The Lesbian Queen

Frozen, a franchise that generated enough money for the creators to buy a country mansion on the moon and is responsible for planting the lyrics to “Let It Go” so firmly in our collective psyche I’m pretty sure I could lose all memory of my own family to dementia one day and yet still remember what line follows “A kingdom of isolation…”, is getting a sequel. This news shocked absolutely no-one, a deaf blind idiot buried under the ocean could tell you this but recently Twitter has lit up with a campaign about a suggested plot development in that everyone’s favourite metaphor for homosexuality, Elsa, should come out of her closet as an out-and-out lesbian and get herself a girlfriend in Frozen 2. Frozen has been widely regarded as a very pro-LGBT film, the songs have strong themes of self-acceptance and that guy running the sauna seems to have a family consisting of himself, children and another man, no mother to be seen. Now, being a LGBT ally and unashamed fan of the Frozen franchise (Not in so far as the hype train has escalated it to but I can certainly relate to Elsa), I wanted to give my opinion here so let’s not leave this idea out in the cold, shall we?

The obvious merit here is representation, which despite what you think isn’t as abundant as offended Christian mothers like to make out. Gay characters are starting to appear more and more in fiction, slowly, but usually in the form of the magical advice guru for the straight members of the cast or token representation. I know we’ve heard things such as Luke Skywalker’s sexuality being open to interpretation or Dumbledore apparently having a taste for wizards over witches but such characters are a blog post in themselves about their ‘representation’. Truth is, characters that are written as gay characters are hard to come across in the mainstream media and Elsa seems one of the few characters of her popularity that could easily be seen as a gay icon. Zero interest in the men around her, struggling to accept her true identity, spends years trying to pass for ‘normal’, Elsa starred as the focus of a film that was in no small way a parable about being outed and having to accept the truth of who you are. With Frozen 2 starting with a happier liberated Elsa, it only makes sense to see this parable continue logically, that she should meet another elemental princess This would tie up the theme neatly and convey the message that you should be true to who you are, someone will love you for it and homophobes/Dukes of Wesselton, will get their comeuppance in time.

Now I know that one thing we all appreciated about Elsa was her being a strong single female character who was saved by the true love of a sibling, not a prince. I’d be all for Elsa remaining a single pringle, which makes it sound like I have my own designs on her and that is weird and moving on, if she’s going to remain single, that’s fine, but let’s not have her be just another pretty white blonde girl who falls for a pretty white boy otherwise what you’ve got is Cinderella and Jack Frost thrown into a creativity blender. This is a film the LGBT community has clung to and adored and it would be a strange move to disenfranchise that entire swathe of people for the sake of making a run-of-the-mill Disney sequel. You might dissuade a few staunch religious types but in this day and age, we need films to be more progressive, there is a whole back catalogue of heteronormative films for the old-fashioned types to enjoy. The Disney Princess collection has covered the globe for different princesses to depict, be they black, Asian, semi-human or semi-conscious (Sleeping Beauty), would it be so terrible a thing to add one lesbian into that mixture?

I guess that’s that, a short one, there’s not a lot to say beyond this just being a good idea. Why should I have to justify it in great length? What is added to the character of Elsa by making her fall for a man? Nothing. A woman? We get the full story of what it means to be gay told through a Disney character – to be isolated, ashamed, exiled only to then find truth, acceptance and one day, love. Maybe we could grit our teeth and endure more endlessly repetitive anthems if it means we get the Elsa we know we all secretly want – a badass lesbian ice queen. POINT OUT ANY WORD IN THERE THAT IS NOT COOL!

