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Lessons In Mental Health And Outrage Culture From “Daria”

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How does anyone stay sane in this day and age? Between fake news, outrage culture, alternative facts, and the everyday struggle to survive in an economy being subsumed by tech companies, I don’t blame anyone for being a bit uptight. I envy anyone who can step back, see the bigger picture, and retain their sanity.

For some, it takes a special kind of strength, perspective, and mental toughness to deal with the totality of the absurdities in this world. Then, there’s Daria Morgendorffer from her remarkably-ahead-of-its-time TV show, “Daria.” When it comes to maintaining a level head while surrounded by the insanities of the modern world, she’s in a league of her own.

I’ve made my love for “Dariaknown before. I’ve even shared my excitement on the prospect of a new series. Every time I make the mistake of watching the news for more than two minutes, I find myself wishing I had her nuanced perspective. It’s part of what makes her character so enduring. She’ll see things for what they are, tell it like it is, and offer revealing insights along the way.

Earlier this year, research from Clinical Psychological Science indicated that mental health issues are on the rise among young people. Every day, it seems, a new mental ailment emerges from the evolving media landscape. While mental health issues can be serious, they can also be subject to plenty of absurdities.

As it just so happens, one of my favorite episodes of “Daria” tackled this issue in a way that’s more relevant now than it was back in the early 2000s when it first aired. The title of the episode is called “Psycho Therapy” and the lessons it offers are worth learning.

The synopsis of the episode is fairly basic. Daria’s mother, Helen, is up for a promotion. However, before the law firm she works at can consider her, she and her family are sent to a psychiatric center for personality evaluations. Hilarity ensue, but it’s Daria who ends up making the most astute observations, more so than the doctors on hand.

When Daria and her family first arrive, the staff is most concerned about Daria. Considering how she answered her survey with her trademark sarcasm, that’s understandable. However, when the doctors start to evaluate her and her family, they learn something remarkable.

Compared to everyone else in her family, she’s the most mentally stable. Even if you’ve only seen a few episodes of “Daria,” that should be pretty jarring. That’s not to say that she’s the picture of mental health, but according to the doctors in the episode, she’s the most well-adjusted. These are the exact words of Dr. Jean-Michael to Daria.

Dr. Jean-Michael: Daria, I was afraid you had some rather deep-seated problems. But I must say, you’re remarkably well adjusted considering…

Quinn: You’d think someone would’ve invented eye liner before me.
But no, I, Cleopatra, have to come up with all my beauty products on my own.
Oh, what a hard life.

In Quinn’s defense, she was hypnotized when she went on that incoherent ramble. Then again, Quinn Morgandorffer is probably the least defensive character in the show and would probably benefit from a healthy bit of therapy.

What makes this assessment more revealing is just how much Daria is surrounded by intense personalities, so to speak. I won’t go so far as to say these personalities are on par with mental illness, but they certainly walk the line. While that’s part of what makes these characters interesting, it also highlights an important concept that Daria Morgandorffer embodies.

At her core, Daria is a hardcore realist. She’s not a nihilist, a social constructionist, or an existentialist. She’s someone who sees both the surface and the forces just below that surface. From there, she makes a cold, calculated assessment that is devoid of needless emotional breadth, unless you count the sarcasm.

This is how she’s able to effectively break down the mental quirks of her parents, Jake and Helen Morgandorffer. Throughout the series, their relationship goes through a lot of atypical stresses. Just check out Season 3, Episode 10, entitled “Speedtrapped” for a clear depiction of those stresses.

On top of that, they both have some fairly eccentric personality quirks. Her mother is an incredibly high-strung, career-obsessed woman who constantly worries about how “normal” both her daughters are. Her father is an overly-dense, exceedingly histrionic man who always seems like he’s in the middle of a mid-life crisis.

Even a professional would have trouble making sense of their mental state. Daria does it in just a few short sentences.

Daria: Mom’s resentful that she has to work so hard, which obscures her guilt about actually wanting to work so hard. Dad’s guilty about being less driven than Mom, but thinks it’s wrong to feel that way. So, he hides behind a smokescreen of cluelessness.

Behind the heavy monotone and light sarcasm, this shows that Daria knows her parents. Given how they behave throughout the episode, she demonstrates that she actually knows them better than they know themselves. There’s even a scene towards the end of the episode where they try to mimic one another. It ends up getting pretty dramatic for everyone, except for Daria.

Helen: I mean Dammit! I lost another client! I can’t understand why! Dammit! Nobody likes poor old Jake. Should I think about the reason? Oh, must be my father’s fault. Where’s the newspaper, dammit!

Jake: Let me bring home the pizza. I have to be the one doing everything so everyone will thank me and tell me what a big superwoman I am. I’m very, very important and very, very stressed and I don’t have time to actually do anything for anyone else, but I can pretend I care, can’t I?

This is some pretty brutal honesty, even by “Daria” standards. They reveal some pretty unhealthy sentiments that probably need more than just advice and therapy. They reflect many of the quirks and side-plots that Daria’s parents experience throughout the show with Helen constantly obsessing over her career and Jake obsessing over whatever is stressing him out at the moment.

Daria’s ability to sift through all that and make a clear, honest assessment is both remarkable and refreshing. Even though these are her parents, she doesn’t pull any punches. Moreover, she doesn’t make any value judgments either. She doesn’t take sides or show scorn. She’s just tells it like it is. She says what the audience feels and does it in that lovable, monotone sort of way.

