Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Strange Relationship with the Kids of Degrassi

I never could get into shows like Beverly Hills 90210, or Melrose Place. Ostensibly, the reason being was that I was too young when these fateful tales of teenage drama and woe were big on the little screen. At that time, I was on a steady diet of cartoons and Nintendo, and anything more complex beyond "Shredders being an asshole again, turtles! Let's fuck him up!" was far outside what I found myself interested in digesting. I may have occasionally watched Party of Five, but that was mostly because my tiny, cheap, black and white TV could only pick up basic channels, and FOX was one of them, but also because Party of Five had Neve Campell and Jennifer Love Hewitt on it. I don't feel I need to get into further details.

Still, even as I've grown older, creeping towards my thirties and inevitable destruction, I haven't found myself any more interested in taking part in the current wave of CW teen drama. All the dudes with ridiculous washboard abs, or the chicks with cute faces that I remember from some movie but fail to remember the name of. I've never wanted any part of television like that, unless it involves things like smoke monsters, zombies, or vampire slayers named Buffy. Of course, these days something about my distaste for that sort of television has changed, something I find very concerning. It may be the fact that I've been in a relationship for some time now with a women who basically cheats on me with her television set, and by extension she has gotten us both in the same room from time to time for what I can only assume are very kinky threesomes for her. Or, it could be because of these wretched little Canadian vermin:

For those of you who don't live in The Land of Canada, or otherwise find yourselves familiar with the faces of these kids, they are the current stars of a teenage, hour-long drama known as Degrassi, once upon a time called Degrassi: The Next Generation, until everybody who remembered the last generation didn't care anymore, and the "last generation" eventually became the first generation to star in The Next Generation. Still with us? Good. I use to watch the show, years ago, when I was still a young buck in high school. By watch, I mean I would plop my ass on the family computer, surfing the internet for whatever the hell it is I surfed for at age 16 - boobs I assume - while my younger brothers would put on The N, Degrassi's original home when it first received the reboot treatment.

A basic episode of Degrassi would generally pass by in the same mold every week, albeit with tweaks here and there to accommodate whatever the ongoing story was that season. One of the kids - usually one of the most popular with viewers out of the ten or so members of the current cast - would discover some sort of vice, which would often be reflected by whatever real kids were currently doing to fuck up their lives. If it was internet predators, then one of the Degrassi students would go on a chatroom and meet one. If it was drinking cough syrup to get high, one of the kids would then go and by a bunch in that weeks episode. For the purposes of my example, let's just say it was chronic masturbation, and addiction to Internet pornography  in the form of a fetish for older, Asian housewives.

So, for this episode in question, let's just say the star is J.T., because that sounds like the kind of weak shit they would lay on J.T. After all, the poor bastard had an episode that involved a penis pump, so I consider this somehow less humiliating.

 J.T. has been spending a lot of time on the computer, spanking his meat to images of Mi-Yun cleaning her home in nothing but a shy smile. At first, it all sounds innocent enough - by god, he's a teenage by after all. Soon however, it starts to get in the way of J.T.'s day-to-day life. He doesn't hang out with his friends as much, because he's inside, waxing his sword in the dark. He even cuts class in the middle of the episode, so that he can run off to the boy's room and pull up pictures of Yuki sunbathing out by a koi pond. The other kids try to talk some sense into J.T., but alas, he's too far down the rabbit hole. The torrid affair finally reaches it's climax (pun almost certainly intended) when J.T. goes over to his friends house, who just happens to be Asian, and meets his mom. Drama! What can J.T. do, but pull a Fast Times and run into the bathroom to quickly deal with his "situation" brought on by this unexpected turn of events? Only his friend's mom walks in on him, just as he cranks his crank! The humiliation! The shame! Everyone knows, and everyone laughs, even J.T.'s grandmother! The episode ends, teaching us a very important lesson: that it's okay to masturbate to your friends mom if you find her hot, just get a hold of that shit and do it when nobody is around so you don't get caught.

There we have your basic, A to Z setup, execution, and delivery for most episodes of Degrassi. The ongoing theme being that everything, every single, solitary, little carnality these kids may embody by the week, is dealt with by means of only the most devastating extreme. It doesn't seem to matter how minor or commonplace the infraction may be, these kids will almost definitely see the worst outcome if they choose not to do the better thing. It's easy to appreciate that sort of television, if you're both a parent or a child. For the children watching at home, it touches on real, day-to-day dilemmas in a way few other televisions do, because while the inevitable outcome of the problems the kids on Degrassi face may seem completely balls-to-the-wall, the problems themselves are, more often than not, the same sort that any kid may have to deal with. For parents, on the other hand, the show talks to their kids all about things like obsessive masturbation, so that they won't have to have that uncomfortable conversation, or go through the trouble of rummaging through their child's E-mail.

This is Adam. Or, such is his alias. She use to be known as "Gracie", before swapping colors and identifying himself as Adam. Now, I'm not sure where he got the name Adam from. Maybe there's some sort of Lost-like flashback episode revealing the depth of that point. When I was a kid, we had our gay population just like any school. I knew gay men and women growing up. The lifestyle choice has never bothered me; I was taught by my parents to be, if anything, tolerant. I say this because transgender, as it is, is something I sort of scratch my head at. You might say "Well, they're just gay", but ah, no. Those who considered themselves transgender are quick to assert that they are not, however, gay. That's why Adam is Adam, and he is not a she, and everyone identifies him as such. Which means Adam, like any other lad, is interested in getting his freak on with a lady folk.

