Category Archives: media issues

PSA: Disagreeing With Someone Is NOT A Violent Act

There are certain basic, inherently decent truths in this world. Most reasonable people understand them to some extent. We don’t need to be persuaded of their merits.

Being a selfish asshole is a bad thing.

Lying, cheating, and stealing is a bad thing.

Compliments and kind words help us and others like us.

Not everything you see on the internet is true.

These are just a few. I hope they’re not controversial. I like to think I have enough life experiences to make these statements with some credibility. Ideally, we don’t need to remind each other of these simple truths. They should be a given for anyone with a functioning brain.

Unfortunately, we live in an exceedingly imperfect world and years like 2020 only intensify those imperfections.

So, in that frustrating spirit, I’d like to make a quick public service announcement that I hope will function as a simple reminder. Please note I’m not referring to one particular person or a single group. I’m addressing as many people as possible. If you can, please forward this along because this needs to be said, reinforced, and belabored.

Someone disagreeing with you is not a violent act against you, nor should it be construed as one.

I know. That sounds like common sense. It is, for the most part. Most of us learn in grade school that someone disagreeing with you is not a big deal. You don’t have to like it. You may feel angry about it, but it’s hardly damaging. We live in a diverse society with diverse people. You’re going to encounter people who don’t think or believe like you do.

That’s fine.

That’s life.

However, lately it feels like the mere act of disagreeing with someone is somehow construed as this aggressive, violent political statement. Just telling someone you don’t agree with their politics or voted differently in the last election is no longer a simple point of disagreement. It’s an outright affront.

I see it in social media, comments sections, and in person debates. It gets incredibly ugly and it escalates way too fast. It often goes like this.

Person A: I voted for this candidate/hold this position/support this effort.

Person B: Really? I voted for the other candidate/position/effort.

Person A: You horrible piece of fucking shit! You’re ruining this country and this world! I hate your fucking guts and everything you stand for! You should fucking die a horrible death!

I wish I could say that was hyperbole. I really wish I could. Sadly, that’s a painfully accurate paraphrasing of the rhetoric I see whenever people start arguing. Whether it’s about politics, pop culture, video games, or which fictional characters they like, it gets so ugly, so fast that it’s disturbing.

It’s not treated as a difference of opinion. Some treat simple, differing opinions as a series of kidney punches delivered by Ivan Drago. It’s a gross, irrational, unbalanced response to the mere act of holding an opinion. If you don’t believe me, just try making these comments on any social platform.

I enjoyed Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

I support professional athletes protesting police injustice during the national anthem.

Brie Larson is a great actress.

There should be more diversity in certain franchises.

These are innocuous opinions. They don’t physically harm anyone. They reveal only a tiny sliver of who someone actually is. However, the mere utterance of these opinions is often a trigger for the most vile, hateful, rage-fueled reactions you can imagine.

That’s not just wrong.

That’s not just misguided, either.

It’s fucking stupid.

There’s no other way to describe it. These reactions are not the least bit warranted. Someone disagreeing with you is not an act of violence. It’s just not. Treating it as such is absurd, not to mention regressive.

Nobody, I don’t care who you are, is ever going to live in a world where everyone agrees with them. Humans just aren’t wired like that. Getting so upset about it is not a productive use of our time, energy, and passions.

I realize this will likely fall in deaf ears for some, but I hope others will take a step back and reassess how they react to someone voicing an opposing opinion. This world is messy enough. Let’s not make it worse by fighting each other for petty, unwarranted reasons.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, censorship, Current Events, human nature, media issues, outrage culture, political correctness, politics, rants

The (Pathetic) Virtue Signaling Of Those Who Whine About Virtue Signaling

The internet and social media are wonderful. They’ve done plenty of good for the world. People have connected like never before. Knowledge, information, and personal connections have never been easier. These are objectively good things for a social species like ours.

I make that disclaimer because I’m about to talk about one of the biggest negatives that the internet has fostered. I also concede there are far worse negatives. The internet and social media have done far greater harm in certain areas, plenty of which make the news. Some of that harm is just genuinely deplorable behavior. Some is outright illegal.

However, I would argue that one of the most infuriating, yet perfectly activities that the internet has enabled is virtue signaling. I’ve bemoaned it before and for good reason. Virtue signaling is a toxic combination of narcissism, groupthink, clickbait, and trolling. Take everything you hate about the worst people on the internet. Much of it is incorporated into virtue signaling.

It’s the selfish, ego-stroking act of loudly proclaiming that you’re so in favor or opposed to something that you demand acknowledgement and affirmation from total strangers. It’s not enough to just have a strong opinion or do something that’s actually virtuous. These people need the whole goddamn world to pat them on the back and assure them they’re a special snowflake.

There are far worse ways to describe this phenomenon. For my own sanity, I’ll leave it at that. I trust my readers to fill in the blanks without breaking their computer screens. All you need to know is that virtue signaling comes in many forms. Some acts are far worse than others. Like most things on the internet, there’s a spectrum to it.

Like any meme or trending hashtag, there’s a certain range of behaviors that constitute virtue signaling. Sometimes, it’s obvious. You need only see videos and articles whining about how video games, movies, and TV shows are ruining the world by empowering the patriarchy. However, I’ve noticed one particular brand of virtue signaling that’s becoming more common.

