Pop Culture

Connery vs Craig, the Finale

I thought about naming this post “A Good Time to Die” or some other play on the recent Bond title, but didn’t want to freak anybody out. Or, worse, make you think this was a review of the late-1980s thriller Flatliners. Nice and timely.

A few years ago, I ranked the best James Bond actors. At the time, I ranked Daniel Craig two, or more precisely 1a. The jury was still out on whether he could eclipse a certain Scottish knight. Well, now that Mr. Craig has finished, it’s time to reassess my rankings.

So, you know, spoilers and whatnot ahead. The movie’s been out for a month, so if you wanted to see it, I assume you have.

But, you know, while I’m letting you think about if you want to hit the back button in lieu of forging on. Assuming you’re one who wants to wait six months to see a movie but also avoids spoilers. But, like me, you also want general reviews, so you click on the tantalizing links promising you some, but not too much, of a preview. Give yourself a few paragraphs. Above the fold, as we used to call it. I guess it’s above the scroll now. So I’m giving you a few more paragraphs before I get into James Bond’s gender selection party where he and Blofeld have a glorious three-way with Desmond Llewellyn’s reanimated corpse. Bond will come again.

Even before this film, Daniel Craig had two of the four best movies. Note, I didn’t say “my favorite,” but “best.” I’ll broker no debate nor discussion here. The four best Bond movies, in no particular order, are Goldfinger, Goldeneye, Casino Royale, and Skyfall. Okay, that was in a particular order, but it was chronological. But it should not be construed to imagine Goldfinger is better than Skyfall. 

And really, Goldfinger only holds its spot on this list if you skip the rape scene. The wrestling in the hay is fine, but then hit “forward fifteen seconds” twice and assume it was consensual. 

The fifth best movie is a tie that stretches on for decades. I could make a reasonable argument for From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, or The Living Daylights. If I wanted to be magnanimous and throw a top-ten bone to Roger Moore, it won’t pain me too much to say The Spy Who Loved Me is tolerable. (And I also secretly like For Your Eyes Only, but that admission causes physical discomfort).

No Time to Die doesn’t belong in the upper echelons, but it fits with that other group. Certainly the first one to avoid the “last movie curse” that afflicted every other Bond actor with more than one title to his name. If I were to compare it to any specific movie, it would be On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which they even acknowledge in the movie itself with the “We Have All the Time in the World” homage. More on this later when I can be sure those spoiler-free people aren’t snooping around. 

The other two Craig movies weren’t enough to supersede Sir Sean. Quantum of Solace, everyone can agree, was terrible. Blame it on a writer’s strike if you must, but it belongs squarely at the bottom of the heap with the likes of Octopussy, Moonraker, and Diamonds are Forever. Spectre was mediocre. Indistinguishable and forgettable, especially for a movie that’s supposed to reintroduce the franchise’s biggest baddie. In fact, I spent a good portion of No Time to Die wracking my brain to remember what the hell happened in Spectre, because the previous movie plays into the current movie. In fact, it’s the same Bond girl. I feel like that’s a first.

Speaking of Bond girls, Ana de Armas was phenomenal. And underused. Stop the search for the new Bond right away and just give Poloma an entire franchise. 

Under normal circumstances, ie for the first twenty-ish films in the franchise, not remembering the contents of the last movie made little difference. I’m pretty sure every Pierce Brosnan movie after Goldeneye was the exact same movie, loosely named The World Dies Tomorrow Not Enough. But Pierce Brosnan’s Bond never (are we alone now? SPOILER!) had a child with the Bond girl from the last movie. Even Denise Richards’ dingbat of a “physicist” was smart enough to be on birth control.

And okay, now that we’re into spoiler territory, let’s delve into the biggest spoiler that wasn’t even really a spoiler if you’ve been paying attention to the five-film Daniel Craig arc. Right around the time the first trailer came out, which was back in 2019 because the movie was supposed to come out in May, 2020, I made the bold prediction. If, for the first time, they were treating an actor’s movies as sequels instead of stand-alones, and if they started the run with Bond’s first mission, then it stood to reason that they’d end with his last mission. And there’s only one way you stop a guy like that from coming out of retirement. 

I mean Craig, not Bond.

Can’t wait to see how they pull the Daniel Craig version of Never Say Never Again. But I have the feeling that, whoever becomes Bond next, they’ll pale in comparison and we’ll be clamoring for just one more go. Maybe make him a zombie Bond? Or how about a clone? Blofeld held onto his DNA and….

Oh right, they killed off Blofeld, too. Then how about his good friend Felix…

Wow, they went all scorched earth on this bad boy, didn’t they. No time to die, unless you’re any Bond character outside the office with the padded door. Then you’ve got all the time in the world.

I’ve got minor squibbles with No Time to Die. Safin was utterly pointless, a throwback to the boring Pierce Brosnan bad guys. I think at least one of those guys had a messed up face, too. Not sure what the disfigurement added to the plot. The fact that he was the only survivor when the rest of his family was murdered might give him plenty of vengeance points without fucking up his face. I heard England was contemplating a law that disfigured people couldn’t be shown as evil in movies anymore. Not sure it needs to go that far, but fucking up their looks for no reason seems pointless. Unless you’re hoping for a makeup Oscar.

At least Safin’s plan to destroy the world was great. No, not great. What’s the word I’m looking for? Oh, right: Horrifying. Don’t go checking my Google history or anything. 

But seriously, poison tied to your DNA, so it can be released into a population but only kill certain people? That might be one of the most Bondian villain plots of all time. Way more intriguing than media moguls with stolen nuclear bombs. Or space lasers. 

So again, why did his face need to be all pock-marked? While we’re at it, why have Safin anyway? You’ve got the definitive Bond villain of all time in the movie already, just to kill him off? Have Blofeld break out of prison and put the plan in motion. Then the final confrontation in the pool would bring a stronger catharsis. Given their history, Blofeld seems like the one who would, upon realizing he wasn’t going to survive, would release Madeine’s DNA, thus bringing Bond down with him. Nothing about Safin’s story made me believe he’d pull the “Well, if I can’t win…” move.

The American who kills Felix also seemed bland. He’s a badass mastermind in Cuba, then only shows up one more time when he drives into a totally obvious trap. What’s the point? Combine Safin and Ash, give the denouement to Blofeld, and maybe you could’ve had a run-time less than the average bladder size.

So some good and some bad, but overall, No Time to Die hits its mark, breaeking the curse of final Bond movies (Diamonds are Forever, A View to a Kill, License to Kill, and Die Another Day are usually listed among each actor’s worst films). It works primarily because it was approached as a final Bond movie. I hope this doesn’t become a trend. Please, please, please don’t turn this into every new actor getting a four-movie arc to show his first and last missions as Bond.

In fact, maybe we could use a cleanser before we get another long-term Bond. Maybe it’s time for another George Lazenby. I’ve heard Idris Elba was in the running but he’s too old. Nonsense. Have him be Bond, but only for one movie. Then give one to Tom Hiddleston. By then, maybe I’ll be ready to invest in another long-term Bond.

So yeah, I guess you can figure out where I come down on the whole Daniel Craig vs. Sean Connery debate. It’s not entirely Sir Sean’s fault. We can do more with movies these days. Moviegoers can be expected to follow from one movie to the next. We waited thirty years for a sequel to Star Wars and were still able to pick it right up, debates over midichlorians and all.

In the 1960s, you couldn’t pull Goldfinger up on demand for a rewatch before seeing Thunderball. It’s hard to believe, but even TV shows had to be episodic, not serialized. You couldn’t expect your viewers to stay home at the same time every week and there was no way to catch up on missed episodes. 

Plus, you know, consensual sex is wonderful.

What Craig does get credit for, however, is playing the character as he should be played. No, I’m not talking about true to the Ian Fleming character (although he probably is), I mean truer to life, truer to reality. James Bond would be one fucked up individual in real life. Vulnerable and raw. The cool, quippy murderer who never thinks twice always rang hollow. Sure, that’s what was so great about him. But in the long run, Die Hard lives on longer than Commando because of how raw, how prone to mistakes, John McClain was in that first movie. All his choices had consequences. By Die Harder, he’s turned into Rambo.

Rambo, who started out as a visceral, psychological thriller about PTSD and the systemic failures for our Vietnam veterans. 

Bond pretended to go this route before. Good old George Lazenby showed a more human, more humane Bond. Complete with his new bride dying at the end, with the final line of, “We have all the time in the world.” It’s almost like they could’ve had a grittier Bond fifty years ago, but opted to go full schmaltz, first by ruining Connery’s legacy then prat-falling into the lap of Mr. Moore.

In the end, I don’t know if Daniel Craig is the “Best” Bond. Lazenby is still the only one who never had a bad movie. Think about that before you poo-poo my idea of having a few one-offs before giving the keys to the franchise to another relative unknown.

What Daniel Craig represents now, though, is the definitive Bond. He’s played Bond’s entire career, he’s shown us beginning and end. He lost a lover, he lost an M and ushered in a new (acknowledged) one for the first time in the franchise. And in the end, he sacrificed himself for the world, as we knew he would. Just didn’t expect it to happen with his daughter’s stuffed animal on hand.

Prior to last weekend, when I closed my eyes and imagined a generic Bond, when I read something from Ian Fleming or John Gardner or whoever the hell is writing them these days, he was still a lanky brunette with a comically long gun barrel, speaking with a Scottish brogue. Now he’s a gritty blond with piercing blue eyes.

But seriously, regarding Flatliners. Kiefer Sutherland in a trench coat? Really?

Why I’m Skipping The Eternals

For the first time in a long time, I’m not planning on seeing the next Marvel movie in theaters. 

Really, I don’t think there’s a Marvel movie I’ve set out not to watch since the Incredible Hulk, which precedes the MCU but is still somehow counted in it. And nobody who had seen the original Hulk, with its horrible opposite of uncanny valley CGI, was hot to see if Ed Norton could pull it off. We were pining for the return of the quality special effects of Lou Ferrigno.

With The Eternals, however, I think I’ll take a pass.

