The Multicultural Action Squad

A while back I read about some of the negative reactions to the Rue in The Hunger Games film. It seems the nut of the “fans'” argument was that the film would have been better if it was a little bit whiter in that they were expecting a totally white cast and they only got a 94% white cast. Now there’s no question that these are idiots, but I think there’s definitely something to their anger, however, misplaced and racists as it may be.

I actually think it issort of natural to picture yourself as whatever character you read in whatever book. My Mom, for instance, when she read Twilight, pictured Edward as a short, older Asian gentleman with neatly parted hair and glasses because that’s what she pictures when she pictures a sexy man (my Dad). So, it goes without saying she was a little disappointed when Robert Pattinson was neither old, Asian, or bespectacled. However, rationally, she knew that’s not how the character was written.

The characters in The Hunger Games were actually written as non-white or, at least, some sort of future gray. All those Hunger Games readers should have just spent a little more time actually reading the books instead of burning them (that's a Nazi reference for any historical fans our there, or it's an Indiana Jones for everyone else). Still I do think there is a legitimate argument in there somewhere. Let me start by saying I don’t condone racism. Racism is bad, mmm’kay. But I also don’t want to be forced into political correctness. There’s something almost patronizing about multicultural programing. It’s too well thought out and scientific to be sincere.

Take the Justice League cartoon of a few years ago. Why use John Stewart, arguably the worst Green Lantern? Why pick him over Hal Jordan, the most popular Green Lantern, or Kyle Rayner, the then current Green Lantern in the Green Lantern comics. Even Guy Gardner would be a better choice because he’s, at least, interesting. Maybe, the problem is simply a lack of iconic characters of color in comic book chronology (I couldn’t help myself). Perhaps, comic book writers and artists are so afraid of being accused of racism, that they instead make characters like John Stewart, characters completely devoid of personality, either good or bad.

Or, maybe, they don’t want to unleash more Black Vulcans, Apache Chiefs, or Samurais on the world. Those being characters who were obviously conceived to capture waning demographics. Or take Aqualad in the latest Young Justice incarnation; a character created for the show, which was then retroactively introduced to the comics to make it seem not quite so blatant because, hey, it’s in the comic, too, so it can’t be an entirely bad. Can it? Or, perhaps, a better example is Spike from X-Men: Evolution. There are thousands of mutants in the comics, yet they made up a mutant (Storm’s nephew) instead of using one of the established characters at their disposal. Why? Is someone that much more likely to watch a cartoon that features one character who looks like them? Sadly, yes.

I suppose it works though. As an Asian man of a certain age demographic, do I care more about Ernie Reyes Jr., Jonathan Ke Quan, or Danté Basco than Bruce Leeroy, Sean Astin, or Robin Williams? You bet I do. However, those characters seemed organic to the process, and not something crammed down our throats. But are they really any better than Apache Chief? Are these really great characters or have I been duped?

Which brings us to the multicultural action squad. The multicultural action squad is a group heroes (usually of teens or pre-teens) brought together from across different ethnic and social backgrounds. The squad is almost always composed of one black male, one Asian female, a white male, a white female (60% chance of being blonde), and one random character, most likely a nerd of some sort. Now when I pointed out the racism in Nickelodeon’s Doug the most prevalent argument is that it’s a kid's show and I’m making too much of it. And, it goes without saying that I’m definitely making too much of every issue, but I’m also not making this stuff up. It’s there for anyone to see.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers


The perfect breakdown: Billy (Nerd), Trini (Asian), Jason (White), Kimberly (White), Zack (Black). Now the real question is did they even stop to think before they made the Asian girl the Yellow Ranger and the black guy the Black Ranger?

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Val Kilmer is Everyone


Val & Me (I'm the one dressed as Marty McFly, or am I?)

