s mental health that becomes exacerbated after coming home. And when you consider the social effects of the Vietnam War, apply them to a man who saw his wife and children massacred in a park, you make for a logical take on the vigilante and a character with more empathetic complexity than any bat-themed billionaire.
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This brings to mind his psychological state.
Frank Castle is not crazy. He knows what he is doing, knows he is a mass murder, knows it is wrong, and does not care. This would make him a sociopath, but a sociopath is someone who willingly rejects morality. Frank Castle has a sense of morality because he murders criminals, ones that are the absolute worst. He does not shoot j-walkers or torture thieves, but when he knows someone has done true evil, he goes the extra mile.
He does not enjoy any part of it either; for him it is like a meaningless job you do just for the paycheck. In Rick Remender’s run from 2009-2010, Frank says a few one-liners, but the delivery comes of as dry and flat. This serves as a juxtaposition between the character’s action-hero aesthetic and the brutality of killing. What it is trying to say is nothing can make murder cool, no matter how witty your choice of words. It is more of a thematic aspect, but it says a lot about the character.
And on the subject of murder, Frank is very utilitarian in his methodology. He does whatever is necessary to get the job done, without the need for theatrics. He finds his targets, shoots them, and moves on. It is only when the target truly deserves it that Frank goes into Saw/Hostel territory; like the father who used his own children in pornography or the businesswoman that kidnapped girls to have them raped and drugged for prostitution.
So if he does not get anything out of it, why does Frank Castle kill people, even after getting his revenge? He is as much a hero as a victim; a man with morals and skills parallel to Captain America, and the emotional baggage of a disillusioned Vietnam veteran and a widower. To that effect, when he sees a world full of victims created by psychotic monsters, he has no choice but to cleanse them from the earth.
In the words of comic book writer Garth Ennis, “[Frank Castle] make[s] the world sane.”
Now if Frank is mentally stable and aware of what he is doing, why does he wear a costume? Wearing the skull is unnecessary because he does not wear a mask either; people and the authorities know exactly what he looks like. On top of that, why does Batman dress like a bat? To be a symbol? I understand protecting your identity, but you can do that without looking like a furry. But I digress; the reason behind Frank’s costume is simple:
If we assume Frank is a fan of Captain America, in a world of superheroes, then it is only fitting he dons a costume fit for his character. He is a murder, so he would wear a skull.
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I understand this has been a very biased analysis because I care about this character. There are millions of war veterans that have gone through the same experiences (family massacre aside) and like them, Frank Castle deservers the same respect in comics. However, I am not saying there aren’t stories that do him justice.
The best by far, if you are looking for a psychological and adult take on Frank, is Punisher MAX by Garth Ennis. The series can be a hard read because it is violent and offensive, but it is also compelling and realistic.
Another good story puts Frank knee deep in the Marvel Universe, unlike MAX. Rick Remender and Nathan Edmonson both take into account the realities of a world of superheroes, gods, and aliens. Remender goes into realms of camp with a story about Frank becoming Franken-Castle, a walking Frankenstein pun after Wolverine’s son chops him into pieces. Edmonson’s is more grounded in realism with appearances from Electro, Black Widow, and Domino against the backdrop of a drug cartel’s plot to kill the citizens of Los Angeles with a chemical weapon.
Other stories combine the serious with the fantastical. Greg Rucka’s run is more of a true-crime take, but it falls short because the focus is on the supporting cast. Another series is from the Essential Punisher Collection #2 by Mike Baron, where Frank travels the world in the war on drugs. Later he gets into a brawl with the Man Without Fear, Daredevil.
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I hope this analysis has bettered your understanding of this underappreciated character. Sure I have been very biased, but when it comes to the Punisher, I think he needs to be understood on a deeper level. Though he is not unique in concept, Frank Castle is one of the more complex characters in the Marvel Universe. It is a shame so many writers do not see it.
Millar M, McNiven S, Vines D, Hollowell M (2007). Civil War. New York, New York: Marvel Comics.
Ennis G, Larosa L, Palmer T (2004). Punisher MAX: In the Beginning. New York, New York: Marvel Comics.