Morning Ed: Culture {2017.06.08.Th}


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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127 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Wonder Woman: I swear some people just can’t help but find a nugget to bitch about.Report

    • Avatar InMD says:

      I think the way the vaguely woke pop-identity politics crowd latches onto these films sets them up for disappointment. These movies are stylized children’s entertainment set up to make billions off the lowest common denominator, not change the world. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, just like there’s nothing inherently wrong with enjoying a big mac. But when you walk into McDonald’s expecting a gourmet meal it’s bound to be a let down.Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        I think it’s more that the VWPIP crowd is driven, in large measure, by endless Internet hot takes and counter-hot takes, with the underlying logic being more about drawing clicks and attention than actually writing anything insightful. This also explains why most of these articles casting everything as a simple binary choice, judging the movies in question as either good or bad based on some ephemeral litmus test of awareness.

        I bet someone could write something interesting about the fact that, yes, Steve Trevor mansplains his way through Wonder Woman, but that article sure as hell isn’t it, because the author herself doesn’t find it interesting at all. Just noting it happens is, after all, enough to justify that eyeball-capturing headline.Report

        • Avatar veronica d says:

          @pillsy — I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m looking forward to it. (It’s Pride week here in Boston, so my “go see a movie” time is limited.) In any case, I expect I’ll enjoy it quite a lot. I expect that, from a feminist perspective, I’ll find plenty to like and a few things to dislike. But that misses the point: it’s a movie about a superhero who (no doubt) solves problems with violence. This can be fun, and in particular, given how bro-tastic the genre is, having a decent Wonder Woman movie will be quite welcome.

          If some guy “mansplains,” then I can laugh and say, “Look at that ninny -splaining.” That doesn’t mean I won’t like the actions scenes.

          (Which actually, one of the few things I actually like in that execrable Batman vs Superman fiasco was watching Wonder Woman fight. So yeah.)

          Anyhow, “hot takes” have grown clumsy and dull. I hope we tire of them soon.Report

          • Avatar pillsy says:

            If some guy “mansplains,” then I can laugh and say, “Look at that ninny -splaining.”

            This is, in fact, how it usually plays out in the movie.

            IMO, the two leads had great comic chemistry, and a lot of it comes from Steve Trevor “explaining” things that are actually dumb, and Diana immediately recognizing it.Report

          • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

            This can be fun, and in particular, given how bro-tastic the genre is, having a decent Wonder Woman movie will be quite welcome.

            I think my wife’s favorite movie genre is “Movies in which women kill people in spectacular fashion.”

            People ask if this worries me. What I know is that it means that I don’t have to worry about being poisoned or stabbed in my sleep. I will know it’s coming, even if it’s just the pounding of her feet as she gets a running start.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            I’d be interested to hear what you think of it Veronica. IMHO can’t hold even an unlit match to Mad Max Fury Road but perhaps I am setting the bar too high?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        @inmd @pillsy

        My take at the articles is a bit different.

        The Village Voice article reads more like old school high-culture snobbery to me. In what should not be a shocker, I am sympathetic to this.

        The Slate article is written by CC who generally opposes the kind of light feminism that you see on the net and anti-Intellectualism among the professional set in general. Here is her critique of the Skimm which I also found persuasive or at least had points:

        The Skimm treats its readers like they’ve never read an article, looked at a map, or accidentally seen a CNN segment in their dentists’ waiting rooms. Its patronizing tone assumes that female news consumers tune out anything of import if it’s not processed through verbal eye-rolls. The very existence of such a service, especially one marketed specifically to women, is insulting. But it’s also scary as hell, because millions of people subscribe to this thing. More than 1 million people open the newsletter every weekday. That’s the equivalent of the entire state of New Hampshire getting its news, on purpose, from a source that sells itself with the following promo copy: “There’s a lot of stuff in the world. It’s confusing.”

        Recognizing this truth forces non-Skimmers to grapple with the fact that dangerous people—people who think both political parties are equally at fault for the mess our country’s in; people who love the Affordable Care Act but hate Obamacare; people who can’t bring themselves to read about Trump’s Russia ties unless it’s in a Skimm segment called “WEIRD SH*T FROM RUSSIA”—do not only exist in the narrow space between shut-down coal mines and Waffle House parking lots. They jump in and out of Ubers in progressive coastal cities. They wear expensive shift dresses and eat at trendy restaurants. They can contribute enough proper nouns like “Michael Flynn” to a conversation to seem reasonably well-read. They look like they’re catching up on work email on their bus commute, but they’re actually reading a newsletter that explains populism’s surge in the European Union as “Hunger Games minus JLaw.”

        In this way, the Skimm is a lot like Ivanka Trump. Like the president’s oldest daughter, the founders of the Skimm were educated at fine institutions of higher education (Tufts University and the University of Pennsylvania) that would seem to set them up for careers of greater intellectual heft. Ivanka and the Skimm both have a friendly-yet-hollow everywoman shtick that’s the key to a mass appeal that makes them very, very frightening. And they both have a knack for making tin-eared comparisons that offend the sensibilities of people with hearts and brains.


        • Avatar pillsy says:

          The Caterucci article (which I skipped the first time) wasn’t as bad as the one in the VV, in part because it seems she was at least interested enough in what she was watching to be genuinely irritated by it. At the very least it’s an actual hot take, instead of a lukewarm one, and the observation that the movie’s politics are skin deep and looking more closely undermines them is fair as far as it goes.

          Bringing high culture snobbery to a superhero movie is a good way to be bored and disappointed.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            They struck me as… it’s like that parent or coach who, after just having their child/trainee score a victory, berates the youth for not winning enough, or the right way, or criticizing their every misstep on the field.

