Friday, October 23, 2009

Pair of Normals

I’m going to call out the most important film of the decade, and that movie is Paranormal Activity. We’ve still got two movie months left of the 2000’s, but Paranormal Activity crystallizes the decade’s most revealing cultural truth:

White people got boring.

This is a movie where the starring couple seems to have absolutely no defining personalities except for their whiteness. The girl is an English major – which between 1 to 10 on a White scale ranks about an 11. Her defining cute move in the opening of the movie is to play with drum sticks like she’s a cockblocking Joey Kramer from Aerosmith. White girls love to point drum sticks at their boyfriends and say no. It’s like a rock n roll sepulcher. Meanwhile, most of the movie is shot from the eye of her boyfriend, who may have the least qualified job skills to ever hold a camera – he’s a daytrader.

There is literally no effort to distinguish these two Mad Libs from any other (twentysomethings) with (finalcut) making (youtube films) in America. They emote in calibrated bursts, icily studying really fucked up shit in their house with Starbuckian remoteness. A door opens by itself and they are slightly miffed as if their latte were too warm.

All in all, the most racist, stereotypical depiction of white people since Survivor Season One. The ghosts didn’t want her soul. They wanted to crack Kanye West jokes with her.

There was a time when white people were not boring. This magical era was called the 80’s. The heyday of the wisecracking white male action hero (Stallone), or the coked out social climber (Tom Cruise), or a metaphorical combination thereof (Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf).

No one could kill someone without a one liner Shane Black wrote on an inflated breast, and no depiction of an exciting stock sale could be acted without Oliver Stone‘s post Chinese hooker glow.

For white females actresses, they were the most desirable women in the world with simply no ethnic equivalent. There was simply no studio endorsed African American/Latina answer to a Brooke Shields or or Melanie Griffith or Julia Roberts.* For white males, it was Golden Era of larger than life male personalities in their prime in all their shades: Bruce Willis’s Jersey Blue. Harrison Ford’s Yellow corn-fed shucksiness. Robin William’s Psychedlic Rainbow. Jack Nicholson was so dementedly WASP he wore white make-up in Batman and permanently plastered his entitled smile. White people had personality. It was an era where whiteness was embraced and celebrated to the point that an Austrian with a scary Aryan accent became the defacto roided king of Hollywood. 

*Lynda Carter aka Wonder Woman was actually half Mexican, but I didn’t know that until 2007, so she’s disqualified. Also it was through Wikipedia, so it could be bullshit anyway.

It was an era where white people were literally Gods, culminating in the ultimate charismatic white male who ever walked the earth – Ronald Reagan. And then, it was all downhill from there.

Because in the 90’s, white people started getting, well…weird.

They started doing things like shooting themselves (Kurt Cobain) or even worse, singing on stage and cryptically shaking their heads (Eddie Vedder). Shaking for yes? Shaking for no? No one could figure it out. White kids thought that was cool. Grunge was born.

There is a train of thought that in the 90’s black music and culture shifted from cross pollinating  pop culture to dominating it, and as a result white culture became more fringe. As the rise of Snoop and Puff Daddy and Will Smith lobbed a grenade into the gentrified pop cityscape, a part of the white audience moved out further to the burbs and started new colonies. Hence the rise of indie films, music, food, or a combination of all three.*


But that kind of thinking is way too smart for me. So I will blame it on one thing:

Nicole Kidman.

A generation of white actors followed in her bland robot footsteps.  The 2000’s were dominated by measured, calculated act-o-thons.  I call this The Fincher Curve. It peaks at Fight Club in 1999 where Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden is the de facto most charismatic white male of that decade, and then Fincher gives way to experlty measured performance pieces – Panic Room, Zodiac - and returns to Brad Pitt who is now a quite old man child cradled in the arms of Cate Blanchett’s Oscar statue (great flick btw).

It was as if white people wanted  to be boring, ashamed of their excess in the 80’s, mistrustful of the nail that stuck out. White people prophetically were Turning Japanese (I don’t think so).

The most awesome white people in existance were being shunned by their own. Tom Cruise was castigated for being too awesome. Upstart wacko Ben Affleck’s head was too potato shaped, and his sexual infraction too Puerto Rican.* Nic Cage was actually handed the white death sentence: the charge of hamming it. He was having fun on screen, and in the 2000’s, white people do not have fun. In their place, a grim Batman, a deadly serious James Bond, Viggo’s stoic Lord of the Rings, Matt Damon’s smileless Jason Bourne.