Granted, I don’t actually see them all in the theaters, but the intent is always there. Sometimes real life gets in the way. Wife and I can’t coordinate schedules. To say nothing of a child who probably doesn’t need to see half the superheroes dissolve into dust. 

Or maybe she should see it, based on the Halloween costumes in our neighborhood. Are this many kids really watching shows like the Mandalorian? Sure, Baby Yoda’s cute and all, but I’m steeped in forty-plus years of Star Wars lore and even I found some serious snoozefest episodes. I can barely get my kid to watch anything non-animated. Not to mention the violence.

And was that kid dressed from Dune? I feel like I have to watch it three more times just to figure out what the hell’s going on. Are you telling me this eight-year-old figured out the entire caste system?

Squid Game? Come fucking on.

You know what costumes I didn’t see? Ikarus or Athena or, wait, is that Hyperion in the ads? Is Marvel actually trying to sneak their Superman rip-off into a movie and think we won’t notice?

Okay, I just checked IMDB and no Hyperion character is listed. Perhaps that’s Ikarus shooting lasers out of his eyes. Does he have that power? As a lifelong Marvel reader, I couldn’t tell you. I figured he just flew on wax wings that melted on hot days.

Now that I think of it, maybe they should put Hyperion in a movie. Marvel has the Squadron Supreme, which is a knock-off of the Justice League. Not only does it contain Hyperion, but Nighthawk (a rich guy whose hawk looks suspiciously like a bat), Dr. Spectrum (who has a prism that shoots out multi-colored energy beams like the Green Lantern), Princess Power (from Utopia Isle), and the Whizzer (who either runs really fast or has the power of urination). How great would it be for the MCU to finally bury the DCEU by making a better Justice League movie using only the cheap knock-offs.

So long as they don’t make that movie like Eternals looks to be. 

Not that they need to stick with the obvious choices all the time. Shang-Chi was hardly on anybody’s list of Marvel properties, but the movie was solid. Of course, everybody was skeptical when they went from the Big Four (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk) straight to the obscure Guardians of the Galaxy. That skepticism lasted about as long as it took to watch the first trailer. That’s when we realized how much fun they can have with more obscure characters. We don’t need to show origins or stick close to a well-known character archetype. Nobody knew who the hell Star Lord was, so might as well make him obsessed with late-1970s pop music and a Walkman.

Guardians of the Galaxy, in fact, laid the groundwork for the rest of the MCU. Sure, there had been quips and comic scenes in the first few movies, but Thor: Dark World is true to the comics character and boring as hell. Thor: Ragnarok is not, and it is not. Marvel movies before Guardians were more fun than funny. Or maybe I have that reversed. Regardless, post-Guardians, they’ve mastered the sweet spot between the two.

My skepticism returned when Eternals was announced. They’re effectively gods, except not those fun Asgardian gods with their personal foibles and tendency to self-sabotage. More like those gods who have no weaknesses. Or interest.

One of the big draws of superheroes of old, particularly those of the Marvel variety, is their weaknesses and humanity. Human Torch is a hothead, Iron Man is an obsessive alcoholic, Spider-Man always gets in his own way. It got even better, even darker, with the X-Men. Storm can’t be in enclosed places and Rogue can’t touch anybody without potentially killing them. Yikes. 

The DC heroes have their drawbacks, too, but they aren’t as integral to their characters as most of them were added after the fact due to changing societal norms. And better Marvel writing. Flash is always late to everything. Superman, like Captain America, is unwavering and overly optimistic. And Batman, of course, is an asshole. So is Green Lantern. 

It’s no crippling claustrophobia, but it helps move the story along.

Newer heroes don’t tend to have the pronounced weaknesses anymore. And a lot of the old ones don’t crop up as often anymore. Thor never gets stuck in human form for being unworthy anymore. Iron Man kicked the booze close to fifty years ago. Storm never manages to find herself in closed areas and even Rogue has managed to get married and have sex. The only character who seems destined to never lose his weakness is Cyclops, because if he could control his eyeblasts, he wouldn’t need the visor anymore and would cease to be Cyclops.

Oh, and Batman’s still an asshole.

Origin stories seem to be lacking these days, too. No more gamma explosions or radioactive spiders, no more exploding alien planets or parents killed in crime alley. While the X-Men have been great for diversifying the Marvel Universe, but for a thirty year span, whenever they wanted to make a new character, there was just a general shrug about how. Make them a mutant. Mutant, mutant, mutant.

Then Marvel sold the movie rights to mutants and stopped making new mutants. Then came the Inhuman push, which was even worse. At least with mutants, the powers usually manifested during puberty. So you might not get an in-depth “how they got their powers” story, but you’d still get the occasional “how awkward the first manifestation was.” Remember when you popped that awkward boner in the middle of fifth grade and didn’t know how to hide it? Now imagine that boner was starbursts of light that knocked out half the class.

The Inhumans didn’t even get that origin story. Instead, a mist covered the entire Earth causing some people to go into a cocoon and come out with powers. No awkward classmates, no stand-in for systemic racism. Just wake up one day with powers and everybody’s cool with it. 

The new Ms. Marvel is one of the characters introduced during this glut. A lot has been made recently about a promotional photo for her upcoming Disney+ show implying she has a different power from the comics. I’m more curious as to the origin story. If she spends the entire first episode in a cocoon, not sure I’ll be coming back for episode two.

Come to think of it, Inhumans was the last major MCU flop. They might claim it’s not a flop because it was a tv show, not a movie, but make no mistake, the intent was for that to become the flagship property of the future. They released the first episode or two in IMAX theaters, but the plug was pulled before they made it to episode six. 

The basic problem with the Inhumans tv show was that it was based off the Inhumans characters, which are pretty friggin’ boring. Their “leader” can’t speak and the queen’s power is prehensile hair. The only interesting character is a dog. Plus they live on the moon, so they virtually never interact with supervillains, or Earth and humanity in general. These are the main reasons, when they realized Inhumans were the only way to introduce new characters that were eligible for the MCU instead of Sony, they knew they had to make a slew of new Inhumans.

In the end, Disney bought out Sony, which was much more feasible than making Crystal a worthwhile character. 

Unfortunately, Eternals seems to be doubling down on most of the mistakes of Inhumans. Uninteresting characters, far removed from the rest of the Marvel characters. Uninspired powers. If I wanted a bunch of Greek mythology, I’ll watch Wonder Woman.

Seriously, is their only flaw that they’re arrogant a-holes who don’t get involved with humanity? How is that fun to watch. It’s made even worse by the fact that, according to the trailer, they sat on the sidelines through the whole Thanos snap and Endgame. But they’ve decided that now is the time to make their presence known? It’s like watching a History channel documentary about aliens who showed up the day after the Egyptians finished the pyramids.

That trailer was the clincher. Unlike Guardians, the Eternals trailer didn’t make me any more inclined to watch it. If anything, it verified all my skepticism. Is there a single joke in any of the three trailers? Do we get any glimpse of characterization other than “attractive”? It feels bloated and confusing and, worst of all, boring.

You can tell by the casting that they knew it was a snoozer even before filming. Angelina Jolie AND Selma Hayek? Clearly they’re there for the mass audiences. But Kit Harrington proves they were worried about losing geekdom, too. Unfortunately, if the buzz I’m hearing is any indication, I don’t think it’s going to work. The only one of my geek friends who’s planning on seeing it has an annual movie pass that he’s desperately trying to get worth from before the end of the year. My non-geek friends aren’t even aware a Marvel movie is coming out.

I’m just glad that the first flop won’t be Shang-Chi. That was a worthwhile reach into an obscure character. Had it failed, we’d be in line for ten different Wolverine & Spider-Man buddy movies. If there’s going to be a flop, let it star big Hollywood names. Let there be no doubt that characters and story matter more than the name on the marquee.

Wait a second, isn’t the name of the movie on the marquee, not the actors? Meh. Story matters more than the name on the IMDB.

Don’t worry, though. I’m sure I’ll watch it once it’s out on Disney Plus. And the good news is Spider-Man is only a month away.

A Rose by Any Other (Same) Name

From what I hear, Chrissy Teigen has struggled with her pregnancy. In fact, I think she miscarried. A number of media types and people I know were super chagrined. 

Me, I kinda shrugged my shoulders.

I mean, any time a pregnant woman loses her baby is a tragedy. But on the flip side, what are we to expect when a woman her age tries to have a child? I think she’s in her fifties, at least. The very fact they could conceive, I assume through some in vitro test tube, is a miracle of science. Am I supposed to be shocked that it didn’t take?

Her husband, John Legend, we are told, sat by her hospital bed as complications took hold. A harrowing experience, to be sure.

Wait, John Legend? The guy that butchered a John Lennon Christmas song? He’s married Chrissy Teigen? Cougar much, Chrissy? 

But then I saw a picture of John Legend standing next to some young African American woman in a hospital bed. Is this a stock pohoto? Because that woman looks nothing likethe actress/model I remember from my youth. 

Wait a second… 

After weeks of hearing the story, I finally realized that Chrissy Teigen is NOT Cheryl Tiegs. Two ENTIRELY different people. 

Chrissy Teigen is only 34 years old, which makes a lost pregnancy all the more ghastly.

Cheryl Tiegs, it turns out, is actually 73 years old. So yeah, medical science or no, she ain’t getting knocked up by a wanna-Beatle any time soon.

I’m really bad at the whole “spot the celebrity” game. It bothers Wife incessantly. I can identify a Phil Collins drumfill in a random one-hit wonder from 1987, but ask me to find the similarities in pictures of Jane Foster and Queen Amidala and I’m at a loss. There’s no way it’s the same actress in each role. I mean, the one next to Hayden Christensen is the second coming of Katherine Hepburn, while the one in the MCU is being out-acted by Kat Dennings.

At least Natalie Portman kept the same hair style in those two movies. Nobody will ever convince me that the Laura Prepon who starred in “That 70’s Show” is the same Laura Prepon who has starred in… well, pretty much everything since “That 70’s Show.” After all, the former was a redhead, while the latter has been, predominantly, a blonde. East is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet. It’s not like L’Oreal makes a compass.