In one such episode, this situation - or actually the possibility of said situation - comes up. Adam is all excited to go out on a date with a lovely young classmate. But wait, there's just one problem! What if things get a little TOO exciting, and said young lady should become a little grabby? How will she react when she finds out Adam is missing a few important elements that make a man, a man - most pointedly, a cock. Fortunately, Adam's brother Jake has JUST the solution to this problem, a cucumber! That's right Adam, just shove a big, ol' cucumber down your draws, and trick any girl into thinking that not only are you a man, but you also having a raging, rock-hard erection even at times where it may be disgustingly inappropriate!

SPOILER ALERT: Operation: PICKLED DICK turns out to be a complete and shameful failure for all those involved. I, for one, was shocked. This was how I was introduced to the current generation of Degrassi. A bunch of wayward, confused children using cucumbers as cock decoys. I was intrigued.

Adam isn't the only student at Degrassi with progressive tastes in sexuality. There's also Tristan, the local gay kid. He does all the fun gay dude things: hangs out with only women, talks with a snappy lisp, acts more feminine and sassy than the actual female characters. You know, basically just the best friend character to the female lead of any late 90's teen rom-com. You know what? I watch too many movies. Anyway, Tristan has so far had one of my favorite misadventures on the show.

Once, Tristan had an eye for a yoga instructor at the school. I'm not sure if he was positive this kid was also gay or not, but that's beside the point. In a bid to get closer to the object of his desire, Tristan decided to start taking yoga classes as well. During his first class, without any prior experience in yoga, he shows some signs of strain. Yoga-boy advises him to try one of the alternated beginner poses, and Tristan leads to the most obvious conclusion at such a suggestion: he is fatty-fat-fat-McFatface and needs to lose some of that ugly weight NOW. The best way to do this, he reckons, is to of course stop eating all together.

When I tell you this plan results in Tristan becoming hospitalized, it should come as no shock. Hell, we're lucky he didn't also end up in a wheelchair or something. While he is okay following these traumatic events, Tristan never again seems to mention yoga-boy. He was worth starving over, but fuck it I guess.

One of the biggest events this past season has been a very special episode, in the form of a trip to Las Vegas. While a large chunk of the cast went, the focal point of it was the be the wedding of two of it's characters, Drew (I think) - the brother of Adam - and this other chick, I think her name was Monica or something. Overall, I remember I found the episode itself a little dull, but there were a few certain details about the wedding I couldn't help but mull over.

You see, as I gather it, Drew's mom doesn't really like Monica (or whatever her name is), but Jake and Monica are certain they are meant to be. They know Drew's mom would disagree - something about the two of them being too young and whatnot - but the lovers are convinced. They have lived in their seventeen or eighteen years of life, and in living and traveling from one end of their school to the other, both are certain that they could never find another human being they could love as much as they love each other. For reals. Drew's mother is just an evil spiteful bitch, and only wants them to THINK she's speaking out of wisdom and experience when she says they may not be ready for such a huge commitment.. To prove their point, Drew organizes a trip for them to go get married real quick, and tells his mom he's going camping to avoid suspicion. Because he's a man now.

Surprising no one, Jake and Monica realize that maybe they should hold off on their wedding. Maybe if they are planning on doing it by lying to parents and sneaking out past curfew, they still lake the emotional maturity one would have to posses in order to make a marriage work. Maybe. Then again, what do I know.

Most recently, however, the season drew to a close with a different sort of story arc. You see, there was this kid, Cameron. Member of the hockey team (hockey is Canada's football), boyfriend of cute young Maya, and Justin Beiber impersonator.  Cameron, it seems, has emotional issues. He's stressed over hockey, and um..... That's all I remember, really. The kid is dealing with some mild stress, and at one point, decks Maya's ex-boyfriend for no apparant reason. Still, he goes on, throwing tantrums here and there throughout the episode about how hard life is, and all the while acting like a prick to those around him. At one point, he decides to gloat to Maya's ex about what a tool he is, and when Maya's ex shoots back that he is not such hot shit, but is, in fact, a piece of shit, Cameron doesn't take it so well. He kills himself in the school greenhouse by means of, uh.... the plot. It's never really stated.

The story here wasn't in Cameron's completely unsympathetic plight, but actually came in the way Maya handled it. While the show of course took an episode to give us how each kid dealt with the news of Cameron's suicide, Maya's moment came and went with a simple "whatevs. It's cool, bro". It wasn't until the next few episodes we discovered that no sir, all was in fact, not cool. Maya was merely a brewing pot of angst, waiting for her emotions to finally boil over the surface.

Now, I could tell you about the ways Maya in particular went crazy. About how she got her first drunk on, and in the same night, had her first drunk hookup. Or I cold tell you about how she almost gave the same kid a blowjob in her living room before her mother and sister walked in one them. Instead, I'll tell you about the moment that I remember most. When confronted with just what in the fuck she was about to do, Maya flips her lid. The girl who had remained so stoic until now finally broke down, screaming in tears that she did not care what Cameron may have thought about what she was doing, that her broke up with her by killing himself, and that she hated him.

