Millions of Minions

I’m going to go out there and say it – I fucking hate the Minions by now. What had originally been adorable yellow jelly beans waddling around the background of an enjoyable kids film has become a marketing campaign drawn to ungodly lengths and bloated into such disgusting proportions, there were actually people in a position of wealth and movie-making authority who said “You know what? Give them their own film”. Minions have outstayed their welcome, their yellow cyclopean forms appearing on lunchboxes, phone cases and even underwear for children and adults alike and honestly, I think that has ruined what charm they had and exposed them for what they always were – the most marketable and palatable bland shite in the entire Despicable Me franchise. I’m disproportionately annoyed by these talking tic-tac twatbags so allow me to vent for your amusement, if you so please.

In the original Despicable Me films, the Minions served the purpose of comic relief, side distractions to keep the kids paying attention to the film and appealing to the goldfish mentality of some audiences. Face it, if a film isn’t constantly gripping you, you can drift off, change channel or relegate it to background noise whilst you do something more interesting like Angry Birds or picking your nose. I enjoyed their role, adding a little laugh between scenes but never taking the spotlight for very long, serving more as means to an end for a joke. The focus was always on Gru and his girls, the more interesting characters who needed to be developed and had stories to follow, the Minions are just comedy fodder. However, starting with the second film making Minions central to the end scheme of the antagonist, the Minions began taking more of the limelight away from Gru, a character I actually like (A loveable baddy-turned-daddy that punches sharks in the face? I love it) and soon enough, Despicable Me 3 isn’t a thing but the Minions get their own film? Who gives a film to a mass of moronic herd-like creatures that can’t speak a coherent language? That sounds like a formula for UKIP: The Movie!

The Minions put me in mind of the now faded in obscurity characters of the Rabbids from Rayman, background characters from a Rayman party game that became so popular due to their stupid antics and lack of clear communication, they got their own game and lo and behold, the magic surrounding them faded and soon enough they exhausted every joke in their arsenal, only to be swept under the rug and Rayman resumed his post as the big money in that franchise (Which they rebooted to wipe the memory of Rabbids from the continuity and good on them for doing so, new age Rayman is brilliant stuff – a comedy platformer combining nostalgia with innovation). I wish Minions would go the same way and maybe they will but for now they seem to be firmly stuck to the shelves, the world of cinema and our social networks. Why? Well, I have some ideas.

So the Minion design is minimalistic and interchangeable but with some iconic features that instantly make them stand out as part of the brand – goggles, tic-tac shaped body, funny sounding babble – this makes them characters we can easily modify and project onto, such is the way of lasting marketing characters. Compare the Meerkat uses this same effect, put a meerkat in a shirt and tie, it’s Sergei, put it in a smoking jacket, Alexander, onesie, Baby Oleg, you get the picture. This allows your audience to play with your logo, to cling to it and use it as they see fit and whilst they think they’ve come up with something clever, cute and original, from a marketing standpoint, they’ve basically declared “I am a mindless consumer of your cut-and-paste crap”. Minions have leaked into memes, philosophical quotes, heck, Minion porn is a thing, look it up… NO! WAIT! SHIT! DON’T DO THAT! They’re just easy to use, easy to draw, easy to customise and appealing to the “I’m so quirky” type adults and the “I like to eat crayons” type children. A well designed brand is exactly that though, a simple symbol you can slap on anything and people know what it is – Marvel’s logo, McDonald’s logo, Nike’s logo – something small and easy to recognise so people see what its slapped onto and consume it with the ravenous hunger of a zombified dachshund.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the Minions, I thought they were fun but they were fun in small doses, they’re comic relief, not central characters. Minions are a side order to the meal of a good film, you can have a bucket of mashed potato and call it a meal if you want but how many of you would really do that, especially when you know the place serves some decent steak or whatever you prefer this metaphorical menu to serve. There shouldn’t be a Minion craze as there is but here it is, an easy way to tramp stamp any fucking thing it touches. I just find it to be such a poisonous inescapable influence, I’d have to unfriend almost every friend on my social media accounts to escape their yellow smug faces tacked onto posts like “Every family has a crazy one. If you don’t know who, it’s you” or “I could be a Monday person if Monday didn’t start until 2PM!”, you know the types, the ones shared by the likes of Debbie or Laura, she says size matters because nobody likes small glasses of wine and she’s a right proper random bitch lol… Shudder. Maybe I’m a horrid miseryguts who doesn’t see the appeal of these jovial jellybeans any more for his shit-tinted shades he wears all day but to me, they outstayed their welcome and their quirks became annoying and I do not believe they ever deserved their own film (Which is a contrived mess of puerile gimmicks clearly meant only to entertain children, I understand it’s intended for children but making shit films and excusing them as being for kids is something so irritating to me, it’s a blog post in itself)

Okay, anger dispelled, can we just collectively ween ourselves off sticking Minions on every shareable picture on the internet and agree that if this trend won’t end, let it live on as another Despicable Me film, not Minions 2. Seriously, how cool would it be to see the girls grow up in Gru’s footsteps? Have a kiddie friendly Charlie’s Angels style romp with Gru’s kids and work some Minions into that somehow. I’d watch it.