Her being able to make that assessment is profound. Doing so while maintaining mental stability is just as amazing. The fact she can maintain this perspective around personalities that range from ditzy cheerleader types like Brittney Taylor and touchy-feely teachers like Timothy O’Neill show why Daria is the emotional anchor of the show.

Back in the early 2000s, Daria’s knack for being level-headed while surrounded by so many bizarre characters made for great entertainment. Today, it acts as a radical departure from how we make sense of a world where every news clip, viral video, and hashtag is measured by the emotional outburst it triggers.

What Daria does in “Psycho Therapy” is something that has become far less common with each passing year. She makes a clear, concise assessment of other peoples’ behaviors and attitudes without casting judgement. She doesn’t whine about other peoples’ shortcomings or bemoan misguided efforts to treat them. She just points out the cold, hard facts and lets them stand on their own merit.

Contrast that with how every comment about someone, whether it’s in person or online, is laced with value judgments. You say you like video games and immediately, you’re judged as this angry fanboy who rages whenever someone dares to significantly change a particular aspect of your game. You say you’re a feminist and immediately, you’re judged as a man-hating bitch who blames men for every single ill on the planet.

It’s not enough to just have an opinion. It’s not even enough to have personal likes or dislikes. Everything you do and why you do it has to be an indictment on your politics, your identity, and the society around you. That’s not just misguided and judgmental. It’s mentally exhausting.

Being constantly judged, online and offline, every hour of every day is sure to be stressful. It’s no wonder why it seems as though more young people are development mental health issues. Daria may seem like the most unhappy person in her show, but compared to what some people deal with in the real world, she’s a picture of sanity.

At the end of the episode, it’s not Daria’s choices that lead to the resolution. All she does is provide commentary. It’s Helen and Jake, her emotionally convoluted parents, who chart their own path. That kind of lesson wasn’t as necessary in June 2000 when this episode first aired, but it’s one worth re-learning today.

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Filed under Daria, gender issues, human nature, nihilism, psychology

Artificial Intelligence, Deep Fakes, And The (Uncertain) Future Of Reality

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Picture the following scenario that may or may not end up being a common occurrence in the near future. It’s not a thought experiment. It’s not a prediction either. It’s just a possible manifestation of what our future might hold.

It’s late at night and you decide to check out some porn. You struggle to decide which one you want to watch. You’re in the mood for something new so you search a little more. You find some elaborate scene where Amy Shumer is a transvestite and she’s doing it with Justin Bieber.

Eventually, you settle on the hottest new scene that just came out the other day. It has Kevin Hart, Steph Curry, and Michael B. Jordan all taking turns with Scarlett Johansson in a sauna in Paris. The scene plays out. You love ever minute of it and decide to save it.

I admit that scenario was pretty lurid. I apologize if it got a little too detailed for some people, but I needed to emphasize just how far this may go. It’s an issue that has made the news lately, but one that may end up becoming a far greater concern as technological trends in computing power and artificial intelligence mature.

The specific news I’m referring to involves something called “deep fakes.” What they are doesn’t just have huge implications for the porn industry. They may also have major implications for media, national security, and our very understanding of reality.

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In essence, a deep fake is a more elaborate version of Photoshopping someone’s face into a scene. That has been around for quite some time, though. People pasting the faces of celebrities and friends into pictures from porn is fairly common. It’s also fairly easy to identify as fake. The technology is good, but not indistinguishable from reality.

That may be changing, though, and it may change in a way that goes beyond making lurid photos. Computer technology and graphics technology are getting to a point where the realism is so good that it’s difficult to discern what’s fake. Given the rapid pace of computer technology, it’s only going to get more realistic as time goes on.

That’s where deep fakes clash with the porn industry. It’s probably not the biggest implication of this technology, but it might be the most relevant in our celebrity-loving culture. In a sense, it already has become an issue and it will likely become a bigger issue in the coming years.

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It started when PornHub, also known as the most popular porn site on the planet, took a major stand at removing deep fakes from their website. Specifically, there was a video of Gal Gadot, also known as Wonder Woman and a person I’ve praised many times on this blog, being digitally added in a porn scene.

Now, it’s not quite as impressive as it sounds. This wasn’t a fully digital rendering of an entire scene. It was just a computer imposing Gal Gadot’s face onto that of a porn actress for a scene. In terms of pushing the limits of computer technology, this didn’t go that far. It was just a slightly more advanced kind of Photoshopping.

Anyone who has seen pictures of Gal Gadot or just watched “Wonder Woman” a hundred times, like me, could easily tell that the woman in that scene isn’t Ms. Gadot. Her face literally does not match her physique. For those not that familiar with her, though, it might be hard to tell.

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That’s exactly why PornHub removed it. Their position is that such deep fakes are done without the explicit permission of the person being depicted and constitute an act of revenge porn, which has become a major legal issue in recent years. These are PornHub’s exact words.

Non-consensual content directly violates our TOS [terms of service] and consists of content such as revenge porn, deepfakes or anything published without a person’s consent or permission.

While I applaud PornHub for making an effort to fight content that puts beloved celebrities or private citizens in compromising positions, I fear that those efforts are going to be insufficient. PornHub might be a fairly responsible adult entertainment company, but who can say the same about the billions of other sites on the internet?

If that weren’t challenging enough, the emergence of artificial intelligence will further complicate the issue of deep fakes. That’s because before AI gets smart enough to ask us whether or not it has a soul, it’ll be targeted to performing certain tasks at a level beyond any programmer. Some call this weak AI, but it still has the power to disrupt more than our porn collection.