Specifically, it comes from the people who are usually the first to whine about virtue signaling. It’s every bit as hypocritical as it sounds, and then some. Virtue signaling is bad enough, but adding hypocrisy to the mix only makes it 10 times worse.

I’ve seen more and more of this pernicious virtue signaling in recent weeks, especially as the NBA playoffs wind down and as the NFL season gets going. It shows up in Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, and pretty much any poorly moderated comments section. It usually goes something like this.

“These self-entitled athletes dared to protest social issues! I’m canceling my subscription!”

“Get your damn politics out of sports! Until then, you won’t get a cent of my money!”

“Boycott this league and all the snowflake cucks who work in it!”

“I will never support a league that doesn’t stand proudly for the flag/anthem/whatever political symbol I’ve decided to champion!”

Trust me, it gets worse. It gets much worse.

At the same time, it compounds the cringe. I imagine the people making these comments don’t think they’re virtue signaling. They may see themselves as heroic underdogs resisting some nefarious foe looking to destroy them and everything they care about.

Again, these are sports leagues. They’re a business. They’re main goal is to entertain, make money, and attract the widest possible audience. Sometimes, that audience includes people who aren’t you.

That’s a concept that seems to fly over the heads of everyone who whines and complains about politics in sports, video games, comics, movies, etc. Pick any form of media. Give it any kind of controversial or political undertones, even if it’s indirect. Chances are you’ll get people who call that virtue signaling and some of those people protest by virtue signaling how much they’re against it.

They don’t always see the hypocrisy, but it’s painfully apparent at times. The biggest catalyst, in my opinion, was the very public protest by Colin Kaepernick back in 2016. He stated very clearly that he was protesting police brutality and not disrespecting the American flag or veterans. He belabored and reiterated that countless times.

It didn’t matter. A sizeable chunk of people, who I won’t identify because they make their affiliations all too clear, decided he was this anti-American radical. He didn’t just want to protest injustice. He wanted to ruin America, the NFL, and sports in general. I’ve seen many toxic comment sections and Twitter threads in my time. This was probably the worst.

Again, most of it was just virtue signaling from the other side. Everyone seemed to compete for the right to proclaim they loved America, stood for the National Anthem, and hated Colin Kaepernick with every fiber of their being. They do all of that while calling someone like Kaepernick and other players who protested with him whiny, virtue-signaling America haters.

It’s a cycle of hypocrisy that doesn’t just miss the point. It goes out of its way to avoid the actual substance of what the issue was. Remember, and I wish I didn’t have to reiterate this, the man was protesting police brutality against young black men. That’s a legitimate issue that hurts innocent people. It should be confronted.

Instead, the hypocritical virtue signalers of the internet decide to ignore that issue entirely and make it all about who loves their country and flag more. It’s the digital equivalent of a pissing contest. Everyone wants to yell how much they hate the NFL and NBA. They want everyone to know that they don’t support their league and won’t be watching any games.

First off, I don’t believe them for a second.

I suspect the people who make comments like that will get bored one day, flip through the channels, and settle on a football or basketball game. Nobody will ever call them out on it. Chances are, nobody will ever find out. They may or may not feel a twinge of guilt for the hypocrisy, but they’ll pay no price.

Second, if you go out of your way to post comments in feeds to tell the world how much you hate something, you’re not just virtue signaling. You’re being an asshole of the highest order. The NFL and NBA are not out to get you. They’re not out to destroy America. They just want to entertain and make money. Sometimes, that means catering to a diverse audience.

Certain snowflakes on certain extremes of the political spectrum may hate it. They can whine about it all they want, telling as many people as they can how they’re not going to participate. They’re still the bigger assholes here and considering the scandalous behavior of organizations like the NFL, that’s saying something.

I’m sorry if this rant is dragging, but as someone who’s genuinely excited for football season and doesn’t mind at all seeing athletes protest causes they believe in, this kind of virtue signaling just pisses me off more than most. If you hate the NFL just because they dare to raise awareness of social issues, then I don’t know what to tell you. That’s petty, shallow, and just plain stupid. Virtue signaling is bad enough. Let’s not make it worse by adding whining and hypocrisy to the mix.

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Filed under Current Events, extremism, football, human nature, media issues, outrage culture, political correctness, politics, rants

Upheavals At DC Comic: My Concerns And Hopes

Let’s face it. Pretty much every industry not associated with health care, masks, streaming media, and Zoom calls has been hit hard this year. That’s especially true for certain segments of the entertainment industry. Basically, if you’re a movie studio, a movie theater, a comic shop, or a mall, this year has been like 100 punches to the gut, jaw, and genitals by a crack-fueled Ivan Drago.

That’s how bad global pandemics are. They pull no punches and will hit anything that attempts to prosper, both directly and indirectly.

Those blows extended to the comics industry, as well. As a lifelong comic book fan, I certainly felt it. I haven’t forgotten the weeks on end of having no new comics to enjoy for the first time in over a decade. It was not a pleasant experience. As elated as I was to see New Comic Book Day return, I didn’t doubt for a second that there would be some lasting scars.

Well, now it seems some of those scars are starting to fester and the first one to feel the pain is DC Comics. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the entire DC Comics operation has been hit with major layoffs and restructuring. It’s still intact, but make no mistake. This is the single biggest purging of personnel from a major comics publisher since the mid-1990s.

