Avengers, Culture, Wackadoodle, and Weekend Open Thread

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Jaybird

Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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302 Responses

  1. Avatar sonmi451 says:

    I don’t know, I think the Marvel movies are such mindless, silly fun, it’s giving it too much undeserved credit to be bothered by their treatment of real-world events, or to even discuss any of the events in the movies as allegories of real world events.Report

  2. Avatar Fnord says:

    Is having an anachronistically progressive multiethnic unit a better or worse war to “address” the racism in society at that time than casting a bunch of white guys and not mentioning race? Because that seems to be the usual approach taken by movies set in that time period.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Fnord says:

      Is having an anachronistically progressive multiethnic unit a better or worse war to “address” the racism in society at that time than casting a bunch of white guys and not mentioning race?

      Let’s say we cast a bunch of white guys. How representative of what happened would this cast be?

      If it would, in fact, be representative… why would that be “worse”? I mean, I’m thinking about Mad Men. I understand that they spent a lot of time not talking about race in those first few seasons… and that the show was made more powerful thereby. (Please! Correct me if I’m wrong!)

      Would showing a Japanese-American dude from Fresno being one of Captain America’s anti-Nazi buddies do a better job of addressing the issue? Lord, I don’t see how.Report

      • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Jaybird says:

        Interesting though that people’s conception of “depicting things as they were” means just keeping the universe white. God forbid they could show what it was actually like for the other people. The two options seem to be all-white or unrealistic, idealistic depiction that is NOT the way things were.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to sonmi451 says:

          Well, you end up with something like Red Tails that no one goes to see because it’s a “black movie”.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

            I watch everything late. but I’m going to watch that film, come hell or high water. It won’t be fantastic, I know that much… but, hell, if George Lucas can actually do something right… It’ll be watchable.

            George Lucas: routinely thanked for “not coming round and messing everything up”Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to sonmi451 says:

          “Interesting though that people’s conception of “depicting things as they were” means just keeping the universe white.”

          They didn’t talk about the tension between Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religions, either.

          Does that mean that Captain America is even more hypocritical thereby?  (PS you’re a hypocrite too because you didn’t mention it either!)Report

      • Avatar Fnord in reply to Jaybird says:

        You keep mentioning the Japanese guy. You do know that Japanese-Americans fought in the European theater of WWII, right? Sure, they fought in segregated units, but you keep saying it like including a Japanese character in a mixed unit is worse than including a black character.

        If realism is a virtue, then realistic casting can be certainly be a virtue. Yes, Mad Men, or for that matter Saving Private Ryan,  would probably be weakened by an anachronistic, multiethnic cast. Part of their strength is a realistic, or at least seemingly realistic, portrayal of those times. Captain America, on the other hand, is not exactly a realistic depiction of WWII.

        I’m sympathetic to the danger of pretending that the sins of the past didn’t happen. But you know what else is dangerous? Normalizing the idea of an all-white society. Presenting every character of importance as white.

        Neither one really addresses the racism, of course. Hence the scare quotes. But I’m not sure every movie set before the modern period has to address racism, and I know you agree with me because you’re talking about Mad Men. Is Captain America’s approach significantly better? Perhaps not. But is significantly worse? You commented about Captain America, not Mad Men. Why is it problematic to ignore racism by pretending it doesn’t exist, when it’s OK to ignore racism by pretending other races don’t exist?

        As for teaching children to consume media critically, I’m not sure what the objection is. If there’s a problem (and I’d agree that there’s at least something worth talking about), then talk about it. Talk about how the movie’s portrayal of race is not historically accurate, and why that might be a problem. It seems bizarre to criticize a movie’s portrayal of race for being too hard to criticize. Maybe if every movie took that approach and whitewashed the past with a multi-ethnic cast, there’d be a problem. But, if anything, Hollywood presents the opposite problem.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Fnord says:

          You do know that Japanese-Americans fought in the European theater of WWII, right? Sure, they fought in segregated units, but you keep saying it like including a Japanese character in a mixed unit is worse than including a black character.

          Yes, yes. Of course. Is the intention to get a small chunk of the audience to think about Japanese internment camps while flying over the heads of kids and/or people who otherwise aren’t that familiar with 1940’s America?

          Why is it problematic to ignore racism by pretending it doesn’t exist, when it’s OK to ignore racism by pretending other races don’t exist?

          In attempting to recreate the feel of WWII Propaganda, the 1940’s themselves are propagandized.

          Is this something that they *WANTED* to tackle? If so, why not tackle it? If not, why bump shoulders as it walks past?Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

            In attempting to recreate the feel of WWII Propaganda, the 1940?s themselves are propagandized.

            Yes, that’s true.

            Is this something that they *WANTED* to tackle?

            Who’s the “they”?  Yes, for some people involved, no for others.

            If so, why not tackle it? If not, why bump shoulders as it walks past?

            Because most superhero movies are made by committee.  There’s me being cynical again.Report

          • Avatar Fnord in reply to Jaybird says:

            Is the intention to get a small chunk of the audience to think about Japanese internment camps while flying over the heads of kids and/or people who otherwise aren’t that familiar with 1940?s America?

            Probably not. But bringing you out of the story is a failure of craft, not a moral failure. It may warrant not recommending the movie, or even passing on subsequent movies. It doesn’t warrant a label of “pornography”. That it flew over the heads of everyone else is no different than basically every other WWII movie ever made.

            Is this something that they *WANTED* to tackle? If so, why not tackle it? If not, why bump shoulders as it walks past?

            No, they probably didn’t want to tackle it, just as most films don’t want to tackle it.

            But here’s what you’re saying, it looks to me. If a movie casts any POC, it has a responsibility to address racism. But if you use an all-white cast and call it period-appropriate, you get a pass in the racism department, even though the only reason an all-white cast is period-appropriate is because of racism.

            And that’s a hell of a toxic dynamic, in my opinion.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Fnord says:

              Well, can we go back and look how it was handled in the units in 1942? If “diversity” meant “we’ve got both white Protestants and white Catholics!”, showing a unit that is all white would be… what? Toxic?

              What would it be to show African-Americans, Japanese-Americans, and Captain America all drinking at the same bar and pretty much having it be not worth noticing on the part of anybody at the table? What’s the opposite of Toxic?Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m not entirely clear about what you’re saying here.

                If you’re saying that the racial situation in 1942, I think everyone can agree on that. And that Captain America doesn’t portray that situation as toxic is also true.

                So yes, Captain America pretends that racism didn’t exist. But so does everybody else! Captain America has a multiethnic cast and doesn’t show any racism; most period pieces use an all-white cast and don’t show any racism. The common factor is that everybody is ignoring the racism. Which was my point way back when I asked the original, rhetorical question.

                But you didn’t write this post about Saving Private Ryan, or Mad Men, or any of the other media depicting a racist period that ignore racism by ignoring POC all together. What’s the difference? It can’t be that Captain America is ignoring racism, because that’s a common choice (or perhaps failing) of works depicting that period.

                You call Captain America pornography. You call Captain America “propagandizing the past”. Maybe Mad Men isn’t, but many, many other World War II movies, etc are also propagandizing the past. And, quite frankly, if I had to pick between propaganda that says “everyone of all races got along great and worked together and became heroes” and propaganda that says “everyone was white and worked together and became heroes”, I’m hard pressed to find the first one more problematic.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Fnord says:

                But it wasn’t a post about Saving Private Ryan or Mad Men or John Wayne.

                It was a post about Captain America and, honestly, I didn’t expect it to be propaganda at all. I expected it to point to propaganda and (remember the scene where he was singing songs with the dancing girls and selling bonds? That was lovely) having us remember such propaganda… but to put the WWII of that universe alongside elements of our WWII was, as DD put it, a failure of craft.Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to Jaybird says:

                But when I bring up other period movies in the comments, instead of saying “yeah, there’s something worth discussing about the treatment of race in our national mythology of WWII in general” you take pains to distinguish those movies from Captain America. So it ends up looking, from the outside, like the movie that dared to cast POC is coming in for special criticism.

                Maybe I’m more cynical than you, in that you really were surprised to see propaganda in an American movie set in WWII. I’d be surprised to see an American movie about WWII that wasn’t propagandizing or mythologizing that period.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Fnord says:

      It is sort of a really strange case of whitewashing.

      On the one hand, you get movies like “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “The Hunger Games” that take characters typically depicted as POCs and casting white actors for the roles.  Fail.

      On the other hand, you have movies like these (which I have not seen but I trust JB’s description) that paint over the racism of their time periods by pretending it never existed and inserting a bunch of random POCs to make this very painfully obvious.  “NOTHING TO SEE HERE, FOLKS!”.  Fail.

      Not sure which is worse.