DESPICABLE ME 3 – GRU’D AND EVIL. MAKE IT HAPPEN

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An Analogy For The Bombing Of Syria

So I want to continue to explain my viewpoint on the recent bombing and as I currently lack video editing software to make a video on the subject, I’m going to relay a comical little analogy about bombing using David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn and water balloons. You might argue making a funny blog post about such a tragedy undermines the gravity of the situation but the point is to laugh at the absurd logic of the characters and heighten awareness of the issue. You’ll think the characters stupid and ridiculous and when you do, realise that those stupid characters represent our government.

So, to set the scene, David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn are hanging out together when along comes a guy wearing an ISIS t-shirt who calls David a wanker and runs and hides in a bar called The Syrian. David, pissed off by this, quickly goes home and makes himself a great big box of water balloons, whilst Jeremy watches with a look of concern.

JEREMY: David, I really don’t think this is a good idea

DAVID: Look, he called me a wanker. How many other people has he done that to? I’m going to make him and his friends learn a harsh lesson about common decency

JEREMY: By pelting balloons at them? Why don’t we at least talk to them first?

DAVID: Talk to them? If they’re willing to call strangers wankers, what makes you think they’re reasonable human beings?

JEREMY: Well maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, can’t hurt to try talking first

DAVID: Nah, I’ll lob balloons at them, asked my mates about it, they think it’s a great idea too

JEREMY: But you can’t just storm into a pub and lob water balloons around willy-nilly, you’ll get everyone soaking wet and angry

DAVID: I’m a really good shot with a water balloon, honest

So they go along to The Syrian, David and his mates with a box of balloons, Jeremy wandering after them with his own friends who mostly have hangdog expressions upon their faces. The Syrian is a relatively packed bar, with mostly ordinary people inside but there are some people wearing those ISIS shirts, mostly tormenting the other patrons and demanding free drinks. David sneers.

DAVID: See, those ISIS guys are dicks, look what they’re doing in there

JEREMY: Yeah well I don’t see how us going in there pelting people with balloons fixes the matter

DAVID: Well they probably have balloons too, I heard they were in that French bar the other day, they caused some real fucking mischief in there, I’m telling you

JEREMY: True, but the ISIS guys in the French bar don’t come to this bar or vice versa

David shrugs and starts throwing balloons, cheered on by his mates and even some of Jeremy’s mates start laughing and cheering. The balloon barrage begins, Jeremy watching uncomfortably as ISIS guys and normal patrons alike get pelted with balloons. Just then, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia comes along, watches what is going on and David explains. Abdullah laughs and asks if he can have some water balloons, which David agrees to and Abdullah wanders off with them, Jeremy watching him leave with some suspicion.

JEREMY: I think he’s going to give the ISIS guys some balloons

DAVID: Nah, we’re bezzie mates me and Abdu

JEREMY: Since when? You do realise Abdullah hangs out with the ISIS guys too right? He probably calls you a wanker behind your back

DAVID: Yeah but he’s sound really, we hang out too, he buys my lunch whenever we meet up. Plus, he gave me like, a tenner for ten balloons, good deal right?

Sure enough, the ISIS guys in the bar now have balloons, throwing their balloons back at David and even handing balloons out to other patrons in the pub, telling them David started the fight so he’s the one responsible for all this. Some patrons hurry out of the bar, pushing past David and company, some stick with the ISIS guys and some just lie there and get pelted with balloons. Jeremy voices his concern again.

JEREMY: Now everyone in that bar hates us, I’m pretty sure we can’t come here ever again

DAVID: I didn’t know this was going to happen ok? I just came here hoping to get the ISIS crew, the other guys just got in the way and that’s a shame but what am I supposed to do?

JEREMY: Stop throwing balloons?

DAVID: But I’ve hit so many ISIS guys

JEREMY: And lots more non-ISIS guys. You do realise they’ll all hide in our pub now right? I mean, I don’t have a problem with that but you hate anyone who isn’t your mate hanging out in our regular haunt

DAVID: Shut up Jezza, I’ll just tell the barman to shut the doors. Worked for that French pub. Besides, the water balloon fight is well under way now, if I stop throwing balloons, that doesn’t mean they’ll stop

JEREMY: They might if you apologise and leave them alone, maybe offer them a towel afterwards?