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In an article with Motherboard, an artificial intelligence researcher made clear that it’s no longer exceedingly hard for someone who is reckless, tech-savvy, and horny enough to create the kind of deep fakes that put celebrities in compromising positions. In fact, our tendency to take a million selfies a day may make that process even easier. Here’s what Motherboard said on just how much we’re facilitating deep fakes.

The ease with which someone could do this is frightening. Aside from the technical challenge, all someone would need is enough images of your face, and many of us are already creating sprawling databases of our own faces: People around the world uploaded 24 billion selfies to Google Photos in 2015-2016. It isn’t difficult to imagine an amateur programmer running their own algorithm to create a sex tape of someone they want to harass.

In a sense, we’ve already provided the raw materials for these deep fakes. Some celebrities have provided far more than others and that may make them easy targets. However, even celebrities that emphasize privacy may not be safe as AI technology improves.

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In the past, the challenge for any programmer was ensuring every frame of a deep fake was smooth and believable. Doing that kilobyte by kilobyte is grossly inefficient, which put a natural limit on deep fakes. Now, artificial intelligence has advanced to the point where it can make its own art. If it can do that, then it can certainly help render images of photogenic celebrities in any number of ways.

If that weren’t ominous enough, there’s also similar technology emerging that allows near-perfect mimicry of someone’s voice. Just last year, a company called Lyrebird created a program that mimicked former President Obama’s voice. It was somewhat choppy and most people would recognize it as fake. However, with future improvements, it may be next to impossible to tell real from fake.

That means in future deep fakes, the people involved, be they celebrities or total strangers, will look and sound exactly like the real thing. What you see will look indistinguishable from a professionally shot scene. From your brain’s perspective, it’s completely real.

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One of these is real and the other is fake. Seriously.

That blurring of virtual reality and actual reality has huge implications that go beyond the porn industry. Last year, I pointed out how “Star Wars: Rogue One” was able to bring a long-dead actor back to life in a scene. I highlighted that as a technology that could change the way Hollywood makes movies and deals with actors. Deep fakes, however, are the dark side of that technology.

I believe celebrities and private citizens who have a lot of videos or photos of themselves online are right to worry. Between graphics technology, targeted artificial intelligence, and voice mimicry, they’ll basically lose control of their own reality.

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That’s a pretty scary future. Deep fakes could make it so there’s video and photographic evidence of people saying and doing the most lurid, decadent, offensive things that it’s possible for anyone to do. You could have beloved celebrities go on racist rants. You could have celebrities everyone hates die gruesome deaths in scenes that make “Game of Thrones” look like an old Disney movie.

The future of deep fakes make our very understanding of reality murky. We already live in a world where people eagerly accept as truth what is known to be false, especially with celebrities. Deep fakes could make an already frustrating situation much worse, especially as the technology improves.

For now, deep fakes are fairly easy to sniff out and the fact that companies like PornHub are willing to combat them is a positive sign. However, I believe far greater challenges lie ahead. I also believe there’s a way to overcome those challenges, but I have a feeling we’ll have a lot to adjust to in a future where videos of Tom Hanks making out with Courtney Love might be far too common.

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Filed under futurism, gender issues, sex in media, sex in society, sexuality

Apes, CGI, And The (Potentially Sexy) Future Of Hollywood

Trends in Hollywood are like fad diets. There’s always one emerging or fading at any given time. In the same way low-fat diets fade while low-carb diets emerge, the glut of “Die Hard” rip-offs fade while superhero movies emerge.

However, every now and then, a trend comes along that really shakes up the industry in ways that don’t fade. Some are more obvious than others. Movies with color, sound, and better picture quality are here to stay. Even the most douche-bag hipster in he world probably won’t claim that old crappy black-and-white movies are somehow superior to the style that lets us see the sweat on Megan Fox’s face.

Chief among those trends is the use of CGI, which is effectively Hollywood’s ultimate cheat code when facing a scene considered unfilmable. Sometimes, that’s necessary. How else are you going to film Dr. Manhattan’s junk in a movie like “Watchmen?”

There are countless movies that never would’ve been made if it weren’t for CGI. There’s no amount of costume design or camera tricks that could’ve brought “Transformers,” “Iron Man,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” to life. Say what you will about movies that involve transforming trucks and talking raccoons. They still thrilled audiences and made Hollywood boatloads of money.

However, CGI is still treated like dings on a fancy car. It doesn’t prevent the car from being fancy, but it is seen as a taint of sorts. Look at any poorly-reviewed movie these days and chances are, critics and fans will bitch about the overuse of CGI. It doesn’t matter that it’s the kind of visual spectacle that was impossible before 1990. People still roll their eyes whenever they see it used too often.

There’s a valid reason for that, though. While it may make some of us feel old, the CGI we see in movies today has been around for decades. Going all the way back to the groundbreaking effects we saw in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” there has been an entire generation born into a world that has become numb to CGI.

It used to be that these kinds of special effects inspired the kind of awe and wonder usually reserved for fireworks, the Grand Canyon, and Pamela Anderson’s tits. That’s because they were so new and had to be used sparingly, due to the cost. Now, it’s such a common practice that many movies contain scenes that audiences don’t realize are CGI.

Common or not, CGI still has the capacity to evoke that same awe and wonder. “Titanic” and “Avatar” are the top-grossing movies of all time and for good reason. They are enchanting, visually stunning spectacles, complete with a compelling story that often involves some sexy moments. Yes, I’m counting the kinky, ponytail stuff of the Na’vi as one such moment.

