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The Transformers Paradox

The Transformers Paradox

GOTTA GO FAST: Sonic the Hedgehog destroys box office expectations Valentine’s Day weekend. Andrew and Dan discuss the surprise success of this cinematic adaptation of the beloved video game franchise.

BIRDS OF PREY: OR, THE REINSTATEMENT OF INSTITUTIONALIZED SEXISM AGAINST WOMAN-LED SUPERHERO FILMS: Birds of Prey released last week and its box office performance left some upset. D. Bethel and Andrew talk about the relativity of box office success, how Marvel fandom may be tainting the pond, and how marketing is a strange magic.

DOOMED ANIMAL CROSSING: In a bit of light news, with Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom Eternal releasing on the same day, Twitter and Reddit have become very interesting places, and in mostly good ways.

RELEVANT LINKS:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Episode 101 – The Black Arts of Algorithms” (05 August 2015): Where Andrew and D. Bethel discuss a similar discourse around the reboot of Ghostbusters and how it was deemed a failure despite earning perfectly fine box office numbers.
  • Episode 155 – Captain Host” (20 July 2018): Where Dan and Andrew ask the question, “Were there too many superhero/nerd movies packed into a single summer?”, among which Solo: A Star Wars Story was released.

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Cuddle Point

Cuddle Point

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew dives in to Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky after another patch while D. Bethel relays his experience going to see Kevin Smith present his newest film––Jay and Silent Bob Reboot––as part of a traveling tour for the movie when it came to Sacramento.

RELEVANT EPISODES:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

2019: Nerd Endings

2019: Nerd Endings

This year we are hosting a variety of looks back at 2019 as hosts and friends-of-the-show offer up the things that defined the year for them. Today we have a look back at the nerdy things that came to a close by Taylor Cassell & Taylor Katcher.

Having three major franchises end in the same year brings a lot of societal excitement that engages even the initially un-engaged. My girlfriend, Taylor, being one of those initially un-engaged folks feeling the nerd zeitgeist (and my non-stop jabbering about Game of Thrones, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Star Wars) was a gateway into wanting to be a part of all three as they ended in 2019. This is not an easy task – We’re talking about catching up on 8 seasons of Game of Thrones, 23 Marvel Movies, and 10 Star Wars Films in a matter of months. Below is the result of all three and how we both felt about them. We are listed as our initials, since we’re both named Taylor, and it’s more confusing in writing than in our daily lives. Taylor Katcher will be referred to as TK, while Taylor Cassell will be TC.

Game Of Thrones

[TK] There was a lot to like in the first half of the final season of Game Of Thrones (Arya being “The Prince That Was Promised” being a highlight), but man did they fumble the ball in the very end. A definite bummer for all those who had been watching for ~eight years, but it doesn’t take away from the journey. It just left a bad taste in my mouth. 

To be honest, we used the “The Long Night” episode from this last season––the part where it pans past each character so that you, the viewer, were reminded that no one is safe––to pause and explain what happened to that character since season 1 and then watched the remaining episodes together. But it was perfect for Taylor since she hadn’t seen an episode since Season 1, so Winterfell was a known locale and most characters were back together again for the first time since Season 1.

[TC] I have a knack for avoiding spoiler culture by avoiding…culture. When I started dating Taylor, I noticed my ability to get spoiled increase. Now, my brain registers words like “tesseract,” “vibranium,” and “OLED.”

I fell off the GoT train after one season. After season 1, episode 10, the next episode I watched was season 8’s, “The Long Night” and, for me, it was like no time had passed since we were in Winterfell. 

Taylor got to catch me up on about 70 episodes worth of TV in a 45 minute span. (I didn’t have to ask––I could tell it was the best date he’s ever been on.)

Here is a live look at TK in that moment. Source: HBO

A brief recap of my thoughts, questions, and exclamations: 

  • Bran’s alive?
  • The dragons are all grown up.
  • What’s the red wedding? (There was a purple wedding?)
  • Do you agree with Sansa Stark’s rape or was it gratuitous?
  • Holyfuck, WINTER HASN’T COME?!