      As a teacher, I’m a big believer in teaching kids to be critical consumers of media.   Cases like the former offer an opportunity to say, “Hey, notice how all the actors in this movie are white, even though their graphic representations (Avatar) or the narrative descriptions of them (Hunger Games) indicated otherwise?  Why do you think that is?”

      The latter are harder.  If the movies represented the reality of the times, you could say, “All the actors are white because, back then, black people and Asians and women were not allowed to do that type of work, etc, etc, etc.”  But because it doesn’t, it sends the message that everything was hunky dory back then.  Unless the viewer has a conscious awareness of the reality that is NOT being depicted, they are likely to accept what they are being shown as fact, even if they know they’re watching a silly action movie about super heroes.

      Like JB says, I struggle to see how misrepresenting the past to pretend the ugly aspects of our society is preferred.  Especially when there is an opportunity to expose and discuss the hypocrisy of building a patriotic superhero dedicated to fighting oppression who himself comes from a county engaged in legal oppression (though to an extent that objectively paled in comparison to that which he was fighting).Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Kazzy says:

        Question:  Avatar I get but Hunger Games? What character did they cast as white who was black in the books?Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to North says:

          I am working third hand on this, but several blogs I read commented on the fact that Katniss was described in a way that would indicate she was likely mixed race, southwest Asian, or south Asian… olive skin, dark hair, almond shaped eyes.  Then they case a blonde girl and die her hair.  Other characters apparently got the same treatment, but I didn’t read the book or see the movie.  Of course, you had stupid fans complaining on Twitter and Facebook about characters who were described as having black or dark brown skin being cast with African-American actors so… yea, shit’s fucked up either way.

          If I’m wrong about Hunger Games, I’m happy to be corrected.  Again, working thirdhand there.Report

          • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Kazzy says:

            No, you’re right. Katniss is dark in the books – probably Native American in descent. That said, the Hunger Games did correctly cast Rue as black, and a large number of people lost their minds.Report

            • Avatar Erik Kain in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

              I think the books were nevertheless extremely vague about Katniss’s skin color or racial background, probably on purpose. I fell square into default picture-her-as-white mode personally, though I tend to not picture narrator characters much as a rule.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Erik Kain says:

                Regardless, reading the post below, the directors looked explicitly for a white character.  The idea that “vague” race or otherwise undefined race defaults to white is troubling.  Though obviously this isn’t the first or last time such a thing happens.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                “A Wall Street Journal article detailing casting director Debra Zane’s search for the perfect Katniss Everdeen — the most sought-after role among young Hollywood actresses at the moment — includes the four following criteria: The candidate must be between the ages of 15-20, be Caucasian, appear “underfed but strong,” and be “naturally pretty underneath her tomboyishness.””Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

                “To be a sales associate here, you need to have a complete knowledge of both our products and our policies, always act friendly, but not familiar, and be willing to go the extra mile for customers, especially long-standing ones.  Oh, and have pure Aryan ancestry going back at least three generations.”Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Was that a requirement?  No wonder they couldn’t make any money from Ethernet and the Star.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Erik Kain says:

                Technically, the books are not vague. Katniss is described as having black hair she wears in a braid, gray eyes, and olive skin. She is also short. All of this is right in the text.

                Cinna, however, I don’t think ever gets a physical description. He could look like anything.Report

            • I pictured her as looking Native American.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Russell Saunders says:

                Here’s something weird.

                I pictured her pretty much exactly like Jennifer Lawrence looks in the Reaping scene, early in the movie.  Regardless of her physical description, the only thing that stuck with me, in my head, composing what she looks like was, “Coalminer’s daughter from Kentucky, with dark hair”.

                The olive skin bit didn’t stick, at all.Report

        • I actually thought they did the opposite with The Hunger Games.  In my reading of the book, it’s not clear to me that Cinna, Rue or Thresh are POCs.  All of them are in the movie.  And in the movie the people of District 11, which is far more oppressed than 12, are primarily POCs, which I thought heightened the racial elements of the story, rather than white-washing them.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to North says:

          FWIW, I understand that in fictional universes, we don’t have the traditional races that makes casting as easy.  I think a lot of the upset was less about how the actor HAD to be a POC and more about how Katniss presented a great opportunity for a young-and-upcoming actress of color to get a starring role and, yet again, it went to a blonde chick.

          Try to make Batman black and see what sort of riots bubble up…

           

          See here on HG: http://www.racialicious.com/2011/03/25/why-the-casting-of-the-hunger-games-matters/Report

        • Avatar North in reply to North says:

          I appreciate the additional info. I was aware of the fooferaw about Rue but probably, like the good Doc, missed that Kastniss had been described as somewhat less caucasian than she ended up being portrayed. Personally I think Hunger Games didn’t do a bad job and the Hunger Games books were somewhat vague about ethnicity in District 12. For Katniss herself I’m willing to allow a certain slack because it is Hollywood which means commercial considerations are also included. Perhaps they fudged the lines a bit there but I think what caught my attention was pairing HG with Avatar which was one of the most obscene white washings of character I think I’ve ever seen.

          Then again I generally enjoyed the HG movies whereas my reaction on exiting Avatar was that I’d just watched Shamlan squatting and taken a gooey crap on a very enjoyable cartoon series for 240 minutes. So maybe my personal biases are coloring my impression.Report

          • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to North says:

            Yeah, I have no real complaints about the Katniss casting either, although that may be because of the other fooferaw (Jennifer Lawrence isn’t skinny enough!) that made me want to kill everyone.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to North says:

            Fair enough.  The two situations likely weren’t equal.  Again, I think much of the kerfuffle was less about, “YOU WEREN’T ACCURATE TO THE BOOK” fanboy nonsense and more, “Seriously?  A actress of color can’t even get an audition for a character with olive skin?  What chance do we have?” plus (what you noted) the basic acknowledgement that white sells and black doesn’t.  Which is certainly true, but no doubt frustrating to see people pander to that as opposed to do anything to investigate why and what to do about it.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Kazzy says:

              It was a no win situation. Okay the book says Katniss has olive skin but that’s not quite the same as making her african american, especially when the book likewise identified that Rue and her people 9unambigously african american) were different from Katniss’s folks. Add in that district 12 was very clearly an appalacian mountain community and you really don’t have much narrative support for an african american Katniss so casting Katniss as one would have been a mighty risky move. Hollywood is not ponying that kind of dough up to make a mega movie and then allowing any kind of risky choices like that to happen. They’re a business; they focus group every line of dialogue for fish’s sake.Report

              • Avatar Erik Kain in reply to North says:

                Good point.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to North says:

                You know there are other races than white and African-American, right?  As I mentioned earlier, the descriptions I read pointed toward bi-racial, Southwest Asian, or South Asian.  As others have pointed out, Native American also made sense.

                Choosing a white actress wasn’t the worst thing in the world.  Restricting your casting call to ONLY white actresses for a character who’s race is ambiguous is concerning.

                And, again, I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be able to make these decisions based on money.  They’re free to do whatever the fish they want.  But they shouldn’t act surprised that there was criticism and that they lost some potential viewers over it.  Would they have lost more if they cast a POC who more accurately reflected the description?  Judging by the folks who were outraged that they casted black characters with black actors, sure.  But that is a really fucking shitty reality for us to inhabit.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Kazzy says:

                I sympathize, and certainly learning about the casting call from you is more grist for my “shaking your head in disgust at craven Hollywood execs” mill. But that’s what Hollywood does; it takes interesting popular cultural phenomena and homogenizes them into lowest common denominator mass appeal products intended to create profitable franchises.

                Controversial casting just doesn’t fit their business model.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to North says:

                Agreed.  And if that is the business model they want to pursue, by all means, they ought to.

                But when people (not you) somehow insist that makes them immune from criticism or that such criticism is otherwise inaccurate or PC or whatever… well, not much patience for that.

                In some ways, I’m glad that the HG folks put out a casting call like they did, if for no other reason than we can say, “That’s some straight up bullshit right there.  You will not get a dime from me for this movie.”

                The real problem is that the cycle is self-perpetuating.  Give folks a generation of black leads and we might see things start to change.  Of course, no Hollywood has a contract term that is measured in “generations” so, again, not likely going to happen…Report

              • Hollywood is not ponying that kind of dough up to make a mega movie and then allowing any kind of risky choices like that to happen.

                I do think the risk was mitigated to a certain degree by the huge cultural juggernaut that is The Hunger Games.  There is such a fan base that would see the movie under any circumstances, that I think they could have afforded to go out on a limb if they had been inclined.