THR: DC Comics, DC Universe Hit By Major Layoffs

Monday’s WarnerMedia layoffs have affected a significant number of high-level figures at comic book powerhouse DC, multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

Among those said to be losing their positions are editor-in-chief Bob Harris, senior VP of publishing strategy and support services Hank Kanalz, VP of marketing and creative services Jonah Weiland, VP global publishing initiatives and digital strategy Bobbie Chase, senior story editor Brian Cunningham, and executive editor Mark Doyle, who oversaw the rollout of the Black Label graphic novels. Jim Lee remains the CCO.

Roughly one third of DC’s editorial ranks are being laid off, according to sources.

Insiders also say the majority of the staff of the streaming service DC Universe has been laid off, a move that had been widely expected as WarnerMedia shifts its focus to new streaming service HBO Max.

I can’t understate how big a deal this is to the larger world of comics, but I don’t want to overstate it, either. This situation is objectively bad. There’s no way around it. It’s also not the definitive end of DC Comics. That’s a narrative I don’t want to fuel.

That hasn’t stopped some of the whiniest, dumbest segments of the comics crowd from claiming otherwise. I won’t name names, but they are affiliated with a certain movement in comics that has only become less credible and more insufferable with time. The box office return of the “Captain Marvel” movie is proof enough of that.

Don’t be fooled by what some asshole voices on social media claim. This restructuring is not because DC Comics had too much diversity. It’s more a byproduct of DC Comics having lost its sense of vision, scale, and identity. This is something that happens from time to time in comics. After a while, the whole line loses its sense of self and needs some revitalization.

I can say, as a longtime comic fan, that DC has become somewhat stale in recent years. Even before the pandemic, I felt as though it had lost momentum outside its mainstays. It has primarily been relying on the strength of Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Flash. As iconic as those characters are, they just can’t sustain the entire line.

There are many reasons for that. I think DC Comics, as a whole, hasn’t had a consistent vision since the days of DC Rebirth. It just got bogged down too much with competing visions, like DCeased and Injustice: Gods Among Us. It also endured way too many delays with its last big crossover event, Doomsday Clock.

The onset of the pandemic just exacerbated a problem that was starting to grow. As bad as things are now, there’s also an opportunity to set things on a better path. That’s my greatest hope for whatever restructuring DC pursues next. It still has plenty to build on. The success of the Harley Quinn show is proof enough of that. It’s just a matter of what form that will take.

That said, I do have major concerns. Comic lines have gone through upheavals before, but never during a global pandemic. This is uncharted territory for the comics industry, as a whole. This is not the era of newsstands and comic shops where top books could easily sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Paperbacks alone are not going to make this industry succeed.

Comics, in the current system, work best as a garden from which new characters, stories, and ideas can blossom. The fruits of that system can later become the basis for TV shows, movies, merchandise, and so much more. DC Comics already has a major media partner in its owner, AT&T. The structure is there. They just have to carve their niche into it.

I understand that’s easier said than done. Right now, a lot of factors are working against DC and the comics industry, as a whole. When all is said and done, comic shops may become much more diminished and trade paperback sales may dwindle to just a handful of titles. I’m not looking forward to that kind of status quo.

The ultimate setup may one day involve DC Comics just abandoning its publishing system, as a whole, and shift to licensing its characters to other companies, such as IDW. That’s very much a last resort, but one that may be more likely if DC can’t get its comics in order.

I want to be hopeful, but I’m also going to brace for the worst. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that things can always get worse and the things we love are always capable of succumbing to forces beyond our control. It’s a sad, nihilistic mindset, but one that a global pandemic tends to affirm. Only time will tell and I’ll be waiting with baited breath.

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Filed under DC Comics, media issues, superhero comics

A Quick Note: Fact-Checking Is NOT Censorship

In general, I am very against censorship. I’m a strong advocate of ending the outdated and asinine practice of bleeping profanity and blurring female nipples. There is no reasonable justification for that kind of censorship. It’s just a dumb, misguided effort to try and cover up certain words and images that some people find offensive. That kind of censorship has no place in a free society.

In that same spirit, I am also very much in favor of fact-checking. I’ve been on the internet long enough to know the near-infinite volumes of bullshit that fill websites, social media, and even blogs like mine. In fact, given the recent trends in politics and a preference for “alternative facts,” I think fact-checking has never been more critical.

For that very reason, it’s important to make clear that fact-checking is not the same as censorship. Verifying whether some bullshit claim about chemtrails or shape-shifting lizards is valid does not constitute censorship. It’s consistent with a sincere and honest effort to filter bullshit from meaningful facts.

I bring this up because certain groups and movements are having a difficult time discerning between the two. More recently, anti-vaxx groups on social media sites like FaceBook have been whining about censorship of their extreme, unsubstantiated views. ARS Technica recently reported that this whining has escalated into a full-fledged lawsuit.

ARS Technica: Anti-vaccine group sues Facebook, claims fact-checking is “censorship”

A notorious anti-vaccine group spearheaded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed suit today in federal court in California alleging that Facebook’s fact-checking program for false scientific or medical misinformation violates its constitutional rights.

Children’s Health Defense claims in its suit that Facebook, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and the organizations Science Feedback, Poynter, and PolitiFact acted “jointly or in concert with federal government agencies” to infringe on CHD’s First and Fifth Amendment rights. The suit also alleges Facebook and the fact-checking organizations colluded to commit wire fraud by “clearing the field” of anti-vaccine ads.

