Yes the title of this post is a fart pun. I found that passing gas was a thematically appropriate pun title when it comes to the subject of Donald Trump since I'm pretty sure he's a brocolli and yogurt fart that has became self aware.
Donald Trump (which is what would happen if Ebenezer Scrooge, Archie Bunker and latter day Marlon Brando got stuck in the matter transporter from The Fly. Then at the last minute someone threw in a bad fright wig from the local community theater thinking it was a closet. The resulting exorbitantly wealthy, self obsessed, casually racist and gibberingly insane lump of sentient goo) has decided to run for President of the United States. His hair, being much smarter than its host, wants nothing to do with it and tries to make a break for it constantly.
It all came to a head over the last two days when the coup de grace to this whole farce was delivered. Donald Trump (or the three gremlins crammed into a skinsuit calling themselves Donald Trump) stood on the stage of the Republican primary debates (among several other skinsuits of various names) and was given a live microphone. It was punchline to a several month long joke and it was glorious.
Except the joke kept going...
During the course of the proceedings, Trump was called to account for some of the heinous things he has said about women in the past by moderator and Fox News personality Megyn Kelly, who seems to have been named by George R.R. Martin. Thus began a war of words between dumb and dumber raging on social media and in the news.
This was followed up by news breaking today that (the Homunculoid pile of clay and bird droppings dipped in crayon wax and tail swatted by a Porcupine now referred to as) Donald Trump's campaign adviser Roger Stone has resigned from the campaign after realizing he was trying to get Donald Trump elected President.
Roger Stone has been described as a "Nixon era dirty trickster" who claims credit for New York Governor Elliot Spitzer's fall from grace. Our hero ladies and gentlemen.
I say "our hero" because the social media sphere have already jumped on the Roger Stone bandwagon. Not that it should be a surprise. In modern culture, we have been conditioned to take sides in public battles, but I'm really stymied here. Sure (the burlap sack of giggling, masturbating, Chimpanzees known as) Donald Trump is annoying. Sure he's backward, ignorant, buffoonish, full of hot air and inexplicably successful despite his lack of anything resembling charisma, charm or talent. All things considered though, Trump really is the lesser of three evils in this equation.
Megyn of House Kelly has gleefully contributed to Fox News' platform of fearmongering, bigotry and complete disregard for anything resembling journalistic ethics. She followed in Fox News' long standing tactic of "throw a pretty blonde, white lady on television to say the most egregious things because it'll be more palatable to our audience". Megyn "The Truthslayer" Kelly found out pretty quick that in reactionary circles, women are prone to being elevated to pedestals until they stand up for themselves or other women. Then the same group of angry men who once idealized them when they were agreeable to the male agenda take great relish in tearing them down for stepping out of the kitchen and ceasing with the making of sammiches
I suppose the argument could be made that seeing the misogynistic leanings of Fox News' audience turned against her might be a "come to White Jesus...because Fox News thinks Jesus was white" moment for Ms. Kelly. Maybe there's an opportunity for redemption there? And maybe it's equally likely (the three grade schoolers operating) Donald Trump (like a full sized muppet) will simply be the hill Megyn was sent to die on for the good of the GOP (more on that later).
On that same note, maybe Roger Stone realized that spending fruitless years trying to elevate a power mad blowhard to the highest office in the land is not the smartest way to pad a resume? This guy thought that Richard "Enemies list" Nixon was A-OK and yet The Donald (who refers to himself as such because he likely sometimes forgets the surname his lizard people overlords gave him) caused Roger Stone to break the emergency glass and bail out with the parachute. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad seeing a terrible person running into a wall of stupid painted to look like Donald Trump, and who chose diving out of the moving car as his wisest option of escape.
Or maybe, as a lifelong political power broker, he simply knew that the (rotting Safeway bag of assorted chicken giblets named) Donald Trump train had run its course.
Not to beat a dead horse, (which incidentally is where Trump got his hair) but how much of a sleazebag do you have to be for Megyn Kelly to call you out on it on live television? How much of a (spunk filled prison mattress stuffed into a flesh coloured tent) liability do you have to be for Roger Stone to decide you aren't worth it?
I really don't know who to root for here so I guess I'll just makes some popcorn, sit back and enjoy two participants in a toxic system responsible for polarizing an entire nation and (a poorly assembled sex bot once purchased by Ayn Rand called) Donald Trump take pot shots at each other.
Hang on, I'm getting a breaking news bulletin. We go now to this update on the Great Hair Escape.
Ok, I'm back.
Let's get serious for a moment. Donald Trump will not be President.
He would be Nancy Kerrigan'd in the parking lot of the Republican Convention before that would be allowed to happen. (How they would find the knee of a being made completely out of dicks is something they'll have to figure out.)
The modern Republican Party is a lot of things. They are backwards. They have been co-opted by the extreme religious right. They are panderers to our worst natures. They are very good at dirty tricks and subterfuge.
One thing they are not is dumb enough to give (a congealed mass of metastasized toxic waste in a 3 piece suit named) Donald Trump the nomination.
Trump is not the future of the GOP (I think short for "Grumpy Old People" ) he's a guaranteed pain in the ass of the future of the GOP. He's the annoying guy that they invited to the party because they thought he wouldn't go and now he's loitering around the punchbowl threatening to spike it with Turbo Lax and won't leave no matter how many people he drives away.