DAVID: What am I? A bloody towel merchant? Look shut up and toss a balloon already

But of course, Jeremy doesn’t and the balloon fight continues, with everyone involved getting soaked to the bone by the back and forth of balloons and David keeps giving balloons to his friend Abdullah, who then gives balloons to the ISIS crew, who are nutters that just fucking love balloons. Eventually, they’re all going to be too wet to throw any more balloons and everyone will be miserable and have a cold and need to wring out their shirts and only then will David realise he had done something very dumb and now the ISIS guys have left the pub out the back door, hiding in various other pubs waiting for David or his mates to come in so they can hit them in the face with their own balloons. David will have to apologise to the owner for throwing so many balloons and setting off a huge fight (The Syrian has had a tense atmosphere, people don’t much like the management and the ISIS guys stir up trouble a lot of the time) and whilst his apology will be reluctantly accepted, David probably won’t get served in that place and by extension, neither will his mates or even Jeremy most likely, just for association.

Now this was all very silly but if you read this thinking that David is a bit of a twat, guess what, this is a very scaled down and simplified reconstruction of the decision to bomb Syria. I’m not using this as the end-all argument, I’m not that stupid and taken literally, this post is not a great explanation of our situation but it gives those of you lagging behind a simpler model to refer to instead of combing through news articles (Though I implore you to get up to speed). Bombing a whole nation, even with ‘targeted precise airstrikes’, is akin to running into a bar and throwing stuff at the people you don’t like and when people say that’s a bad idea, you respond with “But I’m really good at throwing stuff, I promise I won’t break anything by accident”. Yeah, when has that ever worked? Funny thing is, David’s predecessor, Tony, had this same idea twice over and neither time did it work out and David thought him a twat for it at the time but now David’s had the idea, it’s suddenly genius.

We don’t want war and if we did, Syria isn’t the enemy, Syria hates ISIS as much as we do, they’re the victims, the trapped masses forced to fight under their flag or die in the gutter and presented with that choice, it’s noble to say you’d rather die but many of us would cower from sacrifice and live as bastards. Our problem nations are the ones pumping money into ISIS and slipping them munitions for further chaos – Turkey, Saudi Arabia – but we don’t start beef with them because they’re our allies and they have a lot of money that we want and that they’ll give us if we give them munitions… which somehow end up in the hands of ISIS. You see the problem here? Moral bankruptcy for financial gain, such is the way of our government and this has led us to declare war on a country that is still reeling from the last one it had.

That’s So Gay!

I’m taking a break from the blog until December to reconsider a few things, the dwindling interest from my reader base and lack of feedback has had me really down in the dumps as I’ve considered my latest material my best work yet and somehow it is completely overlooked, even by people I know personally. I won’t bitch about it much more beyond that but just letting you all know; I will be back for Christmas to upload some festive posts and the Facebook page will be getting another game playthrough in the spirit of the season but after today, no more stuff for this month, unless I think of something I just have to blog about.

Growing up in a state school environment, there was one word that was something of a slur to use and even those perfectly okay with the intended meaning of the word still used this word as a synonym for crappy or rubbish. Yes, the word ‘gay’, an archaic term for being happy now applied as a label chosen by homosexuals as a means of identification and yet at the same time, a word used by people to mean something that is the opposite of good. Someone won’t come clubbing tonight? Gay! Trod in dog muck? Gay! Hideous pair of shoes? Gay! I want to talk about where this use of the term perhaps stems from and why we need to work on our fixation with using the word as a means of calling something shitty.

Well, obvious conclusion could be that the use of the term is homophobic, which in some cases is true – there are misconceptions some cling to that being gay is somehow being lesser, being weaker (especially in the case of being a gay man) so the use of the word gay to mean bad is likely rooted in that. However, I know people who are not homophobic and yet use the word gay constantly in an inappropriate context and whilst some modify their behaviour when I point out to them “I don’t see why the fact that 50% off sale ended is all that homosexual”, some cling to their use of the term, calling me a PC arsehole and saying that it’s just a habit they can’t break out of and I should cut them some slack. Well, slack shan’t be cut, not now, not ever because whilst the use of the word might not be rooted in homophobia, it suggests ignorance and a failure to consider the feelings of others. Let me bust some of the reasons people think it is okay to say gay in this way wide open.

