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Posts Tagged ‘assholes’

Fanboys And The Fanboys Who Idolize Them

February 27th, 2010 No comments

Writer/director/professional asshole Kevin Smith has been in the news lately. Partially, this is because he has a new film out, but mostly it’s because he used the power of social media and his million and a half Twitter followers to throw a hissy about being deemed too fat to physically fit a single airline seat. There are some things about his account that don’t quite make sense to me, but the one thing about which I’m fairly certain is that the seat is not at fault.

Thinking about Kevin Smith (something I care to avoid whenever feasible) has had me thinking about a peculiar subset of geekdom: the fan-turned-pro. These are the relatively few fanboys and girls who have achieved a measure of creative success in movies and/or TV, and who have themselves inspired devoted followers who declare them the wittiest, most wonderful things ever to exist in the universe of stuff.

In the case of Kevin Smith, my theory is that his entire rise to fame is built upon the scene from his debut film Clerks in which the main characters¬†debate the ethics of blowing up the many independent contractors laboring aboard the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi. I suspect that a great many people who would never otherwise have been interested in a cheap indie flick about misogynistic, jerkwad store employees saw it solely because they’d heard about that scene. I know that I did.*

Now, I’m not in a position to review his body of work. The only other Smith film I’ve seen was Chasing Amy, which I thought was okay. Nothing I’ve heard about his later flicks encouraged me to check them out. From my perspective, his chief contribution to culture has been giving other fanboys license to wear black trenchcoats during situations in which trenchcoats are neither necessary nor a good idea.

I believe that, to a large extent, Smith’s following is built upon a foundation of self justification. “If a tubby, repulsive geek like him can make it, then how can I be worthless?”

He’s not the only one to benefit from that flavor of adoration. (Though he is the one least likely to fly on Southwest Airlines.) Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon certainly qualifies.

Now, please understand that–unlike the anal pustule that is Kevin Smith–I myself have a great deal of fondness for Joss Whedon. My DVD library includes seven seasons of Buffy, five seasons of Angel and no seasons of Dollhouse. (But the fact that I watched every last damned episode of the latter suggests that I am willing to follow him into places most others wouldn’t.) All in all, I think he’s a talented writer who happens to work with the sort of subject matter I enjoy.

I have argued with friends and associates who find Whedonites a particularly noxious fandom. I don’t think that they’re any worse than any other group of myopic idolizers. I’ve hung out on enough sci-fi message boards to remember the ferocity of Babylon 5 fans who saw its creator J. Michael Straczynski as the most remarkable TV producer ever. Joss’ fans may be all too willing to blame his failures on others,** but I don’t think that’s unusual.***

I do, however, believe that Whedonites (and I admit to having Whedonite tendencies myself) extend their intense devotion to any actor touched by the Joss. Certainly, I initially tuned into How I Met Your Mother mostly because of Alyson Hannigan.

How else to explain the extreme interest in minor Internet celeb Felicia Day? She played a potential Slayer in the final season of Buffy, and–more significantly–the love interest in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. She’s moderately cute, and can kinda sing. She produces and stars in a web series called The Guild, based on her experiences as an online gamer. Basically, she’s Kitty Pryde of the X-Men–a non-threatening, mildly geeky imaginary girlfriend–with the added advantage of being a real person one could actually touch but never will. But, because of the Whedon connection,**** she’s the most beautiful talent triple-threat, and woe to the persons who can’t see it for themselves.

Sometimes, this unnatural attention runs its natural course. These days, one rarely hears about Babylon 5 outside of sentences like, “Hey, remember when Babylon 5 was a thing?” J. Michael Straczynski mostly writes comics these days. Even so, I’m sure that someone out there is breathlessly declaring JMS the bestest thing to hit comics since Stan Lee.

Thankfully, I do not hang out on that message board.

*For my own part, as far back as 1977 I had wondered much the same thing about the original Star Wars. Even at 13, I’d begun to wonder about things like whether everyone aboard the first Death Star deserved to be vaporized. Surely, I thought, there were at least some imprisoned Rebels aboard?