This is a man who openly pledged to run as an independent if he doesn't get the nomination. He was the freakshow meant to distract from the clown car of ridiculous candidates the GOP has fielded. He was something to make the other candidates look good by comparison, but somewhere along the line the doughy mass of termites, Elmers glue and sawdust that collectively refers to itself as Donald Trump gained sentience and decided it was going to run anyway.
Much like Texas billionaire Ross Perot, Donald isn't someone who will just go away if he doesn't get the nod to run. He has the funds to finance his own campaign and he has the insanity and ego to follow through with that threat.
That's what I would say if winning the Presidency was his actual plan. Which it isn't. Donald Trump's chief income source is promoting his "brand" and milking the cult of greed for all it's worth. This isn't going to be a Presidential campaign, it's going to be a year long advertisement for the persona of (the shaved Sasquatch hiding in witness protection known as) Donald Trump.
The Republican Party has created a cult around convincing lower-middle class people to worship the uber wealthy (who actively work to widen the income gap further) and in the process have created a monster they cannot control.
Long story short, Hilary Clinton is the next President of the United States.
Oh what the hell, let's check in on that hair one more time.
In the wild a wacky world of pro wrestling, there's a term often used called "Hulking Up". It references the ritualistic late match comeback that Hulk Hogan would go through in his matches.
The heel (wrestling lingo for bad guy) would beat up on Hulk for most of the match and just when the nefarious baddie would hit his biggest move, Hogan would jolt up off the mat to his knees. He would puff out his cheeks, shake his head back and forth and then would stalk around the ring, pumping his fists, shaking his head and utterly impervious to any offense his opponent could provide. He would hit his trademark big boot followed by a leg drop, pin his opponent and the crowd would come unglued.
Pro wrestling has fascinated me ever since I was a kid. There's a tendency to look down on it due to it's carny roots and use of aggressively broad stereotypes (more on that later) so it's not something I talk about often. But even as a semi grown man, I believe that when it's done well it can be one of the most captivating forms of entertainment on the planet. It's one part athletics (regardless of the predetermined nature of the outcomes, the risks and danger to the wrestlers bodies is very real), one part soap opera (storylines and a continuous narrative that continues on with characters constantly rotating in and out, without any set beginning or end), and part live action comic book (larger than life heroes and villains, colorful gimmicks, costumes and big dramatic battles). As a form of performance art it is unique because in no other medium does the line between performer and character blur quite so much. (It's often said that the best wrestling characters occur when the performers take pieces of themselves and simply turn up the intensity.)
This is the unique environment, which has led to the heartbreak of fans everywhere upon learning that a tape of wrestling (an indeed, cultural) icon Hulk Hogan going on a racial tirade has surfaced during the discovery phase of his lawsuit against online tabloid Gawker for leaking a tape of him bumping uglies with his former best friend's wife. (My inner child is currently self immolating with his woodburning kit having to read that last sentence.) It's a tough thing to deal with when your heroes let you down (although, full disclosure, I was always more of a "Macho Man" Randy Savage fan, but he had his own set of problems).
For wrestling fans, Hulk Hogan has always been one of the more complex and flawed characters in a business that has seen it's share of complex and flawed characters (it seems to come with the territory, kind of like comedy, Hollywood or...*ahem* broadcasting). After all, you don't get into a business where getting whacked with folding chairs is listed in the job description without a need to fulfill some kind of need for attention or validation. In that business, Hulk Hogan breathes rarified air. Aside from Stone Cold Steve Austin (who also has a truckload of character flaws himself) and Dwayne "The Rock...and the best part of any movie you've seen recently" Johnson (who seems like a legit great guy minus "The Tooth Fairy") the Hulkster is the most recognizable icon of his industry and in the late 80's/early 90's few were as big in popular culture.
So with all that going for him, from an outsiders perspective, it will likely come as a surprise to hear that Hulk Hogan is also known as an insecure politicking schemer who exaggerates and flat out lies as freely as he...apparently drops the "N-Bomb". This is a man who tells the story of his epic moment at Wrestlemania III defeating Andre the Giant with Andre being heavier, the crowd being bigger and Andre dying sooner after the match (match was in 1987 Andre died in '93, long after we can rule out "death by bodyslam"). This is the man who inserted himself into the real life drama of The Montreal Screwjob (he was nowhere near it) like some kind of life photoshopper. This is a man who claimed he would have had the million dollar grill and not George Foreman if he had been home when the inventors called ("If only I had an answering machine brother...but I don't like being recorded") Seriously, throw "Hulk Hogan lies" into a google search . I'm just scratching the surface here.
What I'm getting at is that it's kind of impossible to pin down how Hulk Hogan actually views the world because he's been living in "Hulk Land" for so long that you can never be sure of exactly what his grasp on reality is. Trying to sift the real Terry Bollea out of all the Hulk Hogan bullshit is like trying to separate an egg after the yolk is broken.
This is a long way to go to say, I don't really care if Hulk is a racist, because I didn't have much respect for him to lose to begin with so this is really just gilding the lily. I could spend all day trying to figure out if in his own warped perspective he actually knew that what he was saying was wrong and still get nowhere because it's impossible to put yourself in his shoes unless you've spent several decades being told how great and important you are and built your own mythology to support that. I feel there's a much more interesting area to explore regarding the reaction to his rant.