*But mostly it was the potato head. White people prefer craniums to be shaped like a UFC fighter’s.

It is as if the white population is suddenly at odds with itself. On one side is a new truly multicultural America, filled with loud mixed people and music and spicy food, Britney & Justin, Pink & Gaga, in a sexualized world of bright clothing and an endlessly repeating 808 track, and everyone is invited to dance. On the other is Radiohead (and you just don’t get it).

As any internet chatboard seems to attest, the only criteria for “credibility” actors is that these actors are not talented, good looking, and funny at the same time. Essentially, they should not be Will Smith.

It seems the coolest white people today are gay, yet when the gay community finally got their shout out in Brokeback Mountain, the two white gay lovers were the most serious, boring gay people ever depicted on film, and to be honest, in actual human history.  No proto Gaga or Kylie soundtrack. Just an Equadorian Indian on a xylophone - music I imagine the daytrader boyfriend of Paranormal Activity might try to score his movie to, if Spielberg didn’t put his foot down and smite his ass with a kick into the lens.

I miss Tom Cruise. I miss Nic Cage. I even miss Potato Head. I will go further and say bring back Bruce Willis when he kept cracking jokes about how shitty rap was, except make them clever this time – have Diablo Cody write Die Hard 5.  And where the fuck are you Meg Ryan?  Your movie relationship with Billy Crystal was trailblazing comparatively in the 80’s – afterall he had a Jewfro. Let my Shia go. It’s time that the non boring white people get out from the large chip Neil Young placed on their shoulder. Seriously, Neil Young sucks.

It’s time for regime change.*

*I’m looking at you, Richard Corliss.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

X-Men & Sex Boys

1) This is a major expansion of a previous blog of mine.

2)  Before I start, let me address my credentials. I am a Spider-Man fan. I am such a geek I own over $100,000 of Spider-Man issues. Therefore I speak with authority, and I have a message to all you Batman lovers: get fucking laid.

Let’s backtrack here and get on neutral ground. Let’s enter the world of X-men.

There was a period of X-men where the comic book was actually a good read. The original Chris Claremont years were an interesting time specifically because he brought female teen angst into the picture. Sure you have your machismo Wolverine issues, but the angry Canadian (no such thing, btw) was often dealing with a team pussywhipped with estrogen: Kitty Pryde, Rogue, Storm, Jean Grey, Dazzler, Psylocke. When Stan Lee created the original X-men the ratio was a balanced gang bang: four guys to one girl. But by the time Claremont was through, the roster was so feminized the gang bang morphed into a girl/girl extravaganza, with Storm and her butch mohawk leading the way.

Unlike most comic books, X-men stories often revolved around the female heroines, and make no mistake, these were all horny girls.


The perception and common knowledge is that X-men is about racism or McCarthyism, but that is the defensively male-centric point of view. Different era’s produce different messages, and in the 80’s when the book was really clicking, plot lines mostly revolved around romances, escalating into marital issues and in the case of Cyclops and Jean Grey – loss of a child (Issue #200, AKA the Ashley Judd issue). X-Men wasn’t about racism or McCarthyism. X-men was Desperate Housewives with superpowers. The only thing Mutants were hiding from the public was the right for teenage boys to play Barbie.

So Bryan Singer got it right - but even more right than he thought. X-men is not an allegorical story where mainstream superheroes stand as metaphors for gay people. X-men is a mainstream superhero book for the teenage male readership to explore their gay side under the guise of fighting ridiculously fey villains - the Hellfire Club, or the supergroup that sounds like they popped out of a Village People song: The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. 

Right. The lady doth protest too much.

Meanwhile, Wolverine is the most butch character in the Marvel Universe because he is a shining counterpart to the Spice Girls he is a part of.  That’s right, for the shamed X-men reader, Wolverine is their beard.

This is the real practical lesson of X-men. We are all a little gay. And that’s fine by me.