1. It’s just a habit

It was a habit for me in my school days, I’ll admit it, I heard it used that way and you soak up your idiolect from your peers. I used it to mean something that wasn’t very masculine (A pink shirt on a guy? Bit gay isn’t it?) or something that displeased me (Extra maths homework? Gay!) but when I came to realise it wasn’t fair, considering I had gay siblings for starters who didn’t much like me using the word that way, I snapped out of it. Any habit can be broken by willpower, just shrugging and saying “Eh, it’s a habit” is no excuse, we modify our habits when they are bad for us or others, that’s how we grow as people. You were a baby once, you had a habit for sucking your thumb and chewing on plastic dinosaurs, you stopped at some point because you thought you had to stop doing it and you did, this is no different. If you feel yourself about to say ‘gay’ and not in reference to a homosexual, pause, think of a different word. Here’s a few:

That’s rubbish/crap/shitty/pants/stupid/ridiculous/cack/dumb

And that’s only a few! There are so many words that can mean rubbish and you choose the word ‘gay’? That, to me, suggests a lack of effort in your vocabulary, especially if it was a habit you picked up when you were twelve and didn’t fix in the years afterwards – I’m pretty sure I sound very different to my twelve year old self!

2. I have gay friends, it’s ok!

This is the logic people use when they say the n-word in casual conversation, claiming they have black friends so all cool right? No, not cool, if the word doesn’t have hurtful connotations to you, it is not okay when you use it – you don’t have the right to use the n-word because it was never applied to you, you don’t have to rob it of its power over you, you were never offended by it. If you think you can get away with using a word as a slur just because of your association with someone who is gay or black or whatever, try asking them, try asking ten people like them and see how they feel. If you’re unprepared to modify your behaviour even then, that’s just not fair on them and I’d be concerned as to how good a friend you are to people like that. One gay friend isn’t a free ticket to say whatever you want about the LGBT+ community in the same way one black friend doesn’t exempt you from being called a racist if you start calling people n-words.

3. People shouldn’t get so upset about this

Maybe not but they do, it is not your place to decide who should get offended by what and when. If what you’re doing offends someone and they tell you that, talk to them about it and figure out what is fair – sometimes there is a compromise, sometimes there is a guilty party who needs to shape up and sometimes, sadly, maybe you’re better off apart. I find the only people strongly complaining about a politically correct world are those who are used to getting away with saying anything. Change with the times, some words are okay to use now and some aren’t, if you refuse to adapt and use fair language, you’re on the same side as people who still black people ‘darn negroes’ or call Mexicans ‘beaners’, society evolves and as such, so should people functioning within it. People who refuse are almost always on the wrong side – the people who called women dumb broads got to see a world in which they could vote, the people who called black people sub-human saw one become President of the USA and the people who call gay people faggots will one day see a world in which sexuality is no longer a topic for crude comedy and discrimination. You have no right to tell people what they shouldn’t be offended by, I’ve criticised the offense over the Starbucks cups here but I did so with reasoning, it wasn’t as dismissive as “Suck it up, you know I don’t mean any harm”

4. FREE SPEECH!

Ah yes, this inevitable gem. Free speech, free country, yadda yadda yadda, does anyone ever cite this argument in a positive context? Personally I only hear the mention of it being a free country when someone wants to do something really shitty. Free speech, as a right, means you cannot be arrested for saying something out of place, usually as in criticising one’s government. For example, free speech is not a right in North Korea, the people there are fed a modified version of history wrongly attributing many historical deeds to Kim Jong Un and his forefathers and if someone says “This is a load of crock!”, they get bunged in a van and hit with sticks or something worse. Free speech means you’re allowed to speak freely but your words still have consequences – if you call a surly biker gang “a bunch of shit-stained pansies”, you can expect a rightfully deserved punch in the chops, no matter how often you cite your right to speak freely. Offensive material can be censored, apologies can be demanded for thoughtless comments and the right to speak doesn’t mean people have to listen to you and tolerate your nonsense if they don’t want to. Just as it is your right to shout out that perhaps, say, bananas are the best fruit in the world, I’d be within my rights to suggest that apples are better and everyone else would be within their rights to either agree, disagree or tell us both to shut up.