Ha. Cool. Cause she’s an ice queen

Really need a sign off phrase…

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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

White Yagami

I doubt anyone here will be surprised to learn I was massively into the anime culture as a kid and as a teenager, to a lesser degree I still am a fan. A love of Japanese animation planted in my heart by Pokemon and Digimon flowered over the years with exposure to more and more examples of the medium – Full Metal Alchemist, Psycho-Pass, Attack on Titan – point is, I can translate your ‘otaku’ friend for you into English again with some modicum of success. A good manga/anime I had come across in my travels through his sub-culture was Death Note, perhaps one of the most-well known mangas of its generation, it certainly passes the lips of every manga lover I’ve ever met at least once in their list of past reads. If you don’t know about Death Note already, chances are you either vehemently hate all things anime or you’re about to learn of its existence, either through me, or the impending movie release…

Death Note is the story of a teenage boy, Light Yagami, who finds a magical notebook with the power to kill whoever he wishes, just by writing their name on its pages. He can decide the time of death, cause of death and basically any set of foreseeable circumstances surrounding his target’s demise and rather than use this power for petty personal reasons like striking down bullies or grudges, he thinks big, real big. How big? He makes himself judge, jury and executioner to every criminal he sees in the news, striking them down and declaring himself an anonymous angel of justice. Of course, this doesn’t go unnoticed and in comes Detective L, a bizarre little man that looks like Gollum wearing a wig and eating more sweets than even the greediest of children, set on working with the genius Light Yagami to track down this mass murdering ‘angel’. What ensues is a manga that revolves around a contest of wits, enough plot twists to make the plot thread a double helix of confusion and gratuitous amounts of cold-blooded supernatural murder. Death Note is a very popular anime, manga, collection of films and source of fan-fiction and now Warner Brothers wants their name on it, specifically in the form of a Westernised Death Note, complete with a white cast and more American based story. Is this what we want? Well here’s the thing about that…

Warner Brothers have let slip precious little at this stage of their plans but so far we know this – it’s not Japan, it’s America and the lead role will be played by Nat Wolff. Nat Wolff isn’t a dreadful choice, in fact to give credit to him, he doesn’t look dissimilar to Light’s appearance. However, whitewashing is never a good idea, it just doesn’t work, you offend the people whose culture you’re essentially saying “You won’t be as good a hook for this film as said white guy/girl” and fans get irked, fans appreciate the culture of their beloved franchises as much as they do the franchise itself. Whilst the Death Note story is nothing that could not be white-washed, though the shinigami element (multiple death gods, something our culture sort of lacks) will be hard to get around, just a bunch of Grim Reapers everywhere? Or ghosts? Or haphazardly sticking with Shinigami but not the name Light Yagami? I’ve yet to see a film get whitewashed and come out better – Avatar: Last Airbender, Tonto in The Lone Ranger, Dragonball Evolution (the absolute worst thing to ever claim it was based on an anime) – it doesn’t work, it just doesn’t, you make those responsible into laughing stocks and whoever was interested in it before loses it because you’ve flipped a bird at their heritage.

In an age where Captain America is black, Thor is a woman and Spiderman isn’t always a story of a nerd given extraordinary power, maybe you’re of the camp that if white characters can be made black, why not vice versa? Firstly, white characters are not given a different ethnicity if being white is key to their character history, which is why black or Asian or Hispanic characters don’t get turned white very well, something about their heritage is key to their character. Tonto is a Native American, make him a white guy in make up and that’s what we see, a white guy in make-up, playing a parody of the character through ‘spirit magic’ and ‘war cries’, stuff the original Tonto did not do, he was actually an equal to the Ranger, not his goofy sidekick wearing a silly hat. Why can Captain America be black? Captain America represents the symbol of patriotism, at the time that was the Aryan build of Blond White Straight Male but since then there have been Black American idols – Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Barack Obama – the black culture got the recognition it deserved as being just as much a part of American history as white culture so with that in mind, Cap can be black. Thor can be a woman because it is whoever is worthy, plus Norse mythology specifically mentions female warriors in Freya and the Valkyries, no upset there, except to the Mjolnir/Penis comparison. Light Yagami might not fall in these same categories but Death Note established itself in Japan, it found a Western audience who knew it as Japanese, the entire franchise is rooted in such an origin, doing it differently alienates the old fans.