Yet fanboys salivate at the theory of the “hardcore” X-men film with mutant powers exploding from Magneto’s hands (coincidentally played by gay gandalf Sir Ian Mckellan). They want “reality.” But like a James Bond villain with a giant laser scope aimed at his crotch, there is a forced tempered break in execution in order to fufill the audience’s wish. They don’t want to see Bond’s nuts vaporized, though that is the likeliest outcome when you are strapped to a table, and they don’t want to see their beard Wolverine die. So like a triumphant Wile E. Coyote, Wolverine manages to defeat Magneto, although his bones are made of metal and Magneto could easily crush him into anal beads for his next Paul Oakenfold rave.

Reality is a tricky thing to demand out of your superhero movies. The problem with asking for versimilitude is that the core superhero logic was designed for the brains of twelve year old boys. Even when the heroes get updated for the modern manchild who can afford $3.99 for a ten minute read, the supposedly complex themes now added to their cartoon origins can become ridiculous. For all the metaphors against anti-semitism X-men can try to infuse, it all gets muddled when you consider that there really are bad mutants trying to take over the world. For all of Xavier’s dreams of equal rights and that humans have no reason to fear mutants and their powers, he does call himself Homo Superior and he spends an awful lot of time trying to protect said human beings from Giant Blobs and crazy shape shifting killers trying to become President by murder. This is the equivalent of a Seinfeld episode in redneck Mississippi where Seinfeld saves their churches while fighting George Costanza, who is hurling bolting flames of World Bank Loans at Christians.

And so, no matter how “real” you may consider Heath Ledger’s portrayal of a preposterous criminal mastermind clown in a purple suit is, it’s still in service of a guy who barely covers his juicy rubber buttocks with a cape. Batman, as a concept, is fucking dumb.

Bruce Wayne is the richest man in Gotham and also the crime fighter who saves people from the city's rampant crime. Yet what causes crime? Poverty. What causes poverty? Poor business management and misappropriation of urban planning viz a vis mismanaged taxes and civic leadership. Who has the biggest business in Gotham? Bruce Wayne. Who has the most influence over urban planning and civic leadership? Bruce Wayne. Who apparently found tax loopholes to save money in his company and underfund Gotham's police force? Bruce Wayne.

The kicker is Bruce Wayne took his company private from the evil shareholders. So the poor workers can't even profit from investing in his stock as he rapes Gotham of every industrial contract he inevitably wins. In return for him running the city into the ground, Gotham gets the joy of Bruce Wayne running around in a rubber batsuit beating up on desperate poverty stricken criminals who do not get to go home to a mansion and a man servant at night. His gift to you: a scary bat to "keep you in line." Thanks, Bruce!

The story goes Bruce Wayne is righteous because his parents got shot. Cry him a river, because most of the criminals in Gotham never even knew their parents. They were abandoned while billionaire Bruce was closing down Wayne Industry shops and moving them to slave workers in China to manufacture 1,000 redundant bat ears (this is true, see Batman Begins). That is some straight up Enron shit.

Fanboys who like Batman better than Superman are fucking fascists. Not only that, they are pseudo-Republicans who spend in actuality more than Democrats and think like a 2003 Iraqi War council: Batman is supposedly a "real" superhero with no powers, except that with unlimited cash, he can fly (Bat-wing!), stop bullets (Bat-vest!), take down a heavily armed militia with just his karate chopping hands (Bat-surd!), and spread democracy to adoring, happy Muslims (Bat-fucked!).

Dark Knight? More like Douche Knight.

Reality and superheroes fit like Brandon Routh’s codpiece, bulging and snug because Warner Brothers needs to prove to their fanboy base that there’s nothing but heterosexual virality here. Not like those pussy X-Men at Fox. And definitely not like that queer nerd Peter Parker at Sony who is now in his emo/dancing musical phase.

Reality is the ultimate beard to wear on your manchild chin to prove that adaptations of  grappling, near naked wrestlers with the uncanny power to freeze each other’s balls off  are not gay. But there is always one way to queer-proof your Greek God fantasies: move on up to the next level. Replace your silly rubber suit with armour. Take away any unrealistic need for superhuman strength with a completely technologically sound exoskeleton for complete plausibility. Bonus points that your hero is a playboy, fucking hot models til his dick bleeds. And make sure he’s played by a completely heterosexual actor.

You know, like Robert Downey, Jr.