Pop Culture

Charles Manson, Star Wars, and the Joy of Hate

Kevin Williamson opines on how monsters make the ladies swoon.

The phenomenon of young women falling in love with death-row inmates, particularly with serial killers, is not new: Women flocked to Ted Bundy’s trial — his trial for raping, torturing, and murdering young women as a prelude to acts of necrophilia — and he received stacks of love letters and marriage proposals. Jeffrey Dahmer and Richard Ramirez got the same treatment, and Anders Behring Breivik might as well be the Beatles during their heyday. An investment banker may have a Ferrari, but the serial killer, the terrorist, and the mass murderer are at the top of the food chain. On the subject of Nazis, P. J. O’Rourke famously joked that “no one has ever had a fantasy about being tied to a bed and sexually ravished by someone dressed as a liberal.” Like all good jokes, that is fundamentally true — even if the truth behind it horrifies the nice people at National Public Radio, who remain “bumfuzzled” that a rich and powerful woman would allow herself to be beaten bloody by a psychopathic meathead, repeatedly.

That all sounds thoughtful and probably true. Meanwhile, in nerd-world:

I cannot quite express it, but I feel as though there’s a similar dynamic at work. We Warsies (thanks Trekkies) could not stop complaining about Phantom Menace back in the day, any more than we could stop paying money to go see it. It was almost as though we enjoyed the abuse.

Is Seinfeld’s Clio Speech the Greatest Award Acceptance Speech of All Time?

He switches from praise to insult without skipping a beat or changing tone.

Of course, this could only happen at the Clios because advertising execs are entirely comfortable with having the scorn of the chattering class with their dinner. They make illusions for others, and so have none. Whereas the earnest dorks at the Oscars, etc., would never stand for being told that they’re a bunch of  lie-peddling whores.

Then again, maybe they would. I nominate Jennifer Lawrence for the job.

She looks ready.

Let Us Perform Cruel Postmortems On Legendarily Bad Films: Highlander II

Still waiting on Decider to give us another “Disasterpiece Theater“, so instead I’ll link this cruel fellow beating the dead horse that is Highlander II, a film I haven’t even seen (because I never saw the big deal about the first one, but whatever. Geek does not require explanation).

This is what sometimes happens when you try to ressurrect a film, to apply charity to film criticism, to wipe off the snotties and say you’re not really such a bad boy, are you? Sometimes you find yourself staring numbly into the raw horror of a universe devoid of reason, where nothing makes sense.

Highlander II almost immediately goes back over every plot point of the first film. The immortals were never immortals but in fact aliens, Sean Connery can resurrect himself (ironically making him more immortal than when he was actually an immortal), and the Highlander wasn’t actually from the Highlands but instead from another planet. It also retcons the prize to a choice between dying slowly or being executed. Also, all that bit about MacLeod first meeting Ramirez, learning his true nature and all that character development? Retcon! Turns out they already had some sort of weird civil partnership thing going on, using magic space honey. Also, MacLeod was head of the immortals, I mean “Zeistians”.

dude huh

That’s the beginning of the long discussion of a plot that was clearly written by coked-out monkeys via William Burroughs’ cut-up method. That’s my theory, anyway, because despite the headline, the linked article doesn’t actually explain how this happened. How did a director make a film he walked out on? How did human writers conceive of this madness? What studio head looked at this and said “Yes! Put it out for the public! Now!”

Amazingly, it didn’t destroy the franchise. Far from it. The 90s saw a Highlander explosion, with a new film, a TV series (that got its own films in the 2000s), novels, video games, and even a cartoon series. They all have one thing in common, though – they all pretend that Highlander II never happened.

I would like to offer a counter-theory. Because the first Highlander struck me as kinda “whatever”, I would like to ask if the horribleness of Highlander II is precisely the reason that the universe went on to thrive in the 90’s. A merely boring sequel, that would have let to audience and studio indifference. But a terrifyingly bad monstrosity as a sequel to a film that was pretty good and sold well, that gets remembered (as evidenced by the fact that I’m writing about it this many years after the fact). And more, it creates a need for redemption. Somebody said “Boy we hosed this! This is embarrassing! We need to fix it!” Thus, the first film build a fan base, the second film outraged it, hence, other films and TV. Highlander II died that others may rise.