                That said, I think Jennifer Lawrence did a good job, and didn’t find her depiction conflicting with how Katniss was described in the book.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Russell Saunders says:

                But remember they are trying to make a trilogy or more out of this.  While they would have gotten people in the seats for the first one, if it flopped, they would have lost viewership for the next two if not the opportunity to make them altogether.  And, fair or not, many people would have considered a young Native American actress at Katniss as “flopping” even if everything else was the same.Report

              • Perhaps I’m naive to think so, but I imagine that enough people would show up to make it a box office success, even if there were a POC in the lead.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Russell Saunders says:

                Will Smith, certainly (and that would have been an awesome makeup job.)Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Russell Saunders says:

                Will Smith is one of a very small handful of black actors who can pull that sort of audience.  Again, there were people who claimed the casting of ANY of the black actors ruined the movie for them.  Stupid people, teenagers mostly, taking to Facebook and Twitter.  But they existed.  And considering that was a target demographic for the movie, they can’t be ignored.

                Seriously, look at the box office numbers for movies with black leads and/or predominantly black casts.  Look at the budgets those movies get.  It will make you want to punch someone.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Russell Saunders says:

                http://movies.yahoo.com/blogs/movie-talk/race-controversy-over-hunger-games-182705585.html

                 

                Not sure what’s worse… the Tweets themselves or the fact that Lawrence somehow “darkened” her skin for the role.  I knew she died her hair… but darkening her skin?  SRSLY?Report

              • I have too many reasons I want to punch someone as it is.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

        On the one hand, you get movies like “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “The Hunger Games” that take characters typically depicted as POCs and casting white actors for the roles.  Fail.

        And of course there’s Starship Troopers…Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

        “inserting a bunch of random POCs to make this very painfully obvious.”

        You mean like Heimdall in Thor?

        Except that everyone seemed to agree that complaining about a Token Black Guy was totally racist (and that in a setting where having everyone be white would be canonically accurate!)Report

        • The real racism is making it harder for white people to complain about what black people are doing wrong.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

          DD-

          There is a lot of room between those two spaces.

          Look, it makes sense that stories written in and/or about segregated times might feature all-white casts.  If this is perceived to be a problem (which clearly the CA filmmakers did, hence changing that aspect of it), there are much better ways to rectify it, primarily A) writing stories about OTHER groups from those times (like “Red Tails”) or B) stop writing stories about overtly racist periods of times WITHOUT engaging the overt racism.  Just stop.  Seriously.  Stop.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to DensityDuck says:

          You have a problem, bring it up with Mr. Jackson.  Huh?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Huh…  So here’s an interesting (and timely!) question:

          Why is it that casting Idris Elba as Heimdall (I assume a minor character) caused a minor “PC” outcry, but casting Samuel L Jackson as Fury (a guy with his own line of comics) did not?

          In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think that the actual controversy of the Heimdall casting is nowhere near an interesting as the question of the reaction to the Heimdall casting juxtaposed to the Fury casting.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Knowing next-to-nothing about the specifics of the characters and the stories, I’d venture that is something along the lines of the “Samuel L Jackson” effect.  He can basically do whatever the F he wants.

            Now, why he has so much acceptance from white America… well, that is a whole OTHER conversation, probably more interesting than either of the two you posited.Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:

              I’m really hoping Bad Ass Motherfisher weighs in here.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

              White America likes Samuel Jackson because he lets them pretend that they’re interested in hard-boiled urban black characters.  In actuality he’s more like a white guy wearing blackface playing at being a Scary Black Dude.  He never takes them very far past their comfort zone, so they don’t have to worry that they’re going to see something awful or see someone who genuinely does not like white people. So they can tell themselves about how awesome they are because they’re totally into badass dudes.Report

          • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            I would say it’s part (a) Samuel L. Jackson is special, (b) the version of Nick Fury in the Ultimate timeline of Marvel Comics is pretty explicitly based on Samuel L. Jackson, so this was more like getting him to play himself in a movie than anything else.Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

              This explanation requires me to believe that the political pundits and bloggers who were rending their garments so about Heimdall-gate, and chose not to create a Fury-gate, did so because they were really, really big fans of both Thor and Nick Fury comics.

              I do not believe this.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                You should also not discount part (a)! There were motherfucking snakes on the motherfucking plane!Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                What’s your explanation? Elba is British? Elba is a worse actor than Jackson? Thinking that it’s about race in any way is the real racism?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to sonmi451 says:

                “What’s your explanation?”

                I… have no idea.

                I don’t think it has anything to do with Elba being british, and I think Elba’s a pretty awesome actor.  Maybe it has something to do with pundits choosing a guy most people have never heard of to stir up controversy, and taking a pass on someone they assume people like.

                But I really, really don’t know.

                I’d like it if Duck, or Koz, or Scott, or Tom, or one of the people I assume might have had a problem with the Elba casting could give their perspective.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Actually, I’ve just synthesized a bunch of things (your question, Duck’s original comment, my part (b) above) into a better answer: Samuel L. Jackson is too hard to call the Token Black Guy in this instance. Sure, you can bring it up, and you might be inclined to if you haven’t read the Ultimate comics, but there’s an easy answer: the Ultimate version of him *is* Samuel L. Jackson. It blunts the entire notion that he’s a TBG. Elba, on the other hand, is a black guy playing a character who has never been portrayed as black (this also goes for Miles Morales as Spider-Man). The nefarious left can’t blunt your attack; Elba can be safely portrayed as TBG without any danger of someone messing up the talking point.

                (I’m somewhat less charitable to the conservative position here than the conservatives might be, but that’s because I think conservatives are deeply terrible human beings. Sue me.)Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                As I said below, the “but there’s a new black version in the comics” is an OK explanation – except that the same people that cried foul about Heimdall cried could about a new black Spiderman.  Also, your explanation requires me to think that at NRO/RedState/Drudge/etc.those cried foul about either cried foul because they read the comic books and were aware of various story lines, which I very much doubt.

                I think my explanation below is (so far) the most likely explanation.  But I’d still like to have an “objector” to Heimdall/Spiderman weigh in.Report

              • I think your explanation is the same as mine, except you insert “Do I like this?” instead of “Could someone easily derail my argument?” Either one probably works. My take above put “I like this” under part (a) and “My argument is going to get derailed” under part (b).

                Also, to be fair, he’s not that “new” a version. Samuel L. Jackson has been Nick Fury since 2001 in the comics. His first movie appearance as the character was 2008. And I want to be careful to point out that he’s not “black Nick Fury” in the comics. He is *explicitly* Samuel L. Jackson playing Nick Fury in the comics. Explicitly.Report

              • Race-neutral casting [that’s what they call it in the biz] is cool if you mind your aesthetics: If every time you see the character you’re jarred by the race change, it distracts.  A black guy gratuitously shoved into the Viking heaven.

                With Samuel L. Jackson a) Only the fans know Nick Fury in the first place; b) Fine, Nick Fury is black now.  It’s a novelty for like 5 seconds and then it’s on to business.

                Black Nick Fury = cool.  Hamlet’s black mother, not so cool.Report

              • Tom, for you does this same thinking follow through to the Heimdall character, or is that a poor casting choice?

                The Hamlet thing, oddly, works differently for me than a superhero movie.  I tend to think of Shakespeare as words and the hint of a framework, and that part of the fun of seeing it done is to see what each director and actor does with the raw material.  And so a quality actor portraying Gertrude being black seems a non-issue, whereas Keanu Reeves in Much Ado About Nothing irked me.Report

              • RTod, I was a Merry Marvel Marching Society kid, but I confess I skipped the Thor movie.  My reply was more on race-neutral casting in general.  If you can make the race a non-distraction at the outset—say, the entire cast of Hamlet is whichever race, rather than just his mother, it’s all good.

                If I recall my Marvel comics, a black guy guarding the Rainbow Bridge would just be weird unless all of Asgard is a United Colors of Benetton, and even then it would probably seem like it was trying too hard.

                So you can do Shakespeare impressionistically and jumble the races, but if you’re telling the story of 17th century Denmark for straight, you’re asking for too much suspension of disbelief that a Danish prince had a black mother. Und so, since these comix movies are trying to create a plausible reality of their own, anything that distracts spoils the effect of creating an internally coherent reality.

                Ant-Man could be black, though.  Nobody would care.  He was boring anyway.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Keep in mind that Shakespeare casted nor costumed not a dang one of his stories ‘for straight’ at the Globe.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

              “I would say it’s part (a) Samuel L. Jackson is special…”

              I’d love for someone to explore this further…Report

          • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            1) Samuel L. Jackson was a comic book geek, who liked Fury from the get go.

            2) They redesigned Fury (turned him black) with Samuel L. Jackson as an explicit model — “hey, that’s my face on that comic book!” was his line…

            3) Pretty much Jackson was the only guy they ever thought of for the role.