Despite these massive successes, CGI still has a trashy reputation. Movies that use too much of it and aren’t directed by James Cameron are seen as cop-outs, of sorts. They couldn’t tell a great story that would get enough asses in movie theaters, so they resort to fancy visuals. It’s like trying to put chocolate sauce on chopped liver. There’s only so much anyone can do to hide the truth.

Then, the new round of “Planet of the Apes” movies came along. Even though they’re entering a world crowded by superhero movies and Pixar films, they found a way to leave a mark and it’s one that might have much larger implications.

Earlier this year, I listed all the reasons why quality erotica/romance movies are next to impossible. I also cited animation as a possible solution to these issues. While nobody in Hollywood seems eager to explore those sexy possibilities, the success of “Planet of the Apes” may be the precursor of sorts to a new era of CGI.

Before anyone starts thinking too much about kinky monkey sex, take a step back and look at what “Planet of the Apes” accomplished. It’s main character, Caesar, is entirely CGI. Actor, Andy Serkis, provided motion capture, but the character itself is a product of CGI and not the clunky ape costumes that made the old movies so cheesy.

This was a huge risk on the part of the studio, creating a character entirely through CGI. With the exception of Pixar, Hollywood has a poor track-record of making quality characters with nothing but CGI. Just go to any executive and say the name Jar Jar Binks. Then, watch their eyes glaze over in horror and shame.

In a sense, Caesar is the anti-Jar Jar. He’s entirely CGI, but he’s also a complex, multi-dimensional character over the course of multiple films. He has personality, depth, and heart. On top of that, he doesn’t look like a compilation of poorly-rendered clip art from a late 90s PC game. The studio actually made a concerted effort to make these CGI characters feel real, detailed, and human.

That effort has paid off with both audiences and critics alike. The latest entry in the franchise, “War for the Planet of the Apes,” has been a critical and commercial success by most measures. It further proved that the approach its predecessor made was not a fluke.

That’s all the excuse Hollywood ever needs to invest lavishly in a new trend. It did so with superhero movies, which led to the rise of the multi-billion dollar behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As successful as that has been, the trends in CGI may have even greater potential.

In a sense, you can look at the advances in CGI in the same way you look at the difference between the first PlayStation gaming system and the latest model of the PlayStation 4. It effectively documents just how far we’ve come, in terms of raw processing power.

That power is only going to keep increasing, thanks to exceedingly fast growth rate of computer technology. We’re not that far off from technology that can render characters so well that it’s impossible to tell whether they’re real or not.

Even before “War for the Planet of the Apes” came out, it took another major step, albeit an ominous one. In 2016’s “Star Wars: Rogue One,” the story required that Grand Moff Tarkin make an appearance. The problem was that the actor who originally played him, Peter Cushing, passed away two decades ago.

That didn’t turn out to be much of a problem. Thanks to CGI and a stand-in actor, the movie was able to bring Grand Moff Tarkin back to life. That would’ve been next to impossible to pull off six years ago. With modern CGI, it’s not just possible. It’s setting a precedent.

A composite of Peter Cushing playing Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars and a CGI imitation of his character.

It’s a precedent that already has some people worried. It’s one thing to get emotionally invested in an adorable character from a Pixar movie, as there are many. What happens, though, when CGI can create a human actor so realistic, so advanced, and so believable that most audiences can’t tell the difference?

The success of “Planet of the Apes” and “Star Wars: Rogue One” may be a tipping point, of sorts. It shows that audiences can accept CGI characters and will fork over obscene amounts of money to see them. That has huge implications for Hollywood, but even bigger implications for actors and actresses.

A CGI character that’s sufficiently realistic doesn’t need the same treatment as a skilled actor. A CGI character doesn’t age, get fat, or get caught sleeping with the babysitter while their wife is out of town. Given how some actors command salaries in the tens of millions, Hollywood has a lot of incentive to develop CGI characters.

For the time being, flesh and blood actors will still make up most Hollywood’s manpower. However, the next generation of audiences may not care much for that distinction. “Planet of the Apes” may have already laid the foundation. Once CGI characters become more functional and efficient, then all bets are off.

Suddenly, concepts and stories considered unfilmable are now viable. That includes movies that feature erotica/romance. Animation may act as a stop-gap, of sorts. At some point, though, someone is going to use advances in CGI to make erotica. It’s an unwritten law. If it can be used for sex, then it will be used for sex.

This may mean that both porn stars and actors won’t get as much work in the future. It also means that the many barriers for erotica/romance no longer apply. We could see a scenario where one of my overtly sexy novels, such as “The Final Communion” or “Skin Deep,” can be made into movies cheaply, efficiently, and with plenty of sex appeal.

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While I doubt I’ll live long enough to ever see one of my novels turn into a movie, I take comfort in the knowledge that the technology to make them possible is coming. The demand for media, as well as the cost of making it, is rising fast. CGI may very well be the only way to meet that demand.

There will still be a place for flesh and blood actors. Let’s face it, though. CGI characters will always have more potential sex appeal. It doesn’t matter how skilled an actress is. A CGI character can make her breasts bigger with the click of a mouse. There’s just no way they can compete.

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How To NOT Screw Up The Deadpool Cartoon

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I thought about doing a post on this sooner. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I got so caught up in talking about the prospect of a second sexual revolution that it kind of slipped my mind. For a subject that involves Deadpool, superhero comics, and a large potential for toilet humor, that’s quite a feat.

Then, as I gave it more thought, it became clear that this was something I had to do. I just couldn’t call myself a fan or an aspiring writer if I just let something like this fall to the wayside. I already set the precedent by doing it with “X-men Dark Phoenix.” Now, I’m doing it with Deadpool. Okay, that came out wrong…or did it? Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.

