Sunday, April 18, 2010

Big Bite of Stupid 2: Joss Whedon to Direct the Avengers Movie

Marvel has announced that Joss Whedon will direct the Avengers movie, as well as re-writing the Captain America movie. This is perhaps the most stupid move Marvel has yet made, worse than any of the Punisher movies, or Ben Affleck as Daredevil, or Ed Norton or Angst Lee involved in the Hulk.

Joss Whedon has his talents. Arch, camp, sort of gay, stuff like "Dr. Horrible's Sing A Long," or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Angel, or inside Hollywood stories like "Serenity" or "Firefly" (about a Hollywood rebel who did it his way, as a space cowboy captain), are certainly within Whedon's power. Arch, camp, gay, popular culture snappy dialog, are things Whedon can do in his sleep. If one were to remake "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist" only with an Alpha, thuggish asshole that women love, instead of Michael Cera, with a few rape scenes (for shock value) and even more hipsterism, well Whedon's your guy.


For a comic book movie like "the Avengers" or Captain America, its is disaster to have him involved. Both the Avengers and Captain America depend on the lead character, Captain America, who is the exact opposite of everything that Whedon can do. Having him write and direct is like asking Terrell Owens, a man not without skills even as he ages, to be an offensive lineman instead of a wide receiver. He just can't do it.

Whedon's specialty is feminism, pop culture quips, shock for the sake of shock, campy and gay singing and dancing, and more feminism. He has an appeal to gay men and women (and GLAAD awards to prove it), and a small cult following of some geeky omega guys, plus a few women. That's it. That's all he's got. His male characters are either flamingly gay, neutered drones, or Alpha assholes repellent to most men. He's never been able to write for a male audience, and his stint on Marvel's "Amazing X-Men" only made all his camp, gay, and feminist tendencies worse. Comic books dirty little secret is they don't make much money or have many readers. It is not uncommon to have some titles with readership in the 12,000 range. Comic books today, are written by and for a small group of hipster-geek fanboys in their forties. Piggybacking on creative work done nearly 70 years ago, in some cases. No comic book since the late 1970's has created a character that has lasted, or captured the imagination. The Punisher being the last character with any staying power. Quick, who is "Speedball," or "Night Thrasher," or "Geist," or "Loose Cannon," or "Argus?"

Nothing speaks to comic books total creative bankruptcy than the failure to create compelling new characters. Comic book characters use powers as an amplification of their character, not the character themselves. The record of comic book writers, for the most part, is absolute failure. The exceptions being Jim Shooter (at Valiant), and a few writers at Dark Horse and Malibu comics, who created new and interesting characters based on well, character not powers, as well as consistently interesting inter-related universes.

Joss Whedon writing Captain America and directing The Avengers will be predictably stupid. Let us predict the failures:

First, feminism. Just ask him, Joss Whedon is a feminist. This means his female characters get passes for bad things they do, based on being pretty. Most of them are prostitutes or semi-prostitutes. A number of them get raped, by bad boys they love. Many of them consider suicide, because the world is too tragic for their power. Many of them are lesbians or bisexual. His female characters consider men based solely on their ability to be the most brutal and physically dominant man in the group, i.e. the biggest biker thug. All other men are there to be flamingly gay idiots, or sexless supportive drones.

Moreover, as typical for feminist writers, his female characters are weak but idiotically strong. Waify, weighing about 90 pounds, they have physical powers to beat up guys, but have no intelligence, strength of character, sexual self-control (around Asshole Alpha males), ability to plan and think, and are prey to their own emotions and weaknesses (for Asshole Alpha males). None are really two dimensional, with interests outside men they are sexually interested in, hobbies, family issues, and human weaknesses (greed, envy, substance abuse, parental issues, etc.) that they guard against. The female characters are all boring, blank canvases with boring superpowers, having boring sex with boring Alpha males.