I was a part of the GoT zeitgeist for about three weeks, speculating if a woman would take the throne and unpacking fan theories with my coworkers. It was a blast and I could have taken eight more years of this feeling.

Final thoughts: I feel bad for all the people who named their kid “Daenerys” and got a six-episode final season with an accidental Starbucks commercial. 

The infamous Starbucks scene. Source: HBO

The Marvel Cinematic Universe

[TK] Seeing Avengers: Endgame in theaters opening night was one of the best theater experiences I have ever had. We gasped, cried, and exclaimed together in harmony. Leave it to the biggest media franchise of all time to gift its fanbase with the biggest fan payoff of all time. I know this isn’t “the end” of the MCU but it was the end of the first 10 year Phase that began with Iron Man in 2008, which is a significant chunk of lifetime for most viewers.

Without enough time before the theatrical release of Endgame, Taylor and I started her journey with the intention of watching Endgame upon home release. From May through October, we watched every single MCU movie (except The Incredible Hulk) so that Endgame would be as impactful as possible. And it was––Taylor gasped, cried, felt the impact of The Snap, and the death of Tony Stark. Watching all of these movies again really showed how inviting they were and was a great time for both of us (and the occasional friend popping in to see Chris Evans bicep curl a helicopter). I would recommend both a rewatch for seasoned fans and the full series for newcomers as Disney/Marvel really knows how to make fun films.

[TC] I knew Iron Man was cool because I knew Robert Downey Jr. was cool. The marketing agency I worked for had even snagged RDJ for a Microsoft OneNote campaign called The Collective Project, awarding us our first-ever Cannes Gold Lion as an agency. I bragged to Taylor about this on our first date, probably failing to mention that I had no idea who or what Iron Man was.

Man oh man, did Iron Man live up to his Robert Downey Jr. affiliation. Iron Man ended up being my favorite, with a three-way second place tie of: Bruce Banner (boring but Mark Ruffalo), Captain America, and T’Challa.

My favorite part of our journey through the MCU was how much it united my best friend and roommate, Lauren, and Taylor. In addition to bonding over encroaching on her roommate/best friend territory, soon we could all bond over a missed dance with Peggy Carter, Bruce Banner’s secret, and ON YOUR LEFT jokes (just kidding, only Taylor makes those jokes).

At a Wonder Woman 5K Run recently, the MC said “I love you 3,000” to the lone man dressed as Iron Man and I smiled dopily; I was officially a part of the fandom.

from Marvel’s The Avengers. Source: Marvel/Disney

Star Wars

[TK] Let’s be clear – I love Star Wars. I think that rewatching all ten movies before The Rise Of Skywalker only solidified how much I truly love Star Wars. However,  it also made me come to terms with how much I kinda dislike most of the numbered films. I found that I was annoyed that I had to watch any of them in full to get Taylor caught up––especially the Original Trilogy. If anything, only Taylor wanted (needed?) to watch them, and me getting upset every time she fell asleep during a space battle only solidified my dislike of the films because I wasn’t as happy to lead her through them the way I was with the MCU, and it showed in an ugly way. It turns out I like the idea and lore of Star Wars, as The Clone Wars, Rebels, and The Madalorian are the best of Star Wars IMO. Although, I LOVE rewatching my favorite scenes and quoting them from the films, I never need to watch them in full because, in reality, the world George Lucas created is better than the world he wrote most of the time.

The Rise of Skywalker (TROS) was THE MOST Star Wars, but only because it was done as safely as possible. Say what you will about The Last Jedi (a personal favorite film), but at least it tried to say something and make a stand about elements of Star Wars––mainly who can use The Force. TROS walked a lot of that back but seemingly to only not upset anyone. But again, this isn’t about me or you, it’s about Taylor enjoying the shit Reddit argues about for the thousandth time…for the first time.

