Angel‘s “The House Always Wins” and Pissing It All Away

Angel, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as so many other good shows throughout television history, still occasionally suffered from the odd episode that was clearly filler and failed to really connect with fans.  “The House Always Wins,” the third episode of season 4, was one such installment, but it has one particular plot device that still speaks to me today, which I feel somewhat redeems what is generally regarded as an uneven, bland episode.

The Spin-and-Win, a gambling wheel rigged by the episode’s villain, the casino owner Lee DeMarco, is only accessible by guests chosen by the casino.  DeMarco uses Lorne’s ability to read people’s auras and see their futures, and with this information, chooses the ones with the most profitable destinies.  They are given a special gambling chip to play the Spin-and-Win, with a million-dollar prize as the lure.  When his mark takes the chip, it is imprinted with that person’s future destiny, and when they inevitably lose, they are left virtually mindless, their destiny taken away along with their ambition, and they spend the rest of their lives in a dull haze, listlessly spinning away quarters in the casino’s slot machine.

Most fans feel this is a pretty heavy handed attempt to equate gambling with throwing away one’s future, and while that’s not a completely off-kilter supposition, it’s one I never really connected with gambling in spite of the context.  The Spin-and-Win, along with its devious ‘destiny chip’ component, may have existed in a casino, and been in the purview of gamblers and those who loved games of chance, but to me the symbolism went a lot deeper.  The trap that the Spin-and-Win represented could take any form, and entrap just about anyone, as long as they obsessed enough about it.

Yesterday I wrote about creation vs. consumption, and how Stephen King’s It both represented that struggle and how it’s helped inspire me to throw off (at least for now) the trappings of consumption so I can create.  The image of this thing, the Spin-and-Win, from this episode of Angel, was another of the primary motivators that came to my mind’s eye as I came to this realization.  The Spin-and-Win, in my estimation, could be anything to anyone, much like It could take on the form of anything that its victims feared.  It wasn’t just about gambling, although I suppose my vice of gaming could easily be argued to have many parallels to that pastime.

For me, the Spin-and-Win represents video games. For someone who loves food too much, the Spin-and-Win represents food.  For others, it could be sex, alcohol, television, movies, music.  More broadly, the Spin-and-Win represent excess, the overindulgence of an otherwise harmless vice that creeps into your life and steals from you.  Time, energy, devotion to otherwise creative or self-improving pursuits.  It’s an easy retreat into something that’s comforting, but otherwise and ultimately, pointless.

I admit, “The House Always Wins” is not a great episode of Angel, though I still enjoyed it just fine.  But the idea of someone throwing away their destiny because they see an easy (but rigged and unattainable) win in front of them is a powerful one that has stuck with me through the years.  It’s always been there, in the back of my thoughts, and I’ve at times wondered why that particular form of that vice stuck when there have certainly been others that may have been more apt.

Now I know why, and I’m sending up that image to pull free of my own tendency to put of creating–writing–with something easy to consume–in this case, video games.

It may not be the prettiest or most eloquent way to break free, but so far it seems to be working out well for me.

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Creation vs. Consumption

Even though I’m only just now getting around to reading the novel–well, I suppose “reading” as in listening to it on audiobook–one of my favorite horror stories of all time is Stephen King’s It.  The 1990 made for television miniseries scared the hell out of me as a tween, and I loved it for it.  There was always something about Pennywise, as portrayed by Tim Curry, and more recently by Bill Skarsgard, that really succeeded in both creeping me out and eliciting a delightful sense of terror in the whole killer clown as a villainous entity.  I’d been unsettled by them before–Poltergeist jumps readily to mind–but this story really gave the trope new life in my imagination, and remains impossible to forget to this day.

I don’t know all of the lore behind It (hence the reason I’m listening to the audiobook), but I’ve certainly heard quite a bit of it, even without having read the notoriously doorstop-sized tome King wrote.  I’ve been regaled with tidbits from the more cosmically inclined pieces of lore from the story by countless enthusiasts on YouTube.  Friends who have read it have explained to me, in great levels of detail and with appropriate shock, the infamous group sex scene that has never been given life in the films.  And I’ve heard, from friends, YouTubers, and internet boards at large about how It and its characters and settings connect with the rest of King’s larger dark universe.  It’s fascinating stuff, and I plan to explore it as time and energy allow.