But obviously visuals weren’t my main issue with Chrissy Teigen and Cheryl Tiegs. Their names are way too close together. If this was a book, it would be the mark of a bad author. For instance, I made it 80,000 words into a WIP before realizing that two of the main characters are named Richard and Robbie. It wasn’t until they were in the same scene together that I realized how annoying it will be to read sentences in which they both appear. But unlike Chrissy and Cheryl, I’ll fix that in the second draft, where I’m pretty sure Robbie will become a Willie or a Billy. What are Chrissy Teigen and Cheryl Tiegs’ excuse for not fixing that shit in post-write?

I had a similar problem the first thousand or so times Daughter watched various installments of the “Hotel Transylvania” franchise. Selena Gomez voices the daughter, Mavis, which initially made no sense to me. She seems too professional an actress to be doing cartoon voiceovers, to say nothing of slumming around with Adam Sandler and his ilk. Aside from the fact that Mavis sounds like a legitimate twenty-something. And cartoons have done a good job of making the characters have similar visual characteristics as the actors that play them. Drac’s facial expressions totally match Adam Sandler, and Johnny has Andy Samberg’s weird sideways mouth.

Speaking of which, Andy Samberg and Adam Sandler in the same movie? Was Adam Goldberg unavailable? Fortunately, I’ve watched enough “Brooklyn 99” (and “The Goldbergs”) to know the difference between them, but only because Adam Sandler is about as distinctive as it gets for a guy who went to college in the early 1990s. Bob Barker once called when I was working in the state Capitol to ask my boss to vote for a spay/neuter bill and my first response was that I loved him in “Happy Gilmore.” He said he expected “Price is Right,” because, I guess, he he figured grandmas were the primary demographic for legislative aides. Who did he think I was, Chrissy Teigen?

I’m sure it shouldn’t shock you to know that, whoever I was thinking played the voice of Mavis, it sure as hell wasn’t Selena Gomez. I finally saw a behind-the-scenes video showing the actors do the voicework and Selena Gomez, would you believe it, is actually a twenty-something who looks a bit like Mavis, her character.

The problem is that I have no idea who I thought “Selena Gomez” was referring to. I’m pretty sure this was the first time I realized Selena Gomez existed as a human being. I never explicitly thought of anyone in particular, but had the general sense of a middle-aged Latina. Perhaps Salma Hayek, because their first names have a lot of the same letters, but I kinda got a Jennifer Lopez visual in my head, which of course looks nothing like Mavis. Or Selena Gomez.

Obviously I know who J-Lo is, and her name is nowhere close to Selena Gomez. But hear me out. She played the original Selena in her biopic. 

Okay, maybe you didn’t need to hear me out, cause that’s all I’ve got.

Obviously Selena Gomez isn’t that Selena, because she died long before “Hotel Transylvania.” But that at least gets me over the “Jennifer Lopez is Selena” hurdle. Add in the fact that Selena Gomez dated Justin Bieber, while J-Lo dated Alex Rodriguez, and I hate both of them. Incidentally, I thought it was Tom Brady that J-Lo dated, but a Google search told me it was the other overrated sports figure in the northeast that I stopped watching ESPN because of. And no, Salma Hayek never dated Tom Brady, either.

To be fair, unlike C. Teigen and C. Tiegs, I never explicitly thought Selena Gomez was Jennifer Lopez. I just had a general idea in my head that Selena Gomez was a fifty-something singer/actress who had been around since the mid-1990s. So maybe I really did just think she was the dead Selena.

Finally, let me head off the potential woke response of me being a typical white male who can’t distinguish between individual members of other ethnicities. Because I can’t tell white dudes apart, either.

Harry Styles is, allegedly, yet another singer and actor. Does anybody do one or the other anymore? I guess most actors stay in their lane, at least since the glory that was Eddie Murphy’s “Party All the Time,” but singers, it appears, must now become actors. I blame it on Justin Timberlake. Or Frank Sinatra. They might as well be the same person. 

Not that I get them confused.

For some reason, Harry Styles pops up in my news feed from time to time. Maybe he’s dating someone? Or has some political view that he needs to inform everybody about? I’m not sure and I don’t want to google it lest I get MORE headlines about Harry Styles – I’m already suffering from a slew of Selena Gomez info since I wrote the first part of this blog post yesterday.

If I had to guess, though, I think Harry Styles is some sort of fashionista. I don’t know if that’s a gendered word. A fashionister? Or maybe fashionisto? fashionistx? As an aside, I heard someone refer to a number of major league baseball players as Latinx, which confused me because I thought we were only supposed to use Latinx to refer to a group with both Latinos and Latinas. Is Latino offensive even if it’s a group of males of Latin American origin? Of course, I’m only asking the white people this, because no person of Latin American origin uses the phrase Latinx because it makes absolutely no fucking sense in Spanish.

Sorry, where was I? Right. Harry Styles. I couldn’t figure out why Harry Styles was making headlines for things like who he was dating or his new hairstyle. I mean, even when the dude was relevant, what, twenty years ago, I would never have called him hip. Hilarious, sure, but he’s tall and lanky, a goofy body frame perfect for physical comedy and not much else.

Have you spotted my train track yet? I was thinking of Ryan Stiles, the improv actor most notable for being on every single episode of “Whose Line is it, Anyway?”, both the English (good) and Drew Carey (bad) iterations. From this mid-40s perspective, he’s the far more important and influential of the Stileses, but I’m slowly coming to realize that he isn’t the ONLY of the Stileses.

It’s tough being me sometimes. Probably even tougher being my wife.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to research the subtle distinction between Jimmy Dean and James Dean.

Taking Stock of the Bonds

Time to weigh in on a controversy I wasn’t aware even existed.

I always thought there were certain universal constants. Some facts or central truths that everyone could more or less agree on. That the Earth rotates around the sun, for instance, or that we should all use the Base-10 numbering system.

Or that Sean Connery is the best James Bond.

But it turns out that that last little tidbit isn’t quite as commonly accepted as counting to ten. I recently observed a conversation between my wife, someone tangentially required to be a Bond fan, and a friend of mine who proudly professes herself as a fan of the franchise. I say I observed this conversation, and did not partake in it, because it would have been hard to enunciate with my jaw upon the floor.

“Who’s your favorite James Bond actor?” the agent of Blofeld friend asked.

“Well, my husband says there’s only one answer to that question,” my wide responded. “I know I’m supposed to say Sean Connery, but I’ve always really liked…”

At this point, I think I blacked out. I tried to focus through the haze in my vision, the buzzards flying through my ears. My wife couldn’t have just listed the worst Bond of all time, the one who had made a mockery of the character and the franchise, as her favorite.

“And for looks alone, you’ve gotta love…”

Did she just do it again? Reference my second-least favorite actor? Has she seen the same movies as me? Is it too late to reference George Lazenby in the Pre-Nup?

So I guess it’s now on me to write the definitive list of the six James Bond actors from best to worst. I won’t countdown from last to first, because there shouldn’t be any suspense at the top of the list. I won’t rank (or even reference) every movie, because if I wanted to write 50,000 words and waste fifty hours of my life, I would’ve just done NoNoWriMo . And even if you put a Golden Gun to my head, I wouldn’t be able to recount what happened in The Man with the Golden Gun.

  1. Sean Connery.

Let me put it simply for anyone that is confused: Sean Connery is James Bond and James Bond is Sean Connery.

Go find a James Bond book. Any book. It doesn’t have to be an Ian Fleming one. Now read a passage and try to envision anyone other than Sean Connery as the person performing those actions. It can’t be done. He is the definitive version.

                Does it help that he went first? Sure. Does it help that he never shot laser beams in space? Absolutely. Does it help that he was named the Sexiest Man Alive twenty years after leaving the role behind, at the age of sixty? That certainly doesn’t hurt.

When you ask a random person to describe James Bond’s traits, the most common answer is suave. That’s all Connery. Despite our little imagination check two paragraphs ago, it’s not how the character was written. Ian Fleming put a certain vulnerability to the character. He was a flawed man in a flawed world.

But the James Bond that we have come to know is a non-powered superhero. The only time he is vulnerable is when a Russian lady is kicking at him with a poisoned knife or if Goldfinger has a laser pointed at his crotch.

And how does Bond react in that laser scene? Roger Moore would have hammed it up with a few puns. Daniel Craig would have stared down Goldfinger until the opponent withered. Pierce Brosnan would’ve just chilled out and waited for a machine gun or explosion to save him because he’s too attractive and cool to die.

But Connery shows his mind racing while his forehead is sweating.

“You expect me to talk?”

“No, Mr. Bond,” Goldfinger responds in one of the greatest lines in cinematic history, “I expect you to die.”

But Connery talks anyway. He uses his wit before resorting to weapons or gadgets or… whatever the hell Roger Moore uses.  What people who grew up with the later Bond actors don’t realize is how understated the character should be.

Some people have said Connery was the least believable Bond in the fight scenes. They’re probably right, but the character isn’t supposed to be a hulking stuntman.

The one major drawback to Connery was that he clearly stopped enjoying it after Thunderball. He kind of mailed in You Only Live Twice, before leaving for one movie and coming back for Diamonds are Forever. And really, we can’t blame him for that last one.

  1. Daniel Craig. I haven’t seen SPECTRE yet, and if it’s as good as Skyfall, I might be willing to put Daniel Craig as 1a.

Remember what I said about Connery creating the movie version of Bond, but not following the book version? Well it took fifty years, but someone finally played the literary James Bond, and that’s Daniel Craig.

The character is supposed to be dark. He should be focused on the task at hand. He should always be wanting out of his lifestyle, but knowing there is no way out. If he’s ever reckless, it’s because he assumes his own mortality, not because he’s an invincible, cavalier playboy.

The definitive Daniel Craig exchange happens not long into his first movie.

“Do you want it shaken or stirred?”

“Do I look like I give a damn?”

Oh, snap! Did he just pull the rug out from every other actor? Because he’s right, James Bond should never have been focused on how his martini is watered down. He’s got way too fucking many things to keep track of and keep his eyes on.