WARNING! DIGRESSION TIME!!! To explain what I mean about "Hulk Land", Kevin Smith once told a story about pop music icon Prince and how difficult the reclusive singer was to work with on a documentary project (that never saw the light of day). The whole story is great but the section that is relevant here was Prince's assistant telling Kevin when he got frustrated and wanted to leave: "Kevin let me explain something to you about Prince. I've been working with Prince for many years now. I can't go in there and tell him that you don't want to shoot this documentary...Prince doesn't comprehend things the way you and I do...Prince has been living in Prince World for quite some time now. Prince will come to us periodically and say things like "It's 3 in the morning in Minnesota, I really need a camel. Go get it." And then we finally explain it to him like "Prince, it's 3 o clock in the morning in Minnesota, and it's January and you want a camel. That is not physically or psychologically possible." ...he's not being malicious when he does it. He just doesn't understand why he can't get exactly what he wants. He doesn't understand why someone can't process a simple request like a camel at 3 in the morning in Minnesota."
I guess the moral here is the more you know about your heroes, the less you want to know about them.
The more interesting subject to me is the reaction of the WWE upon learning of the news. This is where this particular case becomes a microcosm for the rest of society. Hogan's name was wiped from their website, he's been removed from the upcoming WWE 2K16 videogame, his name has been removed from Hall of Fame listings (although it's likely his induction will not be revoked) and he's been released from his Legends contract. To put it in perspective, the last time the company reacted this way involved a murder-suicide (which is part of the reason I think this is just a teaser for more to come out later). The scorched Earth approach they have taken has drawn the ire of many fans who feel it is an overreaction in an attempt to keep the heat off of themselves for their own past issues racism, homophobia, sexism and xenophobia.
After all, the company still works with Michael P.S. Hayes (who was briefly suspended after a history of making racial remarks), Steve Austin (who has past issues with domestic violence and racial remarks), Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka (who is currently under grand jury investigation for the mysterious death of his girlfriend Nancy Argentino in 1983), John "Bradshaw" Layfield who has a history of bullying and abuse, not to mention a little over a year ago the Ultimate Warrior was inducted into the Hall of Fame after having said some truly despicable things that make Hulk's rant look tame in comparison (WWE later created an award named in his honour following his sudden death shortly after Wrestlemania 30).
That's just the personal stuff. It doesn't even include the bevy of broad stereotypes the company has relied on in the past which could keep me going all day here.
The point I want to get at is that even if the company's reaction to Hogan's use of racial slurs was motivated out of cynical self preservation, it's still a positive sign of progress. It means they recognize the damage that associating with a racist can do to their brand, which sends a big message regardless of the motivation behind it. In their modern attempts to transform from carny trash sideshow to global entertainment industry, they have legitimately been making the effort to clean up their product and this was the worst time for something like this to come out.
On an episode of the Cracked Podcast discussing racial privilege, an interesting point was made regarding signs of progress. Cracker writer and author David Wong brought up how it's a good thing that we can look back at old Warner Brothers cartoons and recognize how racist they were. By extension, it's a good thing that we can look at the fact that WWE Chairman Vince McMahon once dropped the N-word in a backstage skit ten years ago (although fans thought it was stupid then too) to recognize that it is something that would not fly today. The company taking swift action indicates that even if the individual views of the Hulk Hogans out there haven't progressed, the rest of society has. And that's an effect that bleeds over because eventually a new generation takes over and the process repeats. One generation's progressive will be the next generation's bigoted dinosaur because the truth is, we can always do better.
You need points of reference to see when progress is being made. Any time you see someone complaining about political correctness ruining things, keep in mind that it's simply the function of progress being made within our lifetimes. When you can't say the same things today that could get away with even a few years ago, it means times are changing and we, as a society are being more conscious of the language we use and the prejudices behind that language.
When I was a kid, Eddie Murphy was at his height as a comedian. He was also unabashedly homophobic, saying some absolutely hateful things. Murphy would later publicly acknowledge this and apologize indicating that he had grown as a person. Once again, you can read into it as either genuine or cynical, but the issue remains that his past views were no longer acceptable to the general public. That's progress, that I can chart in my lifetime.
For an example from the other direction. Jurassic World left a very sour impression with me because it has a lot of outdated, sexist ideas that stuck out for a movie from 2015 and frankly, only served to highlight how progressive the original JP was in that regard. Again, progress that I can track in my lifetime because I have a signpost to compare it to. (I have a lot more to say about Jurassic World, but that's an article for another time.)
Beyond popular culture, think back, dear reader to conversations you've had in the past that would make you cringe if you heard someone say those things today. We've all got things that were said during less enlightened times or in times of darkness or stress, but most of us have the benefit of not having them captured on tape. (There's another article to be written regarding "call out culture" and crowd shaming.)
Part of the reason I was hesitant to outright call Hulk Hogan a racist (beyond some twitter jokes about his frequent use of the word "brother") is this same principal of personal growth. Is he not allowed to grow as a person, or is he forever tied to the ugly things he said in the past? By that same token, we cannot just brush off the things he said, because as we saw in Charleston SC, there are real world consequences to those racial attitudes and they do need to be a part of a larger conversation.
As for Hulk Hogan. I guess time will tell if he'll "Hulk Up" out of this one or not...
Author's Note: I promise, one of these days I will set out to write something short and to the point and actually do that. Hopefully you were able to get something of value out if this.
Another Author's Note: I hope you all appreciate how hard it was not avoid mentioning Hulk Hogan's hairline.