It’s no surprise to me that, at its heart, It is a story about consumption versus creation.  Pennywise, as the titular It, consumes the children of Derry, Maine every 27-28 years before returning to its slumber.  While It has no qualms about taking adults, It prefers children, particularly when they’re scared (the analogy of fear as a ‘sauce’ or ‘salt’ to the ‘meat’ that is the children).  It consumes, then sleeps for nearly thirty years, then returns to consume again.  Derry’s precarious prosperity seems tied to It’s existence, and even when Pennywise slumbers, It’s influence still manifests in subtle ways, which only seems noticeable to the town’s children.

Even the story’s heroes, the Losers Club, are plagued by the forces of consumption in their lives outside of Derry.  Sure, they joined together as kids to defeat It, but once they moved on they forgot each other and their shared experience.  They forgot about Derry, and It.  And though they may have made prosperous lives for themselves, none of them ever managed to have children.  The narrative suggests this is a result of It’s influence over them, even from afar, making Pennywise/It–already a consummate consumptive entity–a force that stops them from creating life of their own.

If It cannot consume the precious life you create, then you will not be allowed to create.  Pretty dark stuff.

And it’s at this point that I tie that theme into my own life, and the lives of many artists, writers, creators, and humans at large.  I learned a long time ago that, when people have free time, they basically spend it doing one of two things: creating, or consuming.  Consuming food, consuming entertainment, consuming air, water, energy, and so on.  Creation, while satisfying, is a lot harder to pull off, or at least do well: writing stories, painting, building, sculpting; hell, even cooking dinner is harder than eating it.

We rely on creators for the things we consume, and for many of us, having things to consume is all we need.  There are a ton of creators out there, of many and various things, after all.  But there are many of us who need more than to simply consume. Whether it’s a need to prove onself, or because someone has an idea or a thing they simply need to share with the world, there are creators.

For the past few months, I have not been one of them.

I’ve been caught up in the throes of consumption, and it’s not always easy to break out of them.  For me, the poison tends to be video games, which are so very entertaining, but which also aren’t exactly good for encouraging moderation in their consumption.  I haven’t written in this blog for several months, and have done little in the way of writing that wasn’t either directly related to my job, or directly related to video gaming.  I have become obsessed with having the highest score, unlocking the latest reward, or getting the latest piece of shiny equipment for my characters.

All of which, aside from the straight objective of entertainment, serves no real purpose.

I’m not saying that entertainment in and of itself is a bad thing, but when you’re putting most of your spare time into it, it becomes an obsession.  It takes you away from friends and family.  It takes you away from creating–or in my case, writing.  And ultimately, it can chip away at your soul.  Your potential for doing other, greater, things is simply sucked away.

And I’ve finally started to feel that.

I’ve known it, intellectually, for some time.  But knowing it and feeling the large swaths of time passing in idle bouts of doing essentially nothing are two separate things.  The obsessive abandon you put into consumption of a particular thing eventually wears off, and you start to realize there’s more you could be doing, if you weren’t sinking all of your time, and energy, and passion into something that wasn’t already made simply to be consumed.

I’m not saying I’m kicking my video game habit.  I’m not sure I’m strong enough for that.  But I am saying I’m aware of it enough to be apprehensive.  I’m trying to break free of it, or at the very least strike and maintain a healthy balance between my gaming and my creativity.  I’m going to try to write more, though of course I can guarantee only that right now.

Hopefully this is the start of many more successive and regular blog entries.  Hopefully I’ll be able to get a bigger chunk of my novel edited and ready for publication.  Hopefully I can find the strength to leave behind the obsessions with which I distract myself from creating.  Hopefully I can do all these things and much more.

Because hope, as Stephen King also wrote, is a good thing.  Maybe the best of things.  And while that line may not be from It, It is also ultimately about hope, and its power (along with that of friendship) to overcome darkness.

So, as I continue to listen to It, I also have hope that I will continue to write regularly, and create regularly.