            Take the win, do the victory lap, and save the criticism for when things are spooling up for Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers or a Supergirl movie, or such. That’s when you trot out the thoughtful criticism of WW and hope that the next writer/director takes heart.Report

            • Avatar pillsy says:

              One thing I remember, back from the days when superhero movies were rare, usually godawful, and made without a great deal of regard for the source material, fans would often complain that people would get the wrong idea from these terrible adaptations. “Everybody will think Batman is stupid and the Batsuit has nipples on it!”

              Even when the movies were decent enough in their own right, there would be angst if the costumes looked wrong, or the heroes were miscast (Michael Keaton?!), or they weren’t faithful to the basic concept of the character. This seemed to pretty much all go away once we got Patrick Stewart as Professor X and it was clear Our People were finally in charge.

              Christina Caterruci’s article read like the old superhero nerd rants, except about feminism.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Word. We had the first Superman, maybe the second, and Batman between 1978 and 1989.

                After that, what decent movies were there until X-Men?

                The Crow? Maybe? (That wasn’t a superhero movie as much as a supergoth Death Wish.)

                Mystery Men was awesome (and still holds up!) but it was sending up superhero movies (if they only knew what the future held).Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                I still love Blade, which came out a couple years before X-Men.

                The second one was gorier and stupider, and thus better, but it came out after high profile superhero flicks were a regular thing.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Blade wasn’t bad, I agree.Report

        • Avatar InMD says:

          There was a piece at Salon by Andrew O’Hehir reviewing the Avengers that is a bit closer to my views on the genre.

          I’ve developed a distaste for these movies but even though I like a lot of independent and foreign film I try to look at them for what they are rather than what they’re not. Part of it is that my taste also includes a lot of so bad it’s good genre and cult movies that could be dismissed as well, though usually for somewhat different reasons. Of course I don’t get anymore butt hurt when someone tells me Return of the Living Dead is garbage than than I do when people say Beyonce is mandatory listening but the Swedish death metal in my iTunes is unlistenable. Its all a matter of taste.

          When it comes to the endless cycle of comic book movies I think I’m a lot less bothered by the lightness of the fare than the cloaking of unfettered consumerism in some sort of artistic or political importance.Report

      • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

        I also think there are some people who take active pleasure in trying to puncture someone else’s enjoyment of some thing.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

          @fillyjonk @inmd

          Here is where I disagree. I think criticism matters and not in a “This movie is good or bad please give it money or don’t waste your money” kind of way but in a way that looks at media as being beyond just being entertainment meant to earn profit and something that says something more broadly about society and culture and the times we live in. Even if this message comes across as being killjoy.

          What does it mean that we simultaneously attack toxic masculinity but our version of feminism on screen seems to be women committing acts of violence? Why do we see violence as strength? And I’m far from a total pacifist. There are times when the use of violence can be justified in my opinion.

          I just can’t get into the whole everything is matter of taste/let neo-liberalism/corporatism reign kind of mindframe. Things have meaning beyond entertainment.Report

          • Avatar gregiank says:

            If the movie is a comic book movie then than it’s gonna be a comic book story. I’m fine with criticism the way you describe it. But these are comic books, expecting it to be more than that is silly. Feminism in a comic book movie is gonna be just that. The issue of toxic masculinity is one of those where there is a nugget of solid idea buried under a metric butt ton of SJW jargon, value judgments and the silliest type of cloistered university theorizing. Even is the topic were to be discussed well, a comic book movie is not the place for it.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Focus on the Family’s “Plugged In” website offers a Christian take on pop culture. It gives movie reviews and tells you what’s likely to be offensive, or obscene, or profane. It also reviews popular albums, video games, television shows, and books.

            It’s a great tool for parents who want to be on top of what their children are consuming (and for adults who don’t want to waste time with consuming garbage when they could be consuming entertainment that is actually good for them).Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

              That’s not quite what I was talking about.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, they have different priors.

                But I imagine that it would be very easy to make an intersectional version of the website.

                It can hit similar notes but from having the right assumptions about what’s right and wrong.

                You can have sections on “Violent Content”, “Sexual Content”, “Crude or Insensitive (instead of ‘Profane’) Language”, and new categories for “Racist Content”, “Anti-Feminist Content”, “LGBTphobic Content”, and so on.

                Don’t say stuff like “don’t see this movie!” or even “see this movie!” but “this movie is safe for your children” or “you won’t want to leave this movie feeling like you need to take a shower”.

                Communicate what makes entertainment *WORTH* watching. What makes it not worth watching. And point out shining examples.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine says:

                I was just going to say something dumb like, “the Christian right didn’t go away; the intersectional left just stole all our soap boxes.”

                But your way is better.Report

          • Avatar InMD says:


            I think I get where you’re coming from. Maybe there’s a bigger criticism of pop culture out there, in that it all acts as a sort of soft propaganda that celebrates (and profits from) the status quo, or that in order to be popular it must also be shallow.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I will prove Oscar’s point and say that there might be a point to the anti-Democratic nature of Superhero movies. Why do we consider the ability to commit violence empowering? I am also a prig who dislikes the term badass because I find it anti-Intellectual.

    Mencken: He still hated Jews to the core of his body and the American Mercury faded into obscurity when anti-Semitism was no longer acceptable.

    Cruises: I don’t get the appeal.

    What does your life of crime have to do with animaniacs?Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      It’s not so much that we find violence empowering but that violent solutions to problems make for more exciting and satisfactory movies. There are good guys and bad guys even when some nuance is attempted, the bad guy gets defeated in a relatively straight forward manner, and everything gets a neater resolution than real life.Report

      • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

        I wonder also if there isn’t a bit of a wish-fulfillment fantasy there. Either:

        “I can hit all the bad things and kill them” or
        “I can do something big and important and that helps people.”

        I know so much of my life, it feels like the things I do are small and unimportant and the idea of being able to do something BIG and MEANINGFUL is appealing.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          “I can win and then the story ends and the people who won will have won forever.”Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          That’s another important attractor. People usually try to see themselves through the protagonist, which is why archetypes are so common in personality are so common because they allow for easier identification from audience members.Report

    • Avatar InMD says:

      I stand in solidarity with you in your curmudgeonly attitude towards the modern super hero film.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

      I have been pondering this very point. But before I address it I want to note that of the three reviews offered, Jacobs seemed to be the one that knew the least about the genre. I give you Spiderman, a working-class kid from Brooklyn. Also, Superman was raised on a farm.

