Monday, 23 February 2009

As a follow-up to my earlier, bitchy Watchmen movie post...

...This pretty much encapsulates my fears regarding a big-screen Watchmen the most hilarious way possible.

You can probably guess which recent event got me thinking about the Joker

The target audience for Dresden Dolls/Batman the Animated Series mash-up fanvids must be pretty niche, but I happen to be in that niche.

Dresden Dolls: Half Jack (Batman-Mad Love)

Buchanan angrifies up the blood

Shorter Pat Buchanan: "Hey, I heard somewhere that some black people live in ghettos and then shoot at each other. That means they're racist and pro-segregation, as they're separating themselves off from us blameless white folks, who have only ever tried to help them!"

Nobody puts themselves in a situation like that, dumbass! Black communities like that aren't like those gated, white-only communities you've heard about, they were formed under circumstances so entirely different that I'm genuinely shocked that I'm even having to type this sentence in order to try and explain something so patently obvious.

To me, Buchanan's way of thinking ultimately traces back to a very common conservative fallacy: the idea that people's social status is informed by their nature, not the other way around. Put in the very simplest terms possible: people are poor because they are bad, not bad because they are poor. In his worldview, the state of black people in America today is entirely the fault of black people not pulling themselves together and trying harder. This is such a completely myopic worldview that I barely know where to begin, and yet I see it everywhere. I talk to (totally abhorent) anti-feminist women who insist that sexism doesn't really exist and in actuality is just a complaint thrown out there by whinging women who don't try hard enough to be successful (they owe nothing to women's lib, I suppose). The very idea that there aren't innumerable social barriers to success is one based on total naivety.

People don't just wake up one day and decide to start a revolution (whether that be overthrowing Batista or busting up Sal's). Circumstances beyond these people's control squeeze them to the point where they explode and simply have to act out upon the system that's put them in the godawful position that they're in. Crime in the black community of contemporary America is so clearly a result, not a cause, of a legacy of second-class citizenship that is not even close to coming to an end (you know they're only just phasing out segregated prom nights in some Southern schools? Way to keep the rest of your country behind, South!).

Just because

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Not really a "debate" as such

An oldie but a goodie, this video. I very well may never have seen such a great discrepancy in intelligence between two adult human beings.

There are so many things to criticise here that I barely know where to begin, although the "yeah, I can say that Hitler is representative of all atheists [??] but you can't say that the Inquisition is representative of all Christians, that's just fairness" shtick that O'Reilly brings up at one point is pretty remarkable. OMGWTFBBQ!?

Also, check out this amazing blog for some atheism/lolcat fun.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

On bad films - 2009

Just a quick hit from me, paragraphs four and five in particular are right on the money when it comes to the upcoming Watchmen film.

Most of the time, I don't feel the fannish/masochistic need to expose myself to what I have no doubt will be a terrible adaptation of a comic that I love. I haven't seen a single "Alan Moore film" in the cinema since League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. But then again, I can't decide where I fall when it comes to Watchmen. I may very well be tempted after all.

And incidentally, that masochistic urge is still driving me towards the upcoming Star Trek film, despite my better judgment.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Don't go to sleep, you may wake up a hero

I've been thinking a lot about Batman recently (no doubt inspired by some truly astonishingly long sessions on my flatmate's copy of Lego Batman for the XBox), and have honestly been meaning for quite some time to turn a lot of my half-baked thoughts on the character and his history into a full-fledged post here on the blog, but I've been having some difficulty. The issue at hand is essentially my inability to reconcile my desire to do a full-on, fully-researched, post-grad level essay on the political/social underpinnings of the character and his fictional universe, a lot of which have re-entered public discourse since the debut of The Dark Knight and its at times sledgehammer-subtle allusions to the Bush doctrine; and my desire to simply rabbit on about some of the sillier comics/videogames that I like and post some pretty pictures (except that I never really like adding pictures in blogger, it really is too much of a pain).

Above: the source of so much recent consternation for me.

Still, I imagine I'm not going to be able to write about anything else until I've at least got this one out of my system, so here goes a pretty half-assed post about a 70-year old superhero (I mean that the comics have been around for that long, not that Bruce Wayne is a septuagenarian, obviously) written almost solely so that I can then go on to write about other things.

Firstly, to sate the former of the two desires outlined above in quite possibly the laziest way possible, here's a pretty neat sixty-second summary of why Batman is at heart a character straight out of Conservative fable (courtesy of Reginald D. Hunter):

I've honestly tried to elaborate on Hunter's point, but every time I do, I read my words back and realise just how incredibly pretentious they sound, so I end up scrapping the whole thing. Needless to say that I think that I'm going to need to have a good, long look at superhero fiction as a whole, and wonder whether there can be any way around the political paradigms so deeply embedded into the narrative that makes up the backbone of the genre.

