The Book That Sparked My Atheism

While I have contended that I never really believed in God as a kid, and still hold true to that, there was a book that really got to me when I was thinking about what it meant to believe in a deity.  A lot of atheists have books by Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris or people like that, but to me there was one book that truly took my thoughts about a religious being and calcified them into a perfect blend of terror.  That book is what I believe to be the best work by H.P. Lovecraft “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”  A story that tells of a man who goes into an isolated community and learns things that slowly distort his mind until he doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not anymore.

Can you think of a perfect metaphor for religion?  A values system that those who follow it believe in whole-heartedly and never have even a moment’s worth of criticism.  A belief structure that gets people so wrapped up in its narrative that they eventually cannot tell what is real unless it is the reality that they are told to believe in.  And any threat to that reality is actively attacked by its members.  Yup, religion in a nutshell.

But here’s the difference – in “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” the narrator finds out that the deity that this cult believes in is real.  He realizes that they are worshiping, communing, and even trying to cross-breed with being who are ancient and powerful.  Beings who are massive and beyond comprehension.  The Deep Ones are found to be real, but this knowledge destroy the minds of everyone who comes into contact with them.  See, the gods of this story and the Cthulhu Mythos surrounding it are not beings who care about if you stick your dick in another man’s butt.  They are creatures who are ageless, unknowable and see humans as so far beneath their concern that they act as they see fit without any input from those in the cult surrounding them.

When I think about a being that is capable of creating the entire universe, do you know what comes to mind – the Deep Ones.  I mean, why on Earth would a God give five shits about us?  What would be to it?  In the span of time that this universe has existed, with all the countless civilizations in the stars who have risen and fallen in the billions of years that this cosmos has existed, this idea that a divine being actually created us and watches us close enough to the point that they care if a man has sex with another man just makes me laugh.  It’s the pinnacle of absurd.

Something the book was very good at was portraying the narrators as small, and their lives as meaningless.  In the scope of the universe, that’s true.  We are insignificantly tiny.  We aren’t even a pixel in the massive image of the cosmos.  Given the size of the cosmos, we aren’t even an atom in it.  We are a subatomic particle.  If the size of the universe is our model, humanity isn’t even that.  We are NOTHING in the face of reality.  So when my religious friends tell me all about how God has our backs and cares deeply about us, it strikes me as complete hubris.  After all, since there is no possible way that countless civilizations better than us haven’t risen and fallen, then how exactly is it that a being with the power to create all of this finds us so fascinating?  What quality does humanity have that the rest of the universe does not?

And as the book points out, the answer to that question is – nothing.  We are NOTHING in the face of that kind of power.  The Deep Ones see us as meaningless, and so would any kind of god that could conceivably exist.  That reality shook my young mind up when I read the book, but then it made a lot of sense.

Here’s the truth – God is a fairytale that is created because the universe is a scary place.  It’s scary to think that we are so pathetic that we are one cosmic disaster away from not existing anymore.  One asteroid away from letting the octopus have its chance at sentience and living in the world we leave behind.  When people are faced with that kind of helplessness, it’s easy to just reach out to whatever source of moral comfort you can find in order to not feel so small and meaningless anymore.

Just like at the end of the book, however, we all must realize that religion is a delusion, and the God that you worship wouldn’t give a single fuck about you anymore than the Deep Ones did about that community.  Unknowable, infinite.  And when you think about the fact that infinite realities probably exist with infinite possibilities, then God would probably end up like Rick from Rick and Morty.  The only reason he is so cold and cruel is because he realized how meaningless his own life is because of the sheer amount of existences that he has been able to see.

But that’s just me.

Until next time, a quote,

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – H.P. Lovecraft

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONL: Why I Like Game of Thrones More than Lord of the Rings

Before we get started – I am not talking about the books.  Both J. R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin have the same problem in their writing that keeps me from truly enjoying the literature versions – they have LONG and boring descriptions that can go on for page after page.  It is so tiresome to read, after a while.  I respect the literary works for the masterpieces that they are, but the writing style is too stuffy for me.  Instead, I am going to talk about the stories overall, along with the worlds that they inhabit, and why I think the Martin’s creation is more enriching than Tolkien’s.  Keep an open mind, and you might have some thoughts on this as well.