As anti-vax movement gets weirder—and dumber—Facebook announces crackdown
Facebook has “insidious conflicts with the pharmaceutical industry and its captive health agencies,” CHD claimed in a press release. “Facebook currently censors Children’s Health Defense’s page, targeting its purge against factual information about vaccines, 5G and public health agencies.”

“This is an important First Amendment case testing the boundaries of government authority to openly censor unwanted critiques of government policies and pharmaceutical and telecom products on privately owned internet platforms,” Kennedy added in a written statement.

Now, I’m not a lawyer and I have no legal expertise on the nature of censorship and free speech in the internet age. However, I’m smart enough and sane enough to understand the difference between actively censoring ideas that I don’t want to hear and trying to verify a ridiculous claim shared on social media.

I’m also informed enough to understand that FaceBook isn’t the government, even though it tries to be at times. It’s a platform. It can decide for itself whether or not it wants to remove certain content. Every private organization does that to some extent, especially ones with such a vast reach.

The content they permit has a tangible effect on their brand image. It’s why FaceBook’s reputation is not on the same level as 4chan, even if that’s not saying much. Their efforts to verify or discredit claims on their platform is perfectly in line with standard practices. It doesn’t actively punish or fine anti-vaxxers like the government did when Janet Jackson’s nipple popped out during the Super Bowl. It just removes or flags the content.

You can call that a lot of things. You may not like that companies like FaceBook can decide what is and isn’t appropriate on a platform that has had such a spotty history with censorship, to say the least. In this case though, it’s not censorship.

If anything, fact checking medical claims during a global pandemic is probably the most responsible thing a company like FaceBook can do. Hosting those claims can potentially do a great deal of harm to those who don’t know the difference between clickbait and a legitimate news story. People could actually suffer and die.

When feelings and sensibilities are the only thing at stake, then it’s fine to talk about the merits of censoring content. However, when lives are at stake on a large scale, there is no merit. Claims that may or may not affect those lives should be fact-checked. You can complain about it all you want in a lawsuit, but unless you can verify your bullshit, then that’s exactly how it’s going to be labeled and that’s not FaceBook’s fault.

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Filed under censorship, Current Events, extremism, media issues, politics

The Fall (And Hypocrisy) Of Jerry Falwell Jr. And Why It’s Both Fitting And Infuriating

I don’t like talking about religion. I think I’ve made my opinion on organized religion and the extremists it enables very clear. Then, a story comes along that I find so distressing and infuriating that I just can’t in good conscious ignore it. That tends to happen when the same ugly religious extremism is mixed with outright hypocrisy. It’s happened before. It will happen again. That’s just the nature of organized religion.

This time, it involves Jerry Falwell Jr.

Now, if anyone follows religious hypocrisy as closely as I do, the name Falwell should be painfully familiar. Between this guy, and his grifting, theocracy-loving, power-hungry snob of a father, that name is associated with the worst parts of the religious right.

Think of the most regressive religious doctrines you can imagine. From killing homosexuals to subjugating women to racial discrimination to promoting creationism to draconian abortion restrictions, these people are for it. They see the repressive government in “The Handmaid’s Tale” with envy. There is really no difference between them and the Taliban.

They see religion and religious values as a means of gaining power and influence. They use it to the utmost and dare to claim they represent truth, virtue, and order. They are hypocrites and frauds of the highest order. I cannot belabor that enough.

If you are a Christian who sincerely believes in the values it preaches, you should be disgusted by the Falwells. They embody a form of Christianity that’s both perverse and backwards. They don’t value the poor. They don’t value truth. They don’t even believe in loving they neighbor if they don’t live, vote, and believe as they do. They couldn’t be more antithetical to Jesus’ teachings.

Now, Jerry Falwell Jr. is embroiled in a lurid sex scandal that forced him to resign from his position at the indoctrination center/college that his father founded, Liberty University. In terms of sex scandals, this is hardly the kinkiest. This doesn’t involve sex with gay prostitutes while on meth. It mostly involves extra-marital affairs with Jr. and his wife, along with some light voyeurism.

In terms of juiciness, this is pretty tame. That doesn’t make it any less hypocritical. Remember, this is a man who once ran a university that had strict rules against any kind of pre-marital or extra-marital activities. It was so repressive that they even had rules against extended hugging, R-rated movies, and dancing. Again, these aren’t that different from the rules the once Taliban enforced.

Falwell Jr. and his supporters all imposed these rules and enforced them, justifying their draconian nature with their religious dogma. It wasn’t just for show, either. I actually been to the Lynchburg area. I’ve met people who have attended the poorly-named Liberty University. These rules are taken seriously. They’re enforced, too. The only way to avoid them is to never get caught.

Well, Falwell Jr. couldn’t handle that last part. He committed the most egregious sin of the religious right, which is to get caught and exposed as a hypocrite. By day, he preached fire and brimstone for anyone who dared to have sex with anyone who wasn’t their Christian spouse, but put in the minimum effort to live by that same doctrine.

I want to say it’s fitting. This scandal did cost Falwell Jr. his job and his credibility among his theocracy-loving cohorts in the religious right. However, it’s hard to take much satisfaction in his downfall.

For one, he will not suffer significant consequences from this scandal. He won’t go to jail. He won’t pay any fines. In fact, by resigning from his indoctrination center/university, he received $10.5 million severance package. That’s right, this wannabe theocrat who protested and condemned any sexual relation outside a 1950s sitcom is getting $10 million to step away from his job.