[TC] In my world, I was the first to ship Reylo. I was the only one aware of how sexy Princess Leia is in a gold bikini. Jar Jar was un-ironically my favorite character and my dad liked Yoda, not yours.

First we tried watching them in release date order. I fell asleep for long stretches throughout. So did Taylor. At one point, we took a break from the viewings for a few months. Every so often, Taylor hinted: “We don’t have to watch them, babe.”

Some things play better in memory than in real time. From Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi. Source: Lucasfilm.

Then, as we got dangerously close to the Episode IX release, we tried again, starting with Rogue One and ending with Solo for fun. Here’s Taylor’s prescribed watch-order (in case you’re wondering):

  • Rogue One
  • Episode IV
  • Episode V
  • Episode I
  • Episode II
  • Episode III
  • Episode VI
  • Episode VII
  • Episode VIII
  • Episode IX
  • Solo

After Solo, The Last Jedi was my favorite. When Rey moonbeams her saber to Kylo, I literally gasped. I could have watched an entire film of just Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver’s sexual tension.

I don’t remember this but apparently, after we finished the MCU, I said to Taylor, “How could Star Wars be half as good?” Now, I love you 3,000, Star Wars.

From Avengers: Endgame. Source: Marvel/Disney

(I think it’s important to note that while we were binge-watching the Skywalker Saga, we were also watching The Mandalorian in parallel. And if Taylor Katcher can’t make you love Star Wars, baby Yoda sure can.)

[TK] What we are trying to say is, don’t get too intimidated to start watching and enjoying these universes. Fans of these franchises want to share these universes with you, and whether you’ve watched them for 42 years or 3 months, you’ll become a fan as well.

2019: Reigniting Geekdom

2019: Reigniting Geekdom

This year we are hosting a variety of looks back at 2019 as hosts and friends-of-the-show offer up the things that defined the year for them. Today we hear from indie comic creator, friend-of-the-show, and Con Artists co-host, Kyrun Silva (from Taurus Comics), talk about what 2019 meant to him.


2019 was an interesting year of nerd and geek culture for me. The year came with a lot of highs and lows, but for the sake of this retrospective I’ve decided to stick with the highs. This year brought a lot of change for me and my family when it came to our geekdom. I continued to find that my love for comics keeps changing; in a sense, I was reintroduced to a medium that had been almost forgotten to me for awhile and my childhood dreams finally were able to come true and assemble.

INDIE COMICS

Though it started in 2018, in 2019 I really started to notice that my love for comics had started to shift. This year I noticed my tastes for books going away from the mainstream things that Marvel and DC brought to the table and turning more towards indie publishers. This change solidified in the trimming of my saver list at my local comic book shop. Where once I had fifteen to twenty books that my shop saved for me each month, I now maybe five are saved.

A sampling of Taurus Comics characters: (clockwise from top left) Starcore, Malik from Shaman’s Destiny, Xob the Lightning Wielder, and Ruby. Art by Michael Dorman (lines) and Anthony D. Lee (colors).

Part of this is the ability to watch Marvel and DC’s characters on the big and small screen. The ability to regularly see the Flash, X-Men, and others took away a bit for my need to read their ongoing comic book exploits. The major reason, though, is that I’m so engrossed in the indie comic book culture. I know and follow so many amazing creators that I want to support and buy their books as much as possible. This has left me with little funds to support big name publishers.

I enjoy indie books so much that I find myself supporting and advocating for them when someone asks me about comics; I even mention indie books before I mention any from the big publishers. With books that range from standard superhero lore to horror comics to anything and everything else, the indie community truly has something for everyone. Yes, you will find some duds here and there, but overall the indie community produces hit after hit at every turn.

ANIME

2019 also brought back an old friend to me and my family: anime.