Then I might make a start on analysing that whole "women in refrigerators" thing, too.

One thing I would like to point out though is a specific Batman comic book I read recently. "Urban Legend" was written by Bill Willingham and was published in a 2003 issue of the Batman comic Legends of the Dark Knight (I could spend entire posts looking at Willingham's own politics, but that's not the point of this post), although I read it as part of the "and Other Tales" of the Batman Begins: The Movie and Other Tales of the Dark Knight collection. The story begins with a beaten and brusied Batman, shown to be suffering from amnesia, all ailments apparently resulting from a recent fight against some unknown criminals against whom Batman clearly came out the worse off. Still, despite his lack of knowledge about his whereabouts, his secret identity, or even his specific mission, and with some really remarkable physical injuries slowing him down, Batman takes one look at himself and realises the superhero he must be, and sets off to find and mete out justice to the villains whom he works out must be responsible for his current condition. The whole thing reads like a bit of a darkly comic farce, to be honest, with Batman phoning the Gotham City police from a payphone, calling a cab because he cannot locate his Batmobile and getting brained by a prostitute that he actually manages to save from a vindictive pimp. Still, when Batman finally reaches the headquarters of the gang of criminals he has spent the last twenty-or-so pages searching for, the twist is revealed as the real Batman shows up and dispatches the criminals, exposing the Batman that we've been following as merely a confused amnesiac who woke up in a Batman suit (for reasons that are explained within the comic but are mundane and incidental, really) and jumped to the wrong conclusion.

Above: Urban Legend

The whole thing has echoes of everything from Memento to Dark City, but a more specific mirror can be found in Alan Moore and Rick Veitch's 1999 Greyshirt short "Amnesia" from the pages of Tomorrow Stories #1. Whereas "Urban Legend", despite its occasional comic turns, seems ultimately an optimistic piece about the innate goodness that could be awakened in us all ("what if, tomorrow, you woke up believing yourself to be a superhero? Maybe you too would act upon all that that role bestows," the comic seems to be saying), "Amnesia" looks at this same concept from the other side of the looking glass, imagining instead an amnesiac who wakes to find himself surrounded by just the right clues to make him believe that he is in fact a certain notable serial killer. In his quest to flee the police, whom he believes are after him, he kills another couple of people, before it is of course all revealed to him that, before those murders, he was in fact a completely innocent man, and actually received his amnesia-causing injury in an altercation with the real serial killer (if memory serves me correctly, that is. It's been a while since I've read this one).

The two tales may, on the surface, appear to be telling the same story, but it's hard to ignore the ultimately far more optimistic note of the former (although that was published later and may, perhaps, have actually been inspired by the Moore tale). An idea central to the Batman mythos is that fact that he really is just a man (a concept from which Batman Begins extracts a lot of mileage, emphasising the difference between a mortal man and a faceless figurehead, the darker side of which is explored in that film's sequel), but one whose 'powers' come from the fact that he has spent years building himself into a very different kind of 'superman': the unspoken implication being the supposedly inspirational message that anyone of us could do the same if only we had the will to do so; if only we could also spend years training our minds and bodies the way that Bruce Wayne did. Of course, this is once again where the spectre of the underpinning right-wing politics of superhero narratives begin to show, as such an assertion renders totally invisble the phenomenal privelege that Bruce Wayne enjoys. Despite what certain people would have you believe, we literally cannot all afford to become superheroes.

Edited to add: there are of course exceptions to prove every rule. For a great example, I'd highly recommend immersing yourself in Alan Moore's V for Vendetta as well as almost any comic featuring transparent V knock-off Anarky. Also, while we're on the subject of Mr Moore, don't forget to go out and read Watchmen right now, before the film comes out and potentially ruins any chance that you might be tempted to read it. Hurry, the film's release is only days away!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Blah blah Buffy blah blah

I am large in the Walt Whitman sense. I'm big enough to contain contradictions.

One amusing aspect of not only my personality but the personalities of humans worldwide is that I can give a damn about the big and the small. Just because I think and talk about the huge, obvious evils of the world such as rampant sexism and racism doesn't mean that I can't occasionally get caught up in a three hour conversation about everything that is wrong with the new Star Trek film. I can be petty sometimes. I'm a human being. Vice versa, just because I talk about the ups and downs of DnD 3.5 doesn't mean I don't care about the larger issues.

