Falling Out of Love (with WebComics)

“All my love gone for nothing. Days of my love, years of my love.” ― Sophocles, Electra

I fell in love with webcomics as a medium in college. I had a pretty steady schedule which left plenty of room to check in on the comics that updated regularly and a steady WiFi connection that did not discriminate. That means that there are some comics that I have literally been reading for over a decade. I say this because it brings me no joy to admit that there are comics that I have absolutely fallen out of love with. I am passionate about this artistic style and some of the creators have been integral to finding form to the things I feel inside but some are in their slow death and to better understand how we got to where we are and how things used to be.

I don’t do this because I really just enjoy being negative. I don’t do this because I just really hate small creators. I do this because I do genuinely love the medium of comics and especially the kind for web. I love the creators that pour their hearts into this medium. I admire them. I consider myself lowly in comparison to them.

I’ll start with a comic that I started reading in more years ago than I care to admit: Go Get a Roomie. This comic done by Chlove centers around the titular Roomie (yes, that’s her name because she’s a bit of a wanderer who is everyone’s roommate at one point in time) and her misadventures through free-love and freeloading. I fell in love with the free-spirited Roomie and her friends including a dom named Ramona and her twink brother, Richard and the ultimate foil to joyous Roomie: Lillian. When this comic was just a slice-of-life day to day adventures in regional beers and taking home a different person each day, I loved it. But then the series too a more narrative turn and now in pure predictable fashion, the comic now centers around Roomie and Lillian in a relationship. Now, I have no issue with this from an LGBTQ standpoint (I hate that I have mention this) but I have a problem with it from the cinnamon roll vs. promiscuous person trope. It’s the exact same problem I had with Yuri On Ice which went out of its way to mention how innocent and pure Yuri is to his clear lecher of husband, Victor. Roomie has been around, it’s part of her character and while it is somewhat nice to see someone change for a partner, it’s just a trope I’m tired of. Additionally, it puts most of the owness on Lillian to be more like Roomie rather than having to reign in anyone else. Lillian starts off as a listless amorphic blob who barely leaves the house: sure, her arc of doing more than sleeping has been fascinating but it all just seems out of left field considering that these are all changes that happened in the comic in just the past few years. I love GGaR for its dedication to authentic diversity and mostly strong storytelling but I’m bored of the tropes, quickness to fall into a more traditional love story and occasional preaching from the author.

Next on the list are the collective comics of Giselle and the rest of the folks who work on such works as Menage a 3 and Dangerously Chloe. I found this comics in the second half of my college career and was sold on them being a little raunchy. Ma3 billed itself as an HBO-style rom-com and it was. Love triangle after love triangle and that was fine for many years. The comic is working towards its ending but with its out of nowhere wrestling plot arc for a character who is literally only known for her bust, I am tired of keeping up with its updates. Dangerously Chloe has a similar problem where we have strayed so far from the original plot of man meets succubus that I am simply wishing for the sweet release of death.

We now reach the comic I take the most ire with. We’ve reached the ultimate comic I have absolutely fallen out of love with. Each update further confirms that I dislike the current direction and only further alienates me from a narrative I began nearly a decade ago: Sister Claire.

Sister Claire started as a comic about a nun who through shady God dealings gets pregnant. The comic references a ton of other media in homage and in blatant ripoffs and at first was a mostly light-hearted romp of magical lands and a questionably hot version of God. What the comic is now…oh boy. Now the comic centers around a quest for a magical deus ex-machina, more anachronisms than a Tarantino movie. But what really irks me is the shift in comic from when it was done by one creator, Yamino, to now two creators with Yamino’s wife, Ash. Ash has seemed to take over the writing of the comic thus the shift from kind of magical romp to anachronisms and heavy-handed guilt narratives about LGBT themes. The homage and rip offs in Sister Claire have also caused some controversy. Famously, there’s a scene with some strange mecha that is somehow related to a holy war and the words to speak the robot to bring it back from its sleep are “Cast into the name of God, ye not guilty.” If that sounds familiar, congratulations, you’ve watched Big O. And so did many of the fans of the comic. And many of us said so. And Yamino was defensive! She said it was a Crusaders’ chant, which, sure. It was. But it was also in Big O and instead of just being humble and accepting that she was caught in a small rip-off, she caused conflama. Yamino has also straight up steals a character from Rose of Versailles in the form of Lady Oscar who is so indistinguishable from her anime “inspiration” that people forget that Oscar is not an original creator at all. And wait, you may be saying, but Sister Claire is so diverse with its lesbian couple at the helm and cast full of queer people. Sure, that’s fantastic. I’m happy to have diverse characters and diverse creators: you know what else makes me happy? Strong storytelling. Being full of queer characters does not an automatically good story make.

