Monthly Archives: April 2019

Keep on Failing

Another_tragedy

The problem with being depressed is that even in times of happiness and contentment you know that it’s all fleeting, that it’s just a temporary refuge from the next wave of overwhelming depression. Smiles and laughs all seem a bit disingenuous and a part of me feels that everything is just performance. Everything is all just a façade that’s built on a very delicate house of cards which is bound to collapse the minute one thing goes wrong.

This is why it is extremely difficult being happy. How can one be truly happy when everything could go wrong in a minute? You are grateful, content, and happy for the way things are, then suddenly you have egg in your face. You had it wrong all this time. You have tons of memories that not only make you insecure and paranoid they also hamper your libido.

These past few years, to my detriment, I’ve become too cynical. See, you can’t be too cynical in life; otherwise, you’ll turn people off. A couple of times, my classmates have noted that I tend to come up with weird answers during class, and that I’m often on the negative side of things. I had to tone that down a bit, lest I alienate myself in class. Now my biggest outlet for my cynicism is my artwork and Twitter. Yes, Twitter… the one social networking service where most people are not trying to pretend that they are living great lives. Most people are miserable on that site.

I’ve been too busy with work and moving apartments lately. It’s been really hectic at work, and at home. I’m often packing stuff or throwing away stuff lately. Throwing away old things has its cathartic effect, but I’m still busy. Then there’s also class. It’s been very difficult finding time to make art. Maybe that’s why I’m a bit depressed lately. I feel like I have a messed up life and I can’t make anyone happy (I am seriously incapable of making anyone happy. It’s my handicap.)… and I don’t even have art to pour all of that misery on to.

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Raconteuring

Jules Cheret

A coworker was talking to me about the challenges and milestones of raising a son. She has a young boy, five years-old, and at some point, he’s going to have to shower by himself. I told her it’s probably best to let him shower by himself next year or so. Then later, the topic drifted into one of the probably most difficult things parents have to go through, coming home to a son who just got into a fight.

A child coming home from school with a bloody nose or a swollen lip is probably one of the most visceral signs to a parent that they cannot shield their child from all of the awfulness of the world. And what’s worse, there’s also the urge to tell your son that in such cases, they might inevitably have to be awful in return. Of course, this situation is not really unique to boys, but in this conversation, we focused mostly on sons.

I don’t have many memories of my parents protecting me from the direct awfulness and violence of the world. To be honest, I never really got into any serious fights. I’ve been sucker punched a couple of times, but I’ve managed to diffuse the situation without getting into too much violence. I’ve come home with a swollen lip before, but I managed to hide that from my parents as well.

One of the most memorable, and perhaps one of my earliest embarrassing moments to me in regards to my parents happened to me when I was around nine to twelve years-old. My neighbor had a cousin who would occasionally visit. She would play with us whenever she’s around. She was a cute young thing, very friendly, and a bit of a tomboy. I had a little crush on her as a kid. Now I don’t know whether it was known or not, but I really didn’t do anything to pursue the matter. What was I going to do? We were kids. But one day, after knowing her for quite a while, for some unknown reason, she wrote on permanent marker on a gate by our house, “Joe is ugly!”

Now, I really didn’t know how to react at the message. I was more bewildered than anything else. And the weird thing is I really didn’t see any point in trying to cover it up or erase it. I remember just moving on, playing with my neighbor, and going about my childish ways.

What happened next was my mother coming home and seeing the message. She didn’t confront anyone about. She didn’t talk to the neighbors, nor did she ask me what happened between me and whoever wrote that message. She just went back out with a permanent marker and covered it herself. I remember being embarrassed about it, showing her a world where people hate her son enough that they would write slurs about him. Not everyone thinks her young son is as wonderful as she thinks he is. But looking back now, that must’ve been quite a day for her: coming home, seeing evidence that someone is trying to pick on her son, and with a quiet dignity, trying to shield her kid from the world’s hurtful slings.

Interestingly enough, that girl was one of my first introductions to the world of sex. No, not directly, but she was the catalyst to so many questions growing up. Her cousin was spreading a rumor that she had relations with an older boy. Apparently, this all happened while that cousin was listening in. I’m going to leave out all of the details, but it was odd that it never really occurred to anyone back then that what happened might very well have been abuse. We never really knew the age of that older boy. And as for her, despite my foggy memories, she couldn’t have been older than twelve at the time. I didn’t really believe the rumor, and I remember compartmentalizing and just putting in a part of my brain that I don’t ever access (a useful trick Catholic school taught me), but damn… the stain of that news around the neighborhood is a thousand times more hurtful than that childish message she wrote on that gate.

Continuing with the drama: the cousin who spread that rumor around; we used to hear him get beat up by his father for being gay. We couldn’t do much about it at the time. We were kids, and I’m not sure if people really did anything for situations like that back then. I don’t really remember much about him. He was a bit older than the rest of the neighborhood kids but he was friendly enough with us. The last thing I heard, he died in a fire in a nightclub. Despite being barely an adult, he was working as a waiter and there was a fire. The club owner was negligent and kept the fire escape locked, trapping many of the people inside. Poor guy.

