Okay, full disclosure, I’m writing this post as I’m watching the Election Returns so I’m sorry if my writing seems a little off. I’m distracted you know? Even though I’m still hopeful and optimistic anything can happen (and has been…) and I’m kind of freaking out. Sooooo I figured I’d write a blog post! And thankfully our faithful moderator Sam from Thoughts On Tomes has given the T5W Goodreads group another great prompt. The task? Find five characters I used to love but now don’t, whether I’ve outgrown them, have come to hate them, or am just now casually indifferent to them. So here’s who comes to mind when I’m trying not to worry whether or not my country’s about to implode under a Trumpocalypse…
What was I writing? Oh yeah…characters that I’ve changed my opinions about. Alright, here’s who’s making the cut. Hopefully this sort of venting via writing will be helpful. Anyway, the TV’s muted so I can just look up and get excited (hopefully!) or panic and freak the #@$% out (hopefully not).
5) You know what? I have bigger things on my mind right now. I can’t think of five okay? I’m sorry. I am. I’ll try to really elaborate on the four I can come up with so you don’t feel cheated okay?
4) Jason Bourne (and the generic action hero) – As a kid I was naturally a fan of the action movie. They are always exciting! You have someone like Jason Bourne – almost superhuman in their speed and reflexes – facing insurmountable odds. And they step up to battle evil with guns, knives, car chases, motorcycle chases, some sweet mash-up of various martial arts techniques, and their fists. My God…the fists!!! These guys punch all sorts of bad stuff on the regular. It was awesome!
But the emphasis is on was. Yes, obviously, as an adult I still enjoy movies with a great deal of action in them – superhero films, Star Wars, etc. But I prefer my action with a bit more plot, mythological importance, and character development than I used to enjoy as a kid. I’m not saying I hate Jason Bourne or the Bourne films. (How could you hate Matt Damon??) But I just find them a little boring now. All they seem to be are testosterone driven punch-fests and, while I loved them in high school and in college, I’m looking for something more form a movie now. Plus, mentally ingesting a lot of films teaching violence-is-fun, violence-is-entertaining, and violence-fixes-everything isn’t healthy.
3) Frank Martin (and the extra violent action hero) – The Transporter movies kinda kicked ass right? I mean Jason Statham is pretty much cut from sheet rock and he does a lot of crazy driving (cars, motorcycles, boats, planes, whatever you happen to have in the driveway) while still punching people on the regular. This kicks up the ridiculousness of the Jason Bourne model though by adding a) so many shirtless hero moments, b) more violent and extended fight sequences, and c) far more objectified women. So it amps up the violence of the previous model (making it more problematic for me) and adds a heaping helping of sexual objectification to the mix (making it even more problematic for me).
While I find Jason Bourne (and other characters cut from his cloth) a bit boring now, I find Frank Martin and characters like him a bit dangerous. The explicit endorsement of the messages of the Myth of Redemptive Violence, women being sex fantasies in need of saving, and the hyper-masculine ideal only bring with them trouble for our personal psyches and for our culture. I remember the moment when I realized I was done with this character (who I used to really like!) and this genre. The Transporter 3 came out in 2008. I was twenty-six. And when I saw it I wanted to like it…but it felt wrong. I’d liked The Transporter 2 in 2005. But sometime between my early twenties and my mid-twenties I realized this wasn’t something I wanted to watch anymore. It just didn’t sit well with me.
2) Lara Croft (and the objectified, sexualized action hero) – So I was a big fan of the first Lara Croft Tomb Raider movie. Who wouldn’t be in my shoes right?? I was in high school and here was Angelina Jolie, in ridiculous booty shorts I might add, doing all the sorts of high octane adventure stuff the guys normally do!! I saw this movie a lot the summer it came out. And, yes, I’ll grant films that have women star in an action hero role are important! Look at The Hunger Games. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have had a Black Widow movie by now. Of course we have Rey and Jyn’s coming soon too. Buuuuuut all the good that can do is undercut when the woman in question is a big ol’ personified male sex fantasy playing at being a superhero.
Now it just makes me uncomfortable. Even though the movies are meant to be entertaining, I can get my entertainment in a way that doesn’t so blatantly objectify women. Buddhism teaches that our unconscious mind is like a garden. Our store consciousness holds all manner of seeds – happiness, compassion, righteousness, anger, judgment, etc. The more we focus on something, the more that grows in us and the more it affects us and how we see the world. So to watch something that so blatantly objectifies women (as with something that glorifies violence with no redeeming artistic merit other than it’s “fun” and “exciting”) is watering parts of my mind I’d rather lay fallow.
1) EVERYONE on The Walking Dead – [SPOILERS FOR THE SEASON SEVEN PREMIERE HERE] I’m with the group of people who quit this show after the Season Seven premiere. And I’m okay with that. Yes, I know The Walking Dead is violent. And yes, I can handle depictions of violence if there’s an artistic point or purpose to it. For the first four seasons or so, The Walking Dead was a violent show but there was still hope. Hope’s important! In fact, I’d say that’s a major part of dystopia as an art form. All dystopias, even if they end on a bleak note, hold up some trait as the potential for salvation. In The Walking Dead hope was found in redrawing the lines of what family was and taking strength in each other. The hope made the violence tolerable. They were fighting to prove they could survive together in this new world. They were fighting to protect each other. Last season we even had Morgan who offered another way, embracing nonviolence!
But the introduction of Negan wasn’t okay. I felt a tonal shift. Watching the premiere felt like sadism for the sake of sadism. I agree with the others who have called it torture porn. To taunt a dying man as his head was split open, his eye dangling just isn’t okay with me. Last season we saw Rick and company embrace the role of villains themselves, killing Saviors in their beds as opposed to helping farm for food from Hilltop. I wasn’t okay with that. Then, in the finale, Morgan casually throws his nonviolent approach away for a contrived plot point. I wasn’t okay with that either. Now, Season Seven begins and it’s all about Negan and his bat. On Twitter, The Walking Dead hashtag is still paired with the bat emoji. All the advertisements over the summer focused on Negan, his bat, and who he killed. It was clearly the killer and the killing that’s become the star. I felt sad. I felt sick. As I’ve said above, in watching something I give my mental assent to it. And I can’t, in good conscience, give my mental assent to this sort of show anymore. There are better things to do with my Sunday nights. In fact, I’ve finally started watching Luke Cage on Netflix instead! If you’re interested, Kalie’s written a far more thoughtful reflection on The Walking Dead here.
Annnnd that’s all we’ve got folks. Here’s hoping you’re reading this in a world tomorrow where we’ve elected to follow compassion and logic into a brighter future as opposed to allowing hate, fear, and intolerance to have the loudest voice in America. Either way, it may be a while before my next post. I need to try and come to grips with the unexpectedly high number of people in my country who aren’t just okay with racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, bigotry, and tax evasion but want this in a leader. What’s most unbelievable is tomorrow people will wake up and still say there’s no problem with sexism or racism in this country. But we have to remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “The arc moral of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.” May God be with us as we all work to maintain a loving perspective flowing from mercy, optimism, and hope.