This was a negative post and I’m sure by now, many of you are asking: well, why don’t you just stop reading these comics if they cause you such strife?

Good question, astute straw-man. I have put time, energy and money behind almost all of these comics between donations and Kickstarter campaigns, I have invested in these works. Because of that investment, it’s even more personal and tragic to watch them fall from grace. It’s never easy to admit that a relationship is over so I will continue to check in on these stories just because I want to know how it ends. I want to see how we end this saga. I want to know what the final moment where either I break from weak storytelling and leave the series or how it so graciously redeems itself.

Only time will tell.

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A Blog Post About Jokes About Jokes

“The longer and more carefully we look at a funny story, the sadder it becomes.” ― Nikolai Gogol.png

When I first started following Deadpool as a character in the 2000s, he was really a interesting but far from the only character doing what he did. 4th wall breaks were somewhat common in comics and She-Hulk was much better at breaking the 4th wall than Wade Wilson ever was. It may have been my love of manga and anime which is full of meta humor and puns that made me sour on the whole thing faster than the average American, but I’m frankly quite tired of meta-humor. Here’s why I dislike meta humor and some practical examples of how it actively usually hurts the narrative its in.

Let’s take a moment to discuss some vocabulary, because once I get started, I will not be slowed down. Meta-humor as currently defined is humor at the expense of the subject. For instance, Scream calling out all the logical fallacies in other horror movies makes it metacritical and metatextual while still being at the time subversive. To subvert or be subversive is to undercut or defy the expectations of a medium or genre. For instance, Rick and Morty subverts the sci-fi genre by being mostly bleak and entirely nihilistic. Meta-humor like this has been popularized for decades and is a vital part of the postmodern culture we live in: thanks, late-capitalism. Meta humor is said to be funny at all because it’s calling out the tropes we know and hate now because they are so overdone. A 4th Wall Break (an instance where a show or piece of media admits it isn’t real and breaks the wall between performance and audience) is rare in theater and was rare in other pieces of media but got more popular with comic books. This is different from being an anti-joke or even surrealist as the goal with these is to defy expectations by being either entirely serious and completely doing something out of the norm. Think of the Lobster Telephone done by Dali. Again, to give credit where credit is due,  the earlier runs of She-Hulk was full of 4th wall breaks but let’s be honest; when you think of a 4th wall break currently, you think of Deadpool.

Deadpool as a movie franchise is interesting, really the character is a hard sell if you aren’t super into comic books. Wade Wilson is a character who cannot die and essentially has gone crazy due to his mutation and is in no way a cheap rip-off of Deathstroke. That being said, the whole idea around his particular version of meta humor is actually pretty strange, Wade Wilson knows he’s a comic book character and knows he isn’t real but most of that is chalked up more to mental illness or lazy writing than it is to anything else. The movies ignore that aspect of canon keep him as every teenage edgelord who thinks he’s funny and too good for the humor of the common folk. This worked in the first movie that came out just after the first big wave of superhero movies. It was funny to have a character comment on the logical fallacies in superhero films. It was great to have jokes lobbed at the film’s own expense, it was, at first incredibly refreshing. By the time we reach Deadpool 2, it’s simply tired. The superhero movie bubble has started to burst and since Avengers: Infinity War had ripped the hearts out of most fans, his humor was just tired. It was no longer new, refreshing or subversion: it was a chore and that movie was mostly a slog for me except for a few scenes that genuinely almost made me spit out my overpriced cola in the theater. Because by the second time Deadpool is commenting on Cable’s weirdly limited time travel abilities or the fact that there are still very few people of color in comic book movies despite there being several people of color in comic books: it just feels like it’s exposing a plot hole. That is a problem.

A 4th wall joke is funny the first time, the second time may even be insightful but the third or fourth is just tired and if anything can take you out of the film. It’s no longer subversive once the trope has already been subverted. Think of the last post we did on the Trope Trope: once being subversive of tropes is established, it then becomes a trope.