Tolkien made the fantasy genre.  I will give credit where it’s due.  The style that he made, the myth format that he used.  So much of the hero story that we know today came from his books, and so I must admit that Martin followed in his footsteps.  But where Tolkien wanted to tell a story about a hero on a mythical journey, Martin wanted to tell a story about a world.  It’s a tale where there is no true hero, and no true villain.  Well, okay, aside from the White Walkers and their army of the dead.  They are pretty damn evil.  But that still works in the world that they are telling.  It’s a force beyond all others.  A force so powerful and so vile that it can bring this entire feuding world together.

The thing I like most about Game of Thrones is that its fantasy elements are played down quite a bit.  You don’t have the orcs and the spirits.  Sure, there are dragons, but it’s played that the dragons are just animals.  The Dire Wolves, while awesome, are just animals.  Each part of the world has some amazing animals, but they are still just animals.  Part of why I couldn’t get into The Witcher games is because I feel like I’ve seen this all before.  A world of magical animals and magic stuff.  The trolls and chimeras and all of that.  In Martin’s world, the bulk of what is there are just animals.  That’s not to say that there is no magical stuff.

Here’s where I give that Tolkien and Martin got the same idea, and both of them do it well.  Both of them treat magic like it is some secretive thing.  The truth about it is hidden in folklore and superstition.  Magic is treated as something to be feared.  In the world of Game of Thrones, it has ties to darkness, fire, blood, ice, and death.  Those who practice it are shunned by the world at large.  They are seen as those connected to something evil.  To be fair, that’s because a lot of the magic in the series does tie into bad things.  The shadow monster birthed to kill Renly.  The magic the White Walkers use to reanimate the dead (for real, that scene where you see all the dead rise again gave me chills!), the images in the fire.  These things are something to fear.  But magic wasn’t always that way.  You see the Children of the Forest, and how they used magic, along with the First Men, to seal away the White Walkers, and end the Long Night.

But the thing that truly separates Game of Thrones from Lord of the Rings is that the world of the former feels connected.  All of these families, these nations.  The conflicts.  The heroes on all sides.  When you hear the story about Aegon Targaryan and his conquest of the Seven Kingdoms (well, six.  He never did break House Martell), it feels like a story from a world that, aside from the dragons, makes sense.  You see the workings of this world.  The ties that bind people together.  The players and forces in every place, slowly picking away at each other.  You see these forces at work, and it feels like a real place.  Not some magical kingdom where magic things happen, but somewhere that one can feel and touch.

We need more fantasy like this.  Stories where it isn’t always about saving the world.  Where sometimes it is just about surviving day to day.  Where it is about revenge, glory, or finding a home.  So much science fiction has this same problem.  The world is in danger in Game of Thrones, but that danger is understood to be something that is building.  When it blows up, it’s gonna be epic.  I get the feeling that the last season is going to be the War for the Dawn.  The end of the Long Night.  When the White Walkers are destroyed, once and for all.  That will be cool.  But I know that that isn’t where the series will truly end.  It will end by showing how it is still about these people.  The characters we have come to care about.  Tyrion, Arya, Jon Snow (who I am certain we are going to see again.  His part in this story isn’t over), any others.

Lord of the Rings set a standard.  It takes its rightful place as great literature.  But it’s world feels grand and bombastic.  The world of Westeros feels like somewhere that I can see.  This series keeps getting better and better.  I read the wiki and learn the lore surrounding these people.  It’s engaging stuff.  The wait for season 6 is so damn hard.  Part of me hopes that the end of season 7 is when the Wall comes down.  When you see it get blasted open, and the dead spill out.  Talk about a mindfuck!

But that’s just me.  Let me know what you think.

Until next time, a quote,

“I had given up on life, until Varys convinced me you might be worth living for.  If you chop of my head, well, my final days were interesting.”  -Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR: An Animorphs Movie? Ugh…

Let me tell you all about my history with films being made out of books I love – almost every single one of them has sucked.  Badly.  Whether they be films where they missed the point, or ones where they throw what made the books so good in the first place right out the freakin’ window, every time I hear that a book or book series that I loved or love is being made into a movie, I am immediately skeptical.  Admit it – you all are too.  Now, I have learned today that another book series that I love is having a film made.  As you can imagine, I am beyond skeptical.  Let me give you a little background on a bunch of crap and maybe you’ll understand why.

First, let’s talk about how Hollywood has butt-fucked books I love.  I remember when I saw the preview for The Golden Compass.  A book that was, quite-directly, making light of corruption in the Catholic church.  That book wasn’t even mildly subtle about it.  But that was fine with me.  The years when I read that were when I my lack of belief in God was taking shape.  I had never really believed before then.  This book was helping me understand why.  They decided to turn it into a movie, and what did I think?  I think that it was the most dull and uninspired fantasy story that I have ever seen.  They took out all the religious elements, and it was basically just a boring story about some nebulous evil and some heroic character.  The religious element is what made the story work!