Even if you consider yourself religious and a bible-believing Christian, how is this justified? How does anyone justify being rewarded for resigning from their job because they engaged in the same sexual relations they so gleefully condemned? Seriously, what kind of mental gymnastics does someone have to do in order to say that’s right on any level?

Now, if Falwell Jr. sincerely sought forgiveness, and I don’t think for a nanosecond he will, he’d donate every penny to charity. There are plenty of charities, both religious and secular, who could do plenty of good with that money. It would be the most Christian thing you can do, given how much Jesus himself preached helping the poor.

However, there’s no way Falwell Jr. will ever do something that virtuous. It’s just not his style, nor was it his father’s. He’s going to keep preaching the same dogma, pretending he was “sick with sin” and now he’s healed. He’ll probably fight even harder to promote a repressive worldview that would see homosexuals murdered, promiscuity punished, and abortion outlawed.

If that weren’t bad enough, the same people who made him resign will probably still embrace him. There will even be a large contingent of right-wing Christians who will eagerly overlook his transgressions because his name is so closely associated with their movement. He might not have the same authority he once did, but he’ll keep fighting for the same repressive world that is so antithetical to American values.

On top of all of that, he’ll do all of this while living comfortably and luxuriously on his $10.5 million nest egg. Keep that in mind if you have even a sliver of sympathy for the man. Jerry Falwell Jr. offers absolutely nothing of the sort. He’s still a perverse manifestation of the kind of people who use religion to seek power, influence, and authority. He’s just a hypocrite on top of all that.

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Filed under Current Events, extremism, gender issues, media issues, outrage culture, politics, religion

Why I Think Movie Theaters Will Never (Fully) Recover

The COVID-19 global pandemic is going to have many long-term effects. There’s no way around it. This pandemic will leave lasting scars that will fester for generations. If I ever have kids or grandkids, I’ll likely share harrowing stories about how we survived 2020. I’m sure they’ll have plenty of questions with respect to social distancing, mask wearing, and Zoom calls.

As it stands, those stories aren’t yet complete. We, as a society, are still trying to navigate our way through it. Even if a vaccine is close, it’s going to be a while before we can say with certainty that the pandemic is over. Like many, I eagerly await that day. I’d love to be able to go to a bar, a water park, or a ball game again.

At the same time, we have to face another difficult truth. Some of the things we took for granted before the pandemic are never coming back, at least to the extent we remember. I suspect things like handshakes, poor hygiene, and thoroughly cleaning subway cars only once every 100 years will never be a formality, at least to some extent. Entire industries will have to re-think how they do business form here on out.

Among those many common activities we once took for granted, I believe there’s one in particular that will change more than most. It involves the once-simple act of going to a movie theater. Just a year ago, this activity/industry maintained a special place in our culture. Big summer blockbusters weren’t just an expected market trend. They were a cultural tradition.

Now, having gone an entire summer without those blockbusters, I suspect this experience will never return to its former glory.

By that, I don’t mean big-budget movies will diminish in importance. There’s definitely still a place for those in the near and distant future. The insatiable demand for new content on streaming services will ensure that. However, the long-standing traditions of going to a movie theater to celebrate one of those blockbusters has probably been permanently diminished.

I say that as someone who both loves going to the movies and laments any loss of these blockbuster traditions. I’m the kind of guy who gets in line early for every Marvel movie and has many fond memories of spending an afternoon or evening in a movie theater. Believe me. I don’t want that tradition to end or decline. I just don’t see how it can ever recover from this.

That’s not to say movie theaters will disappear, like video rental stores. I think that, over the next several years, they’re just not going to be as critical a part of the movie industry. We’ve already seen signs of that over the course of this pandemic.

I think the biggest turning point when movies like “Trolls: World Tour,” “Scoob,” and “Mulan” skipped theaters entirely, going straight to video-on-demand. Even if it was done out of necessity, I think it’s simply accelerating a trend that had started before the pandemic. More and more, movies were just skipping theaters entirely and going straight to streaming services.

These weren’t the kind of straight-to-DVD movies that were so bad they couldn’t get into theaters. These were quality movies that have the potential to become solid franchises. There were also cases in which a movie skipping theaters actually turned a profit. It’s not a huge profit on the levels of an Avengers movie, but it is a profit. That’s all any industry innovation needs to get going.

It won’t happen all at once.

It won’t upend the entire movie industry overnight.

It won’t even be obvious until years after we’re past the point of no return.

I still believe it’ll happen. Years from now, a big blockbuster movie coming out in theaters won’t be the kind of seasonal, cultural event it once was. Movies like “Avengers: Endgame” and any “Star Wars” movie will still make headlines, but they’ll be the exceptions rather than the industry standards.

Movie theaters, themselves, will probably look very different. The theater I live near, which I’ve been going to for years, probably won’t look the same. It’ll most likely look more like an IMAX theater, which provides an experience that isn’t easily duplicated within a typical living room.

Only a handful of movies can complement that experience. Low budget, high-concept movies probably won’t come out anymore, except for a select number of theaters, like drafthouses. They’ll go straight to streaming services. That might even work better for long movies like “The Irishman.”

That might open the door to a new type of movie experience for a new generation of movie-goers. I have a feeling that kids who lived through this pandemic, whose entertainment consumption came primarily through streaming media, will see that as their new normal. The whole concept of movie theaters might seem as strange to them as land lines or pagers.