For the first time, I actually, truly felt something for one of these kids. I couldn't find her reaction over dramatic, or silly. I realized I felt bad for this poor little girl, as she screamed those words, "I hate him! I hate him!". Then I realized something: I wasn't just watching this show ironically anymore. I had now tuned in for weeks in a row, eager to see what fresh insanity these kids would find themselves in. Now here I was, actually feeling a tinge of  sympathy for one of them, honest and true.

I wasn't just watching Degrassi anymore. I was WATCHING Degrassi.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Daryl Dixon Needs to Die

That's right, I said it.

Alright, first off, if the above line truly upset you, then go ahead and just saunter on out of here now, because I'm pretty much going to spend the next few paragraphs explaining why America's newest darling needs to die. Preferably soon, if at all possible. I'm not really sure if anybody habitually reads this thing, honestly, beyond the random visit by someone who just so happens upon it, but if there is anybody out there who reads these little diatribes I like to put up, then I should probably tell you now that I do LIKE Daryl. In fact, one of my favorite things about him was the way he just about constantly felt the need to bum-rush anybody who mildly annoyed him with a gun or an axe, just for Rick or Shane to restrain him. Classic crazy redneck stuff, dude. Get 'er done!

Anyway, yeah, I like Daryl. I just think it's a bit of a problem when you have people threatening to stop watching a show wherein the central focus, even the very name itself is DEATH, should one specific character happen to be subjected to the same rules as all the others on it. God forbid, right? Except the whole "anybody can die" thing becomes a little cheap when it's more like, "Anybody but Daryl can die. Mostly Lori can die. Also every black dude can die." I'm not very much inclined to fear for a character if I know the creators don't have the balls to off them just because the fanbase loves them. It was basically how I predicted Hurley would survive Lost regardless of what perils he faced. Seriously, a sinking submarine and somehow he manages to get himself, PLUS Kate out alive? I figured I was already accepting a magic tunnel of light, why not suspend disbelief for that little miracle, too.

The thing about The Walking Dead is, it's always been very good at off'ing characters at any instant, no matter how liked they are or fucked up it would be to do so. In fact, Kirkman seems to sometimes sit down, ask himself which character and circumstances would be the most disturbing for fans, and goes ahead and does just that. Now, a show is a different beast altogether, I get that. For a multitude of reasons, it's harder to just arbitrarily kill off a character and send the actor packing. It's like just deciding to fire your employee out of the blue. Still, I think if Lori's death taught us anything, it's that the show WAS willing to kill off important characters seemingly at the drop of a hat, so long as there was a plan in mind and it wasn't done just for the "oh shit" factor. I'm not saying Daryl should just like, I don't know, be crushed by a falling anvil or something, but he should be just as vulnerable as everybody else. Probably not as vulnerable as the black characters, mind you, because then a falling anvil probably will just drop out of the air and kill him.

I've made this argument a few times to friends and coworkers who have been watching the show, and usually my argument is met with a counter-argument that Daryl is just to badass to die. He eats bullets, he shits gunpowder. He could piss his name into a brick wall. To that I say you're right, Daryl is very badass. He uses a crossbow and rides motorcycle, which is loud as all hell and completely counterproductive to the whole avoiding zombies thing the other characters are so keen about doing. Not Daryl, though. He probably rides that thing for that very reason, because if he doesn't kill a walker at least once and hour, with something completely mundane like a shoe or a hatchback door, he will get restless and lose his mind, and then we'll have him running around with ears around his neck again.

You know who else is badass? Tyreese. He's pretty badass. He's built like a brick wall and kills zombies with a hammer. Ask his comic book counterpart how that's working out for him, though. Or Shane, for that matter, who had the training and the smarts to keep himself alive and lead a group for a while. Or Abraham, who was in the military and tough as nails. Okay, I know fans of the show don't know him yet, but trust me, he was tough. He had a handlebar mustache and everything. The point I'm trying to make is that Daryl is tough, sure. The thing is, being tough and clever will only keep you alive for so long, because all it takes is just one second for luck to swing south and BAM, some guy is bludgeoning you with a barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat they've gone and given a feminine name to.

Speaking of Tyreese, he's around now, huh? And hopefully he's likely to eventually do more than apologize feverishly to anybody willing to letting him crash on their couch. Michonne is becoming a bigger player in the Rick Grimes Halfway Home for the Mentally Traumatized, as well. Right there, there's your right AND your left hand. You don't need any more hands than that, even if you had any. Daryl's role as the groups badass and second-in-command is quickly becoming a little redundant, no? From the perspective of an ensemble cast, what else are you going to do with the guy if you've got people lining up to fill the only role he's filled?

 Every character has their own arc in a story. For Rick and Carl, The Walking Dead basically IS their arc. For a guy like Daryl, his arc would be watching him go from crude, violent loner, to a humbled anti-hero, who has learned the value of teamwork and friendship, and the true meaning of Christmas and whatnot. In three seasons, Daryl has gone from being all axe-crazy and impulsive, like I mentioned earlier, to having heart-to-hearts with Carl and cooing at babies. He's even found Merle, so what else can the character really do? It's not like Walking Dead is the sort of show where they'll spend three seasons more building up whether or not Daryl and Carol will ever be a couple. I mean, I hope not, anyway. Maybe next season will be more like Friends, and the opening will instead be everyone dancing in a fountain in post-apocalyptic New York. I'd probably watch that, actually.

