I was on vacation and this is me being a tad lazy and uninspired. It’s my version of my favorite Norm MacDonald material. Life is super sad. It can be tragic. But we can still smile, fake it, and move on.
I was on vacation and this is me being a tad lazy and uninspired. It’s my version of my favorite Norm MacDonald material. Life is super sad. It can be tragic. But we can still smile, fake it, and move on.
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.
God bless Pink! I’ve never been a big fan of her music, but it’s really good for her to speak out and be realistic about the challenges and problems with monogamy. There have been many articles and people talking about it before. Dan Savage, someone I’ve been listening to for years now, has said that the fantasy of monogamy which has been perpetuated by culture and media is basically just that, a fantasy. It is not a happily ever after. It is the beginning of a long and challenging path should you ever be foolish enough to commit to it. And that’s why I admire Pink for basically coming out and saying the same thing. It’s not so often that someone fairly attractive is out there with their sexuality basically come out and say, yes, despite how she looks, and despite how glamorous we imagine her life would be, she struggles living with monogamy sometimes, to the point that she’ll find herself sexless for a year.
Romance is not forever. A person’s spouse will eventually become their roommate, and they will no longer be amused with each other. Of course there will still be a bond there, but becoming romantic or being into someone will often become something they’ll need to work at. And so the best one can hope for is that their relationship turns into waves, where sometimes they’re into the other person, and sometimes they can’t stand them. It’s okay to not be into sex. It’s okay not to have sex. As important as it is, it is not the goal of most couples in the real world. Just getting along with each other is sometimes hard enough. And that hard, unsexy truth is quite difficult to admit for fear of being relegated into the Married with Children, Al Bundy archetype.
This reminds me of Bojack Horseman’s recent representation of asexual people. Sometimes people are really just not into sex. That doesn’t mean they’re devoid of feeling towards other people. They’re just not interested in being intimate with others in a physical manner. Nico at the Mary Sue does a better job of explaining it more than me, but being asexual, just like being monogamous and sexless, seem to be one of those things that people need to come out of in the midst of the culture of being into happily monogamous and enjoying sex. I mean, just look at most characters on television and movies. They’re all having sex. They’re either married, dating, single and having sex, or struggling to have sex. Same goes for most musicians, political figures, athletes, etc. I don’t even need to know about people’s sex lives and I get needlessly informed about it. Just recently, my wife and I were watching Justin Turner hit a homerun and win the game for the Dodgers. She suddenly goes and says, “you know his wife is a model, check out her Instagram.” Is that supposed to make me like him more? I already assumed most athletes are dating models. How is that little factoid supposed to help me enjoy the sport I’m currently struggling to keep interest in? We can’t seem to divorce ourselves from people’s sex lives so we feel pressure to be enjoying sex more.
So yeah, God bless the people talking about the myth of monogamy and the reality of wanting/having sex. It is quite refreshing to see some honest voices talk about these things in a world where sex and the pressure to have sex are ubiquitous.
Back in February 2014, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” debated Ken Hamm, the creationist who built and operates the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Prior to the debate, people didn’t think it was wise for Bill Nye to be debating Ken Hamm. Though Nye wanted to have a debate from a more inquisitive perspective, to learn more about creationism and to see if it is an actual viable model for explaining the origin of things, people saw it as a way of elevating Ken Hamm, of inviting superstition to the scientific table, long after most of the world’s academic and critical thinkers have discarded religious dogma to explain natural phenomenon. I thought it was a useless exercise. Nye was lending his credibility to Ken Hamm and making him an “expert” equal to himself. I’m not opposed to debate, but I don’t see the value of debating people who sees a challenge to their ideas as fuel to their faith, scientific evidence as devilish trickery. The religious don’t even have conversations to be convinced. They are there to convince you, to add you to their flock. Scientists debate to see if there are holes to their ideas; see if their initial hypotheses holds up. So in the end, the debate didn’t do anything but raise Ken Hamm’s profile. It made him known to people outside of religious circles.
