Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus – Halloween Special Film Review

Yes, that title is correct, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, the first installment in what would later become a Mega Shark franchise, this is a review of a film about gigantic underwater monsters by The Asylum (Infamous independent film company known for making Sharknado and the like, what is the obsession with sharks these guys have?). The film is a direct-to-video low budget disaster film trying to be an American attempt to break into the kaiju monster movie genre – think Godzilla and Mothra and the like. If you’re unsure if you’d like such films, this would perhaps be your gateway into the genre as this clearly draws inspiration from them, presenting us with two different ridiculous monsters for our human heroes to try and overcome. Well at least it would be buuuuuuuuuuut…

I won’t spoil the plot too much, what little of it there is in amidst the jumbled nonsensical nauseating camera shots but basically Debbie Gibson, the 80s popstar and apparent star power of this film if the cover is anything to go by, plays a marine biologist off on a submarine joyride in the arctic when she witnesses the awakening of two dormant prehistoric beasts, a giant octopus and a megalodon shark. The monsters go their own ways and terrorise two different sides of the globe before the military intervene, calling in our protagonist, her former teacher and her brilliant scientist friend who she ends up romantically attached to. Essentially what we have is all the tropes of the disaster movie brought together in another shlock horror sci-fi parade of gimmicky effects – we have told-you-so scientists, military dingbats who can only resort to “FIRE ALL MISSILES!”, gratuitous death of panicky extras and occasional glimpses of a badly designed pair of monsters. The plot is nothing new and ground-breaking, it takes itself quite seriously though, the actors in a limbo state of “Is this for real?” and “No seriously, this is a joke right” but every line is delivered with sincerity, albeit in a wooden manner.

The film’s titular characters, Mega Shark and Giant Octopus, don’t get as much screen time as I’d like, this film certainly doesn’t hold up against Godzilla but then this is a low-budget goof made by the same people who made ‘Vampires vs. Zombies’ and ‘Snakes On A Train’ so I wasn’t expecting much. However, that said, Mega Shark’s bits are worth watching – especially when the shark leaps out of the ocean and catches a fucking commercial airline mid-flight with no effort. HOW? Planes fly at about 600mph, how is a shark that fast it can catch one? HOW FAST IS THAT SHARK? HOW HIGH CAN IT JUMP? The Giant Octopus’ scenes are lackluster, it seems to get bored as quickly as we do – it half-heartedly attacks a submarine for thirty seconds then drops it. Mega Shark though, Jesus, give me an hour of that shark chomping through boats and planes with that derpy expression it wears in every scene, that was the most redeeming factor of the film for me. Mega Shark, star of the show baby, no wonder you got three sequels (I shit you not, this film has THREE sequels, as does Sharknado, The Asylum really like shark themed movies)

The film is poor, poor by every standard – the CGI is atrocious, the plot incoherent and dull, the romance unbelievable and the characters as uninteresting as staring at my shoes for eighty minutes. I don’t know who gave the worst performance – Debbie Gibson looked like she was drawing letters in mid-air with her nose in every scene and was clearly burbling lines she did not understand the words behind, Lorenzo Lamas’ character is a quip-flinging asshole with no redeeming traits, which he plays well but looks bloody ridiculous doing so, Sean Lawlor can’t seem to maintain his accent throughout and Vic Chao speaks in one tone of voice for the entire film and expresses joy through a single fist-pump of victory… totally doesn’t look weird. Still, they’re hardly acting legends, what can you expect? The film outright addresses Debbie Gibson is a washed-up has-been looking for an easy gig (Her character is said to have a floundering career, much like Debbie who had short-lived musical fame and was irrelevant faster than a X Factor contestant). The film takes itself so seriously, as do the actors, that you wonder if they thought what they were working on was good or if they embraced the campiness of this romp and played along to try and salvage it.

The Asylum, the company behind this, are independent filmmakers of a particular creed – they jump on bandwagons and produce cheaper versions of current blockbusters to make easy money whilst people are still obsessed with a fad. Transformers movie? The Asylum made Transmorphers. Pirates of the Caribbean? The Asylum made Pirates of Treasure Island. Paranormal Activity? The Asylum made Paranormal Entity. Not subtle, not clever but they achieve a mixed bag, some of their films are lovable cheesy muck you find yourself enjoying and some are shallow shameless attempts to cash in quick. After all, this is the company that got told by a guy at a seminar that the best film in the world would be High School Musical but more Christian-friendly so they made Sunday School Musical… no joke, they just jumped on an idea some randomer said and did it, apparently trying to cash in on the strict-Christian themed films only market. So what does that make this film? My best comparison is, as I said, the disaster film tropes of things like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow combined with kaiju films and if this film were more interesting to watch, I’d recommend it as a way to introduce someone to giant monster movies but it’s not so I won’t.