Logan Proves a Triumphant Sendoff (SPOILERS)

When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. walloped its viewers with the double whammy of the cliffhanger ending to the February 21 episode “Self Control” AND the revelation that it wouldn’t be resolved for over a month, until April 4, there were veritable howls of frustration from fans.  I immediately consoled myself with the idea that the adjoining month of March would provide me with enough fresh Marvel media content to hold me over.  Logan, which has been described as Hugh Jackman’s final performance as Wolverine, would hit theaters on March 3, and Iron Fist would drop on Netflix 2 weeks later on the 17th.

I’ve loved all of the Netflix MCU properties thus far, and I’m expecting similarly great things from Iron Fist, casting controversies aside.  But I can also say, now that I’ve finally gotten around to seeing it, that the non-MCU Logan has proven to be a noteworthy swan song for Hugh Jackman, whose portrayal of Wolverine/Logan/James Howlett has been lauded and beloved by fans and moviegoers the world over since he donned the adamantium claws in 2000’s blockbuster film X-Men.  While Fox has certainly had a hit and miss track record with its Marvel properties, there’s no doubt that Logan will be remembered as one of the biggest hits.

What follows is a SPOILER-FILLED review of Logan.  PLEASE DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER if you want to remain unspoiled for this film.

The X-Men series of films, like the comics, have never been shy about portraying the future as bleak, apocalyptic, and altogether terrible for its heroes.  What Logan does that’s both unexpected and successful with this trope is live in that future,facing down both its bleakness and the accompanying fallout, which only gets worse.  It’s a powerful slap to the viewer’s sensibilities to learn that it’s years removed from the last X-Men film, that the future is dark and foreboding, and that things are not going to be changed by a leap back in time to alter the past.  The X-Men are gone, Logan is in hiding, and mutants have all but gone extinct, with none having been born in decades.

nekttmhdhikhoo_2_bThis setup makes for a dark, gritty, and often violent story that only gets darker as the exposition continues.  An older Charles Xavier (the ever-venerable Patrick Stewart) is now prone to seizures, which cause him to psychically lash out to anyone nearby during his episodes, and Logan has to keep him both isolated and medicated, and works as a driver to try to make ends meet.  When a woman approaches him with a request for help, he is soon pulled into a chase that involves him far more intimately than he could have imagined.  Pursued by a ruthless agency, Logan and Xavier embark on a road trip that may spell the end for them, even as it delivers hope to a new generation of mutants.

One of the most gratifying, yet simultaneously saddening elements to this film is its unflinching exploration of how these characters have aged.  The film is set in 2029, which–if you count the X-Men film as being set in the year 2000–means that nearly thirty years have passed since Logan and Xavier met at the Institute.  And time has not been kind to the X-Men.  In addition to the lack of new mutants being born, and the talk of them simply being a near non-issue in this world, there are oblique references to a “Westchester incident,” which may or may not have involved Xavier.  This paints a grim picture of what may have happened to the rest of the X-Men, and though it is never directly addressed, Xavier clearly remains haunted by it, effectively leaving viewers’ imaginations to fill in the details while also making them almost too afraid to ask for the details.  It’s a big narrative risk to take, but one that pays off nicely to the story’s tone.

hugh-jackman-wolverine-logan-e1477492112271Logan has aged, in several notable ways.  He clearly looks older now, which makes sense given that Hugh Jackman himself has aged in the last 17 years.  But there’s more: his healing factor is no longer working the way it used to, and appears to be slowly failing him.  He has wounds that no longer heal, he looks older and more beaten-down, and he’s overall in a darker place.  He can’t just slash his way through a fight anymore and expect to self-patch up afterwards.  He’s playing reluctant nursemaid to Xavier, and the two have clearly had their differences during this time, even if it’s clear they still care for one another.

logan-9Of course, the most obvious way in which Logan has aged is embodied in the character of Laura (played perfectly by Dafne Keen), who anyone who’s familiar with the comics will know is X-23, a.k.a. Laura Kinney, a.k.a. a clone of Wolverine.  She looks like him, acts like him, and has his power sets and gifts, in virtually every way identical.  When it’s confirmed that she was indeed cloned–well, actually birthed in the film–using his genetic material, Logan has to deal with the fact that, like it or not, he is responsible for her–something he is clearly not eager to do.