All of this really is just a preamble to the fact that I'm now going to start ranting about fandom, so beware, you're opinion about my values may just be about to plummet (as if it was particularly high to start with). That's kind of why I've put that big disclaimer up there.

You know what I hate? These kind of Thomas-Hobbes-as-applied-to-geekdom way of thinking that says that if you are a fan of something, you're not allowed to criticise it. "If all you do is say 'I hate this' and 'I hate that' then you're not a true fan" cry some idiots, completely unaware that showing an inclination towards something does not mean I get to automatically switch off my critical faculties and disregard anything that it might do that is patently wrong or stupid. Yes, some people may bitch to high heaven all the time and may never seem to have a positive thing to say about their chosen fandom. I agree, that's fucking irritating. But that's different from, say, being a fan of a director/writer/actor/artist/TV-show producer and blindly saying that you really really love everything that they've ever done when as a matter of fact, that likelihood is that not only will they occassionally fuck up (remember, they're human too) or else do something that doesn't appeal to your particular taste or what you otherwise really like about that person's work, but that you as a fan are more likely to be aware of said missteps and will typically have the appropriate knowledge and vocabulary to explain what it is that you particularly dislike about these aspects of your pastime and/or passion gone wrong. Although - again, as a disclaimer - this does not mean I'm aware that some people truly are idiots who do nothing but complain about the most moronic things for the most stupid reasons.

That said, I just want to get it off my chest that whilst I'm generally a massive, feck-off huge fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer franchise, here's a list of a few things I just can't stand.

- Spike. Honest to god, I could dedicate an entire blog about the many and various ways that I do not like Spike. To be honest, I actually really liked him during season two of the show. In the sense of full disclosure, I'd actually rank him amongst one of my favourite things from that season. But god damn, why the hell did they have to go and bring him back in just the most appalling way(s)? Almost any and all appearances by Spike have that reek of insincerity and money-men dictated decisions; "hey, this character's popular, why don't you put him in the show some more?" rather than including him for reasons that, say, make any kind of story-sense. The biggest culprit here is obviously his inclusion in Angel season five, where he not only shamelessly brought back from the dead following what was supposed to be a heroic sacrifice, but his sacrifice was essentially nullified by the amusing geek-history footnote that the WB had started promoting Angel season five before UPN aired Spike's supposedly big, important sacrifice, making it all seem rather muted and pointless in the eyes of the viewers who watched it, as we all knew he was coming back. Oh yeah, the episode "Chosen" should probably make this list of BtVS things I could spend all day criticising too.

- The fallacy that states that if you like BtVS and/or Angel, you must also like Firefly. The other thing that I could easily dedicate an entire blog towards is my many and varied criticisms of the show Firefly, which, for the uninitiated, was a thankfully short-lived science-ficition television series (which later scored a spin-off film) produced by a lot of the same people behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I do have some good things to say about the series, but a lot of that is buried under the fact that I think much of it is hackneyed misfits-in-space/Western stuff that was getting old and done-before long before Joss Whedon took his hand to it. Many place the blame for Firefly's demise on the shenanigans that were going on behind the scenes: the networks' continual fucking around with the show. This no doubt contributed greatly, but I also think that, in no uncertain terms, it simply was not a particularly good show.

Ok, well, it looks like this list is going to end at two for now as I'm kind of running out of bilious steam and I don't like it when I don't finish a post in one sitting so I'm really not going to come back to this post and add to it, so that's really it for now. Once again, I just want to reiterate that I freakin' love BtVS. As shows go it may have a rather considerable series of ups and downs, but most of these I simply take as idiosyncracies or interesting faults that are natural symptoms of what the show did really well at least 50% of the time. I'm not for a moment going to say that it's the best work of art to ever come out of the Northern Hemisphere. That would be stupid. But the nature of fandom is that I still really like it, warts and all ("Where the Wild Things Are" and all), and that I'm willing to engage with other fans about the various bits that I like and dislike.

In the interest of fairness, here are some things that are popularly disliked about BtVS/Angel that I actually really like:

- Connor.
- "The Girl in Question".
- Riley Finn (although only in season five. I mean jeez, I'm not crazy. Seriously though, having him become a depressive, sympathic perpetual outsider (the same mould used for all of Buffy's major paramours) was a really good turn).

Just so that I can at least pretend I've done something more than talk about trivia I happen to be particularly passionate about, here's a link to the latest weekly round-up at feministing. Go, think about public attitudes to breast-cancer survivors and women over 50 in the modelling industry, go! Then come back and maybe we can chat about Buffy some more. After all, how astonishingly unfun would fandom be if these minor disagreements didn't open to door to discoure amongst peers, eh?