Oh, Good. MTV is Getting into the Buzzfeed Market.

Lists! Lists all the time!

xallthey

Here’s what I have to say in response to this paint-by-numbers men-are-icky listicle:

1. They know how to wire 17 devices through one surge protector…

Is that difficult? Put the plug in the socket. This is beyond female ken? Really?

2. But have no idea how to put down the toilet seat.

*sigh*  Yes we do. We have the idea to put it down every time we have to go no. 2. The only idea we don’t have is this odd expectation that the toilet seat is always going to be in the optimum position for us when we approach it. If we have to sit on it, and the seat is up, we put it down! I know! Like, without complaining or anything!

areyouawizard

3. They can proficiently operate an elaborate system of multiple remotes and cable boxes…

If you say so, sister. I get frustrated with mine a good deal. Inanimate objects vex me. My wife is much better with them.

4. But feel overwhelmed by using more than one shower product for all of their bathing needs.

Not overwhelmed. We just don’t see the point. You come out of the shower, you’re clean. We come out of the shower, we’re clean. Except you do it with fifteen different products and we do it with one. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.

5. They can easily be slipped vegan food if you focus on the fact that it is a “home cooked meal.”

Deception. The basis of any healthy relationship.

You do realize that you’ve given him a license to sneak bacon into your food, right?

6. They like football.

Because women don’t.

7. Like, a lot.

Because they like it so much that it takes up two places!

unfuny

8. But are totally not into reading laundry labels.

Okay, so far there’s been at least a tenuous juxtaposition between complicated things we do/simple things we don’t. But here the heuristic falls apart. How does “liking” football contrast with “totally not being into” laundry labels. Do women actually like reading laundry labels? Or do they just own clothes in so many different fabrics that it’s simply good sense to pay attention to them? Whereas guy clothes usually come in three fabrics:

  • Cotton, which washes well, and can only be dried wrong once
  • Polyester/blends, which wash and dry fine
  • Wool, which gets dry-cleaned

Our laundry lives just aren’t that complicated.

9. They collect tools in the same way that we collect nail polish…

bored - Copy

10. And the poor things think doing chores is as fun as having your nails did.

It’s the difference between doing something and chatting while something is done for you. Different strokes for different folks.

Also, I feel like most guys don’t consider mucking around with tools “chores” in the same sense that vacuuming and dishes are “chores”.

11. Finally, the three farts a day when you each had your own place? That was him holding back.

Women are dainty flowers who never expel methane from their rectum, said no husband ever.

You’re terrible at this, MTV. Go back to doing…whatever you do these days. Exploiting dumb people for giggles, last time I checked.

Examining The Emperor’s New Groove: Because Sometimes Buzzfeed is Right…

Yes, it’s the usual feast of gifs and OMGLOL, but they have stumbled upon a point.

The Emperor’s New Groove is so unlike any other Disney animated film, that I often have to remind myself that it’s Disney.

In the first place, it’s not a musical. Not really. There’s a quick song at the beginning, reprised at the end, but otherwise it’s remarkably capable of establishing characterization without bursting into song. This is just before PIXAR took charge of all non-musical Disney films, so it’s noteworthy that they even tried this.

In the second place, it’s spirit is snarky, silly, and self-aware, in a way that Disney movies almost never are. Sure, you have the occasional Flynn Rider, but most of the time they end up Facing Their Feelings in the third act. The very basic moral lesson of TENG – being a self-absorbed jagoff leads to misery – does not require any real shift in tone.

That tone bears far more resemblance to classic 30’s screwball comedies (in fact, the film is classified as such on Wikipedia) than to anything else Disney has ever done. Basically, this is the closed Disney ever got to making a Looney Tunes cartoon.

sillyisnthe

 

Wikipedia also says the the director, Mark Dindal, was a Disney journeyman who “drastically” altered the script to a comedy after an initial effort to make a traditional Disney animated film called Kingdom of the Sun, “didn’t work out.” He also directed Chicken Little, and so no longer works at Disney.

So that might explain that.

David Lynch’s Dune is So Bad it’s Hypnotic

The “Disasterpiece Theater” series at The Decider begins with a good choice.