I have to say this movie premise stinks of desperation and a failure to consider who they are making this film for. Asian audiences? Offended. Anime fans? There’s already a collection of comics and films, what good is this cut-rate reboot to them? The mainstream audience? Maybe, but that either means compromising on plot and character to make commercial slop that won’t stand out at the box office or making an intelligent film that people will look right past for being boring and convoluted. You can’t claim this will be good for the source material, none of the original writing staff are involved. The director looks to be Adam Wingard, known for such films as ‘VHS’ and ‘You’re Next’ so is this going to be a horror story? Will the message of the original carry across, laden with contempt for the failures of the justice system whilst making insightful commentary on the idea of what if God’s hand did interfere and the inability of man to play that role, how power corrupts and how frail genius truly is? Or are we to expect a film about a crazed psychopath with supernatural powers played up for kicks? So many questions, how many were asked and answered at the board meeting?

I can’t predict things with certainty but I don’t see this film working out, anime to live action is a hard thing to pull off and whitewashing the entire thing only serves as a shot in the foot before the race has begun. I hope, I pray even that this falls in the gutter with the likes of Dragonball Evolution and Mortal Kombat (Granted, an American creation but Raiden, a Japanese thunder god was played by a white guy… badly… really badly) because last thing I want to see is a new wave of Westernised animes. Rachel Mayers over Ryuko Matoi, Joey’s Bizarre Adventure, another botched up attempt to make Dragonball a Hollywood franchise, there are just some things that should never happen, some things even the film industry should leave alone.

Silenced Cinema

Trigger Warnings – Death, terror, strong language

Sony has decided to scrap their comedy ‘The Interview’ starring Seth Rogen and James Franco on a trip to North Korea and their humorous adventures with crazed tyrant Kim Jong-Un after the hackers responsible for the Sony leaks have declared that they will carry out “9/11 style” attacks on any theatre showing the film in and so as a result pretty much every cinema chain in the US has thrown their hands up and refused to show the film, the actors have sworn off publicising it and aside from the discussions of terrorism, people are doing their best to bury the film before it even hits the screens. So, let’s discuss this shall we, is this the right move to make?

Personally, I can understand where the cinema chains are coming from, they don’t want to run the risk of being the ones who laughed at a terror threat and got their customers killed in an explosion. However, the US Secretary of Defence has said these threats could not be realistically acted upon and there is no genuine concern of a terror conspiracy on American soil and we are unsure who is behind this and their capacity to deliver on their promises, it could possibly be the work of North Korea, it could be radicals, it could be pretty much anyone at this point. Frankly, if the stakes were lower, we’d be pointing the finger at Sony and calling it a stunt but considering Sony has been telling cinema chains they’re free to opt out of showing the film, it seems unlikely they would be the culprits. Opinions on this matter are pretty divided and whilst I live in the UK, was never that interested in the film and have no connection to Sony, I want to express my own opinion and I think I will raise some points worth considering hopefully.

By making this decision to allow cinemas not to show the film and these cinema chains then acting on it and choosing not to, America has lost the war on terrorism tonight, it has shown that it can buckle, it can bow down and it can be scared. I understand, of course, this is a scary set of circumstances and whilst it is tempting to flip these hackers the bird and show the film anyway, if you’re the only company doing that whilst your peers hide in the safety of the shadows, you will be the target for these attacks and you will be the one the public chases with flaming torches should just one life be lost. Hollywood is the realm of the safe bet, it is a business based upon security, not risk, and this film will likely be brushed under the carpet as another bad move we should all forget about like The Lone Ranger movie. Sony is no stranger to bad decisions, they can just throw this film away and say “Well we are the same people that refused to team up with Marvel so…” but in this instance people would sympathise, no film is worth showing if the audience could be killed for watching it. However, my point is this, terrorism is not just about mass shootings and blowing up buildings, those are the tactics, not the goal – the goal is fear, the goal is to create a nation living in a state of panic and anxiety, afraid of what will happen next. Sound familiar?