So, it appears my legions of fans (or should I say, “legion of fan”) have been waiting for more about Val Kilmer. I met Kilmer at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, and there seems to be a lot more excitement than I would have thought about that. My mailbox has been inundated with questions like: What was it like to be so close to Val? What did you and Val talk about? What did Val smell like? Did you get a chance to tell Val how much you enjoyed Real Genius? Are you and Val on a first name basis? To which I will say: Brief. Nothing. I didn’t smell him. Didn’t come up. Maybe.

Now when I say I met Val Kilmer I should say I stood next to him. It was a 10 second window, all of which he spent seeming to be profoundly confused by the whole concept of Marty McFly and why my nametag said “Calvin Klein.” And that was about it. Still meeting Val Kilmer was the highlight of C2E2 for me, and a lot of people think I’m kidding when I say that, as if thinking Val Kilmer is a great actor is some sort of hipstery statement dripping with irony.

Someone joked that we were waiting in line to see the worst Batman, which is not even close to being correct. He’s actual pound for pound (and that’s not a fat joke) the most underrated Batman. George Clooney is empirically worst, so saying Kilmer is the worst isn’t even a misguided opinion, it’s simply wrong. And Adam West is only good because he’s so bad he’s good. Being ironically better doesn’t count as actually being better. And are Michael Keaton and Christian Bale really better? Did either really do a better job? Or did they just have the advantage of being in better movies?

Ultimately, what’s so great about Val Kilmer is he is everything to every sort of geek. He’s Batman for the comic book geek. He’s Madmartigan for the fantasy geek. He’s Jim Morrison for the music geek. He’s Nick Rivers for the comedy geek. He’s Chris Knight for the Real Genius geek geek. But he’s also an actor for jocks (or the jock archetype): he’s been a fighter pilot, a gunslinger, an FBI agent, a saint, a hunter, an astronaut, and a porn star. All of this meaning Kilmer is all things to all people.

He’s a chameleon. In his mind, he is whoever he’s pretending to be. That’s actually one reason Mrs. Gnards didn’t want me pointing at him. She was afraid he’d get mad and use his wily acting abilities to assume my identity. You see Val Kilmer plays me better than I’m actually me. Slouch a bit, squint a little, and all of a sudden he’s me. In fact, how do you know this isn’t Val Kilmer writing this right now? Anyone who meets Val Kilmer there’s, at least, a 50% chance that he’ll assume their identities. Meaning almost anyone could be Val Kilmer at any given time. If Val Kilmer meets 10 people per day, and he becomes 5 of those people and then those 5 Val Kilmers become 5 more Val Kilmers, Val Kilmer could spread across the earth in 13 days creating a global pandemic of Val Kilmer proportions (also not a fat joke).

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Unbuttoning the Mystery: Superman’s Shirts

superman shirt rip

Few superheroes are as iconic as Superman; few superheroes can even be mentioned in the same breath. And nothing in the Superman mythos is probably as iconic as Clark Kent ripping open his shirt to reveal the “S” shield logo. The shirt rip has been depicted in one way or another in just about every form of media. It’s a powerful, heroic pose, and that's probably why it's the first thing they teach every Chippendales dancer. I don’t think anything represents the transition from mild-mannered reporter to all-powerful demi-god better. Plus, it’s just a cool visual.

However, there’s one little hitch: buttons don’t unbutton when you pull open your shirt, they catch and pop off. Especially when the person doing the pulling has super human strength and almost zero gauge of how much pressure it takes to break a strand of thread. Meaning every time Superman is off to the rescue, he’s also just ruined one of his nice work shirts. Now, maybe, he uses snaps, but snaps are very easily unsnapped, which doesn’t go well with keeping ones secret identity. You don't want to show up at a meeting with your "S" showing. Of course, maybe, he just collects all these buttons later, and spends his free time sewing and mending in the Fortress of Solitude.