             

            I’m interested to see what the shakedown is of Game of Thrones, now that they’re showing black characters that aren’t … ummm…. “racially insensitive” (in the books, it comes across better how much it’s all in Dany’s head).Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Kimmi says:

              See my answer above.  Add to it: why did having a black Spiderman (not a black Peter Parker, just a different Spiderman a la Azreal/Batman in the Spiderman universe) get so many pundits out of whack, and having a black Nick Fury was OK?Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Nick Fury is a minor character that in the movies, basically function like a glorified middle management, not a god, or the real protagonist of the story. Hence, no real outcry.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to sonmi451 says:

                No, this doesn’t ring true either.  Heimdall seems a far more minor character than does Fury, and as the point of the movie seemed to be the they were aliens that just seemed god-like to our primitive ancestors makes me think the “god” part isn’t the answer either.

                I wonder if it’s something more simple and mechanical in the brain:

                1. Brain looks for things to yell “PC!” at

                2. Finding one, brain asks “Do I like this thing?”

                3a. If “NO” then brain has mouth yell “PC!”

                3b. If “YES” then brain moves on to find next thing to yell “PC!” at

                All of this, of course, being completely under conscious thought.  It’s the best I’m coming up with.

                 Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                You need to reorder that a bit.

                3a.  If “NO”, and the actor is Sam Jackson, GOTO 5

                3b. If “NO”, and no Sam Jackson, then brain has mouth yell “PC”!

                3c. If YES”, then brain moves on to find next thing to yell “PC” at

                4. If the movie is over, GOTO 6.  Else GOTO 1.

                5. Movie might be terrible, but Sam Jackson!

                6. Dude, let’s go bowling.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to sonmi451 says:

                You know, it didn’t really strike me as odd that Heimdahl was ‘supposed’ to be white. I mean if Vishnu can be blue colour then…

                Though now that it is pointed out, in a world where everyone else is white, the only black person happens to be the door-man?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I think it’s mostly because the internet outrage machine wasn’t as powerful in 2001 when Ultimate Avengers first came out.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            “Why is it that casting Idris Elba as Heimdall (I assume a minor character) caused a minor “PC” outcry, but casting Samuel L Jackson as Fury (a guy with his own line of comics) did not?”

            Because Nick Fury wasn’t based on Scandanavian mythology.

            Let’s say someone makes a movie with a superhero team based on Egyptian deities, and they’re all played by Egyptian (or at least Middle Eastern) actors except for one guy who’s a blond blue-eyed Norweigan.  Why is that guy there?  Is “well they’re actually aliens” a satisfactory explanation for him not being another Egyptian?Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to DensityDuck says:

              That’s a good answer.  What about Spiderman?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I don’t have a problem with Spiderman being black.  It’s not so much “wait this guy’s black?” as “wait, I thought this guy was a Scandanavian mythological figure?”  It’s sort of like the flip-side of “whitewashing”.

                While I can see where they were going with the whole “oh they’re actually aliens” then you’re left with “so, wait, did the Norsemen in this movie not have this mythology, then?  Or did they actually have a mythology but Heimdall was black all along?  Because there sure ain’t no black dudes in the Elder Edda.”Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to DensityDuck says:

              Is he under the Anubis head makeup?

              I could understand this line of reasoning if Thor/Asgard (as portrayed in the Marvel Universe) really was based on Norse mythology.  But it isn’t, except in the very handwavy, “some of them appeared to Norsemen in the past” bit.  Having an Asian as one of the companions seems to be more unusual… except Hogun doesn’t show up in Norse mythology at all, he’s a complete invention of Stan Lee.

              And Heimdall, as the guy that no mortal would see ’cause he’s on the other side of the bridge, could look like anything.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Three characters who are POCs. Three different dynamics. One is easily dismissed, one is troubling, one is… well… the jury is still out.

            Idris Elba as Heimdall is, pretty much, trivial. There are a handful of jokes I told about the movie at the time to the people at work who said that they were taking their kids to the movie. “Children… these are the gods our people used to worship.” (A co-worker told me “Jay, never talk to my kids.”) Now, of course, if any of the gods on the screen have anything in common with the gods in Norse mythology, it’s as likely to be coincidental as deliberate so to say that this character is blond and that character is a ginger and this other character is African-Danish is pretty much par for the course. We’re marketing this one hard, people. Let’s get some Latina Valkyries!

            Having Gabriel Jones show up in Captain America kinda bugged me for the reasons I get into further down the threads but, in a nutshell, the army was segregated. To have Gabriel there, and have it be pretty much in complete defiance of what really happened strikes me as a whitewashing…

            So what’s the difference? In the former, we’re pretending that something happened while, in the latter, we’re pretending that something didn’t.

            This brings me to the third character: Miles Morales (the new Ultimate Spiderman)

            There are so many different things that can be done poorly with this character. On the one extreme, you’ve got the “well, we’ll just tell a Peter Parker story but use a darker ink!” bad decision, on the other extreme, you’ve got the “just have him use slang and eat fried chicken” bad decision. I started thinking about what would be the best way to avoid these bad decisions and, of course, the answer is “hire Black and Latino writers” but, if that doesn’t happen, then what? It seems to me that Miles could live in an apartment complex as part of a tight community. He can be a “good kid” who, suddenly, gets new Spiderman powers. What stories could be told? Well, maybe Miles could have his grades start slipping. Maybe people notice that Miles has started being out at weird hours. Maybe his neighbors start showing concern and start trying to intervene to make Miles get back on the straight and narrow. Cliched? Sure… but I think it’s much less frustrating than the two extremes mentioned above. (And, of course, this could easily be avoided by hiring Black and/or Latino writers.)

            We’ll see.Report

      • Avatar Jeff in reply to Kazzy says:

        1) JL did a kick-ass job as Katniss

        2) It was dumb not to let POC audition.  Even if the casting execs wanted a pale blond, it would have been far wiser to let the others audition, but still pick JL..

        3) Collins approved the choice, which goes a long way with me.

        4) A far better (meaning worse) example is A Wizard of Earth-Sea.  The books are quite explicit that Ged has very dark skin and that the bad guys are pale (essentially Vikings).  The movie flipped this.  Le Guin was furious.Report

  3. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    Well, the Howling Commandos weren’t originally with Cap and they didn’t originally have a Japanese guy, but they did have an African-American.

    I get your point about Thor, but I think Captain America is different, because he *always was* a propaganda film, in a way.  Kirby and Simon started Cap fightin’ the Nazis a year before America got into the war.  I don’t know if you’ve ever read any of the pulps or kid books from that period, but the modern retelling of Captain America isn’t so much about covering ugly bits of the past as it is retelling a story that was heroizing ugly bits of the past… contemporary to those ugly bits (although to be clear you can still have a problem with Cap always being propaganda, but that’s not so much a problem with the movie as it is with the character altogether).  Having HYDRA be worse than the Nazis is actually true to the original storyline; getting rid of Baron von Strucker and having the Red Skull be the leader of HYDRA bothered me more because it subtly changes the Red Skull from being a proxy for Hitler to being the big bad on his own, and that didn’t happen for a while.  Of course, if you’re going to introduce the Skull and get rid of him in the one movie, instead of having him be resurrected and show up ever 50 issues or so, fast-forwarding his character makes sense in the context of the movie.  But I digress.

    I’ll let you know how it is.Report

    • The Howling Commandos (comic book version) didn’t show up until 1963. (That is them in the movie, though. Dum Dum and Gabe, anyway.)

      While I can certainly appreciate that Cap has always been propaganda, it seems strange to see propaganda today… certainly propaganda that knows it’s propaganda while, at the same time, knows that it has to remove all Nazi imagery if it wants to move product in Europe in 2012.Report

      • Avatar Erik Kain in reply to Jaybird says:

        Part of the problem is that the film doesn’t know what it wants to be. Does it want to be a satire of 1940s propaganda? Does it want to be ironic? Does it want to be pornography, as Jaybird suggests? Or does it just stumble lazily into WWII porn without meaning to?

        I think probably the last option is the right one, though there was a moment during the film that I thought perhaps they were shooting for irony or satire.

        I’m going to see The Avengers, but I absolutely agree about the shortcomings of Captain America. I made it through about ten minutes of Thor before I just couldn’t take it anymore. Glad I did, if only for the South Park episode.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Erik Kain says:

          Part of the problem is that the film doesn’t know what it wants to be.

          I think it’s worse than that. I think that it had a checklist of things that it had to be. It needed to be:

          • An origin story
          • An homage to the original (they had to put his original costume and shield in there, and have him punch Hitler)
          • A period piece (buy bonds!)
          • An action film that they could sell in Germany
          • A setup for The Avengers

          The tone changed when they moved to the next item in the checklist.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

            Maybe I’m just waaaaay to cynical.  Strike that, I’m just too cynical.