Bottom line is this, though: the biggest reason I can think of for Daryl to get killed off is drama. It's a drama television show, guys. Doing stuff like that just to get a reaction out of the audience is what shows like this are supposed to do. I mean, why would you ever invest in any story, if nothing it ever did made you feel emotionally connected? You shouldn't want Daryl to die, not really, but if he DOES, would that mean you should stop watching? If anything it means the writers have just given you a great show, something that reached out and got a hold of you, which is what we want fiction to do. Demanding a story turn out the way you want isn't what makes it fun and memorable. People like Michael Bay are the ones who just keep giving us the same old shit, and we've all seen how that goes. You want new, you want unexpected things, you want things you even dread to happen, because it makes the story that much richer an experience. So if I have a final message here, it's that nobody should riot if Daryl dies. You should riot the moment a show you've become so invested in suddenly stops striking that emotional cord with you, where the fate of an entirely non-existent person means so very much to you.

Besides, we all know if anybody should die, it's Andrea.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Will Somebody Still Say 'Dead By Dawn'?

It's time we face facts, people: there will never be an Evil Dead 4. I know, I know - I wanted to believe it, too. Every single time Sam Raimi or Bruce Campbell so much as mentioned the words 'Ash' or 'deadites', or anything even remotely related to the vaguest possibility of more blood-drenched mayhem with Ashley J. Williams, me and every other fanboy out there in the world sucked in our breath. Maybe in some alternate universe, some Earth 2 somewhere, Sam Raimi never made Spider-Man and he did end up making an Evil Dead 4. As it stands, though, we never did get one, and no matter how often Raimi and Bruce casually shrug off and give us some comment about people still thinking about it sometimes, we probably won't ever get it. Make peace with that now, and let's move on.

I remember the first time I watched Bruce Campbell, blasting deadites in the head with a shotgun while rattling off snappy one-liners. I was probably like, thirteen or so, and my friend rented it one night when I slept over. See, this was back in the day when Blockbuster reigned supreme (at least as far as video rental went). As a kid, you could wander the aisles and see some seriously scary shit on the covers of some of the VHS's on the shelves. One in particular that I remember always seeing was Army of Darkness, although at the time I had no idea what it was called. All I knew was that it was that movie with the fucked up looking cover, with that guy with the chainsaw and stuff.

Seriously, look at that. This muscular hero with a dashing smile, a chainsaw for a hand, and a beautiful lady gripping his leg. Then there were those skeleton guys climbing up to him, with their swords and shit. Not to mention the fucked up demonic army in the background. What the hell was that all about? Then there were the tiny men, these little bastards at the heroes feet, trying to set his foot on fire. As a kid, all of this was like, "Je-sus...."

Anyway, my buddy had noticed the cover on his trips to Blockbuster like me, and decided it might be fun to check out. We expected monsters and maybe some boobs. We did not expect this awesome, ass-kicking hero played by Bruce Campbell. This guy who didn't run from the monsters, or show any fear - he made fun of them, then blasted them with a shotgun. That was a completely new concept to me, and has remained one of my favorite character archetypes since. The Hellboy, the Buffy Summers - the hero who fought monsters and made jokes.

Now, the fandom had long wanted a fourth entry into the franchise. See, Evil Dead fans are of the cult variety. A small collection of the public in the long run, yes, but none in the fan community are quiet as passionate about what they hold dear. Those of us who cheerlead the likes of Firefly, or Fringe, or Freaks and Geeks feel this protective instinct toward what we love. We see it as an unappreciated genius, with it our soul honor and duty to preserve it's memory, to keep it alive and safe until the rest of the world finally notices it the way we did. It takes a very dedicated bunch to have that kind of affection for, well, anything. So you can imagine the outrage when it was announced we would be given not a sequel, but a remake. I'll spare you the specifics if you don't already know, but let's just say it was not met with enthusiasm.

People tend to hate remakes. Most of us just look at them with a persevering cynicism about the whole idea. "Why can't Hollywood come up with any new ideas?", "It will never be as good as the original", or "Didn't the last one just come out like, six years ago?" Even if they could have given a shit about the original flavor, nobody greets the idea of a new and improved version with much enthusiasm. Usually because they notably are not improvements, with many of them failing to understand what made the original so endearing, or twisting it so much to fit with today's audiences, it's very soul had been lost. At worst, people look at remakes as an insult, a big middle finger to the original fanbase that "Fuck you, this is the new version and if you don't like it, tough".

Then came the trailer, and.... well, take a look.

Okay, keep in mind this is the redband which just dropped a few weeks ago, but still HOLY SHIT. I mean  that has to get you at least a little excited. Call me naive, but I get a bit psyched watching this. It FEELS like Evil Dead - the deadite POV shot, the angry molesting tree, the chick looking up out of the cellar door. God, it just makes me wanna pop in my VHS of Evil Dead 2 right now. Only I don't, because who the hell owns a VHS player anymore? Still, every time I see it, I find I like what I see more and more.

A trailer can be misleading, though. I think we've all seen that a bunch of times in the past, right? After all, a complete shit show can look like the next Return of the King if you just know how to edit about two minutes of it together into something passably intense. Besides what we see here, there isn't much other information about the film to go off of. Like, at all. Even the director and cast are mostly unknown faces Funny story, actually; I almost saw them all at this years New York Comic-Con, only I didn't arrive early enough to get a decent spot in line due to a slight case of sleeping in.