      To me, Wonder Woman was an essay in agency. Violence is inherent in agency, and this is celebrated in culture in many ways. For instance, when someone was knighted, it was with the words, “I give you the right to bear arms and mete justice”. When Boromir is dying (in the film) he reaches for his sword – which represents his agency.

      Why is this? Why this association with violence? It’s because agency – changing things – generally involves doing things that at least some people don’t want. Most people might want those people with knives running around stabbing things to be stopped, but the people who are doing the stabbing do not.

      On top of that, most people find change stressful, and resist it, even when it is good for them. So changing things, having agency, is going to involve doing things without the consent of some.

      It follows that “doing good” is harder than it looks. There’s no such thing as the one person I can kill that will make everything better. That’s moral simplicity. If someone thinks that’s mansplaining, perhaps they should join the army, and learn for themselves.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        There’s also the fact that violence is easy to relate to while also being exciting & making our lizard brain happy. Sure, watching the latest Sherlock analog being cleverly clever has it’s own appeal, but it’s hard to imagine yourself being that clever.

        It’s easy to imagine yourself throwing a punch.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          I think the problem comes when people who should know better (that is, people actually in power) start adhering to things like the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics, or start thinking that we can solve certain difficult problems if we just find the right location to bomb.

          Violence can be the right solution, and it’s often a very simple solution. The problem is when you toss out the whole toolkit in favor of just the hammer.Report

          • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

            Heh, yep. I think agency is violence, but violence is not necessarily agency. Sometimes it’s just making a mess. Which is kind of a point made in the film.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      For your average crusing Joes and Joannas the appeal is pretty straight forward. You go on a very pleasant boat with entertainment, tropical climes and very nice food and drink all readily at hand pretty much whenever you like. Then you do whatever you want, whenever you want and are waited on hand and foot. My husband and I tried a cruise, I swear to God(ess?) they turned down the room every time we stepped out of it. He absolutely adored it.

      Also, viewed as a whole, cruising is a pretty cost effective form of vacation. The upfront price tag seems hearty but when you consider that it covers almost every cost you’ll have on the trip short of air fare it stretches your dollar quite far.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        Except all those cruises to Alaska and nordic climates.

        My office is right next to the docks in SF. Those ships are massive and I can’t get over the very nature of gluttony involved. I’m not super-slim or buff and I like to eat but I try to control it.

        I’ve noticed a lot of cooking videos popping on social media these days and it seems like all the recipes they show involves massive amounts of sugar, oil, butter, fat, cheese, etc. I have a big sweettooth and love a good hamburger but all these videos are less than appetizing to me for some reason. All very tasty things but also all things that contribute to obesity. It’s very easy to be tasty when everything is filled with sugar, fat, butter, cheese, etc. I am starting to admire people that can cook healthy food and be tasty.Report

        • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

          I dunno. I strive to eat healthfully but I know I’d much rather watch Ina Garten (say) baking a pie on the cooking channel, or Sunny Anderson making something deep-fried, than watch a chef preparing a salad or broiled fish.

          Cooking videos using lots of fatty, rich, sweet ingredients are maybe like superhero movies: it’s not your life, it will never be your life, but it’s more fun to watch than something that IS like your life.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          Except all those cruises to Alaska and nordic climates.

          If he’d said “exotic locales” would that make more sense? “Different locales”?

          People take cruises for a simple reason — it’s like a nice hotel where the scenery and interesting places travel to you.

          You don’t need to hop several flights (packing and unpacking bags each night, hoping luggage doesn’t get lost) to get to visit several interesting places. Instead, you can board a ship and visit Seattle, several points in Alaska, etc. You can watch whales.

          Or you can visit a few countries in the Caribbean. Or the Mediterranean.

          And as noted, it’s pretty cost effective.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq says:

          I feel the way about those extreme eating contests that some restaurants have.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Sure but none of that is particular to cruises. The cruise ship we went on had a perfectly fine gym nor did they encourage you to gorge, they simply made very nice food available whenever you wanted it. I was, to be honest, rather surprised at how good the selection was- it wasn’t like a floating buffet table.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        If I ever do a cruise, I am going to be super picky about it. The way that cruise lines use flags of convenience to avoid common sense safety has always bugged me. I’m afraid that if I just got on some random cruise ship, I’d spend too much time just finding all the ways crew training and equipment failures will kill us all.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Ignorance probably is bliss there. I was on Norwegian and their boat seemed neatly enough set up. I’m sure my brother who’s in the merchant marine would have had a field day.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

            I know there are good lines, who aren’t lax with equipment and training, but I’ve heard enough horror stories about a ship where crap goes wrong and the crew panics because they have no clue, or the necessary gear is useless, that if I went, I’d be researching the hell out of it before I sent them a check.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              Fair enough. I did the same. Plus outfits that cruise out of the US seem to be pretty careful, they know if they fish up with ships sailing from the world’s richest, most litigious and most media focused market their ass is grass.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              Try Disney off-season, out of their regular ports. (There is no “off season” when Disney is cruising out of another city). Less kids, and even fewer kids if you stick to their adult’s only areas.

              I’d be pretty darn shocked if they were cutting corners anywhere on safety, of any sort.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                I’ve heard good things about Disney & Norwegian. Carnival and Caribbean have not been the source of stellar reports.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                You get what you pay for, really. Carnival is…entry level. Disney is like…twice what everyone else charges.

                Princess and Norwegian seem to have pretty good reviews, but I’ve only sailed Princess, Disney, and Carnival.