**Dollhouse was ruined by pinheads at Fox, not because it was an unworkable series premise populated by characters who were literally blank slates and fronted by an actress with the chameleon-like ability to play a single personality.

***Can’t wait to read the justifications for Cop Out.

****The gamer thing also helps.

Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Mutant

December 4th, 2008 No comments

Last night, Christmas perennial Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer aired on CBS. Now, this show is dear to Mrs. Thielavision and myself–we’ve currently got a large diorama of Rudolph characters lining the top of our entertainment center–but we have to admit that these days it inspires many nagging questions, the most critical of which is this:

Why is everyone such a dick?

Oh sure, you expect all of the other reindeer to be intolerant. (See “Reindeer Games, Denied.”) But the elves–at least the ones who are uninterested in dentistry–are similarly opposed to nonconformity. And then there’s Santa. Jolly old Saint Nick. Who visits children of all creeds and colors, but is taken aback by the sight of a baby reindeer with a glowing nose.

Donner: Now, I’m sure it’ll stop as soon as he grows up, Santa.

Santa: Well, let’s hope so if he wants to make the sleigh team some day.

Workplace discrimination? From Santa? Does he withhold toys from developmentally disabled children? How does he feel about conjoined twins?

(Someone has thoughtfully put together a compilation of Santa’s most prickish moments.)

Of course, in the end Santa comes around, but only after he realizes that he needs the little freak. And even then, if he’d had the foresight to install a sleigh-mounted spotlight, poor Rudolph would likely be moping around the North Pole to this very day.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still love Rudolph. The songs are great, and there’s imagination to spare. Where it really wins me over are the freaky details used to flesh out what is, after all, otherwise a very simple story. Not only is there Hermey, the Elf Who Wants to Be a Dentist, but there’s also the whole Island of Misfit Toys mythology. You see, there’s a lion with wings named King Moonracer who flies around the world collecting poorly manufactured toys to live a shunned, lonely existence on his own private island. Oooo-kay.

Now, leaving aside the oft-debated question of the exact defect of the outwardly normal Misfit Doll (said, by one official source, to be “psychological” in nature), there’s another bit of oddity regarding the outcast toys. The reason they’re on the island in the first place is that they were unloved and abandoned by children, yet at the end of the show Santa delivers them from his sleigh at Christmas.

I can hear the grateful kids now:

Hey, this sucks! This train’s got square wheels!

Mom! Tell Billy to stop squirting jelly at me!

What’s this? A cowboy? Riding an ostrich? Where’s my fucking bike?!?

Who wants to play with a Charlie-in-the-Box?

And so:

Doctor Not-Who And The Not-Silurians

July 14th, 2008 No comments

This weekend, while waiting for Vic to return home, I caught up on some recently-purchased Doctor Who DVDs from a boxed-set of linked stories given the umbrella title “Beneath the Surface.”

First up was “Doctor Who and the Silurians,” the only story in the 45-year history of the series to utilize the “Doctor Who and the…” naming convention for its title. It’s one in the continuing adventures of a bloke whose name is absolutely NOT “Doctor Who,” so just get that right out of your head. Never mind those twenty years’ worth of end credits to the contrary. Or the episode titled “The Death of Doctor Who.” Or the one in which the evil computer WOTAN demanded Doctor Who’s presence. Or that the Doctor gave his antique car the license plate WHO 1. Just forget all that. It’s just “The Doctor,” so there.

Similarly, the Silurians are not really Silurians at all, even though that’s what the Doctor dubs them on the basis of some exceedingly flimsy evidence: a globe of the Earth in which the continents appear as they allegedly did in the Silurian period of prehistory. In a later episode, he suggests that whomever named them Silurians should have more properly called them Eocenes instead, never mind that he himself was that person. And never mind that the first time he meets one face to face, he says “Hello, are you a Silurian?” and the creature nods. But perhaps, like the Doctor, they’re used to people calling them the wrong thing.

These Silurians are not at all related to the New York society of the same name even though one is a group of veteran print journalists and the other is a race of ancient, underground reptiles who intend to retake the Earth they once dominated. Though I can see where one might make that mistake.