Then there are the adaptations that just fall so short.  Like my thoughts on the Harry Potter films.  I genuinely don’t like them.  Why?  Two major things.  First – they ruined one of my favorite characters!  In the books, Luna Lovegood is an almost-mystic character.  The one who sees clarity when it is needed.  She is also loyal, and as I have said in another post, almost-certainly gay (don’t bring up that crap with the book that came out where it is in their future.  Way I see it, that book doesn’t exist.  Rowling has been trying to red-con her lore for years now).  It’s what made her so interesting, to me.  But the films, she’s just a quirky nerd who gets picks on for…I don’t know.  Reasons.  Second – the films all ruin the big reveals of each book.  The best part of each book is the climax, when you find out what it was all for.  That moment when all the build-up has a payoff and you are stuck feeling so psyched about what is going to happen.  In the films, all those scenes were so rushed!  The worst one was the third film.  The reveal of Sirius Black is one of the greatest scenes in the entire series, and that film passed over it so fast that it might as well have not happened at all.

However, the book adaptation that took the biggest dump on something I truly love was the film version of World War Z.  I fucking hate that movie with such bitter passion.  It took all the brilliant social commentary and awesome perspectives of the book and basically tossed that out, with the whole movie just being Brad Pitt being a stereotypical super-dad cliche.  I hate that movie so much, but I’ve already talked in long detail about how much I hate it.  Thank the Spirits that Max Brooks made sure that people knew that this had nothing to do with his book.  The only thing that his book and that movie have in common was the title.

So yeah, Hollywood ruins a lot of the books that I love.  Now, they are taking a crack at another franchise that I am absolutely in love with – Animorphs.  This was my favorite book series, growing up.  It was so far ahead of its time in looking at some incredibly dark themes about war, innocence, death, the cost of living, and what it means to be human, and it was a book for pre-teens and early teens.  That is fucking amazing.  If it weren’t for the fact that the series has an ending so bad that I choose to believe that it never happened, it would be one of the greatest series ever told.

It tells the story of five young people, who, by sheer chance, end up in a construction site together.  They are there when an alien ship crashes, and they find out that the sole occupant, Elfangor, is dying.  He implores them to take a special weapon called the Morphing Cube, and to use it to help defend their world from an alien force that is invading called the Yeerks.  These are creatures that exist as slug, can invade a person’s brain through the ear canal and then take over your mind,  essentially making you a slave.  They are slowly taking over the planet, and these five youth, along with later on an alien friend named Aximili Esgarrouth Isthill (just Ax, for short) are all the stands between them and dominating the entire planet.

The series was dark as all get-out.  Each book is from a different character’s perspective, and each one looks at their own life and how they deal with certain elements.  Whether it be their leader, Jake, and him having to lead a guerrilla war and live a normal life (with his brother Tom being a high-ranking Yeerk Controller), Tobias adjusting to living his life as nothlit (a person who gets stuck in morph), Ax trying to find a place among people who find him alien and a world that he finds alien as well, or Marco and living with a single dad, knowing that his mother is alive and a Controller who is leading to invasion of Earth.  Every character has their own sides.  There is also my favorite – Rachel.  She goes from an adrenaline junkie to being addicted to the violence by the end of the series.  Part of why I hate the end of the series so much is that it was done deliberately to gloss over that part of the story.

Another thing – these books were violent as fuck!  They were gory, grotesque, and didn’t shy away from what was happening.  Actual people died because of what these kids were doing.  They were aware of it too.  Having five youth bearing the weight of countless lives being lost in their effort to save all of humanity.  Man is that not something that I can see translating easily to film.  And that’s the long and short of my problem with this film.  They won’t want to look at the harsh stuff.  This is modern Hollywood, remember.  These people hate stuff that makes people uncomfortable like Donald Trump hates a hard question that he can’t turn into a joke.  Will this film (or films) be able to make this into what it was meant to be – a story telling a rather depressing story about six youths who are trying in what seems like a hopeless battle at first?  Or will they water it down as fuck, in order to sell it to people?  My money is on the latter.  There is too much history for me to think otherwise.

