Monday, June 30, 2014

Week of 06/30/2014

The Because-Batman Script
I’ve discovered the ultimate move to win in every game of Rock-Paper-Scissors… even the expanded Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock version.
With your closed fist, extend the index and little finger to form the pointed ears.
Yes, it’s Batman.  You win… forever.
The rationality goes like this: Batman easily dodges a rock, puts his symbol on the paper and thus owns it, breaks scissors, negates the lizard poison with his bat-anti-lizard-serum, and can defeat and out-think Spock in his sleep.
And for those who say that this move isn’t allowed, you can always say “Of course it is, because it’s Batman!”
For a while now I’ve been a huge critic of scripts, those pre-programmed mantras that says “X is right” even when it’s not.  Where an elite self-appointed group gets to dictate what the rest of us say or think, and often it’s for their own interests.
Up until now I’ve been attacking political scripts.  The Big Brother messages that you hear over and over again on TV news and cable news and talk radio and the newspaper editorials.  But there are other scripts out there that are just as pervasive, and while not as destructive to society, they certainly annoy the hell out of this commentator.
The one that has recently got noticed is the script that says that Batman is the “greatest superhero of all time”; that he’s the “ultimate winner” that can defeat anyone and anything. 
No, seriously.  Anyone and anything.  Even against Chuck Norris!  Even if Chuck Norris had a chainsaw, spur boots, and was riding on his missile-launching motorcycle from “The Delta Force”, Batman would still somehow be able to defeat him.
Why? “Because he’s Batman!”
No other reason.  Just that.
And he’ll do it eating nachos.
Well, okay, bat-nachos.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Because-Batman script because of the news concerning the sequel to the 2013 blockbuster “Man of Steel” movie.  From very first day that the announcement came out that Zach Snyder was directing this, and that it would involve both Superman and Batman, there was all sorts of talk about it being a “versus” movie.  It didn’t help that Snyder himself stoked that speculation when he uttered a line from Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns”.
For fans of Superman, like myself, the idea that the follow-up to “Man of Steel” would be a “versus” movie pitting Batman against Superman was a real kick in the testicles.  Superman was just re-introduced in the movie world in a way that a lot of people are still not happy about.  This wasn’t the comic-like Christopher Reeve version, or even the Brandon Routh version.  This was a serious, brooding drifter who was dragged into the limelight after a whole bunch of other Kryptonians showed up to try to conquer and terraform the planet.  He even killed General Zod… and not just throwing him into a foggy pit.  (No, really, that’s what Reeve’s Superman did in “Superman II”.)  There are several people to this very day that still hate MoS for that scene alone.
Then there is that line that Snyder used from DKR to lead into his announcement.  The one where Batman had defeated Superman and was gloating.
And then the announcement that the movie’s title would be “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”.  Not “Superman v Batman” or “Superman: Dawn of Justice” or even “Dawn of Justice”.  No, the follow-up to “Man of Steel” gives Superman second billing.
Donkey kick after donkey kick to the testicles for Superman fans.
And then the script kicks in.  The script that says that putting Batman on the top of the billing is only right because he’s the “ultimate superhero” and the “greatest superhero of all times” and that he is the one that will beat Superman in a “versus” story.
Let’s not forget that the big mega-corporation that owns the rights to Batman is riding this “Because-Batman” script all the way to the bank, and to the detriment of all of the other characters.  Time-Warner is the big behemouth that owns DC Comics, which owns Batman.  They own Warner Brothers, which makes the DC movies.  They own DC Entertainment, which makes the animated movies and the video games.  They own Cartoon Network and the CW, which air DC animations.
Guess which character they have spent the most time on?  Yeah, it’s Batman.
Batman get the top billing in the team-up movies.  He gets several 75th Anniversary specials to Superman’s one.  He gets several outfit variants in the DC Universe Online MMO.  If he’s not the dominant character in the DC animated shows and movies, he’s still one of.  When the CW re-made Green Arrow into the “Arrow” TV series, did they keep Oliver Queen as the “old leftie” that he is best known for?  No, he gets remade into a dark Batman-like archer.  Batman becomes the standard-bearer, not the character that made DC great in the first place… namely Superman.
Yeah, it seems that the Warner boys are just a little biased.
And to all of that I have to say… BS!
I can accept, albeit grudgingly, that the idea that any superhero is “the greatest of all times” is a purely subjective thing.  Your definition of “the greatest” is not my definition of “the greatest”, and it’s not the same as those of other people.
But let’s get brutally honest here… it is another thing entirely to have a script be generated that makes Batman into this “ultimate superhero” that can defeat anyone and anything simply because “he is”.
Yes, Batman is a thinker.  He’s a detective and tactician.  He’s a skilled and trained fighter with access to advanced technology.  He knows the ways of assassins and thieves.  He knows how criminals think, and he knows how to get them to be afraid of him.
But do you know what else he is?
Batman is also far from normal.  He is flawed.
By his own words, Batman is “a rich kid with issues; lots of them.”