Anyhow, “The Doctor and the Eocenes” is an excellent four-part story in seven parts. And yes, it takes four full episodes to get to the same point in the plot that a later four-parter would have reached at its first cliffhanger. (Reduce that to 12 minutes for modern day Who.)

This is one of the episodes in which the Doctor’s companion is Dr. Liz Shaw. She’s smart, sexy, and a more legitimate example of a “liberated woman” than those later companions who went out of their way to identify themselves as such. And that’s despite a wardrobe of ridiculously short skirts that surely would have undermined her credibility at the lab even as they increased her ability to attract research grants. Liz appears to have a doctorate in “Science,” as she’s equally adept at medical biology and running a nuclear reactor.

Word to the wise: do NOT watch the special features of this DVD, as they interview a former actress named Caroline John who claims to be the woman who played the very leggy Liz Shaw, even though this Caroline John is clearly just a crone people hired to scare kids away from bowls of candy. I made the mistake, and afterward I COULD NOT HELP superimposing one over the other. It totally ruined the miniskirt thing.

The story, by the way, should more properly be called “Doctor Who and the Belligerent Sons-of-Bitches,” as most of the characters (at least, those whose hemlines are below the knee) are arrogant jerks who will not listen to anything anyone says even in the face of multiple eyewitnesses, mountains of evidence and people dropping dead like giant maggots that got into Professor Jones’ fungus powder. The only one who does listen is the nameless Silurian leader, who is pretty much the Doctor with scales, and he’s promptly shot dead by the overzealous, spastic “Young Silurian.”

On the other hand, it’s okay because most of the assholes die, except for the Doctor’s associate Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, who, soon after blowing the Silurian species into bite-sized chunks, becomes one of the most beloved characters of the franchise. (And, no joke, has recently been seen shooting a scene for season two of spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures. Yes, the show specifically for kids.) Granted that the Brig really does put off mass murder until after the Silurians invade the nuclear reactor complex twice, and attempt to kill the entire human race (again, twice) first by pandemic and later by destroying the Earth’s protective belt of (er…) radiation. So, honestly, when the Doctor starts talking about waking up the hibernating Silurians AGAIN to talk reason into them–only one a time, mind you, so there’s nothing that could go wrong–the Brig is pretty well justified is nuking the works.

Next up was “The Sea Devils,” which isn’t so much a sequel of “…And The Silurians” as it is a remake. This time, the prehistoric reptiles emerge from the bottom of the ocean instead of a cave complex, but otherwise it’s pretty much once again the Doctor unsuccessfully attempting to broker peace between humans and monsters, neither of which are having any of it.

This time the rush to war is led by an especially odious bureaucrat named Walker, who blandly munches on a plate of food even while he’s provoking all-out conflict. He really might be one of the worst villains in the entire series, not because of the intent or scope of his crimes, but because he just doesn’t give a shit.

Clocking in at a mere six parts, “The Sea Devils” moves more quickly than its predecessor, and the production works in jetskis, a hovercraft, location filming at an abandoned sea fort and even a reasonably convincing battle between British naval troops and attacking reptiles. It also has the benefit of Roger Delgado as the Doctor’s nemesis, the Master, whose basic plot function here is to stir up the black ants and the red ants and watch the carnage.

I’m too lazy to go back and research whether these two stories were the first instances of Doctor Who overtly moralizing the pettiness and waste of war, but certainly they’re among the most notable. By the time the Silurians and Sea Devils made a reappearance in “Warriors of the Deep” 12 years later, it’s pretty much a given that it’s all going to be a tragic tale of misunderstandings leading to massive death on both sides. “There should’ve been another way,” the Fifth Doctor famously states. But as long as mankind clings to its hatred of people in dodgy lizard suits, there never will be.

Ass-Kicking Is What’s Called For

October 24th, 2007 No comments

And one more clip: Bill Maher deals with disruptive assholes during his live talk show by personally ejecting one of them.

My Own Boiling Point Is 56.7 Degrees Celsius

October 7th, 2007 No comments

In the ’60s, we got to the moon by flying through a PICTURE of the moon.