So, is this so bad it’s good? Whilst the film has redeeming qualities (One of the few American films to feature a mixed race coupling and not make it a big “OH MY GOSH THEY ARE SO DIFFERENT YET IN LOVE” kinda thing with an Asian male and a Caucasian female) and is laughably cheap and shoddy, you’d be hard pressed to watch this with that mixture of cringing and grinning you’d have watching The Room. The film started out with a message about the impact of sonar equipment on the environment, which I thought it would run with to tell us how we are destroying marine life but it drops that pretty early on and instead focuses on “How cool would it be to watch two giant monsters fight?!” to which we as an audience respond “THAT WOULD BE AWESOME!” and in turn get like… two minutes of them fighting, the rest is underwater chase scenes between a sub and a shark whilst an octopus watches. I honestly just found this boring – the gaps between action are too long for a disaster movie and the script repeats itself (Several characters die in the same way of “Sir, if we do this thing, it’ll kill us all!” and boss says “Do the thing!” and they die ORRRRRR “Sir, we killed the monster!” and then boss says “Lower your guard boys, we won!” and they die) so this film feels flat, not lovably tried-and-failed flat, more took-the-first-draft-they-came-up-with-and-filmed it flat. I don’t do a point score system but the Rotten Tomatoes one is below 20%, I’m hard-pressed to disagree…

So Bad It’s Good vs So Bad It’s Awful

So on the topic of horror movies, one thing we love is the awful horror flick that is only shown on TV at three in the morning and has a title like “The Bloodthirsty Beast From The Black Lagoon” and other such titles. As much as we appreciate actual core films of the genre, universally recognised as pioneers or just good films, like say The Shining or Alien, what we also enjoy are films so terrible you can’t help laughing – I’m going to be putting what I hope to be a review of a similar film on here this Saturday but basically as fun as genuine scares and psychological thrillers are, there is something enjoyable about watching horror films about mutant rabbits gone amok (Night of the Lepus, look it up) or low budget indie projects about exploding birds causing widespread chaos (Birdemic). However, what’s the difference between enjoyably bad films and just… shit films, by all accounts, unredeemable tripe? Here’s my attempt to clarify, using some examples of my own film history.

Around this time last year I uploaded a review of the film Dog Soldiers, heartily suggesting you all get a copy and watch it – if you have done, well done to you for doing your homework for today but if not, the film in brief is about a military training exercise gone awry when it turns out there is an honest to god family of lycanthropes running loose in the forest the soldiers are training in. Our protagonist and his comrades hole themselves up in a farm cottage and we get to watch some proper British ‘lads’ face off against giant hairy monsters. The film is a masterpiece for many different reasons but if you honestly think it scary, you’re about as well-acquainted with horror films as a slug is with particle physics. Whilst the film plays itself up for laughs at some points, what is important to note is the film was pitched in marketing as a horror film – not a comedy, not a parody – an actual horror film and it plays the part of one for a good while, there are genuine horror tropes worked into the film, albeit mixed in with some comedy and war film iconography. The film is made on a low budget and is an earnest effort by an established director making the best of what resources he had to hand, it’s charming and quaint and enjoyable. A bad horror film though, not scary to anyone except borderline bedwetters. Watchable? Yes, very much so, with good reason.

You see, ‘bad’ horror films like Birdemic, Dog Soldiers and Trolls 2 are awful yes, you perhaps laugh more than you jump and scream and there is so much to poke fun at – usually low budget lack-lustre effects and acting so wooden Keanu Reeves should feel bad for them but what redeems the films is their honesty, their earnest attempts to be good. If you haven’t seen a film called The Room by Tommy Wiseau, go watch it. If you have, you’ll know it’s awful, it’s not a horror film, it’s not trying to be but it’s relevant to this point. Tommy Wiseau didn’t gather a bunch of actors and tell them “Ok, I want your worst performances, I want a plot written by a twelve year old and I want the most awkward sex and romance scenes in cinematic history”, no, he genuinely looked at the awful shlop he had produced and went “Yup, masterpiece”. As cruel as we are for thinking that, THAT’s the funny bit, something so bad you can only ask who ever thought it good enough to deserve funding and selling to other people? Who thought it could honestly generate an audience? There is something heartwarming in these funny failures, film studies students can relate here, chances are their early films look like shit to them and they’ll laugh and cringe but back then? You thought you had conceived your magnum opus, you thought that was what would get you your grade and perhaps it did but it’s seeing a professional film that puts you in mind of a shakily edited student project that makes you chuckle and love a bad film.

