Tag Archives: greed

Extremes In Capitalist Tropes: Bob Belcher Vs. Montgomery Burns

The following is a video for my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s a bit of a shift from my previous videos. In this, I try to dissect certain TV tropes from some of my favorite shows. For this video, I’m breaking down how capitalism manifests in two distinct characters, namely Montgomery Burns from “The Simpsons” and Bob Belcher from “Bob’s Burgers.”

I’m very curious to see what kind of response I get here. If you like what you see with this video and want to see more like it, please let me know. Thanks and enjoy!

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How Much Money Do You Really Need?

Most people aren’t born into wealth. The vast majority of the population has no idea what it’s like to be a billionaire, a millionaire, or someone who just doesn’t live with the constant dread that they’re just one missed paycheck away from total ruin. There’s a reason why they’re called the one percent and it goes beyond basic math.

I admit I’ve often contemplated what it would be like if I suddenly became wealthy. I’ve even articulated some of those musings in detail. I suspect most people have day-dreamed at some point what they would do if they suddenly had a billion dollars at their disposal. For most people, it’s difficult to contemplate because, like it or not, money changes people and not always for the better.

When someone asks what you would do with a million dollars, it’s easy to come up with all sorts of answers. Some are inevitably going to be more absurd than others. The movie “Office Space” articulated that point perfectly. However, there’s another question that I feel is worth asking and I also feel it’s more revealing.

How much money do you really need?

I’m not talking about fantasy wealth here.

I’m not talking dream vacations, dream homes, or spending sprees.

How much money do you actually need to live a happy, comfortable life by whatever standards you define it?

That’s a harder question to answer because it varies for everyone. There are some people in the world who think a million dollars isn’t enough. Depending on where you live in the world, that’s not an unreasonable position. Even with those variations, it still doesn’t zero in on the answer. How much is enough?

I’ve seen how people act when the lottery gets above the $300 million mark. In my experience, once things get over $100 million, that’s when even a typical day dream isn’t enough to appreciate just how much money that is. I’ve tried to imagine it and in every case, I come to the same conclusion.

If I had that much money, I honestly wouldn’t know what to do with it.

It’s not that my needs are simple or cheap. I think my costs are fairly average for someone living in a suburban area. If I had $100 million, didn’t invest a penny in stocks or bonds, and stopped making money today, I still wouldn’t be able to spend it all before I turned 100.

I probably couldn’t even spend $50 million. When things get into the billion-dollar territory, it gets even more absurd. Even millionaires have a hard time fathoming how billionaires operate. Most people, even with decent math skills, don’t understand just how much money a billion dollars is.

At that point, you’re way beyond basic needs and wants. You’re in a domain in which you literally cannot spend all that money at once. You have to legitimately try to lose it all and while some people have done that, it often happens in the process of seeking even more billions to add to their fortune. It rarely occurs just by spending money on your day-to-day needs.

In that context, contemplating how much money you actually need says more about you and your situation than it does about your understanding of finance. If you need that much money to be comfortable, then that says something about your mindset and it’s not just about greed. Some want to change the world for the better with that money. Some want to impose their will on it. It depends on who you are and what drives you.

For me, personally, I don’t think I need anything above $10 million. I probably wouldn’t need more than $5 million just to maintain my current living costs, adjusting for inflation, and planning for my future. That might change if I ever get married and have kids, but for now, that’s my perspective.

I’m interesting in hearing how others would respond to this question. How much money is enough for you? How much would you need to be content, stable, and happy? Let me know in the comments. I’d be happy to revisit this issue again down the line.

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Villains, Antagonists, And The Walter White Effect

He’s the bad guy. He’s the obstacle. He’s the one that the hero must outwit. To put it more succinctly, he’s the one who knocks. Call him what you want. Say he’s a villain, an anti-hero, and an antagonist. We know who these characters are and we understand their role.

Then, Walter White came along and ran the concept over with his car. Villains, heroes, and antagonists have not been the same since.

Some may argue it has improved the way in which we tell stories. Some may argue that it has been a detriment, creating a race of sorts to abandon old ideals and make every character feel all too human. For fictional characters not bound by the crushing limits of the real world, this can be a race that no one should want to win. However, I believe the rise of Walter White and “Breaking Bad” has raised the bar for characters of all types.