There's Jane Levy, who plays Mia. She's uh, been in Shameless, I guess, which I've heard about before. Shiloh Fernandez plays David, and this guy would probably be easier to recognize for some amongst the audience. He's been in stuff like Jericho, Gossip Girl, United States of Tara, unfortunately Little Red Riding Hood, so make your own opinions on that guys choice in work. Jessica Lucas is also in it, as Olivia. She was in Cloverfield, and basically nothing else. Playing the character of Eric we have Lou Taylor Pucci. He is credited on IMDB as being Boba Fett #1 in Fanboys - wait, did that ever come out? Anyway, rounding off the cast is Elizabet Blackmore , as Natalie, and.... um, she hasn't really done anything.

I almost forgot to mention our director and writer: Fede Alvarez, the man who brought us.... uh, El Conjundo? Actually, I've never heard of the guy, or anything he's done. That's probably because up until now, he's only written and directed a few Spanish short films. This would be his first feature. Still, Spanish seems good. Spanish folks make awesome horror all the time. Just look at Guirelmo del Toro, or whoever it was that directed The Orphanage.

Okay, so we've got a pretty unknown cast, a director I've never heard of. Guess it's pretty hard to say what to expect out of that. I mean, at least maybe if we had some big names in there, recognizable ones, we could gage what kind of flick we were in for. Personally, I think that's a good thing. Look, I love the original just as much as anyone else, but let's be real here, it's not some untouchable fucking work of genius. It was Sam Raimi and his friends, in a cabin, drenching each other with fake blood and stringing it together with hammy effects. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, just that what he made was fun and I love it, but that doesn't mean it was like, the perfect movie ever made.

As a matter of fact, you know what? I have high hopes for this movie. Yeah, I'll admit it. I think Evil Dead could be fucking awesome. For one thing, you can tell it's got the spirit, and that's what really counts. It really seems to understand the original movie, as far as the atmosphere and presentation go. It's grungy looking, and creepy, and holy shit is that a lot of blood.

I say they deserve credit right up front on the grounds that they did not compromise themselves for a PG-13. This is an R, and that's the way it should be, damn it. Not to mention the deadites, man. I mean, they LOOK and ACT like total deadites If there's one thing horror movies need these days, it's more deadites.

But you know why I think this movie will REALLY succeed? Because there is no Ash in it. I would love to see Ash again - the real Ash, not some new guy trying to be Ash. What I want is Bruce Campbell, running around with a shotgun and chainsaw strapped to his arm. When news dropped that there would be a remake, that was the big question immediately had, was what would become of the character Ash. Dropping the idea entirely was probably the smartest thing they could have done. It would have been too distracting, constantly trying to embrace this new guy as a character we had all loved for so long. That right there already shows they're thinking pretty clearly. Besides, it looks like they're obviously going for the straight-up gory, horror-fest of the original movie and none of the camp and comedy of the sequels. That being the case, I doubt an Ash character would fit very well.

So that's my two cents, guys and gals, for what it's worth. Am I right, will Evil Dead be one of those magical remakes that ends up being just as good, if not better than, it's original source material? Will find out, I guess, when the flick hits theatres. Until then, shop smart. Shop S-Mart.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Watch Weaver's Day Off

Here we - finally - have the newest Sad Zombie video, Watch Weaver's Day Off. Drop in and take a look at the hectic and outrageous day-to-day life of Weaver. There will be drama, there will be action, there will be Skyrim. Including a cameo from the lovely Ms. Kristina DeFonte, of Daily Hey Now.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Keep Your New 'Superior' Flavor, I Prefer My Spider-Man 'Amazing'

So, Peter Parker is dead.

Oh, sorry. Did you expect some kind of spoiler warning for that? Give me a break. If you're a Spider-Man fan at all, how you're even using the Internet right now without already knowing this information is beyond me. But still, there it is - Peter Parker, the man we've all come to know and love as the Amazing Spider-Man, is dead. What is that, you ask? Does that mean there will be no more Spider-Man? Of course not, Spidey still exists. So, then who is it, you may wonder, that now wears the familiar red-and-blues? 

Doctor Octopus. 

No, no. You read that right. This guy...

Is now this guy...

After they swapped brains, and that guy...

Became this guy.

See what I'm saying? It was the old mind-switcheroo. Doc Ock swapped bodies with Peter, just as he was preparing to finally kick the bucket out of old age, leaving Peter to instead die in his old body, while he took Peter's body and... You know? You get it. Peter Parker is dead and gone. Doctor Octopus now inhabits Peter's body, and is Spider-Man. 

This is so fucked up. 

Okay, let me take a deep breath. First of all, let me clarify one thing: I have yet to read Amazing Spider-Man #700. I will get around to it eventually, but just so we're all on the same page, this isn't going to be a review of the issue. Whether or not the writing and artwork in #700 itself is any good is not what I feel like discussing. Actually, I've heard it's rather good on it's own merit, which does not surprise me. What I have read of Dan Slott's run on ASM has been very positive. I'm not here to review the issue itself, I'm just here to discuss one thing: Peter Parker is dead, and Doc Ock is now Spider-Man. 

I'm sure some people out there are thinking that this must just be some sort of publicity stunt, right? Surely something like this was only done to sell comics, and in due time, Marvel will return to the status quo, right? Well, yes and no. See, Dan Slott insists the move was not done purely to generate sales, and I think I believe him. The guy has churned out some quality Spidey stories during his run, and he truly does get behind this move. I think to him, this WAS done as an honest to god twist he saw as good storytelling, and to that end, good for him. It's a ballsy move alright, one that has already become rather polarizing amongst fans. Whether you like it or not, you have to admit, the guy did what he thought would be cool, and I respect that. As far as Marvel goes as a company, however, I think this was more done to bring in some cash. News outlets that don't normally cover comics are discussing this, so whether people like it or not, they will be likely to pick up Superior Spider-Man when it launches, just to see what in the hell is going on. 

