Sunday, April 25, 2010
Still, I'd heard nothing but good things about it so I went in pretty optimistic. And it was pretty epic. Mark Millar always pitches Kick-Ass as "What if real people were super heroes?" and that's kinda what the comic is about but it's really what the movie was about. Maybe it was Aaron Johnson's jew-fro, maybe it was the writing, but I could connect with movie!Dave (the main character) when I couldn't with comic!Dave. I think the humor came across much better in the movie than the comic. Comics are weird in that they're somewhere in between books and movies. You still supply the emotion and much of the delivery but you're still given a visual starting point. In the movie you can just feel the crazy rolling off Nicholas Cage (Big Daddy) and the joy Hit Girl has in what she sees as the best game ever. I just couldn't project that onto the characters in the comic.
I mostly know Nicholas Cage from roles like the horribly over the top treasure hunter in National Treasure.
However, Cage was absolutely stunning as in Kick-Ass. When I got out of the movie, I told my friend how shocked I was at his preformance she turned and said "Nicolas Cage was in that?". If super heroes were real, this is who Batman would be. He is completely batshit insane.
The other star here is Chloe Moretz (Hit Girl). She's a fucking bad ass. And she's 11. There's something kind of awesome about that. In my mind she seems like a more lovable Damien. Born and raised to kill. It's also nice to see a female super hero who isn't sexualized. Obviously at 11 it'd be super creepy but I think it bears mentioning. I cannot think of any other female super (or even action) heroine who has avoided that. It was also nice that Kick-Ass didn't feature any "kidnap the girlfriend" bullshit.
The Bottom Line: A funny movie that just happens to have absurd amounts of comic book violence.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Like most industries, the comic book industry has a form of voluntary censorship. Unlike organizations such as the MPAA film rating system or ESRB, the regulating body in comics does not rate content. The Comics Code Authority has guidelines about what is and is not appropriate, if something doesn’t meet those guidelines it can’t be published with the Comics Code Authority’s approval. For a period of almost thirty years the Comics Code Authority had carte blanche over what was and was not published in mainstream comics.
Dr. Fredric Wertham was a psychologist who specialized in the causes for violence.(seal of approval 88)/ He is best known for his book “Seduction of the Innocent” which triggered a series of events leading to the formation of the Comics Code Authority and beginning of the Silver Age of comics. In “Seduction of the Innocent” Wertham argued that comics were corrupting children, driving them to drugs, violence, homosexuality, and other “sexual pervasions”. He argued that the violence in crime comics and the neutral or positive depiction of criminals was leading to increased juvenile delinquency. The implied homosexual relationship between Batman and Robin was creating homosexual tendencies in what would otherwise be heterosexual children. Wonder Woman’s, intentional according to her creator, bondage subtext was creating a generation of “sexual deviants”. All the scientific research done on these topics has failed to show a link between comics and any of Wertham’s claims (Comic Books).
Despite being a pop science book, “Seduction of the Innocent” created uproar among concerned parents. The controversy quickly grew and gave way to calls for comics to be regulated in some way. In response, Congress formed The United States Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency which was technically formed to look into juvenile delinquency, however in reality it was disproportionately focused on comic books. The committee was chaired by a senator who was a seeking presidential nomination and hoped to use the uncontroversial committee to gain support. The hearings were purposely held in a manner that placed proponents of crime and horror comics at a disadvantage. Main witnesses in defense of the comic industry where often shuffled and questioned in a far more aggressive manner. (79) The evidence and witnesses themselves were carefully selected and edited to put comics in the worst light possible. In one case, a story about racial violence had the narrator’s captions removed so that it appeared to be condoning the violence instead of the original intent, condemning racism and violence.