However, what doesn’t make a lovable bad film, in my opinion, is a film that sets out with the deliberate intention of being a bad film. Think Sharknado sequels, the first was terrible yeah but it took itself seriously, it genuinely treated itself like a horror film but the others are sold on silly pun-based tag lines and dialogue such as “I know you’re scared. I’m scared too. Sharks are scary”. Nobody wrote that with a straight face thinking it golden, the Sharknado sequels were parody cash-ins in the marginal acclaim of the original, which found a bizarre niche and was widely spread due to it being on TV rather than a cinematic event – you wouldn’t pay money to go see Birdemic would you? But if it came up on Syfy or something, you’d tune in just to see it. Other films like this are the infamously atrocious film Tusk by Kevin Smith, a shameless act of self-appreciation by a hapless comedian turning a conversation he had into a film. No joke, the film premise (A man being abducted and rebuilt bit by bit into a walrus by a mad scientist) just came from a podcast joke that stuck and then Kevin Smith said fuck it, let’s make a comedy horror out of this and make it so bad it is good by the grace of irony. It isn’t by the way, it’s not earnest or charming or excusably low-budget, it’s just Smith stroking himself off onto the screen.

So there’s a grey area here of what is so bad it is good and what is so bad it is just bad. Sharknado, for example, isn’t low budget and earnest but I just put it in a class with films like Birdemic and Night of the Lepus, films that aren’t close to it in production value. Basically, in my opinion, a film is in the former category when it shows as a cheaply made film that tried its best with limited resources (Dog Soldiers) or when it is so balls-to-the-walls bonkers you can’t understand who would make it in the first place (Night of the Lepus). However, when a film is so self-aware it looks to the audience as if to say “Isn’t this whimsical and weird?” (Snakes On A Plane) or you can indeed see who was responsible and how they aren’t honest film-makers trying to be the best they can but are in fact just out to make easy money (Pretty much anything by Uwe Boll) or jump on a bandwagon (Tusk) then you can’t find it all that redeemable. Essentially then, using Birdemic and Tusk as examples – Birdemic is a cheap tea room that doesn’t sell very good food but they make a decent cuppa and the staff are delightful, Tusk is a corporation trying to do the exact same thing but they did so by cutting costs and overdoing it on the quirky angle so all you see is a cut-rate hipster trap that is desperate to catch your attention

Sickening

Would you like to believe we live in a fairly advanced age? We have wireless internet, wheelchairs that can now climb stairs, printers that can produce 3D products, things seem fairly advanced right? Well, here we are in 2015 and in Britain, there’s now a growing debate as to whether or not M.E (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) or CFS as some know it, is actually a real thing. No joke, we’re in a world full of fast cars, smart phones and replacement limbs but we can’t decide whether or not a chronic condition thousands upon thousands of people have had is real, or a bullshit story that’s been peddled by lazy workshirkers for generations.

A study by Oxford University followed 481 people’s lives for two years, all of those people having ME/CFS and watched them go through years of medication and consultation and then decided the best thing to do was encourage them to adopt better outlooks on life and exercise more. According to the study results, three quarters of the group improved after going through therapy and nobody, if the study is to be believed, got worse after being put through this programme. Dubious, as ME/CFS severely limit mobility and stamina so forcing exercise on them seems like it could have negative repercussions. The PACE trial (Pacing, graded Activity, Cognitive Therapy and random Evaluation) therapy revolves around the idea of gradual exercise and CBT therapy, along with random visits from an assessor to see how you get on, which seems fair but this test leaves a lot to be desired and even more to be criticised:

1. Benefits of a positive attitude

Ok, first qualm is this whole brave face and positive thinking will fix your problems ideology. Firstly, if you think positively, you’re going to gloss over the reality of your struggle, participants might have reported an improvement to their assessor simply because they felt happier instead of actually physically healthier and researcher bias might lead the assessors to see what they want to see (They’re smiling more than I remember them doing last month, they must have improved etc.). Whilst therapy is beneficial to those with ME/CFS, need I state the obvious that therapy is beneficial to just about EVERYONE. Depression, amputation, gender-reassignment, a diagnosis of cancer – things all made easier to cope with by speaking to professionals but you wouldn’t make those patients’ lives better by telling them to just suck it up and go for a jog would you? Claiming a healthy attitude is a cure is some wishy-washy idealistic nonsense up there with curing anxiety by taking bold leaps or curing addiction by just saying no more often.

