Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Is it time for a black one?

So there has been a lot of talk lately about black actors playing traditionally white characters in superhero films.

To the best of my memory, the first actor to open this can of worms (at least recently) was musician Beyoncé who boldly proclaimed, "It is time for a black Wonder Woman."

I remember the phrase struck me as odd. It is time? Was it not time before? Did anyone ever discuss this ever? Does Beyoncé really want a black Wonder Woman, or does she just want to be Wonder Woman because superhero roles are often a catapult to stardom?

Not long after, it was rumored that Will Smith was being considered to play Captain America and, much more recently, comedian Donald Glover had a viral campaign to play the new Spider-Man.

Obviously, the root of the issue is that all of the big superheroes are white. I won't even bother with a list, because it would really be every character that casual fans have heard of.

So is it time for a black Wonder Woman? I don't think so. Do you know why? Because Wonder Woman is definitively a Greek character. She is an Amazon descended from the Amazons of ancient Greece. I don't care who plays her, but whoever it is should look like she is of Greek descent.

Could there be a black Captain America? Well, I suppose so, and Will Smith certainly strikes me as all-American enough to embody the role. But since the character is grounded in World War II, it strikes me as unlikely that the racism of the period would allow a black man to be the symbol of freedom. The fact that Captain America is blonde haired and blue eyed kind of makes that obvious.

So would making Captain America black whitewash our own racist history (so to speak)? I suppose they could use Kyle Baker's origin of a black Captain America prototype, but I think the issues of race and racism would overwhelm the narrative until it no longer resembles the original concept.

So, could Spider-Man be black? My answer: sure. There is nothing in Spider-Man's character that is racially specific. He is a fairly poor kid raised by his aunt in New York City. This could be any race. Personally, I think he's a Jew. He's overwhelmed by guilt, he is funny, he is smart, and he is constantly worried about money. (Besides, all the great superhero writers were Jews, so really, all of these characters are Jews in white face.)

Which brings me to my next point, why do blacks get the monopoly of moral outrage? I don't see anyone calling for an Asian Batman or Latino Green Lantern. Is this white liberal guilt or a sense of entitlement amongst certain black entertainers? Will someone soon be demanding a gay Spider-Man? There are even less gay superheroes than black ones.

Of course, the most recent racial transformation of a superhero is Nick Fury. This was eased by the fact that this concept was introduced in The Ultimates, but even when I see Samuel L. Jackson playing Nick Fury... I think, "That's Samuel L. Jackson playing Nick Fury." Forget race. Jackson's presence is just so dominating that he hardly seems to act. He just plays it cool... Sam Jackson-style.

I can't help but feel a little disappointed that we never saw George Clooney play a more traditional Nick Fury with his folksy charm, chomping on a stogie. Clooney was made for the role, and would have taken it if Garth Ennis hadn't written a Fury mini-series that was not flattering. (Unfortunately, either Clooney or his agent couldn't separate one artistic interpretation from a long-lasting character.) Maybe a black actor could have played a more traditional interpretation of Fury, but he didn't.

Long story short, some characters are racially specific and some aren't. Certainly, you could not turn Storm, Luke Cage, or Black Panther white. You wouldn't even need outrage from the black community. Everyone would condemn the move within seconds.

In fact, I think only white characters are open for racial alterations. I'm not going to pull a Glenn Beck and say, "woe is the white man," because obviously, these characters are white because we had a lot of racial prejudice in our history. But at the same time, we have to kind of accept that and roll with it.

I have to say, while I'd give a non-white Superman a chance... it would be weird. I don't care if he is black, Asian, latino, or whatever... to me, Superman is just white. Does that make me a racist? Maybe a little, but I think its written into his personality and mannerisms. It's routed in the fact that he represents middle America which is still largely white. He represents traditional values and because of that, he can question them. In a way, Superman passes for white because he isn't really human. He is more of an outsider than any race could be, but he passes as "one of them."

You know what its time for? A Black Panther movie... or Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Maybe even a Black Lightening movie... or let's give Steel another go. How about a StormWatch movie starring Battalion? The point is, if you want a black role model, don't put a cosmetic change on an existing white guy as though he is just a blank slate... as though white is the default color. Take an existing black character and show what makes him special. It worked for Blade (which, by the way, launched the whole superhero frenzy in Hollywood).