Backing down has shown that the once indomitable giant that is the US can now be brought to its knees by vague threats from glorified cyber bullies, imagine if this continues? How many companies and businesses would crash and burn in a world ruled by the whims of those that are crafty with a keyboard? Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Fox, Michael Bay – all subjects of ire by the public for various reasons, be it tax evasion, bias media or ruining childhoods, any anonymous threat that gets the public spotlight could now potentially bring the American society to a total brick-shitting pause. Famous American actor Rob Lowe likened Sony to Neville Chamberlain. If you don’t get this reference, Neville Chamberlain watched passively as Hitler amassed power and when Hitler became a threat, Neville decided to visit him and talk to him and ask him politely to stop doing naughty things to which Hitler said he’d behave, fingers crossed behind his back. Of course, Hitler didn’t behave and war broke out, much to Chamberlain’s surprise and the British people regretted not having a leader who had the stones to step in earlier and tell Hitler to get stuffed, which is around the time Churchill stepped in and said the Nazis are bastards, let’s show them how the British rumble. Britain became a huge target for carpet bombing by the Nazi forces and Churchill never once begged for mercy for his people or pursued peace with Hitler’s regime, he had faith in the strength of the nation to endure every single blast with that British resilience and in the end, the plucky Brits gave Hitler what for. Sony, not so much, the terrorists won.

Ok, but I respect Sony is a business trying to protect itself and the cinemas are trying to protect the public, however we can’t just not ever show this film for fear of angering the thugs of the internet or else we basically have a censorship regime being enforced by a faceless entity that we have no idea as to what motivates them to such acts. So, what do we do? Simple – Sony, make that film available to stream online, hand it over to Netflix who have money to spend on anything that can appear on a TV screen and get them to make it available to as many people as possible across the fucking globe. Imagine if every household in the US streamed that film, that threat of bombing just became impossible to pull off. We cannot let terrorists win, you Americans love to big up your freedom and badassery so live up to it, show these cyber bitches that you don’t take shit from cowards and play that film on every screen that will show it. Sony, you could be the vanguard in the battle on terror or you could cry in the corner and beg for mercy, you hold a trump card and you could play it to watch these terrorists crumple.

Terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation to enforce your belief system or your desires as a ruling force, it is about making your targets fear your name, your appearance, even flinch at the words you write and speak – so far, that is a tactic that is succeeding. People rise to violence and get nervous around anyone in a burka, we judge people by religion and race and the moment someone mentions the word ‘bomb’, we scurry around in a mad panic. I’m not trying to underestimate or play down the horror of what terror plots can do but if their objective is to create fear and promote chaos, we have to draw a line in the sand and stop taking shit, we need to say “Enough is enough, you won’t scare us like this any more, fuck you, we’re fighting back!”

Sony, the ball is in your court.

A Marvellous Plan Backfires

Trigger Warnings – None, except some strong language and crude humour

Spoilers for anyone who doesn’t know about the Marvel Cinematic Universe/Civil War/Ragnarok storylines

Hey, so did you see the big Marvel schedule that came out showing we’re going to have spandex spangled superheroes coming out of our asses until the next ice age? Who am I kidding? Of course you did, you’re human, you have the internet, how could you not? Marvel dropped the bomb and we were all blown away as they announced many many more films, including more Thor, more Iron Man, more Captain America, more Avengers, a Black Panther, more Guardians of the Galaxy and so on and so on and this made a lot of people very happy and very excited and then it made a few people like me just sigh. Yes, I sighed, I tutted, I looked at this list with a tint of sadness, which I shall now explain

Nobody can argue that Marvel has really brought the hero genre on leaps and bounds from when it was the slapdash efforts of Tim Burton half-heartedly making a gimmicky mess about Batman, hero movies are the biggest box office successes going at the moment, so much so you wouldn’t be wrong for thinking Robert Downey Jr. must just shit gold. An expansive universe of interconnected films that all allude to a mega film in the future and several nerdgasms across the globe, wonderful, but doesn’t dumping every single idea they have for the next six years in our lap in one go seem a bit much? For one, it assumes each of those films will be a success and whilst Warner Brothers can bounce back from bad films by making something else, Marvel exists purely to make these kind of movies so one slip up and they are dead in the water. If the next Avengers film is a flop, which it probably won’t be but if, then what? Gloss over it and roll out the third? A great big buffet at a party is great but if you serve sloppy turd in a bowl and then tell people “Oh, don’t worry, you don’t have to eat that”, it somehow doesn’t make the prawn cocktails better and everyone still goes home thinking “Why did they serve that at the party?”.