Oh, right - I almost forgot about Superior Spider-Man. That's the new monthly Spidey title we're getting. See, this was all done not only as a crazy-ass comic twist, but as the genuine ending to Amazing Spider-Man as it's own series. Rather than just rebooting back to issue #1, Marvel has ended it entirely, and will begin anew with Superior, which sees the continuing adventures of.... Doctor Octopus as Spider-Man. This, according to Slott, was done by Marvel to prove just how totally for real-reals they are that Peter is really, really dead and will never, ever come back again (certainly not when Amazing Spider-Man 2 roles around).

This... upsets me. If it were just a story arc, that I could totally get behind, because as an idea in-and-of itself, it's cool. But with Marvel claiming this is a permanent change, there is just way too much... WRONG with this concept, especially for me to ever embrace it as the NEW status quo. 

First off all, let's take the manner this happened. I get that Doc Ock inherited Peter's memories of being Spider-Man, essentially giving him the kick he needed to become a real hero, rather than just some old jackass in a hero's body. That's all well and good. Again, if this were just a story arc, it would be a neat development for both characters. It's not, though. The fact remains that Doc Ock basically killed Peter and TOOK HIS FRIGGIN' BODY. Peter was not given any sort of heroic death, and Doc Ock wasn't given the body against his will or anything, only to accept it in the end - much like Peter did himself with the Spider-Man mantle. No, our current Spider-Man killed the previous one, whom bare in mind we've spent the last fifty years with. I don't care if Otto has decided to really honor Peter's memory or not, he killed Peter Parker, and the character we've come to know and love for so long now is gone. There's something way too disturbing about this whole scenario for me to ignore. 

Next - and this one really bothers me - Doctor Octopus will now be fucking Mary Jane Watson. Could I have just said "dating"? Or, "kissing'? Sure, probably; but when I say "fucking", it's because I really, really want us all to acknowledge how absolutely dark and twisted it is. This guy...

Will now be having sex with THIS woman....

Who use to have sex with THIS guy....

And.... ah, whatever, you get the point. See, I'm a big M.J. fan. I really never felt like the movies did her character justice, and even the comics sometimes really bugger things up with her. When she is done well though, with a competent writer, Mary Jane is a character I really, really like, and someone whom I feel has always been very important to Peter's story. Except, oh wait - Peter is dead now, right? So I guess she's important to Doctor Octopus's story now, isn't she? Yeah, that's pretty odd. Not just, like, a small tilt of your head and a little "huh", odd. I think I was more comfortable with the idea of Wolverine having sex with her in Peter's body that other time Peter got mind-swapped with someone. It's just weird and uncomfortable, like some old man deciding to marry a woman he once taught in kindergarten. Actually, that's pretty much exactly what it is.

Oh, while we're on the subject, I suppose we all may as well point out now how Doctor Octopus has also gotten his freak on with the other most important women in Peter's life...

No, thank god. Besides, Norman Osborn already hit that, and Doc Ock doesn't like sloppy seconds - y'know, because he's a hero now, and heroes are above that. 

Yeah, that's right. For those of you who didn't know, there was a a time back in the day when Aunt May was gonna marry Doctor Octopus. Now, ever since, it's been easy to just disregard it as one of those wacky-ass comic book storylines, the sort you never really ever have to think of again. Or we wouldn't if it weren't for the fact that Dan Slott decided to take the time to REMIND US OF IT. Like I said, Doc Ock got Peter's memories, and Peter got some of Doc Ock's. Including the one where, y'know, ol' Otto boinked his aunt. It's like they went out of their way just to remind us of this, so that when it came time for them to tell us "NO, SERIOUSLY, DOCTOR OCTOPUS IS TOTALLY PETER NOW", we would all be very, very acutely aware that the man who is now Peter Parker had, at one point, fucked his aunt. 

Yeah, go ahead and absorb that. Peter Parker - the man who is now Peter Parker - has had sex with M.J. and Aunt May. That's, uh... yeah, that's what I think of when I think about superheroes. 

I would say that, beyond these two, I think, rather glaring issues with this whole stunt, the other thing that really bothers me is the fact that nobody is aware Peter died. That's because, in a way, he didn't. His body is still running around, with Doc Ock pulling the strings. His family, his friends, his loved ones, the rest of the superhero community - to them, Peter is still alive and well. He's just kind of a douche now. That bothers me almost as much as Doc Ock manhandling Peter's former wife - the fact that none of the characters who even mattered in Peter Parker's life even know he's dead. The only exception is one of his oldest enemies, who need I remind you, is the one responsible for his death in the first place. 

Look, I get that the big thing Dan Slott is trying to push here is that the mantle and the MEANING of Spider-Man are bigger than the man behind the mask, but that doesn't mean that the man behind the mask didn't matter. People love Spider-Man because of who the character was, Peter Parker. They loved his sense of humor, his sense of justice and all that, and the fact that he was always the underdog. It's not like the costume was the reason they bought the comics. It was just as much Peter Parker himself as it was the superhero he doubled as. Now his replacement killed him, stole his life, and there is nobody around to even honor his memory other than the man who murdered him. 