Batman – Bruce Wayne – is a traumatized crime victim with an obsessive paranoia about crime.  He doesn’t want anyone else to lose someone they love because of a criminal.  He lives his personal life as a fraud so he can wage his self-appointed war on the evils that men do.  He’s an extremist with resources, and there is no room for anything else in his life.  His time with the Justice League is just a limited means to his own ends.  He has no room for love, aside from the occasional one-night stand with Catwoman or Talia.  His “family” is foisted upon him, and the people he brings into his life – with but a few exceptions – are just as messed up as he is.
And… that’s just Bruce Wayne.  But there have been others that have adopted the title of “Batman” as well.  Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, Jason Todd, Jean-Paul Valley, Terry McGinnis, and even Bane have all worn the cape and cowl and called themselves “Batman”.  There’s even a group of Batman-like vigilantes called “The Batmen of All Nations”.  At one point, Bruce Wayne went so far as to publicly franchise “Batman” as “Batman Incorporated”.
So how is it that he’s the “greatest hero of all time” when he says in “The Dark Knight Rises” that “Batman can be anyone”?
But, hey, like I said, that’s just my opinion.
What bothers me is that thanks to the Internet fanaticism, Batman has become a joke.  He’s the ultimate cheat-code to any obstacle.  Never mind Riddick with his reflecting eyes and his tea cup.  Forget about Indiana Jones and his whip and revolver!  Batman can supposedly whip any enemy even without his batarangs for no other reason than because it’s “Batman”.  It’s the triple-dog-dare-times-infinity with a pointy-eared cowl and a gravelly gruff voice.
And that goes a long way to cheapening the character itself, and I mean in far worse ways than Joel Schmacher did with his Bat-Suit nipples and his Bat-Credit-Card.
Listen, when it comes to “versus” stories, it was legendary comic creator Stan Lee that best summed it up.  He said “The person who wins in a fight… is the person that the scriptwriter wants to win!”  It’s whomever the writer favors!  That’s the only reason why Batman was able to win against Superman in Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns”.  It’s not because Batman was better than Superman, but because it was Frank Miller’s story.  That’s it.  That is the only reason why Batman triumphed.  It was Frank Miller’s story.
And the same thing is going to happen in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”.  It’s whomever that the team of Nolan, Goyer, and Snyder favor that will come out.  It’s not because of whom is better, but because of who is favored by the people that make the movie.
I’ll let you in on the dirty little secret behind Batman’s appeal.  Unlike Superman, who was created as a symbol of hope for people and a time that desperately needed it in the 1930’s, Batman appeals to our rage; to our need for a justice that cannot be corrupted or co-opted.  He exists because our system is flawed and failing the very people that count on it to survive.
What a pity, then, to know that there is a script that tells us that we have to support a fanatical crime victim that breaks the rules of society in order to move beyond their failings instead of working to remove the failings themselves.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Week of 06/23/2014

Chickenhawks And Their Hypocritical Entitlement Foreign Policy
When it comes to recent events in Iraq, I have a few quick thoughts.  Namely…
“What the hell, Iraq?”
“Here we go again…” (With the rolling of the eyes optional.)
Seriously, guys, what the hell?
Americans get conned into going there, we actually go through with getting Saddam Hussein out of power, we oversee the creation of a new government and free elections, and then we begin the long process to get ourselves out of there, and it all goes to hell again!
So now the Sunnis, normally considered the “saner” of the two dominant Islamic factions, are going jihadist over there.  Of course these were the same guys that backed Saddam way back when and reaped the benefits of his reign, so we should not be surprised to find they’ve been getting the short end of the reconstruction stick.
But now, thanks to them, we’re back to haggling over the idea that we would have to go back over there and waste still more taxpayer money and still more American lives to straighten out a problem that the Iraqis themselves refuse to deal with on their own.  Now we have all of those so-called “experts” that sold us on their lies about how “easy” it would be to go in there and how quick we’d be able to get out, now telling us that they were “right” about what would happen once we did start to leave and that we “need” to be back in there as an occupying force.  You know, to “keep the peace” and “keep gas prices down” and “stop the jihadists”.  And if it also helps out any of our contractors over there (i.e. Halliburton), that’s just a “coincidence”, right?
I guess the really frustrating parts are the accounts of Iraqi soldiers refusing to actually do their jobs when facing the Sunni extremists.  Of soldiers, supposedly trained by us, simply abandoning their uniforms and running away.  Granted, they can claim that they feared for their lives, since the ones that stayed were getting slaughtered, but when you’re on the side with the numbers and the majority simply run away like that… the phrase “cowardice under fire” is an understatement.
And for a while I wrestled with trying to understand how a whole group of soldiers could simply give up and abandon their posts like that.  I mean, this wasn’t just one or two soldiers who chickened out.  These were soldiers doing it en masse, just like Saddam’s so-called “Revolutionary Guard” did when we closed in on Baghdad over a decade ago. 
But unlike those soldiers, there’s no hint that our so-called “Iraqi friends” are doing it so they can lead some sort of guerrilla resistance like Saddam’s forces did.  They just seem to cut-and-run out of self-preservation.  That’s not something soldiers are taught to do… unless they’re from France… or unless they’re in a Monty Python skit.