I call it the “Walter White Effect.” I know that’s not very original, but it sheds light on a concept that has been permeating pop culture since “Breaking Bad” became a phenomenon. We’ve seen it in movies, TV shows, comic books, and video games. What else explains Dr. Doom becoming the new Iron Man?

It’s just not enough for villains to be villainous anymore. It’s not enough for anti-heroes to have an edge anymore. Walter White has changed the way we think about protagonists, antagonists, heroes, anti-heroes, and everything in between. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I’ve already felt the effects of those changes and I even welcome them.

This is an issue that spins right out of my recent discussions on the nature of evil in humans. In discussing such a morbid topic, I tried to keep things basic while also trying not to make too many people want to spit in their own gene pool. For this discussion, however, I want to focus on just one of those trees in the vast forest of human evil.

In doing so, I know I’ll rile up those who don’t believe that Walter White deserves to be classified as “evil.” I understand that argument. To call Walter White “evil” the same way we call IRS agents evil is to cast too wide a net on a remarkably complex character. However, for the purposes of this discussion, I want to focus on the traits that highlight the “evil” qualities of Walter White and characters like him.

Those who have binge-watched “Breaking Bad” know Walt’s story well. He started off as this affable, sympathetic man who endured one too many bad breaks, if that’s not too fitting a term. He had a family who loved him, a baby on the way, and friends who supported him. On the surface, he had every reason to be a good person.

Then, the bad breaks added up. He was diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer and given only a couple years left to live. Being a grossly overqualified high school chemistry teacher, he was destined to leave his wife, son, and newborn baby with nothing. Something had to give. It led him down a dark path, one that eventually brought out the worst in him.

It’s a story that puts a major twist on the familiar “Hero’s Journey” that we know so well. In some respects, Walt started out as a hero, doing bad things for good reasons. He did what he did to provide for his family, not to snort crank off a strippers ass. However, that journey morphed into something very different, one that has set a new standard for heroes and villains alike.

Bit by bit, sin by sin, and excuse by excuse, Walter White descended into this evil mindset. He killed former partners. He also lied to others. He even abandoned his initial reason for becoming a criminal. It was no longer enough to just provide for his family. He was in the “empire business” as he put it.

These are not the thoughts, actions, and traits of a hero. This is no longer a character who deserves such sympathy. Walter White became a true villain. In the end, he basically admitted as such. He said outright, “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it.” It effectively completed his journey into being a villain.

In doing so, Walter White proved something that nobody thought to prove. He showed through “Breaking Bad” that a villain’s journey could be every bit as compelling as a hero’s journey. It’s not enough for a villain to just be an egocentric, mustache-twirling asshat who wants to take over the world. Villains need just as much depth as heroes.

This presents a new challenge for everyone from movie producers to aspiring erotica/romance writers. It’s hard enough writing a compelling protagonist. The success of Walter White as both a villain and a protagonist effectively raises the bar.

Villains are now the new heroes. Anti-heroes generate more interest. What else explains the success of characters like Deadpool? It’s not enough for Superman, Batman, and Captain America to save the day anymore. We need villains who have better reasons for being who they are.

This effect has already skewed the standards somewhat and not just in the sense that it helped make Deadpool one of the most profitable movies of 2016. Just look at the villains in “Captain America: Civil War” and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Nobody is going to mistake Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor or Daniel Brühl’s as Helmut Zemo for Walter White anytime soon.

We can, however, forgive some of these shortcomings because the Walter White Effect is still very new. It’s still sinking in. People are just starting to try and emulate the success of Walter White and not just through “Breaking Bad” spinoffs.

It happened with westerns. It happened with sci-fi movies. When someone stumbles upon a winning formula, others try to recreate it with varying degrees of success. What else explains the glut of “Die Hard” ripoffs in the 90s?

Even if this does mean we’re in for multiple Walt wannabes over the next decade, I believe the lasting impact of the Walter White Effect will be a positive one. I think it’s better for all mediums, be they movies or erotica/romance novels, when both protagonists and antagonists alike are compelling.

The challenge, however, is making that journey into evil a compelling one. Walter White’s journey was long and difficult. There were times he could’ve stepped off that path, but didn’t. In the end, as others have pointed out, Walt always had this evil tendency within him. He just needed the right push in the wrong direction.