            I saw all that too, and I saw all that as, “Okay, this is what they’re going to do, this is what they need to do to justify spending a kabillion dollars on special effects… can they pull something that isn’t dreck out the other end?  Hey, sure.  It’s not bad.  It’s a movie you could take a skinny 8 year old to go see and he’ll come away from it learning the lesson skinny 8 year olds are supposed to learn from Captain America: the best heroes are the ones who are heroes whether or not they’re super.”

            That’s really what Cap is all about.  He’s a mythic figure.  He’s the guy who was not only a good guy, he’s the best guy.  He’s the hero who is born to be one in spirit, even though he wasn’t born to be one physically.  He beats Superman for purity of spirit: Supes is indestructible.  He had to grow up learning to harness his power, but it’s not like he got the crap kicked out of him for being a nice guy, he just got teased.  Cap got teased, *and* he got the crap kicked out of him, and he was the hero anyway.

            Given that this is what came out the other end, I thought of it as a win.  I don’t expect real artistic integrity in my comic book adaptations (see: Mindless Diversion post, “There are exceptions to the rule, but my expectation for them is quite low, to be honest, so even the movies that other people find objectionable for whatever reasons (usually good and sound reasons), I find entertaining to a degree that I don’t mind shelling out $10 to see them in the theater, let alone rent or buy ‘em as copies to sit in the library.”)

            Perhaps I ought to be more demanding and less cynical, though.Report

    • Avatar MaxL in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

      I wonder, then, if this isn’t all a question along the lines of, “Do you enjoy propaganda?”

      I have the same reaction as Jaybird when it comes to gauzy, oversimplifying nostalgia pulling me out of a film.  I also have the same reaction to the idea of depicting war as simple and fun.  The best part of a good war flick, as oppposed to say, a crimefighter movie, is that they can’t help but be morally ambiguous and complicated.

      You know what movie would be really cool to watch:   Captain America – from the perspective of a 16 year old Werhmacht conscript.  Would it be a campy Weird War horror movie?

      Yep, I am a liberal cliche.

       Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to MaxL says:

        It’s weird. I think that the two most patriotic movies I have *EVER* seen are Hero (The Jet Li movie, not the American movie about the plane crash) and Fearless (The Jet Li movie, not the American movie about the plane crash) and I walked out of the theater of each one thinking “How come America doesn’t make movies like that?”

        Then I watch Captain America and feel… I dunno. Propagandized. (Though they do feel like significantly different treatments of the idea of National Greatness.)Report

  4. Elizabeth Warren is 1/32 Cherokee, which makes her red.  President Obama is half white, which makes him black.  Reed Richards is white and like only the most boring superhero ever except for Ant-Man.  Hulk is green.  Mystique is not only blue, but has this like unbelievable mutant rack.

    I’m not feeling you on this one, JB, atall atall.Report

  5. Avatar Matty says:

    What if Thor really did come to the modern United States? A serious, legit, God of Thunder.

    If you come up with a version of this that is better than American Gods you have my undying respect.Report

  6. The United States has a very strange relationship with World War II. It was the one war we ever fought that was actually worth fighting, and it makes us say and do all kinds of things to dress it up so we forget that even wars we probably have to fight are awful and don’t make us great.

    (I was trying to work in “Wars not make one great” and that’s the best I could do.)Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

      I’ve always been fascinated by our perception of our role in World War II. In our minds, we won the war pretty much by ourselves, saving the world again (as though the Battle of Britain never happened, or as though the Germans didn’t have 80% of their military might amassed more than a thousand miles from where we were), and we did so perfectly honorably (as though we didn’t firebomb Japan or target the civilian population of Germany or intern Japanese Americans or kill POWs). I suspect the fact that a.) it was one of the few wars in European history that had to be fought, and b.) an entire generation of American males fought it have something to do with that. It does mask the fact that war, even our fighting in that war, is ugly.Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

      It was the one war we ever fought that was actually worth fighting…

      Oh, come on now.
      I’m sure there are a lot of people that say that about that revolution thingy.
      And that 1812 pibsqueak of a war– hardly worth being a war at all.
      And then that War between the States, as they say.
      The Spanish-American War.

      Not to mention that I’m fairly certain that there are quite a number of people that really do believe that the Afghan War is worth fighting.
      And my apprentice who was wounded in Iraq would probably like to make-believe that the Purple Heart he was awarded and the painkiller addiction he suffers from as a result were somehow legitimate.
      I’ve met a few men that actually killed an Iraqi or two that thought that killing them was worth it.

      But let’s not get carried away with things.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Will H. says:

        I didn’t realize I was going to have to defend your friends’ opinions against my own claim. Let’s just say I disagree with your friends and move on.

        But, no, seriously: the Spanish American War? You were looking for a war worth fighting, and you picked that one?Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

          Well, if his opinion were exclusively his own, then I suppose you wouldn’t.

          I kind of like the Spanish-American War.
          I’m kinda sorry that it’s over with.
          I was ready to sign up.Report

      • Avatar MaxL in reply to Will H. says:

        You know how you can tell that the War of 1812 was useless:  zero movies about it.  But, clearly, if there was such a thing as a Captain Canada, he would be rockin’ the Maple  in ’12.   1812, that is.

        Now that I think about it, that is another movie I would watch.  Do Canadians make patriotic films?

         Report

        • Avatar North in reply to MaxL says:

          Yes but they’re boring documentaries about things like Vimmy ridge rather than dramatizations. Also up until recently Canadian culture has kind of viewed wars as unpleasant and not something to get very ra ra go team about. Though Afghanistan and the resurgance of the Canadian right has produced some rekindling of the warrior cultural ethos in Canada.Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to North says:

            The problem with the War of 1812….

            Is probably that it’s a background war during a much more interesting period of history.

            Let’s be fair, the Chesapeake vs. Shannon battle isn’t anywhere as interesting as Trafalgar. And the Battle of New Orleans pales before Waterloo.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              The other inconvenient part of it for Americans is that generally they commenced it and at very best it ended up a draw but uncharitably they got their asses handed to them. Not one I’d want to remember either.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to North says:

                You mean like with the National Anthem?

                Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to North says:

                North:

                The US had many good reasons to stand up to the Brits.  It was mostly a draw but we did show the Brits one more time that we had to be taken seriously.  The real losers were Britain’s allies, the Indians.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to North says:

                Hard to say who started the War of 1812.   The British, in violation of the Treaty of Paris, were using the native American tribes as proxies to continue pestering the Americans.   The Treaty of Paris had been a huge blow to the British allies among the Native Americans.   To keep those allies, Britain supported them with arms and advisors, rather like the Americans meddled in Afghanistan under Carter and Reagan, sending the locals to do their fighting.

                Furthermore, the British were kidnapping American sailors.

                The only reason the War of 1812 didn’t begin any earlier was due to the British being tied up elsewhere.   The Revolutionary War had ended mostly because the British people were sick of it but it had always been a sideshow to the larger wars with France.   Without French help, the Americans would have been fighting a war of attrition for at least another five years.   When the Americans declared war against Britain, it was a simple acknowledgement of an ongoing state of affairs.

                To my way of thinking,  Jefferson had been conniving with the French, buying New Orleans from Napoleon with hard currency.   Since the slave revolts in Haiti, New Orleans was of no use to Napoleon:  let it go to America and throw in the old Spanish claims in the bargain.  The Treaty of Paris had set up the Mississippi River as open water for the British.

                The War of 1812 was inevitable:  Britain could not tolerate America trading with France.   America couldn’t tolerate the British fighting a proxy war through friendly tribes.   Napoleon had changed Europe beyond recognition and with the Louisiana Purchase, had changed North America forever.   The War of 1812 ended as had the Revolutionary War:  with the British public growing sick of endless wars in North America.   The whole affair ends on a sour note:  the Americans complain about reparations for slaves gone over to Britain.   Britain ends up paying.   America, stupid and greedy, would continue to tolerate slavery for decades to come.   The big losers, as always, were the original inhabitants of North America.Report

        • Avatar Jeff in reply to MaxL says:

          If they can make a movie based on “The Ballad of the Green Berets” why not “The Battle of 1812”?

          Or have Dolly Madisen save the White House by punching out the British!Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

      I saw Mel Gibson’s Patriot in Canada, of all places, with my brother-in-law. As we were walking out of the theater, he said something to the effect of “WOW!!! That was great! I can’t imagine watching that as an American!”

      “Well… they didn’t talk about taxation without representation, they didn’t talk about Liberty or any of that stuff, Mel Gibson was a happy, happy British citizen happy to live in the British colonies until they killed Heath Ledger at which point he turned into Mel Gibson.”