Another strong aspect of this story is, unsurprisingly, a tragic one.  It’s obvious that Logan pushes people away out of fear that anyone he cares about dying because they happen to be around him.  This is no more perfectly portrayed than in the scene where Logan, Laura, and Xavier help out a family in the aftermath of a near-fatal highway accident.  After helping them round up the horses that got loose from the family’s trailer, they invite the mutants to their home for dinner as thanks.  They have a nice, family-style dinner with their new friends, including several moments of humor and warmth, before their pursuers catch up with them.  In the confusion and chaos that follows, every member of that family is killed, and the father clearly knows it was because they befriended Logan and his companions.

logan-trailer-2-01The importance of relationships is also a strong theme in Logan.  Logan and Xavier.  Logan and Laura.  Laura and Gabriela (Orange Is the New Black‘s Elizabeth Rodriguez), the nurse who died to get her to Logan.  Laura and Xavier.  There are genetic obligations, there are relationships that are built on the foundation of a long association and trust, and there are familial relationships.  It’s telling that Logan leaves Laura behind when they first come under assault, grabbing Xavier and saying, “She’s not our problem.”  Clearly this changes as he learns about his connection to Laura from Gabriela’s recording and Xavier’s prodding, but the real sense of family between those two doesn’t come through–at least from Logan–until nearly the film’s end.

And it is that relationship that is used to violent effect upon Xavier, as a cloned, younger replica of Logan sneaks up on him and mortally wounds him before he can take action to defend himself.  It ends up being the first of several hard to watch deaths in the film, another notable feature Logan brings to the table.  And while it’s hard to watch Xavier die in front of Logan during the action (I mean, really, it was), the emotional wallop comes afterwards, when Logan has buried him, and can’t come up with anything to say, plodding and stumbling through just a few words about having “water nearby” before finally giving up.

One fairly amusing theme in all of this grit involves communication, namely how Laura communicates, particularly with Logan.  Through out the first two thirds of the movie, she is silent, or at least wordless, only giving voice to primal screams during fights. Xavier can communicate with her telepathically, and relays her thoughts to Logan, but he also speaks back to her in Spanish, apparently how Laura understands language.  After Xavier’s death, Laura starts speaking to Logan–in Spanish.  Which is hilarious, as Logan clearly doesn’t understand a lick of Spanish.  When she finally does start speaking to him in English, the end of the movie is nearly upon viewers.

Which does set up the most emotionally impactful–if not terribly original–moment of the film.  In most films where there are distance issues between a parent and child, one of the most powerful moments is when the child finally utters the word, “Mom” or “Dad” for the first time.  After Logan‘s high-stakes, action packed finale, we have a mortally wounded Logan, fading and dying despite Laura’s best efforts to save him.  She finally breaks down and calls him “Daddy” just before he passes.  And even though you see the moment coming a mile away, even though you know this is a trick verging on outright manipulation, you can’t help but feel the power of that word when Laura speaks it.

There are plenty of other details I’m leaving out, but these are the most memorable ones I could recall from seeing Logan.  It’s a violent movie, with plenty of blood and gore.  It’s dark.  It’s gritty and hard to watch.  People and characters you care for will suffer, and die.  It’s fierce.  It’s cutthroat, literally, in places.  It’s visceral.  And it’s quite possibly the best film that stars Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine–and I include the X-Men films in that group.  It’s an excellent swan song for a beloved actor/character pairing that filmgoers and fans have loved for the last 17 years.

Onto Valhalla with you, movie Wolverine.  And to Hugh Jackman: well done, good sir.  Very well done indeed.

And as this is Patrick Stewart’s final outing with Charles Xavier, I will simply say thank you.  You were an amazing Professor X, as well as a wonderful Captain Picard.  I can’t wait to see what you do next.

An Early, Spoiler-Free Review of Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange

maxresdefaultI had the benefit of going and seeing an early screening of Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange this evening.  It’s enjoyable, as Marvel movies tend to be, though it could easily be charged with taking the mystical end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and going through the same motions we’ve seen in the earlier films, but with trippier effects.