So, here we have Hollywood taking something else I grew up with and loved, and ruining it.  It’s almost a guarantee, and I am so disappointed.  Oh well, I guess…

Until next time, a quote,

“For a long time, I have regarded Rachel as representing one end of the continuum of human behavior.  What all humans would become if the war went on long enough.  That perception has guided many of my decisions.  An entire human race of Rachels – angry, merciless, aggressive, armed with Yeerk and Andalite technology.  It was a terrifying specter.
But perhaps…perhaps I had been wrong.  Perhaps the real menace lay at the other end of the continuum – represented by Cassie.  Humans who were kinder, softer, well-meaning.
And ironically – infinitely more dangerous.”  -Ax, Animorphs

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: 50 Shades of Grey (Film)

Fifty Shades of GreyIt’s finally happened.  I’ve finally seen a movie that my friends were BEGGING me to go with them to see in theaters.  They all thought that it was going to be a big laugh, and that we would sneak in some booze to the theater, a practices we have done many times before, to help with the lulz.  I couldn’t do it.  I have hated that story for ages, and I wasn’t about to let a movie theater have anymore money than necessary. Not for this garbage.  I new that that film would SUCK the moment I saw the trailers.  Hell, the moment I saw the book.  It’s all such garbage.  Garbage based on garbage!  It started out at Twilight fan-fiction!  The fuck?!  Who would believe that I would pay money to see that?!  Well, after much pushing, I relented and watched it on Netflix.  I promised that I would do a review of this film, and I am a man of my word.  Hopefully you all appreciate what I put myself through for you.

The first thing to know about this film is that its target audience is sad, middle-aged, suburban housewives whose marriages have dried up beyond recognition. The second thing to know about this film is that, must like the book, they can’t write a good Dom/sub relationship.  The book doesn’t get how the dynamic works, and neither does this film.  There are plenty of articles written about why the book misrepresents D/s relationships, so you can find that on your own.  But I feel I have to clarify these statements, before I go any further.

Keeping with my formula, let’s talk about the “plot” of this film.  I’m sure that I’m talking to myself here.  Everyone has seen this movie, by now.  The plot goes that Anastasia Steele (the ultimate porn name) gets out of college and goes to work for Christian Grey (not such a good porn name, but still decent).  But, she also goes to work for him, in bed! (Ooooooh!) Thus begins the awkward and forced-as-fuck romance between the two of them.  And that’s it.  There is no more plot to this film.  This film’s entire marketing is that it’s the same boring romance film, with an exotic edge.  That’s it.  Take out the S&M stuff, and this film is about as interesting as going to the zoo.

Man, what to talk about when looking at this movie.  I guess the first thing that I really want to point out is that this film sucks.  It really, really sucks. My friends all thought that they were going to go into the movie and get a good laugh at it.  They believed that it would suck in a way where it’s kind of funny.  And to be honest, it doesn’t.  This is just a genuinely terrible movie, with no real enjoyment factor coming from how bad it is.

The strange part about how bad of a move this is is the fact that the director and everyone involved with the production side of this film actually tried to make it as good as they could.  It’s like this person understood what a giant pile of shit she was handed, so she wanted to at least make it good enough to be forgotten.  If that makes sense. Like, with the writing she was given, she could have gone all the way and made this on the same level as porn.  It wouldn’t have been hard. Going all the way to mega-smut levels would have been easy.  I mean, have you read any of that book?  The narration makes it sound like the author is orgasming every fourth page!  This film doesn’t have that narration.  It is told straight.  But this director could have kept that narration in there.  She could have made it so that this film was just as smutty as the book.  But she didn’t.  She tried to class it up a bit.  A noble effort, but misplaced.  And it didn’t work.  This film still sucks.  A lot.  But dear God did she try and make it better.  I guess the goal was to make it so that it was only bad to the point that nobody will be thinking about it in 10 years.  If so, bravo, good madam.  You succeeded.  This film will be forgotten in a few years.

All of that said, this movie still sucks.  I got the impression throughout the entire film that every actor was doing this for the fame.  They knew that Fifty Shades of Grey was hot, so they knew that being in this shit would get them name recognition.  It was a ploy, and not the greatest one, either.  Oh well, if that’s what they want to do.  I remember hearing something about how the main dude who played Grey regretted being in this film.  Self-awareness is a powerful trait.

Honestly not sure what else to say about this film.  The sex scenes weren’t that hot.  That was the marketing behind the book.  It was porn, for women.  But the director of this movie clearly didn’t know what she was doing with making scenes like that.  The actors clearly didn’t know what they were doing in making the kinky scenes.  Everyone involved would have been well-served by watching porn and taking notes.  It would have made this far more enjoyable.  What the hell, it wasn’t going to be good.  So at least it could be memorable.  This movie is so awful.