                Disney’s customer service is top rate, and despite the fact that they partner with Continental, it’s worth booking your airfare through them. (They handle the luggage entirely. They get it for you at the airport, deliver it to your room, you don’t even see it once you drop it off at the airport. On the flight out, they’ll handle getting it to the airport for you and getting it checked into your flight).

                Disney also has quite a nice private island, and their food seemed to be of very high quality. All-in-all, the only downside is all the screaming kids. 🙂Report

              • Avatar North says:

                My solitary cruise was on Norwegian and we both absolutely loved it. The Pearl was an older NCL ship too.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Shore expeditions cost extra, most cruise lines charge for alcohol on top of the fare, and a new trend is upselling to premium dining and spa experiences. The price tag associated with these are more than just quibbles. Alsotoo shops on board and on shore are pretty aggressive about hawking merchandise of various qualities and at various price points.

        With all that said, yes, my one time cruising was a pretty pleasant experience.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          In the end, you have to decide what you’re willing to pay for. (For instance, I’d avoid cruise line casinos. They make Vegas look generous).

          Last cruise I was on was a big family affair — my wife and I got the drinks packages, which made “booze” costs very predictable (about 50 bucks per person per day) and frankly cheaper, and we visited the spa exactly once.

          OTOH, the trip before that was with my parents (who, at 70, find cruises to be great — it’s not strenuous, doesn’t require a lot of on-the-spot decision making or generally cause much stress, and has predictable costs) and we did take advantage of their upgraded “serenity” deck or whatever, which had a daily cost. (Basically a quieter area of the ship’s deck with fewer people, more amenities, and no kids).

          Now that I’m thinking about it, predictable costs and pretty low-stress nature of cruises is probably why they appeal to families and the retiree set. My parent’s are still quite sharp, but there’s something to be said about what’s effectively a planned vacation where someone ELSE is handling transport, hotel decisions, restaurant decisions, etc. They can just lay back and watch the whales, and not worry so much about missed flights, where to eat that night, or whether they missed the turn they needed…Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Yes, the cruises are heavily tilted to the oldies for obvious reasons: there’s medical help close at hand, you’re waited on hand and foot and there’s a pervasive sense of ease. I’ve only cruised once myself but the fundamental leisureliness of it was astonishing. From embarking to disembarking there is virtually nothing that you -need- to plan for or worry about. I’ve read somewhere that cruises are actually competitive with nursing homes price wise.Report

          • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

            My extended family’s annual vacation is a week on the Jersey short. My mother rents the house and then is off duty for the week, spending it surrounded by her descendants. We save vast sums of money by using the kitchen and grill, taking turns cooking and cleaning up. My job is breakfast, since I get up earlier than most. I bring a slab of bacon from the meat market, and use the grease for the scrambled eggs: the path to a short but happy life, but it’s only one week. I also am in charge of keeping mom liquored up with gin and tonic. The trick is to not overdo the tonic. People bring stuff like lasagnas from home, and we go out to buy local seafood. The amazing thing is that this developed pretty much spontaneously. We don’t actually plan any of this more than a day ahead. It helps that my family is functional, largely eschewing the drama that can make this sort of vacation more interesting than fun. The big issue this year is that my seven year old wants to go out in the two-person kayak this year. I say yes, but my sister-in-law will harumph disapprovingly. That is about as dramatic as it gets.

            I have never been on a cruise, but largely because I am solidly in the “don’t get it” camp. Spending that week in pampered inactivity would make me stir crazy. I can be inactive at home and sleep in my own bed.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              Sounds like activity is your leisure, though, which would make you pretty much the opposite of the demographic that cruise lines target. Cruise lines aim for families, busy individuals or elderly individuals for whom the words “Don’t worry about anything except relaxing, we’ll take care of everything including the cleanup” sounds like a choir of angels singing from a golden ball of light.Report

              • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

                Sounds like activity is your leisure

                Not really. I fully enjoy inactivity, but within limits. The division of labor we have stabilized to is such that any one person doesn’t do all that much. I think it might be that “functional family” bit. Really the point is this is the one week out of the year we spend time as a group. Having a housekeeping routine is part of spending time together, and gives it structure. So too does the house, with its central gathering area. I don’t see how having cabins, even if in a block, or public areas open to the whole ship could serve as well.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Absolutely Counsellor but we’re not looking at this as an absolute but relative. The room, the view, the amenities you get compared to a similar hotel on shore? The price is enormously less. Drinks are enormously expensive but really that depends on what you want. If you’re planning on having a drink with each meal then it’s not particularily dear. If you are planning on being constantly comfortably buzzed then you buy a drink package and let the booze flow like water. If you buy the package and drink lightly or don’t buy the package and drink heavily then the cruise line will make bank, absolutely! So plan accordingly.
          The enhanced dining options were nice (we got some as a package) but on my cruise the built in dining options were shockingly good. Shore excursions are, yes, expensive but you could easily just skip them and walk around the dock area of your ship and see the sights.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

          “my one time cruising was a pretty pleasant experience.”

          Dirty, dirty Burt.

          Plus gambling.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      There’s also the extent to which the (HEAVILY!) stylized violence of Superheroes (and, hell, pro wrestling for that matter) gives a short burst of endorphins.

      It’s like pornography. What do the acts depicted in pornography have in common with regular sex? Well, there’s *SOME* overlap, but there’s a lot of stuff that is, shall we say, overstated. And don’t get me started with the anatomical inaccuracies.

      But the back of your brain doesn’t care. To the back of your brain, it looks like the real thing.

      Same with Thor throwing his hammer at an ice giant.