I’ll start with some of the positives.  Benedict Cumberbatch is spot-on as Stephen Strange, in looks, in voice, and in manner.  He starts off as he did in the comics: an arrogant, brilliant surgeon who has an automobile accident that leaves his hands all but useless to him.  This particular arrogant jerk is far less likeable than, say, Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark, favoring a more caustic, at times visceral wit that can seriously cut.  It’s off-putting at times, but I think is ultimately successful for a character who takes on the burden Strange finds put on him, especially as he comes to understand how little he really knows as he studies the mystic arts.

nullThe supporting cast is also ably utilized.  Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One brings surprising warmth and introspection to a role I was expecting to be otherworldly and almost uncaring.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is superb as Karl Mordo, whose power and experience is only matched by a certain regimentedness of purpose that he can’t quite ever seem to shake.  Rachel McAdams is Strange’s romantic interest, Christine Palmer, who has a few amusing scenes reacting to Strange’s antics (both mystical and not so mystical), but is otherwise not terribly memorable.

The biggest problem one might find with this film is that, as a Marvel Studios film, it does seem to hit some fairly predictable points.  Marvel has clearly mastered the storytelling aspects of the hero’s journey, and has amassed a multimedia juggernaut by doing so successfully.  That’s why we see a lot of the same elements: a hero who starts off not particularly heroic, who finds a way to attain the power to change the world, loses an elder figure, and completes the journey themselves, changed for the better.  Along the way there’s some humor, some romance, and some fun.  Doctor Strange seems to follow this formula to the letter, and while Marvel still does the job ably, it may be time for them to consider new angles to their films’ storytelling.

doctor-strange-kaecilius-1And then there’s the villain.  Marvel’s tendency to do lousy movie villains (Loki notwithstanding) is intact and going strong.  Mads Mikkelson’s character Kaecilius is someone of whom I’d never heard until this film, and it turns out I didn’t need to know much about him, in the worst ways possible.  He’s out to remake the world anew, and willing to destroy reality to make it happen.  Armed with a bland fanatacism and an even blander cadre of disciples, he’s less of a threat and more of an inconvenience, as Strange soon deduces.

None of this is to say the movie is a failure.  Quite the opposite.  It’s still building to a larger conclusion, and it does take this old formula and run it against the considerable backdrop of a mystical, reality-spanning adventure.  And the special effects are simply mesmerizing.  We have sorcerers and wizards bending reality all around themselves, creating portals, altering gravity, summoning matter and energies out of thin air, astral projections, out of body trips through the universe, multiverse, and so on.  It’s a visual feast, and a bit overwhelming at times, but it’s definitely worth experiencing.  Even if Kaecilius isn’t all that memorable, he can still do some fun things during a fight.

doctor-strange-benedict-cumberbatch-04-02-2016-620x413There’s the Marvel blend of action and humor, some of which you can see coming, but which ultimately works out.  A few of the jokes in particular come out of nowhere, making them rare gems indeed.  Stan Lee’s requisite cameo comes at a moment you can hardly miss.  And the post credit scenes are definitely worth sticking around for, both for humorus and plot-driven reasons.  Definitely worth a view, and I would say this is one of the few times I’d lobby for seeing it in 3D IMAX if possible.

When the Paladin Wins Out: A Library Tale

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a paladin and a rogue vying for influence over my actions.  Sometimes paladin wins out, sometimes the rogue does.

This story is one in which my inner paladin demonstrates why being the goody-goody sometimes works out for the better.

In spending time with one of my friends a few months ago, we ended up talking about Frank Abagnale, Jr., who is the basis for Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the movie Catch Me If You Can.  I had neither seen the movie nor read the autobiographical book after which it was named, but Mr. Abagnale’s life was so fascinating that I soon ended up seeing the movie after that conversation (it’s GREAT!  If you haven’t seen it yet, do so).  I knew I had to read the biography next.

old-libraryI’m a librarian by profession, so I had easy access to the means to acquire it.  I put a hold on the book, got it a few days later, and started reading.  It was a fascinating book, but as many of you know, life often gets in the way of your leisure reading time.  I was only about 100 pages into the book when it came due, so I went to renew it–and found that another library customer already had a hold on it.

Now, when a customer has a hold on a book or other library item you have checked out, that means you need to return it by the date it was due when you checked it out.  You can’t renew or extend the due date on that item, as you’ve had the length of the loan period–usually 2 or 3 weeks–to read, watch, or listen to the item in question.  If you don’t return the item by its due date, you are penalized with a daily fine.  Many library customers are familiar with all of this.