As I mentioned earlier this week, with a huge grin on my face and a boner in my pants, Deadpool is getting his own cartoon in 2018. After crushing any and all expectations at the box office, raking in $783 million despite an R-rating and a lot of dick jokes, how could Fox resist? That kind of money will be a lot of chimichangas.

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Deadpool will be joining FXX, a network that airs shows and cartoons that are distinctly not Disney. With shows like “Archer” and “The Americans,” this is a network that would’ve made Walt Disney faint, but he’d probably still watch. I’ve yet to meet anyone who can’t get some entertainment value out of “The Americans.”

It’s a network that isn’t afraid of raunchy humor and that’s a good thing too because Deadpool is nothing but raunchy. This is a man who tried to have sex with a female incarnation of death and flirts with Spider-Man. There’s just no way a guy like him could operate under Disney’s kid-friendly policies.

By all accounts, Deadpool has everything going for him. He has a successful movie, a fitting network, and Ryan Reynolds’ sex appeal. He couldn’t be in a better position without being in a hot tub at the Playboy Mansion. Even so, I’m not going to assume too much. Fox still has a mixed legacy when it comes to maximizing the X-men’s potential. I don’t want to keep reminding them of “Wolverine Origins,” but I will if I have to.

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In that spirit, I’m going to do for the Deadpool cartoon what I did for the upcoming “X-men: Dark Phoenix” movie. Namely, I’m going to make a short list of how to ensure this cartoon doesn’t suck.

Don’t get me wrong. I want this cartoon to be awesome. I want it to be every bit as awesome as the movie. However, I’ve learned through experience that establishing a floor is less frustrating than setting a high bar. By pointing out the pot-holes in a road, it’s easier to find your own path.

Deadpool, being the eccentric, walking poop joke that he is, can’t rely too heavily on guidance and standards. Between his style and his limited attention span, micromanaging might as well be his kryptonite. So with that in mind, here’s a short list of ways to not screw up the Deadpool cartoon.


Tip #1: Embrace Deadpool’s Crude Humor

This is actually a lesson Fox already learned the hard way. I know I said I didn’t want to keep reminding everyone of “Wolverine Origins,” but in this case it’s unavoidable. That movie had many problems, but the way it treated Deadpool, turning him into “Barakapool” as X-men fans call him, was at the top of the list.

While the movie was, at its core, a Wolverine movie, it completely robbed Deadpool of all his crazy quirks and crude humor. There were no dick jokes, gratuitous blood splatters, or inappropriate references to outdated pop culture memes. The movie tried way too hard to be PG-13 and that meant giving Deadpool the FCC treatment.

Naturally, it didn’t go over well. “Wolverine Origins” is widely regarded as the worst X-men movie of all time, so much so that Hugh Jackman almost quit the movie entirely. Conversely, “Deadpool” is widely praised as being the best X-men movie of all time and a big part of that success came from embracing Deadpool’s crude humor.

He’s quirky, erratic, crude, violent, and horny. He’s also fun, heroic, likable, and honorable when he needs to be. The movie captured all of these traits and didn’t give a damn if it meant an R-rating. It still worked beautifully and that’s what the cartoon needs to embody.


Tip #2: Craft Stories That Appeal To Adults (For The Most Part)

There was a time when comics, as a whole, were associated with kids. That time wasn’t too long ago either. When I was a kid, cartoons featuring comic characters were geared towards kids. The X-men, Spider-Man, Batman, and the Justice League were all branded as kids shows and that was their primary audience for the most part. Given the billions in merchandising these properties generate, that strategy clearly worked.

However, the kids who grew up loving those cartoons aren’t kids anymore. Their adults and the demographics have shifted considerably, creating large swaths of older consumers who seek more adult-themed material. With “My Little Pony” being the exception, the market is trending towards more adult stories.

At the moment, the comics featuring Deadpool and other major X-men characters are fairly mature. They aren’t exactly “Game of Thrones,” but they do address real-world issues that can make for some pretty iconic stories, some of which end up being big-budget blockbuster movies.

The cartoons, however, are not that mature. They’re the only part of the superhero marketing machine that hasn’t matured. There cartoons out there for Spider-Man and the Avengers, but they are so watered down and so censored in their plot that they’re unwatchable to any fan over the age of 7.

Deadpool can finally break that mold. Deadpool is already on a network that has adult cartoons like “Archer.” While Deadpool has shown up in other cartoons, he’s never been able to be his rude, crude self. This cartoon needs give him that chance. They need to let him joke about dicks, breasts, poop, and everything in between. That’s the only way to capture the true essence of Deadpool.


Tip #3: Keep The Cast Small And Stay Focused On Deadpool

This is an easy trap to fall into with any show, animated or otherwise. Every successful show needs a strong supporting cast. Sometimes, that cast can be pretty damn big. Just look at all the supporting characters “The Simpsons” have gained over the years.

Deadpool may be unique in his love of dick jokes and Mexican food, but he’s had a solid supporting cast throughout his history. Most notably, he’s been closely associated with other established X-men characters like Cable, as well as certain superhero teams like X-Force.

These are all elements that could fit into a cartoon more effectively than the movie. It was a running joke with the movie on how low the budget was. At $58 million, it cost $17 million less than the first X-men movie and that’s in 2000 dollars. It couldn’t have too large a cast because it just didn’t have the money.

As a result, the movie made every character count. With animation, however, there’s more flexibility. Fox could utilize even the most obscure X-men characters, like Doop. Given the sheer size of the X-men mythos, the temptation will definitely be there to throw in as many characters as possible into this cartoon.