Another Another Author's Note: I don't want anyone to think I've forgotten about Gawker and how terrible they are. That'll be a topic for another day. When Gawker vs Hulk takes place in court, it'll be a heel vs heel match.
Kevin Smith's Prince Story (Language warning...it is Kevin Smith after all)
Cracked Podcast episode: "The Horrible 90's Hit Song Song That Explains The Modern World" (Language warning: They use hip hop music as bookends and ad breaks, which use some of the language we're talking about today)
You wanna know something funny I found out over my hiatus? I often tag my posts with "Spongebob Erotica" as a running joke (to date I have not penned any sponge smut...yet) and in checking my site stats, I found out that somebody found my site by specifically searching for those two words.
The first thought that hit me was the sad realization that that was the only search term that brought people here. The second thought was how disappointed they must have been when they got here. I know that Rule 34 of the internet (if it exists, there is porn of it) says that I couldn't be the only person putting those two concepts together, but it's gotta be a pretty rare itch to scratch. I just imagine the poor guy or girl (who are we kidding...probably guy) getting here and the dejected Charlie Brown walk of shame as he realizes he has been tricked. Well to you, dear pervert, I humbly apologize.
Anyway, I thought I should probably catch all ten of you up on the last four months. Took a new job at work, hurt my back, started exercising too soon after hurting my back, hurt my back again, set up a Facebook page for the site, learned to wash my hands thoroughly after applying Icey Hot gel to sore back, washed my eyes out after mistakenly rubbing eyes after applying Icey Hot gel, and I wrote a thing about the spineless suits at Reddit providing a subsidized platform for hate groups earlier today. I guess that brings us up to speed.
Oh and I saw some movies. I should talk about those.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
I think for better and for worse, Age of Ultron shows the by products of building a connected universe. For the most part, I really liked AOU but it also suffered from serving too many masters, rather than telling a contained story. I'll avoid my whole "Avengers: Infinity War will be the beginning of the end for shared universes" theory for now, since it really deserves it's own post. For now, I'll just stick to this movie. While it was fun, it was ultimately transitional. Part of this is due to the fact that we already know that this movie was just a stop over on the way to a much bigger movie several years from now.
While some were down on the pairing of Black Widow (her characterization left a lot to be desired in general) and Bruce Banner, I felt that Johannson and Ruffalo had enough chemistry to pull it off.
The movie went a long way to setting up Captain America: Civil War (which looks to be shaping up to be another hero packed team up movie) and the two leads of that movie are so dialed into Iron Man and Cap that it'll be fun to see them pitted against each other.
Overall, I really liked AOU. It introduced some new characters to mixed results. Paul Bettany is great in his limited screentime and Elizabeth Olsen is one of my favourite current actresses, despite a spotty accent. Aaron Taylor Johnson doesn't add much but they can't all be home runs.
Mad Max Fury Road
What more can be said about this movie? Hands down the best movie of this summer. It could possibly be my favourite of the year. If you had told me six months ago that my favourite movie of the summer would be a Mad Max movie, I'd have clubbed you over the head with Immortan Joe's big fake muscled chestplate. Then I'd wonder "What the hell is this thing?" because I wouldn't have seen the movie yet.
What's fun about this movie is how sparse it is in terms of exposition. We get dropped right into this world with little set up. Admittedly, for someone like me with minimal knowledge of the Mad Max series, it can be a little jarring. The nice thing is that the movie's simplicity doesn't require much setup. Once the movie puts a foot on the gas pedal it doesn't let up.
A lot has been said about this film's feminist leanings and it's true, the movie focuses most of the attention on Charleze Theron's impossibly cool named Imperator Furiosa. Her story is the one we are ultimately following and Max plays the reluctant hero, who gets drawn into a conflict he has no real interest in. What's interesting is that while this film is considered remarkably progressive, it never comes across as preachy. George Miller just presents it as, this is the way it is.
In that way, while Fury Road deals with some dark subject matter, it is ultimately an optimistic film. Even in the direst circumstances, the movie never gives in to the cynicism, or misery tourism that permeates many post apocalyptic stories. Fury Road is fun. Insane, off the wall, bonkers, bug nuts, wackadoodle, pure brain candy.
This movie features a guy playing a giant flaming double guitar while tethered to the top of a moving "war rig" (which features a series of other War Boys drumming on empty oil drums in the back). That is the essence of my review.
I'm a huge Breaking Bad fan. I want to get my biases out of the way right up front.
I put it up at the top of the television mountain with "The Wire" as the two dramas that didn't overstay their welcome, didn't compromise their storytelling and embraced change as an integral part of their storytelling process. They treated their audiences like adults and rewarded us for paying attention. They elevated tv drama to art.
Not bad, when you consider I first had written off Breaking Bad as a farcical novelty show (the early ads presented it as a comedy with Bryan Cranston running around in his skivvies and the wacky premise of the high school chem teacher turned meth cook). It wasn't until I heard friends and co-workers talking about it that I gave the show a second look.
All of this is a lead up to say I was apprehensive about the prospect of a Breaking Bad spin off. Especially one centered around the goofy comic relief lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) who was effective as a supporting character, but could he carry a show himself? Would a more comedic show still work in this universe?