Another feminist theme is the normalization of whores. Whores show up in Whedon's stuff all the time, from Inara, to Anya, to the theme of Dollhouse (the female and male characters are in a sense prostitutes). How can anyone care about Captain Mal and Inara when the latter is a whore? Nothing means anything, not with Inara, or Faith, or Echo, or Anya. Yes, feminists insist that women having lots of sex with different men is a "double standard" (and it is, so is the female one about men being geeks or Alphas). But who dreams of Ashley Dupree or Rachel Uchitel, among young men? They might find notoriety and fame among women, but I have not seen the wedding announcement for Monica Lewinsky. To put it mildly.

His male characters, as typical for feminists, are even worse. Any hint of geeky enthusiasm or intelligence, is made "gay." Male characters are gay and useless geeks, sexless drones who exist only to support hot chicks with boring superpowers, or Alpha Assholes who humiliate other guys all the time. And indeed, "lead" because they beat up or humiliate other guys (a woman's idea of a leader of men). A more toxic combination of male characters could not be imagined.

Superman was and is the hero of 11 year old boys because he is NOT a bully. An intimidator. He's so strong that bad guys fighting against him is useless, he's a force of nature. An actual, intelligent, career-driven woman falls in love with him because he is often geeky, awkward, boy-scoutish, and decent. Note, while Lois Lane is independent, she is not a whore, nor does she have a parade of men through her bed. Superman is just the costume the real Clark Kent puts on. Needless to say, Superman does not rape and torture people, nor do women find that sort of thing appealing (as they do in Whedon's stuff). Superman's fathers are not sexless drones, but men who teach him the meaning of manhood. Both Pa Kent and Jor-El are very important to Clark Kent. You find this pattern in Batman (endlessly avenging his parents death without being a monster himself), Spider-Man (a geek at heart who lets his inner WWII GI wise-ass out in fights), and most other lasting superheroes.

This is particularly true for Captain America, a hero with minor powers who's ability to lead others is his real power. Ability not by intimidation (Thor, Iron Man, and the Hulk are all far stronger) but by example, courage, sacrifice, humor, and intelligence. Yes, Captain America is akin to Ed Winters (the real man and the character in Band of Brothers). With minor super-powers. He is, after all, a geek who remains one at heart. Unlike Angel, or Spike, or Captain Mal, Captain America never humiliates or beats up friends and allies just to show who is boss. Nor does he embark on violent, degrading S&M bondage relationships with women.

Like Superman, Captain America is what every normal, well adjusted, 11 year old boy would wish to become. Predictably, both the Avengers and Captain America movies will have a Buffy-Faith-Echo-Serenity type kick-ass waif in love with a brutal thug, with icky violent/domination overtones, and of course an asshole not a hero for the lead. Captain America will predictably punk out and degrade other men, because that is what Whedon male leads do. Of course, there will be flamingly gay geeks (message to geeky young boys and men: you are a loser, give up).

Secondly, Whedon cannot write group dynamics, for men. Predictably, the group will fall apart, only to be intimidated into last-minute unity by asshole-dom by the lead. Or simply, a deus ex-machina. Serenity, Dollhouse, and Firefly all failed for a reason -- they could not attract a male audience. Which loves stories about war, and sports, where men from many different backgrounds come together under a tough but fair older man, and an immediate boss, who is funny and decent and the natural leader. Friday Night Lights (the series), Major League, Band of Brothers, all touch on this repeatedly. It takes the ability to imagine being both a follower and a leader to write this stuff, which is why most of Hollywood, populated by Alpha Assholes not too different from Angel or Spike or Captain Mal, cannot do it most of the time.

The core audience for the Avengers and Captain America, is boys 11 year old and up, and men up through their thirties. Who find stories about heroism and leadership, in moral constraints, fascinating and entertaining. This audience is guaranteed to be turned off by rampant assholery and jerkiness, extolled as virtues not flaws. Major League's "Roger Dorn" (played well by Corbin Bernson) would be the "hero" not asshole needing correcting by Tom Berenger's "Jake Taylor."