I’ll be honest, when I first heard there was going to be a blond Bond, I thought it was a horrible idea. They should all look as close to the source as possible. But by the time his third movie rolled around, I couldn’t imagine anyone taking over for him.  I fear whoever’s next might get the Lazenby treatment.

In fact, I would have loved to see Sean Connery play the caretaker in Skyfall. Even though Albert Finney did a great job, It’s obvious the roll was written with Sir Sean in mind.  It would’ve been a cool bury the hatchet/pass the baton moment, but alas, it was not to be.

Allegedly, one of the myriad of reasons they didn’t pursue Connery for the roll was that they didn’t want the sideshow to distract from the main actor. And while that would have been an issue for any other Bond actor, I think Daniel Craig could have held his own starring against Sean Connery. Hell, he held his own against Judi Dench, the best M in history.

My only hope is that Craig is serious about not coming back for a fifth movie. If he wanted to come back, I’d welcome him back. But if he ends up coming back only for the money, he might be tempted to mail it in.

  1. Timothy Dalton. This will be the first surprise on the list for most people.

Timothy Dalton only had two movies, and one of them might be the worst Bond movie of all time. But he was a precursor to Daniel Craig, someone who gave Bond the seriousness and gravitas he deserves, but at a time when people had come to expect nothing but camp from the character.

I feel sorry for Timothy Dalton, as he came into the franchise at a horrible time. Not only was the Cold War wrapping up, but the rights to the character were going through legal issues. The six-year gap between License to Kill and GoldenEye almost killed the franchise.

But it wasn’t Dalton’s fault.

In fact, I’ll put The Living Daylights up as one of the top five or six Bond movies of all time. The Living Daylights had it all. Just enough gadgets and explosions without going overboard. A James Bond that is unflappable and smooth.

Then came License to Kill. Ugh. It was 1989, and although the Wall hadn’t come down when they filmed it, the whole glasnost and perestroika thing was going on. How could they make Gorby the bad guy?

So instead, they made it a personal vendetta story. Yes,  I like my Bond dark, just like my coffee. But a rogue agent stalking and killing someone without the backing of the British Secret Service? That’s not dark roast, that’s ground-infested sludge. Bond is a secret agent, not an assassin.

So there’s Dalton for you – one really good movie, one horrible movie, then a legal battle which ensured he couldn’t prove which one was really him. It’s worth noting that Quantum of Solace was Daniel Craig’s second, and worst, film. How much higher esteem would we have for Dalton’s run as James Bond if his third movie had been like Skyfall?

  1. George Lazenby. I might be the only one who feels sorry for Timothy Dalton’s luck and timing, but EVERYONE feels sorry for poor George Lazenby. He never stood a chance.

When Sean Connery announced he would not continue the James Bond role, one of two things was going to happen: either they’d stop making the movies or else he’d have to be replaced. Since they opted for the latter, somebody was going to be the guy that replaced Connery. It didn’t matter what George Lazenby did, or how well he did it, he wasn’t Connery. There’s a reason that almost every Vice President who took over for a dead (or resigned) President didn’t win the next election.

Except for Teddy Roosevelt. And poor George Lazenby is no Teddy Roosevelt.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was one of the last Bond movies I got around to seeing. I assumed it didn’t fit in the grander scheme of movies. It was an anomaly, the answer to a trivia question. George Lazenby was Pete Best. He was New Coke. Why should I bother?

But then I watched it, and guess what? It’s a damned good movie! And George Lazenby? He was solid. I wouldn’t say he knocked it out of the park, but he certainly doesn’t come across as a model who had never acted before, which is precisely what he was.

Then Connery came back for one more movie (not counting Never Say Never Again), and that movie was a sizeable step down.

And in the end, George Lazenby can say one thing that none of the other actors can say – he never made a bad James Bond movie.

  1. Pierce Brosnan. So disappointing to have this guy down this far.

After GoldenEye, I thought the franchise was back on solid footing. Bond was back kicking ass and pleasing every lady in sight. He had just the right amount of smugness. Sure, they had to make the plot based on the Cold War, but this was the first post-USSR movie, so cut them some slack.

I couldn’t wait for him to return.

Maybe he should’ve pulled a Lazenby.

What followed was three movies that were interchangeable. A mishmash of the same tropes and same mailed-in performance. I think it was a trilogy called The World Dies Again Tomorrow.

Am I being harsh? Quick, which one was the one with Denise Richards? And was the one where he got captured in North Korea the same one that had Michelle Yeo? Or was that Terri Hatcher?

That line of reasoning doesn’t hold true with the other actors. If I asked the average fan which Sean Connery movie had Oddjob and which one happened on the Orient Express, it wouldn’t take an imdb.com search.

My biggest problem with the Pierce Brosnan movies is that they turned the character into an action hero. Instead of Bond needing to investigate and unravel a conspiracy that slowly led back to the main villain, it was “Here’s the bad guy. This is where you’ll find him. Now go bang some chicks and blow some shit up for a couple of hours, then get a machine gun and shoot everything.”

I know the actor isn’t responsible for the plot and the script that’s put in front of him. This is an argument that people who like the Worst Bond Ever (see below) point out.  Certainly it’s not Pierce Brosnan’s fault that they made the character windsurf down a Melting-Ice-Hotel-Tidal-Wave.

But I have to think they cater some aspects of the script to how the actor wants to play the character. Maybe if Pierce Brosnan had said “Hey, guys, how about if I put the machine gun down and just kick somebody’s ass this once?”

So a brilliant start and then three duds. Even Roger Moore waited until his fourth or fifth movie before he started going through the motions.

Some people still swear by Pierce Brosnan. The next time someone says he was a great Bond, ask them what they liked about him. Then have fun seeing what percentage of their answer comes from his first movie.

  1. Roger Moore. Wow, what can one say about the actor who played the character in more movies than anyone else? Here’s what I say – let’s include Never Say Never Again, so at least “most movies as James Bond” becomes a tie.

Some people say Roger Moore was good at first, but just hung on too long. To them, I say that Man with the Golden Gun was only his second movie.

Others will point out, as I did with Pierce Brosnan, that he can only read the lines that are given to him.

It’s certainly not Roger Moore’s fault that they decided to go into space and make Jaws a recurring character. I doubt even an android love-child of Humphrey Bogart and Robert de Niro could make Octopussy watchable.

But seriously, Roger Moore, get that fucking smirk off your face. James Bond doesn’t smirk, he doesn’t pan to the camera, and he doesn’t speak exclusively in puns and double entendres.

The best example of Roger Moore at his worst was A View to a Kill, his final movie. It should be a damned good movie. Christopher Walken and Grace Jones as the bad guys, with the final fight scene on the Golden Gate Bridge. What’s not to like?

Other than Grandpa Roger Moore bumbling around, completely unbelievable with actresses one-third his age, desperately looking for a camera he can do a half-assed breaking of the fourth wall into.

What if the producers had decided to pull the plug on Roger Moore one movie earlier? Put Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan in that movie and look how much more kick ass it would be. An actor that played a “Not Taking Any Shit” James Bond would’ve added much more gravitas to the batshit crazy that Christopher Walken can play so well.

Let’s take the definitive Roger Moore line from A View to a Kill:

After sleeping with Grace Jones the night before, Christopher Walken asks him if he slept well.

“A little restless, but I…,” eyebrows raised into the camera,  “got off… eventually.”

Wow. I made better ejaculation jokes in eighth grade.

Ian Fleming is rolling over in his grave.

Let’s see how later actors would’ve reacted to that script and that scene.

Timothy Dalton would’ve looked at that script, and said, “I’m not saying that. I’ll just say fine.”

Pierce Brosnan would’ve asked if he could just take out a gun and shoot Walken.

And Daniel Craig’s scene would’ve gone something like…

“How’d you sleep, Mr. Bond?”

“Do I look like I give a damn?”

Great Scott!

Lots of Back to the Future posts and references the last couple weeks. So why did I wait until this week? Had to make sure that Marty McFly was back to 1985. Now we can talk about him.

On October 21, a number of my friends were proudly posting pictures of themselves holding the Back to the Future DVD, saying they were just about to watch it.  Umm, good luck finding any 2015 there, guys. Cause it ain’t in the original movie. Even a number of the news reports I watched kept getting the release date of the movie wrong. Yes, the original movie was released in 1985, and that is the year from whence Monsieur McFly traveled.  But the movie in which he traveled to 2015 was Back to the Future Part II, released in 1989.

A sequel coming out FOUR YEARS after the original? How archaic!

In fact, when the original movie was produced, there were no plans for a sequel. The “To Be Continued” at the end of the movie did not appear in the theatrical release. In what kind of crazy alternate timeline is a movie released without the next five sequels already being planned and filmed?  And they didn’t even split the last movie in two? The horrors!

Of course, they DID film the second and third movie back-to-back, so that they could be released six months apart from each other. To my knowledge, they were the first to do this now-standard practice.

These are a few of the reasons the Back to the Future trilogy is still relevant, but there are others. And no, this is not just a reaction to Marty McFly’s “arrival date” just passing. Plenty of movies have predictions of future dates, but society doesn’t go apeshit when those dates arrive.  I don’t remember the news media running vignettes on the state of Artificial Intelligence on August 29, 1997, date Terminator predicted Skynet would become self-aware.

I know, I know. Self-lacing shoes are way more relevant to our future on this planet than self-aware technology. Who cares about the future of all human life if we can’t even get a goddamned hoverboard, right?

The Back to the Future trilogy is unique for a number of ways.  Going back to that whole 2 and 3 being shot back-to-back and released six months apart from each other. Six months! Even by today’s Fast and the Furious/Hunger Games standards, that’s fast. Twenty-five years ago, it was unheard of. The standard wait time between sequels back then was a good three years. I assume the conventional wisdom was that audiences would be disinterested in going back to see the “continuing adventures” so soon.

So at least in that one sense, Back to the Future Part II was as relevant as Godfather II.  Prior to Godfather II, movies were released like theater shows. First they would premiere in New York, and maybe Los Angeles, followed a few weeks later by the other major cities. They would then filter through the less-major cities, and if you lived in Omaha, you’re probably waiting a few months for the movie to hit the one screen in town.  The producers of Godfather II, released two years after the original, said “screw that.” They knew the public was clamoring to see the sequel, so they circumvented the powers that be and just released it everywhere simultaneously. It worked, and has been the standard ever since.