That leads me to my last real problem with this big change: Peter Parker is Spider-Man. That's it, that's all. End of story. I don't care how it's written, or how it's done - Peter is and always will be the Amazing Spider-Man. You ask just about anyone out there, and there are pretty much three secret identities anyone can name: Clark Kent is Superman, Bruce Wayne is Batman, and Peter Parker is Spider-Man. Now, there have been plenty of times someone else has briefly taken over the mantle of a hero, but when it comes to Spider-Man, the matter upsets me a bit more. To me, Peter Parker defined what we all love about the character. It was as much the man who wore the costume as it was what the superhero we identified with that costume could do. Some superheroes aren't as clearly defined by their personalities, but Spider-Man to me is not one of them. It's always the personality of Peter Parker that I think draws people to the character the most. Now the man behind the mask is Doc Ock? Explain again how I'm supposed to embrace this change? 

That's basically all I have to say about that. Again, like I said before, I'm not trying to review the issue itself here, or how it stands as a story in it's own right. Like I said, I do enjoy Dan Slott's stuff, and I have heard it is done very well. As a story, I like the idea - as a permanent change, I absolutely hate it. You can bet I'll be right there when Superior drops though, just like everyone else. Eager to see what the word is on this new Spider-Man. Who knows? Maybe this new Spider-Man will be awesome. Maybe everyone will totally forget Peter. 

Or maybe I should once again remind you all that he's been naked with Aunt May before. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

What time is it?

I confess, I'm one of those guys who looks back on children's programing of the present day and thinks to himself, "Jesus, when did Cartoon Network start to suck?" Looking back on my own childhood through my particular pair of rose-colored glasses, I'm one of those folks who likes to believe my shows were somehow untouchable genius, the likes of which no other cartoon can ever or will ever live up to again. Granted, I'm an adult now and I'm not exactly the target demographic for these shows, and not having children of my own either, there's no reason why I should even be sitting around watching this stuff, unless I were simply a sad, sad man.

Except that's a complete load of crap. Children's prime time programming has always had a certain adult appeal, going as far back as Hannah Barbara shows and the Looney Toons shorts of the old timey years. To this day, some of the best animated feature films are the ones that aren't written just for children, but the ones written for ANYONE, which in doing so, appeal towards both kids and adults. I offer you any Pixar flick as proof of that, or Shrek. Heck, even Disney back in late 80's and early 90's, when they were churning out hit after animated hit, threw in more than a few jokes and references aimed at the adults in the audience. 

These days, like I said, I haven't exactly noticed any cartoon that sparks a particular interest in me. All things considered, I am strange enough to have easily fallen in with the Brony crowd, but even that didn't happen. The only other show I ever noticed was Phineas and Ferb, and what little I have seen of that show only annoys me for some reason. Like that damn platipus with the fedora. What in the hell is his deal, anyway?

Then one day I found out about Adventure Time. I'm not sure, but it's very possible I saw merch for this show over the last few years. A plushie here, a character-themed beanie hat there. I never knew anything about the show, though. Or, more likely, I just sort of lumped all of the current cartoons together as being one and the same, and so as far as I was concerned, every animated program on TV had something to do with that god damn platipus jerk. 

Created by one Pendleton Ward, Adventure Time originally aired as a short on the Nicktoons Network, on something called Random! Cartoons. While I did search around on YouTube for it, I couldn't find the short which would eventually be picked up by Cartoon Network and turned into the Adventure Time we have today, so I'm fuzzy on what differences and similarities there exist between the two. Doesn't matter anyway, I guess. Adventure Time is about Finn the human, a teenaged adventurer, and Jake the dog, who is an anthropomorphic dog with the powers of Mr. Fantastic and the voice of John DiMaggio, because everyone has the voice of John DiMaggio these days. They live in the land of Ooo, a post-apolcalyptic Earth where, rather than turning into something along the lines of Fallout after nuclear war, the planet became something closer to the Candy Land board game.

Back to the characters, though. After all, a show is only as memorable as the characters written for it. Although trust me, the Land of Ooo is pretty cool; what with it's occasional hints of old civilization in the form of ruined, moss covered buildings, juxtaposed against, er... a candy kingdom. Other than Finn and Jake, there are a few others characters worth mentioning who populate Ooo.

This is BMO, probably one of my favorite characters. He/She/It is basically a handheld game system, similair to a Gameboy, who lives with Finn and Jake. The character is voiced by Niki Yang, who is North Korean in heritage, and so the character speaks with an East Asian accent, which I find just hilarious for some reason. I think what won me over about BMO is an episode where we follow the character around the house when Finn and Jake are gone and see what he does with his time. It turns out, he enjoys pretending to be a detective, and turns random animals and objects around the house into characters in his little make-believe noir story. So, a cat is a police officer, and in a bizarre turn, a chicken is a hot dame. Another time, we see BMO talking to his own reflection as though it is another person, teaching it how to drink tea. I love it.

Princess Bubblegum. While Ooo is ruled by various princesses (the Flame Princess, the Ghost Princess, and the... uh, Embryo Princess), Princess Bubblegum rules the Candy Kingdom. She also happens to be the object of Finn's unrequited affection, at least until he meets Flame Princess. Generally, she acts like your average princess type. She's smart, graceful, noble, and everything every other princess in the history of anything is. I suppose I find her a little boring, but I feel like she was worth mentioning mostly because of the way she once led a SWAT team of candy people in a hostage situation.