Since I was a library employee, though, I had a privilege that our other customers didn’t.  I wasn’t fined for items that were overdue (at least not at first–you could be charged for the replacement of the item if it wasn’t returned by a certain point).  It was at this point where the rogue and the paladin started to pull me in different directions.

ultimate-spider-man-angel-and-devil_9444The rogue whispered in my ear to finish Catch Me If You Can.  I could have kept the book, which I was really enjoying and really did want to read.  I could delay for however long it took me to read the book, which wouldn’t have been that long, right?  What harm could really come of it?

But the paladin had words for me, too.  Words of honor, and integrity, and the idea that library rules existed for a reason.  Would not I be undermining the system by which our taxpayers are supposed to be guaranteed free, equitable access to library items if I selfishly kept them when I shouldn’t?  How could I call myself a good librarian if I didn’t support it?

The paladin won out that day.  As a library manager, it was up to me to set a good example for my co-workers and not abuse my privileges.  Besides which, I’d seen cases of staff abuse of their privileges that had resulted in people losing their jobs and/or being disciplined because of it.  I didn’t want to go down that path, or even start to.

So, with a heavy heart, I played by the rules, checked in the book that was due, and put it in transit to the next customer, forlornly wondering if I would be able to continue reading Catch Me If You Can anytime soon.

As it turned out, it was very soon.

Not five minutes later, I was at the desk, and looking for items to shelve.  A customer came in, returned some items and left before I could issue them a receipt.  Imagine my delighted surprise when I got to the audiobook they’d returned, which happened to be the book I had been reading, Catch Me If You Can.  And, as a bonus, it had no existing holds on it.

dstfpI didn’t actually let out a whoop and jump for joy, but I did do a small arm pump and grin big as I checked the audiobook out.  I actually really enjoy audiobooks, and spent enough time in my car that I would easily finish this one within two week.  I decided to start listening to it from the beginning, and ended up loving the whole thing.

And I could swear the paladin was smiling down at me, and at the rogue, who was rolling his eyes dismissively.  His words to both, “You see?  Even when you can’t always see it, there is always a way to do right and still be victorious.”

Touché, Mr. Paladin.  Touché.

The One-Sided Nature of Marvel Studios’ “It’s All Connected”

nickfury-imAnyone who knows me can tell you that I’m a big fan of the MCU that Marvel Studios started back in 2008 with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk.  I love the interconnected nature of the movies, and how they reinforced the notion that these were characters whose actions would affect the plots and developments of others that came along.  It was a brilliant way to conceptualize and bring together a movie franchise, and it was so uniquely a Marvel opportunity, that I knew their film The Avengers was going to be a huge hit, even as far back as Iron Man, when it was only being hinted at.

making_mine_marvel_5With the ever-present phrase “It’s all connected” a seeming mantra of the entire universe, it seemed a no-brainer that there would be plenty of connections, however tenuous, between the films and the shows that emerged on ABC and Netflix.  And as far as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been concerned, they’ve made plenty of references to the films to show they’re connected, from having some of their stars (Thor‘s Jamie Alexander, The Avengers‘ Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson, and Captain America: The First Avenger‘s Haley Atwell jump quickest to mind) appear on the show, to having episodes and plot arcs made in direct response to the events of the films.  Netflix shows Daredevil and Jessica Jones have made small, oblique, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them references to the films, but thus far have mostly kept to themselves in terms of really connecting to anything else.

Where there has been the least amount of connection in terms of acknowledging properties outside its own wheelhouse, however, has been with the films.  And that is a major, ongoing source of disappointment for me.

Now, I realize that making movies is way different from making television shows, and I know it’s unlikely, and maybe even impossible, to really work the characters, plots, and developments of television into a film in any substantial or meaningful way.  Movies are planned out years in advance, whereas television can turn on a proportional dime as needed.  I get it–we probably won’t see any television characters in the films anytime soon, if ever.

But I think it’s criminal at this point that the word “Inhuman,” as used in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., has yet to even be uttered on screen in any of the MCU films.  I find the studio’s indefinite suspension of the previously planned Inhumans movie to be off-putting and disingenuous in light of it’s mantra.