      That’s not what would happen if a real person threw a real hammer at a real giant. The back of your brain don’t care. It don’t care about nothin’ but the *thwack*.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        Folding chairs don’t hit pro wrestlers.
        Pro wrestlers hit pro wrestlers with folding chairs.
        And if it weren’t for folding chairs, it would be something else….Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      Violence isn’t necessarily undemocratic. Superhero violence is more likely to be undemocratic, but better works deal with the issue. As others have noted, there’s often a person or team of normals who humanize the hero. The hero usually fights against a bigger bully, someone who specifically uses his power to become godlike. And when the hero oversteps his bounds, it has consequences. But the question of undemocratic actions in the defense of democracy is a big issue, and it’s good that we confront it in different ways including in our entertainment.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        NPR is running stories all this week on the 50th Anniversary of the Six Day War.

        Mostly of the form “while it’s true that Israel was technically fighting a war for it’s very survival 50 years ago, here’s an interview with a Palestinian whose son went to jail after killing a settler.”Report

        • Avatar Pinky says:

          PBS is running a documentary about the ugly reaction to an Israeli soccer team taking on two Muslim players. I hope they mention that this was the last non-integrated team of the 14 in the premier league, which is only one of the leagues in Israel, and I also hope they talk about what would happen to a Jewish footballer in the Arab world.Report

          • Avatar Jesse says:

            So, no holding supposed liberal democracies to a higher standard? Is the new conservative standard, “as long as Israel is slightly better than some of most reactionary places in the world, we’ll engage in whataboutism about any criticism of them?”Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq says:

              Jesse, actual real peace in the Middle East is going to actually require that the Muslims get rid of the lot of their ridiculous Jew hatred. They also aren’t going to become liberal democracies if the entire population keeps blaming everything bad that happens to them on Israel/Jews.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              So, no holding supposed liberal democracies to a higher standard?

              “So much for the tolerant left!”Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      Saul Degraw:
      I will prove Oscar’s point and say that there might be a point to the anti-Democratic nature of Superhero movies. Why do we consider the ability to commit violence empowering?

      Counterpoint – the whole gist of Batman, the second most famous superhero of all time, is that when violence in pursuit of justice is democratized (that is, taken out of the hands of the State), it’s not empowering, it’s corrosive – to both society and the individual’s soul.Report

  3. fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

    C4: I’ve also contemplated the possibility of inversing this idea, as in, letting promising players play college ball, no classes required, but then they earn “chits” they can cash in for classes later on. (I didn’t say it was a GOOD idea). I’ve had too may athletes (mainly football players) who can’t/won’t make their classes any kind of a priority in their lives because they’re too busy being Big Men On Campus, though our football team is honestly never that much to write home about.

    (I do not have this same problem with students in other sports. I don’t know if that’s a coach-attitude thing, or something endemic to football on college campuses)Report

    • Avatar North says:

      I like em and since, sooner or later, their era is going to sputter out* I’m enjoying them while they last. Though I’ve so far from most of the DCU collection pretty weak tea.

      *I feel like there’s a depletion issue. There’s about a century of accumulated comic book stuff that the film makers are mining but they’re digging up and using it far faster than it accretes and eventually they will run out.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


      College Football and Basketball reign king and seem to be the sports most likely where the athletes can get a pass for being less than stellar scholars because they bring in money for the schools via donations from wealthy alumni, network TV, etc.

      I know schools will recruit other athletes (see Oregon and Track and Field) but those are not always the money earners that Football and Basketball are. Professional running exists but not to the extent that professional Football and Basketball exists. I think a track and field star is more likely to know they will need a day job sooner rather than later. A lot of college football players seem like they were taught from day one that they could be in the big time.Report

      • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

        Yes. Even on my small campus where we belong to a “little” conference, many of the football players seem to think they will be recruited to the pros. (Honestly, I think we’ve had more baseball players go on to careers in baseball….but our baseball team is often pretty good).

        I don’t know why it is that football and baseball (and also, here, rodeo) athletes think they are the shizz when objectively, if they were, they’d have been recruited by one of the much bigger schools….at best, being in sports here is a way to pay your way through college. But I do get people with amazing attitude issues. (I have more than once busted athletes for claiming “We….have to leave early for our match this weekend, so I’ll need an extension/to take the exam late” and when I call the coach it turns out not to be that at all. I can only assume most people accept that claim uncritically)Report

        • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

          Does your school have athletic scholarships? Just curious. As for more baseball guys going pro, remember that there are six tiers of minor leagues, plus the independent leagues. The vast majority of minor leaguers will never so much as catch a glimpse of the big leagues. Nor does anyone other then them and their mothers think they will. The ranks of the minor leagues quite frankly are filled with guys who are there only so that the handful of legit prospects have someone to play with. So some guy playing pro ball for a couple of years while figuring out what he is going to do with his life is not particularly remarkable.

          As for your football players who think they have an NFL career ahead of them, I wonder if you football coach isn’t bullshitting them. These guys have deeply unrealistic expectations and need a responsible adult to sit them down and tell them the truth so they can prepare for said truth before it hits them in the face. Of course some people are immune to learning from others, but some have this capability. But I can see how the coach might find it to his advantage to keep them in the dark: “Work hard, son–Play through the pain if you want to make it to the pros!”Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


            But then you wouldn’t have enough players for college football.

            I think the lack of responsible parenting comes way before these kids start playing in college. It starts when they are young and taken to sports practice day after day because the adults around them have come to believe that their best chance of getting out of Dodge is through sports.Report

          • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

            Yes, we do, because I spent every Tuesday and Thursday morning last fall tutoring a guy who was in danger of losing his. (He was smart but just kind of unprepared and not used to the level of work expected at the college level)

            I suspect these guys have been bullshat at their entire school careers….I have had quite a few football players over the years who were shocked to learn their profs wouldn’t roll over and give them a pass.

            The dude I was tutoring at least had his head screwed on: his plans were to major in Kinesiology and work as a trainer somewhere. If not for a team, at a gym. I’m guessing that’s a pretty realistic career goal.Report

  4. Avatar pillsy says:

    I’m glad Salon is putting bold new ideas like, “Superhero movies are anti-democratic,” out there, a mere eight years after Watchmen was made into a superhero movie. That’s some really cutting edge stuff.Report

  5. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    Both Christina Caterucci and Melissa Anderson do not surprise me. They seem to have understood what was going on in the film for the most part. I can’t expect people who are friendly to separatism and who celebrate misandry to be happy with this film, which shows Diana pretty explicitly rejecting both.