I don’t claim to know what form the movie industry will take several years from now. I don’t even know what kind of world we’ll have six months from now. I question the honesty of anyone who claims otherwise. The only real certainty is uncertainty. We don’t know what kind of world will emerge when this pandemic is over.

Some things will return, but in a different form.

Some things will never be the same.

As much as I love going to the movies, I believe that experience will just be one of the many casualties of this horrible pandemic.

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Filed under Current Events, media issues, movies, technology, television

Jack’s World: Why Conservatives Make Better Villains (For Now)

The following is a video I made for my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s a video version of an article I wrote a while back. I added and removed a few details to the video. If necessary, I’ll do a follow-up. Enjoy!

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Filed under Current Events, extremism, human nature, Jack's World, media issues, philosophy, political correctness, politics, psychology, superhero comics, superhero movies, Villains Journey, YouTube

Why Johnny Depp (And Men Like Him) Will NEVER Get The Benefit Of The Doubt

Let’s be honest with ourselves. We’re all subject to certain biases and assumptions. Whether it involves religion, politics, or which movies you like, we can only ever be so objective. We’re not machines. It’s next to impossible to analyze a situation with cold, unfeeling logic and render a perfectly objective judgment.

I make that disclaimer because I’m about to talk about the ongoing situation between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Please note that I’ve been avoiding this topic, but not because it involves serious, emotionally charged issues. I’ve touched on issues of spousal abuse and double standards in the past before. I’ve even attempted to pose distressing thought experiments about gender politics and double standards.

This case, however, is one of those instances where it’s just too late. There’s no possible way to have a balanced discussion anymore. It has gone beyond he said/she said, celebrity gossip, and double standards. At this point, this whole case is just one big, ugly affair in which any side can find a detail to confirm whatever bias they want.

The details of the case are simple, but disturbing. When the anti-harassment movement was picking up steam, Amber Heard accused her ex-husband Johnny Depp of serious abuse. Her stories were disturbing, but enough people believed them that he was ultimately fired from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

At first, Heard’s story checked all the boxes for a standard #MeToo narrative. It was easy to believe because Johnny Depp, whatever you think about his movies, is an odd character. He’s no Tom Cruise, but many see him as eccentric, even by Hollywood standards. It’s not too hard to imagine him having a dark side.

Then, the narrative changed. During a number of legal battles, he accused Heard of being physically and emotionally abusive towards him. It’s not the typical narrative. There’s still a major taboo, as well as a gross double standard, surrounding women abusing men. It’s either not taken seriously or brushed off.

However, there’s one detail about Depp’s accusation that sets it apart from Heard’s. Unlike Heard, there’s actual audio evidence to back up his claims. This isn’t some rumored recording either. It was made public. It included direct quotes of Heard saying stuff like this:

“You didn’t get punched. You got hit. I’m sorry I hit you like this. But I did not punch you. I did not f***ing deck you. I f***ing was hitting you. I don’t know what the motion of my actual hand was, but you’re fine, I did not hurt you, I did not punch you, I was hitting you.”

To date, there has been no evidence to back up Heard’s claims about Depp. That didn’t stop her from doubling down on her claim as an ongoing libel trial wraps up. She still stands by her claims, even though she doesn’t have audio evidence to back up those claims. Even without it, there’s no guarantee the audio will make a difference.

This is where an uncomfortable, but unavoidable truth emerges. Regardless of your gender or your political leanings, this case has revealed something that has and will continue to disrupt any efforts towards gender equality.

Johnny Depp, and men like him, will never get the benefit of the doubt.

In making this statement, I’m not just referring to cases of spousal abuse. In the grand scheme of things, with respect to the various injustices driven by gender politics, we just can’t treat everyone by the same standard. We can try and we really should, but the results are always going to be mixed to some extent.

It’s hard to avoid. Were it not for that audio recording, how many would give Depp’s accusations of abuse by Heard any credence? He’s an eccentric, yet very successful actor in an industry that has a long history of enabling awful men. Him being an abuser just fits the standard narrative of how most people imagine spousal abuse.

Even before the anti-harassment movement, many of us already had that narrative ingrained in us. The idea of a woman abusing a man just doesn’t fit with every idea and assumption. We think spousal abuse and our immediate reflex is to think about a man abusing a woman. That’s the default. Anything other than that is going to draw skepticism.

On top of that, there’s also the beauty factor. That’s another distressing, but understated truth that this case has exposed. Amber Heard, however guilty she might be, is still a beautiful woman by most standards. Like it or not, beautiful women are far more likely to get the benefit of the doubt for pretty much everything, including abuse.

That’s not an extreme opinion. It’s well-documented that beautiful people have things easier and are given more credence. There’s even some biology to it. People are both drawn to beauty and feel compelled to trust, revere, and preserve it. Even if Johnny Depp was just as beautiful as her, relatively speaking, being a woman still gives her an edge.

Like I’ve noted before, women’s bodies tend to be more valued than men. As such, we’re just going to be more inclined to trust them, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons. That means, even with a verified audio recording of Amber Heard admitting physical abuse, we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt before Depp.

It’s not fair.

It’s not right.

It’s certainly not just.

Regardless of your gender politics, abuse is abuse. Women suffer from it, but so do men. Celebrities like Corey Feldman and Terry Crews have been vocal about it for years, but no matter how much awareness they raise, our biases don’t change. In cases of serious abuse, we’ll still never give them the benefit of the doubt.