Although, he still has to do something with his street clothes regardless of the button issue. During a disaster is there a trail of clothing leading from Clark’s desk? Does Perry White say, “Great Caesar’s Ghost, Clark’s a streakin’ again!” According to the comics, Clark folds his clothes using Superman’s super origami abilities then compresses them down and slips them into a little pouch in his cape. Which is fine. But, okay, he doesn’t lose his suits but what about his dry cleaning bill? There’s only so much that wrinkle resistance can do. Can a combination of heat vision and arctic breath be used to replace dry cleaning? However, this doesn’t explain his shoes. Perhaps, being nigh invulnerable he swallows his shoes and glasses into his safe-like Kryptonian stomach, and passes them out at a more convenient time. However, I’ve never seen Superman crap out a shoe after being punched by Doomsday.

Superman Farts Shoe
Yes, Superman just sharted a shoe.

Other heroes have different methods: Peter Parker just webs his street clothes someplace out of the way or makes a handy dandy spidey backpack. The Flash keeps his costume in his watch (which makes more sense than it sounds). Because it’s a special watch and a special costume (okay, not that much sense), but this doesn’t explain what he does with his current outfit. Does he just put his costume on over it or does he stash them someplace, too? Green Lantern’s costume is made of will power, so theoretical they’re naked when they lose their will (which is convenient for anyone picking up a Green Lantern at your local super powered watering hole). Iron Man’s suit transforms into a brief case that he carries around, made of metal and the same exact red and yellow color scheme as Iron Man. Very inconspicuous. And Batman puts his bat-pants on one bat-leg at a bat-time.

Sometimes Superman is depicted as spinning around and around and eventually ends up in his costume. I assume the cyclonic force actually disintegrates his suit, but leaves his indestructible Superman outfit unharmed underneath. Which brings us to the question of what is Clark Kent’s clothing bill? Between disintegration and missing buttons, he's ruining a lot of nice Oxford shirts. It should be pretty easy to figure out how many button down shirts Superman has gone through during the course of a year. We can go about this two ways: by the number of comic book issues or by years.

How much Does Superman Spend on Shirts?

First, let’s break down the issues. So, there have been over 900 Action Comics starring Superman since 1938, and over 700 Superman comics. Including mini-series and shorter runs like Man of Steel, all told there’s over 1900 hundred Superman titles in circulation, and that doesn’t count Superboy, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, or Justice League comics. Let’s suppose that Superman goes through .8 shirts per issue (because sometimes he’s already in costume or finds a different way to change), which means Superman has destroyed roughly 1520 shirts over the years. Dress shirts can cost anywhere between $20 - $80, and can cost the Lex Luthors of the world $500 plus depending on the brand (which is probably a little pricey for a beat reporter). For arguments, let’s say he spends on average $50 for shirts. This means Clark Kent has spent $76000 on button down shirts.

Or we can take it from a timeline point of view, DC keeps it’s universe at around 10 years old. So, ever few years they crank back the speedometer, and say that Clark Kent is around 35-years-old and has been active as Superman for 10 years. So, if we use the same formula and say Clark goes through .8 shirts a day then in 10 years Clark would have ripped open 2920 shirts and paid $146000 for them, or that’s $14600 a year on shirts. If the average reporter makes $45000 a year, Clark Kent spends a third of his income on shirts. The other two thirds, of course, spent on patching man-shaped holes in various walls throughout Metropolis.

It’s not cheap being Superman… or a Chippendales dancer.

I Point & Smirk My Way Through C2E2

Not many people appreciated the fine art of the point and smirk. Mrs. Gnards thinks I'm making fun of people and that not everyone wants to be pointed at like Nelson Muntz, but that's not the point at all (the point to the point). It's a smirk of endearment.

Point & Smirk – Point index finger at thing or person that represents awesomeness (gun motion and cocked thumb is optional), smirk with one side of your mouth higher than the other in a slantwise direction (which side is pointers preference). What it means is that this is something you're seeing and maybe it's awesome or maybe it's not awesome to anyone else, but it IS awesome because you're actually seeing it. It's the facial equivalent to "Brooks was Here." It's like a "you had to be there" inside joke.

c2e2

I went to C2E2 (Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo) again this year. You can tell they're growing because this year I had to jump through various hoops to get a press pass. The asked me tough, hard hitting questions like who I was and why do people like me? Which I had a very difficult time answering the second half. Getting this pass was very touch and go.