Marvel have made a commitment to us for six years and are now obliged to deliver, which they seem intent on doing, as does DC, who went so far as to pay the cast in advance as long as they promise to actually turn up and take part. However, with these contracts and commitments, everything has to run smoothly or the companies have lost a lot of money. That’s why RDJ has Marvel by the balls and can ask for pretty much anything, he is Iron Man, if he leaves then he punches a great big hole in the film franchises and the whole thing falls apart. I’m all for grand schemes and planning but thinking of the next six years and planning it in such detail so early? You’re assuming success, which you probably will achieve but still, one small mistake and you’ve committed to making films nobody is interested in any more and you’ve already agreed to pay for and make. Amazing Spider Man made this mistake, the second film was supposed to launch a cinematic universe but it was a flop compared to pretty much every other big hero movie ever but since Sony already said they’re making more, they can’t back out of it and now they have to make more movies they already know are going to fail, which is going to reflect in the quality of these films

On another point, this seems childish but doesn’t having a road map spoil it all for you? I mean, considering Marvel has announced the Civil War and Ragnarok storylines are coming, we know straight away that Iron Man will be a bad guy in later films, Captain America will hate him, Ultron doesn’t count for shit and eventually everyone has to beat up Thanos. I preferred the subtle approach of Nick Fury turning up at the end of the movie to hint at Avengers, it wasn’t as obvious as a prophet on the rooftops but an astute fan had an idea what to expect and could be smug about it but now everybody knows, where’s the fun? The hardcore Marvel fan will already know how each film ends so it detracts from the thrill of seeing them and whilst we’ll all still turn up, we’ll be a little less excited about it. Upshot, nobody will linger around cinemas for the end credit scene, why bother? Ooo it hints at a Doctor Strange movie? Wait, I knew that… Fuck… Why should I go watch that? Oh yeah, Benedict Cumberbatch is in it, ok

Marvel has assumed quite arrogantly we’re all going to worship them for presenting us this neverending of stream of comicbook crusaders, both beloved and obscure, from now until eternity just because we liked the last few and they’ve got celebrities involved so go figure. Films don’t just print money and trends change, in fact ticket sales are already declining but that’s not surprising as most Marvel film fans are actually women but the female representation in these films is “Look, this one has boobs and a catsuit, that’s a strong female character right? Please love us…”. Female lead hero movies have yet to come into their element, you need only refer to the Catwoman movie for that truth, but it would be nice to see one that is done with some dignity. There is a Spiderwoman movie coming though so we’ll see but I don’t hold onto much hope at present, given these films lack female talent and perspective in the writing room. Hollywood has this habit of trying to reduce all success to a formula, they see what films have in common and repeat until no more money comes out of the dead cow. Not a sound plan. If things keep up, we might see the Superhero genre follow the fate of the Western, done to death, very little differences between them, a few faces we keep seeing over and over until nobody can see them as anything else and then bing bang boom people get bored, the trend changes and a new genre sweeps in to kick ass at the box office.