Fox needs to resist that temptation as best it can. It needs to focus solely on Deadpool and only a handful of supporting characters. If the number of characters in the cast ever exceeds the number of fingers on both hands, then the cast is too bloated. This isn’t an X-men cartoon that focuses on a team. It’s a Deadpool cartoon that focuses on Deadpool. That should be a given, but it’s still worth belaboring.


Tip #4: Break The 4th Wall, But Don’t SHATTER It

It’s one of Deadpool’s most defining traits, more so than his iconic costume or love of tacos. He constantly breaks the fourth wall. For those of you who don’t know fancy Hollywood jargon, that means he talks to the audience. He knows he’s a comic book character. He understands he’s part of a show and he embraces it.

He did it in the movie on multiple occasions, but not in “Wolverine Origins.” The critical and box office reception of both should tell you everything you need to know about how important this is. It’s one of Deadpool’s most defining traits and any cartoon has to include that.

However, like any defining trait, it can be overdone. Like Spider-Man’s origin story, something can be done to death. It can even totally derail the story. The “Ultimate Spider-Man” cartoon did a lot of fourth wall breaking early on and it made the stories insufferable at times.

In the comics, Deadpool’s fourth wall breaking is only sprinkled in every now and then. It’s usually an aside, never seriously affecting the flow of the story. It’s usually just a good way to throw in some extra laughs. That’s the approach the cartoon should use. Let Deadpool be Deadpool. Let him break the fourth wall. Just don’t let him break it to the point where it undermines the story.


There you have it. Like my list for the Dark Phoenix movie, I’ve no expectations that anyone from Fox or Marvel will ever read this list, let alone take it seriously. This is just me, an aspiring erotica/romance writer and die-hard X-men fan, articulating my hopes and dreads.

Between this cartoon and “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” 2018 is going to be an exciting year for me. I hope it exceeds my expectations, but I’ll settle for it not sucking. These days, when there are way too many things that can go wrong behind the scenes, that’s probably the healthiest mindset to have. If I can draw inspiration from it all and craft some quality erotica/romance along the way, then that’ll just be extra hot sauce on the chimichangas.

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New Deadpool Cartoon Announced (And Why It Matters)

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In addition to being an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I have a fairly diverse set of interests. I talk about many of them on this blog. I love superhero comics, superhero movies, futuristic technology, and activities that involve nudity. I like to explore these topics because the world is a diverse and sexy place. I want this blog to reflect that, as well as entertain/titillate.

So when news emerges that involves superhero comics and a potential for entertainment/titillation, expect me to mention it at some point. When that news involves someone like Deadpool, a character who has built his entire appeal on that and dick jokes, you can pretty much set your watch to it.

I’ve talked about Deadpool many times before. I’m not the only one either. Deadpool is the new golden boy for Fox, Marvel, and the entire superhero genre. He was once a niche character with an especially loyal set of fans and cos-players. Then, former sexiest man alive, Ryan Reynolds, made Deadpool the hottest thing in spandex not named Jennifer Lawrence.

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The Deadpool movie wasn’t just a game-changer. It dropped a metric ton of napalm on the game, blew it up with C4, and roasted marshmallows over the entrails while strippers danced in the background. If that sounds crazy, then congratulations. You now have some insight into why Deadpool is so appealing.

The first Deadpool movie completely shocked the established superhero genre, grossing $783 million on a $58 million budget. At a time when many superhero movies need budgets of at least $250 million to be taken seriously, that’s not just impressive. That’s downright jarring.

The fact that Deadpool did this while being rated R, complete with exposed breasts and Ryan Reynold’s jerking off with a stuffed unicorn, makes it all the more astonishing. It proved that superhero movies could be mature, sexy, and appealing. It also proved they can be extremely profitable and nothing speaks louder in the entertainment industry than money. Why else would Disney have made fivePirates of the Caribbean” movies?

The impact is still being felt, but it’s already starting to show. Just this year, Fox proved that Deadpool’s success was not a fluke. The R-rated “Logan” movie made $606 million on a $97 million budget while generated critical acclaim. Once can be an anomaly. Twice is the beginning of a trend.

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In an effort to continue that trend, Fox and Marvel announced this past week that they will be making a Deadpool animated series for the FXX network. That’s the same network that hosts such kid-unfriendly shows like “Archer” and “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.” There couldn’t be a more appropriate home is what I’m saying.

Now, this news might not seem like a big deal to non-comic fans. Deadpool had a successful movie, making Fox and Marvel a boatload of money. With a sequel already in the works, why not capitalize on his popularity with a cartoon? It sounds like a normal money grab by big corporate media giants who are never satisfied with merely having a few pools of money to swim in.

There’s no doubt that’s part of the dynamic here, but there are far larger implications, some of which might have an impact on erotica/romance. Bear with me, here, because this is where I try to gaze into a crystal ball and not throw up. Since I haven’t won the lottery or predicted the Super Bowl yet, assume my ability for foresight is limited.

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Earlier this year, I talked about the success of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie, as well as the challenges associated with creating quality erotica/romance. Some of these challenges aren’t insurmountable, but they are daunting. The success of “Game of Thrones” might be nudging public attitudes to some extent, but only to a point.

Since Hollywood is too damn impatient when it comes to exploiting a market, I speculated that animation might actually be the key to future erotica/romance. It effectively circumvents many of those daunting challenges I mentioned. Cartoon characters don’t get too testy when you ask them to take their clothes off.