      “You overthink things. Just try to enjoy stuff.”Report

  7. Avatar Will H. says:

    I am disappointed that there has been no mention of the New Gods, another Kirby DC creation.
    I remember them from “The Return of the New Gods,” which was fairly short-lived, but well-drawn.
    Right before the Warlord got big.Report

  8. Avatar Kolohe says:

    “They had a Japanese guy come out and say “I’m from Fresno” which, immediately, made me think of the Japanese internment camps. Googling tells me that Fresno *HAD* a Japanese internment camp. This yanked me out of the movie once more.”

    There was more than one (that is, *a lot* more) Japanese Americans serving in the European Theater (mostly in segregated units, true, but I don’t think they all were), while their family members were in internment camps.Report

  9. Avatar Pyre says:

    If I recall correctly, the whole “I’m from Fresno” line was because one of the higher-ups in the movie were uncomfortable with a unit made up of minorities.

    The two problems that I have with this blog post are:

    1) Does it bother you that normal people in comics aren’t armed appropriately?  Gotham City has people like the Joker just showing up in doorways and kidnapping people yet the citizens go without guns.  Metropolis has villains and heroes who throw skyscrapers around yet, up to the oughts, the police were still patrolling with .38s.  Other than the Suicide Squad and the Guardsmen arc over at Marvel, noone has come up with the idea of having these supervillains making power armor for the troops or the cops or doing other work for the government.  How do private organizations afford armies with power armor?  With people with genetic gifts like Healer and mystics like Doctor Strange, why hasn’t cancer (*wink* Death of Captain Mar-Vell *wink*) been eradicated in the Marvel Universe?  Why did Barbara Gordon spend so much time in a wheelchair when she is on a first-name basis with people that treat the laws of reality as suggestions?

    It strikes me that you’re saying “This aspect of the world doesn’t make sense” when the whole society in comic books from top to bottom doesn’t make sense.  At some point, you have to just go along with “Yeah, a super team is going to take on a god at the head of an alien army that has mastered intergalactic travel and they’re going to win” and not worry about the details.

    2)  Captain America has always been propaganda and still is propaganda.  He’s the go-to guy for when Marvel wants to make a political statement.  Sure, it occasionally backfires (Captain America and the Tea Party) but, overall, it is still what Marvel uses him for.  Surely, you’ve noticed that, whenever we have a Republican President, Cap will either retire or die at one point during that President’s term.  I don’t know if it’s the same thing in Ultimates but this has always been how the 616 Cap has been.  Complaining that the Captain America movie is a propaganda piece strikes me as complaining that the sky was blue in the movie.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Pyre says:

      This goes back to the Bugs Bunny problem that I mentioned in my Rango review.

      One of the important rules of the whole “Willing Suspension of Disbelief” for a great many narratives (that aren’t zany comedies, anyway) is that you follow the rules.

      We, in the audience, can handle a bunny rabbit with a Flatbush accent. We can handle this bunny rabbit getting into a struggle of wills with a little person involved with organized crime pretending to be a baby. The second you have him fall in love with a normal, mute, stupid (no offense to pet rabbit companions, of course), Lepus Townsendii, you invite the audience to say “wait, what the heck is going on here?” In a universe with Bugs Bunny, the moment you introduce run-of-the-mill bunny rabbits, you have a need for a Bugs Bunny origin story. We can handle Bugs being a metaphor for the common man until we get shown “reality”.

      When “Reality” enters the picture, Bugs ceases to be a metaphor for an archetype.

      When you introduce WWII, suddenly, you’re introducing Lepus Townsendii into a Bugs Bunny storyline.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

        I could never quite describe this phenomenon so well, but was always bothered by it.  Thanks for articulating it so well.

        A fictional world can have its own rules, but they ought to remain consistent.  Otherwise it becomes a mess.  Don’t get me started on the silliness that plagued Harry Potter in this regard.Report

      • Avatar Pyre in reply to Jaybird says:

        How is introducing WWII for Cap introducing Lepus Townsendii?  For 616 Cap, WWII has ALWAYS been a huge part of Captain America (Well, after Marvel realized that backing McCarthyism was backing the wrong horse and retconned Cap so that he went on ice and Bucky “died”.).  From the 70s to the 80s, pretty much all of his villains were trying to create a new Fourth Reich.  Even now, most of his arch-villains come from that era and they do a “flashback to WWII” story approximately once every 1-2 years.  If anything, not having WWII would have been introducing Lepus Townsendii.

        While I haven’t read as much Ultimate Captain America, I’ve seen him have a couple WWII flashback stories too.

        I know I shared my concerns with you over how Hollywood was going to pull off Cap in WWII for the average moviegoer given how Hollywood has treated the war for the past couple decades.  However, I would not have thought that it would be a problem for people who read Captain America.  I guess my question would be: 

        Why is it so different to see Cap in WWII on the big screen than it is to read about it in the comics?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Pyre says:

          It’s the jumping back and forth between tones. If you want to tell a period piece story about Captain America fighting in Germany during WWII, that’s great… then having Japanese-Americans sitting with African-Americans sitting with British… Brits… sitting with Captain America in an integrated bar?

          We’re past Captain America being propaganda for contemporary WWII folks, we’re now propagandizing the past.

          This is a rabbit.Report

          • Avatar Pyre in reply to Jaybird says:

            I looked it up and Nick Fury’s Howling Commandoes did have a black man but no Japanese but, besides that:

            “It’s the jumping back and forth between tones. If you want to tell a period piece story about Captain America fighting in Germany during WWII, that’s great”

            We must have seen two very different movies.  At what point in the movie did this strike you as a period piece?  For me, there was no point in the movie where I thought of it as a WWII movie instead of a Superhero movie.  To say this movie is propagandizing the past is to say something like Ring of Red (Alternate history where Hitler won the war with steam-powered robots) or those Justice League episodes where Vandal Savage goes back in time, replaces Hitler and wins the war  is propagandizing the past.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Pyre says:

              “At what point in the movie did this strike you as a period piece?”

              Pretty much everything until he got injected with Super Soldier Serum.

              “For me, there was no point in the movie where I thought of it as a WWII movie instead of a Superhero movie.”

              I thought that the prison breakout was very much a WWII movie. The Dirty Dozen for kiddies.

              “To say this movie is propagandizing the past is to say something like Ring of Red (Alternate history where Hitler won the war with steam-powered robots) or those Justice League episodes where Vandal Savage goes back in time, replaces Hitler and wins the war  is propagandizing the past.”

              Alternate Histories are their own beastie.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                Wait… I never saw the movie, but based on my VERY limited understanding of CA and the commercials, I thought for SURE it was a WWII movie.  I mean, the haircuts!  And it seemed like they even shot it in that indescribable way that makes it look like an older movie.  Like the contrast is on super high or whatever…Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Jaybird says:

                have you read the dirty dozen? man that was a good read!Report

              • Avatar Pyre in reply to Jaybird says:

                “Pretty much everything until he got injected with Super Soldier Serum.”

                Look, I understand where you’re coming from.  Recently, I saw this Wrestlemania thing and, at first, I was like “This is totally real because of how it’s presented.  These guys look like real tough fighters.” but a few minutes later, I was yelling at the screen: “HE DOESN’T EVEN HAVE HIS HANDS NEAR THE ROCK’S NECK!!!  HOW IS THIS A CHOKE HOLD?!?”

                Yeah, that.  Right there.  That’s what you’re doing.

                I dunno.  If the parts at the beginning about the Cosmic Cube, hovering cars, people whose faces were deformed because of serums that affected you based on whether you were a nice guy or not, etc, didn’t throw off the “not a period piece” vibe, I guess I could see that argument.  I would say that it takes a little bit more than dressing up in the clothes of that era to make this a period piece.

                “I thought that the prison breakout was very much a WWII movie. The Dirty Dozen for kiddies.”

                The one with the soldiers who were using electric ray cannons?  That prison breakout?

                “Alternate Histories are their own beastie.”

                A movie about a guy who was given a top-secret formula and an impervious shield in order to battle a Nazi sub-branch that uses electric ray cannons and is striving to unlock the secrets of an Asgardian artifact that is a limitless supply of power and can open dimensional gates doesn’t qualify as alternate history?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Pyre says:

                but…but they digital-graded it so it looked all gray, and they did the “Saving Private Ryan” overexposed-undercranked thing!  That’s what you do when it’s a World War II movie!  Therefore this MUST have been a World War II movie!Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Pyre says:

      All good questions Pyre. One of my own: why is Metropolis still standing? Even your mid range superman baddie knocks over a couple large buildings routinely before he’s subdued. What the heck must the insurance rates in superhero protected cities be? Superman shaped hole in the wall insurance? Not to mention explosions! Everything in the DC universe has a tendency to explode when knocked about! Cars, computers, vending machines, industrial machinery, give it a whack with a flying superhero and BOOM!Report

      • I always wondered, re: Buffy, how real estate agents got any houses to sell in Sunnydale.  Maybe everyone who lived there did so under some kind of collective delusion of safety, but sooner or later all those vamped people leave behind enough vacant houses to make it look like a ghost town.  How does the lady from Century 21 explain to prospective buyers why there are so many houses on the market due to the unexplained demise of so many former residents?Report

        • Well they resolved it in the end. All of Sunnydale fell into a pit. I actually thought it was kindof sad.Report

        • Here’s mine, from watching years of Perry Mason reruns:  Why do the people of Los Angeles continue to elect Hamilton Burger to District Attorney, despite the fact that he never won a case?