    Diana believes she can “fix” men. She is wrong, at least at one level. When she discovers this, she faces a moral crisis, and is tempted to burn down the world, which she is probably capable of doing. She doesn’t, and we are relieved, though I admit that the line “love is what saves us” is somewhat cheesy. But that’s a comic book for you.

    No, they got it. The film portrays their world view as morally naive. They are unhappy about that. Who could expect anything else, really?

    Keith Spencer doesn’t seem to know much about comics, or stories about heroes, and how they work. He describes Captain America as doling out justice from the heights, which is really laughable to anybody who knows anything about Steve Rogers, a working-class kid from Brooklyn. Steve was the proverbial “little guy” who was picked for his big heart. Also, there’s no mention of Peter Parker, from Queens.

    Spencer writes this:

    And even these alternate worlds commit the universal sin of depicting the citizens at large as hapless set dressing with no free will.

    It is a trope of the genre that it isn’t powers that makes you a hero. Every film has some non-super doing something that makes a difference, and that the hero(ine) depends on. This one is no exception. Steve, Sammy, Chief and Etta all do things that have value, that are vital to the mission that they share with Diana. And she learns to lead them, to inspire them. Which leaves me wondering, did Spencer even watch this film.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      “The film portrays their world view as morally naive. They are unhappy about that.”

      How pathetic is that? Complaining because a movie doesn’t match your world view? What ever happened to “if you don’t like it, don’t watch it”?Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        To be painstakingly fair, it’s not always easy to determine whether you will like a movie prior to watching it.

        I dunno, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being critical about a movie’s politics. But I think it’s rarely putting worth that much effort into it unless you think the movie is pretty good to begin with.

        I think the movie Dave has insanely bad politics, and due to the nature of the story, the politics are a lot more important to it than usual… and I still only care because I think the movie is a fun little romantic comedy that’s worth watching every few years.Report

        • Avatar Pinky says:

          Insanely bad politics, and a coup, but a good movie. I can enjoy something that I don’t agree with. Someone mentioned Watchmen earlier – that’s an even better example. You could’ve made Dave about a conservative guy replacing a liberal president, but you couldn’t have made Watchmen about optimists in a neat world. If art has to go to an unpleasant place to say what it wants to, I’ll either go along or not, but I won’t object to the existence of the art. But then again, I’m an anonymous commenter who can skip a movie without it affecting my paycheck.Report

        • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

          I haven’t really watched Dave much, but I’m a huge fan of The Incredibles, which is chock full of Objectivism.

          But you’re right, I only care because I otherwise like it a lot.Report

          • Avatar Pinky says:

            I don’t think The Incredibles is chock full of any -ism. It’s just a good story. It just happens to be a kids’ movie that handles superheroes and democracy with more nuance than the Salon article. I guess if you’re worried about it giving a good message to the kids, that’s important, but otherwise I would put it in the same category as any other movie: I don’t have to agree with it to enjoy it.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            I think calling The Incredibles chock full of Objectivism gives way too much credit to objectivism.Report

            • Avatar pillsy says:

              I think The Incredibles really does seem to take some of the good parts of Objectivism and weave them through the story. I wouldn’t go so far as to even say I disagree with them, any more than I disagree with, say, the Christian themes in Lord of the Rings, but I think they’re there. If anything, I think I appreciate both stories a bit more because they feel like they’re about something.

              In any event, like Pinky, I definitely don’t have to agree with something to enjoy it. But I pretty much do have to enjoy something to disagree with it.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Okay, fair enough, I guess I just don’t think that if you extract those themes from Objectivism it still counts as Objectivism.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              “The Incredibles” is Objectivist the way that “Starship Troopers” is Fascist.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                So it’s a deliberate parody of Objectivism?

                I’d buy that for a dollar, to quote a different Paul Verhoeven movie.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                Yes, I know and love the book which people somehow manage to convince themselves is fascist for no sensible reason, but, “The Incredibles as Objectivist parody,” is definitely the neater take.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

        If you thought I considered them pathetic, that’s a writing fail on my part.Report

  6. Avatar Will H. says:

    C5: I agree with a lot of this, up to a point.
    First, the copyright laws now provide protection for an insane period of time, up to 50 years after death of the author. It used to be 28 years, renewable for another 28, and I believe that was sufficient.
    Secondly, properly defining the problem is key. The issue is that the distribution arm of the industry has failed to adapt to changes in technology. When those adaptations are sufficient, the problem will take on a different character.
    Third, the labels themselves are driving demand by unavailability (to some extent, anyway). I waited for years, then paid $30 for a Japanese import to obtain the Dixie Dregs’ Dregs of the Earth. Similarly for Ear Candy from King’s X (though the import was from Sweden), probably their best one, though not as well-known as Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, because it is so difficult to find. I paid over $30 for Quando o Canto É Reza by Roberta Sá, waiting for years, then ending up ordering it from a used shop in Germany, because it is out-of-print.
    These days, looking for old Sheby Flint material, or some Paul Desmond stuff, is fairly difficult, and YouTube is a godsend. Right off-hand, I’m not sure if Vince Guaraldi Trio’s Black Orpheus is available on CD, and that one is definitely on my shopping list.
    But, really, they’re probably more concerned with the power users, and all the Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber videos people are watching. Not knocking Swift or Bieber, but that’s just not my cup of tea.

    Here’s some Dixie Dregs for you.
    This is the song I paid $30 for to get the CD. I used to listen to this every day when I was in high school, laying on the floor in my room with the speakers from my little turntable pressed up to my ears, volume full-blast. Take my advice, and crank it on this one.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      A search reveals that Black Orpheus is available for $12 as an import from Spain.
      I hope I’ve made my point.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      Interestingly enough Congress changed our copyright rules in the 1970s to be like the rest of the world instead of the other way around.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “copyright laws now provide protection for an insane period of time…”

      Hah. I can give you arguments that any period of time greater than zero is “insane” (because you can’t “own” a non-physical concept or idea, right?) so I don’t give much for arguments about how copyright is too looooooong.