Oh me of little faith. The premier episode of BCS put to rest any apprehensions I had going in. Better Call Saul not only pays reverence to Breaking Bad, more importantly, the first episode immediately sets up the show as it's own entity. It has a tone all it's own and a much sharper comic tongue (not surprising considering Bob Odenkirk co created the criminally underrated HBO sketch comedy series Mr. Show which you should totally go and watch right now) than it's fore-series. It makes a lot of sense considering that the biggest mistake this show could have made would have been to turn Saul Goodman (or Jimmy McGill, which I'll get too) into a Walter White clone.
The biggest surprise in Better Call Saul is the lack of a Saul. The character of Saul Goodman we met previously doesn't exist yet in this series. And indeed, the word "character" is entirely appropriate as Odenkirk gives a lot of interesting depth to conman/schyster Jimmy McGill by adding a layer of theatricality to Jimmy's personality that feels so right based on what we know about Saul Goodman. We are first introduced to Jimmy as he is going over his closing argument in a mensroom, rehearsing what he is going to say. The Jimmy we get to know in this first episode is a very different creature than Saul Goodman. He's a mutt trying to run with bigger dogs, and that has always been his appeal. Jimmy/Saul is always in over his head and while Walter White was at his best being two steps, I can see Jimmy always being two steps behind and running to catch up.
This does bring up one problem the show is going to have to overcome. Indeed the problem is that we know that ultimately Jimmy will survive to become Saul Goodman. Whether or not he survives the series in the time frame post-Bad is still up for grabs though. Without having the omnipresent threat of death that hung over Walter White's head, Saul will have to find other ways of creating tension. Let's just say, I wouldn't get too attached to the supporting cast.
Speaking of which, Michael Frickin' McKean is in this show and he is amazing. He plays Jimmy's brother Chuck, who is on an extended sabbatical from his law firm due to an unspecified medical issue. He is eccentric and suffers I can easily see Chuck becoming a central point of tension in the show. McKean is going to be the big revelation on this show. Chuck McGill is eccentric, good hearted, brilliant and has an aversion to electricity. He is also mentally ill, and harbours delusions that he will be able to return to work. This will be a career revitalizing role for McKean and watching he an Odenkirk together is a pleasure.
The most exciting part of discovering Breaking Bad was the revelation that the guy who played the doofus dad on Malcolm in the Middle capable of playing such a dark and complex character as Walter White. There's something truly amazing about watching an actor completely defy expectations. Seeing two comedic actors like Bob Odenkirk and Michael McKean blow us away will be the real treat of BCS.
I'm specifically being vague with my descriptions of the episode to avoid spoilers. That said, I'll simply wrap up with some other stray observations.
-Much of the style of Breaking Bad remains intact. I always love the little incidental moments such as the court prosecutor slowly wheeling a tv stand into place, Jimmy's car antenna flopping around when he pulls his briefcase down from the roof and Jimmy nearly getting wiped out by skateboarders while telling the "Ginger Twins" about his shady past.
-There are wannabe con artist Ginger Twins and they are excellent. I'm really hoping they stick around because they are very entertaining.
-One of the parts of Breaking Bad I loved was the long scenes showing the processes of things. Of course, those processes were usually involving cooking meth and other criminal activities, but it's still interesting. This time we get a nice long scene of showing how cinnamon buns are made. At least's it's not meth.
-Without giving too much away, the two cameos run from "Hey! It's that guy!" to "Holy sh*t!"
-Jimmy's combative relationship with the tollbooth attendant (Breaking Bad return #1) promises to be fun going forward
"Now I'm on your speed dial. Right next to your weed dealer."
"You've gotta stop putting bacon on your list. It's like a trichinosis stew in there."
"The only way this car is worth $500 is if there's a $300 hooker sitting in it!"
"Chuck helped build one third of this place. There are are what...twelve chairs in here? Four of them are Chucks."
I used to be a huge Mel Gibson fan.
My grandparents had a copy of "Maverick" on VHS that I damn near wore out from watching so often. By the way, since I'll never be able to do a full review of the movie (for reasons I'll get into in a bit) I'll say I still remember it very fondly. It was a lot of fun and the cast was top notch. (Author's Note: It occurs to me I allowed James Garner's passing to go by without properly paying my respects...I'll have to rectify that.)
I loved the Lethal Weapon movies and even latter day movies like Payback were among my favourites. Overall, if you would have asked me 10 years ago (well 11 considering the Passion came out on 2004) to list my favourite actors, Mel would have certainly been named among them.
I am no longer a fan of Mel Gibson. I don't feel I need to go too much into detail to explain why. His track record of being an abusive, misogynistic, racist, religious fundamentalist, alcoholic, rageaholic, batshit crazy asshole have been well covered elsewhere.
It's not so much a case of not being a fan anymore as it is I actively work to avoid putting money in his pockets (yes I realize the irony of giving Maverick a recommendation). That gets more to the heart of what I want to talk about today, which is how we treat the line between the performer and the art.
I'll be the first to say, my Gibson prohibition is not unanimously viewed as the "correct" way to go about things. For many people I have talked to about such things, the art and the performer are always separate. So my refusal to watch ANYTHING Mel Gibson is in (Note to filmmakers I like: quit putting Mel in movies I might legitimately want to see) is in no way to be considered what I believe to be the right thing to do. It's purely on a personal level. Everybody's list is different and not having a list is perfectly acceptable.
What interests me, however, is how hypocritical it makes me to have this prohibition. I'm gonna be honest here and just say that there are a lot of artists I continue to show patronage to, who have some combination of the qualities that led Mel Gibson to land on my shit list.