This is the Ice King. He's basically a bizarre wizard who lives in the mountains. While he comes closest to thing you might call an antagonist on the show, he generally doesn't do anything all that insidious. Most of the time, you just see him hanging around with his army of penguins, if not trying to win the love of Princess Bubblegum.

Marceline, the vampire. Her father runs a place called the Nightosphere, which is essentially a Hell dimension. In one episode, he reveals that he wants her to take his place as the ruler of the place, and Marceline ends up putting on this amulet that turns her into a crazy, evil tentacle monster. She briefly takes control of the Nightosphere, and during her short reign, forces all of the demons to line up and wish for things from her, just so she can give them a cruel twist. For instance, one demon wishes for abs, and so she turns his head into abs. Another one she forces to vomit up bananas for some reason.

Oh, yeah - then there's Lemongrab. Gosh, what do you say about Lemongrab? Basically, he's this Lemon drop person created by Bubblegum Princess. Except she somehow screwed up in his creation, and instead she created what amounts to a functioning lunatic. He communicates primarily by shrieking and screaming, and just generally acts like a complete freak. Just watch this video of him where the character is first introduced, and you'll see all you need to.

Now, Adventure Time generally has this absurd tone, crossed with sort of RPG-like elements. Like if it had been written by a child high on a sugar rush, who had been playing Legend of Zelda for a week straight. There's fantasy and adventure elements there, and this whimsical, bizarre little sense of humor I can't get enough of. At the same time though, the show is written with some real heart, and occasionally this clever subtext which kids would never notice, but the fact that the source material isn't dulled down because of the age of the target audience is I think what makes me dig it so much.

One episode I watched, called Hot to Touch, emphasizes this aspect of the show. The basic setup is that Finn, once again heartbroken over his rejection by Princess Bubblegum, has finally decided to move on with a new lady love - the Flame Princess princess. The episode that follows sees Finn chasing Flame Princess from place to place, eager to win her affections, and he almost does more than once, were it not for the fact that Flame Princess is well, made of fire and keeps burning him every time Finn gets close enough. Try as hard as he might, no matter how much Finn builds the princess up with talk about how awesome she is, and how badly he wants to hang out and play BMO with her, he can't help but stomp out her flames. For her part, the princess seems to like Finn, but grows more confused and frustrated when he just keeps hurting her by stomping her out. She can't understand why Finn keeps making her flame grow bright, only to put it back out again.

Rinse and repeat this cycle a few times. Finally, Flame Princess loses it and goes on a rampage, deciding she will turn the nearby goblin kingdom into her own personal turf. Finn and Jake launch into action to stop her, but midway into battle, Finn backs down and is reduced to tears, lamenting that he only wants to hang out with a girl. When one of his tears hits the fair flame maiden, she notices Finn rolled up in a sad little ball of emo, and comes to a conclusion: he is a water elemental, her opposite. That, she realizes, is why they keep hurting one another, despite their feelings. They may like each other, but they are too different and bound to repeat the same cycle. Flame Princess hugs Finn (burning him, I might add) and bids him sad goodbye, and takes her leave.

"How did it feel?" Jake asks.

Finn thinks for a moment, and tells him, "It hurt."

Alright, I know a got a little endulgant there, but do you see what I mean? And this is a show for kids, man. I know on/off again couples well into their twenties who aren't even able to surmise why their turbulant and often doomed relationships end this well, and Adventure Time did it using Flame Princesses and goblin kingdoms. Stuff like that, subtext kids may not even understand yet at their age, is what I'm talking about. The kids don't have to get it, but that doesn't mean the writing dumbed itself down because of that. Some day they will, though. Some day, one of the kids who watched this episode when they were like, eight, will break up with their girlfriend for the fiftieth time that school year, and he'll look back and realize that Adventure Time laid it all out for him. Some people, try as hard as they might, just aren't meant to be together, no matter how much they like each other. Well, okay, maybe at best he'll just remember it when he's crying and writing on his future Facebook equivilant, and just shrug and go "Oh yeah, it's like that one time on that cartoon..." But whatever, it's still clever.

I realize I'm getting a little lengthy here and anybody who is reading this probably wants me to shut up already, so let me wrap this up by suggesting one other episode, which I feel capture the spirit of what makes Adventure Time so darn special. One of them, called Princess Cookie, puts Donald Faison (that's Turk, from Scrubs), in the roll of the aforementioned Princess Cookie. Cookie is pissed because he wants to be a princess, but years ago, Princess Bubblegum crushed his dreams of becoming one, and now he's gone on a rampage, taking candy people hostages and demanding her crown. Faison's unhinged performance, coupled with the utterly ridiculous subject make the episode one of my favorites.

So folks, if you're like me, and you miss the spirit of those old cartoons from your childhood, give Adventure Time a whirl. It's creative, it's funny as hell, and it's certainly unique. I realize I just spent like, enough time to warrant an essay writing about a cartoon, so maybe I'm the only one who was searching for that. Or, maybe not. This is the internet, after all. Again, Bronies.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Blogger Powers Unite!

Greetings, denizens of the Internet. The girlfriend and I decided to combine our efforts and co-op tackle an episode of Degrassi together. It was a blogger crossover event not to be missed. Head on over to her site at The Daily Hey Now and check it out. I even included some of my silly pictures for the occasion.