While my love of so-called “Silver Age” (1956-69 or thereabouts) DC Comics remains unabated, I have to admit that in rediscovering them through the massive reprint volumes known as Showcase Presents I’ve found that all too often, they…well, let’s just say that they’re not quite as good as I remembered.

Must be a Russian robot.

The Showcase books, which reprint entire runs of comics in chronological order, aren’t necessarily the ideal format for these stories. Consuming issue after issue in one go rather than waiting a month or two for the next installment highlights their repetitive and formulaic nature.

Submitted in support is the most recent volume, featuring the Metal Men. This unusual super-team debuted in 1962, in issue #37 of the original Showcase title. Showcase (no “Presents” back then) was a book which tried out new characters and concepts, with the most popular given their own titles. “Metal Men” was originally intended as a mere fill-in story, but the heroes were so well-received that they appeared in four issues before spinning off into a bimonthly series which ran for another seven years.

Lead became so concerned over his atomic weight that he developed an atomic eating disorder.

The Metal Men were robots created by the brilliant Doc Magnus, each a shape-shifting humanoid endowed with the properties (and anthropomorphized personality) of a metallic element: noble Gold, strong man Iron, slow-moving Lead, hot-headed Mercury, weakling Tin, and beautiful Platinum, the latter the only female in the band.

Look, I said it was the ’60s.

It was established from the beginning that the effectiveness of the Metal Men as superheroes stemmed from their imperfections. The “responsometers” that governed their actions left them with human-like emotions, ironically making them better at their job than mere robots would have been. On several occasions, Doc built duplicate Metal Men without this flaw, and the dopplegangers inevitably proved a danger to others.

Platinum (aka Tina) got the worst of it, exhibiting stereotypically “female” behaviors as only a ’60s comic book writer could envision them. While the other Metal Men were loyal to their creator, Tina was in love with Doc, and said so…constantly. Doc had to keep reminding her that she was “only a robot.”

Get used to this line of conversation. It’ll come up again.

As I mentioned, comics of this period frequently repeated themselves, often for the benefit of new readers. You could bet that most of the following would occur in any given Metal Men story:

  • Mercury would arrogantly declare that he was the only metal that was liquid at room temperature.
  • Doc would tell Tina that she was not a woman, and that she should behave like a robot.
  • The Metal Men would announce their respective atomic weights and/or boiling points. DC Comics were scientific like that.
  • Tin would fret about his uselessness, then rush the latest menace in a foolhardy and ultimately futile gesture. (Each time he met another pathetic fate, the other Metal Men commented on his bravery. To them, it seemed that “bravery” was expressed as pathological, self-loathing suicide.)
  • Tina would act like an unpredictable woman, forcing Doc to remind her that she was, in fact, not one.
  • One or more of the Metal Men would die horribly, to be rebuilt in a later issue. (The very first story killed off the entire team.)
  • Did I mention that Tina was really a robot? And not a girl?

Just another day at the office for Tin.

The Doc and Tina relationship got pretty sick. Doc kept promising to ship her off to the Museum of Science (or, as I prefer, Museum of SCIENCE!!!). This he eventually did, but they sent her back because the patrons complained.

Museum goers are a tough crowd.

That’s because the Museum of SCIENCE!!!, when gifted with a metamorphic, self-aware work of unparalleled genius–which could stretch itself thinner than a human hair and was capable of pleasuring others in ways of which human women had never dreamed–could think of nothing better to do with it than to lock it in a glass coffin and demand it to stand very, very still. And they were dissatisfied when it began to mope.

I can hear the families now:

“Mommy! That robot lady is crying!”

“Well, naturally, Jenny. She’s a sentient being put on eternal display in an enclosure slightly larger than herself. Now, eat your ice cream while you appreciate her endless, living hell.”

I know that rationality was not the order of the day here, but it occurred to me that if one was a scientist who had committed to donating one’s fabulous platinum robot to the Museum of SCIENCE!!!–and had, in a previous story, built a second model without those pesky human behavioral traits–one would really be an asshat to give them the crying one.

That’s Doc Magnus, inventor and asshat.

Only 37 more times. This issue.