So you can thank Back to the Future for the fact that the Twilight craze wasn’t dragged out for another decade.

The trilogy itself was also unique, in that the three movies are so markedly different entities. The first movie was just your run-of-the-mill teen movie. Just take out Lea Thompson and add in Molly Ringwald, and you’d scarcely notice the difference between it and Sixteen Candles. The standard John Hughes tropes are all there. Geeky boy secretly pines away for beautiful girl, who is oblivious to his existence, because girl is enamored with foxy mysterious boy. Something about underwear, and then the geeky guy is encouraged by foxy mysterious guy to stand up to school bully and get the girl. And the space-time continuum is saved.

Wait, that last part wasn’t in Sixteen Candles? I must be thinking of Pretty in Pink.

The second movie is really the one that defines the trilogy.  I remember a lot of people complaining when it came out that it was too complicated. They had taken a cute little reverse-Oedipal story and added layers and complications. All these people wanted was another simple story about a boy trying to ensure his own birth, and those bastards went and added things like alternate timelines and divergence points. And sports gambling.

“Whatever,” I remember my pubescent voice admonishing people, “I’ve been reading comics for years. Alternate timelines? Big whoop.”

The second movie also did a good job of keeping some of the original themes going, but adding a little bit more gravitas to them. Now it’s not just Marty that will cease to be, but all of society. They also make squeaky-clean, save-the-world Marty the bad guy. Or maybe not the bad guy, but responsible for everything that went wrong. After all, he was the one who bought the sports almanac with the intent to make a quick buck in the past.

Then there’s the special effects. Having Michael J. Fox play multiple roles in the same room at the same time while not looking two-dimensional was new. And the last half-hour of the movie, where they actually are added into the original movie, was spectacular. If there’s a second Deadpool movie, maybe they can have him pull the “I was there during all of the earlier X-Men movies.” He does that in the comics a fair bit.

Oh, and they re-shot the final scene of the first movie with a different actress and barely anybody noticed.

I’m not sure which is more impressive: a scene in which one actor plays three roles or a scene in which two actresses play the same role.

Then came the third movie, a Western. That’s right, we went from teen movie to sci-fi head-scratcher to Clint Eastwood. Literally Clint Eastwood, since that’s the name Marty used in 1885, when the movie takes place. Imagine the balls on Bob Gale, the writer. He just decided he wanted to do a Western and, hey, the fans are clamoring for more Back to the Future, so here you go.

Imagine if the Return of the Jedi was suddenly about elves and dwarves. Or Return of the King showed Frodo and Sam spending a day in Saturday school. Or if the final Indiana Jones movie threw in aliens.

Wait, they did WHAT in Kingdom Skull? Okay, never mind.

The point is you can’t completely change the genre in the finale. But Back to the Future did. No more sports almanacs or alternate timelines or Michael J. Fox fading out of existence. But there was still enough of the standard tropes to connect the three – the Tanners are dimwits, benefiting from knowledge of the future, the time machine has lost power so a vehicle has to get up to 88 MPH. And trains. And horses.

And you know what? It worked!

So now that Back to the Future Day has passed, let’s stop with our obsession of how much it got right. No more hoverboards or shoes or Cubs. And let’s focus on the trilogy itself, and how groundbreaking it was. They influenced how trilogies could be filmed and marketed. They informed writers that, if you have an engaging premise and characters, you can do whatever you want with them and people will follow you.

Even if the hero abandons his girlfriend on the porch of a stranger’s house in a violent, dystopian present that he himself had created.

Sexism in Comics

There’s been a lot of buzz recently about sexism in the comics industry. The comments tend to specifically attack two things: the lack of relatable female superheroes and the oversexualized manner in which the existing female superheroes are drawn.  As a lifelong comic geek, I can one hundred percent acknowledge and agree with both criticisms. That being said, it also feels like much of the criticism comes from people on the outside, and a number of their attacks and assumptions are more about making noise than change.

I’m not going to defend comic books. The overt sexualization of the female characters, which has always been around, has gotten worse. My friends and I used to joke that every female superhero had an additional power of gravity-defying bosoms. If a horny teenager that gets excited seeing a bra strap knows they are drawn over the top and unrealistic, there’s a problem.

Some of the defenders of the comic industry point to that socially-awkward, horny teenage boy as the poster child of the comic fan. They say that, since comic book companies need to make sales to those boys, they need to draw the women that way.  This is bullshit, because I was buying plenty of comics without any women in them. I never once remember buying a comic because of a nice rack on a superheroine. Nor did I ever put a comic back because the women were too plain.

This is borne out by comic sales. The most voluptuous women appear in Zenescope comics. These women aren’t just sexualized, they are straight-up fetish. Fairy tale characters wearing knee-high stockings and garters with panties visible under their Britney Spears-esque school-girl skirts. Little Red Riding Hood, Dorothy, and, hey look, Alice is giving you a glimpse of her very own Wonderland. Go ahead, look at their website.

So if sexy women drove comic sales, Zenescope should be a marketing force to deal with, right? Grimm’s Fairy Tales should regularly wresting the top spot from the various Animal-Related-Men. But nope. In January, their best-selling comic ranked #276, ranking right above Scooby Doo, Where Are You? And not far behind such modern-day powerhouses as Flash Gordon and Powerpuff Girls.

So if it’s not for the fans, why are the women drawn that way? I’m pointing the finger at the artists. Let’s be honest, many of them started as those very same awkward teenage boys. I was never able to draw worth a damn. Still can’t, which gives endless entertainment to my students when I try to draw a cow or a map of Europe on the white board. But most of the guys that I knew in high school who had the ability to draw tended to draw the same thing over and over: the hourglass shape from a woman’s armpit to her mid-thigh. Well, that and penises, but I’m guessing Marvel and DC frown upon overt phalluses in their comics. (I mean, come on, it’s not The Little Mermaid.) So when the guys that spent their teenage years drawing idealized female forms get hired to draw comics, we get controversies like the recent Spider-Woman cover.

So although the sexist drawings draw more ire from social activists, I don’t think they have much of an effect on comic’s fandom. Even if every woman (and man, I suppose)were drawn “normal,” I don’t see a lot of the people who are up in arms about this flocking to their local comic book store to drive up sales. The lack of bona fide female superheroes, though, might be more on topic.

Here again, the general argument is the overwhelming majority of male comic book readers. But we could be looking at a chicken-and-egg argument here. Do the lack of female readers equate to fewer female superheroes or do girls not flock to comics because they have no heroes to identify with?

Most of the female superheroes that exist today are derivative. Batgirl. Supergirl. Spider-woman. She-Hulk. Most of their stories are derivative, as well. And I can’t tell you how many times they need to team up with their male counterpart to truly accomplish anything.  She-Hulk might be the one that breaks the mold, seeing as she is a lawyer and she can keep her rage under control. Very rarely is there a Hulk/She-Hulk crossover.

Wonder Woman is one of the few well-known female superheroes that is not just a carbon copy of an already existing male superhero. And really, Wonder Woman only stands out as cool because she’s on the same team as Aquaman.

A lot of this, however, is endemic of another major problem in comics today – the lack of new creative characters.  Most of the characters I mentioned, both male and female, are over fifty years old now. There were a couple of golden ages of character creation – the DC characters in the late-1930s, the Marvel characters in the early-1960s. Most of the characters the average American has heard of (the possible exception being Wolverine, from 1974) came from one of those two eras.  And the comic book writers from that age were absolutely sexist. As was pretty much everyone in America. And the idea of gaining female readers would be laughable.

Since then, there have been concerted efforts to add more diversity in comics. Some have been successful, but most have not. Part of this is because they seemed to pander. But part of this is indicative of a larger lack of creativity, not just with female or minority heroes. None of the heroes created in the past forty years have gained much resonance with the public.  Exhibit A is Dazzler, a mutant created during the disco era who can turn sound into light. She wore roller skates and a silver disco-ball suit. Since then, she has lost the roller skates, but do we honestly wonder why no female readers today are identifying with her?

And lest you think Dazzler is weak because she’s female, bear in mind the male equivalent of Dazzler, the Hypno-Hustler, thankfully disappeared after disco died. The fact that Dazzler still around as a viable character speaks to both their attempt to diversify, as well as how sparse the landscape of “new” heroes is.

Comics have also gotten darker over the years, so sadly the one female character to stand out over at DC is Harley Quinn. But just because Kevin Smith named his daughter after her, one should not think she’s a hero. She’s borderline psychotic and is obsessed with the Joker. So instead of focusing on the halter tops she wears, we should maybe, I don’t know, be looking at her as the villain she is.

That being said, there are still a large number of very good female characters, especially in Marvel.  The problem is that they don’t have their own books. They are members of teams. I’ll put Kitty Pryde up as one of the most fully-realized characters out there. She has her strengths and weaknesses, she has grown from teenage rookie to effective leader. Storm was also the leader of the X-Men for quite a long time. Invisible Woman, despite being often portrayed as “mother first,” is clearly the glue and moral center of the Fantastic Four. Although the Phoenix force has been overdone and was ruined in X-Men: The Last Stand, in the original telling, Jean Grey proved to be one of the most grounded and tragic characters in the Marvel universe.

Recently, perhaps in response to a lot of that criticism, Marvel has been trying to put more female led comics out there. Carol Danvers is now Captain Marvel (she had been Ms. Marvel for years) and has her own comic and allegedly a movie coming, although the merging of Spider-Man into the Movie Universe has pushed back the release of this movie, as well as Black Panther, the first African-American superhero.  So once again, we see a desire to promote diversity, but only until we can jam another Spider-Man movie in.