Thirdly, patriotism. As is the rule for feminists, and Hollywood liberals, Whedon has shown a distinct lack of patriotism, love of country, or indeed identification with homely, home-y, ordinary values and people in everything he has written or produced. Instead, his characters and situations express contempt for ordinary people, their lives, and indeed their values. A great deal of what motivates Captain America, from conception in 1940 onward (when America was still neutral, and Britain might well lose), is an intense devotion to nation and country. Patriotism. But not a patriotism of "uber-alles," rather an intense LOVE. Love of baseball, apple pie, American traditions, songs, folkways, music, language, literature, culture, of all the smallness and hominess and coziness of Americana and America.

He's Captain America. And Joss Whedon will turn him into Captain Post-Modern.

Fourthly, villains. Frank Miller, perhaps one of the only original and creative comic book writers today, noted, Captain America and Superman EXIST to punch out villains. This is what Captain America is all about:



He's there to punch out Hitler. And in the Avengers, set in the modern day, punch out Osama bin Laden. Miller wanted to have Batman punch out Osama, but DC would not let him. Cringing PC is self-defeating. Neither Superman nor Captain America, nor any hero featuring Americana or devotion to America, will do well overseas. Like anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism is a disease rampant and unstoppable throughout the world. With many of the same motivations. Neutering all that makes Captain America (or Superman) is like taking the apples out of Apple Pie and substituting dried bananas. You could do it, but it would not be any good.

Young men today know who the enemies are not. They are not the corporate guys who approve or cut Whedon's budget. They are not rival directors or writers. They are not the people who fund his movies and TV shows to the tunes of millions of dollars. They are not conservatives, Republicans, Christians, or George W. Bush. Young men might or might not like the politics of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, or Sarah Palin, but they don't find them threatening or credible current villains. Young men in America do not find the US troops villains, nor their military commanders, though doubtless they do not approve of everything they do, or every single policy. They do find Osama bin Laden, and Ayman Al-Zawahari, alien, polygamous, and mass murderers who would kill them in a heartbeat, to be their real, true, and threatening enemies.

Joss Whedon, predictably, will have Captain America replicate this cover, only punch out Sarah Palin (feminists hate her), or Dick Cheney, or someone like them (conservative, White, Republican). The "real villain" will be someone who vetoed his project at Fox or Universal. Maybe even a demonic law firm (now there's a threat, as Mohammed Atta is coming at ya, in a jet liner aimed at your skyscraper). This is entirely predictable, and will go over like a lead balloon. Complete with popular culture quips, coming from someone from the "Greatest Generation."

In short, everything about Whedon's strengths and weaknesses, will make both movies utter disaster zones. Pop culture quips out of "the First Avenger," the primal superhero from the 1940's. Rampant Assholery as "leadership" and bullying as qualities to be emulated. Because it is, in Hollywood. Promiscuous women as a feminine ideal, along with emotionally and intellectually weak waifs who kick ass, and the promise that "nerd equals gay" that turns off most young boys (who have yet to hit puberty) and the 90% of men not Alpha. There will be shock "deaths" that can be predicted by plot points or story beats, at least one rape by the "hero" of one of the female characters, and America and ordinary people presented as disgusting and worthless, along with the political beliefs of half the audience. The villain will be someone out of Hollywood's legal or executive suite. This is all perfectly predictable.

Yet why is Marvel doing this?

Because they are stupid.

DVD revenues are plunging 14%, in the first quarter, as $1 Redbox rentals become the norm. Blu-Ray is only in the low teens of home entertainment purchases and rentals, and this on top of big declines in purchases of home entertainment (DVD and Blu-Ray). No one is going to be spending much for 3-D TV in a nation with likely, 25% real unemployment (including those long-term discouraged from jobseeking). Mass is where its at, and the niche appeal of Joss Whedon is a recipe for revenue somewhere between Dollhouse and Serenity.

