Friday, July 20, 2012

A Post for My Sisters: Thoughts On the Aurora TDKR Tragedy

Hi.  I'm back, for a moment.

I know I've been away for a while, and I don't plan on re-posting regularly again for a while, but I felt the strong urge to comment on this.  It is, after all, related to the existence of a comic book property.

Whenever tragedies such as the one that occurred in Aurora, CO last night happen, I am always shocked, saddened, and angered.

Even though I take the occasional snide jab at all the "crazy people" out in this crazy world of ours, it's still mind-bending for me to wrap my head around the idea that someone, somewhere out there, thinks it's okay/permissible/acceptable/part of God's will/destiny to armor up, grab guns and other weaponry, go out in public, and turn them on the general public.  I mean, hell, I often have a hard time just arguing in public, out of a keen sense of not wanting to disrupt other people's lives with my own business.  That someone will willingly go and insert themselves so violently into others' lives is far beyond my understanding.

And it saddens me deeply that this person even got to the point where they felt this way, and that his victims have paid such a steep price, be it through loss of life, bodily injury, or a shattered sense of personal safety and security.  Many of those victims were doubtlessly comic book, sci-fi, or pop culture fans, eager to see The Dark Knight Rises first and enjoy the end to Christopher Nolan's take on the mythology.  Sadly, that will probably be the furthest thing from their minds for a very long time to come.

But I think, right now, perhaps out of shock, I want to focus on my anger.  Because right now, there's so much of it bubbling in me.

I'm angry at the violence inflicted on the public.  The concept of taking any human life, to say nothing of multiple lives, is upsetting and provokes a visceral response from me.  In the moments I hear about it, I get the instinctive urge to lash out at the killer, to cause them as much pain and suffering as they've doubtlessly caused others.  It's further intensified when the violence is as apparently unprovoked and directed at innocent bystanders as this most recent incident was.

I'm angry that this is being and will be sensationalized, compared to Columbine, etc. by the media.  The media, as always, love to focus on the tragedy, the bad news, the shocking thing.  They blow it out of proportion, and, by excessive exposure, glamorize it, whether they intend to or not.  It's gotten to the point that it's automatic for them.  It's just "what they do."  And by continuing this behavior, they send the message to their viewers/readers/listeners that infamy is the only thing that's newsworthy.   That bad and depraved actions are the norm.  And that human life is disposable.  There is so little focus on the more positive, or at least damage-mitigating sides of the journalistic coin, that no one cares for them.

For example, see if you can answer these questions, in the wake of the tragedy:  What resources are in place for the victims of the Aurora shooting?  What resources are there for people like the shooter, who might need help or watching?  How are they doing, funding-wise?  How did the local Chik-Fil-A help out in the immediate aftermath of the shooting?

Any answers I have to these questions didn't come from the mainstream media, who could find this out and report it in a heartbeat.  But no, they'd rather focus on the shooter, the panicked public reaction, and stupid comparisons of the influence The Dark Knight Rises had on the incident.  Grow a pair and try some actual journalism with standards, you morons.

I'm angry that this will be used by idealogues to try to influence the way you think and act.  Much like the media--who will sensationalize this to attract viewers/readers/listeners--pundits, talking heads, idealogues, and Rush Limbaugh will take a similar tack and try to say stupid things, like "This is the result of liberal/conservative stances on gun control! Think and vote the way I do and it'll go away!"  Religious fundamentalists might say this is God's/Allah's/Yahweh's punishment to people who aren't pious enough, and that Batman is the ultimate symbol of that infidelity.  We don't, as a culture, have the propriety to treat this for what it is--a horrific act of a lone madman--and leave it alone.  We have to subvert it for political purposes, and that pisses me off to no end.

I'm angry that more isn't done to prevent people like the shooter from getting to that point.  I'm not just talking about Barry Lyga's very practical implication that insane people shouldn't be allowed access to guns, though that would of course be helpful.  There are services, institutions, resources out there that help people with mental issues like this, and frankly they need more funding and better support from governments at all levels.  We're living in an economic world that is slowly and methodically destroying these resources, even as the need for them increases.  If an ounce of prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure, then why are we cutting back on spending for mental health facilities, treatment research, and staff to carry out these helpful services?