The new Ms. Marvel, taking Carol Danvers’ place, is not only female but a teenage Muslim living in New Jersey. And as an added bonus, she’s drawn in an in-no-way-sexualized manner. Thor, as I’m sure you have heard, is now female. And this new female Thor ended up taking it from both sides: some complained that it was pandering and others complained that she was too hot.  Um, those people do know what the male Thor looks like, right? Most of the women I know thought Thor: The Dark World would have been much better if they had just extended the Chris Hemsworth shirtless scene for 120 minutes.

This is where it gets placed on the people purchasing the comics. The female-led comics don’t sell well. Thor has done okay, but I wonder if that will drop after they reveal who the new female Thor is. She-Hulk was canceled, Captain Marvel has trouble breaking the top 100. Storm currently stars in her own series, but in February it came in at #152, right behind Batman 66, a comic based on the old Adam West TV Show. Pow! Zap! Whomp!

There is an all-female X-Men title and it is usually the worst selling X-Men title. Fearless Defenders was another all-female group. One of the best issues of any comic book last year had all of the Fearless Defenders’ boyfriends whining and getting in fights at a bar, waiting for the ladies who were busy kicking asses, to show up for date night. This comic lasted a whopping 12 issues.

So at this point, you can’t overly blame Marvel or DC for looking at the sales and relative popularity of their comics. They might really want to give Kitty Pryde or Lana Lang (who is currently being written as an awesome non-powered character in Action Comics) their own series, but when they look at the numbers, they just decide to add another Batman title.

What the people that complain about sexism in comics ought to be doing is not maligning the entire industry. They ought to be finding the comics that do have strong, reasonably-drawn females, and encouraging people to buy them.  But what fun would that be if they can make more noise by NOT purchasing the comics, then complaining loudly to whatever media are near when they get canceled?

Selfie Immolation

I guess the world and pop culture moved on while I was taking my one-month writing sabbatical. Not sure who the hell gave them permission to do that. But now I have to catch up.

So am I here to write about the horrors of Ferguson? Or maybe the effect that the midterm elections will have on Obama’s second term and place in history? What about the spread of Ebola and its implications on civil liberties?

Nope. I’m here because those bastards cancelled Selfie!

Most years I have two reactions to the first round of TV cancellations. The first is “Really? That sounded like a stupid show” or “I totally saw that coming.” Next, I expunge my DVR of the remaining episodes of whatever show was just canceled. I can usually read the tea leaves and hold off watching a few shows until they get the pick-up. This year, I’m still waiting on Forever.  I watched the first few episodes and thought it was okay, if a bit thin, but I can see its ratings and don’t want to get too vested.  If it somehow makes it to the end of the season and gets picked up for another, I guess I’ll get caught up over the summer.

This year, I aired my rare third reaction. It’s a mixture of “Man, you didn’t even give that a chance” and “What precisely did you think would happen with that show?”  Although I saw it coming, this was my reaction to Selfie.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to wax lyrical about the brilliance of this show. And I’m not going to malign the multitudes for not watching. Had I been blogging when Better Off Ted failed to find traction, you would all be getting a stern finger wagging. But Selfie was no Better Off Ted. It wasn’t a great show. But in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t bad. In a world where Two and a Half Men and Everybody Loves Raymond can each reign supreme for a decade, there should certainly be room for Selfie.

A number of shows, particularly sitcoms, need a little time to find their way. It’s always worth noting that Cheers got horrible ratings in its first season. Truthfully, Cheers is still a show that takes a number of episodes for a new viewer. It is an wkward show to introduce people to, no matter what season you’re watching, because so much of the humor involves knowing the characters and all of their foibles. Think about it – the brilliance of the episode where Cliff goes on Jeopardy is lost upon someone who hasn’t spent many weeks listening to him as the know-it-all that annoys the whole bar with his inane trivia. Trust me, I’ve tried a number of times to show some Cheers episodes to my students. Episodes I find hilarious fall flat, and it’s not just because the times have changed. Show them an episode of I Love Lucy or Welcome Back, Kotter, and they laugh at all the right spots. But not Cheers.

And let me reiterate, I’m not saying Selfie was anywhere close to Cheers, only that some shows need a season or two to figure out what they have. I thought the Robin Williams sitcom last year fell into the category of shows that get better in the second half of the first season when they figure out how the characters should interact. It started out trying to put Sarah Michelle Gellar on equal footing with Robin Williams, but then they realized that a) Sarah Michelle Gellar isn’t a comic lead, and b) there were three other very funny actors next to her. The last half of the season, it turned into an ensemble behind Robin Williams and it was much better.

Of course, the viewers didn’t come back to the Robin Williams show, because once you decide the show is a lost cause, you don’t check to see if you’re right later in the season. So Selfie never would have gotten to where they needed it to be. But it wasn’t the show’s fault.

Selfie also had some good ensemble actors to work with. Poor John Cho just can’t get a break. For a guy who started his career out as the “MILF Guy” from American Pie before starring in a slew of Harold and Kumar movies, the guy actually has some acting chops.  He was pretty good in FlashForward, a drama that lasted only one season. Last year, he played alongside Matthew Perry, another guy who can’t seem to gain any traction post-Friends. That show only lasted a year. Seeing a trend? I would say he is becoming this generation’s Ted McGinley, except that Ted McGinley brought about the demise of established shows, not new ones.

But any question about John Cho’s ability to act should be answered by Star Trek. He plays a Korean ensign who will grow up to become a Japanese captain. I mean, that’s some ability!

As for Karen Gillan, I’m not overly familiar with her ability, because I was late to the Dr Who party. I’m currently on Martha Jones, who is at least two companions before Amy Pond, the one played by Karen Gillan, and I only watch over the summer when shows like Forever don’t get picked up for a second season. Friends have assured me that Amy Pond was a good companion. I will have to take their word for it. They have also informed me that Karen Gillan is attractive. I am proud to announce that I have verified this information.

In Selfie, her character didn’t seem to have much consistency.  The writers seemed to have trouble growing her beyond the vapid narcissist that the show was based on. The same could be said for John Cho’s character. The only consistent characters were the aloof boss and gossipy receptionist. This seems to happen a lot in new sitcoms, as the writers realize the main characters have to become more well-rounded than the initial kooky-crazy person created for the up-fronts. But the lesser characters don’t have to evolve. They can stay with their shtick. And if the show lasts as long as The Big Bang Theory or How I Met Your Mother, those quirky characters might even become the focus. Yes, I said it. Sheldon and Barney were never intended to be the front characters. And I think both shows suffered when each character grew from random comedic interjection to focal point.

The failure of Selfie lies squarely at the feet of the TV execs for a number of horrible decisions in the placement and promotion of a show that had a chance. The main problem was its place on the schedule. The horrible name didn’t help. Oh, and selling it as a modern day My Fair Lady. Boy, nothing says hot and modern like referencing a 60 year old Broadway play. And the ultra-ephemeral name was just seen as overcompensating. But really, really. Those weren’t the major problems. The major problem was where it was placed on the schedule.

ABC put it on Tuesday night opposite NCIS, which is one of the top, if not the actual highest, rated shows on television. Okay, whatever, something’s got to go up against it, and maybe they draw from different crowds. Plus everybody has a DVR these days, so no biggie. I managed to record both shows for a few weeks despite the fact that they were on at the same time.

After those two weeks, though, CW added The Flash to their schedule.  This is a show I’ve been looking forward to for a year, ever since it was announced. So a few days before it was set to air, I thumbed forward in my channel guide and set the DVR to record.  I was then informed that The Flash would not record due to two other conflicts. I checked what the two conflicting shows  were. NCIS? Nope, not skipping that. Selfie? Sorry, buh-bye. You were cute for a couple of episodes, but we’re done now.

I haven’t looked at the ratings, but I would be willing to bet they dropped when The Flash came on. Let’s look at who Selfie was catering to. The show stars somebody that has been in the last two Star Trek movies and another person who was on Dr. Who. Plus, let’s not forget Karen Gillan was in a little movie this summer called Guardians of the Galaxy, albeit bald and in green skin. Oh, and throw in Harold and Kumar. So who is going to check this show out? Geeks. But when push comes to shove, those geeks are going to pick The Flash over a sitcom still trying to find its way.

I assume someone at ABC knew it catered to geeks and put it on the same night as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But Marvel is on at 9:00, an hour after Selfie was on. Isn’t the spillover effect supposed to go the other way? I could maybe see somebody watching one show and leaving it on the channel, but who turns on a channel because a certain show will be on later that night? Are the execs aware that we have these new-fangled remote controls?

I did end up watching the rest of the episodes online. Like I said, it was nothing spectacular, but  a fun show nonetheless. The interactions between the characters was getting better. One of the last episodes featured Eliza (Karen Gillan) and Charmonique (the receptionist) try to fill out an online dating profile for Henry. They end up setting him up with a roomful of people who look exactly like the two of them. Sure, it’s been done a thousand times, but what sitcom trope hasn’t? At least it wasn’t continuous menage-a-trois jokes from Charlie Sheen.

There were a couple of other sitcoms that debuted last year that had similar dynamics to Selfie. Both had an ostensible star, but featured an ensemble that developed their shticks and interactions as the season went on. The first was Undateable, starring Chris d’Elia, who had previously been the boyfriend on Whitney. The other was Ground Floor, with  John C. McGinley, no relation to Ted McGinley (as far as I know, neither of them have invited me to their family functions).

That’s two Ted McGinley references in one blog post. If I bring up Revenge of the Nerds, do I win a prize?

Interestingly, both Undateable and Ground Floor featured the same female “lead,” an actress named Briga Heelan in a budding relationship with a supporting actor.  Both shows seemed unsure if that particular relationship should be the focus of the show or not. Undateable, in particular, lost her for the second half of the season, presumably because she was filming the other show.  That forced the show  to feature some of the other actors. One of them, Ron Funches (don’t worry, you haven’t heard of him) stole almost every scene he was in. Rory Scovel was quickly becoming the star of Ground Floor’s first season, although I worry his kooky, quirky character is starting to go down the Sheldon/Barney path, becoming way too much of a focus. Of course, I assume the producers would be perfectly fine following in those characters’, and their shows’, footsteps.