The comics industry’s blunders resulted in a lot of bad publicity. The New York Times covered the hearings and even gave an article where in a publisher stated that a cover featuring a severed head was in good taste space on the front page. At the end of the hearing, the chairman said “[a] competent job of self-policing within the industry will achieve much”. The report published by the committee came to the same conclusion. It stated that it is the publisher’s responsibility to make sure what was being published was appropriate for its audiences. After all the poor publicity, the comics publishers knew they had to take some sort of action. So they took the advice of the committee and the majority of comic publishers began adhering to something known as the Comics Code. The Comics Code is a set of guidelines that has changed over the years as American values have shifted. Publishers can submit comics for approval to the Comics Code Authority. If the Comics Code Authority found anything that violated the Comics Code, they would mark what changes needed to be made to bring it into compliance. Among other things, the code banned any mention of words associated with horror stories to the extent that for a long time writer, Marv Wolfman, could not be credited. Not all publishers choose to submit their comics to the Comics Code Authority, however, most distributors wouldn’t sell comics that lacked the Comics Code Authority’s stamp of approval.
Prior to the Comics Code Authority, comic books had a wider variety of genres than are currently common in mainstream comics. After the formation of the Comics Code Authority, most horror or supernaturally themed books were cancelled as well as many crime, science fiction, and romance books. Several publishers went out of business because they choose not to comply with the Comics Code. More publishers were pushed out by decreased demand due to the negative connotations the senate hearings had tacked onto comics. The result was the beginning of what is known as the Silver Age of Comics.
Silver Age comics are known for their nonsensical plots, harmless villains, and the reemergence of the superhero genre, all of which developed because of Wertham’s accusations and the Comics Code Authority. Many artists disliked the restrictions of the Comics Code Authority and choose to write “underground comix” that had not be approved by the Comics Code Authority. Some comic book historians are of the opinion that underground comix are the only thing worth studying from the Silver Age. These comics were usually self published and only sold in specialty shops. As a result, the comics were almost exclusively aimed at adults.
Not much changed legally or stylistically in the comic book industry after the Comics Code Authority was created until 1971. In 1971 Stan Lee, one of the most influential people in the comic book industry, was asked by the United States government to write a story about the horrors of drug use. Lee wrote a relatively mild story about how Spider-Man’s friend’s drug addiction. The drug use was portrayed as dehabilitating. However, the three issue arc was turned down by the Comics Code Authority because it featured drugs. Instead of altering the story, Lee took a risk and asked Marvel to publish it sans Comics Code Authority approval. Marvel published the Spider-Man story unchanged and it sold well despite not having the Comics Code Authority seal on its cover.
In response to all the public support for the Spider-Man, the Comics Code Authority loosened many of its rules to allow monsters in the “classic literary tradition” and the negative portrayal of drugs, more violent crime, and racism as well as hint at sexual acts. Despite this, the Spider-Man arc caused the publishers who were still in business to begin questioning their committal to the Comics Code Authority. In the late seventies and early eighties, the sale of comic books began shifting from drug stores and newsstands to comic book stores. This trend moved underground comix from head shops into comic book stores where they reached a larger, more interested audience. As a result, independent comics flourished at the expense of becoming more mainstream and sanitized. Unlike the underground comix of the 60’s and 70’s, the independent comics that began popping up at comic book stores competed for audiences with comic books from the mainstream publishers. Mainstream comics were facing dual pressures to become edgier like the independent comics while still adhering to the Comics Code Authority’s puritan regulations.
Under increasing pressure from changing social norms, the Comics Code Authority once again began revising its guidelines in 1989. The result was a radically different document than the two previous editions. The first two comic codes were lists of things that could not be depicted, the new code was actually a description of things that could not be shown or mentioned so that it would be adaptable to new social conventions that would undoubtedly develop. However, during the nineties some mainstream comics began publishing regardless of whether or not they gained approval from the Comics Code Authority. Many comic books were no longer aimed at children. Comics made for adults audiences had more adult elements by nature and sold well despite lacking the Comics Code Authority’s seal. In 2001, Marvel choose to stop submitting their comics to the Comics Code Authority all together, opting for an in-house rating system. DC, the other of the “Big Two” publishers, still submits comics to the Comics Code Authority. However, the seal is often displayed in a very subtle way and can easily be overlooked.