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Under the Goon: Was Sloth Made or Born?

Baby Sloth

I think often of Sloth Fratelli and wonder what happened? What happened the first night he stayed with Chunk’s family for instance: did he murder everyone right away or wait until the morning? It’s your roommate is a third Menendez brother, but it’s okay because he’s slow witted and lifted a rock for this one time. You can’t judge Sloth by his family, but still I do think about just what happened to make Sloth… well… Sloth.

Sloth from The Goonies is the classic nature vs. nurture debate. Did he get chained up because of bad behavior or did being chained up cause his bad behavior? And what did he do so wrong to warrant being chained up? The only things we know that Sloth was punished for were breaking his chains (a natural reaction to being chained up) and for sitting too close to the TV (a TV that he’s chained next to and had little control in regards to distance to). He was pretty much punished for being punished.

Sloth was not born Sloth, but was created through negligence. He wasn’t even born particularly ugly, but was molded into the Baby Ruth eating monster we know and love. The Fratellis abused him both mentally and physically, which transformed him into a lovable pinhead.

How Sloth Became a Monster

  1. Raised in basement
  2. Left at zoo (possibly raised by wolves or gorillas)
  3. Dropped on head several times as an infant
  4. Didn’t get teeth fixed (Money spent on Francis’s toupee)

His head shape and teeth were simply from untreated bumps and bruises. His constantly shouting was just over compensating for echoes caused by living in a dungeon and an overly loud TV. Is it possible to see the man beneath the Sloth (no, not sexy beast that is John Matuszak, the actor who played Sloth)? What would Sloth have looked like if he were treated with the same tender loving care as Ma Fratelli’s precious Francis?

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Don't Feed the Monster

Analyzing the Bad Eating Habits of Popular Monsters

If movies have taught us anything, it’s not love or music or beauty that soothes the savage beast, but junk food, and mostly sweet, sweet candy. It seems like just about any monster can be tamed with as little as a bar of chocolate. But what is it about candy? Do monsters have low blood sugar? Which could make sense with Frankenstein type monsters or zombies who no longer produce blood (however, they seem to have heartier tastes). Or is it something about the artificial nature of cinematic terror combined with artificial fruit flavors and preservatives?

I've talked before about the heroes who love to eat, but monsters just seem to have junk food on their minds. Just look at how many different monsters, aliens, and supernatural beings have sweet teeth across so many different horror and science fiction genres. Everything from ghosts to circus freaks, but I think there are really two basic types of junk food devouring monsters: those who protect children and those who are childish themselves. Or brawlers and bawlers.

The cynic in me says that the average Hollywood producer sees children as little walking billboards for the 11 and under demographic. If Elliott likes Reese’s Pieces, and Reese’s Pieces got him a special friend with a glowing finger, then perhaps Reese’s Pieces can get me a special friend with a glowing finger (although, I don’t want to know what that special friend would do with that special finger in real life). The optimist in me, however, chalks it up to storytelling. In a movie with a kid and a monster, and the kid has to either defeat or befriend said monster with whatever is handy, then the logical choice is something a child would have access to. And since kids are, in fact, little walking billboards the only thing handy is whatever product is willing to pay the most. However, the researcher in me wants to think that there’s a larger, more unified answer out there in a world of mystery and jujubes. I want to believe.

E.T.


Type: Bawler Junk Food: Reese’s Pieces

E.T. is like lost child, and the best way to lead any child to Lost & Found is, of course, a trail of candy. That’s pretty much the reason I leave trails of candy everywhere I go because I want to help children… and aliens. And ants. It is, also, a good thing though that aliens don’t have peanut allergies. About 1% of the US population has a peanut allergy, yet most aliens are completely immune to a nut outside their native ecosystems.

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