He was someone’s son. What happened to him was the world’s awfulness coming at full force. That’s the awfulness that mothers fear… the awfulness that permanent markers can do nothing to stop.

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Hello Misery

Flower

When I was a kid, my uncle gave me a collection of Joker stories. It was a decent collection of works, starting from his origin as the original Red Hood to a story about the Joker celebrating his birthday. It was a much more compelling collection for my young brain compared to another book which the same uncle gave me a year before, a collection of Ra’s al Ghul stories. It was great that I was getting a bunch of comic books at the time, but I sometimes wonder why I kept getting collected stories of Batman villains. Did my uncle have a thing against the Caped Crusader?

Since I read and re-read that book, along with other Batman comic books, the Joker has always been the most fascinating of the DC villains for me. Marvel has its share of compelling villains, particularly the X-Men and Spider-Man’s roster of foes, but the Joker for many comic book readers is the most beloved villain in the industry. Some might say that it is because despite him being cartoonish, he has a very human quality which keeps him apart from the overly fantastic qualities of the likes of Lex Luther or some purple space tyrant in any book or film. This is true to some degree, but I believe it is something else. The Joker is the revenge fantasy of the miserable.

And really? Who isn’t miserable? Who wasn’t miserable as a teenager? Getting picked on, not having a girlfriend? Who’s not miserable now? Stuck in a dead end job, have a wife/girlfriend who doesn’t care about you, have no woman in your life, no future, etc.

When you’re miserable as a teen and you read comic books, heroes like Batman or the X-Men might inspire you. They have miserable lives as well, but through different means, Bruce Wayne with year of training coupled with immense wealth and the X-Men with their super powers, they manage to make something out of their miserable lives and perhaps make the world a better place. But those characters all have their trump cards, they all have their deus ex machinas which lifts them up from their impossible situations: infinite wealth, super powers. The allure of the Joker is that his super power is that he’s insane… he’s insane, and more importantly, he’s miserable. And that’s an element that everyone in the world has infinite access to. With enough misery, maybe you can become a super villain like the Joker. Maybe life would be more interesting then. You can’t be Batman or Iron Man. You hardly have any money in your bank account. And you certainly don’t want to work out or train or be a real hero like a police officer or something. That takes too much time. Also, it’s much, MUCH easier to terrorize people than to actually save people from criminals or any danger. Where will you find people to save? There are people available to terrorize everywhere. And bonus points, there’s no Caped Crusader to stop you. The Joker is easy access.

Just look at the mass shooters in the news. They are all miserable and most of them have this grand delusion of being famous. Spreading misery around is the shortcut way to infamy, to being bigger than what they are. That’s why a lot of people refrain from publicizing their names too much. That is giving the criminals exactly what they want. And isn’t that the Joker’s modus operandi? Do something horrible, terrorize people, get caught, and yet be satisfied knowing that the terror he caused will forever live on in the hearts of those on the outside.

I think this is why the Jared Leto version of the Joker was so disdained and totally doesn’t work. Most people who loved or at least understood the Joker know that it is a character born out of misery. On paper, Jared Leto has never been “not cool.” He was a teen heart throb, still has lots of adoring fans, and he plays in a band. And his “cool” Joker was not miserable at all. He was ripped. He got a grill. He has tattoos. He was barely hiding the fact that he was Jared Leto, Jared Leto who spent a couple of hundred dollars in a Hot Topic. He was everyone the miserable teen who loved comic books wouldn’t hang out with in school. He was co-opting a truth which he has never realized, a “cool guy” trying to be a juggalo and failing at it.

It is interesting how the character basically started out as a gimmicky thief, then later turned into a maniac often inspired by sociopolitical purposes. It is like the character grew and became disenfranchised with itself and realized that everything around it has gone to hell… and snapped. And again, isn’t that what happens with a lot of these mass shooters in the news? In many ways… that is the fantasy. Life is getting worse, but that’s okay, one day you’ll just snap and not care about anything. Boom. That’s your super power. And by the way, I’m not saying that our collective fascination with the Joker is a bad thing or not, but the character does touch on the nihilistic side of humanity, when everything is so bad that nothing holds meaning anymore, and maybe out of all of that misery, maybe we will come out as bigger, more interesting characters. Forget Bruce Wayne. It’s too late for us to be born rich. But it is never too late to be miserable and crazy.

Looking at this new Joker movie coming up, I could see that the character is again digging deep into the misery in order to transform into the laughing villain we all know. Joaquin Phoenix, is literally morphing his body, looks miserable, and yet totally relatable in his expressions. The Joaquin Phoenix will be the most common costume for men come Halloween 2019. I’m excited for it.

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