The efforts of one man in the right place at the right time completely changed an entire industry. If Wertham had not pushed for the creation of the Comics Code Authority the Silver Age of Comics would have been completely different. The superhero genre would not have dominated the medium, instead a wide variety of comics would probably still be in existence. MAD Magazine wouldn’t have been forced to become a magazine, it was driven out of its comic book format by the Comics Code Authority. We could have seen household names like Batman struggle with the themes found in the more radical underground comix. Even fewer creator-owned projects, like Kick-Ass or Spawn, would exist without the pressure exerted by the Comics Code Authority. Wertham placed fear into people’s hearts and that fear made the public demand some sort of regulation. It forced the comic industry to put together a regulatory system in less than a month and then live by that for several decades. Today most of the Comics Code Authority’s power is gone, but publishers still submit comics to be approved. As long as children exist there will be parents worried about what their child is being exposed to. And as long as worried parents exist, the comic industry will continue to censor itself regardless of the power of a little stamp.
Haugen, David M. Comic Books: Examining Pop Culture. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2005. Print.
Kahan, Jeffrey, and Stanley Stewart. "The Comic Book Code and American F-agg." Caped Crusaders 101: Composition through Comic Books. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland &, 2006. Print.
Nyberg, Amy Kiste. Seal of Approval: the History of the Comics Code. Jackson [Miss.: University of Mississippi, 1998. Print.
Jacobs, Will, and Gerard Jones. The Comic Book Heroes: from the Silver Age to the Present. New York: Crown, 1985. Print.
Wertham, Fredric. Seduction of the Innocent. New York: Rinehart, 1954. Print.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Saturday, April 17, 2010
I'd been meaning to read it ever since I saw this totally rad movie poster (featuring Michael Cera):
So I sit down and try to decide, Fables or Scott Pilgrim? I had less faith in Scott Pilgrim, so I started there figuring that if it sucked I could just set it aside. It took me less than one issue or chapter or whatever they're called to decide I loved this comic. Most comics are propelled forward by the plot. Bruce Wayne meets a woman but then he finds out she is evil! So Batman is forced to fight and accidentally kill/purposely arrest her. This is what Batman does. He doesn't do it cause he's the goddamn Batman, he does it because that's the plot. Scott Pilgrim occasionally does things for the plot, but usually he does things because he's Scott Pilgrim and that's what he does. He dates a high schooler mostly cause he enjoys gossiping with her. He forgets when his birthday is. The story follows Scott Pilgrim as he stumbles through life as a dirty, unemployed hipster. The plot mostly centers on Scott's relationship with his brand new girlfriend (not the high school one), Ramona Flowers, and his attempts at defeating her seven evil exes. O'Malley's wit is spot on. He panders to hipsters while ridiculing them. Sort of like if Questionable Content had continued to make mocking hipsters it's theme but actually had clever writing. And, like most of my favorite things, the characters have conversations that remind me of my own life:
I also greatly enjoyed the random detours in story telling and style. In a later book, O'Malley includes a recipe for vegan shepard's pie (after explaining that none of them are vegan, they "just like being inclusive"). Many times, meters reminiscent of hp bars in older video games are displayed to show things like the need to pee. Here's how he represented our first view of the band's practice sessions (if blogger makes it big enough):
Bottom line: If you like hipsters, mocking hipsters, love stories, video games, relationship drama, or slice of life stories you'll like Scott Pilgrim.
Similar works: Questionable Content (for hipster relationshit), xkcd (for witty ways of looking at daily life)
My Mother watches the TV show "Bones" religiously. Yet, somehow she managed to miss recording the first episode of this season. Oh, no problem, I told her, you can just watch it on Hulu! This really confused her. I explained that Hulu allows you watch television over the internet. My Mother was shocked and confused so I tried to show her how it worked. But she refused to watch it online. Something about it deeply disturbed her. Maybe the idea of spending an hour in our computer chair, maybe she wasn't ok with NuvaRing commercials, I'm not sure. She didn't want to talk about it. She'd rather miss one of the most important episodes of "Bones" than watch it online.
My parents both remember when their families switched from black and white television to color. It was a very different experience that came from a very similar source. The difference in operating a B&W TV vs a color one was minimal. When we switched from cable to satellite (and eventually a dvr service) there was a learning curve. It's a very different experience from a kind of different source. I wasn't used to anything else so I picked it up quick, but my mom still fumbles occasionally. It was once suggested to me (I forget by who/what) that in the near future people will watch things from their television via the internet exclusively. Some people do use the internet to watch television, like netflicks on the xbox. However, your average adult would rather go to Blockbuster than stream something. The experience is essentially the same, but the operation has a completely different mindset.