2. Paced graded exercise

This idea is nothing new, as a previous carer for someone with ME, I can recall numerous physiotherapists and so on manipulating the weakened limbs of my dear friend into weird positions and telling her to do this on a daily basis to build her strength up or whatever. Problem here is that said exercise can take a lot out of people with ME and CFS, sometimes it is a struggle for them to even sit up in bed or brush their teeth, let alone lift weights or cycle or whatever the trials suggest. The energy levels of a sufferer are inconsistent, in the space of a week I have seen my friend go from smiling and laughing and jumping to being a disheveled mess groaning through paralysis. Videos can be found and audio logs recorded of ME patients being FORCED into exercise, being told off like petulant children for being ill and there are countless stories of children being taken away or people institutionalised for having ME. I am not joking, imagine if someone got locked up for saying they had a brain tumour or cystic fibrosis! This is a condition that is too complex for our current science to fully understand and in our frustration, we want to refuse to believe it exists. ME is the global warming of the disease world – it’s too hard to think of an answer so pretend it’s not a thing and let everyone die.

3. Misleading information (Lancet 2011 Editorial and Oxford Study)

The Lancet published a paper in 2011 that said 30% of their patients with ME/CFs improved after CBT and graded exercise yet this is based on misleading trials. Patients were asked to rate their fatigue on a scale of 0 to 11, any lower than 4 and they weren’t included in the study and they had to rate it as 6 and above to be considered for further trials. Fair enough? On a scale of 0 to 11, they called a level 6 fatigue “normal levels”. WHAT? How is that normal? Are they suggesting everyone, by default, should feel relatively shit all the time? Beyond that, patients weren’t asked throughout “How do you feel now? Still 6 or worse?”. Nope, just took their initial answer and ran with that. The Lancet made a publication based on a stupid definition of normal fatigue and thus padded out their study with people who felt ‘relatively’ better. Add to this the Oxford study that even admitted it wouldn’t work for everybody and needs further research done and there you have it – FURTHER RESEARCH NEEDS TO BE CARRIED OUT. Accurately I might add and it’s fucking embarrassing I have to.

4. More Misleading Information (Psychological Medicine)

Of course, there are numerous culprits here, Psychological Medicine conducted their own tests. Using the scale again, from 0 to 100, 100 being fit as a fiddle, you had to score below 65 to enter the trial and above 60 was considered healthy. See a problem immediately? If you scored 62 coming in and left scoring 63, you showed up on the statistics as ‘healthy’, therefore cured! With such ridiculous standards, patients could be counted as cured with minimal effort on the part of the doctors involved, any improvement amplified by this scale. The journal even published criticisms of this scale but made no effort to retract their claims that “22% of the study group recovered through therapy”, which as we can see, recovery is bloody easy if you need a score below 65 to enter but a score above 60 to be called cured. Furthermore, there were four criteria used, one a total dud criterium of ‘meeting no clinical definition’ and you only had to meet one of these criteria to count as improved. Ergo, a study that was hard to qualify for but easy to count as improved as a result of taking part. Lies then, carefully manipulated data and misleading weakened standards to present statistics the researchers wanted, instead of the actual truth.

I’m angry. I’m fucking livid. This is nothing more than the neglect and abuse of no fewer than 250,000 people in Britain alone and calling their disability a simple case of the blues that can be wished away with a big enough smile. If these misleading studies gain ground in the public eye as fact, how long until ME/CFS no longer count as grounds to claim disability relevant benefits? Are we going to force people with chronic pain, hypersensitivity, restrained mobility and poor cognitive function into work despite the obvious effects it will have on them? I wouldn’t put such cruelty past the same government seeking to scrap the Human Rights act.