Though I have been watching anime since the ’80s and ’90s, I haven’t been able to appreciate all the available books, shows, and movies. With comic books, sports, and family obligations, I just haven’t been able to watch anime like I had before. That seemed to change in 2019, not just for me but for my family.

It actually started with the series One Punch Man. My oldest son had been watching the series before any of us and asked if we could watch it while we ate dinner one night. From that point on, my family was hooked. My wife, my 3 boys and I watched One Punch Man every week when new episodes came out. But we had a problem, we had binged all the episodes and the next season wasn’t out yet. We needed a fix and fast.

(R-L) One Punch Man, My Hero Academia, Naruto, and Demon Slayer Source: (L-R) Viz Media, Funimation, Viz Media, Aniplex of America.

In came My Hero Academia, and it blew our minds. The action, the storylines, the character development. It was everything we had wanted and more. So, again as a family, we started binging another series.

But that wasn’t enough for us.

My wife and other son started watching Naruto and it’s 600+ episodes and I started getting into the series, Demon Slayer. Anime had become so important to us, we started contemplating if we should dress up as anime characters for Halloween––that is still up in the air. However, it is nice to have something that we all enjoy, something that we can talk about and look forward to as a family of fans.

AVENGERS: ENDGAME

Avengers: Endgame was not only a milestone for 2019, but for the last ten years of Marvel movies. Source: Marvel Studios

“AVENGERS…..ASSEMBLE!” Those two words, exclaimed by Chris Evans playing Captain America in Avengers: Endgame was the highlight of 2019 for me.

As the culmination of 10 years of Marvel movies, I’m sure I’m not the only person to think this was one of the highlights of 2019, but for me it was a dream that 13 year old Kyrun never would have imagined possible. The idea that theatres would be packed to see a comic book movie was unthinkable in the ’80s and ’90s, but today it’s the norm. With what Marvel has done we almost expect them to be massive hits.

‘Nuff Said. Source: Marvel Studios

Endgame also brought an end to an era. Seeing these heroes come to life and die was like watching a friend leave. I’m not going to lie, I shed a couple tears during Endgame the first few times I saw it. I for sure screamed and cheered when Cap wielded Mjolnir. I cheered when Thanos was defeated. I was there when Iron Man first donned his suit on the big screen in 2008, and I’ll be there for whatever they bring in the future.

So, that’s my 2019. It was a great year. There are more I could have mentioned, but I felt these were the biggest ones for me.


Sacramento native, Kyrun Silva, broke onto the comic creation scene in 2015 launching his first independent title, Shaman’s Destiny. 2017 saw the beginning of Taurus Comics, a new solo small press line dedicated to the many worlds Kyrun is bringing to life, including Shaman’s Destiny, Xob the Lightning Wielder, Ruby From Planet Oz, Pathfinders, Starcore, Donner Lane, and more to come. Kyrun has also been the co-host to the spin-off podcast, Con Artists, with D. Bethel.

2019: Eulogy for the X-Men

2019: Eulogy for the X-Men

This year we are hosting a variety of looks back at 2019 as hosts and friends-of-the-show offer up the things that defined the year for them. We start by having co-host, D. Bethel, talk about––of course––the X-Men.


Many people view 2019 as the coda for the entire decade, wiping away the expectation and skepticism that has built up over the last nine years as we head into the twenties. I don’t usually subscribe to such notions because time is ever and always a series of causal relationships, but––stepping back from the year as December ends––the evidence certainly points to this year closing a lot of doors. With Game of Thrones coming to a close, Avengers: Endgame definitively ending the first era of the MCU, and even Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker concluding a supposed nine-movie arc, 2019 does actually seem to be not only winding down the year but, in some cases, doing so for decades-long cultural monuments.

However, 2019’s sense of closure and finality landed nowhere more––across multiple mediums––than on the house that Charles Xavier built. At least to me.