I loved my little brother's iPad. I use Hulu on a daily basis. But no matter how shiny these things are, most people over 40 don't want to have anything to do with them. I expect that by the time I am middle-aged and stuck in my ways, I'll have Multivac in my brain and the intertubes playing on every wall of my house but I'll so not be ok with finally switching to the metric system--I have no idea how far a meter is.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
The people behind South Park and Avenue Q are writing a musical about Mormons. No doubt we'll be hearing an official statement form the Church about how sinful it is any day now. They have a habit of decrying any depiction of Mormons that doesn't come from within. Often their denouncements show that they have not read or watched the media in question. The 13th Article of Faith says "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." The problem is that my own standards the South Park episode about Mormons was praiseworthy (particularly the end monologue by the Mormon) but if I was a good Mormon I wouldn't have watched it because it was "a gross portrayal" according to the Church. By calling foul on every portrayal of Mormonism they injure themselves more than if they let it go every once in a while. The Catholic Church doesn't shit bricks every time people bring up the Spanish Inquisition, the Mormon Church looses it over History Channel documentaries. The Church needs to stop issuing statements about how they have nothing to do with fundamentalists (i.e. polygamists). The only people who read those press releases are Mormons who know the difference and reporters who might mention how appalled the Church is if news is slow. I don't know anyone under the age of 40 who's been seriously mistaken for a polygamist. And that's the thing, almost every negative depiction of the church in recent days has actually been a negative depiction of a fundamentalist offshoot that practices polygamy (there are exceptions, off the top of my head: Latter Days critiques the Church's stance on LGBTQ matters and the South Park episode mostly made fun of the Church's origins.)
Why does the Church get in such a tizzy about these movies and TV shows? Well there's three reasons that spring to mind. First, an attitude of us verses them encourages solidarity among members. Second, The Church did face serious, life threatening persecution from its inception all the way through the 1800's . Third, up until sixty years ago most depictions of Mormons were extremely negative.
The most negative reaction I ever had to my former religion was from someone who only knew Mormons from Arthur Connon Doyle's "A Study in Scarlet" in which Mormons murder, kidnap, and threaten to marry someone against their will. And this was the way Mormons were represented in pop culture up until about 60 years ago. However, in the time since then we've had many strong, realistic characters. Anyone who follows House remembers Cole, the Black, Mormon, single father, who was the next to last candidate to get eliminated in House's search for new fellows. He was presented as someone who was extremely intelligent, funny, friendly, and willing to momentarily set aside his religious vow not to drink in order to potentially save someone's life. We never doubt that he is extremely devoted to his religion, he attacks House when House enters a prolonged diatribe on how vile Joseph Smith was. Cole was a real, relatable character. For a less positive, yet still very realistic character look at Latter Days, a movie about a closeted missionary who falls for his gay neighbor. The missionary is so ashamed after kissing his neighbor "You found me out, all right? My worst secret. Now I'm humiliated..." When he is sent home, his family will have nothing to do with him and he eventually attempts suicide because of the guilt and pressure being put on him by his church and family. Watching his family reject him made my heart break, I've seen families do this in real life. Latter Days is not nice to the Church, however, unlike its predecessors it is a fairly accurate depiction. Of course, instead of watching this "abomination" of a film, the Church read a synopsis--you can tell because they didn't mention anything that happened in the second half of the movie, the half that shows how badly the Church treats LGBTQ people.
It's because of things like the South Park episode that Mormons are no longer showing up as kidnappers in Sherlock Holmes stories. Instead they're pegged as close-minded, conservative, naive, model citizens. Is that such a bad thing? These days people seem to be more interested in mormon's underwear and abstinence from alcohol than their belief that the devil has special power over water, why not keep it that way? So if I were the Mormon Church, I'd say "Bring on 'The Book of Mormon'! We'll be there with pamphlets and smiles! Those motherfuckers'll never know what hit them!"