5. Oh come on, it’s a harmless laugh

Harmless to you, perhaps, harmless to others? Less so. Comedy shouldn’t be lazy and reliant on stereotypes and tropes, the only reason there have been a large number of comedians lamenting a PC world is swathes of their material has been based on these tired old jokes about gay people or whatever. Sure, you can’t avoid offending people, whatever you do will cause upset but is that an excuse for not trying to think of more inclusive material? No. With new information and new views as a society, we have to change and adapt and try out new things. Some of you may be old enough to remember a time when Eddie Murphy’s stand-up routines included jokes poking fun at homosexuals for checking him out and possibly giving people AIDS by kissing them and passing it on, “suddenly, your gay friend gives your wife a kiss, you kiss her, got AIDS on your lips, you’re a straight man who got AIDS”. Turns out, at the time, hilarious for people but looking back we can see how crude and misinformed the performer and his crowd were and Eddie Murphy doesn’t much venture down the whole poke-fun-at-gays avenue of comedy anymore and more the animated donkeys and being a tiny space adventurer inside a giant robot version of himself avenues. If you can’t think of good jokes that don’t rely on a racist or homophobic or discriminatory punchline of some nature, I’m sorry, you need help if you think comedy is your shtick. You can be so much better if you try, comedy should be an observation of life retold with humour and understanding, not a put down of the minority to appeal to the majority – that is called bullying.

CONCLUSION

I realise this has been a bit long but these things need to be said. What I hope you’ll take away from this is not that I’m calling you homophobic, I’m just suggesting that your comments are rooted in an ignorance of the past I know you are capable of leaving behind. If you’ve read thus far, you’ve clearly got intelligence, patience and understanding, is it such a hard concept to grasp that maybe using a label some proudly identify with as your word for calling something a pile of shit is unkind? I know people fear the PC world, so far as to tell people to stop holding out hope for it but it’ll never happen if we’re not prepared to change and we’ve made many changes thus far, imagine where we could be in ten or twenty years if we tried our hardest! Please, there are so many better words for rubbish than ‘gay’, better words for an idiot than ‘retard’ and better words for a weakling than a ‘pussy’ – such words only promote their further usage and hold back the hopes of a better world. How will we ever have a fair society if we insist on teaching people that weak people should be called vaginas and things that are ridiculous and crap are ‘gay’? It needs to stop and that starts with you, please, I know you can do it.

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

Pig Girls Don’t Cry: Thoughts Thus Far

Recent articles posted here have been heavy so let’s lighten things up around here, I will instead do a TV piece. You may or may not be aware that The Muppets are back on TV with a new series about their latest project, a late night chat show hosted by Miss Piggy. However, the show also does the behind the scenes of the show within the show in a mockumentary style, essentially modernising the old Muppet Show format by fusing The Office and Conan O’Brian’s chat show into one thing but with puppets. Sound good? Well…

The show has a promising start, Muppet humour is there from the beginning. Beaker gets abused, there’s a misdirect by Honeydew, the whole “Piggy is the star but she’s an actual pig, ergo she is heavy and such” stuff, jokes that would not be out of place in the old films. However, we get a taste of the adult humour with Zoot mistaking the team meeting for an AA meeting and Sam playing the ‘concerned mothers of America’ voice as he goes combing through the scripts for even the vaguest of innuendos and curse-like words. I guess it puts us on the same page as the writers then, it’s the characters we love in a way we don’t normally see them. After some easy jokes, we get to hear what to expect – ‘The Muppets’ is the story of our favourite characters working on a new TV concept whilst being recorded in a documentary, the format immediately being ripped on by Gonzo, who is in turn made the target of an obvious joke. Things are okay so far, not exceptional but it looks like something worth watching at least, let’s see where they take it.

Well, cue Piggy. Miss Piggy, poor Miss Piggy, is just bad in this appearance. The sassy yet sexy glamour pig of our past who was always a little self-centred but fundamentally charming is hacked apart by people who have clearly reduced her down to a handful of traits – namely dolled up, loud and bossy. She shouts at staff for no real reason, her first line is a line of abuse and she tears the efforts of others apart without mercy before hounding Kermit for the most trivial stuff. Piggy only gets worse later on but I’m doing this review in the process of the episode so each thing as it happens for now. So, the show must go on, Fozzie is the warmup act for the crowd before the main event and fails in his usual fashion, getting savaged by Statler and Waldorf, the only characters who are still their old selves.

The ‘show’ goes on whilst Kermit has thoughts to himself, the fact he uses the world ‘hell’ in these thoughts is remarked upon negatively by Sam, who I guess has gone from a patriot to a pansy. After that, he books a guest star, Tom Bergeron of Dancing With Stars, called in to replace a guest Piggy can’t stand. Kermit is rather negative in his appearance here, more on that later because we now have to see into Fozzie’s love life. Yup, cue easy joke about the dual meaning of bear as both an animal and a burly gay man. Fozzie is subjected to… bear racism, by his girlfriend’s dad and the scene is just… yeesh… bad. Less said the better but the barrel was scraped for these racism analogies using salmon and toilet habits, because jokes about bears are finite people, cut them some slack, Henson exhausted the good ones thirty something years ago.