I suppose I could also talk about the “romance” element.  It…existed.  It wasn’t a situation like Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman in Star Wars: Episode II, where they had AWFUL chemistry.  Nor did they have good chemistry.  It…existed.  There was just enough chemistry there to sell it, but not enough to make me believe it.  Though, from what my friends told me, none of the housewives who were in the theater to see this shit wanted to see the romance anyway.  There were huffs and puffs of impatience for the sex.  See what I mean about them going all the way with the smut?  The target audience for this crap clearly wants to see porn, but they want it to be classy enough so that they don’t get compared to men.  It’s a bummer that this film is too self-aware to go that far.

All-in-all, this was a bad movie.  But for those who are looking for a film that is so bad that you can laugh at it, I’m afraid that you’ll be disappointed.  Oh, why am I bothering.  Everyone who wanted to see this film, for whatever reason, already has.  I am just making this review for my own gratification, so the audience that I have knows how much I think that two hours of my time was wasted.  Keelah Se’lai.

Final Verdict
5 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

 

SIONR: Katniss vs. Ellie

I recently read an article that said that Katniss Everdeen from the teen books and film series ‘The Hunger Games’ is the greatest heroine of our time.  That is…ridiculous.  For real, that is the most insane thing.  I genuinely don’t get who buys into that.  Obviously, the lunatic teen girl fans of the book would.  Naturally.  But who else?  Well, we do live in the era of Twitter and Tumblr feminism, and her character is practically made to please that type of person.  Now, to preface this, I am going to talk about her character in the films.  In the books, there were definite flaws to address.  But in the movies, she is stoic, overly-strong, stone-faced and needs no man to help her.  In other words, she’s the ubermensch for women.  But is she the greatest female protagonist of our time?  Well, the answer to that is easy – no.  There is another who comes off the top of my head who kicks her ass in every way.  I shouldn’t need to say this, but *spoiler alert* or the content ahead.  The character is Ellie, from the greatest game of last year, ‘The Last of Us.’

Katniss EverdeenFirst, let’s examine Katniss, so we can get all our ducks in a row.  She is part of a world that is oppressive to poor people.  Unnecessarily so, considering how they have technology that can spawn animals out of nowhere.  Katniss is a poor person who, in the films, is in remarkably good health.  For real, I didn’t see a single sign of starvation on that girl.  Though that wouldn’t appeal to the teenage girl audience – a girl who looks anorexic.  Might send the wrong message.  She is involved in one of the stupidest systems of picking someone ever, that would be so easy to fuck with.  For real, if the amount of entries controls how much food you get, why not have the entire town declare someone to be the candidate, train them to be the ultimate killer and then share the wealth of the food.  Later on in the first film, it seems that other Districts might have figured this out.  But I digress.

Katniss’ sister is picked, and she then volunteers to go instead.  So, self-sacrificing to save her family.  That’s cool.  She gets picked, and is shown to be willing to take stupid risks to impress potential benefactors, like when she shoots the space next to that one dude’s head.  I would have thought that that was a failed assassination attempt, given how they just watched her miss a shot in a big way.  Also, she has no backbone.  She is in a car with a rich woman, who is clearly unarmed and defenseless.  Given that her entire part of the world is oppressed, it never occurred to her to kill her?  Or maybe hold her hostage?  Anything?  Not to mention – she is on a television show that everybody is watching before the Games, and she doesn’t go all George Carlin and scream “what the fuck is wrong with you people?!  Seriously, do you all not realize how crazy this is?!”  For all the stoic strength she is supposed to have, there are a TON of instances where she doesn’t do shit when she should obviously have done something.  But then we wouldn’t have the PG-13 violence that is really unbelievable.  It makes the fact that Katniss routinely avoids danger by running or hiding look that much worse.

When she finally is the victor, the girl is like a lost puppy.  She sees everything going to shit all around her, and she does jack-diddle.  In the second film, up until Hunger Games II (for real, it’s the exact same thing over again), she does nothing.  It’s kind of pathetic.  Districts are rising up, looking to her as their inspiration, and she does nothing.  There is an instance with a dude getting beaten, but that’s it.  You volunteered for a death battle to save your little sis.  How’s about throwing in for the people risking their ass because you inspired them?