If you’re angry too, click the link below to visit ME Action, a website set up by those dedicated by fighting for our loved ones who groan in agony from the shadows. We must not stand by and let these people become abused as lazy mopes needing a boost of life and a hug, they need medical consideration and each of them needs a care plan tailored to them – some can manage to walk, some can barely move their head – it’s not a quick fix. Keep researching better solutions, medications and coping mechanisms and don’t just dole out this flimsy “Smile and get over it” horseshit. There are petitions, sign them!

http://www.meaction.net/

Halloween 2015

Hey folks! So you’re perhaps wondering what to expect from this blog for Halloween this year – last year I did a review of Dog Soldiers, the low-budget werewolf film full of one-liners, army soldiers and sword fights so what can I follow that up with for this year? Well if you aren’t aware already, I have been doing a Let’s Play of one of my favourite Halloween-esque video games, Decap Attack. Click the link below to go to my official Facebook page for the playthrough, cut into ten minute chunks. My brother and I sit together discussing bad puns, bad game design and many other weird topics of conversation all whilst playing a nineties gem known for its bizarre style.

https://www.facebook.com/oldmanwolfeofficial

If you find yourself enjoying it, please click like and share on the videos, each share is a new audience I can reach and if these take off, I have plans for a Christmas themed game playthrough – the game in mind has already been chosen, tested and now it sits waiting to be sprung upon my brother in December (He has no idea what the game is)

Now I did want to subject you all to a week full of Halloweeny posts about games and films but my week has been hectic, I’ve either been ill or busy trying to get a job (I actually had a cold for the entire recording of the Let’s Play, you can occasionally hear a cough or sniffle, that’s me). Of course, we’re getting into the season in which everyone is frantic, Christmas is coming whether I like it or not and with my 21st birthday on the horizon, I feel obliged to do something for it but that’s a bitch to organise with slow responses and low income. Basically, sorry, my life is interfering with my blog which is funny because usually it is the other way round!

Fingers crossed though, I have picked up a tacky horror treat to review for Saturday, the actual day of Halloween and it is ridiculous. I won’t give it away and spoil the surprise but this film could well end up on Moviebob’s Shlocktober list and it would not come as a shock to me if it did – assuming it is genuinely bad and not just “Oh look how funny we are, we made a terrible movie” bad. Don’t understand what I mean by that? Well maybe that’s a blog post in itself if I have the time, can’t see why not, film studies is one of my favourite subjects of discussion.

So, I hope that has brought everyone up to date, I’ll keep you posted as best I can. For now though, please go check that link and watch the videos, my brother was very selfless in giving up his time to engage in stupid banter over the incredibly weird game that is Decap Attack. The video is rough, it’s my first ever proper recording/editing job but I’ve done my best with it. Oh, by the way, Let’s Plays aren’t becoming my thing, I promise, these are just for fun, my actual videos will be on YouTube and will occasionally delve into silly topics like games and films but I will of course use the platform of YouTube to make videos of importance. Keep your eyes peeled for that, give it a few years and I’ll probably be making Upworthy share my shit like the plague. Bye for now!

A Problem In Pink

October is a month filled with many different things isn’t it? Halloween comes to mind first but let’s not forget it is also Stoptober for those trying to quit smoking and is the designated Breast Cancer Awareness month. Pinktober… yes not a very clever name, is supposed to be a month in which efforts are made to raise awareness about those diagnosed with breast cancer, though there are some issues I have with the whole thing. I never take too kindly to campaigns solely based in raising awareness, chances are we’re aware of what they’re campaigning about (except maybe things like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raising awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, something I’m sure wasn’t much in the public mind beforehand). So what’s wrong with Pinktober if you ask me? Well, where to begin?

The Pink Ribbon movement was originally a feminist ordeal to get the discussion of breast cancer out in the open because whilst breast cancer has been around for a long time, it hasn’t always been an acceptable subject of conversation. Ridiculous to think of it like that now but once upon a time, a time so recent that your parents or grandparents might remember it, you had to keep hush-hush if you had it, talking about your breasts in any context was vulgar, even if it was to tell people you have a life-changing affliction that affected said breasts. However, what started as a noble goal to make a taboo subject something the world had to pay attention to is now more of a money-making scam laden with sexism, commercialism and a small-minded attitude of focus upon breasts over cancer or indeed, the victims they’re supposed to be helping out. In fact, there’s even a term for this corruption, pink-washing.

Pink-washing, in this instance, refers to the sleazy efforts of corporations trying to cash in on a charity by slapping said charity’s label on a product they sell and assuring us a percentage of their profits goes to the charity they claim to represent. The pink ribbon is the most exploited of these symbols, having been stuck on even things such as beer bottles. Whilst many companies are happy to just give some spare change away and think themselves in the right, this easy way out fails to educate anyone on anything and some of these percentages and donations are so minimal they can’t be doing it for anything beyond good publicity. Of course, if you point this out to people that buying all the ribbons in the world doesn’t promote any awareness whatsoever and that pink shirts and pink pop bottles aren’t the answer, you get called out as a monster, strange though it seems. A campaign to discuss a serious health condition and the knock-on effect it has on the lives of those with it has been reduced to a garish pink mess of boob jokes and self-righteous parties. If you buy pink, you’re helping right? Well, no, you know no better so you’re not more aware and when these pink ribbons can be found attached to products that can CAUSE CANCER, it’s a real kick in the shins for those fighting for the cause. After all, you don’t see Oxfam branded caviar or British Heart Foundation branded cigarettes.