I’m probably that guy with the sandwich board speaking of doom but does it not cry out as obvious to anyone here that this is probably being a little bit too arrogant. Films don’t just print money just because and any film maker that makes that assumption usually goes home broke, or the equivalent to such in their role. I’m all for a few more but frankly, if all I can expect to see in the cinema for the next six years is buff white guys in tight outfits beating stuff up, I’m going to stop visiting the cinema as often. Maybe it’s just me and all these films will make money and will keep being successes right up to 2042 and we’re all watching the holographic projection of Avengers 14 – The Entire Marvel Universe Implodes, with an after credits scene that alludes to Guardians of the Galaxy 10 – Rocket Raccoon’s Bad Fur Day

World of Confusion

Trigger Warnings – None

Vague Marvel Universe Spoilers

Hey so yesterday got a bit out there didn’t it, with the dark side of myself and the whole self-acceptance and inconsolable rage that controlled me for half of my life kinda deal, that was probably a lot to drop on people out of the blue, seeing as you have no idea what to expect from day to day on my blog. I kinda like that, keeps it interesting and refreshing each time you pop in, might consider some themed weeks in the future but for now I’ll stick to the sporadic pinball routine of flinging darts at a wall covered in topical post-it notes for something to ramble about and seeing as yesterday was a heavy topic, I decided I’d lighten things up today with a discussion about comics, those paper things that Hollywood got a hold of and made cool by injecting them with Tom Hiddleston and Robert Downey Jr.

Comics are a weird medium that are sort of declining in popularity and not because of paper being outdated, books still sell, but instead comics struggle with having a confusing well-established continuity and universe that is entirely unfriendly to new readers so unless you grew up reading Amazing Spider-Man, you’re not likely to start anytime soon. However, with the characters in these books growing in popularity and the confession of a profound love for all things Marvel no longer being a social faux pas, there is a possibility of a new age of comic lovers, should they find a safe doorway into the medium. Understandably, this is quite difficult, starting things halfway through is not the easiest way to do it but it’s not entirely impossible. So, if you’ve enjoyed your Dark Knights and your Thor movies but you need some more caped crusaders to scratch the itch, here’s a hint on how to get into it, not from an avid comic fan by any means, but by a writer, a generally ‘nerdy’ fellow and someone with too much time on their hands that they actually decided to write this

The key is start wherever you want. Seriously. You do not have to start at the very first issue of The Incredible Hulk to enjoy it, you simply have to find a character that interests you from first impressions and take a read. I know one issue with comic books is they’re not readily available, you have to go somewhere that sells them especially and if you ask the guy at the counter “Where do I start?”, he’ll smirk and silently judge you for your ignorance, the nerd culture is not a warm welcoming society, I think that’s pretty obvious. Just go in, act natural and take a browse, look for a familiar character or just a comic book with an interesting cover, one covered in explosions or rippling muscles or whatever. Ok, buy it, that is your single investment in the universe of that series for now and just read the book. If you find you encounter a moment that refers to an event you know nothing about and it interests you, look it up on the internet, lord knows comic book history is probably easier to find more in-depth information about than say, your own family history, considering one has a devoted fanbase and the other has some slips of paper in filing cabinets somewhere. If you don’t find yourself interested in this past event they’re all referring to, spoiler alert, it won’t get more interesting for you. The Marvel Civil War sounds dull? Ok, avoid Captain America and Iron Man comics, stick to the films… wait… ok, you’re screwed there but you get the point.

You see, comic-book nerds, such as they are, will judge you for not knowing all there is to know about their particular favourite franchise but they spent years building that archive of superhero trivia, they began learning as kids and just kept building on it but you can start at any age and at any point. I mean, take TV as an example, you don’t have to start at Season 1, Episode 1 with every single show you watch. Futurama, Simpsons, Family Guy, Archer – all shows you can enjoy without knowing the full backstory to every single character, having that knowledge just allows you to enjoy a few extra jokes the writers slipped in for the dedicated fans but on the whole TV universes and film universes set themselves up to be accessible at any given point down the line, some take exception to it but for the most part that’s how it is. Doctor Who, another good example, I did not start my love for the show with William Hartnell, I started at Eccleston, liked what I saw and then when my Dad revealed that actually Doctor Who is a reboot, not a brand new show and when he was growing up, he watched Tom Baker fight the Daleks, I started working backwards through the continuity and still have a lot of gaps in there. Whovians, forgive me, but I have watched very little of the Fifth Doctor, Sixth and not even a single Seventh doctor episode, but I don’t sit there watching Capaldi screaming “Why is this so confusing? Should I start from the beginning?”. No, fictional universes are easily documented in meticulous detail, just fill the gaps with an internet search or a discussion with a friend who shares the interest