      It seems to me that the issue is more getting permission to do the things people want to do. Which brings me to…

      “The issue is that the distribution arm of the industry has failed to adapt to changes in technology.”

      Changes in technology? Not really. Changes in the users, I would say instead.

      Contemporary rights negotiations assume that your hired lawyers are working with someone’s in-house legal team and you’re expecting to spend fifty thousand dollars before anyone even talks about per-song fees. The idea of Joe D. Citizen walking in off the street with fifty bucks and a desire to use the latest pop hit as background music for his Twitch stream is nothing that anyone is set up for, not even to make money off of; just scrolling up the standard contract and saying “sign here” will cost a few thousand dollars. Joe probably doesn’t even have that much money, and he certainly wouldn’t expect to make it back, so that’s it for him using it legally; either he doesn’t have music, or he uses the song and hopes nobody goes after him about it.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        That still skews the distribution arm.
        There are libraries where rights-free or per-use can be had fairly cheap.
        If I want a rockin’ hit from the 70’s, I need to find out who holds the publishing rights now, submit a request to the label, which will include lots of info about how it’s being used & what the budget for the project is (because they use this to come up with a number), pay the musicians, though the union typically takes care of this (but sometimes not, though there’s an added fee for lump-sum payment), and I’ll also want E&O insurance (errors & omissions– foreign distribution rights can’t be sold without it, because the distributors won’t buy), but from there, it’s pretty simple.

        The argument is that, by stiffing the publisher & the musicians (and going uninsured), instead of paying the per-use fee or subscribing to a library, the overall value of the fee services & libraries is reduced, because it’s not getting the level of profit that it really should.

        Copyright is one of those things authorized by the Constitution, but for a limited purpose. It is to protect the work of creators long enough for them to make a profit, to encourage development of ideas. 56 years is plenty of time for that. 50 yrs after the death of the author is insane.
        By way of comparison, Tarzan of the Apes was published in 1912, and Burroughs died in 1950. By the 28 + 28 method, it goes public domain in 1968, and it goes til 2000 with the 50 yrs after method.
        So, the salient question is that of whether Tarzan of the Apes made sufficient profit through 1968 to encourage future development, or is it really necessary to tack on another 32 years of profit-taking?Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          “So, the salient question is that of whether Tarzan of the Apes made sufficient profit through 1968 to encourage future development, or is it really necessary to tack on another 32 years of profit-taking?”

          Okay, so it doesn’t get another 32. But why 56 years? Why not 50? Why not 5? Why not say, as so many do, that Burroughs should have got paid up front and there’s no reasonable expectation of future income derived from reproduction of the work because the creation of a copy does not reduce the utility of any existing or future copies?

          “If I want a rockin’ hit from the 70’s”

          And that’s my point; because so much work goes into getting the rights to use this or that copyrighted thing, it is inherently expensive to do so. And so everyone assumes that Copyright Is Just A Drag, blaming the concept for the implementation.Report

  7. Avatar veronica d says:

    [C7] Pride is big money now. To a large degree, Pride parades have become a kind of “gay themed” event to entertain a str8 audience, where big donors compete to appear more diverse.

    This is all good, and the parades can be fun. But still, it is not the real Pride anymore.

    We still celebrate Pride. However, it isn’t about the “big parade,” which is largely about politicians and business. It is the smaller marches on adjacent days. It is the various club nights and events, largely out of view of the str8 mainstream. It is smaller Pride events in neighboring cities, that don’t draw the big $$$$ and the impulse to water things down.

    Anyhow, go to the parade, if you want. Have fun.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      I feel you. It’s like reading Andrew Sullivan when he talked about the end of gay culture or going to the gay bar and noticing that it’s almost wall to wall straight girls (and increasingly hot straight guys* going to pursue the straight girls). But that’s what winning feels like. The ghettos and refuges are dying because they’re not needed as much anymore and the demonstrations turn into celebrations which in turn get corporate and mercantalized like any other celebration. It’s literally gays diffusing back into the society. It’s victory, but there are things being lost.

      *Though sweetly enough they’re typically entirely fine with gay people and don’t mind being hit on, they just smile, thank you and note they like girls.Report

      • Avatar veronica d says:

        The trick is to avoid the “big gay nightclubs,” which indeed are full of irritating str8 women (and the men who love them). Instead, try to hook into the underground queer scene. Like, I’m friends with the guy who runs our local bear fetish night — which I’ve been to a few times, but I don’t exactly fit in (heh, to say the least). But still, the point is there is a nice kinda-sorta “underground” network of events at smaller venues, mostly marketed at “dance parties,” which because they’re small and passed by word-of-mouth, remain pretty solidly queer.Report

        • Avatar Damon says:

          Nothing sexier than the bear males shaking their booty. Besides, according to my GF, you gotta wait until the after party before they bust a move. Sorry, 1am is too late for this hetero.

          Hey, straight dudes go where the straight gals are. If they are with the gays, there you go. Besides, the hope is maybe we’ll get to see the straight girls fool around with other straight / gay girls if they get drunk enough. Better than porn!Report

          • Avatar veronica d says:

            The thing about the “big gay nightclubs” is, no one goes there anymore because they are too crowded.Report

            • Avatar Damon says:

              I wouldn’t know. I’ve only been to house parties. Birthdays and such. It finally got kickin when they started playing Sisters of Mercy. I mainly go for the quality booze and eats. 🙂Report

        • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

          This sounds like the gay version of fandom. It would never occur to me to go to Comic-Con. Once Hollywood starts showing up to pitch films, the geek cred is totally shot if you ask me. Even beyond that level, at this point an SF convention for people to get together to talk about actual books is a tiny niche activity within general fandom.Report

          • Avatar veronica d says:

            @richard-hershberger — I can see some parallels, but there is a lot of baggage surrounding the “mainstreaming” of nerd space versus the “mainstreaming” of gay space. In the former case, there is a lot of nonsense about “casuals” who enjoy X, but don’t enjoy X in the right way. Add to that a ton of weird sexual tension (the pretty cosplay girls!), and it turns out a really toxic stew.