And then it came to me.  There’s one possible reason why they would do that.  They know something that we, the vast majority of the American people, don’t.
I suspect that they cut-and-ran because they know that if they did that, that we would have to go back there.
I suspect, and this is just my idle speculation here, that they were told that if they did a super-crappy job defending their own country, that the United States would feel obligated to send troops back there.
And if you think about it, there’s plenty of support to back that speculation up.
Look at all of the conservatives and neo-conservatives in Washington screaming for action.  Look at all of the Iraq War veterans getting in front of cameras, screaming for action.  Look at all of the chickenhawks in the media that are screaming that we “do something”.  Look at all of those Fox News people that are saying “See?  See?  We told you!  This is what happens when you pull our troops out!  Now we have to go back there and fix things again, because we just wasted all of those lives for nothing!”
This has been their continual mantra as to why we needed to continually spend billions and billions of taxpayer dollars on troops in other countries.  This is why we supposedly still need to have troops in Germany, even after the Berlin Wall went down a quarter-century earlier.  This is why we supposedly still need to have troops in the former Slavic areas.  This is why we supposedly still need to have troops in Japan.  This is why we supposedly still need troops between North and South Korea.  This is why we supposedly still need to have troops in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and Iraq.  Because these places just can’t “defend themselves” properly without us.
This is also one of the key tenants of fascism, the idea that we have to be perpetually in war, perpetually in conflict with someone somewhere in the world.  Italian thug Benito Mussolini believed that this is how nations define themselves, by the continual battles they wage.  Legendary writer George Orwell continually brought up the idea of his “Nineteen-Eighty-Four” nation of Oceana perpetually at war either with Eastasia or Eurasia, depending on the political temperament. 
Again, listen to the rhetoric from the cons and neo-cons.  Listen to the rhetoric from the Fox News and so-called “Tea Party” crowds.  We’re supposedly there because we are supposedly in this “eternal conflict” that can never end, and that any kind of pull-back from these places is nothing short of surrender.  We’re always in a “war”, whether it is against Islam or China or Russia or North Korea or the drug lords or Mexico or Cuba.
And what happens when we dare to suggest that these other nations should stand up for themselves?  That they should take charge of their own countries and defend themselves so we wouldn’t have to.  What are the rest of us told by the cons and neo-cons when we dare raise that up?  “Oh, we can’t do that!  We just can’t leave them to fend for themselves.  They don’t know how!  If we leave now, then we’re just giving in to the enemy!”
Which is funny, because they have the exactly opposite stance when it comes to domestic issues!
They demand and expect a blank check for war and for “stability” in other countries, but what about stability in our own country?
What do they say when they are asked to increase spending for social programs?  Food stamps?  Welfare?  Medicaid?  Unemployment?
“Oh no, we can’t just give these deadbeats money!  They’ll never learn how to fend for themselves if we do that!  They need to be cut off so they can pick themselves up by their bootstraps!”
Damnably hypocritical since they seem to have no qualms whatsoever calling for a blank check to put boots on the ground in other countries instead of telling them to “fend for themselves”.  Where’s the tough talk towards Iraq, telling them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps to deal with their own fundy flakes?  Why aren’t we helping South Korea build up their forces to counter North Korea’s so we wouldn’t have to be there continually?  Or, for that matter, Japan?  Why are we still in Europe without a Communist Bloc to worry about?  Saddam’s gone, so why are we still in the countries neighboring Iraq?
Why are they still getting our boots and we’re just told to make do with our bootstraps?
I realize that our foreign policy actions are a little more complicated than the way I’ve laid them out to be, but let’s get brutally honest here… we make hypocrites of ourselves if we are not honest about why we are in these countries and why we cannot practice what we preach when it comes to our own people.
We have not been spreading freedom or democracy to these other countries when we send soldiers to places like Iraq.  We have, instead, been making the world “safe” for an outdated and finite fuel system, and for the big corporations that make big profits by keeping us hooked on it like heroin addicts. 
And we certainly don’t give places like Iraq good examples of how to govern when you have cons and neo-cons playing out their political fantasies through their so-called “Tea Party” movements.  Have you been seeing their rhetoric these past few years?  Talk about “revivals” and “overthrows” and “revolutions”, throwing ideas about like having certain states like Texas break away from the rest of the country, or kicking out states like California and Massachusetts because they supposedly don’t conform to the neo-con standards.
Gee, I wonder where the Sunnis got the idea that an overly militant minority can somehow take over a whole nation through fear and intimidation.  (By the way, that’s called sarcasm.)  Oh, wait, somehow they forgot the part about all of that talk of “revolution” being “rhetorical” and limited to just the ballot box. 
Oh well, I guess we’d have to teach them that while we’re there, won’t we? 
Or maybe not, because as long as they can’t seem to get their act together, America will just have to continue to waste money and soldiers in the name of the great status quo and political hypocrisy.  We just can’t expect them to pick themselves up by their bootstraps like we are expected to here… because then how would those cons and neo-cons fulfill their little imperialist and dominionist fantasies?