So do I mind if Will Smith or Donald Glover play Captain America or Spider-Man? Not really. But I do mind when someone like Beyoncé plays the race card and says, "It's time for a black Wonder Woman" just because she is campaigning for the role.

Don't cry racism just because you want to be famous. That just makes you a twat.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Interesting VS Suck: A look at fighter franchises

What is it with franchise tie-in fighting games? I've played a couple of these Marvel vs Capcom games and they completely blow. Apparently they have a loyal following, but I don't get it. The design is a standard two-dimensional side-scroller and the controls show absolutely no evolution from the hit fighters of the early 90s like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.

But my real complaint is the basic concept. Marvel vs Capcom? Who wants to see that?! I'm an old school fan of Mega Man and Street Fighter, but never have I fantasized or even imagined them fighting Marvel Comics characters.

That's like Disney vs Terminator! Teletubbies vs the Matrix!

And not that long ago they released Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. Really, there is no one in Mortal Kombat that would last half a fucking second against Superman.

So honestly, I'd rather just play a Marvel fighting game than a Marvel fighting game with Capcom characters. At least if you are going to mix universes, keep it in a somewhat consistent genre. I'd love to see a Marvel vs DC fighter... even if it sucked!

I really just wish that they could make more franchise games that are good an immersive. The fun of franchise video games is feeling like you are the person you are playing. When I press a bunch of random buttons and I watch Spider-Man go through some quick animations of punching, kicking, and web-slinging... I don't feel like Spider-Man. I just feel like I'm watching a crappy cartoon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Girl Watching

Just in case people doubted me...

Just in case you thought my accusations that X-Men is trying to do Twilight were unfounded.

Bad comics. Very, very bad.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fuck you, spambots

I have Chinese characters repeatedly posting comments on my blog with links to Canadian pharmaceuticals. If this doesn't stop, I'll have to restrict posts even further to just authorized posters or some shit.

A couple dickheads screw it up for everyone. The story of the 21st century.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Star Wars fans are pathetic adolescents with delusions of coolness

So I watched the movie Fanboys last night. If you haven't seen it, you may have heard of it. The premise of the movie is that in 1999 a group of Star Wars fanatics travel the country to break into Skywalker Ranch and sneak a peak at Star Wars: Episode 1.

I have to say, I thought it was just awful and I think Star Wars fans need to start shutting the fuck up. Don't get me wrong. I love Kevin Smith movies and the Family Guy tribute episodes and the Robot Chicken episodes... but this wasn't that. It was just a celebration of immature, slavish geekiness.

And CLEARLY I don't have a problem with grown men being into something marketed to children, but I do have a problem with geek culture being celebrated as a parody of itself. You see, guys like Kevin Smith said that you can really be into Star Wars and comics while being a complex and intellectual human being. But some people walk away from those his films and just get the message that being a geek is cool.

Being a geek is not cool. Marginalizing comic books or science fiction as part of geek culture isn't cool either. Samuel L. Jackson reads comic books. Comic writer Grant Morrison is as cool as any rockstar and more than most. They aren't cool because they are sitting in their mom's basement sucking down Mountain Dew, playing HALO, and talking about the "holy trinity." They are cool because they don't allow a few limited interests to define them.

For however much time I spend ranting about comic books and Star Trek, this blog is filled with personal insights, politics, philosophy, humor, music, video, book recommendations... Without a diverse set of interests, geeks are as boring and predictable as the most pathetic old lady who collect ceramic trinkets.

And Star Wars fans are the worst because they think they are better than others. This is demonstrated when the fanboys make a detour to "the future birthplace of Captain Kirk" so that they can harass some Star Trek fans. The leader of the Trekkies is played by Seth Rogan wearing a false nose and teeth. Really, he looks like an alien from either series! The reason why Rogan's geek persona is so exaggerated is because he needed to be an even bigger geek than the Star Wars fanboys, and that wasn't easy to do.

The whole scene seems to lack any self-awareness. The obsessive delusions of Trekkies that they are mocking are clearly exhibited by the "Warsies" throughout the entire film, but for some reason, they get a pass. They are cool geeks, not nerd geeks.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not offended. And, I guess the guest appearance by William Shatner was supposed to mediate some of the hostility, but really I think someone needs to bring Star Wars fans down a few pegs.