Thanks to George for the link
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
For whatever reason this picture isn't showing up as clear here as it does anywhere else on my computer. If you can't see, this is a screenshot of my dumbass sister's Facebook showing that she is a fan of 1,683 pages. It's kinda ridiculous. You can ignore Farmville but you can't ignore people fanning things. This is the cancer killing Facebook.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
My favorite thing about Goldfrapp is that she doesn't sound like that shit on the radio. Nothing about her says "Pop". Her new album feels like it's straight from a "Best of the 80's" compilation. None of the strong beats or ethereal vocals I associate with Goldfrapp. When Madonna went back to this sort of 80's pop with light, electronic beats in "Confessions on a Dance Floor" it was a step forward. Cause that was when Madonna was at the height of her popularity and making her best music. Madonna also gave the music a modern twist. If "Head First" came on an 80's radio station I don't think you'd be able to tell it apart from all the other power pop love anthems. And unlike Madonna, Goldfrapp's best work came about in the past decade.
I often find if I listen to something enough it'll become stuck in my head (see "Tik Tok" by Ke$ha) and often in a good way. However, I doubt that I will be able to listen to "Head First" again of my own free will.
--Alan Moore's V for Vendetta
Tonight's Daily Show rubbed me the wrong way. The middle segment was a parody of the prejudice gay couples face when they have PDA, using gun control as a stand in. As always it was very lighthearted and actually much more respectful to the people who were open carriers than The Daily Show usually is to the subjects of their "mockumentaries". It still bothered me. And it bothered me that I was bothered. I had a thought towards the end of the segment along the lines of "When people aren't allowed to open carry in America, well that'll be the day that we really embrace Socialism." Which is so absolutely ridiculous of me. I know that. I just can't help but feel that many laws restricting gun ownership or possession are not quite constitutional.
I'll be completely honest: I know nothing about constitutional law and next to nothing about gun laws. I'm one of those obnoxious people who has opinions about things that they know nothing about and probably won't ever affect them. I have no desire to own a gun. However, I have a strong belief that it is important for our Constitutional rights to be upheld and the balance of power to remain on the side of the people. The second amendment gives us the right to bear arms. Some restrictions are understandable. It would be unreasonable to be expected to be allowed to bring a gun into a prison for example. However, it's easy to see a slippery slope argument.
The crux of the debate is whether legal access to guns causes or prevents crime. My beliefs here mirror my thoughts on abortion and drugs: if it cannot be legally obtained, it will be obtained by illegal methods that will cause as much if not more harm. Criminals will still be able to get guns. A decade of cop dramas has taught me that if someone intends to use a gun for criminal purposes, they're not going to walk into Wal-Mart and register it anyway.
"If we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns" --Unknown (according to wikiquote)
Um, so yeah. Limiting my rights is not cool. And I guess now I know how conservatives feel when they watch The Daily Show.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
My verdict? While it failed to capture the Kentucky I know and grew up in, Justified isn't half bad. It can't seem to decide whether or not it's going for full on southern camp or a cop drama that just happens to be set in rural Kentucky. My main nitpick is that despite being set in the lovely suburban paradise of Lexington, 90% of the show has been in Harlan, a town three hours away. Harlan has more in common with the coal fields of Virginia than most of Kentucky. Even then, the only thing setting this in Kentucky is the assumption that we're all redneck white-trash or obsessed with getting out of Kentucky.
Bottom Line: Even though it paints Kentucky in a negative light, Justified is an intriguing cop drama (the laughs are few and far between) with great characters and a lot of potential. Also, I like that hat.
The only reason I read this book was because of Sarah Rees Brennan, author of The Demon's Lexicon. Brennan is better know as "That chick who wrote all that awesome Harry Potter slash fic and is kind of crazy". She is always cavorting about with her YA author friends, one of whom is Cassandra Clare. Since Brennan is constantly comparing the male lead in City of Bones to the male lead in The Demon's Lexicon, I figured I'd give City of Bones a try. The first several chapters feel dull and uninspired, I won't lie. However, as the story progressed I found that I cared deeply about how the book would end, I really wanted to know how all the romantic subplots played out (they're kind of central and not nearly as trite as they first appear), and Clare successfully built an urban fantasy world that felt like it was an actual society, not just magic shit thrown on the page for magic's sake.