Of course, the X-Men aren’t dead nor are they going anywhere; in fact, many look at the events of 2019 that Marvel’s merry mutants went through––20th Century Fox’s purchase by Disney and Jonathan Hickman’s takeover of the comics––and anticipate the beginning of a promising new age.

To me, however, the theatrical release of Dark Phoenix and the comic book reboot with House of X and Powers of X marked a definitive end to eras of the team that mean so much to me.

Source: 20th Century Fox and/or Disney, now…I guess.

DARK PHOENIX

The much derided Dark Phoenix landed with a thud, but more importantly (and as unwarranted as the derision was) it marked the last main installment in the 20th Century Fox-owned X-films. Its finality (and finale) hit me hard as I realized that this series I followed since it redefined superhero cinema in 2000 actually kind of became “my” X-Men.

Through the ’90s, I developed a codified portrait of what this superhero team meant to me in an intense and focused consumption of this property––mostly built upon the triptych of X-Men #1 (1991), X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, and X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men––and, with that done, it kind of went dormant in my mind as I grew up and started absorbing other things.

And then these movies came around.

For all of their successes and flaws, they wove a tone and ethos that very much aligned with “my” X-Men, and I appreciated and eagerly supported each film released (except for X-Men Origins: Wolverine; that movie is hot garbage).

Again, whether you like them or not, Dark Phoenix ended this era (though we still wait for New Mutants to find a way out of the vault). I very much liked these movies––especially Dark Phoenix––and think that it handled its own mortality (though unknown at the time) with grace, maturity, and one hell of a good movie. In a summer where Avengers: Endgame became a powerfully emotional moment for the folks who are longtime Marvel Universe readers as well as those who literally grew up with the MCU (starting with 2008’s Iron Man), Dark Phoenix stands as an astonishing and powerful goodbye for me and my superheroes. Yes, in terms of emotional resonance, Dark Phoenix is my Avengers: Endgame. Don’t @ me.

Dark Phoenix portrays a nuanced study of––for all intents and purposes *ding*––an abused superhero. Source: 20th Century Fox

The movie affected me profoundly, made worse by the vitriolic discourse around a movie that is, at the very least, perfectly fine or, by my estimation, very good. Because of how much I enjoyed it, I expected myself to go to the mat for it in discussion; however, because it so infuriated me how people treated this movie, I realized exactly how much emotion I had invested in it.

It got to the point where I had to disengage from any conversation around it because I just assumed everyone was on the offensive. So, Dark Phoenix became a very personal movie for me, one for me to enjoy on my own and quietly. That’s okay; I gladly place it on the “just for me” shelf with my other beloved films like Willow, The Postman, and Highlander––movies people love to insult but have a profound and private meaning (while fully aware of their flaws).

Although, I eagerly await the Dark Phoenix retrospectives five or ten years from now when nerdy critics reconsider their stance after the hot takes have cooled and just appreciate it on its own merits.

The year Jack from Jack in the Box joined the team. Art by Pepe Larraz (lines) and Marte Gracia (colors). Source: Marvel Comics

HOUSE OF X / POWERS OF X

When Marvel announced that fan-favorite writer, Jonathan Hickman, would be revamping the mutant sector of its universe, the speculation became a non-stop hype train. Before the books even released, Marvel was proudly declaring that the dual titles that launched this reboot––House of X and Powers of X (HoX/PoX), the latter pronounced “Powers of Ten”––already earned a place on the shelf with the other important moments in X-history: the first reboot, Giant-Sized X-Men #1; the industry-shifting story The Dark Phoenix Saga; 1991’s record-breaking X-Men #1; and Grant Morrison’s daring revamp with New X-Men in 2000. HoX/PoX was that important. The hubris of it made me skeptical but intrigued if only because I wanted to get excited about the X-Men comics again. I wanted to jump in at a clean start like I had years ago with X-Men #1. I wanted to become an X-Men comics super-fan again.