This last one's the most selfish, and the most personal.

I'm angry that, if it had  occurred somewhere else, any of my sisters could have been among the victims.  This of course applies to all my loved ones and friends, but I can't help it.  Whenever a shooting went on at a school, or any public place, my first impulse is to think of my three sisters and thank my lucky stars that they weren't shot at, or shot.  I'm the oldest child, and the only male among us, so I feel a strong sense of protection towards them, and the idea that even the remotest possibility exists that they could ever be involved in an incident such as Aurora fills me with a rage and uncertainty that I often just have to bury, lest it overwhelms me.

Because at this point, in this world, it ain't goin' away.

So, though I doubt anyone will hear this or be moved enough by it to act, I offer up a plea.  It's directed as much at the reporters and pundits as it is at the potential would-be shooters of the world, and it's this: whenever you act, think about your little sisters.  Think about your friends and loved ones.  Think about the kind of world you want them to live in, that you want to leave behind for them.  Act to bring that world about for them, so that we might all have it.

They don't deserve to grow up in a world where this kind of lunacy exists.  No one does.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Spider-Man, or the Amazing Spider-Man? The Case for Reboots In Movies, part I

Since we're on the precipice of The Amazing Spider-Man's premiere, I thought I'd go ahead and address an issue that seems to come up when film franchises reboot.

In the last few weeks, I've found a plethora of opinions, both online and otherwise, as people compare the last trilogy of Spider-Man films with the one that's rebooting the franchise in just a couple days.  More often than not, people complain about Tobey Maguire's absence and how dark The Amazing Spider-Man seems in comparison to the previous films.  Others have mentioned their discontent with the idea of reboots and "repackaging the same stories" for the purposes of making money off the public.  Overall, the comparisons are not favorable for the new kid, and reek of nostalgia for last decade's movies.

I think I've made my position on these kinds of situations clear on several occasions, but it bears repeating in light of the negativity I've seen for the upcoming film.  Too often, I've seen people get too used to a particular actor in a particular role, and base their opinions on reboots and recasting on that comfort.  It makes them less receptive to what could otherwise be an excellent change in the mythology or narrative, and brings an unnecessarily negative perception to something that's biggest flaw seems to be that it's different from what previously came to pass.

Despite all the apprehension and, in some cases, outright hate I've seen directed at The Amazing Spider-Man, we all know it's going to do extremely well.  It's too high profile, and the mythology is too popular for it not to make a big dent, at least come its opening weekend.  Hopefully enough of the naysayers will be convinced to give it a chance by that point, but in the mean time I think it's worth pointing out some of the non-peer pressure reasons for checking it out.

The Spider-Man films from last decade were good, there can be no denying it (except for Spider-Man 3, many will argue).  I can understand a certain amount of attachment to them, as they were very well done.  But I think it's both short-sighted and unfair to spite the successor before it's even arrived, simply because you like the previous stories so much.

One of the most common arguments I've found against The Amazing Spider-Man have centered around Andrew Garfield's interpretation of Peter Parker / Spider-Man.  What seems to be said most is that he's too snarky, and not nice enough as the sensitive, put-upon Peter Parker they remember from the movies, and in some cases the comics.

While that's a valid concern in some ways, there have been other interpretations of Peter Parker as a still-nice, but more confident and sarcastic teenager, most notably in the pages of Ultimate Spider-Man, also from the previous decade.  Even without that source material, the alteration to Peter's personality, while noticeable, isn't substantial enough to make him essentially a different character.  With a reboot, you essentially get the opportunity to use the same characters and settings to tell different stories, and that includes changing some aspects of the characters' personalities.

But, of course, many people have issues with the idea of a reboot in the first place.  As for why, that's something I'll discuss tomorrow, as well as why I think reboots, when done well, are fair game.

Until then, don't hate the new films just because you love the old ones.  There's plenty of room for both, or at least holding off judgment as long as it takes to give the reboot a fair shake!