As best I can tell, the only reference I’ve seen from the films to anything not originated in the films has been the Theta Protocol, which even then involves the Helicarrier that was first seen in The Avengers.  Even then, also, I’m not sure the name itself is even mentioned in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

In any case, my point in all of this is that, as the originating medium of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the films should be doing more to cross connect to the other content that’s out there.  And again, I realize we may not ever see Daisy Johnson or Mike Peterson or Melinda May, or even (though I really hope I’m wrong here) Matt Murdock or Jessica Jones or Luke Cage in the films.

I still think, however, that including a throwaway line about the Inhumans emergence or the chaos going down in Hell’s Kitchen would be something manageable.

before-daredevil-has-the-punisher-already-appeared-in-the-mcu-just-bear-with-me-steve-653803Come on, Marvel Studios.  Would it really be that hard for you to do that little?

Why the Zendaya Spider-Man Movie Controversy Isn’t a Big Deal to Me… and Shouldn’t Be to You

It seems there’s been a slow-burning uproar the last few days, since The Wrap posted an article leaking the alleged “real” role that young actress Zendaya has been cast for the upcoming film Spider-Man: Homecoming.  In it, the article states that Zendaya, a young woman of color, will be playing the role of Mary Jane Watson, whom Spider-Man fans know to be the most iconic and well-known of Spider-Man’s love interests.  In response, many fanboys–most of them white, of course–have taken to various social medias and websites to vent their collective outrage over this decision by the powers at Sony.

As a Spider-Man super fan myself, I’ve been aware of this announcement since it went live, and somewhat vaguely aware of the “backlash” that’s resulted.  To be perfectly honest, it’s hard for me to get worked up over this issue, for a number of reasons.

  1. MJ’s race doesn’t fucking matter!  I love the way I’ve seen most of the racists coding their response to this one.  They know damn well they can’t openly say, “I’m angry because MJ shouldn’t be black!”, so instead they attack her hair color.  “MJ should be a redhead!” they shout.  It’s purely code for saying she should be white, which is complete and utter bullcrap.  I’ll say here what I’ve said elsewhere: with very few exceptions, there are almost no Marvel comic book characters whose origins and backstories demand they be white.  The Human Torch.  Doctor Strange.  Iron Fist.  Hell, Iron Man, for that matter.  And Spider-Man, as well as his supporting cast.  Anyone who claims these characters must be exactly as they have been portrayed in the comics is saying so from a position of privileged ignorance
  2. It’s not official, at least not yet.  The Wrap article, while it has certainly touched off a minor firestorm with this alleged development, can’t actually be officially taken at its word… yet.  Until Marvel or Sony comments one way or the other, this is just a high-profile piece of gossip from a website.  Does it sound like something Marvel would do?  Yes it does.  Does it seem like a logical development to include MJ in the Spider-Man films?  Totally.  Would Zendaya be the proper age to play MJ in a high school iteration of Spider-Man?  Hell yes.  But until we hear something official, we may be getting wound up over nothing.
  3. The racists are clearly losing, anyway.  There’s been more focus on the backlash against the backlash.  I’ve seen articles where Twitter trolls get schooled for their coded comments about Zendaya’s race, and hair color.  Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn has defended the concept of a person of color playing MJ, very eloquently citing need for our movies to reflect the diversity of the world in which we live.  The “controversy” surrounding this hypothetical piece of casting is really nothing more than the slowly, noticeably, deteriorating yelling of the privileged racists whose voices are becoming less and less important as time goes on.  The powers at Marvel and Sony are not listening, and continuing to make movies and shows that prove to be highly successful, both financially and critically.

On a personal note, if Zendaya is indeed portraying MJ in Spider-Man: Homecoming, I am a-okay with this, in exactly the way I would have been okay with a Peter Parker who had been cast as a person of color.  I’m not familiar with her work, but I will say that she does look stunning, and I’m willing to bet that Marvel and Sony would be putting her in the role because they know she can do the character justice.  To me, that’s all that matters, and Marvel has long since earned my trust in these areas.

If Zendaya is MJ, bring it on!  I’m sure she’ll be wonderful.