Marvel published HoX/PoX weekly as interweaving limited series, bouncing back and forth between the two very oblique and mystery-laden books, I had a lot of fun diving into this new premise populated with familiar characters. Hickman’s story was big and the sheer scope across the globe and millennia was striking in its boldness.

Things got very weird (dude with the helmet is Charles Xavier, for what it’s worth; the blue dude is Apocalypse, a classic and very dangerous villain of the X-Men). From House of X #5, art by Larraz & Gracia. Source: Marvel Comics

Whether Hickman’s HoX/PoX becomes the paradigm shift Marvel and Hickman touted it as being, I noticed I slowly slid off of it the further it went on throughout the year, especially as HoX/PoX came to a close and the “Dawn of X” (DoX) titles (the disparate titles spun out of the events of the HoX/PoX limited series) started getting published. HoX/PoX definitely lived up to its promise of building a new status-quo from the ground up, but I realized that meant burning down what came before, echoing what will surely be done on the movie side of things when that happens.

While not wholly ignoring the fifty-six years of continuity, Hickman certainly subverted it, making the comic’s printed history merely a series of “things that happened” while the actual, more important story was going on underneath. To that end, HoX/PoX effectively closed the book on the epic socially-conscious soap opera that started in September of 1963, a wave I jumped in on mid-way through but had fun learning about what came before as I rode the wave forward at the same time.

That, however, has been freeing as the HoX/PoX run and the subsequent DoX books feel like a brand new series cast with actors I know––the same faces in a new context. So, there’s no catch-up the reader needs to do. As the prominent anti-continuity voice on the show, that’s only a good thing and it’s amazing that Hickman was able to pull it off not only with the readers, but with Marvel. Admittedly, it’s much smarter than arbitrarily slapping “#1” on the cover and hoping for a sales spike.

At the very least, we got this amazing connecting cover out of the whole event. From House of X #4 and Powers of X #4. Art by Jorge Molina. Source: Marvel Comics

HoX/PoX fundamentally turned the idea of the X-Men on its ear from my holy texts of X-Men #1, X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, and Pryde of the X-Men. Instead of being a thinly veiled and often problematic metaphor for social injustice set in a superhero world, it is now an eco-sci-fi-utopian-political experiment, and maybe that’s what mutants need to be in 2019, 2020, and onward.

I don’t expect franchises to grow with me and my tastes, but part of the excitement of hopping on HoX/PoX was to get in the ground floor and, with hope, be a part of the audience for whom this becomes “my” X-Men. But it hasn’t done that, and it’s likely because my nostalgia got in the way and not a fault of HoX/PoX. And that realization, combined with my powerful reaction to Dark Phoenix, forced me to fully examine my fandom for the X-Men. It showed me what it means to me, and––more importantly––how I want to interact with it.

That’s important going into 2020 when Hickman’s plans gain more steam and continue to define and refine what the X-Men are now. It’s also important as we get closer to whenever Marvel Studios does what it decides to do with these characters in the MCU. I’m incredibly excited to see where both of these things go, but as I get older such excitement becomes academic rather than gleeful appreciation.

Universe of Nonsense

Universe of Nonsense

TRAILER SEASON: With the year coming to an end, it’s all about looking forward for nerdy and geeky entertainment. Lately, it seems a lot of trailers for new movies and television events have been dropping that are getting people talking. This week, Andrew and D. Bethel talk about the new trailers for Black Widow, No Time to Die, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Doctor Who: Series 12.

The teaser trailer for Black Widow. Source: Marvel Studios/YouTube
The trailer for No Time to Die. Source: Universal/Paramount/YouTube
Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover trailer. Source: DC/CW/YouTube
Trailer for series 12 of Doctor Who. Source: BBC/YouTube

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Spotlight: The Joke’s On Us

Spotlight: The Joke’s On Us

Friend of the show, André La Roche, shines a light on the controversy surrounding the release of Warner Bros.’ Joker.

The story surrounding Joker‘s release is often as problematic and disturbing as the movie itself. Image source: Warner Bros.