Sean Connery, Josh Brolin, Steve Austin, Dennis Hopper and John Lennon all had problems with domestic violence.
Malcolm Young, Jake Roberts, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Drew Barrymore, Robert Downey Jr., Steve McQueen and Jack Lemmon all battled substance abuse (Fact: The first time Jack Lemmon publicly acknowledged his battle with alcoholism was during his interview on "Inside the Actors Studio". You could hear a pin drop during the silence that followed.)
Matthew Broderick killed a woman with his car, John Landis and Steven Spielberg were involved in the on set death of Vic Morrow (and two underaged actors who were not supposed to be working at the time) on the set of the Twilight Zone movie.
Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Joan Crawford and Steve Jobs were all well known for their reputations as emotionally abusive basket cases.
That's all off the dome by the way, I could keep going for a long time here but I feel I've illustrated my point. What is it that will change my perspective on an artist so much that I will refuse to ever patronize anything they do? I've always believed in the statement "you vote with your wallet". In Mel Gibson's case, I think it's because the image of the man has become synonymous with any character he tries to play. It's like trying to go back and watch those old Naked Gun movies that had OJ Simpson clowning it up with Leslie Neilson. I have trouble seeing anything but OJ Simpson.
Charlie Sheen found himself on the list for similar reasons, although there was an added dimension to his particular decent into madness. Not only did he hit most of the Mel Gibson meltdown checklist, but added a layer of overt egomania to it.
I think a big part of a reason I won't pay money to watch these guys is I feel like I would be contributing further to their decline. One of the things that fascinates me about the cult of personality in our modern age is the absolute relish with which the public loves to watch an icon fall.
South Park did a brilliant episode called "Britney's New Look" which painted a chilling picture of the dark side of popular culture. In the episode, Britney has had her well publicized meltdown after being hounded by the paparazzi and the public. The boys sneak into her hotel room posing as her children in an attempt to get a picture of her. Upon seeing that she had been tricked, Britney grabs a shotgun and blows the top half of her head off.
Britney survives the ordeal (while still missing the top of her head) and the boys, feeling guilty for having pushed her over the edge, find themselves the only ones defending her when the world seems intent on continuing to push her out into public. At one point she is sent out to perform her new song at an awards show and all everybody talks about is how she has put on weight and can't sing. The don't care that she's missing half of her head.
I won't spoil the rest of the episode, but it is definitely worth a look. A single half hour of television made me look at celebrity obsession a whole new way.
I think a part of why these two men in particular have managed to raise enough bile within me to avoid them completely, is because I don't wish to follow them off the cliff. I'm Stan and Kyle in the South Park story trying to undo the damage when it's already too late.
Craig Ferguson, host of the Late Late Show, had a similar epiphany regarding the cult of personality, in one of his best serious monologues. Especially coming from a late night talk show host, whose job involves regular mockery of celebrities, it was a real eye opener.
Man, it's getting heavy in here.
I need some more Crazy Mel pictures.
I'm not in any way excusing the behavior of Mel and Charlie. I'm merely trying to figure out why they in particular hit that "Nope!" button so very hard.
I think it comes down to a combination of fan guilt (ie - we created the monsters so now we have to stop them), and a sense of betrayal that comes from someone you once liked crossing that line of no return. (Also see the sad case of Chris Benoit for another example of someone whose work I will never be able to enjoy again for a different reason. That's far too lengthy a topic to go into here.)
I don't know where the line is on this. This is a topic I just end up with more questions than answers. Is it wrong to allow personal stuff to impact art? Am I unfairly singling out Mel and Charlie while giving others a pass for the same behavior? Maybe we're all hypocrites? Are Mel and Charlie simply easy targets, playing the whipping boys while others skate on by?
Do you have a prohibition list? What do you think about the separation of person from art? Let me know in the comments.
Today on The Colbert Report, Marvel head honcho Joe Quesada revealed that Marvel is not finished with the shake up of their superhero lineup. A few days ago, the news broke that the mantle of Thor is going to be taken up by a woman going forward.
Well now, it has been announced, that (at least for the foreseeable future) Captain America is going to be black. The character formerly known as the Falcon will be donning the stars and stripes jumpsuit with the original, Steve Rogers, losing his powers and retiring.
This also follows on the heels of DC Comics "New 52" company wide reboot of all major superhero stories, where they revealed that going forward Alan Scott (The Green Lantern) would be portrayed as an openly gay man.
Now, predictably comic book fans are a bit mixed in their reactions. While a lot of geeks want to pretend to be progressive, that usually only applies until it's a property they like that is effected. It's certainly been an interesting conversation to sit in on, some in support and some in opposition. I'm gonna just go ahead and say that what I'm about to write, will likely be taken as a shot across the bespectacled noses of narrow minded comic book geeks everywhere. And I make no apologies for that. Many take the stories and presentation of these characters they love as sacrosanct and I'm just not like that. Hopefully, by the end of this piece, they will at least understand why I feel the way I do, even if they don't agree with it.
Now, I should mention that changing the cultural and gender backgrounds of characters is not a new thing. Similar conversations were going on when Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin was played by the late Michael Clarke Duncan in Daredevil. Earlier this year it was announced that Michael B. Jordan would be taking over the role of The Human Torch in an upcoming Fantastic Four reboot. Man of Steel recast Jimmy Olsen as Jane Olsen. So playing around with gender, racial and sexual orientations of certain characters is not unheard of. The main difference we are now seeing is that it's not just supporting side characters or villains who are being re imagined. DC and Marvel comics are walking the walk by changing these iconic, central characters.