The media has dumbed down something as complex as the development of cancer into a popular viral branding scheme, dressed it up in pink and made it into a sexist mess? How is it sexist you ask? Free the ta-tas. Yeah, a breast cancer awareness campaign focused solely on breasts, on how wonderful and amazing boobs are. Forget the woman behind them, she’s dying, so what? Nah, save those perky pink orbs! A woman is more than a pair of breasts! Let’s not forget that men can get breast cancer, do we free his ta-tas too? I’m all for funny and interesting ways to get people to care but efforts lately have been warped into focusing on a sole part of a woman’s anatomy and forgetting about the men in the same boat, the women being oggled and the families who have to adapt or possibly even grieve. A study by Bright Pink showed two thirds of women they interviewed would do more to change their lifestyle if it prevented breast cancer but only about half of those women knew where to start making those changes. The Pink Ribbon stuff has been around for as long as I can remember but I’ll admit to a limited knowledge of breast cancer and I’ll bet most of you reading couldn’t outline how to get checked, how to prevent it happening and what happens if you do get breast cancer. One in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime but only 10% of women know what to do to correctly estimate their risk of developing it… put simply, we know what breast cancer is, we as a society just know jack shit about it.

There is a certain kind of ignorance that surrounds this cause, a kind that I’m sure will have some who read this thinking I just don’t care and I’m calling this entire thing a worthless con, I’m not. However, when you reject the people your cause represents and turn a noble cause into a capitalist nightmare to feel like you’re the patron saint of all things good and righteous just because you wear a ribbon and attend a cake sale, you fall out of touch with the spirit of charity and you overlook the importance of your cause. I understand it’s difficult to get actual factual information circling in the public psyche but it is not impossible and sadly painting the town pink and calling it an effort to raise awareness isn’t the way to do it. We’re all aware, who really hasn’t heard of breast cancer these days? The people are AWARE of it, now it’s time to educate them on the reality of it, on the people it changes and what needs to be done. As it stands, this campaign has become something ignorant, something corrupt and dare I say it for the irony… something rather cancerous.

It’s Not Unusual

One thing you always have to account for is the shifting attitudes of the times – what was once normal and acceptable within society can become frowned upon or even illegal and similarly what was once thought unnatural or immoral can find acceptance in a more enlightened society. With that in mind, I present to you the case of Tom Jones, yes the famous singer, has come under fire from social media users for revealing that when he first broke into the music industry, his first producer was homosexual and this made him uncomfortable at that time. The responses to this news have been polarised and whilst it might not make headlines, it has generated some hype around it so I’m going to weigh in on the issue, if only for an excuse to use the title “It’s Not Unusual”

In an interview with The Big Issue, he said: “I was ready for most aspects of the music industry but when I met the producer Joe Meek, that threw me off a bit. Because he was a homosexual. I thought, wait a minute, is the London scene, the people who run British show business – are there a lot of homosexuals involved here? Because if so, I’m going back to Cardiff.” Apparently he continues, his first manager wanting to talk to Tom in private and Tom fearing that he was being solicited for sex in order to get a record deal and then realised, no, that’s not the case – this is a legit record deal, no sexual payments required, his manager just happens to be gay. Tom Jones admitted to a paranoia he held onto at the time and since then, he’s grown up and moved past it, accepting homosexuality and homosexuals in general as being just like everyone else, not a creepy cult conspiracy forcing people into sex through misdirection. Good on you Tom, good on you.

However, the backlash came from his tweet in which he said he realised “most people were normal. Well, I shouldn’t put it like that. Homosexuals are normal, it’s not that they aren’t normal. It’s just that they are what they are.” Ok, so not the best wording ever and I’d wager he probably still has a lot to learn about sexuality and the diverse range of sexual identities people class themselves as but Tom Jones got unfairly savaged by someone for his ‘outdated ideals’. He KNOWS they’re outdated, bear in mind he was establishing his fame in the 50s/60s, homosexuality was still illegal in some places and regarded as a mental health disorder in many psychological and professional circles, there wasn’t as much of an LGBTQIA community presence then as there is now. Jones didn’t have much information available to him to learn better, the media stereotype of the gay man was of an overly flirtatious weirdo that needed to be steered clear of and with doctors and preachers and news coverage calling homosexuality abhorable, it’s understandable he had a paranoia about them, the media image was not positive. Today, Tom Jones realises that these people are no different from him and that’s something he deserves commendation for.