Cut back to the writer’s office, Gonzo shows Kermit a skit he’s been working on and Kermit says he hates it, not in a disdainful but ultimately lets his friends have their way Kermit sense but more a “You are paid for this job? For real? I fucking resent that” tone of voice. Gonzo doesn’t seem bothered by the criticism and then we have Denise, the subject of controversy and Kermit’s new squeeze, a prettier skinnier pig with this cheeky playful demeanour. Yeah, Kermit dropped a feminist for an airhead, go figure, kinda sketchy when you think about it. Adult humour is brought in here with Denise giving her drink straw some puppet fellatio in the background of Kermit’s talking head section and Kermit even refers to “We met at a cross-promoting event and ended up… ‘cross-promoting'”. This is jarringly weird, the Muppets are making references to fucking each other, these are not the characters for this sort of humour, either make new puppets based on the Muppets to do this show or just cut the sex references, sure a kid won’t get them but it’s just uncomfortable to watch.

So, Piggy is brought back up, shouting abuse at her personal trainer this time, she seems to take out her frustration on people set on making the most of her potential, is this something extremely clever or did the head writer just say “Make Miss Piggy into a colossal fuckhead”? After that, Denise reveals the reason she thinks Piggy didn’t want former guest Elizabeth Banks in the show, they auditioned for a film together and Piggy wasn’t picked for a part, boo-hoo. Kermit then decides that’s a stupid reason for cutting a guest from a show and brings Banks back in without consulting anyone, he just does it, he views it as decisive action but I see it as weedy and cowardly, he’s not facing up to Piggy, he’s going behind her back to undermine her. Note, there is no scene in which he cancels Tom’s appearance, we just go onto the next day, Banks is there and Kermit tells everyone to just deal with it and that Piggy can essentially suck his green one if she’s unhappy. Kermit then shouts down all who oppose his irrefutably clever move, horribly even, he takes on Animal and Gonzo like they aren’t friends, they’re idiots holding him back. Denise thinks this is a sexy take-charge frog but Kermit has gone against the protocols and asked for no opinions from anyone, he’s assumed because he’s in charge of the behind-the-scenes stuff he can just do whatever.

Anyway, this take-charge mood is turned on its head when he decides Banks can’t be around where Miss Piggy can see her until the show begins so he tries to offhand her to Scooter but she throws him out of one of those golf-buggy things they use to navigate studios and comes back to ask what is going on. Of course, Piggy walks in and awkward hijinks ensue… by which I mean Kermit is unveiled as an underhanded toad rather than a timid-but-endearing frog. Fozzie is also there, trying to impress his girlfriend and her family by showing them where he works but Miss Piggy shouts at him and calls him worthless, she also forgot his goddamn name earlier on. Are you shitting me? THEY WORKED TOGETHER, this takes place in a continuity after they made films and TV shows together and here she is just being really unreasonably mean to him for just trying to be a showman.

The truth about Elizabeth Banks and Miss Piggy is revealed, they broke up after seeing Pitch Perfect 2, in which Banks starred. Piggy was apparently taking too many selfies and ruined the film for Kermit, who then realises he’s just been a sucker for her abuse for ages and walks away. Kermit has apparently forgotten about this and realises now he is the one in the wrong, he forgot about the whole affair and how Elizabeth Banks was on a poster in that moment. He tries to make peace with her and she then tears apart his life choices and his weight gain after he asks for honesty. The only other thing before the show goes live is the end of the Fozzie arc in this episode – the parents aren’t impressed and leave but the girlfriend stays, she says she loves that brown ball of bad puns no matter what they say and he’s not convinced or satisfied, instead he wonders how he can validate himself by some other means. Geez Fozzie, I didn’t realise you had it so rough, are you trying so hard due to some childhood issue? It’s an odd attempt to add depth to a talking pile of felt and ping-pong balls but Fozzie is one of the characters in this I can watch without wincing, sadly can’t say that for backstabbing Kermit or egocentric she-devil Miss Piggy.

The show goes ahead, Tom Bergeron turns up and realises what’s happened and Kermit feels awful… but not bad enough to send him a personal gift or anything, just a ‘standard gift basket’ package, claiming it’s ‘good enough’. Note, if you think an apology is just enough to meet a standard, that’s insincere, it should be an apology befitting what you did wrong – Tom’s been made a fool of and built up for nothing, that’s unfair on the guy. I get he’s obviously the ‘minor celebrity cameo’ but if we took this as a real life scenario, Kermit is the sort of guy to scrimp on apologies? What a colossal twat. After that, we wrap up with a musical performance by Imagine Dragons with guest drummer Animal and a quick joke from the grouchy old men we all know and love and that’s that, the least outright hilarious thing I’ve seen the Muppets in for a long time…