By now, it’s safe to say that the movie Joker is unlikely to incite self-professed incels to violence—a fear that’s been well documented across the internet. What interests me is the question of why, when so little was known of the movie, was the fear amongst certain individuals so strong and so palpable? And now that the movie has been in theatres for three weeks, and the threat of violence diminished, what value can its skeptics find upon viewing it?

The teaser trailer for Joker. Source: Warner Bros./YouTube

It’s always difficult to enter a discussion on a topic when emotions have run high, hot, and intense. The emotions themselves that people felt leading up to Joker’s release—fear, anger, revulsion—are all obviously real and experienced, especially in light of the potential for politicized real world violence such as the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. There is no arguing with the fact that those emotions were validly felt. However, there is plenty to gain in evaluating why we had those emotional reactions to this particular movie in the first place.

I remember first seeing this narrative of “Joker as inciting violence” when the first trailer dropped. Scenes of Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck sitting heavy with defeat in therapy or walking around the squalid streets of Gotham City. This contrasts with his voice-over telling the therapist how his mother thought that his purpose was to bring laughter and joy to the world. Fleck is presented as a man relentlessly abused by society and takes it with a quiet restraint: a victim. A wordless montage set to the crooning vocals of Jimmy Durante’s “Smile” depicts him dancing with his mother, on a date with a young woman, at Arkham State Hospital (or Arkham Asylum for the cool comics readers in the back of the room) before the chaos escalates. “I used to think my life was a tragedy,” he informs the viewer, as the montage cuts between scenes of his own personal deterioration and adoption of the Joker persona, and Gotham City’s wider descent into lawlessness. “But now I realize it’s a comedy,” he concludes, as he strides confidently down a white hallway, fully clad in clown face paint, green hair, and a purple suit, exuding a confidence that we can assume is only gained by fighting back.

The legal act of inciting violence essentially requires a specific call to violent action against specific targets in a specific manner…something that a movie about a fictional character living in an early 1980s fictional city is unlikely to do.

One of my friends wondered via Facebook posting, “Is this the right time for a movie about a loner white male out to get revenge on society?” From there, I only began to see more and more individuals pose the same or similar questions. All from just a trailer and description of a movie.

There were fears about a repeat of the Aurora, Colorado shooting conducted by an individual who was (erroneously) reported as having dressed as the Joker. But there were no concrete threats. At least not until after the narrative had gained traction and taken root in the public consciousness. But for the majority of time leading up to the film’s release. . . nothing. Much ado about that.

“Well,” some might say, “This film could have incited violence.” But again––“could”, devoid of any actionable evidence or credible threats seems like a large leap to make. Moreover, the legal act of inciting violence essentially requires a specific call to violent action against specific targets in a specific manner—such as saying, “I implore my listeners to find local attorney Joe Smith as he’s on his way from home and kick the living tar out of him.” This is something that a movie about a fictional character living in an early 1980s fictional city is unlikely to do.

The film’s focus was untethered to any single ideology, but rather promised an ur-mythology regarding a fall from grace of a favored son set against the backdrop of revolution. A paradise lost, if you will.

So, in the absence of evidence of a credible threat, or of incitement, why so much fear about a movie that was yet to be seen? Why so much fear about the mere artistic treatment of notions of alienation, loneliness, and violent reprisal? I’m honestly unable to provide an answer to that, because I didn’t count myself among those concerned about the film’s influence on society. For one, I simply didn’t see anything in the trailer that inclined me to think this movie was going to have a message that resonated with incel culture. Instead, its focus on personal deterioration, and a vague implication of social upheaval were untethered to any single ideology, but (as is the nature of comic books) rather promised an ur-mythology regarding a fall from grace of a favored son set against the backdrop of revolution. A paradise lost, if you will. These themes can be found in any and all political or religious doctrines. In short, I saw this film as promising to deliver tantalizingly dark cinema. By the time it arrived in theaters, I was not disappointed.