Executives read this. They know it. But they believe in stupidity. In feminism, that millions of young men secretly yearn to be either assholes or gay, that they find whores or wispy waifs with empty brains and spirits, kicking ass, exciting. That the vast audience finds Fox News (the most popular news network) a threat bigger than Osama bin Laden.

Even when the entire future of Marvel Entertainment, in making the big cross-over event designed to make them (and parent Disney) lots of money, the executive suite took a second bite out of stupid. Remind me again why most men have abandoned entertainment?

37 comments:

BlackNDeckr said...

I really enjoy your site Whiskey. Thorough writing on a subject I knew little about-TV. Your writings give me alot of faith and was the 1st place I realized the Old Guard was struggling.

Cheers.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

Neutering all that makes Captain America (or Superman) is like taking the apples out of Apple Pie and substituting dried bananas. You could do it, but it would not be any good.

A quibble: that actually sounds like it might be alright. Not as good as apple pie, but alright, so long as you don't compare it to apple pie.

Kinda like the GI Joe: International Spec-Ops movie, vs GI Joe, American Hero.

Anonymous said...

I would argue on one point: I think DVD sales are plunging because 1) People's collections are filled up and 2) the recession.

Since we can understand the logic of #2, let's go to point #1: after DVDs became commonplace, people rushed to fill up a library, since, for once, you could easily and cheaply get hundreds of movies and store them in a compact area. Now, however, that everyone who ever wanted "Bringing up Baby" or "Star Wars" in their collection has it, there is no more audience for it.

This explains why studios are pushing "Blue-Ray" technology: the hopes to reboot the home market by promising a ten fold increase in movie experience in Blue Ray. Its not working because everyone knows that there is a marginal difference in Blue Ray but costs a lot more to get and requires new equipment; people aren't stupid.

The recent 3-D push is also part of this panic. Avatar wasn't any better in 3-D than in 2-D, but the hope is to try to push this old and unchanged technology on all movies in the hopes of 1) boosting box office and 2) creating an audience that expects movies to be 3-D. If successful, the audience would increase demand for 3-D films at home, driving both newer, more expensive "3-D DVD" sales and technology.

What studios fail to realize is that 3-D is a cheap fad that will fade again. Avatar rocked the box office because it was a James Cameron experience, not because you got wussy purple classes. It doesn't qualitatively improve a movie other than the initial "wow" factor that fades when you realize how crappy it is.

DVD sales are dropping because of this, not RedBox. RedBox and NetFlix is just the home rental market made cheaper for RedBox and NetFlix by reducing overhead-----it isn't hurting DVD sales, at least from what I can see. When Blockbuster was going gangbusters and was everywhere, movie studios weren't hurt. The rental market is a long term money generator for studios--the expression is they now use the box office as mere advertising for the rental market, where the real money is made.

No, the studios are just having their "CD crash" moment. I'm alluding to when CD's blew up in the late 80s, and music companies freaked out and thought that people were suddenly musicophiles and wanted 15 versions of Beethoven's 9th, instead of what happened---people just wanted to have the new,improved technological recordings of their old vinyls.

Disney, smartly, has played this angle well, by limiting the release of their library titles and "taking them back into the vault" and making big announcements when one comes out of "the vault." It ensures that they'll have a steady, predictible stream of DVD moneys, since you won't find $1 Snow Whites in the Wal-Mart bin---you're paying the $20 for the "digitally remastered" version because your kids want it.

If studios want to increase long term profit, they need to follow Disney's lead and avoid flooding the market with DVDs of new movies to boost short term gains----a move which many are adverse to, given the nature of studio jobs. However, it is to their detriment. I can buy a copy of "The Searchers" off Amazon for $9---and probably for $2 at a used DVD store/Walmart Bin/Closing Blockbuster. Its one of the greatest and most influential movies of all time, and it comes dirt cheap. Imagine if Warner Bros. hadn't flooded it into the market, and pulled a disney trick and retired it into the vault for 5 or 10 years---they could charge $20 for the premium edition twice a decade, and never lose that stream, since every newly minted film buff would NEED the film.