          I always picture these campaign signs that read, “Elect Hamilton Burger – He’s Due!”Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            He can probably beat other defense lawyers.

            I always get a chuckle out of characters realizing what the writers are doing to them.  F’r instance there’s a scene on Hill Street Blues where Mick Belker wonders why everyone who gets close to him (starting with Captain Freedom ) winds up dead.  The Perry Mason example I remember seeing goes something like this:

            Lt. Tragg is at a murder scene, when Paul Drake arrives.

            Tragg: Wilson’s dead.  Get Mason on the phone and have him meet me here.

            Drake: I have other clients besides Perry Mason.

            Tragg: Yeah, but they don’t generate bodies the way Mason does.

             Report

            • I always thought that they should have ended Murder, She Wrote by having someone discover the the Angela Lansbury character was a serial killer.  I mean, c’mon.  A writer that travels around, and wherever shoe goes someone dies?  And she just happens to conveniently find the evidence that some other person did it?  Please.Report

        • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to Russell Saunders says:

          Since they immortal mayor was working with vampires while on his quest to turn into a giant snake demon I think we can assume that real estate agents have had some leeway to lie about that sort of thing for a while.

          That and the weather was fairly awesome.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to North says:

        North:

        One of my favorite comic book issues ever is a Hulk.  I forget the number (I think it’s 316).

        Bruce Banner has (supposedly) committed psychic suicide (sorry, I mucked up my “Bruce Banner isn’t the Hulk” storylines: Samson has separated Banner from the Hulk), and the Hulk is now totally a rage-beast bereft of even his childlike humanity (spoiler: it gets undone).  He’s on a rampage, and Doc Samson (who feels guilty for letting him out) is trying to recapture him.

        The Hulk winds up in Phoenix, where Wonder Man, Iron Man, Namor, and somebody else try to take him on.  There’s about 20 pages of HULK SMASH, and then Doc Samson shows up and argues with the four tank heroes that he ought to be the one to try and recapture Hulk.  They all give him the, “Dude, we’re like, a bazillion times stronger than you and really, you’re a minor hero” attitude, and Samson says, “Your method is working?”… and the camera pans up… and up… and up…

        … and you see a Google Earth shot of Phoenix, which is basically ground entirely into dust.  It looks like pictures of Hiroshima after the Fat Man bomb.

        It’s just about the only time (up to that point) I can think of when the environmental damage of a real super battle between tanks is shown, in all the Marvel universe.Report

      • Avatar ThatPirateGuy in reply to North says:

        I have a theory about the godzilla movies. I figure that Japan is undergoing an underground war between the insurance industry and the combined might of the construction industry and military industrial complex.

        One side wants to end giant monsters forever but the other cannot bear to lose the cash cow.Report

    • Avatar Pyre in reply to Pyre says:

      Looking at all of my above comments, it strikes me that I’m beginning to stray dangerously close to “Your opinion is wrong and mine is right” territory so I’ll drop it.  It just strikes me that I can see where BlaiseP would have these feelings about Captain America.  Given what he said about COD-type games, I can see him coming from this movie and saying “War is no game, son.  It’s not some glamorized experience where a guy with a shield can beat up a platoon of Nazis.”  I can see that and I argued that this could be an issue especially with how Hollywood has treated WWII since Hogan’s Heroes (Arguably, Indiana Jones was a little lighter in tone as well with Nazis.)

      I just have trouble seeing how someone who reads the comics would have such a problem with the same subject matter being on the big screen.Report

      • Avatar Pyre in reply to Pyre says:

        No disrespect intended towards BlaiseP, of course.  I just chose him because of the recent discussion on modern-day shooters.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Pyre says:

        The only comic books I knew coming up were the old British annuals and Tintin.   By the time I met up with the superheroes, I was well into my teens.   It’s a deficiency, I suppose, but try as I may, I can’t get any of the superheroes to resonate with me.   Sandman was a big influence on me, Moonshadow, Moebius / Jean Giraud and Le Garage Hermétique,  Métal Hurlant.

        DC Vertigo yes. DC superheroes.. sadly, no.

        War has been turned into stories since Homer.   The Romans loved Iliad and Odyssey more than the Greeks did.   Half the gladiators were named for characters from Homer.   It doesn’t matter what I think about war, really.  I don’t understand the appeal of Captain America or Thor.   I sorta grasp the appeal of Batman but he doesn’t have super powers, maybe that’s why.

        Nobody’s going to glorify Iwo Jima:  the math was simple, we put three Marine divisions ashore and took off two divisions.   Clint Eastwood made a pretty good attempt to show Iwo Jima from the Japanese side and the American side but it took two movies to do it.

        Iwo Jima was just chock full of heroes.   Twenty seven Medal of Honor decorations.   Untold numbers of Bronze Star and Purple Heart awards.   So why should anyone take some old grump like me who lost his war as any guide to these things?   The Marines who raised the flag on Suribachi were just ordinary joes until one photograph made them famous, a fame which ate the survivors alive as surely as their comrades died in battle.

        Doomed Achilles went into battle with glorious armour forged by the gods.   Maybe it’s better if we have some comic book Captain America instead of trying to turn real people into heroes.   They never make the transformation to gods successfully.Report

        • Avatar dexter in reply to BlaiseP says:

          “Call him drunken Ira Hayes, he won’t answer anymore

          not that whiskey drinking Indian, not the marine who went to war.”

          Watched “Pacific” recently and am so glad that I refused to go to Vietnam.

          Same weather as in “Pacific” and absolutely no reason to be there.

          I think anybody thinking about enlisting should be forced to watch “Pacific” with an added bonus of smellorama.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to dexter says:

            Our Very Good Reason was an idiot sonarman who mistook his own propeller wake for a torpedo.   Like Pooh and Piglet and the Woozle, they chased their tail for a while, scaring folks up the food chain, which provided LBJ with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

            Thousands of dead American troops later….

            And a few decades…

            And here comes Dubya with Tales of Mass Destruction….Report

  10. Avatar Murali says:

    As such, I’m not going to be seeing The Avengers tomorrow. But, if you see it, tell me how it was!

    Just watched the Avengers. It is awesome. Being directed by Joss Whedon, it does a good job of pacing the whole thing.There are funny bits in just the right places and the 2.5hr movie does a good job of showing character depth amidst loads of action. Definitely a must watch. I give it 8/10. qua movie in general but 10/10 qua superhero movie. (Different standards apply)

     

     Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Murali says:

      It got really strong reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.  95% or something last I checked, though that was last week so must have only been advanced critical screenings.  Not sure if that tends to skew high.Report

    • Avatar Katherine in reply to Murali says:

      I just watched and found it awesome.  There are probably aspects you can overthink (I would not trust SHIELD, a spy agency with secrets up the wazoo and some very dubious programs, with the world’s security for a second; it smacks of the usual “but you can trust us with overarching authority and no oversight because we’re the good guys” assumption that’ s typical of national security thinking these days), so you might not like it.  I found it to be one of the best pure big-budget action movies I’ve seen – there are better superhero movies out there (I prefer X2 and X-Men: First Class to it, not to mention V for Vendetta) but there’s none that combine such a large volume of high-quality action with characters who actually have distinct personalities and stories.

      Also, I find your reservations about the Thor movie fairly hilarious, mostly because I have trouble imagining people being serious, practicing members of a Norse religion.  You’re conflating a certain idea of faith associated with, for example, the Abrahamic faiths and Buddhism, where faith is a source of personal values, with religions just based around the idea that gods exist (but are not at all moral paragons).  About the only values associated with Norse mythology that I can think of are “bravery is good” and “fighting is awesome”.  It was a pre-science way of making sense of the world, not a system of morals or ethics.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Katherine says:

        I have trouble imagining people being serious, practicing members of a Norse religion.

        I see where you’re coming from… I mean, I have met a handful of western, white, male Buddhist practitioners and my immediate response is always “uh-huh, sure you are” because I am always pretty sure that their religion is actually The American Religion with koans. There are different magnets on the front of the fridge but when you open the door, it’s the same freakin’ food as the American Catholics, the American Babtists, the American Muslims, the American Jews, and the American Atheists. Different condiments maybe.