Review done, let’s address the controversy, is it suitable for children? Family characters taking on a mature style of show? Well, I reckon you could let children watch it, the inappropriate stuff is hinted at so subtly it’d fly over your head until you’re 16 but aside from seeing talking puppets and some occasional slapstick, there’s not much for kids here. The characters are boring, the jokes are mostly one liners and there’s nothing wacky to look forward to – Gonzo isn’t catapulted into space by some bizarre contraption, Beaker doesn’t almost die for some sadistic science project, Animal doesn’t go batshit crazy and Kermit doesn’t do the “YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYY!” thing any more. I’d worry more about disappointing kids than corrupting them with this, it disappointed me. I get the feeling the writers just looked at what comedy has become and tried to emulate it and in doing so, turned their characters into interchangeable personnas you’d have Steven Merchant play in a sitcom. In fact, someone call Ricky Gervais, I think they probably stole some of his work and passed it as their own. I understand characters need to change and evolve to stay fresh but this isn’t it for me, at least not so far, maybe it’ll improve but the pilot was a lack-lustre attempt to force goofy puppets into roles portrayed by the cast of Extras in a way supposedly engaging for the American audience. As for the controversial character of Denise, she’s got nothing on Piggy thus far, she’s sorta flirty and tries to be funny but I doubt a great deal of thought was given to her, she’s basically a “Hot girl in the workplace” trope at this point.

There you go, my thoughts thus far, I’ll keep watching and hoping and review the series at the end if people are interested (And any especially interesting episodes in between) but if you think you have to see this, you don’t, it’s nothing special, it’s a so-so comedy using famous characters made popular by nostalgia and recent movies to promote itself and it’s sub-par script

A Matter of Correctness

Trigger Warnings – None

A progressive and liberal minded person will often find that when comedy and insensitivity mix, they tend to cringe, which can often lead to this talk of “political correctness” as being a negative thing. I hear it a lot, if you say to someone “I don’t tell people to grow some balls because your genitalia has nothing to do with your determination” then you’ll probably hear them say “Alright you lofty twat, I was just using a figure of speech” and then you look like the dickhead for daring to object to that racist/sexist/homophobic joke or remark. Right now, I bet some of you are thinking I’m a lefty tosser with pretentious standards I enforce upon everyone and recycle my own shit to save pandas or something, am I on the right lines? Political correctness has been painted with a bad brush, much like feminism or pride regarding sex and sexuality but in truth, political correctness isn’t about being the better man, it’s about forming a better community

I’ll start by admitting that in my time, I’ve told people to man up and made a racist joke here and there, I was a teenage lad in a chavvy school, you had to have something up your sleeve just in case. However, growing older and more mature, it’s harder to laugh at a joke in which the explanation is “Get it? Because they’re Chinese!” and we’re supposed to just go “Oh ok, so I guess that’s just how Chinese people work huh?”. I find such jokes less funny when the point of the joke is to laugh at the expense of a minority and generally think to myself “Could I make this joke with the sort of person targeted by this joke and still be on good terms with them afterwards?”

Now don’t get me wrong, comedy is on a first name basis with controversy and tragedy, that’s something I understand as well as anyone, but comedy can and should be better than the lazy effort of generalisation. You can often hear people make these jokes and justify it by saying they’re “half Black” or “my best mate is from Asia so…” and it’s a hard situation to handle but I find if they justify it in such a way, they don’t suffer the discrimination they’re inadvertently endorsing, someone who justifies their joke as “Well my sister’s a lesbian so I can do this” is NOT a lesbian, she can’t identify with how a lesbian would react to the joke and if she did tell her sister, her sister might tolerate it as just being an annoying sister

Political incorrectness is still very much a social norm and it’s a privilege we need to get over as a society, if you can’t think of a funny joke that isn’t about dumb blondes or wussy gay guys, you’re not a very funny person are you? Try harder, there are so many things in life good for poking fun at but it has to be a poke, a light tickle in the ribs, not just some dismissive “Well the joke is that you can’t drive properly because you have a vagina”. Jokes are always going to offend, sure, but it doesn’t mean we can’t have a cull on some of the jokes that are just based in the world of stupid stereotypes and ignorance as humour is the work of intellect, not burbling. I realise I might upset a few people saying this but frankly if you can’t have a laugh without it being at someone’s expense, that’s your problem, not mine

Now before people get in a huff about free-speech, let me tell you something about free-speech, free-speech is the right to speak and that is all it is, it is not the right to say anything without consequences, it is not the right to have everyone hear whatever you say and it is not entitlement to a podium or stage if you want one, it is literally just the right to open your mouth and say something if you want to but you still have to accept the responsibility for what you say. So, if you want to make racist jokes, fucking go for it but accept the fact you will be considered a racist. If you think I am infringing on your rights by telling you to not make these jokes, I’m not, my right is to say this to you as it is yours to make those jokes, it doesn’t mean I can’t suggest you don’t make those jokes or argue against these remarks if you make them