Anonymous said...

Just an additional note on my above comment on Disney and DVD's: the exact same sequence is happening in the newspaper world. Papers that charge for access have seen sales stabilize or be boosted---aka the Wall Street Journal, which now is challenging the NY Times as the paper of record. Meanwhile, the NYT is giving away its content for free, seeing its revenue drop to next to nothing.

By limiting its release to those willing to pay the premium, the WSJ has made sure its product isn't viewed as cheap and is seen as vital. The NYT is having its DVD crash moment now.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

As a squeezed young family, netflix+ our internet= we don't buy DVDs until they're on sale.

Bizen 247 said...

Interesting post, but for the sake of accuracy you should correct a few things. Whedon's X-men comic was actually titled "Astonishing X-men," the Band of Brothers character is "Richard Winters."

Also, DC didn't cancel Frank Miller's Holy Terror Batman comic. After years of saying he was making progress at various conventions and in interviews, he apparently has recently decided to quit work on it on his own. See:

http://www.comicsalliance.com/2010/04/13/frank-miller-holy-terror-batman/

I think a lot of the pop culture geek audience would do well to read an article like this to challenge their post-modern views, which are generally unchallenged in the geek scene echo chamber.

However, the second they see basic information like this is incorrect they will immediately tune out and use that as an excuse to say you don't know what you're talking about.

Just friendly advice is all.

Rollory said...

I never really saw Mal as an alpha asshole. The Inara thing always rang false to me but aside from that he seemed ok. Do you have any specific incidents in mind?

Other than that, solid piece.

Whiskey said...

Agreed Anon that people with 50 DVDs don't need a 51st DVD. Or that Blu-Ray offers little advantage for huge cost. And on 3-D. That's a good point on the CD comparison. I've long said the same about the movie industry following the music industry.

Correct, it's Richard not Ed Winters. I don't know why I keep making that mistake! WRT Miller and Al-Qaeda, I am not surprised that DC killed it (and Miller said he simply "quit" -- if DC had wanted it they would have had it). Likely DC raised objection after objection to kill it, fearing to upset Muslims or Al Qaeda.

Rollory -- Captain Mal's interaction with Wash and Simon tend be of the assholish variety. Definitely putting both in their place, hierarchy wise.

John Smith said...

it'll be even worse than the last superman/franchise killer was.....

sailingfanblues said...

joss whedon as a paragon of "hipsterism?" lol what? you must be a baby boomer or something dood. i have heard something more tone deaf about popular culture since mitt romney said "who let the dogs out."

Anonymous said...

Whiskey,

I love your site and the majority of your posts are spot on. I think that you have pointed out that Joss Whedon does have a serious blind spot when writing. You mentioned his run on Astonishing X-Men, and I think it was one of the more heroic stories in comics. However, your points are particularly well noted in how he chose to portray wolverine in the 2nd story arc-brainwashed nancy boy. It was if classic masculine character absolutely terrified him. In his third Arc, it was Kitty Pryde who saved the day and many of the male characters seemed to be second fiddles.

In regards to Avengers, I am worried that he will craft the story more like his work on Runaways, quite possibly the most interesting team book from Marvel in 10 years. An interesting story that was a mess that had literally no point to it and little advancement of the characters through acts of heroism. I am worried that the Avengers may end up being that kind of story.
By the way, I believe the Runaways are in production and you would think Joss would have a hand in it, but it seems Marvel won't let him touch the characters with a ten foot pole.

Rodimus 903

Whiskey said...

Sailing -- Willow as a Lesbian? Buffy as Bisexual? In the comics? "Buffy I loved you so much I had to rape you?"

Yes, quite the hipster.

Anon -- Whedon's been unable to write male group dynamics, which is not surprising since he's had no experience with it, given his background in Hollywood.