Now, bear with me, the liberal minded of you out there might go “Well duh, of course gay people are just like us, why does he deserve credit for realising that?”. I’ll tell you, he deserves it because he had the gall to put up in the public space an admission that he WAS a homophobe and since then, he learned better through interacting with actual homosexuals and respecting them. Well done to him for that, it is not easy to admit to having held onto wrong belief systems and I stand by him – truth be told, when I was much younger my own belief of homosexuality was “I don’t mind them as long as they aren’t doing it where I have to deal with it or to me”, as if I had to lay down some ground rules with the LGBTQIA community or else be swamped with gay sex pests. I’ve changed, he’s changed, nobody is perfect from the start. For him to expose himself like that takes guts. Furthermore, it is an important realisation, sure it might only seem like a start to some but a starting point is something. You would say well done to a friend if they even committed to taking part in a marathon wouldn’t you? If people hold beliefs like “being gay is unnatural and immoral”, we have to give them credit when they get as far as “Okay, it’s not immoral, I can see that… but I’m still uncomfortable”. Fine, that’s okay, we can work with that – what we can’t do is shout people down for any misconception they have or they just won’t learn.

The pressure to be politically correct, such as it were, I can actually understand. I of course encourage everyone to keep trying to learn to be more acceptant of others but that works both ways, we have to be acceptant of those that are learning. I had a friend, who will remain nameless, but they accepted that people could be gay and that’s not inherently bad but they still thought it weird and gross. Now, I could have told them to not be such a privileged twat and many would have laughed and applauded me but I’d have just embarrassed someone who could have potentially become an ally in the fight for equal rights, someone who was at least trying to learn. So instead, of course, it was a matter of explaining why it isn’t all that gross and even if it were, how is it any more gross than straight sex? Outside of the fun of being a part of it, sex is really pretty frickin’ gross, a hot sweaty mess of stains and genitalia smashing together, what does it matter what goes where as long as those involved are okay with it? We have to accept that changing your views on things such as sexuality, politics or feminism are slow processes of constant learning and if you want to win someone round, you’ll catch more flies with honey over vinegar. So let me finish by saluting the Welsh legend, you did a brave thing indeed Sir Jones!

What Evil Looks Like

This isn’t going to be a fun read but it is an important one and perhaps that should motivate you to read this article, especially if you are a man. Forewarning, the content ahead is about sexual abuse so if that will upset you, look away, but I encourage you to look on – these topics need to be discussed. By now this is old news but the point is no less valid and needs to be reinforced wherever and whenever appropriate. George Lawlor, student of Warwick University, opted not to attend the optional consent classes offered at his university on the grounds he does not, and I quote ‘look like a rapist’, apparently feeling unfairly judged as such and believing his own conduct above reproach. The said student put up his own blog post of why he didn’t go and I’d link you but I don’t want to sully this blog by offering traffic to such a vile corner of the internet but I’m here to offer a firm rebuttal and to explain why rape culture is a thing and why we need to work on it.

George’s primary point is that consent classes are condescending and patronising insults to men, accusing them all of being potential rapists. Consent classes, incidentally, are classes in which university students are educated on how to have healthy sexual relationships and how to correctly interpret real life scenarios. For example, if a girl comes over to a guy’s place with the intention of having sex with him but upon arrival, changes her mind, if that guys persists – that is rape. She wanted it, she changed her mind, coaxing her into it or pressuring her is rape. The classes focus on ambiguous situations, things that you might not be aware are unhealthy or unfair on your partner and how to behave more responsibly, ensuring each sexual relationship you have is completely consensual and legal if nothing else! Great idea if you ask me, I’ll go into it a bit more in a little while but I’d gladly go to such a class, not because I fear I lack the knowledge but because it sounds like a healthy environment in which to learn more about safe and satisfying sex lives. George though argues these classes are patronising, treating men like potential criminals, but this isn’t the case. Think about it this way – you’re required to attend Fire Safety meetings and Fire Drills in the world of work, does that mean they need to dissuade potential arsonists and pyromaniacs? Maybe, but for the most part it is the benefit of all involved, it promotes safety, knowledge and equips those present with the correct attitude as it reaffirms what they know to be right. We ALL know what to do in a fire, it’s ingrained in us – leave your possessions, leave in an orderly fashion, assemble outside at the safe point – imagine if the rules of consent were as ingrained in us as the rules of fire safety or crossing the road. Kids aren’t stupid, they know a car hitting them will hurt, we teach them so as to make sure they have all the knowledge they need to be safe.