It’s especially difficult when a large company tries to comment on the tropes they established. Disney has recently gotten very meta about Disney and it’s infuriating. I grew up with Disney movies and while I didn’t notice many of these errors as a kid, I certainly don’t bat an eye at them much now as an adult. It doesn’t bother me that Beauty and the Beast was full of plot holes: it was a beautiful movie. It doesn’t matter to me that Cinderella isn’t “feminist” enough, she was engaging and the animation on the older movie is gorgeous. But the newer Disney movies have been determined to comment on the tropes that made the movies famous. Don’t like Disney princesses falling in love? Frozen is here to comment on that and then cop to Anna falling in love with her new disposable boyfriend. Disappointed that Belle didn’t fight back more? Beauty and the Beast (2017) is here to make her extra “feminist” and actively weaken her character with an invention subplot that goes nowhere and a total lack of performance or chemistry from Emma Watson. Tired of all those pesky cookie-cutter princesses? Here’s Moana with a character (in the form of Maui who is supposed to be our secondary protagonist) who is literally every teenage edgelord of a kid to undercut the serious moments to the movie’s detriment.

It’s just exhausting. The reason why it’s such a cheap shot is because rather than, you know, fixing the narrative issues; writers assume that calling it out acts as a blanket to cover them instead of just being better. So when Deadpool calls out Cable having a crappy motivation as an antagonist, guess what. I’m aware of how crappy his motivations are. When the new trailer for Wreck-It Ralph makes a jab at how horribly Disney treats its princesses, I’m not laughing. I’m just hyper-aware of how terribly they are all treated and how repetitive it is. When you intentionally poke a hole in the curtain, it becomes easier to see all the other holes in it. Do you know what would be actually subversive? Doing the right thing. In this age of cynicism and senseless cash-grabs, what would really be shocking and subversive would be to just write well. It’d be subversive to have a princess with two loving parents and a stable home life. It’d be subversive to have a gay character who is complex but not magical, a martyr or a token. Sincerity in this cynical postmodern age would be more unique and special at this stage and I can’t believe I have to say that now.

 

Thoughts from George Washington’s Front Yard: A Trip to Mount Vernon

I wasn’t expecting to go to Virginia. One of my aunts reached out to me to offer me a chance to go to a cousin’s wedding over in Colonial Country and I said sure. I hadn’t been out of the state in a few years and I’ve been itching to travel. While this was going to be a longer post about the entire trip and the wedding with plenty of personal details and stories: those are personal so I’ll keep it to the one historical trip I got to take during my short time in Virginia: Mount Vernon.

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For those of you who don’t know, Mount Vernon is the house that Washington inherited from his father and later added onto as he made it the sprawling home that he shared with his family and entertained guests at. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture and an important part of American history so I was happy to take a small trip there with my aunt.

Here are some of the things I learned from Washington’s porch.

  • As a Texan, New England is hilariously small to me. The fact that Virginia is such a small state means that there are plenty of things in very close proximity to each other so while I got to see one historical place I’m sure on my next trip (and trust me, I’m already planning the next trip) I’m sure with a little more planning, it wouldn’t be hard to have a full historical tour of the founding of my homeland.
  • Mount Vernon is huge. I was not expecting it to be as big as it was and based purely on the sweat that covered my poor pudgy frame, I was not prepared to walk this sprawling estate.
  • Our tour guide, Becky, was genuinely amazing and I loved her insights.
  • Mount Vernon is full of wonderfully detailed rooms and decor that gives me serious envy of how colonial folks were as extra as we are now including:
    • A fan chair which is literally a chair with a fan over top that you power with a foot pedal system.
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    • A marble mantle that according to legend a British friend of Washington said he just had to have and then replaced the damn thing from his own British home and gave it to Washington.
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      • I need friends like that.
    • A view of the Potomac that looks across to Maryland.
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      • Again, very strange as a Texan that just right across over yonder water is another state. We only have that with Oklahoma and no one is proud of that.
    • And a stunning piece of historical context in the form of an iron key.
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      • Story time, kids. So Washington was friends with the Marquis Lafayette. The French Revolution had mostly ended the chill part but the Marquis was called back to France on a July day after word of the Bastille prison was facing a prison break of epic proportions. The Marquis reported from the wreckage of the Bastille and upon his return to the United States gave his friend and fellow revolutionary spirit one of the iron keys of the Bastille in hopes to inspire his friend to greatness. The storming of the Bastille kicked off the much bloodier part of the revolution but we’re gonna ignore that for now. And I am proud to own a chachki copy of that key because I am a francophile, don’t judge me.