            There is nothing remotely like #gamergate coming from the gay scene, for example. We may “throw shade” at the bachelorette parties who have kinda ruined drag shows, but no one is doxxing them or sending them rape threats.Report

            • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

              The gaming side of nerdspace is pretty much foreign to me. Back in my day, “gaming” meant either shoving your panzers (i.e. little pieces of cardboard) into Stalingrad (i.e. that hex on the mapboard), or dice-and-paper RPGs. I did both, and both were seriously nerdy. Video games meant going down to the local arcade and dropping quarters. It was not particularly nerdy, unless taken to excess. The nerdspace I occupied straddled gaming (in the sense described above) and the SCA/RenFaire crowds, plus dabbling in cons. These all had their issues with sex. Gaming was almost entirely male. My college gaming crowd had a few females. My sense was that they were just part of the group, though I suppose you would have to ask them how they experienced it. SF fandom has long had its own set of issues. In retrospect it is clear that some writers treated (or should that be present tense?) cons as visits to the candy shop. For the female minority I can see how this would play out either as empowering, being a rare commodity, or a trial of constant sexual harassment. My experience was limited, and in my callow youth I wouldn’t really have thought about it in those terms, so I can’t really say. As for the SCA and RenFaire, they run pretty gender balanced, and highly socially active, as it were. Get enough people together and you always have the potential for problems, but at your typical SCA campsite you also have a bunch of guys with knight-in-shining-armor fantasies ready to rescue a damsel in distress. I wouldn’t want to be the guy putting that damsel in distress.

              So I think what I am working my way around to is that while gamergate comes out of nerdspace, my sense is that it is a peculiar corner of nerdspace that I don’t recognize from my days happily occupying my own regions. But I could be wrong about that.Report

              • Avatar veronica d says:

                @richard-hershberger — That all matches my experience.

                I recall very well when Sandman started getting popular and the White Wolf games showed up. Suddenly cool, pretty women were coming ’round to the game store. Myself, I was pleased. It turns out that some other folks were not.

                So yeah, the issues with sexism are well documented. I recall many a thread on, written by women about how bad things could be. This was in the mid-90’s probably.

                As you say, yeah, SCA/renfaire are good models for gender equity in nerd space. RPGs could be that way, but in practice it was complicated. Some groups were great. Others were awful, for all the normal reasons (which is to say, sexually frustrated assholes).

                My gaming group generally had women in them — well, beside me, but that’s complicated.

                But nerd space more broadly defined, you get shit like this. Honestly, that guy is a human-shaped toilet bowl.

                Not that they’d have sex with you anyways. They wouldn’t know what to do with a live penis. I have not personally had sex with a cosplay girl but I have friends in the age group who have and the general consensus is that the girls respond to a cock in their hands in roughly the same fashion as they would if you were to hand them the throttle stick on a Mig jet rocketing towards the ground and ordered them to pull out of an active tailspin, namely confusion bordering on terror.

                Like, fuck that guy. I kinda wanna smack him.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Well isn’t he just a peach?Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                I think the fruit in question is a grape.

                A very, very sour grape.Report

              • fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

                But in that case, wouldn’t it actually be “DON’T f that guy”? I mean, in the literal, carnal-knowledge sense…. and apparently the “cosplay girls” weren’t willing to have carnal knowledge with him.

                sorry. I tend to be rather too literal-minded for my own good.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Yeah, I have no doubt that level is still putting along. I’m getting to old to put in that much effort now. In Minneapolis the need isn’t there anymore like it once was so for a lot of clubs it was bring in the straights or go out of business.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog says:

      Oh my, the basic dynamic of C7

      “Argh, no bi organizations are in the parade!”
      “No bi organizations applied to be in the parade.”
      “They closed the deadline early! Probably to exclude us!”
      “We’re mandated to take submissions on a first come first served basis. By the people who show up at the AGMs, present arguments, and vote.”
      “We’ve come up with a loophole! There’s a vaguely defined ‘Prides of the UK’ section of the parade. A hastily convened ‘BiPride’ can be one of those ‘Prides’.”
      “But next time, please please get your submissions in on time. Ideally before the banks and auto dealerships and whatnot.”Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “Pride is big money now. ”

      Not so much Burning Man as Flaming Man, one might say.Report

  8. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Glad to see some students pushing back a bit at Evergreen. We need more of this, not because the protesters are necessarily wrong, but because having people outside the campus push back isn’t really useful. The kids need to push back against their peers.

    Although I love this bit from a student Trustee:

    “He should have spent his time having a dialogue with students who felt hurt by his email,” Puckett said. “And I also believe the students should have allowed him to have that dialogue and allow him to voice his opinion.”

    Yes, the embattled faculty member should have spent his time having a dialog with students who absolutely refused to engage in any kind of dialog with him.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine says:

      I went to the article hoping beyond hope the student you quoted was a sophomore:

      [name], 19, a freshman … dang.

      Then I thought, hey, he’s not even a sophomore, an aspiring sophomore… save.Report

    • Avatar Damon says:

      He should have told this to “f off” and called the cops. When someone brings a bat to a “protest” you bring a steel rod and “explain” to them what free speech.Report

    • Avatar notme says:

      It’s liberal SJW youth. They don’t want any kind of intelligent discussion. They want just to yell and get their way because they are convinced that they are right.Report

  9. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    [C8] – when I read the link text I was hoping for something more like this – .Report