Not only are these companies making these monumental changes, but they are also doing so right at the source material. Marvel has made clear, there is no "alternate universe" tom-f**kery going on here. Thor will be a woman from this point on. Captain America will be black going forward. Over at DC, Green Lantern came out as the first openly gay A-list superhero (I say openly gay because come on Batman, you're not fooling anybody).
Now, there are a couple of common refrains you'll hear in opposition to changing these characters.
"Why don't they just create new female or black characters?" is the most common one. I'm really resisting the urge to reduce this down to "Please don't take away our white men." This isn't about the characters, this is about positive empowerment and what those characters represent.
The whole conceit of Thor is "only one who is worthy of the mantle of Thor will be able to lift the hammer". It's symbolic of not just physical strength but strength of character. Young boys have a lot of heroes to choose from, but passing the character of Thor to a woman is a huge statement. Marvel could have easily created a "Thorina" Minnie Mouse variation and kept the original, but the power of that move would have been lost.
I want young girls to have a wider selection of female role models than Disney Princesses or heroes in skintight fetish wear (with all due respect to Wonder Woman and Catwoman). I want my nieces to know that someday they can be worthy to pick up that hammer, that they can be the hero of their own story, not serving to tell the story of the men around them.
In a similar case, we live in a time where the President of the United States is black, so a respected and beloved black hero stepping into the Captain America character is similarly huge on a symbolic level. Now, I can understand that with the changing racial and cultural mix that is becoming the modern America, it may be a little difficult for some of the Caucasian persuasion to face that there is now a wider cultural palette to draw from.
Why does it matter? The most common cause of death among young black men is homicide. That is why this change matters. Role models are extremely important. While young black kids might not be able to actually grow up to be Captain America, they now know that in a fictional sense it is possible. The same way that until 2008, young black men could not conceive of becoming President. I can imagine it would be hard for white comic book readers to fully grasp the implications of that, because it likely never occurred to them, that it wouldn't be a possibility. I never grew up thinking that being Prime Minister would not be an option for me some day. Captain America no longer being a blond haired, blue eyed, white dude (even if it's only temporary) is important on a symbolic level.
When DC announced that their company wide reboot would re-imagine the Green Lantern as a gay man it caused the usual conservative backlash. To their credit, DC stuck to their guns and created a character who is more than the usual swishy stereotype than we're used to. The Alan Scott Green Lantern is gay, but not defined by his gayness. Artist Nicola Scott (who was tasked with designing the look of him for the reboot) said of him: "Alan strikes me as an incredibly open, honest and warm man, a natural leader and absolutely the right choice to be Guardian of the Earth. His sexuality is incidental. Every time I draw him I love him even more."
This is important for two reasons. One being that this is not a case of a character taking over a previously established persona as in the two examples above. From this moment on the Green Lantern is gay...considering his power comes from jewelry it's not completely surprising. (Ok, I allowed myself one joke.) The second reason is that the sexuality of the character, while great for discussions like this, plays no role in his effectiveness as a hero.
I feel that this change in iconic comic book characters should just be the beginning of a paradigm shift in regards to how we treat our modern day mythology. Whether or not it will be is totally up for debate. (Comic book fans are notoriously conservative in their resistance to change. How long the new characters will last is hard to say.)
If these pop cultural characters are truly iconic, they will survive whatever you want to do with them. There's a reason that you can take pretty much any Shakespeare play and transpose it to any time and groups of people and it will work with minimal change needed. Kenneth Branagh was famously colourblind when it came to casting his films, putting Denzel Washington in Much Ado About Nothing and Idris Elba in Thor. I would to see more of that mixing going on.
I want to live in a world where we have a black James Bond, a hispanic lesbian Sherlock Holmes and a gay British Batman with an American butler. We've become so accustomed to only painting in one colour, that we've forgotten how much a new perspective can bring to make the characters even richer.
The greatest thing to happen to Sherlock Holmes was public domain. That allowed anyone who wanted to tell a Holmes story to put their own spin on it. Before the BBC's take on Sherlock, I didn't think Holmes would work in the modern day. Now I'm certain, if you do it right, you can make Sherlock a Martian on another planet and it would still work.
When I heard that Idris Elba was being considered to succeed Daniel Craig as Bond, I was over the moon. I'm a big time proponent of the "Codename" theory anyway, so it would make sense. (The "Codename" Theory postulates that James Bond does not actually exist and is a codename passed down from agent to agent in order to build up James Bonds reputation as an invincible, unstoppable force against evil.) It's exactly the shakeup that character needs to add more depth.
And what about the biggest American icon, Superman? (Although, given the make-up of his creators, he is half Canadian.) Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two young Jewish lads who created Superman as an outcast from another planet who assimilates into American culture. This symbol that was created as a response against Nazi-ism also became the ultimate immigrant story.
In one week's time, Hercules will be played by "The Rock" Dwayne Johnson and it'll work just fine. If we're willing to buy a man who is half black and half samoan playing a Greek hero, we can certainly have a female Thor, a black Captain America, and a gay Green Lantern. If it pisses off small minded and insecure people, that's just icing on the cake as far as I'm concerned.