DC Comics have done something pretty smart on this matter, they knew their universe was a complex mess of backstories so announced a huge relaunch, which did piss off the hardcore fanbase but when DC cleared the mess up by saying the relaunch will basically go in the same direction as the original, all was well again and the fans sorta piped down about the whole affair. Admittedly, kinda defeats the point of the reboot but with their new series of books being made available as digital downloads, there’s no more hunting in the dark caves of a specialist store somewhere following a monk who smells strongly of Doritos into the promised land of Aquaman comics, now you can read about it on your tablet and it’s out there in the eyes of the mainstream as a recommended read for those whose internet history suggests a fondness for Batman movies. Good move DC, let’s see if Marvel follows suit

Anyway, this should have at least cleared up some tension for you folk if nothing else and this isn’t me trying to push you all into a comic book shop as if I’ve sold out to either Marvel or the Android’s Dungeon, this is just a light topic that isn’t going to offend and it might help some of you who maybe can’t wait til May to see Iron Man go toe to toe with the Hulk and need something to tide them over or perhaps to further your passion for a universe you already take an interest in, maybe reading the comics will make the films better or worse, it will at least change how you view them. I have no real business writing this, I don’t read comics myself but as a writer with grand schemes for a long running series of my own, I want to put this out there in case my ambitions ever take wing and ten years from now I hear kids complaining “I’d get into TDWC, but I missed the first three seasons so I don’t understand what’s going on”

The Protagonist Takes The Stage

Trigger Warnings – Body image, challenging philosophies meaning this article is not for those unwilling to consider new ideas

The other day, I put up a status on my personal Facebook account about Cat from Red Dwarf and his reasoning as to why the world revolves around him. The Cat had the following in his defence

“Take food, until I bite it, it has no taste. Even when I know what I’m going to say, I don’t bore myself saying it and then here’s the clincher, everything interesting that ever happened to me happened when I was in the room”

Whilst this might seem like an amusing and possibly convincing argument, I’d like to discuss the philosophy of the Protagonist Effect, the idea that your life is about yourself and the world might not necessarily revolve around you but what matters most to you is your own personal world, your challenges, your achievements and such like. I suppose in an age of cinema and story-telling we naturally come to associate ourselves with a central role in the story of our lives, nobody thinks themselves the background character, but whilst you might think of your life, you can easily overlook the lives of others much in the same way you watched Iron Man to watch a film about Tony Stark and his metal suit, not the story of that one journalist who tried to interview him. You don’t know that journalist’s name, whether or not he has kids, siblings, hopes, dreams, regrets – he was just a part of the scenery, an accessory to the Stark story and this occurs in our own lives, passersby become background characters and not people until they do something to directly effect us or attract our attention (And even then they become “Crazy shouty man” or “Twat playing music too loud” instead of “Dave the man who recently got divorced” or “Jeff who is really happy to have passed his driving test”)

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should devote yourself to greeting every single passerby on the street and hugging them and learning three fun facts about them, that’s just creepy and as an introvert and non-creepster, I do not advocate such eccentric social behaviour, all I’m saying is you’re not the star of the show, you’re just another human being and whilst you might be important to you, to the shop clerk you’re a customer, to the policeman you’re a speeding driver and to the postman you’re the bloke who lives at number 43. The Truman Show is just a movie, it’s not your life, you will certainly never discover it was a lie and you’re actually just a lab rat. So, now that I’ve stuck a knife in your ego, allow me to give you some insight