The basic plot is: Girl's mother is kidnapped by dark lord who is kind of racist against other magical (and non-magical) creatures. Only she can save her mother! (With the help of a group of lovable, moral, teenage warriors of course!)
Morals include: Racism is bad, incest is creepy, some people are naturally good at things, don't trust adults, girls should always be aware that their male bff may be madly in love with them and get kinda pissed when she doesn't notice.
Bottom Line: A more adult take on the Harry Potter story formula but with much better writing and a more political world. Due to strong language, several makeout sessions, and teenage angst, probably not appropriate for those under 12.
Other reasons to see The Runaways?
- Get to see the crazy shit people wore in public during the 70's
- At one point Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) fills a squirt gun with liquor and uses it as a pool toy.
- Successfully gives lots of "slice of life" clips
- We get to watch Joan teach one of the other girls (not quite sure which) how to masturbate
- Oh and while we're on the subject, that overhyped kiss? Not overhyped in the least. It was seriously awesome, even if they did pussy out and skip them actually having sex.
- Their manager is batshit insane. For realsies.
Friday, April 9, 2010
I've been looking forward to this movie for quite a while. I figured that with Tina Fey and Steve Carell in the lead, even a worn romcom would be a treat. And to a certain extent I was right. I spent the entire movie thinking "Omigod, omigod, Tina Fey and Steve Carell are the best couple ever!". Seriously. Forget Bella/Edward, Fey and Carell were truly destined to be together. The cameo by James Franco and Mila Kunis (Jackie from That 70's Show) as the trashiest couple ever was absolutely amazing. As was Kristen Wiig's conversation with Tina Fey about her sexual asperations.
Unfortunately I found the rest of the movie rather dull. It was mildly amusing all the way through (which makes it better than Cop Out) but rarely made me 'lol'. I think that part of my problem may have been that I old know Tina Fey as Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. So I often found myself thinking "What? Liz would never do that! Oh wait it's not Liz it's...well I'm not sure who she is but she's not the woman I know and love." I doubt that not watching 30 Rock would've drastically changed my opinion but it certainly wouldn't have hurt.
Bottom Line: A mildly to moderately funny movie where Tina Fey and Steve Carrel play two people with no personality who have a night that is inappropriate for kids who aren't in middle or high school.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Setting that aside, watching Barb go through the endowment ceremony was one of the most poignant moments in the series. She is torn between her faith in the principle (polygamy) and the way she lived for the first thirty odd years of her life. If she doesn't have her endowment, she can't enter into the Celestial Kingdom, the highest kingdom of heaven. The Mormon faith teaches that any lesser level heaven might as well be hell because there is the knowledge that they might've had the Celestial glory.
The very next day, Barb is excommunicated from the Mormon church. Had she not been excommunicated, and had the principle proven to be wrong, she would have qualified for one of the two lower kingdoms of heaven. By being excommunicated, Barb's name was removed from the Church records. She is no longer sealed to any of her family--in the Mormon afterlife she won't be able to be with any of her family. She cannot be sealed to any of her family. Ordinances cannot be preformed for her after her death. It would be as if she never existed. In the afterlife she will be cast into Outer Darkness. Though Barb no longer believes these things, she was raised to believe these things were true.
How do we deal with something like that? When the way you were raised, the people who raised you all say that your actions are as bad as they come. Barb put a lot of effort into avoiding being excommunicated up until the point of explicitly lying. Although she did not believe the Church had the right or even the ability to excommunicate her, Barb still feared that excommunication. Although rationally she knew it shouldn't matter, years of indoctrination made her emotions go off the deep end.
The thing that has made Big Love such a great show in my eyes, is the way it echos my life. I watch Barb deal with the same struggles I have. She left the Church for the principle; I left the Church for Agnosticism. However we both struggle with the same things. We attempted to keep out loss of faith from our families. We fear committing a sin that we can't come back from even as we put more and more walls between us and our former faith. We can't find the support we need or even people who understand where we're coming from. We have yet to find a healthy way to deal with any of this. I am not sure one even exists.