Now, I'm not expecting all of these character shifts to actually happen, nor for them to be permanent. Comics are ever changing and often comic writers have a way of ending up right back where they started. Many of them are just musings from an overactive imagination.
What I'm getting at is that these characters grow beyond the frame of reference the creators used to create them. They become successful because they tap into universal stories we respond to. New perspectives give the stories new dimensions, which in turn become part of the foundation (ie - Sherlock Holmes never said "Elementary, my dear Watson" or wore the deerstalker cap in the stories, those were added later). The stories and characters are timeless, but they are also infinitely adaptable. They can be used to address modern issues and that is their ultimate power.
The day will come when our modern heroes will join the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Odysseus, Edmond Dantes, the Three Musketeers, Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, Hercules, Perseus, Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster in perpetual reinvention.
Until then, I salute the current stewards of these properties for committing to progress and diversity. We all need heroes.
What do you think about the changes being made by Marvel and DC? What do you think about changing other iconic characters? Would you like to see a Hispanic lesbian Sherlock Holmes? I'll start on the script right now.
Let me know in the comments.
Greetings and salutations fellow Brain Benders!
Welcome to the inaugural edition of Brain Matters! The one stop shop for all things me. Over the next few weeks, I'll be introducing you all to more of our guest contributors once I have sent out the incriminating blackmail photos to ensure their cooperation. In the meantime, you'll have to put up with little old me. I'd like to take a moment to explain what you can expect to find in the various sections of the site. Some categories have already been created, some are still in the production stage. Basically, this site is like when a store is being renovated. Some of it works, but don't blame me if you fall off a few scaffolds.
Brain Matters: This one is pretty self evident. After all, you are reading it right now (or at least skimming it to see if there are any fun new curse words...dickwhistle!) It is my own personal blog, which will be used to keep you all updated on site business, as well as personal stuff that doesn't fit in the other categories.
Twisted Fiction: This section will be dedicated to creative writing. Can't wait to bust out my Spongebob Squarepants erotic fanfiction.
Rotting My Brain: The part of the site dedicated to all things pop culture. Anything to do with film, television, books, video games or world wide web will go here. This may include anything from news, reviews, commentaries or frankly, anything else I want to put in there.
Synapse Media (Coming Soon): This will be the place for any kind of multimedia projects we may create here. This may include podcasts and/or video content.
Headlines: A place for discussion of current events. Due to the nature of the beast, this section will likely include discussion of news, science and politics as well as other subjects that might make for awkward silence around a dinner table. You have been warned.
The Mystery Button: I suppose you could also pop over to The Mystery Button and see what Mystery Marv has queued up today. A little bit of friendly advice though, don't let him talk you into hanging out with him. If talking for hours about bean dip recipes sounds awful to you, congratulations on being sane. If talking for hours about bean dip sounds fun to you, quit reading this and get back to work Marv! Still, you may as well check out his page. The more time you spend there, the less I have to hear about his cats. I apologize in advance. He came with the site.
Anyway, when I was commissioned (ie - forced under penalty of excruciating death) by Head Office to become the Managing Editor of this site, I didn't really know what they wanted me to do with it. I had woken up in a dark room in the presence of a being which does not have a name humans are capable of pronouncing with our primitive human tongues. It seemed to be fading in and out of our reality making sounds like light sabre swooshes as it did. I decided to call the supreme being, which I guess is technically the owner of the site (kind of like Rupert Murdoch, but less evil) "Head Office" because I'm running a little crazy with head related puns and I just had a run in with an inter dimensional monstrosity so cut me a little slack will ya? It hissed a simple directive: "Entertain me, human! Prove that your kind are worth saving, lest we suck your brain out your nasal cavity and feast on your soul!"
As you can see, I was given a great deal of creative freedom when it comes to site content. Still, I didn't have any real ideas for what Headplaces would be about. It was just a name and an empty page after all and it appears that the fate of the human race rests on me being chosen as an emissary of humanity. So I figured, we're all pretty much f***ed and I might as well have a little fun with it before we get snuffed out of existence or however this thing is gonna work. Then it hit me!
I woke up several hours after it hit me. I didn't see which of Head Office's numerous gangly limbs swung the instrument which rendered me unconscious by clocking me in the temple. Kind of disappointing that a supreme being can't come up with a better way to get me back to our reality than pummeling me with a heavy object. Whatever dimension it comes from seems to have the same laws of physics as the Looney Toons. I bolted upright in my bed, heart racing and covered in what I hoped was sweat. This was curious because I could have sworn that I initially fell asleep on my couch while watching a West Wing marathon on Netflix. Had I dreamed the whole thing? Was I going mad.
I stumbled out into the living room and the screen had dimmed and showed that "Are you still watching The West Wing" message that always interrupts the flow of a good marathon. "Hell yes, I'm still watching the West Wing!", I said out loud before realizing that I was answering a question asked by an inanimate thing. "It's my favourite show!" I blurted out still not cluing in that there was no other half to this conversation taking place.
And that was when I decided on what my first subject would be. Starting next week, over at Rotting My Brain, I will begin a multi part retrospective on my favourite television show: The West Wing. What better way to show Head Office that humanity is worth saving than to present the most idealized, well written and earnest depiction of government and humanity in action. Plus walk and talks...lots of walk and talks.
So, hang on to your lids, kids! It's gonna get all Sorkin-y around here.
Until next time...don't go mindf***ing without protection.
Hi, my name is Mitch and I write things sometimes.