So, in exercising that right to free-speech, confront someone whose comedy arsenal is a load of jokes about Muslims, Indians and women, tell them these jokes should be left where they belong, in the past, in a world of division and ignorance and that we need to move forward. If you are an aficionado of the dumb blonde jokes or laughing at how Chinese words sound so funny compared to ours, why not try to broaden your horizons? You think you’re funny now huh? Imagine how much funnier you’d be if EVERYONE could join in your fun, if everyone around you thought you were a great guy, even the little people you might overlook. Political correctness isn’t about being smart or elitist or high-brow, it’s about being a decent human being that treats all people as… well… people. Call me a radical but I think that’s a damn fine thing to do

The Tea-Drinker’s Return

Trigger Warnings – None

Hey folks, it’s getting late again, my timetable was fiddled with by forces outside of my control that pushed everything back an hour so for now I need to find something to tide over until tomorrow because I like to keep the posts coming daily. However, with the only interesting subjects to mind being subjects that deserve full detail and not just a rushed effort before that late night hour that marks an end to views for the night, I find myself once again just looking for a topic to go over for now so I decided to reveal a little more about TDWC and its origins as well as its future, or at least, its hypothetical future at this stage

TDWC, that stands for Tea-Drinking Wisecracker, a working title that stuck, is the story of Lee Patience, a demon that hunts demons with the help of human companions and the characters have gone through several minor tweaks and hairstyles to try and create a working formula for adventure and comedy. TDWC combines a lot of ideas I’ve had into one beloved brainchild, using recycled ideas from old projects and drawing upon inspiration from the very shows and games it emulates such as Devil May Cry, Doctor Who and Archer. I had always wanted to do something using a character like Lee, who initially started out a very serious one-liner kind of man but gradually became a little more laidback and humorous as he was further developed

Lee and Katakura are actually both heavily inspired by my own personality and a few friends, as well as certain idols of mine from various points of my life. Lee is a fantasy, Katakura is reality and they also both represent the archetypes of the British TV hero – a handsome youngster in a big coat being brilliant and a tough-as-nails working class bloke dressed in various shades of brown. The chemistry is akin to Sherlock and Watson, though actually draws more heavily from internal conflicts and from the relationship between Masamune Date and Kojuro Katakura of Feudal Japan, thus leading to Katakura’s codename, as he studies history for a hobby. As for Valerie and Obadiah, well they’re based on a number of friends and characters from Archer, a personal favourite show of mine (A fan of TDWC and Archer may notice the Valerie/Lana and Obi/Cyril similarities)

To those who don’t know me in my personal life, you’re no doubt confused who Valerie is, the third incarnation of TDWC is not available on my blog at present but I hope to present the fourth to the world somehow. First things first, the scripts, characters and plot are all being worked on. I want to add another female lead role to counter Valerie, she won’t physically participate in the action like Valerie but might work as tech support or the head of the armoury. Valerie needs some work to avoid the typical “Grumpy woman brought along on a wacky adventure” persona that most female third-wheels experience. I also want the series arc to be stronger throughout, making more subtle nods to the finale rather than lumping it in halfway through and expecting my audience to be interested just because. TDWC bears the brunt of my experimentation and failure because it is entirely malleable as a work of art and more a project of fun than actual serious ambition, though seeing it on TV would actually make me weep with joy

I would make TDWC into a web series but lack the funding and the actors, as well as scripts, props, technology, directing skills, basically everything you’d need to make a web series. Casting would be a nightmare too, could you imagine trying to get a forty something Manchurian, a mid twenties Londoner and a Welsh woman in her early twenties all in the same place every week/month to do a YouTube video? Not impossible but not easy. Still, that’s far in the future and this would probably look better animated with a voice over I should think, who knows? I sure don’t, I’m always hacking this thing to bits

Ah, the writer’s curse, anything you write, you cross out and try and improve upon minutes later, much like the curses falling upon an artist. Oh well, I’ll get there, maybe one day I’ll have enough faith in a project to see it from start to finish and into publication as a book, a comic book series, a tv show, a movie, freakin’ anything other than a pile of papers in a bin

Sorry today’s post was probably not what you were looking for, though you’ve probably come to expect this distractions from the battle for equality right? Happens often enough. I hope that tomorrow things will be back to normal, at least this time I had no control over it, yesterday I was just indecisive and time got away from me