He seems to pencil in the Hollywood dynamics instead of that of the military, sports, and other male-dominated areas.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

I liked Firefly/Serenity, but yes there are some obvious tropes in it.

Whence comes his Confederate sympathies?

Windsor Block said...

I thought Riley Finn was Captain America?

Anonymous said...

Love the blog, Whiskey; found you via your comments on Nikki's site. Don't always agree of course but hey, that's what makes this America still - right?

This post in particular is mostly (imho) spot-on, though my one notable quibble would be:

who and where are these hypothetical Norman Rockwell-esque 11 year old boys of whom you speak, and (thank God) clearly care so much about the intellectual/healthy gender role development of?

I ask because when I look around I see a predominantly shallow youth culture - which my producing partner derisively yet accurately refers to as the 'future of America' - that is enraptured with first-person-shooter videogames and proudly displays all of the extreme narcissism, self-righteousness and general moral hollowness which that milieu embraces.

For my part, I'd love to see more people develop material featuring heroic leads who balance self-directedness and the spirit's need for autonomy (within deeper connection) with a sense of honor, duty and dignity - free of politics and clear of any underlying messages, save those that are dramatically relevant to the story being told.

- Brendan

Whiskey said...

Riley Finn WAS Captain America. Which was why Whedon booted the character very quickly.

Brendan -- You are quite right that largely, there is no male culture that guides boys in proper ways to become productive men in society. Factoring in high rates of divorce, single motherhood, and the like, and the most important thing to a boy -- his father, in determining what his model of masculine behavior will be, is absent.

Which leaves to this task a culture that largely abandoned boys around the early 1990's, and video games, many of which are unhealthy or have no content whatsoever.

As corny as they might be, Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and Captain America all contained valuable lessons for boys growing up on how to be a proper man. How to use strength and power properly, how to fight evil without becoming it one's self, how to take responsibility, and be a leader not a bully.

I agree we should not have politics in entertainment, it is trivial and unimportant to the real task at hand which is entertainment first, and secondly and critically, decent examples for kids and adolescents on how to grow up into decent adults.

I've seen only two examples of this, the late lamented Veronica Mars and Life, both featuring highly individualistic characters in a "connected" web of social obligations.

Sadly I think the poor state of entertainment kept many from trying those series. That is the problem of a bad reputation.

Jesus Christ Supercop said...

I was actually just thinking about how Hayao Miyazaki's movies always have very positive characters, whether male or female.

The protagonist of Castle in the Sky, a young boy, is fearless, strong, morally upright and adventurous, and a bit reckless. He encounters a girl on the run from some bad guys, and does not think twice about risking everything to help her. The girl herself is also very upright and strong, even if she isn't as physically capable as the boy. But that's the thing: she doesn't have to express strength through violence and domination like so many Hollywood heroines.

In Kiki's Delivery Service, the 13-year old Kiki's romantic interest is a friendly and outgoing boy who's into aircraft and flying. He looks nerdy, but isn't awkward or socially retarded, and has a lot of friends. The movie also has very positive depictions of family life.

Spirited Away was specifically written with 10-year old girls in mind, as Miyazaki wanted to give them a good heroine of their own age. The movie's heroine starts off as being sullen, spoiled and whiny, but is thrust into extraordinary circumstances where she find it within her to become a stronger and better person as she overcomes various challenges.

Roger Ebert remarks about My Neighbor Totoro: "It has a strong and loving father, in contrast to the recent Hollywood fondness for bad or absent fathers. [...] The family is seen as a safe, comforting haven. The father is reasonable, insightful and tactful, accepts stories of strange creatures, trusts his girls, listens to explanations with an open mind."

Miyazaki's movies are very positive and optimistic, even naive. They emphasize traditional values, but never in a didactive or patronizing way. There's no cynicism or post-modern claptrap. Big suprise that nearly every movie he makes is an instant classic and a license to print money.

I rarely watch American movies these days.

Rollory said...

JCS, thank you, Spirited Away is one of my favorite movies. I'll look for those others.