There’s so much I can say about this case, which is one of the reasons I’ve avoided it. I’ve seen a lot of heated discussions between feminists, anti-feminists, liberals, conservatives, and even moderate-minded people. Very little actually comes of it. There’s no way this case will ever change anyone’s mind or shift their gender politics in any way.

Any instance of abuse is awful. Regardless of the outcome, it’s still going to leave everyone unsatisfied. Depp and Heard will have their respective supporters, but the overall narrative surrounding this case won’t change. A man accused of abuses a woman cannot and will not be viewed the same as a woman who abuses a man.

It’s tragic, as well as frustrating. That’s just the current state of affairs for gender politics. A lot will likely change because of this global pandemic, but this ingrained narrative will likely persist. The end result is more abuse and less justice.

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Why Conservatives Make Better Villains (For Now)

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We currently live in a golden age of villains. Between Thanos, Erik Killmonger, the Joker, and Walter White, there has been a veritable surge of complex characters who also happen to be compelling villains. While there’s still a place for the kind of pure evil that Disney villains have relied on for years, this trend in a more refined brand of villainy feels both refreshing and overdue.

I’ve written extensively on villains before. As a lifelong fan of superhero comics and movies, I’ve consumed, contemplated, and scrutinized hero/villain dynamics more than most. In doing so, I’ve noticed plenty of trends. Like most aspects of popular culture, it’s always evolving. Very few themes and details remain constant, especially when it comes to antagonists.

That said, there’s one trend in villains that has remained somewhat constant over the course of my lifetime. It’s also a trend that I see as intensifying, albeit in a subtle way. Some of it coincides with the growing complexity of villains in popular culture, but most of the trend precedes the current era of superhero-dominated media. If anything, superhero media helped accelerate it.

While most villains and heroes rarely identify with a certain political affiliation, it’s usually not hard to discern how most would vote in a contemporary election. I would even argue that it’s easier to surmise what a villain’s political leanings are compared to that of heroes. Take any villain from the past 10 years of movies, be they superhero or otherwise. Chances are a vast majority of them would identify as conservative.

Now, I understand conservatism is an exceedingly broad term. It has a dictionary definition, but as a political philosophy, there are many sub-sets, divisions, and variations. From fiscal conservatives to social conservative to neoconservatives, there are many wildly different ideologies that still identify as conservative. A few actively clash with one another.

Those complexities aside, there are some core tenants associated with conservatism and it’s those very tenants that make it such an effective basis for villains. Chief among conservative values is the idea that traditional norms, institutions, and values be maintained. Change isn’t actively dissuaded, but it is viewed with caution and suspicion. To be conservative is to affirm the status quo, to some extent.

That’s all well and good if the status quo is beneficial to everyone. It’s not so preferable for those who either fail to benefit or are actively screwed over by that same status quo. Since there has never been a society in history that has achieved perfect prosperity for everyone, regardless of their minority status, there’s bound to be people who get left behind.

In our own real-world history, we’ve seen people from those disaffected groups organize and fight the status quo to better their lives. That struggle has played out in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the movement for women’s rights, and the LGBT rights movement that’s still going on today. Those who oppose these movements tend to have, broadly speaking, conservative leanings.

Look at the groups that opposed the Civil Rights movement.

Look at those who actively oppose LGBT rights, women’s rights, and immigrants.

They all espouse rhetoric that would put them at odds with Superman, Captain America, and most other superheroes who value justice, truth, and peace. For some, their talking points sound like ideas that only villains in the mold of Lex Luthor would agree with. While not all of them identify as overtly conservative, the standard principles are there.

Anything too different from the status quo must be wrong or evil.

Anybody too different from the people everyone else in a society must be bad, evil, or devious.

Any idea, trend, or movement that is disruptive or deviant in any way is something to be opposed.

It doesn’t just manifest in superhero movies or underdog stories, either. Look at a movie like “Footloose.” In this story, the people who ban dancing are uptight, dogmatic, religious zealots who likely voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984 when this movie came out. They were the antagonists of that story and the kids, while not overtly liberal, dared to defy them.

It can even manifest subtly in other media. In kids shows like “Recess,” “Hey Arnold,” and “Rocko’s Modern Life,” the most common antagonists are uptight authority figures who have no tolerance for new ideas, big changes, or anything remotely fun. It’s hard to imagine any of these characters voting for someone who builds their slogan around change, reform, and reinvention.

They like things the way they are. Most of them benefit from the current system and will naturally seek to preserve their place in that system. While they won’t always see themselves as villains, it’s difficult for them to come off as heroes. You can only be so heroic when your side is closely aligned with predatory business practices, fun-hating religious zealots, and unabashed war-mongers.

That’s not to say it’s impossible for liberals to be villains too. It does happen and it can be done very well when done right. I would argue that Erik Killmonger in “Black Panther” was more in line with an extreme liberal revolutionary who didn’t just want to pursue change. I would make a similar argument for Ra’s Al Ghul in “Batman Begins.”

These characters didn’t just seek to change society from its current unjust state. They sought to violently destroy it and rebuild it from the ground up. That kind of liberalism exists in the real world and it can make for compelling villains.