Firstly, being the main character is hard work, you can’t do everything. Sure, Bruce Willis saved an entire skyscraper full of people by himself but one action hero equates to one SWAT team in the real world, one superhero is one small army and so on and so on. In your own life, you won’t fix everything, you won’t wipe away every tear or mend every broken heart, you’ll make mistakes and you’ll have other priorities. You cannot see the problems of others solely as more work for you or you’ll work yourself to death, instead you are a part of the solution but not the only solution there is. I mean, imagine trying to do everything for everyone – here’s a hint, I tried, I still do sometimes, it makes you constantly tired and resentful of others for having these problems. If you are Superman, everyone is Lois Lane to you and that’s not always the case, you’re all a bunch of umm… other heroes. The key here is to go with the flow, accepting your limitations and just moving on with your life. Sure, help others, help them all you can but don’t beat yourself up if you have to say enough is enough and you’ll feel much better and help more people.

On that same token, you know what the inherent issue with being the ‘hero’ is? If you see yourself that way, you see yourself as infallible or the ceaseless survivor, things will just work out for you because they always do so you know, whatever. Reality hits home, however, when you realise things don’t just work out, there has to be some effort somewhere for anything to happen. After all, planes don’t just land and food doesn’t cook itself but hey you turn up at an airport and don’t go hungry so it’s cool right? No, everything around you is the effort of someone you may never meet, even the floor beneath the feet or the screen before your eyes. You have to realise everything takes hard work and nothing is ever truly infallible (For further reference, might I suggest you research the Titanic?). So, where does that leave you? On the same page as everyone else except you know you can be wrong so don’t worry about it, learn something from it, let people correct you once in a while and accept the fact you won’t win every argument or competition in life, just as long as you keep trying your best in all that you do, nobody can demand more out of you

The world is always going to disagree or complain or argue, I think we know that, true freedom for all is impossible because someone’s idea of freedom might be “I want to live in a world without wind farms ruining MY view out of the window” whereas you might counter “Well I want a world that relies on less harmful energy sources so wind energy it is!”. The government struggles with this all the time, conflicting interests and opinions and every single important decision ever in history has people saying it’s a stroke of genius and people calling it utter wank. The right for women to vote? Great for women, not good for misogynists. Adding a bus lane to a stretch of road? Great for those relying on public transport, not good for car users. Making a sequel to Alvin and the Chipmunks? Ok… that wasn’t great for anyone. Hopefully I make my point though, there will always be arguments and disagreements and you can’t be focused solely on your desires or your point of view, people won’t always agree and have their own opinions. I know I don’t always bear this point in mind myself but it’s not worth any less if I say it to you now, maybe it’ll stick with you

And finally, if you’re the protagonist, everything relates to you or everything about you is important. Ever decided against wearing something because you’re worried what people might think? Don’t, wear it, how much do you care about what other people wear – if the answer is you don’t really care, then people don’t really care what you’re wearing provided you’re not arriving to work in a latex fetish suit or attending a funeral in a bikini, you’re fine. You think everyone will judge you for your weight, your dress sense, your smell, your decisions but everyone is as insecure as you and if someone really is judging you, that’s them, not the world. Truth be told, whilst you’re panicking about having really obvious pit stains, the guy walking opposite you might be panicking that he can’t pay the rent or ask out Sarah even though she clearly likes him. Furthermore, you’re not special ok? Not in the grand scheme of things. You shouldn’t get any special rights to play your music louder or drive faster or take an extra piece of cake no matter what your excuse because you’d be pissed if people did those things to you. You don’t have to relate the entire world to you, it’s exhausting, selfish and narrow-minded because the world is vast and full of a billion stories, don’t spend all day reading your own

I hope I haven’t offended you all and I don’t want to infringe on your self-worth, just to wake you from the dream. Remember the little things, your mother, your brother, your milkman and your neighbour are all people with dreams and desires and every single person you bump into has thoughts in their head, it won’t necessarily be about your shirt. You’re just some guy or some girl or whatever, you don’t have to worry what people think of you, things don’t work like that. I mean if nothing else this blog post might convince you to wear that fandom crossover shirt because fuck it, your shirt, what the hey? Just don’t worry about the world means to you, worry about embracing the world and being a part of it, not the centre of it