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The (Sort Of) Problem With Evil

I’ve decided to take a break from deciding whether music form boy bands and burned out pop stars counts as love or obsession so I can focus on a far more relevant issue. It’s relevant in that it affects more directly than the annoying songs we have to endure. It also affects me as an aspiring erotica/romance writer because it’s an important component of every character, be they protagonists or sidekicks.

Yes, I’m talking about evil again. My first post yesterday ended up covering so much that I quickly realized I’ll have to stretch this out to cover the full range of the topic. Make no mistake. This is an important topic. Evil, whether we believe in it or not, will impact us in some way and I’m not just talking about the kind that gets shows like Firefly canceled.

Our understanding of good, evil, and the morality that governs both is an important part of our civilization and our species, as a whole. It’s one of those things we all acknowledge, but can’t quite agree upon. It’s not unlike George Clooney. We all agree he’s sexy. We just don’t agree why.

This directly ties into the so-called “Problem of Evil.” Anyone who has endured a debate between an overly atheist and an overly religious type is probably familiar with this concept. The “problem” is that evil exists and, as a result, it undermines a lot of theological and ethical issues. It’s something two people can argue about for days on end and not accomplish a goddamn thing.

For me, personally, I have a big problem with calling evil a “problem” in the first place. It’s not that I think it’s unimportant. It definitely is. I just take issue with use of the word “problem.”

While I was in college, one of my professors did this lecture where he said one of the most brilliant things I ever heard from any human being not inspired by George Carlin. He started by saying this:

“We don’t deal in problems. We deal in dilemmas. Problems are easy. Problems, by definition, have solutions. Dilemmas don’t have solutions. Dilemma’s are harder to manage because they often require compromise.”

There are a lot of amazing things I remember from college. Not all of them have to do with how willing some people are to get naked at a party. The professionals there really had some smart things to say. This, more than almost anything, really stuck with me.

I think it nicely applies to the concept of evil because its a concept that’s so diverse and ambiguous, at times. At one point in history, marrying someone from another tribe is considered evil. At another, admitting to owning a Nickelback album is evil. It’s fluid, overly vague concept that keeps moving the goalposts.

As a dilemma, evil can’t have a solution. It can have various understandings. There can be compromises along the way in which the idea of evil skews towards or away from a certain direction. That’s why concepts like slavery took so much time to fade into that special domain of evil and even then, we still have problems eliminating it.

More than most concepts, the dilemma surrounding evil has many religious connotations. Nearly every religion, including those that involve chakra, crystal energy, and aliens, tries to address the source of evil in some form or another. Some use it as a means of proving their particular theology. Others use it as a means of disproving that very theology. It’s a never-ending argument that rarely ends with someone changing their mind.

Even so, it’s an important concept to explore. Even if I do take issue with the use of the word “problem,” it is a concept that reveals many facets of evil and how we see it. Rather than try to break down every one of those facts, knowing that would require more posts than anyone is comfortable reading, I found a very helpful YouTube video that nicely sums it up.

This comes courtesy of Crash Course, a very helpful YouTube channel in terms of explaining complex issues in a simple, basic way. This is basically a 101 class, one that does not get into the finer details of an issue. This reveals the forest without scrutinizing any of the trees. For those who want to learn more about the “Problem of Evil,” this video breaks it down nicely.

Whether you’re religious or non-religious, both sides of the problem/dilemma should give you pause. It certainly has for me. I’ve even seen it in my writing. I’ve had to mold “evil” characters to make the stories in “Skin Deep” and “The Escort and the Gigolo” work. It’s challenging, but it’s an important part of a larger narrative.

The presence of evil raises questions about what we believe spiritually and how we see ourselves as a species. The simple fact we can’t be certain in both the theological and scientific analysis of evil reveals just how complex this issue is. When neither science nor religion can offer a clear-cut understanding, you know it’s a hell of a dilemma, if that’s not too fitting a term.

So what does this mean for evil as a whole? What does this mean for evil in a religious, scientific, and philosophical respect? Well, these are questions I hope to keep exploring. Right now, I want to use the “Problem of Evil” to create the right context.

We live in a world where we can’t help but acknowledge that evil exists, but can’t agree on the source or mechanisms behind it. With every evil act, there seems to be more and more complexity.

The evil of today is not always the evil of tomorrow. Evil characters in novels today can easily become heroes and/or anti-heroes tomorrow. We don’t know when or how this will manifest. We just know it’ll continue to confound and conflict us in our minds and souls, however we define them.

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