However, the number of villains who align with the politics of Killmonger are far fewer than those who would align with the politics of Lex Luthor. In general, it’s easier to resist change rather than embrace it. It’s also necessary to some extent for those to resist change to be uptight authority figures who are okay with coercing others to maintain traditions. Logistically, the villains in many conflicts must be conservative.

Now, that’s not to say that villains will always lean conservative in popular media. What it means to be conservative changes over time. If you were to listen to conservative rhetoric 50 years ago, they would sound very different. They might even sound liberal by today’s standards.

The same goes for liberalism of previous eras. It hasn’t always been closely aligned with the politics surrounding minority rights, income inequality, or political correctness. The liberals of the 1920s would likely clash with the liberals of today. That’s just part of the ever-evolving nature of politics.

 

For the time being, though, being a villain in popular culture usually means being conservative to a certain extent. Conservatives are more likely to be the rich, greedy business people who would gladly burn down a rain forest or exploit slave labor to raise profits. Conservatives are more likely to be the rule-loving, fun-hating, curfew-enforcing religious zealots who wouldn’t mind electing theocrats with every election.

These types of individuals are far more likely to be villains in a story. At the very least, they’ll side or tolerate the villain. It’s easy to believe that those who side with the religious right and well-connected rich people will generally oppose a selfless, likable protagonist. From a narrative perspective, these kinds of villains are better in that we tend to root for heroes who oppose authoritarian bullies like that.

Again, it’s guaranteed that political and cultural trends will likely change what it means to be conservative, liberal, and everything in between. For the time being, if you were to bet on the political leanings of an antagonist, the odds are mostly in favor of that antagonist being conservative.

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What Exactly Does “Canceling” Someone Solve?

In general, I try not to comment on “cancel culture.” It’s not because I don’t have an opinion. I just think it’s a waste of time, for the most part. I’ve never seen it lead to a productive conversation on anything. Most of the time, it just amounts to people publicly whining about something they find offensive to a point where others cave, if only to stop the whining.

I am not a fan of this, to put it mildly.

Every time I see it trend, I want to bash my head on my computer screen while telling some of these people to grow thicker skin.

The world is a chaotic, ugly, offensive place. We can only do so much to change it. No matter how much change we manage to implement, it won’t change the past or the context in which it transpired. That’s especially true if the people others are trying to cancel are long dead.

Now, as much as I despite the term and what it represents, I also understand that it’s not as simple as its critics make it out to be. At times, I find the people who whine about cancel culture to be just as insufferable. Their whining can basically be boiled down to, “Other people want to cancel the stuff I like and it hurts my feelings!” That’s just as pathetic as wanting to blackball a celebrity for old tweets from 2009.

Both efforts are equally absurd.

Both efforts do nothing to make the world a safer, more tolerant, more inclusive place.

Most of the time, I find the effects of “cancel culture” to be inconsistent, at best. People will complain about the lack of diversity in media, politics, business, and certain industries, but those same people can’t be bothered to vote or support the things that reflect those preferences. They always revert to whining.

People on both sides of the political spectrum will do this. The same people who laugh at those who complain about a video game character being too sexy while whine just as much because Brie Larson said something that hurt their feelings. They’ll claim their efforts are not contributing to cancel culture, but it’s the same damn concept.

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of decent human beings with thick skin and a good sense of humor, cancel culture is still a thing. People are going to condemn celebrities and public figures for things they said or did years ago. We saw it with Kevin Hart, which cost him a chance to host the Oscars. We’re seeing that now with celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman, who once did skits involving blackface.

All this is happening as statues of historical figures who did deplorable things are coming down. Never mind the context or bigger picture of why they’re historical in the first place. They did something awful. Any image that exists that may glorify them in any way is just too much for our tender sensibilities.

In addition to people, the urge to cancel all things offensive has extended to art. Movies like “Gone With The Wind,” which definitely had some offensive imagery, was removed from streaming recently. Shows like “Paw Patrol,” which is geared towards children, was seen as too offensive at a time when police brutality is a hot topic.

Now, I’m not going to justify old tweets or outrage about movies from a different era. I know there’s nothing I can say to change the minds of those who are so offended by statutes, celebrities, or the names of football teams that they want them all canceled. There’s also nothing I can say to change the minds who think it’s part of some elaborate censorship effort meant to destroy freedom.

Instead, I’d like to ask a few simple questions for both sides to consider.

What exactly does canceling something achieve in the long run?

At what point does canceling something amount to censorship?

Why is canceling something more viable than simply growing thicker skin?

At what point does context stop mattering for something that’s offensive?

How does condemning the ugly history of the past make the present or future any better?

What right do you have to be offended by the feelings and preferences of someone else?

I won’t claim these are easy questions to answer, but to those who are behind or protesting certain cancel-this hashtags, I hope they offer perspective. Like it or not, cancel culture isn’t going away anytime soon. People are always going to be offended by something or someone.

In years past, it was uptight religious zealots who were aghast at anything that didn’t reflect or promote the values of a 1950s sitcom. Now, it’s uptight activists who are aghast at anything that doesn’t reflect their utopian fever dream that just happens to align with their politics. The passion is real, but the motivations are misguided.

You can tear down every monument.

You can censor every byte of media.

You can rewrite every textbook or novel that ever reflected outdated attitudes.

It won’t change what happened in the past. It won’t prevent people from being assholes in the future. If anything, it sends the message that people are too weak, stupid, or traumatized to handle certain ideas. That, in my opinion, is the most offensive thing of all.

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