And don’t even get us started on the “romance” between her and Peeta.  For real, that is the most forced relationship ever.  EVER!  There is no chemistry.  They never seem to grow.  The only reason she kissed him was because a sponsor told her to, if she wanted some of the stuff he could magically teleport to her.  It lacks all believability, but they’re attractive, so people buy it.  Teen girls are dumb like that.  Oh, and could she PLEASE look something other than serious?  For real, have some kind of other emotion.  You’re like Bella Swan, in that regard.

Ellie 2Now, let’s look to Ellie.  This girl grew up in a world that is infinitely more oppressive than Katniss.  It is a post-apocalyptic nightmare.  She lives in a walled city that is defended by the remnants of the military, who make up a dictatorial government.  All children are raised in a special “school” that is more of an orphanage and training facility, where they are raised and trained to kill dissidents, like the Fireflies.  Unlike Katniss, Ellie is thrown into her situation by circumstances out of her control.  When she discovers that she is immune to the fungus that has destroyed humanity, she faces that down and wants to do what she can.  This is partly tied up in how many people she has lost in her lifetime, but that’s a whole other thing.

This girl is not like Katniss.  She is not just strong and stoic.  She’s a kid.  She has childish moments and childish views on certain things.  But she isn’t above sticking up for her people.  When she first meets Joel, she tries to stab him, because she believes that he has hurt the woman looking after her, Marlene.  When she sees that Joel is cold towards her, she is the same to him.  But, like a real kid, she tries to be his friend.  That’s how kids do.  They want to bond with someone that they feel they can trust.  But her companion has his own baggage that he is dealing with.  But the two grow on one-another.  That’s another defining character trait that differs from Katniss.  Ellie isn’t just super-strong, able to face down the world.  She needs help, and she knows it.  Part of her fear in being alone is that she has lost so many people who have tried to help her.

Which brings us to her relationship with Joel.  The defining relationship of the game is between the two of them.  It is the center around which the entire game revolves.  At its core, ‘The Last of Us’ is a story about two people who find something in one-another that makes them able to live again.  It’s not some big story about saving the world, though there are elements of that in there.  It’s about two people and the love that forms between them, along with how far they will go to save each other.  Some have said that Ellie has “daddy-issues’ because of certain segments of the game where Joel looks after her and she breaks down with him.  These views are from people who have clearly never played the game, so they have no context.

See, in real life, nobody is just self-assured and able to take on all elements of the world stoically.  In real life, people have problems.  People have flaws.  People have baggage.  People have weaknesses.  Ellie has a deep-seated fear and belief that she will always be alone.  Time and time again, people in her life die, often in terrible ways.  Whenever she feels that she can hope, something comes into her life to break that.  Joel is the only person who has stuck with her.  He has risked his life for her.  The paternal relationship that develops between them is strong specifically because it is believable.  You can feel the span of time that their love grew.  The passing seasons mark a change in their dynamic.

But Ellie is no pushover.  Despite being a kid, she’s been toughened up by the world she lives in.  When Joel is injured, and she is alone, you see a side of her that is scared, trying to hold together.  She can not only handle a bow.  She can handle a pistol, a rifle, nail-bombs and a shotgun.  Let’s see Katniss do that!  For real, let’s see her blow some bandit’s brains out.  That would have made the BORING Hunger Games PG-13 violence more interesting.  Not to mention believable.

So yeah, Katniss has got shit on Ellie.  Can Ellie get some recognition, now?  Oh, wait, she’s a video game character.  I forgot that video games are still looked down upon by the academic and mainstream types.  Silly me…

Until next time, a quote,

“Everybody I’ve ever cared about has either died or left me!  Everybody, fucking except you!  So don’t tell me that I’d be safer with somebody else!  ‘Cause the truth is that I’d just be more scared.”  -Ellie, The Last of Us

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR: Insultingly-Stupid Adaptation Movies (like The Lorax and The Giver)

There are some people who always get really excited when they see that an adaptation of their favorite books is being made into a film.  I learned long ago to temper my expectations quite a bit.  Many years of disappointment and bitter resentment on my part has told me that hoping for a good adaptation is like hoping for the sun to shine in technicolor.  It’s just not going to happen, unless we keep pumping the sludge of our existence into the sky.  Even then, it’ll be perception.

However, there is one thing that I’ve noticed in adaptation movies that REALLY gets under my skin, especially in kids’ books – they dumb them down to almost absurd levels.  I remember when I saw the previews for one of my favorite books growing up being made into a film – The Giver.  The first thing I noticed in the trailers was – it’s all in color.  What the fuck?!  Why is this movie being shot in color?!  Did they not realize that the entire point of this book was that the world was in grey, with the main character gradually being able to see in color?  They couldn’t have done something like in the underrated film “Pleasantville” and combined effects?  With digital editing, that should have been easy.