With a Deadpool cartoon being on FXX, there’s a lot more potential for raunchy sexiness. We already see it in shows like “Archer,” which doesn’t shy away from the kind of crude humor that is usually reserved for “South Park.” Unlike “Archer,” though, Deadpool has more brand recognition. He generates far more attention and not just because he’s been known to cross dress every now and then.

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Deadpool will be entering a market that’s ripe for growth. Adult-themed animation has been around for years, but has never been more than a niche market. That might be changing just in time for Deadpool.

In recent years, shows like “Archer” have inspired other shows like “Rick and Morty,” gaining more than just a cult following. These shows get away with plots and humor that would never make it past the network executives who are routinely terrified of getting a call from the FCC. By being animated, they can push the proverbial envelope in ways that go far beyond an exposed nipple.

Deadpool doesn’t stop at nipples, though. He’s a character who married a succubus and flirted with Spider-Man. He does things that made the kid-friendly executives at Disney faint. With a cartoon, they can even do things that Ryan Reynolds would never agree to and he’s the guy who agreed to do “R.I.P.D.

The potential that a Deadpool cartoon has cannot be understated. He can do more than just create another hit cartoon for a network that already has a few under their belt. He can foster a new audience that’s hungry for more mature animation.

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Between the success of movies like “Fifty Shades of Grey” and TV shows like “Rick and Morty,” Deadpool is coming along at the best possible time. By creating a larger audience, it’ll let the big wigs at major media studios that audiences do want sexier content. They want media that’s fun, sexy, and not afraid of showing a few nipples every now and then.

There will always be a place for kid-friendly cartoons, but animation need not be a medium that appeals to one segment of the population. There are many more people out there who want sexier material and they don’t need to whine to their parents for money to buy it.

A Deadpool cartoon definitely has plenty of appeal, especially to those who enjoyed the sex and violence of the movie. It has everything it needs to be success. However, it’s the implications of that success that may have far sexier implications.

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Animation: A Possible Solution For Erotica/Romance Movies?

This is a follow-up to a post I did a couple of days ago on the future of erotica/romance in movies. It’s an issue that I find myself contemplating more and more with the success, financially speaking, of the “50 Shades of Grey” movies. Since it’s an issue that may end up affecting the industry I work in, namely that of erotica/romance, it’s one in which I’ll keep a close eye on in the coming years.

I’ve already laid out the unique challenges facing erotica/romance in cinema. Even with the success of “50 Shades of Grey,” those challenges are pretty daunting. We’re still a long way away from a sexy erotica romance movie getting as much hype as a “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie. Given how that movie has the sex appeal of Chris Pratt going for it, it’s not  affair fight to say the least.

Fair or not, the obstacles for erotica/romance are still pretty daunting. Between its association with the porn industry and a society that is still horrified of the idea of women being excessively sexual, it really does seem as though this genre on which I’ve chosen to build my writing career has a long way to go.

At the moment, there is a sizable, but not exceedingly large gap to overcome. On one side, you have mature stories with erotic themes like “50 Shades of Grey” and “Showgirls.” On the other, you have porn and the poorly-acted skin flicks that only air after midnight on Cinemax.

Bridging this gap, telling a serious story in a movie with a non-gratuitous amount of sex, is the key. As the success of “Die Hard” and all its assorted rip-offs can attest, it only takes one solid movie to kick-start a new trend.

In giving this issue some serious, sexy thought, which I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at on this blog, I think there might be one avenue that erotica/romance can take. It would help circumvent some of the biggest obstacles that I laid out before and complement other emerging trends as well. It could even completely reinvent the way movies, sexy or otherwise, are told.

What is this sexy solution, you ask? Well, it already exists in a major way, but it’s due for a major leap forward. It’s this:

That, my friends, is high-quality animation from the video game, “Destiny: The Taken King.” Take a moment to admire it. Then, think back to how animation used to be. If you’re with me to this point, you’ve already made the overtly-sexy connections.

This may be the key. This may be the secret weapon with which to shatter the seemingly-impenetrable walls that keep erotica/romance relegated to midnight skin-flicks on Cinemax. Animation, namely the high-quality kind that companies like Pixar and Bungie pay top notch for, could be the key to making erotica/romance work.

On paper, it makes perfect sense. With animation, you overcome one of the biggest obstacles in producing a quality movie, namely finding actors and actresses that can both emote the necessary passion and not shrivel, literally and figuratively, when they have to get naked and make love on demand.

Animated characters don’t complain about mood, chemistry, or how their trailers are painted. They don’t age. They don’t get fat. They can look as beautiful or as ugly as a director wants them to be. They are, by default, the perfect medium for bringing a character to life. A number have already become quite iconic.

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Now this isn’t a wholly radical idea. In fact, it’s already an established industry in a magical land called Japan. There’s an entire genre of animated porn called anime porn. This brand of porn utilizes themes and stories so outlandish, so extreme, and so disturbing that even the worst moments in “Game of Thrones” cannot compare. Look up something called “Futanari” for proof. Be warned though, you won’t be able to unsee it.

Radical or not, Japanese anime has the same problem that our softcore skin flicks on Cinemax have here in the United States. The stories are flat. The acting and dialog is atrocious. The main point of these movies is to titillate and not enchant.

Pretty much every male character in an anime porn acts a certain way, just like every bleach-blond, big-breasted woman in a softcore porn acts a certain way. There’s no real depth. It’s just basic, bland, and blunt.

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That may be a product of sticking to a winning formula. Japanese anime porn has been around for decades, has an established fan base, and isn’t going to risk that fan base by doing something different. That’s just how an established industry works.