Joker is a movie of juxtapositions applicable to any number of real-world scenarios. Image source: Warner Bros.

So why the initial outrage? Instead of trying to answer the question, I’ll turn it back on those who were the most concerned about Joker’s impact. Why did the mere idea of this movie unsettle you so much? What was it about the vague descriptions and trailers of its themes and contents that caused this movie to register as politicized agitprop that would inspire alt-right and incel mass shooters as opposed to just being about a violent and nihilistic madman?

And dare I make the suggestion that the best, most honest way to answer the above question for yourself is by sitting down and just watching the movie. Now that Joker’s out, you know you won’t merely be consuming political propaganda that you disagree with. Observe how it depicts its fictional reality and characters, observing within yourself the moods that those depictions stir, and how they impact your worldview? And then maybe, just maybe, after walking away from the movie fully informed, reflect upon why you reacted as you originally did. Perhaps the answers and insights that you derive will surprise you.

Otherwise, if the reaction that was directed at Joker is indicative of what future “dangerous movies” can expect, it’d be enough to make an individual wonder whether it was just them, or if it was getting crazier out there.

Math That Works

Math That Works

WEEK IN GEEK: Taking a break from the news, Andrew and D. Bethel talk about the things that have been interesting to them over the last week or so. First, Andrew goes back to finish Unknown Worlds Entertainment’s Subnautica. Then D. Bethel finds much to appreciate––and much to make him uncomfortable––in the recent film, Joker. Then, to round things out, Andrew also gets underwhelmed but intrigued by the possibility found in Lazy Bear Games’ Graveyard Keeper.

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RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Shortcast 21 – Love the Stank (30 Dec 2016): Where Andrew harvests his experience playing Stardew Valley.
  • Episode 126 – Not Choosable Parts (10 March 2017): Where D. Bethel discusses another challenging comic book movie, Logan.
  • Shortcast 28 – Linguistic Bravado (11 Aug. 2017): Where Andrew and D. talk about Lazy Bear Games’ previous game, Punch Club.
  • It’s Always A Game (08 Feb. 2019): Where Andrew first talked about his time with Subnautica.
  • Tummy Drums (04 Oct. 2019): Where D. Bethel mentions “grotesque” art when discussing Warhammer 40,000 (the show notes also include a link to the Wikipedia explanation of “grotesque” in art and literature).

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FEATURED MUSIC:

Tummy Drums

Tummy Drums

NOT FAR FROM HOME: It was announced that Sony and Disney/Marvel had once again struck a deal that will keep Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, much to the joy of fans and to the benefit of both companies’ bank accounts. Having discussed the initial breakup back when it happened in August, Andrew and D. Bethel have a surprisingly heated discussion of this generally happy news.

THE STRANGEST HANDSHAKE: British tabletop company, Games Workshop, announced that it will be licensing one of its beloved properties––Warhammer 40,000––to American comic book giant, Marvel Comics, to make a line of comic books. This is interesting because both of Games Workshop’s original Warhammer line and especially its Warhammer 40,000 line have deep lore and continuities that has our hosts wondering how well it will translate to a comic book series.

RELEVANT LINKS:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Ghost Highway (23 August 2019): Where Andrew and D. Bethel talk about the great Sony-Marvel contract dissolution of 2019.
  • New Dangers (20 September 2019): Where, briefly, D. Bethel and Andrew display their light wrestling knowledge in the light of AEW’s strange storyline built around a jock heel wrestler insults his opponent for liking Dungeons & Dragons.

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FEATURED MUSIC:

Reliable Virtual Helmets

Reliable Virtual Helmets

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew watches the trippy but artistic and engaging new Amazon Prime show, Undone starring Rosa Salazar, while D. Bethel––amidst all of his academic toil––finds time to be challenged and charmed by the actual roguelike deckbuilding phone game, Meteorfall: Journey by SlothWerks.

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RELATED EPISODES:

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