        That said, if the guy says he worships Thor, then who am I to gainsay him?

        I mean, if we went back to 120 and yanked a slave out of the catacombs and asked him or her a handful of religious questions, I’m pretty sure that we’d hear some pretty pre-sciency stuff.

        Thor (and those other guys) had a problem where they couldn’t adapt quickly enough to Paul’s genius. That’s no reason to hold it against white guys in the year 2012 who are going retro. Maybe his religion has made the necessary changes that the original Norse folk could have used.Report

        • Avatar Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

          More often than not, when I meet people that call themselves ‘pagan’ and talk to them about their beliefs, they end up talking about Hindu principles and dressing it up with period costumes from other cultures.
          Some of them have a smattering of Confucianism mixed in, but only enough to justify the concept of ancestor worship, and hardly seem to stray far beyond that.
          Modern paganism is Hinduism goes to RenFair, and not much more.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will H. says:

            We don’t have much left to work with when it comes to ancient paganism, that’s true.   And yeah, there are a lot of precious old SCA types out there, prancing around at Stonehenge and trying to act like Druids.   They wouldn’t much have liked the real druids, if the Tollund Man is any indication of what the druids demanded of the people. Seamus Heaney writes of him:

            I

            Some day I will go to Aarhus
            To see his peat-brown head,
            The mild pods of his eye-lids,
            His pointed skin cap.

            In the flat country near by
            Where they dug him out,
            His last gruel of winter seeds
            Caked in his stomach,

            Naked except for
            The cap, noose and girdle,
            I will stand a long time.
            Bridegroom to the goddess,

            She tightened her torc on him
            And opened her fen,
            Those dark juices working
            Him to a saint’s kept body,

            Trove of the turfcutters’
            Honeycombed workings.
            Now his stained face
            Reposes at Aarhus.

            II

            I could risk blasphemy,
            Consecrate the cauldron bog
            Our holy ground and pray
            Him to make germinate

            The scattered, ambushed
            Flesh of labourers,
            Stockinged corpses
            Laid out in the farmyards,

            Tell-tale skin and teeth
            Flecking the sleepers
            Of four young brothers, trailed
            For miles along the lines.

            III

            Something of his sad freedom
            As he rode the tumbril
            Should come to me, driving,
            Saying the names

            Tollund, Grauballe, Nebelgard,
            Watching the pointing hands
            Of country people,
            Not knowing their tongue.

            Out here in Jutland
            In the old man-killing parishes
            I will feel lost,
            Unhappy and at home.Report

            • Avatar Will H. in reply to BlaiseP says:

              I understand your meaning about the “precious old SCA types,” but to get real about it, I knew the people quite well that brought the SCA to KC from STL, and it was really more a a wife-swapping club at that time.
              I believe you’re referring to the second wave of the SCA types, the true believers.

              Odd how people are so much a product of their times, even when they actively resist it.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will H. says:

                Wheaton College had quite a few SCA acolytes back in the day.   I have lost track of what became of them, though I’ve been to a few RenFaires over time.

                Part of being a part of one’s own time is recreating what came before.

                The actual Renaissance was a spotty thing, appearing only in a few cities and within the courts and universities. All around, the Dark Ages would continue as they had for centuries. The darkness would continue well into the 20th century, until the Tsars would finally free their serfs, too late to save that empire. Yet the Renaissance lives on in the hearts of nostalgic tourists and dreamers, not as it truly was of course, with religious wars and the bitterness of the feuding nobles and the overarching stench of a world before the flush toilet, but in a few romantics and silly, beautiful people.

                The Renaissance looked back to a golden age of the Greeks and Romans, as sweetly burnished as our own view of the Renaissance from the 21st century. Perhaps only the distance of time allows us to extrapolate such fantasies: the farther back they go, the lovelier they become until at last we arrive in the paradise of Eden, where we were once naked and unashamed.

                Why do the legends of Arthur and Lancelot still move us? Though we think of the legends of Arthur through the lenses of twee old Tennyson, I am told the heyday of the Arthur legend was the Tudor era, itself become something of a cliché and stereotype. The Tudors claimed to be descendants of King Arthur and we’re pretty sure the Arthur depicted on the Round Table at Winchester is Henry VII. Pursuing Arthur is the most pointless of all historical enterprises and yet not a generation has gone by since the earliest glimmers of the Renaissance without a revival of Arthur. Perhaps the wisest approach to such stories is to give them free rein to gallop. The present will become its own collection of myths, given enough time. We are such stuff as dreams are made of.

                I haven’t read fantasy or science fiction in many years. Tolkien spoiled me for further reading in the genre: C gobbles this stuff up. Maybe I’ve become a snob. Let me revise that, I’m pretty sure I have become a snob. Still, I have a soft spot in my heart for this Renaissance Fair sort of thing. It reminds me of the sweet girls who loved fairy stories and the long-ago boy I was who kissed a few of them.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Katherine says:

        The pagans were doing fine until the Christians started massacring them.   The obliteration of the pagan religions was an awful thing and it was horribly complete.   Paul’s genius, heh heh.  Paul was trying to squeeze the calloused foot of the Roman world into the shoe of Judaism and Christianity was endlessly schismatic until Constantine squeezed them into some semblance of conformality with each other and his own goals.   If Christianity became a unifying force in the wake of Rome:  if it found a home in Northern Europe, those rulers wanted to unite with a larger world.  Christianity made good on its ability to connect with others through Latin.

        More than a few artifacts of Norse religion survive into modern times:  the Christmas tree, the holly and the ivy, a good many of the Easter rituals, the days of the week, Tuesday for Twi, Wednesday for Woden/Odin, Thursday for Thor, Friday for Frigg, Saturday for Samhain, the Sun and Moon seem obvious enough.   More of the religion survived in Iceland than anywhere else, where it is still practised.

        By the time Christianity arrived, the Roman gods had been in place long enough to have their devotees among the pagans, too.   The Norse understood the concept of abstract gods well enough.   For them, personal values were indeed faith:  they understood the sacred and the profane exceedingly well. As with the Shinto religion of Japan, places were sacred and the ancestors were worshipped.   They had a few temples but most of it was local holy places.   The Norse had little stone altars at which they would eat sacred meals, rather like Communion.   They had large sacred meals four times a year, at which they would bless each other and offer sacrifice.   The English word “bless” derives from the word for this ceremony.

        The Norse had shamans, both men and women.   Their kings were supposed to be in touch with the gods and natural forces:  several kings were killed because they couldn’t prevent droughts and other calamities. Like Shinto, with their kami and  youkai, the Norse believed in the elves, elemental forces.

        You may have trouble imagining a world where people believe such things but the Japanese still harbour many such ideas.    They’re modern people in touch with a religion which goes back into prehistory.   They are not alone:  Islam believes in the ifriti and the jinni.Report

  11. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    People have pointed out the wierdness of using contemporary wars as popular entertainment before.  http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/17Report

  12. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Who plays Mrs. Peel?Report

  13. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    Vogon poetry is the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent, of his poem, Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning, four of his audience members died of internal hemorrhaging, and the president of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council, survived by gnawing one of his own legs off… The very worst poetry in the universe died along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex… in the destruction of the planet Earth.

    For some reason, this is what I thought of when I read your post, Jaybird (with Hollywood being the Vogons, of course). Hollywood is very, very good at destroying very, very good books when they adapt them for the screen.Report

  14. Avatar Jeff says:

    As long as this is an open thread, I think I’m going to have to take another break from here (or at least any post to do with politics.  The amount of stupid and nasty coming from TVD, MFarmer and “Scott”, along with the “tone arguements” is getting to me.  I don’t think I can play nice, so I better not play at all.Report

  15. Avatar dhex says:

    jaybird: have you seen inglorious basterds or however it’s spelled?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to dhex says:

      Ugh, yes I have. I remembered thinking “how technically perfect” and “that Nazi is the greatest actor I’ve ever seen” and “this movie is saying nothing at all”.Report

      • One of those glorious instances when the Academy Awards manage to reward a truly remarkable performance.Report

        • Avatar dhex in reply to Russell Saunders says:

          i’m still not sure how i feel about turning ww2 into a magical realism revenge fantasy, but i disagree it had nothing to say.

           

           Report

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to dhex says:

            I’m with dhex – I actually thought IB was the first of QT’s movies to say anything at all other than ‘Isn’t this COOL?!’ – in fact it seemed to be saying several things (though those messages were necessarily a bit mixed/ambiguous or contradictory – maybe  JB means they cancelled each other out?)

            But IB was the first of QT’s movies that I continued to think about afterwards, instead of simply being highly entertained/energized by the crackling writing and impeccable technical craftsmanship/showmanship.Report

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