This is similar to my problem with Bill Maher. He claims that the best disinfectant is sunlight; and that we should confront irrational ideas and characters, and show them what fools they are. His show will have accomplished people like Senator Elizabeth Warren, Michael Eric Dyson, and Cornel West, then he will have people like SE Cupp, whose initial schtick “I’m an atheist but I envy the faith of the religious” is such a boldfaced sham that it’s a wonder why Maher didn’t run her out of the panel. Cupp was just a blip on the media radar at the time, but Maher elevated her, lent her his credibility as well as the credibility of his guests, and this resulted her getting employed by CNN and other media outlets. Maher claimed to do the same thing with Milo Yiannopoulos earlier in the year, to invite him to his show for a dialogue to see what makes him tick, then later took credit for Yiannopoulos getting exposed for his past comments regarding homosexuality and pedophilia. I saw the show and was not impressed with either of them. He didn’t really challenge Yiannopoulos too much on his flimsy arguments. I predict if Yiannopoulos wasn’t drummed out of the public eye by the Internet a week later, Maher would’ve had him as a regular guest, feeding off of his notoriety.
And now we see Kayleigh McEnany working for TrumpTV. A lawyer who graduated from Harvard, she worked at CNN as a Trump supporter, arguing for Trump’s and the administrations worst comments and actions. I wouldn’t mind her if her arguments were substantive, but the points she defended often goes against the viewers own senses (like Trump’s flip flops) and she sounded so disingenuous that it makes me wonder what it really takes to graduate with a law degree. She added nothing of value to debates, and it was infuriating to see CNN has people like her misinform their audience. A previously unknown person, CNN has elevated her and lent her their credibility simply by having her on their airwaves. The Most Trusted Name in News has misinformers on their payroll. And now McEnany is doing propaganda on TrumpTV. TrumpTV can now boast that it employs not just Trump relatives, but also former CNN contributors, giving merit and credibility to its “news.”
James Randi did it best. He had scammers on his show and showed them the flaws of their tricks. He exposed them in such a way that it wasn’t disrespectful. With logic and science, he showed how a person was deceiving the audience. Afterwards, he moved on to the next scammer. He didn’t have them as a regular guest nor consulted them regarding other matters. He didn’t lend them his credibility. Now, I’m not saying people like Bill Maher or networks like CNN should be debunkers. But they should call out lies and disinformation for what they are, and don’t reward liars by employing them or inviting them to sit on discussion panels to lie again.
After a few hours to absorb it, I’m still numb at the reality the world has woken up to. It’s not gonna be as catastrophic as many people have predicted, I’m sure, but it is sad that a person at his most vile was rewarded the highest office in the land. This is what the world has come to. I’m not an American. I’m a Canadian. I’m not even in North America at the moment. I arguably don’t have a dog in this fight. But as a person who likes to think he’s decent, who cares for others (women, minorities, disabled people, the poor), someone who values facts and science, and as an immigrant of color, the world is a darker place. I could go on and on, but let me just list a few lessons learned from the whole thing.
Probably the hardest lesson to learn is that the bullies win. They do. It’s very hard not to learn that lesson after yesterday. Don’t get too comfortable in your high horse because the bullies win. It’s very hard not to learn that lesson just looking at the news throughout the world. Putin has bullied his country for years and will probably do so for more years to come. Assad is still in power. And now Trump, who has insulted every person who was not like him, is the leader of the free world. The likes of Martin Shkreli are not villains who will someday face justice because the world is right and good. No, the world does not care for your morals and decency and will reward the bully.
Take comfort in your morals and decency because that’s all you have for now. Hug your children and hope that they may never face a bully in their life. Because someday that bully… that bully who makes fun of their religion, their culture, their disability… that bully who grabs them by the pussy, might very well become their leader.
Ghost in the Shell is close to my heart. I’ve been watching anime since I was a child, but nothing really captured my imagination than Masamune Shirow’s vision and his infectious enthusiasm over his subjects, often evident in notes either throughout the manga’s pages or in long essays at the end of his books. After stumbling upon the fifth issue of Ghost in the Shell (this was before the trade paperbacks), I followed most of his works in film and even video games.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen anything come out Shirow outside of the erotic material which he’s recently devoted most of his time to, so it’s a bit disappointing that the latest film based on his work is not only whitewashed, but it seems to have been concocted more by film investors than by people actually familiar with the work.