Jesus Christ Supercop said...

Another great movie I neglected to point out is Porco Rosso (trailer).

Mil-Tech Bard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mil-Tech Bard said...

Even Marvel comics can no longer do Captain America, let alone Joss Whedon.

They first made Steve Rodgers an anti-nuclear activist and then killed him in a Superhero civil war with Tony Stark AKA Iron Man.

If you want traditional, heroic-male story lines, go to Baen books.

Otherwise, forget it.

blah said...

It's kind of amusing to see old-fashioned comic books held up as exemplars for young male behavior as not so long ago they were considered the reason the country was going to pot. (There is a book about this, 'The 10 Cent Plague,' I believe.)

Also, you say:

"As corny as they might be, Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and Captain America all contained valuable lessons for boys growing up on how to be a proper man. How to use strength and power properly, how to fight evil without becoming it one's self, how to take responsibility, and be a leader not a bully."

But you also mention that the only comic book hero to have become popular since the 60s was the Punisher - a loner vigilante who lives in a dungeon surrounded by expensive weaponry and kills criminals (and who was evidently inspired by those 'Death Wish' movies). Not exactly a wholesome role model to instruct boys how to become gallant gentleman and get the girl.

I think the problem is that the 'wholesome hero' is not actually that appealing to boys and does not have a long history and probably only really shows up towards the end of the 19th c. if not later. Our first Western male heroes, Achilles and Ulysses, were certainly not wholesome, one was a rage-prone bully and the other a tricksy fast-talker. I'm sure this is true if you look at other cultures: in China, you have the Outlaws of the Marsh. The heroes are all bandits, and the leader of the bunch has to go on the run for killing his concubine in a fit of anger. (Would Superman even have a concubine let alone knife her?)

By the way, Miyazaki movies are incredibly preachy, and dripping with a kind of pacifist sensibility the post-war Japanese seem especially prone to. (Watch Princess Mononoke for the preachiness; howl's moving castle for the pacifism.)

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

Y'know... I am really sick of folks saying "well, SOMEONE said at one point that X was bad, so you're wrong!"

If you believe something, bloody well defend it. Don't appeal to an authority that you don't even identify.

Whiskey said...

Blah -- for a wholesome hero to be created requires a creator.

It was not a demand problem so much as a supply one -- every creative person around became fairly decadent and dependent on shock rather than well, character.

And regardless of Achilles or Hercules, heroes from the 1600's onwards have been fairly wholesome -- the myth of Robin Hood and Arthur, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Sherlock Holmes, and one in particular who was a carpenter and part-time preacher in Israel under the Romans. What was his name again? Heck even Beowulf was a noble guy in the story (not the lame movie with Angelina Jolie), fought a couple of monsters, and later a dragon. Keeping nothing for himself and being a "noble warrior" as much as any medieval knight (in the retelling, anyway).

The problem with comics was the creators could not come up with new characters, particularly in DC and Marvel. Heck the Punisher only worked in conjunction with other, powered characters (to show the ruthlessness of an ordinary man around the powered, lacking power himself and not subject to social constraints anymore).

The problem with of course, NEW comic book characters is that the character has to come first, not the powers, and modern creators don't understand that.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

Our first Western male heroes, Achilles and Ulysses, were certainly not wholesome, one was a rage-prone bully and the other a tricksy fast-talker.

Cultural disagreement. You're basically complaining that pre-Christ characters don't act as befits the Christian flavored society you call home.

For the tradition of an culturally idealized hero, look no further than Don Quixote-- the main character in what was supposed to be a parody of chivalrous romances. That was finished by 1615.

blah said...

Whiskey:

'It was not a demand problem so much as a supply one -- every creative person around became fairly decadent and dependent on shock rather than well, character.'

This is too absurd for you to believe. If little kids still wanted wholesome heroes, they'd be getting wholesome heroes. (And, anyway, I think they still largely get them: I'm sure most kid's cartoons feature reasonably upright heroes. I recall the Batman and Iron Man movies - both pretty successful - featured fairly heroic heroes.)