In a lot of ways, Dune has a lot of the same problems as Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Hear me out… Both were made for a rabid science fiction audience. Both films boast beautiful production design and talented casts. However, the biggest problem with both films is that they spend more time providing exposition about tedious political plots and religious superstitions than they do establishing characters and relationships. Dune spends almost a half hour telling you about houses and treaties and spice and navigators before getting to the tense gom jabbar scene (which Herbert begins on, like, page 5). Lynch just drops you into Paul’s world and you go with it because he doesn’t quite know what’s going on, either. You’ve got a relatable protagonist to latch onto, use him!

Lynch’s Dune is visually stunning but a narrative mess. And I’m a big fan of the series. I even like God Emperor of Dune (But not any book after that. The last two novels that Herbert wrote feel tired and meandering, and all the works written by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson just feel wrong). But even I find almost every line and acting choice weird and off (plus Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck? What?).

Yes, it should be watched. Actually, it should be watched several times:

  1. What? Who’s that? What’s going on? Why is this so BORING? Ugh, Never again!
  2. Actually, there’s some neat things to see here. It’s got a cool look. I might watch this again; it might grow on me.
  3. No, this is a bad movie. I’m done. Wierding modules? What were they thinking?

Virgina Madsen is gorgeous, however…

Fun With Camille Paglia

Earlier this month, when some highly educated matron or other had to reach for her smelling salts upon hearing “Under My Thumb” whilst shopping for groceries (the Trader Joe’s manager who refrained from saying “Lady, I’ve heard that song so many times in the last month I don’t even notice it anymore. All possibility of enjoyment of it has been systematically driven from me. I couldn’t care any less if you held a gun to my head. Now, are you gonna put that second package of gluten-free wheat germ back, or are you going to vacate the ’12 Items or Less’ aisle?” deserves a raise), I got a fillip of the familiar. Lester Bangs used to write about what the “woman’s libbers” were going to do to Jagger every time he toured, but I recalled something from Camille Paglia in particular, dealing with how “Under My Thumb” began her conflict with respectable feminism.

To wit:

This was where I realized — this was 1969 — boy, I was bounced fast, right out of the movement. And I had this huge argument. Because I said you cannot apply a political agenda to art. When it comes to art, we have to make other distinctions. We had this huge fight about the song “Under My Thumb.” I said it was a great song, not only a great song but I said it was a work of art. And these feminists of the New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band went into a rage, surrounded me, practically spat in my face, literally my back to the wall. They’re screaming in my face: “Art? Art? Nothing that demeans women can be art!” There it is. There it is! Right from the start. The fascism of the contemporary women’s movement.

This is from a transcript of a lecture she gave at M.I.T. in september of 1991. I read it as part of her first anthology Sex, Art and American Culture, which is a good companion piece to Sexual Personae. It contains what I believe to be Paglia’s initial cir-de-coeur “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf.” This was published in Arion in 1991 and although it reviews two contemporary books before unleashing hell at post-structuralism, I believe it entirely relevant today, based on what I recall of college in the mid-to-late 90’s and grad school four years ago. She pulls no punches with Derrida, Lacan (“The French fog machine”), or especially Foucault, whom she finds guilty of being a boring, snide poseur, full of facile wordplay and bereft of learning. An appropriate passage:

Foucault is the high-concept pusher and deal-maker of the cocaine decades. His big squishy pink-marshmallow word is “power”, which neither he nor his followers fully understand. It caroms around picking up lint and dog hair but is no substitute for political analysis. Foucault’s ignorance of prehistory and ancient history, based in the development and articulation of cultures and legal codes, makes his discussions of power otiose. He never asks how power is gained or lost, justly administered or abused. He does not show how efficient procedures get overformalized, entrenched, calcified, then shattered and reformed. He has no familiarity with theories of social or biological hierarchies, such as the “pecking order” universally observed in farmyards and schoolyards. Because, in the faddish French way, he ridiculously denies personality exists, he cannot assess the impact of strong personalities on events nor can he, like Weber, catalog types of authority or prestige.

She goes on like this, sticking shaft after shaft in the old dead fart until it starts to look like the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian. But that line about picking up lint and dog hair is giggling genius. Post-modernism and post-structuralism are nothing more than the Sophists laughing at us from beyond the grave of their cultures. The whole goddamn thing is so brainless, a bot can do it.

Click to be Whisked, Whisked away to Amazon!

Click to be Whisked, Whisked away to Amazon!