Furthermore, taking these consent classes as a personal insult George, it tells me volumes about you as a person. You take ‘men being potential rapists’ as meaning you? If you know you have a healthy attitude towards sex, why is this so offensive to you? Men who get upset when feminism call out the patriarchy on sexism or transphobia by responding “But that’s not me!” need to realise it is not them specifically being challenged, unless they are actually doing those things in that moment, but the societal norm as a whole. You’re not exempt from that, as I’m not, we have to accept we’re a part of a culture that perpetuates violence and sexism and rape, what matters is what we as individuals strive to be and preach to others. We can’t be let off the hook as nice guys or knowing enough about feminist views to think that’s okay, we have to constantly work to be better, to do more – we might be a part of a negative culture George, but we enjoy the privilege of being straight white men, we get listened to, so don’t complain about someone maybe possibly implying you’re a rapist, shouldn’t the bigger issues be things like the prevalence of rape culture and the rising statistics over the years? Complain about that for a bit.

George put up a photo saying “This is not what a rapist looks like”, which I have two immediate responses to. One, what does a rapist look like? A January report in The Telegraph suggested one in every three women in the UK has been the victim of unwanted advances or sexual assault at least once in life so either there are a shit ton of similar looking dudes all with the same criminal attitudes or, more plausibly, there isn’t a singular rapist stereotype women should be taught to avoid. You want a disturbing fact? 80% of rape survivors KNEW the attacker, when we hear of rape we picture lonely women walking down an alley and getting mugged by a goon with a knife – this happens, let’s not overlook that, it’s terrible – but rape can be so much more subtle and dark. Rape can be a kiss that came with an unwanted hand in the front of a girl’s skirt, rape can be a drunken husband letting off steam on his unwilling wife, rape can be guys ganging up to take advantage of a girl they’re friends with. A rapist isn’t always some hooded delinquent in the shadows with the face of a killer, it can be that ‘friendzoned’ douche, a potential boyfriend, a study buddy, a one-time thing looking to make you his new habit. We like to think we can spot evil from a glance but we can’t, nobody has that ability, you can’t actually judge people that fast and before you know it, that nice guy you invited over one night to help you cram for an exam has turned up with other motives. If 80% of survivors knew the attacker and one in three women have at least said they felt like they were harassed, then one thing is certain – a rapist can look like anyone. You included George, no matter how nice or friendly or safe you think you look, I’ve known women who have been attacked by guys half your height and twice as jovial. I’m not calling George a rapist but just so he knows, he could look like one. I could too, get over it.

Lawlor stands at a position of privileged ignorance then, likely never having been a victim of sexual abuse himself, he can look down his nose at these classes that are just as much about empowering victims as educating potential aggressors into being better people. By disrespecting these classes, you disrespect every single victim of sexual abuse, you tell them that men aren’t responsible or accountable for what happened to them, it was their own stupid fault for getting too close to those nasty rapey men and not cosying up to nice guys like him. The outrageous tenacity of that viewpoint and level of stupidity makes my blood burn with rage. If you believe all rapists are bush-lurking cretins, you exempt yourself from being a rapist, you justify everything you do as not being an assault from the bushes. You also condone a certain creed of man to the harmful stereotype of looking like someone that deserves to be alone. Face it George, what you mean is handsome white heterosexual men aren’t rapists, but ugly ones or minorities are? I’ve had the misfortune of exploring your blog, from what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was your secret philosophy on the matter.

We need to break away from stereotypes, especially ones that belittle a serious crime like rape as being a horror story trope and not much else. Rapists aren’t a particular breed of men, some are but some are otherwise perfectly well-respected members of society. George, maybe you aren’t all that bad a guy and maybe I’m being hard on you but your contempt of consent classes is a privilege you can enjoy as a handsome white straight man, the most well-off of well-off demographics. We can’t let ‘nice guys’ off the hook by perpetuating the idea of all rapists being obviously creepy – it insults women, it degrades men and the facts don’t support it. Women’s safety is a massive issue, it’s one we aren’t doing enough about and these classes are an effort to address that imbalance, respect that.