Also, do you remember what it was like being a boy? I think this yearning for manly wholesomeness is just the kind of thing an adult would project onto a child. (I remember talking with a girlfriend's young cousin once; when I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he answered, 'a high-tech assassin.')

'The problem with of course, NEW comic book characters is that the character has to come first, not the powers, and modern creators don't understand that.'

That seems about right and I'm sure comics today are shit, but when did they really start to bleed their audiences? I know you've pointed out before that TV started to hemorrhage viewers well before the advent of the internet - but don't video games probably have something to do with the decline of comics, rather than their inability to 'connect' with the kids? (Btw, you once mentioned that Call of Duty sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of games during its opening week - this is basically a killing simulator where the heroes - manly but not wholesome - are briefly shown torturing the bad guys.)

Foxfier:

I probably wasn't very clear: my point is only that the 'wholesome hero' that Whiskey wants to bring back is not some essential element of Western culture, and that functioning, successful, 'manly' societies, while offering children heroes, don't have to offer them 'wholesome' ones.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

That does make a lot more sense, though I may still disagree with you-- we may be disagreeing in how we use words, rather than what we mean.

Do you mean "wholesome" in the "traditional 50s culture with Mom and Apple Pie" or do you mean "wholesome" as "promoting those values and manners Good People should have"? If the former, than I'm just as guilty of not being clear as you; if the latter, than we disagree.

Roughneck Jase said...

Interesting post, Whiskey.

I agree with you about Joss Whedon. He is a serious, hard-core feminist mangina and his work from Buffy the Vampire Slater to his Astonishing X-Men comics showcases it.

On another note, Whiskey. I myself am a fan of The Punisher comics for a quite some time (namely the Punisher MAX series). You gotta keep in mind that there are a lot of people out there who read comics like The Punisher and other anti-hero characterson the grounds that they break away from the world of superpowers and Spandex and takes the reader into a more "real world" setting.

jimbo said...

I myself have been noticing a return to old style straight up heroic "lone wolf" type on TV. First there was "Burn Notice", which features ex-CIA spy who wants only to clear his name so he can get back to his old job, and who helps the helpless in the meantime. Sure, there's the requisite fighting chick, but at least she does it mostly with guns and bombs and not with her useless fists.

And now there's "Justified". I've only seen the pilot, but it looks like an honest to goodness laconic, heroic lawman from the old west transported to the modern day.

I also hear they're remaking "The Rockford Files".

I think that TV executives are getting desperate, so they're greenlighting shows that people actually want to watch instead of "edgy" stuff that will get them industry awards.

Got Medieval said...

Uh... have you read a Captain America comic published after 1945 or so? Cap's been an anti-establishment figure since he was revived in the sixties.

I think you have Cap confused with any one of a dozen or so knockoff characters (USAgent, the Patriot, the Spirit of '76, Right- and Left-Winger, etc) that show up in Captain America mostly so they can be shown up by Cap--they're all contrasted as too patriotic, too reactionary, too masculine, too much like the character you describe here.

Truth(er) said...

Every episode of "Justified" has some sort of Nazi theme in it that "Raylan" has to "tsk tsk."

Anonymous said...

http://www.the-spearhead.com/2010/05/07/kick-ass-for-dads/

Check out this positive review of "Kick Ass"

Anonymous said...

As a long time Belmont reader I now find myself scanning only to slow down and read your comments. Please write a book.

Steve Johnson said...

Whedon had a lot to do with Marvel's "Civil War" story in which Tony Stark is the robotic defender of the law and Steve Rogers is the heroic rebel, defying the laws of the United States because, darn it, the law is just plain WRONG!

He doesn't get either character at all.

Is there any writer/producer in Hollywood we could trust with Captain America? Is John Milius still working?

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Anonymous said...

Hahaha, dumbass. I see your predictions are all fail.