I realize that one of the main reasons why Scarlett Johansson was hired to play the Japanese Motoko Kusanagi is that without her, the film probably wouldn’t have been made. The film needs to attach itself to a big name in Hollywood to guarantee a certain amount of audiences in theaters. Unfortunately, it’s this same type of mentality that keeps minorities from getting roles and populates many Hollywood movies with the same small group of people over and over again. Now granted, the film will also star Takeshi Kitano as one of the Japanese characters, but this reeks of casting for the sake of the actor’s name. Kitano isn’t really the best English speaker, and I suspect it will come off as awkward and as badly as his flat performance in 2001’s Brother. I remember reading that Kitano would regularly get involved in projects that he doesn’t fully enjoy (gangster films) in between artsier and unfortunately less profitable projects. If this was the case, it makes me think that this Ghost in the Shell movie is the former, but a certain amount of people will see the film just for the Takeshi Kitano name alone. It’s pretty cynical. Instead of relying on Hollywood star power, the filmmakers should just focus on the strength of the writing. Great movies will sometimes have breakout stars, and they become breakout stars because filmmakers took a risk on them and believed in the story they are telling.
As Jon Tsuei wrote in a Twitter rant, the story of Ghost in the Shell is a unique product of the Japanese experience. Even the book sees and talks about everything from a Japanese standpoint. Many people have pointed out that the character Motoko Kusanagi looks and IS white, but this is a critique of the anime and manga as a medium (most characters are drawn “white”), it is not valid point when it comes to the specific story and the character which are both Asian. To remove it from its roots creates a product that might as well call itself a different name. They already did a western adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. It’s called The Matrix Trilogy. Can we not just leave it at that?
And going back to the defense that anime and manga characters physically look white. This is the laziest close-minded defense. They don’t look white. They rarely physically look Asian either. I don’t see too many races where people have giant eyes with orange and purple hair. If anything, the way they’re often dressed makes them look Asian. Their character and mannerism makes them look Asian. It’s the reason why there’s something a bit odd when foreigners dress, talk, and take on the mannerisms of Asian people. It’s not just the language. Just see the western adaptation of My Sassy Girl where Elisha Cuthbert takes on the character and mannerism of a Korean girl. It doesn’t work.
Many fans fear that the western adaptation would result in an inferior experience, and they can’t be blamed for feeling that way because Hollywood doesn’t really have a great history with adapting Asian IPs. Godzilla was a bust. Oldboy was far inferior to the original. Dragon Ball was a disaster. And on a personal note, I just don’t buy Scarlett Johansson as an action star. I find the Marvel movies quite tedious, and I don’t find her physical scenes in the movie believable (yes, I realize it’s a comic book movie). Despite the success of the movie Lucy, I think it’s a very poor action film both in its execution and writing (SPOILER: She ultimately “evolves” into a USB thumb drive!).
In the end, I think this just adds to a long list of whitewashed characters in Hollywood. I realize many of the whitewashed characters are fictional and are thus open to reinterpretation. Not many actors are trying to pull off black faces; the characters are just turned white. But it’s exactly this reinterpretation that keeps media mostly white and minorities with very little representation. Call it the reality of moviemaking, but it’s also a very racist thing to do, denying people their characters and stories. It’s rare for minorities to have their own stories… their stories often have to whitewashed in order to be told.
What boggles my mind is that there’s a completely watchable Ghost in the Shell animated film that people can still watch. Not only that, there’s a couple of seasons of the animated series as well. I don’t really see a need for a live-action western adaptation. This is like when OldBoy was adapted by Spike Lee, when the 2003 Chan-wook Park original is not only superior, the visuals still stand out to this day. Go pick up one of Shirow’s books (not the art books) or watch the anime. Forget this movie.