The next thing I noticed is – why is there a villain in this movie?  There was no evil person in the book.  The villain was society.  The society of the world that story inhabited had culturally stagnated and was gradually washing away.  It’s the reason that the main character wanted so much to leave that place.  There was a large undertone that said something Mordin Solus said in Mass Effect 2 about how there has to be cultural growth for a species to truly survive.  Otherwise, they are just mindless machines that are slowly perishing.  That is what the villain of “The Giver” was – cultural stagnation.  All the memories that the main character was given, he realized that there was so much more outside of the dead world he inhabited.  That’s why he wanted to escape.  So why couldn’t that be what the film is based on?

All this takes me back to the absolutely-awful adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax.”  The story was about a young boy who lives in a polluted world where no trees exist.  He meets a man who was responsible for killing the forest.  You never see that man’s face, implying that he could be anyone.  You see him wrestling with himself about cutting down the forest, but constantly coming up with reasons to continue, despite understanding how destructive it is.  But it also pointed out that he had workers at his factory, and that they made their livelihood there.  Should they just go hungry?  It was a book with no clear answers about what is right and what is wrong.  In the end, the boy is given a seed that could birth the last tree, and he is given a choice of whether or not to plant it.  It was a book that gave no definitive answers, showing that these are also choices that we have to make too, and that there are no easy answers.

The film?  The film has a “cool” boy protagonist who rides a kind of moped around.  The man telling the story not only has a face, but in his youth was a “rockin'” hipster who will be dated in the next five to ten years.  They have a pointless villain who is generically evil and totally wants the forest to remain destroyed so he can keep doing his EVIL work.  And in the end, the whole city gathers to plant the last seed, ending with a song number about how awesome the forest is.  Because that’s how life is – right?  Easy, simply answers?  No real problems?  No hard choices that all have consequences?  I guess so, because this movie says so!

I do NOT get why these films are being dumbed down so much.  Is it because they think that a film about complicated things would lose the audience’s interest?  Is anything that doesn’t have a happy-ending too hard for kids to swallow now?  Are we now thinking that the youth of today are so fucking stupid that we can’t feed them hard questions?  Are we so lazy that to build a narrative that makes sense, we have to follow the superhero arc?  Is that what we think is right?

Well, let me tell you – if you think that, then you are making a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You see, by treating the youth like they’re fucking idiots who can’t think for themselves, we’re helping to make them that way.  By not asking them to really think about the issues they’re facing, we are helping to breed a world filled with mindless automatons who only care about what stupid shit they can put on Instagram and what crappy song One Direction has come out with.  That’s who we are bring up behind us, by not having them actually care about the big issues.

So, does that mean that we should just drown them in real-world stuff that makes them totally depressed?  Hell no.  If anything, the best reason to make a faithful adaptation of these books is because this is a medium that would be easier to swallow.  It would allow the youth to look at a complex issue in a way that they don’t have to feel like the world is nothing but shit.  It puts things in front of them in a way that they can recognize it in a real-world scenario and wonder what the right thing to do is.  That’s the way that we can actually make movies that aren’t helping to make the youth dumber and dumber.

You know, like how The Hunger Games and its ilk are.

Until next time, a quote,

“Cultural artistic expression reflects philosophical evolution, interest in growth, perspective, observation, interpretation. Suspect you won’t see any art in Collector’s base. Culturally dead ! Tools for the Reapers ! Worse than the geth.”  -Mordin Solus, Mass Effect 2

Peace out,

Maverick

Why Are We Still Genre-Shaming? (A Response to Slate Magazine)

Something that most people know about me is that I HATE listening to arguments about how video games cause violence.  It is a tired an old argument that nobody who has even a modicum of knowledge about video games knows that that isn’t true.  It is just like how feminists like Anita Sarkeesian try and shame men for playing video games.  Or how those who like to cosplay are made fun of.  Shaming based on what you like is as old as time itself, and now I have seen an article by Slate Magazine where they make the argument that adults who read books for young adults and children should be ashamed of themselves.  Here is a link to the article, now let’s take it apart piece-by-piece.

These are the books that could plausibly be said to be replacing literary fiction in the lives of their adult readers. And that’s a shame.