 

  • Martha Washington’s gardens were beautiful and it’s nice to see that many of them are still full of herbs, veggies and fruits.
  • Becky was very proud of me for knowing that sugar was the more valuable precious white substance over salt.
  • I struggle with the legacy of one of America’s founders being sold as bobbleheads and more.
    • In my mind, I can imagine Washington being a bit of an introvert and would not like all of us on his lawn and buying his stuff in the form of cheap desk fodder.
  • Becky also understood my hatred of Thomas Jefferson.
    • Jefferson was a racist and he believed slavery was good for black people. On top of that, his love of the French Revolution was dangerous and reckless and led us into a bloodier war with England.
  • I love that Mount Vernon acknowledges that slavery was real and that it was bad.
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    • There’s a very moving monument to the slaves that lived and died on Mount Vernon that was designed by Howard University students and dedicated by local pastors.
    • Honestly, the legacy of slavery is difficult to grapple with and Becky was sweet and empathetic and didn’t try to explain slavery as a white women to me and my aunt (two black women).
  • I wasn’t expecting to see my aunt cry while touring the slave quarters.
    • It was a powerful moment that I did my best to endure but I suppose because I have the privilege of traveling more and being more away of my history, I’ve moved on past tears and moved onto quiet anger.
  • I was denied the ability to purchase wine from Mount Vernon as we had to return to our hotel for a family obligation, someone avenge me and send me Washington’s wine.

Mount Vernon was lovely and beautiful and the history of this place could easily fill many blog posts and pages. I’m fortunate that I was able to travel and I look forward to doing so again.

 

The Nostalgia Paradox

“There is no greater sorrowThan to recall a happy timeWhen miserable.” ― Dante AlighieriThere’s a scene in Boruto (a sequel to Naruto and Naruto Shippuden that no one asked for or wanted) where Sasuke and Naruto fight a cheap Orochimaru knock-off and it’s a one that has been on my mind for a while now because of how sneaky it is. Here’s a why the fight is so insidious:

  • It’s a perfectly good shonen fight. Many attack. Much punching. So many jutsus.
  • And two that if you have watched Naruto or Naruto: Shippuden it’s a masterful fight. It’s watching two characters that we have grown up with (hell, I’m the same age as Naruto now, I think) using the skills they learned as kids and teens to defeat a foe. It’s amazing to see their training pay off by becoming efficient masters of moves they used to take on early foes of the series. It’s a wonderful fight if you have that decades long history with the show.

And here’s where I’m going to play a little Nando v. Movies for a moment. That fight shouldn’t have been Naruto and Sasuke’s fight: it should have been Boruto and Sarada’s. For more background on Boruto, this show centers around the children of the main cast. Boruto is one of Naruto’s annoying children with Hinata and Sarada is Sasuke and Sakura’s annoying daughter. And the show is…fine? It’s fine. It’s a weak show and I’ve never seen a series so afraid of its protagonist. We have spent time Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura…over 10 years, in fact. And the companies behind Boruto are very anxious this show cannot and will not live up to the long shadow cast by its predecessor. Boruto as a character also lives in the shadow of his father, Naruto which is metacriticism nearly beaten into the viewer. The show has lots of potential but it’s too soon and it isn’t Naruto. But one change with this fight that happens, honestly, 60 damn episodes in the damn series about the actual main cast, not the older generation, there is a lot of potential for positive change. Back to the Nando v. Movies comparison.

If you made this fight with the mastery of old techniques about Boruto having to learn the moves that lead up to his father being Hokage then that gives Boruto an arc and gives him something else to connect to his father on. If you make this about Sarada and Boruto then it becomes about them becoming the new Sasuke and Naruto. That lets you pay homage to the past while honoring the present rather than reminding me that I am old and that I miss Naruto.

After all that preamble I want to talk about nostalgia.

The whole fight with Sasuke and Naruto didn’t make me happy about Boruto. It made me want to watch Naruto. That’s the upside down of nostalgia. I had the exact same feeling about Pokemon: Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire. Aside from the Delta Episode, that game didn’t make me fall in love with it, it made me want to go back and play Pokemon Ruby. And considering that the current media landscape is nothing but remakes, reboots and more, I find increasingly that I am not interested in in the remake, it just makes me want to go back to the original. Knowing that we’re going to have Marvel movies from now until the heat death of the universe doesn’t make me want to see all of them (I’ll see most of them) it just makes me want to go back to the source material.