The irony, of course, is that both Undateable and Ground Floor got picked up for a second season. Briga Heelan is going to have to hedge her bets for another year. So why did they make it but Selfie did not? The same reason mentioned above – because the television execs realized what they had, or more precisely what they didn’t have, and that it shouldn’t go up against the powerhouses of Fall TV. The execs in these cases also seemed to realize that it is no longer 1995, and there are different ways to market and broadcast a show now. Ground Floor was on TBS. I’m pretty sure getting ten viewers is enough to be profitable on that channel. Undateable was on NBC, but they held it off until summer, when it was not on against anything else. They then ran two episodes a night for six weeks and were done. And it worked.  Not in the November sweeps way, but in the middle-of-June way.

Seriously, had Selfie been moved to the “death valley” of Friday night, it might have been successful. I know my DVR would have followed it. In fact, why do we still run all of our shows between 8:00-11:00 PM? Had they run it at 3:00 AM, I would end up watching it just as close to “live” as I watch anything. But not if it’s opposite NCIS and The Flash. Really, when is TV going to lose the 8:00-11:00 Prime Time model. Just tell us when the show is on and we’ll set our DVRs.  I know, I know. Live audience, ad revenue, Same Day +7, blah, blah, blah. The world is passing you by, better come up with a new business model.

In the end, Selfie did not fit whatever unrealistic expectations ABC had for it, so it was dumped. Was it going to be the next  Seinfeld or Modern Family? Doubtful, but it certainly was more watchable than about ten seasons’ worth of Two and a Half Men. Or it could have been. But now we’ll never know.

Pulp Fiction Turns Twenty

Pulp Fiction just turned twenty. Wow, right after I turned forty. What are the odds? I wonder what Pulp Fiction was doing when I turned twenty.

I don’t know, but I bet I know what Quentin Tarantino and John Travolta were doing nine months before I turned twenty. Bow-Chicka-Bow-Bow!

They were probably filming a movie. Get your mind out of the gutter.

So happy birthday, with sugar on top. Now go clean the fucking car.

It’s hard for me to classify Pulp Fiction now. For a while, it was one of my favorite movies. I still think it was a game-changer in Hollywood. But I don’t know if it’s stood up to the test of time. I can’t remember the last time I’ve thought “I need to watch that movie again soon.” Part of this, I’m sure, is because so many other movies have copied elements of it, and maybe even done them better. The Matrix falls into this trap a little bit, but oddly, I don’t believe Airplane! does. The other reason it might have lost some appeal is because Quentin Tarantino might just be a one-trick pony. Why bother watching Pulp Fiction when you can check out Inglourious Basterds?

But I don’t want the film’s current status to sully how revolutionary it was at the time.

I was in college at the time, and I don’t remember if there was much buzz about the movie prior to its release. I’ve never been much of a movie aficionado, so if it didn’t have the blockbuster appeal of a Jurassic Park, I wouldn’t have known it was coming. But Pulp Fiction grew like a word-of-mouth slow burn. It feels like I overheard rumblings of this new movie, and a few outright questions if I had seen it or heard of it.

“No, what’s it about?” I would ask.

“It’s hard to, it’s just… Did you see Reservoir Dogs?” was the usual response.

“Never heard of it.”

“Oh, you should definitely go see it. Then rent Reservoir Dogs.”

(Thankfully before seeing Reservoir Dogs. I don’t know if I would have proceeded, or gone in with an open mind, had I already seen the ear cutting scene. It’s now been nineteen and a half years, I suppose, since I first saw it, and I still can’t hear “Stuck in the Middle with You” without cringing.)

I don’t know if these conversations were happening outside of college towns, but I guess they must have been or the twentieth anniversary wouldn’t make the news. It also seems that these conversations were not happening in October. Maybe closer to December or even 1995. Was this movie intended as more of a cult hit but then hit the mainstream? Was it a movie that was added to more theaters as it went along? I’m sure if I were less lazy, I could find out how many screens it was on by month.  But why do that when I can rely on spotty 20-year old memories? Crap, how did “buzz” happen before YouTube?

Truthfully, I don’t remember my exact reaction when I first saw the movie. Obviously, I loved it or I wouldn’t have gone on to see it maybe a hundred times or more in the ensuing twenty years. But it’s hard to extract my thoughts after just one viewing. How many of the scenes stuck with me? Was I confused by the reappearance of John Travolta after he had already died?

But I assume the things that jumped out at me were the same things that set it apart from so much that had come before. The pace, the dialogue, the adrenaline.

Others might say “the violence,” but I’ve always maintained that Pulp Fiction is not nearly as violent as it is given credit for. There are only a handful of deaths. The two guys in the opening scene. Then their friend Marvin. John Travolta’s character dies, but then is brought back due to non-linear storytelling. Zed and Maynard, but let’s be honest, Zed and Maynard had it coming. Plus we’re not entirely sure that Zed’s dead, Butch’s assertion notwithstanding. Only that Marcellus was about to go “Medieval on his ass.” Hard to believe that’s a phrase that did not exist twenty-one years ago.

Am I missing anyone besides those six? I don’t think I am. A few others get shot, my favorite of which was the woman who got shot in the thigh by a dazed Marcellus when she’s helping Butch after the car crash. The reason I love that particular scene is the same reason I think the movie gets credit for being way more violent than it is. The violence in Pulp Fiction is presented in a way to which we were unaccustomed in movies twenty years ago.

A person being shot, or especially killed, in a movie was supposed to be a serious, somber occurrence. Take a movie like The Godfather, a very violent movie. Almost every death in that movie is shown with a heightened sense of tension. When Sonny drives up to the toll booth and all the windows shut, the audience gasps. In war movies or life on the street movies, death is shown as the inevitable end to the unjust  struggle that is life in a pointless world. Even in campy horror movies, they are built up, a steady stream of “Ch-ch-ch, hu-hu-hu” building to a crescendo with the violin in the background. And after each death in these movies, the audience and, often, the characters are given a moment to reflect.

To contrast, when Martin dies in the back seat of the car, Vincent argues with Jules over whether or not he hit a bump. The aforementioned woman helping Butch just screams, clutches her leg and is quickly forgotten. The first murder happens when Brad is bumbling through an answer, so Jules shoots his friend lying on the couch, then quips “Oh, I’m sorry, did I break your concentration?”

So death doesn’t matter. Characters don’t even break stride when violence occurs. Even worse, the violence is often followed up with humor. We are not supposed to laugh at people being shot or killed. So when we leave Pulp Fiction, we talk about how the woman being shot was so funny. Or how awesome the “Dead N—– Storage” conversation was. And how cool it was that when Butch put the chainsaw down and grabbed the sword. This all makes us think it must have been a more violent movie than it really was – why would we be talking with such frivolity and enthusiasm about the death scenes?

Unfortunately, I think even Quentin Tarantino fell prey to the hype about how violent his movies are. While his first two movies use it sparingly, yet powerfully, it seems most of his later movies use violence (and the N word) as their focal point. The first Kill Bill is little more than violence porn. In porn, the plot is pointless, just a few minutes of dialogue to set up another twenty minute sex scene. Replace the word “sex” with “fight” in the last sentence and you have Kill Bill, Vol. 1.

So discounting the violence, I think it’s the dialogue that sets Pulp Fiction apart. The pacing, the attitude, and the violence are all portrayed through the dialogue. Few movies are as instantly quotable. Oh sure, I can run off a litany of Airplane! or Monty Python and the Holy Grail lines at the drop of a hat. But I don’t often find myself in situations where I can naturally drop a line about swallows and coconuts into everyday conversation. But “Check out the big brain on Brad?” Oh yeah, that one I can use. Even something as simple as “Mmm, this IS a tasty burger,” said with the right inflection, can bring to mind one specific scene from one specific movie. And although I don’t know if I’ve ever said “I’m a mushroom-cloud-laying mother fucker, mother fucker,” I can certainly think of some situations where I could have. I remember when my roommate bought the first computer with Windows 95 – we spent hours cuing up the VHS tape to record all of these lines and more, assigning them to every ding and ping that the computer would let us.

Of course, all three of those lines are said by Samuel L. Jackson. I know the movie momentarily revitalized Travolta’s career, and put Tarantino on the map. But nobody’s career is as closely tied to Pulp Fiction as than man who created Mr. Jules Winnfield of Inglewood. Samuel L. Jackson defines badassery. When you heard he was going to be in a Star Wars movie, you thought, “Oh, there’s going to be a badass Jedi?” He even makes shilling for a credit card company kinda badass. I remember sitting through the Iron Man credits, talking with a fellow comic book guy about the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” reveal near the end, asking “I wonder who they should get to play Nick Fury?” Then the post-credit scene came on and we both nodded. “Yep, nailed it. Nobody but him.”

How impressive was it that a relatively unknown actor would steal the show against such names as Travolta, Willis, Walken, and Keitel? Today, that would surprise nobody, but in 1994, nobody knew who Samuel L. Jackson was. I’m sure he would have made a name for himself anyway. He’s too talented of an actor.  But I have to wonder if he would have carved quite the same niche if he had a different breakout role. Would we be living in a regrettable world without, shudder, motherfucking snakes on a motherfucking plane?

As the years have passed, though, I don’t know if Pulp Fiction stands up to the test of time.  Its impact is still noticeable, but that very impact has made it a bit more pedestrian by comparison.  You can find similar quick dialogue in pretty much any Aaron Sorkin script. Want that brazen mix of humor and action? Just watch any of those Samuel L. Jackson-led Marvel movies.

If the movie is on TV, I won’t necessarily sit through it. To me, this is the definition of a timeless movie. If Star Wars is on, I’m watching it. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is on? Put down the remote control. The Rock, which came out two years after Pulp Fiction, fits this description as well. In fact, there is very little that Pulp Fiction does well that is not one-upped by The Rock. Unfortunately, this includes Michael Bay becoming more of a “keep doing the same movie over and over” director than Tarantino could ever be.

But if I scroll through the channel guide and see Pulp Fiction, my first thought is not “Click!” but “what part of the movie is it?” If it’s the first twenty minutes, I’m probably changing the channel. If it’s near the end I might or might not tune in for the Bonnie Situation and the diner scene. But if it’s anywhere near the black hole of a middle that is the back-to-back Oral Pleasure/Cab Drive scene, forget it. And if I did tune it in to watch those early scenes, I’m going back to whatever else I was doing as soon as Uma Thurman gets the adrenaline shot in the heart.