How?  First – how are young adult books replacing “literary fiction”?  What do you define as “literary fiction?”  For real, Ruth, I want very rigid structure for this term, along with a description to how various youth fiction cannot fit in to it.  It’s ironic that you use books like “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Eleanor and Park.”  These are books that, and we will agree on something here, aren’t particularly thematic and strong.  They are simple stories that are made to make their audiences feel good.

I don’t know if you’ve heard of a series called “His Dark Materials.”  A VERY sub-standard movie was made from the first in the series “The Golden Compass.”  It was a series that was making a point about corruption within the Catholic Church, with a strong theme to protestantism.  It was like an allegory to the end of religion’s place in society.  Is the fact that it involves younger protagonists somehow lesser in literary scope?  Or maybe you’ve heard about the series “Animorphs.”  A series about a war between a group of young people and an alien race that is slowly taking over humanity.  A cold and brutal series about the loss of innocence and the cold reality of having to grow up too fast.  By your criteria, how does that not fall into the category of “literary fiction?”  What separates these things?

Adult fans of these books declare confidently that YA is more sophisticated than ever. This kind of thing is hard to quantify, though I will say that my own life as a YA reader way back in the early 1990s was hardly wanting for either satisfaction or sophistication.

I’m not following your argument.  If you believe that these books are satisfying and sophisticated, then what is your issue?  I’m really dying to see, because it comes back to the same idea as people who get on people for still liking Disney movies.  Both arguments sound very familiar.  Yet, if you ask any film critic, you will hear them still talking fondly about how these movies talked to both kids and adults.

Great fiction does the EXACT same thing!  It speaks to people of all ages, and we digest it individually.  Are you really going to sit there and make the argument that people who read these books for reasons all their own is wrong because you don’t see things the same way?  Where do you get off judging people by that criteria?!

If I’m being honest, it also left me saying “Oh, brother” out loud more than once. Does this make me heartless? Or does it make me a grown-up? This is, after all, a book that features a devastatingly handsome teen boy who says things like “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things” to his girlfriend, whom he then tenderly deflowers on a European vacation he arranged.

You asked “does it make ma a grown-up?”, which leads me to wonder – how do you define a grown-up?  If you say “people who read adult books,” I’ll kick you in the taint.  Does becoming a grown-up automatically mean that you are not into cheesy romantic dialogue?  Tell me, and do be honest – you NEVER watch romantic comedies, right?  I mean, if you look at some of that dialogue, and the dialogue in the film “The Notebook,” how can you say that this is any worse?  What separates the cheesy BS dialogue in adult fiction from the BS dialogue in young adult fiction?  You remark how people read it for escapist purposes – what exactly do you think that people read “The Notebook” for?  Insight into the human condition?!

But the very ways that YA is pleasurable are at odds with the way that adult fiction is pleasurable. There’s of course no shame in writing about teenagers; think Shakespeare or the Brontë sisters or Megan Abbott. But crucially, YA books present the teenage perspective in a fundamentally uncritical way.

Are you kidding me?!  How you ever read books like “His Dark Materials?”  Have you ever read the “Pendragon” series?  Have you read the “Uglies” series?  The “Uglies” series in-particular is very critical of the teenage perspective.  Each book was a reference to a different identity problem with teenagers.  “Uglies” was a book about self-esteem problems.  “Beauties” was about the desire to be beautiful and cutting to deal with stress and to feel.

Your problem, from where I’m sitting is this – you do not have enough exposure to young adult fiction.  In other worse – you are writing from an ignorant position.  You read the books that are popular, particularly to teenage girls, and you decide to make a case about how everyone should think based on that.  All you do is look at simple fiction, deciding to judge things at face value.

Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this. I know, I know: Live and let read. Far be it from me to disrupt the “everyone should just read/watch/listen to whatever they like” ethos of our era. There’s room for pleasure, escapism, juicy plots, and satisfying endings on the shelves of the serious reader. And if people are reading Eleanor & Park instead of watching Nashville or reading detective novels, so be it, I suppose. But if they are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something.

Nashville?  Really?!  That’s your example of what people should be watching?  Not “Game of Thrones” or “Breaking Bad?”  Not anything that actually challenges conventions?  Given the popularity of “Game of Thrones,” I would think that you would be on that.

If you are going to make the argument that us adults are better than fiction we like, then the simple reality is this – you are another one of these faux-academic critics who believes that you have some enlightened point of view that allows you to shame a crowd of people who you don’t agree with.  That’s kind of pathetic.

Until next time, a quote,

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” -Oscar Wilde

Peace out,

Maverick