That said, it does prove that there’s a market for mature, animated content. We’re already seeing major studios attempting to tap that market beyond the usual “Simpsons” and “Family Guy” demographics.

In the past few years, new cartoons with mature things like “Archer” and “Bojack Horseman” have found a major audience. Even among younger audiences, shows like “Samurai Jack” reveal that there is a market for a more mature cartoon.

The timing of this growing market couldn’t be better because as this audience is growing, technology in graphics and animation is improving. Moreover, video game companies and developers are using those improvements to tell better stories. Some of these stories are every bit as engaging, dramatic, and emotional as movies. I know this personally, as I’ve freely admitted that the end of Final Fantasy X and Mass Effect got me choked up.

Major video game makers are already exploring deeper, more mature stories that don’t just rly on killing zombies or shooting aliens. Games like “Heavy Rain” utilize mature themes, a rich story, and intimate moments. Having played the game, I can say that this definitely strikes plenty of chords, including the sexy kind.

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So there’s a growing market for mature cartoons. The technology for graphics in animation is also improving and being refined through the $5.2 billion video game industry. What’s the hold up then? Why aren’t we seeing an animated “50 Shades of Grey” movie that isn’t limited to Jamie Dornan’s acting abilities?

As is often the case in the entertainment industry, it all comes down to money. That’s the simplest and most complete explanation. It’s safe to assume that if every major movie studio could replace every actor and actress with a 3D animated model, they’d do it in a heartbeat, thereby ensuring that they never have to work with Shia LeBeouf or Lindsey Lohan again.

The reason they can’t do that is because, as much as animation has improved, it’s still expensive. Toy Story 3, the current gold standard for animated movies, cost $200 million to make. For TV, the average cost of a half-hour animated show is about half-a-million and the cost of a top-quality show like “The Simpsons” is about $2 million.

For comparison sake, entire movies like “Boyhood” and “Whiplash” cost less than $5 million. Animation is also more labor-intensive, which requires a great deal of outsourcing, something the cast of a typical sitcom doesn’t have to worry about.

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As it stands right now, animation is not a preferable option for making movies, TV shows, or erotica/romance. It’s costly, labor-intensive, and affiliated with too many talking animals. However, that may be changing in a major way very soon.

This is where I try to channel my inner psychic and see a bit into the future. Granted, I’m about as much a psychic as I am a starting point guard for the Golden State Warriors. Don’t assume I know more than someone working at Starbucks, but at least trust me when I say I do try to see the forest from the trees and make connections where I see them.

While the cost of animation is going up, advances in computing power and AI are growing as well. Most are content to let AI’s run their schedule or make annoying telemarketing calls, but they can’t make are, right? That’s intrinsically human, right?

I’m sorry to say that our future robot overlords are catching up faster than you think. Back in 2014, the University of Spain created, Iamus, a program that creates its own melodies. Not to be left out, Google followed suit with a program of their own in 2016.

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That’s all well and good, even if it sucks for the future Taylor Swifts of the world. That doesn’t mean robots can draw, right? Humans still have that on the machines, don’t they?

Again, our future robot overlords are catching up faster than you think or feel comfortable accepting. In 2016, Google created another AI called “Quick Draw,” which can recognize simple doodles. A number of robots have even been able to produce their own artwork.

Granted, these works of art are a long way away from being Picasso or Elvis Presley. It’s a start though and, as our recent history with technology has shown, the pace of that technology will only accelerate. Given how slow and clumsy we humans are, it’s only a matter of time before they’re a billion times better at it than we are.

On top of that, the technology for computers to read our minds is emerging as well. This too is in the very early stages of development, but there’s a lot of money in technology, art, and doing things a billion times better. If a computer can make a movie like “Frozen” a billion times faster and a billion times cheaper, you can assume Disney will be all over it like Homer Simpson in a donut factory.

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This has huge implications for every art-based industry in the world, but what does this mean for animation and erotica/romance? Well, most importantly, it means at some point the cost of animation is going to come down.

Eventually, a future version of Google’s drawing software will be so advanced that it can do the job of 100 animators 100 times faster and a million times cheaper. That means movies like “Toy Story 3” no longer cost $200 million. They could cost only a couple million. That means episodes of shows like “The Simpsons” can cost less than a used car.

This opens up countless possibilities for new stories to be told, which don’t have to rely on the bloated budgets or corporate backings of major studios. Since AI is also developing to a level where it can mimic voices, it means that even the cost of voice actors will go down or be replaced altogether.

It won’t happen all at once. There won’t come a day when entire animation studios go out of business or new studios pop up overnight. These types of technology trends take time to develop. They never happen all at once. Cell phones took 40 years to get to where they are now. Modern TV took over a half-century. Expect this kind of technology to take a few decades at the very least.

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However, there’s a lot of money to be made. The rising cost of producing movies is creating a strong incentive to find an easier, cheaper way to create a similar product, minus all the zeroes at the end of the price tag. When there’s that much incentive, then economics usually makes it an inevitability.

That means the first real erotica/romance movie may not be the same live-action piece we saw with “50 Shades of Grey.” It may very well take the form of colorful, sexy animated feature that doesn’t require self-conscious actors or actresses to use body doubles. Maybe one of my own novels will one day take that form. I hope I live long enough to see it.

Again, that day will not be tomorrow. However, this may be the future of erotica/romance. In that sense, Jessica Rabbit may be less a cartoon sex icon and more a prophet. If so, she may go down in history as the sexiest prophet of all time.

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