Unless it’s the edited-for-TV version, because that is a whole nother level of unintentional entertainment. But that is a subject for another post.

So happy birthday, Pulp Fiction. Like most big birthdays, let’s focus more on the zany, brilliant days when you were setting the world on fire, and not on the bloated, middle-aged Al Bundy you have become. And the less you mention those kids, Django  and Jackie Brown, the better.

And to those of you who disagree with my assessment, allow me quote Jules… “I don’t remember asking you a goddamn thing.”

Why You Gotta Be So?

Why I gotta be so?

I often get in love-hate relationships with elements of pop culture. Usually it’s a TV Show I keep watching only to justify the amount of time I’ve put into it. The last two seasons of “How I Met Your Mother” fit into that category. In the middle of almost every episode, I would ask myself, “Why the hell am I watching this?” And the usual answer was “Remember how funny that one episode in the first season was?”

This summer’s love-hate entry is a song. So the good news is that it should be much more ephemeral, lasting only four minutes at a time and already waning from its peak rotation. But this love-hate is different than most, in that I truly can’t decide if it is an excellent or horrible song. Yet when it’s done, I’m filled with that same “end of the chip bag” sense of introspection.

You were singing that at the top of your lungs, weren’t you? Yeah, how does that make you feel? Boy, you’re going to regret that one in the morning.

It’s just so catchy. The music is great. Just the right instrumentation, rhythm, movement. A peppy little reggae beat that I can twirl my three month old baby to. And isn’t that why we listen to music? Because of the music? So what could be wrong with it?

The lyrics. The lyrics are horrible. And dammit, it’s the lyrics that I have to sing along to whenever it pops up on the radio.

The song is “Rude,” by Magic, and although it started the summer obscure, it listed as the number one iTunes download a few weeks ago, so it now exists in the zeitgeist. If you know the song, you might even be humming it right now. Hell, if you’re anything like me, you knew which song I was talking about four paragraphs ago. I was referencing it while teaching the other day, and all I had to say was “What’s that catchy tune with the really stupid lyrics?” and two or three students offered up “Rude” before I could even describe it further.

The radio station I first heard the song on encourages people to text them if they like or dislike a song. Of course, this seems to be encouraging people to text while driving. I, ahem, have of course, cough, never texted my opinion on a song while driving. I mean, that would be illegal. And please believe me when I say none of this happened anywhere near a moving vehicle of any kind. Honestly, officers, no need to check my phone records.

The first time I heard the song, I was grabbed by the perky, upbeat rhythm and went for my phone. I had already thumbed in the word “like” when the crystal clear singing got to chorus. If one can have a spit take whilst not only not drinking but also driving (er, standing completely still nowhere near a car), I might have done just that. The lyrics, and the entirety of the song, are stupid.

I’m the first person to say that in most songs, the lyrics don’t matter. I can’t understand the lyrics for most of the songs on the radio in a given day. I’ve even karaoked a few songs only to say “Oh, that’s what he says there?” when the lyrics pop up. “Rude” is a song that might have benefitted from a bit more Eddie Vedder style mumbling.

Even when the lyrics are decipherable, they don’t need to make a lot of sense. I watched Alternative Nation at midnight through most of college, and I was fine with a song about a chick who puts Vaseline on her toast. There’s a Crash Test Dummies song that merely describes three people who had little quirks. No point to the song, whatsoever. Perhaps the point of the song was going to be explained in the chorus, but they just decided to sing “mmm mmm mmm mmm” instead. Then again, I’m pretty sure the lead singer of Crash Test Dummies can sing the Brown Note, so we best handle him with kid gloves to protect our bowels.

So I’m fine with silly, pointless songs. I’m fine with fun lyrics without a lot of depth. I’m fine with not even knowing what the guy is singing about. So what’s the matter with “Rude?”

For those of you who haven’t heard the song, the entire thing is about a guy asking his girlfriend’s father for permission to marry her. Yes, in the year 2014, an entire song is devoted to an action that was already insulting and obsolete fifty years ago.

In the first place, asking a girlfriend’s father for “permission” to marry his daughter is insulting to your future bride. It’s the 21st century and you’re implying she can’t make this decision for herself. After the father gives you permission, will the discussion turn to the dowry? Because I’m pretty sure that’s where the whole asking for permission came from. While you’re at it, go ahead and have the father sign the marriage license, because obviously your new wife can’t be trusted to sign legally binding contracts or anything.

But even more than the insulting nature, in the 21st century, the question is pointless. I think this makes it even more frustrating to have this song sung so earnestly. Honestly, what’s the father going to say? No? Chances are you’re already living with his daughter, and even if you aren’t, you’ve at least got some carnal knowledge, right? So Dad says no and you say “Gosh, Pops, you want me to keep getting the milk for free? Awesome. And just for you, I’ll throw in an extra ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ or two when I’m shtuping her tonight.”

I do understand the desire to alert your future in-laws. You’re setting the stage for your future with your wife, and that includes her family. I found a nice way to do this was to let them know, but not ask their permission. The night before I proposed, I told my father-in-law “I’m going to ask your daughter to marry me tomorrow. I hope I have your blessing.” I was not asking permission, but I also wanted them to be prepped in case their first response was going to be “You’re marrying that loser?” they had fifteen hours to get it out of their system.

But the father in the song said no. I imagine he saw the litany of poems and songs this kid had written for his daughter and, understandably, felt he had no future writing drivel like that. The guy should have asked permission with the background music playing. Then the father probably would’ve said yes, because, I can’t stress enough, it’s fun and catchy music. Although if the father said yes because of the music, then the song would never be written, and I believe that’s how the space-time continuum begins to collapse.

The singer then goes on to sum up why asking a father’s permission is a pointless exercise that barely deserves a mention, much less a song. He’s going to marry her anyway. So you really weren’t asking permission, were you? Any Catholic can tell you the wonderful difference between asking for permission and asking for forgiveness. Again, my father-in-law comes into play here. He asked my grandfather-in-law permission and was told no. So what did he do? Hint: he’s my father-in-law and my wife wasn’t born out of wedlock. So even 40 years ago, it was understood that asking permission wasn’t really asking permission. Yet here we are listening to some Canadian croon on about a non-issue.

“What the hell is he singing about?” I said out loud, phone frozen in my hand, when the chorus hit. “Is this whole song about… Why, this isn’t a new song at all. It is clearly from 1955.”

I quickly thumbed a “dis” onto the front of the “like” text I had already written. I was just about to hit send when the “marry her anyway” part hit. At this point, the music goes from a 4/4 beat to a 6/8 beat. It’s subtle, a change that most people without music backgrounds might just consider a tempo change or not even notice. And it’s quick, maybe only six measures then back to 4/4, but the effect is to take a straight-forward reggae song and fuse it with something else. I still can’t tell what. Is it reggae-rockabilly? Can that even exist? So I sat there, transfixed again by the music with the phone in my hand, unable to push send on either a “like” or “dislike.”

Which is really where I still am today. I never turn the station when the song comes on. Most of the time I sing along. I’m singing lyrics I can’t stand about a subject I find insulting. But dammit, what else can I do?

Of course, listening to it as much as I have, I now know the lyrics quite well. The more I’ve gotten to know them, my initial hatred has only grown. I know I’m picking nits here, but there are two major errors that I’ve found with the song. Both are semantics, and both would barely warrant a mention if not for the catchy tune that makes me listen to the horrible lyrics.

The first problem deals with grammar. Or not even grammar, but how to write dialogue. The lead-in to the first chorus states the father’s response: “You say I’ll never get your blessing for the rest of my life. Tough luck, my friend, but the answer is no.” Okay, is it just me or does that line start out as an indirect quote, then finish as a direct quote?

“Hey, dude,” comes the retort, “you don’t understand poetry. Every word needs to count. We have to worry about rhythm and rhyme. It’s taken you 2000 words to write about a three minute song.” Touche. I can’t imagine writing poetry. Way too verbose. And I understand that poetry, and by extension songs, don’t have to follow strict language rules. But poetry or prose, you’ve got to be consistent with who is speaking. Indirect dialogue is fine, but keep it indirect the whole time.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of rhyming? No and know are homophones, I don’t think that counts as a rhyme.

The second language problem I have is the very name of the song. They could’ve gone with “Marry Her Anyway,” which is the catchy 6/8 part and captures the point of the song better. But instead they went with “Rude.” The singer’s response to the father’s denial is “Why you gotta be so rude?” This is the second worst rejoinder in history, topped only by his next line, “Don’t you know I’m human, too?” (Insulting the father’s observational skills isn’t going to win him back to your side.)

But rude? I don’t know that I would classify a man not thinking someone is good enough for his daughter as being “rude.” To be rude, one needs to be deliberately hurtful. If you ask someone out on a date and they say no, that is not rude. If they say “not if you were the last human on Earth,” that’s where the rudeness comes in.

In the song, the father was even nice enough to say “Tough luck, my friend.” That has to be one of the more polite denials I’ve heard. Maybe he just felt you had insulted his daughter by asking someone other than her to make this important decision. I don’t know if this is Alanis Morissette “Ironic” level of mis-definition, but it’s up there. SO Canadians don’t know how to define words in song titles. Is that rude? Stereotypical, maybe.  While we’re at it, Bryan Adams was only nine years old in the Summer of ’69, so Canadaian singers are bad at both math and English. Probably more hyperbole than rude, but getting closer. I’m not saying the test for rude and the test for libel should be the same, but they’re in the vein.

Canadian singers suck? That would be rude, so I wouldn’t say it. Plus if I said that, the lead singer of the Crash Test Dummies would vacate my bowels.

By the way, you asked the father for permission and then ignored his answer. Sounds like he had a justified reason for his answer.

He didn’t even bring up the fact that you tried to rhyme no and know.

See what I did there? That was intentionally hurtful.

I know, I know. Why I gotta be so…?