Which brings us to homage, intertextuality and shameless cash grabs.  

There’s such a fine line between rip-offs and homage that honestly, that could be its own blog. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a shot-for-shot genderbent redo of Star Wars: A New Hope but some praise the film for it while others saw it as pandering attempt at rebooting a legacy franchise. It’s what lead to all the conflama with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, that movie now is too different from the original but it’s only because we’ve gotten very used to being spoon-fed nostalgia. We can also see this in all the dumb Disney live-action reboots. They so badly want us to think of the innocence we had as a childhood that they just keep repackaging the stories we grew up with but worse. Beauty and the Beast (2017) so badly wants to remind you of the iconic movie from the 90s  but it ignores all the things that made the first movie so great and I left the movie not loving or appreciating the homage, it just made me want to watch the 90s version of the movie. There are very few live-action remakes or just remakes in general that do much to improve the original. The nostalgia these movies want to milk is hollow and just makes me miss the 90s.

Which brings us back to intertextuality. Hey, do you remember that thing? Sure you do. You gotta remember that thing. Take heart in knowing the simply fact of whatever thing you insert into that line will be bill in a movie, game, comic or more. We saw it in Pokemon: Sun/Moon. We see it in Stranger Things and we see it in the new remake of It. What makes intertextuality different than homage is that rather than it taking inspiration from a thing it’s just copying or inserting something into a newer property so that you feel connected to that new thing. And the problem is that leaning into the older and more beloved aspects of a franchise can backfire spectacularly. Again back to Boruto, cramming the older characters in is just there to keep our attention and it actively ruins the story. We aren’t given time to spend with the kids because we have to keep looking at the adults. As much as I dislike Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, we at least don’t spend a lot of time with useless adult Harry Potter and useless adult Draco Malfoy: we spend time with their sons and their friends and it’s wonderful despite the plot of that play being a red hot garbage fire.

This is not the same as the shameless cash grab though some are unique examples of all three.  Newer reboots of shows like ThunderCats (2018) and Teen Titans GO! certainly are repackaged for a younger audience and are both from older and more beloved properties but neither seem to want to even touch the shadow of their former cash grab shows. Teen Titans GO! evenly actively reminds you of the fact that this show is far from the glory days of its prior better television show. But while I’m not really angry at these shows (I know they aren’t for me because I am old) again, it doesn’t make me feel anything for them outside of my desire to just go back and watch their originals.

That’s the problem with nostalgia. While sure, some are inspired by remakes and rehashes, so many more are just tired. I’m old now, it’s why I have such a hard time with newer anime. I started watching My Hero Academia  and it’s so aggressively like Naruto that I’m actively taken out of the show (and while yes, the show does plenty of things I can praise later, it isn’t enough to distract from all the tropes and beats it has taken from other popular shonen series). Why would I want to watch discount Fullmetal Alchemist? I can just watch Fullmetal Alchemist.

If you’re pro-nostalgia, let me know! I’m curious if I’m just an old fart now and just refuse to be hip with the young kids.

 

Tone and Diction in The Scarlet Letter

Chapter 2 of the Scarlet Letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne uses deep imagery and strong diction to set the tone for this chapter and subsequent chapters in the work. The setting of a prison yard in Puritan Boston is established quickly in the beginning of the chapter and the almost content eagerness the crowd in the prison yard had awaiting the execution “The grass-plot before the jail, in Prison Lane, on a certain summer morning, not less than two centuries ago was occupied by a pretty large number of inhabitants of Boston; all with their eyes intently fastened on the iron-clamped oaken door.” (Hawthorne 54). Strong, solid images of a prison yard are created from the simple phrase “iron-clamped oaken door.” (54) Hester Prynne, the woman standing accused is made a public spectacle and as Prynne “stood fully revealed before the crowd” ( 57) such diction is a strong indication for the humiliation and vulnerability facing all people who stood before a group of their peers before a public execution.

The diction used to describe the scarlet letter itself is artful and powerful, indicating the power the letter had in affecting how the public viewed Hester Prynne “It was so artistically done, with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy that it had all the effect of a last fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore…” (57). The scarlet letter itself was a fabled mark of Cain to Hester Prynne marking her sin and crime of adultery and the letter branding her unto death as an adulterer.

The last paragraph of chapter 2, Hester Prynne realizes the gravity of her situation after reminiscing on her childhood and past up until her arrival in Boston. “Could it be true? She clutched the child so fiercely to her breast, that it sent forth a cry; she turned her eyes downward at the scarlet letter, and even touched it with her finger, to assure herself that the infant and the same were real. Yes!-these were her realities-all else had, vanished.” (62) The quickness of the meter and the direct pauses create a sense of dread and urgency.

In conclusion the tone, diction and imagery in the second chapter of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter create a tone and setting of dread, misfortune and mounting regret through the use of solid imagery and diction help set the mood for this chapter and the remainder of the novel. Such methods have been used by authors for centuries to set stronger and more concrete settings and tones. The Scarlet Letter is filled with robust images and foreboding language to help set the overall mood of suspicion, regret and intolerance in Puritan Boston.


Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, and Ross C. Murfin. The Scarlet Letter: Complete, Authoritative Text with Biographical, Historical, and Cultural Contexts, Critical History, and Essays from Contemporary Critical Perspectives. Boston, Mass. [u.a.: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006. Print.

The Problem With Charm

“Charm was a scheme for making strangers like and trust a person immediately, no matter what the charmer had in mind.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions.png

We’ve dedicated a lot of words to discussing how framing, writing and other magic tricks can manipulate readers into liking characters they shouldn’t. And we’ve done so because I am clearly a villain and it’s important to understand my people. In all of these discussions, we’ve almost ignored one key aspect that can truly sell you on a bad guy: charm.

It’s what makes Negan from The Walking Dead  so damn good. He’s a sly bastard. You may have dated a guy (or several) like him. He’s positively exuding in a certain sort of energy that almost makes it okay that he’s for sure a murderer.  

And while I could have an entire blog just dedicated to charming villains (perhaps an anime tie-in or two, as well) I wanted to use this time to talk about one of my favorite directors: Quentin Tarantino and how he effectively mastered our brains into liking two of the worst possible people and I get to discuss two of my favorite movies of all time: Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained. Is this self-indulgent? Yes. Will you continue to join me for this ride? I certainly hope so.

We’ll start with what may be my favorite movie right under another Tarantino classic (the answer to number 1 is Kill Bill), Inglorious Basterds. This movie. This powerhouse of a movie centers around a group of Jewish-American soldiers during WWII who heroically (and in a blood-filled fever dream) fight against actual Nazis and aim to take out Hitler. It’s Tarantino at his best, having fun with an all-star cast and plenty of fake blood and glamour shots of feet. But this movie features one of the most charismatic bad guys in film in Hans Landa (expertly played by Christoph Waltz). Now, here’s the problem with Hans Landa: he’s just so fun to watch on screen. Each of his lines is fun and dripping with danger and Waltz chews up every scene he’s in. I’m leaving out a key detail which is that Colonel Hans Landa is a Nazi and this isn’t a euphemism, he’s an actual German soldier and a very proud one at that. He will tell you that he’s only doing his job when he has to perform violence. He will explain the “reasons” he is a racist and he will do so quite well. He will tout the experience of his fellow German soldiers and how proud he is of Germany and the leader he serves. And if you keep listening, you start to like him.  He’s fun when on screen, a damn near delight. He’s well-spoken, seems to know everything (which is scary) and when he’s excited about something; it’s damn near infectious: one of his last scenes where he marvels at his own use of the word “bingo” is a delight even though he is essentially holding our actual protagonists hostage. It’s a scene that I use a lot as a GIF set because it’s fun. Nazis shouldn’t be fun. Really, the entire movie has a tone problem with that but it’s Tarantino so most give him a past. Many of the German soldiers are more fleshed out characters than our actual protagonists and we spend a great deal of time with many German soldiers. We build a rapport with them so even though the movie is great about not rewarding them for being actual Nazis, we spend entirely too much time with them for there not to be a bond formed. It’s sad when Frederick Zoller dies at the end, we’ve spent so much time watching him woo a married woman. It’s sad when Wilhelm dies, he was a new father and a soldier who was doing his best. In this instance, it isn’t framing that wrongs us, it’s just the charisma of a great actor playing a terrible human being.

The best example of this is in our second example taken from a Tarantino movie: Calvin J. Candie. Oh, Mr. Candie. It’s really a shame that Jamie Foxx is so good in this film and he is still completely overshadowed by DiCaprio who really only appears in the last half of the entire film but the spotlight is on him as soon as he is on screen. That’s the power of DiCaprio. But in addition to a very charming man, Mr. Candie is also given some of the best lines in the damn film. He dresses well, is funny, is smarter than most of the antagonists of the film. He has a lovely plantation: CandieLand (yes, actually the name of the place) and almost all of those he “employs” (they are slaves) seem happier and better taken care of than the other slaves we’ve seen in Django Unchained. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The long and short of Django Unchained is a revenge fantasy centered around a slave named Django and his desire to get revenge on those who have wronged him. He teams up with a white dentist named King Schultz (not joking, this is a Tarantino movie so subtly be damned) who is played by Waltz (because he can only play German characters) and they go on doing what they can to disrupt the accepted reality that is slavery and to get back Django’s wife, Broomhilda (again, be damned subtly). Broomhilda had been sold off to Mr. Candie’s plantation which brings us back to our favorite Southern racist. Yes, I’m getting to that part. Calvin Candie is a slave-owner. He’s a racist. He’s every Southern stereotype wrapped up in a silk bow. And Tarantino does all he can to frame Candie as a bad guy. We first meet him running an illegal Fight Club with African slaves as bartering chips. He’s a monster who does not see the humanity in enslaved Africans. This is even more damaging because he uses rhetoric and “logic” (with the biggest possible quotes I can possibly generate). During Mr. Candie’s most powerful scene he explains quite plainly that he has every right to enslave Africans. To him and his “science” (again with giant quotes) of phrenology, they are lesser than he is. And he’s very quick to discuss just how strongly he feels about the whole slavery situation. And even though framing and his eventual death do highlight how awful Calvin Candie and the rest of his family is, DiCaprio is electric in this role. Hell, I miss him as a character as I watch the rest of the film: upon other watches I’ll tend to stop shortly after his character dies and then resume the film just to get to one more scene. And I should not miss a racist. I should not miss a slave owner. I should not miss Calvin Candie. But because of writing and a masterful performance: I do.

And this isn’t a problem Tarantino seems to have in other films. We don’t go through Kill Bill thinking Bill is in the right despite an excellent performance from David Carradine (rest in peace). We spend so much time with The Bride and we learn so much about her revenge mission that no matter how good the performances are in the movie, we hate every single obstacle in her way. The same can be said for Hateful Eight which is a very appropriate title because this movie is devoid of anyone you can empathize with.

Charm is a part of the wider framing of baddies discussion because of the way it hijacks the brain’s logic center and creates a false connection to objectively terrible characters. And we could do an entire post on this just talking about anime (because, really, that’s my wheelhouse and you do not want to get me on that soap box…[Unless, you want me to. Leave a comment if you’d like for there to be a follow up to this just talking about anime.]) Charm is used to make you like a bad character and even though the frame around that character may still tell you this character is bad, it’s hard to hate someone who is so confidently evil.

It’s summed up by a line Negan gives us in The Walking Dead:

“I just slid my dick down your throat. And you thanked me for it.”

That’s it. The blog post could just be that line but I would like ad revenue one of these days and the current algorithm doesn’t like the profanity. But it’s exactly that swagger that made me want to cosplay Negan. It was that exact confidence and bravado that made me want to build a bat and made me walk with a little more power in my step. The moment I put on that jacket and zipped up my boots, I felt strong despite knowing that fact that Negan is a monster and wanting to be like him means becoming a monster.

Charm makes Ozymandias seem like a normal business man in Watchmen. Charm makes a racist lovable. And charm makes a literal Nazi a rooted for hero.

Charm is a skill good actors should have and really does separate the good from the great. The performances mentioned in this post are masterful and some of my favorites of all time and that is what makes them so damn insidious.

 

When I Say “I’m Tired”

“Tired, tired with nothing, tired with everything, tired with the world’s weight he had never chosen to bear.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned.png

It wasn’t long after my birthday that Amber finally pressed me  further when I said that I was tired casually at brunch. It’s a response that I give often to the tedious question of “How are you?” and its variants. It’s a bit of a default response from me nowadays but the people that actually care about me that have noticed it. So I wanted to go over a few of the reasons why you’ve been hearing me say “I’m tired.” quite a bit.


It’s a Default Response

Typically, if I say “I’m tired.” I’m probably just avoiding answering the question of “How are you?” and its many disguises. I’m seldom intentionally trying to be rude with this answer (sometimes I am, see “catcalling” as an example) but I find it hard to be open with that question. Many people don’t want to hear that I may be a little sad because I miss my parents. Or that my day at work was long. Or that I’m really thinking about how a snake would hold a knife. It’s a means of protecting for the both of us, really. You don’t really want to know how I am if you don’t know the full leathery demon that I am. If you are, however, formally acquainted with my true casual swamp witch self then there may be other reasons why I’m saying “I’m tired.”


I Am Actually Tired

I have insomnia (likely caused by anxiety but we’ll get to that). I’m also anemic (thanks, endometriosis) and I’m not too proud to admit that I don’t always take great care of myself. My job is sedentary and occasionally I have a fickle appetite that means that dinner is Hawaiian sweet rolls and a dream. None of this likely helps the fact that I am truly an insomniac. That means there are plenty of nights that I just do not sleep. I take a fair amount of medication to make sure that I do sleep but every once in awhile, that fails me and I am up, awake and alert with my thoughts as the rest of the world sleeps. It is normally pretty easy to tell the difference, though, between being physically tired or emotionally tired. You can tell if I am actually tired by the size of the bags under my eyes: if I just look slightly puffy, probably did sleep some the night before. If you could, in fact, check my bags as luggage while flying, then I probably didn’t sleep and I would suggest not speaking or moving too quickly without dropping off tacos or coffee to appease me.


I Am Emotionally Tired (Because of Mental Health)

I am anxious. My thoughts can be oppressive and unkind. That means that emotionally, I am seldom allowed to rest. It means that oftentimes in my mind I hear mostly negative things about myself and mostly untrue things that my friends must certainly feel about me. My brain is always buzzing and that noise makes it very hard to really rest. I joke oftentimes that my panels are written at 3 A.M. and while that’s said in jest, sometimes it’s true. I do try to use the time I am awake with the owls to create and be creative but often times that just leaves me more tired. Being anxious on its own is a burden to carry but the way it affects my sleep schedule and clouds my mind is insidious. So even though I may have physically slept for several hours, most of it isn’t restorative or restful.


I Am Emotionally Tired (Because the World is a Hot Dumpster Fire)

While at Jo-Ann Fabrics not long ago, when asked “Why are you tired?” as a somewhat valid follow-up question from a questionably concerned cashier my response was thus:

“Ennui, malaise, the patriarchy, microaggressions, racismhomophobia, sexism…I can go on.”

She was satisfied with my answer or at least annoyed that I was flippant. But obnoxious response aside, I’m not entirely joking when I provide those as answers to the question of “Why are you tired?”

It’s exhausting having to go through day to day life being worried if someone is going hurt and/or kill me for being myself. And this is a feeling I have never had before in my life. I am from a remarkable amount of privilege and even though my life may not always be conventional, I’ve been never worried about someone hating me or hurting me because of who I am. This irrational (let’s be real, it’s pretty rational) fear is incredibly taxing and takes up more of my brain than I like admitting. And I’m a social media manager, I don’t have the luxury or ability to “just log off”; it is my job to stay connected. But all of it really is quite draining. It’s exhausting having to day in and day out hear catcalls and statements that either seek to qualify or quantify my level of blackness or whiteness. It’s exhausting looking at social media to see another mass shooting, another racially or gender/sex-based crime. It’s tiresome watching the president flail around and thus play chess with human lives. The world is a dumpster fire; the good news is we can recover from a dumpster fire but that doesn’t mean that the fumes and fallout are pleasant to enjoy while it burns.


I’m finally realizing just how often I say “I’m tired.” in day to day life. It’s not something I’m proud of. It’s a lazy verbal shorthand for a myriad of feelings. I can be more vulnerable. I’m pretty used to putting myself second while also always being afraid of putting too much on people so this is a clever little trick to give an answer without giving an answer: it defuses people who are asking either out of obligation or a shallow level of caring and it also builds a wall around me from having to answer to the people who actually do care about me.

I’ll try to be more careful with my words in the future: I’m a writer after all, I can do better.