1) George Lucas is a hack and a greedy, fat fuck. Gene Roddenberry was a war hero, a cop, and an idealist with a message.

George Lucas made one really good film when he was a struggling young artist and god bless him for it. It was a brilliant little film and he was a genius for keeping all of the creative rights. But he has no integrity and I promise you that he doesn't think nearly as much of his creations as his fans do. He didn't even direct the second two films! If the prequel films didn't make this painfully obvious, just look at Return of the Jedi where he stuck in Ewoks as a marketing gimmick and made Leia Luke's sister for LITERALLY NO REASON! This is not a guy you should look up to.

Gene Roddenberry, on the other hand, was literally a World War II hero. He was a pilot in the Air Force who flew a B-17E Flying Fortress. He flew 89 missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. After the war, he worked for PanAm and after a crash in the Syrian desert traveled miles to seek help and saved the others. Then he joined the LA police force before retiring to become a screenwriter.

2) Star Wars was paint-by-numbers storytelling. Star Trek is about philosophy, sexuality, and morality.

Star Wars is the ultimate example of Hollywood screenwriting because it hits all of the emotional beats with such precision that you would think it was developed by a German with an ass so tight it whistles when he farts. It's like a perfectly crafted piece of furniture and you have to marvel at its elegance... but its not particularly deep. The dialog is stilted and awkward making it vitally important that they had such gifted actors as Harrison Ford and Sir Alec Guinness. The whole idea of "the Force" is a new age bastardization of Taoism. Sure, it follows Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey like R2 follows 3PO... but it doesn't bring anything new.

Star Trek, for all of its hokieness and TV budget, actually tries to address larger, more complex ideas like pascifism, self-acceptance, and revenge. Each episode (to be fair, each good episode) is an allegory on par with Aesop's fables that causes the viewer to question their own nature and the nature of the universe around them. In the sixties, they covered topics like ethnocentrism, sexism, and sexuality. In the eighties, it addressed rampant greed versus self-determination, ideology, and more sexuality. We could debate how well it achieved these goals all day, but you would be hard pressed to argue that Star Wars is deeper than Star Trek.

3) Star Trek has a bigger fiction dick.

By this I mean, Star Wars was six great hours of popcorn munching entertainment, but that's it. It isn't all that complex or involved so once you are done with the movies... there isn't much left. I mean, how much left can fans deconstruct when all you have is six hours. Of course, the next six hours of Star Wars was a crime against humanity and I will support Lucas being dragged to the Hague in chain for trial to answer for those abominations.

Star Trek has certainly had its share of awful, awful crap. I can't deny that... but there is literally over a thousand hours of material to pick and choose from. The are a few fantastic movies and a lot of genuinely emotionally moving episodes. In terms of shear, raw material that adds to the richness of the world and gives you more to deconstruct, Star Trek has Star Wars beat by light-years.

4) The Star Wars/Star Trek war is perpetuated by only the worst of geeks.

Maybe I'm being a little hypocritical here, but I do like Star Wars. I think its a great story, but I love Star Trek. Most fans are the same way. In fact, I don't think I've met any Star Trek fans who doesn't like Star Wars. But there is some sad little part of us that likes to fight over which is better. I'm doing it now, but there is absolutely no hostility between the creators. In fact, the company that does the special effects for Star Trek is Industrial Light & Magic... the same company that Lucas founded to do special effects for Star Wars.

There is plenty of room for both (and a lot more) in the wide realm of sci-fi fantasy. It is only the most insecure geek who goes around thinking they are better than the guy who likes something they don't. Star Wars fans like to pretend that because of more action and Harrison Ford that Star Wars is somehow more mature and cool than Star Trek. It really isn't.

The difference is that Star Trek fans have more patience. They know that they aren't going to see a lot of great action on a TV budget, so they are looking for more meaning in their stories and a greater emotional and intellectual investment. Besides which, they know that they are considered the worst example of a geek... so they don't put on a lot of false airs.

But you know what my real disappointment about this movie was? I was waiting for a time lapse view of the characters watching Phantom Menace as their entire illusion and raison d'etre is shattered. God, I would have loved to see that.

I think we have a sequel. I just hope none of the same people are involved. Until then, I leave you with this: