What Should Mr. Robot Pay Homage to in Season Two?

The critically-acclaimed, award-winning cable series Mr. Robot is notable for a number of reasons, with a big twist: in the final two episodes, you realize you’ve been watching a ten hour unlicensed Fight Club reboot. One could say that the twist is “Elliot was Mr. Robot all along!” just like the twist in Fight Club is “Edward Norton was Brad Pitt all along!” but to me the twist was simply that Mr. Robot was Fight Club all along.

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Where is Mr. Robot’s mind?

Some people saw the “twist” coming, but I didn’t know I was watching a Fight Club reboot until the final few episodes, when a character is revealed to be imagined, the protagonist fights himself,  and a piano cover of “Where is My Mind” plays in the background. (Probably worth noting it was the same song used in The Leftovers, which I saw first and still think used it better.) Continue reading “What Should Mr. Robot Pay Homage to in Season Two?”

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Is There a Connection Between Bran Stark and “Uncle John’s Band”?

In a previous blog post, I investigated the possibility that George R.R. Martin took inspiration for Arya Stark’s storyline from the song “Dire Wolf,” by the Grateful Dead. I’m far from the first person to make connections between Martin’s words and the Dead’s lyrics, as this has been a topic of speculation and deduction for years.

But there is one song that I have never seen discussed, despite it having some very Westerosi imagery: “Uncle John’s Band,” the first track on the 1970 album Workingman’s Dead. 

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Now, unlike my theory that Arya’s story is directly lifted from the song “Dire Wolf,” this theory is slightly more half-baked, but not for lack of trying. “Uncle John’s Band” is a beautiful, lyrical song, simple in sound but complex with metaphor and references. As described by David Dodd in the “Greatest Stories Ever Told” series on dead.net, the song “carries within it enough room to consider the universe and our lives in the universe — it seems to be a universe itself.” Continue reading “Is There a Connection Between Bran Stark and “Uncle John’s Band”?”

How the Republican Establishment Has Become South Park’s Stan Marsh

Jeb(!) Bush recently made headlines by declaring he would not vote for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, proclaiming “I cannot support his candidacy.” With this announcement, he has fallen into rank with Lindsay Graham, Mitt Romney, and the other two Presidential Bushes, in saying that he will not support either the Democrat or the Republican candidate for president in the 2016 election.

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Please clap, but don’t vote for Trump or Clinton.

And then there are the other Republicans, who have not necessarily said they won’t vote for either Trump or Clinton, but are not ready to accept that this is their option. Paul Ryan falls into this camp, as do many others throughout his party. Continue reading “How the Republican Establishment Has Become South Park’s Stan Marsh”

How the Republicans Have Become the Political Equivalent of Batman’s Villains

“This has never been about who the nominee is,” Paul Ryan said yesterday, explaining why his party will fight any Supreme Court justice nomination made by Barack Obama in 2016, and why they are specifically going to fight the nomination of Merrick Garland.

This, from a party ostensibly dedicated to the Constitution. This response to the President’s nomination has proved something: the Republicans have lost all sense of identity, becoming the contemporary political equivalent to the villains that Batman fights daily in the fictional Gotham City.

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From Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader by Neil Gaiman and and Andy Kubert.

How so? In Batman media – whether comic books, films, or television – there is a running theme that the Batman’s “rogues gallery” is defined only by being the yin to Batman’s yang.

Their ideals, their missions, their goals and visions are all ethereal, shifting, defined not by what they are but by what Batman is not: Continue reading “How the Republicans Have Become the Political Equivalent of Batman’s Villains”

Is the Scarecrow the Batman Villain Who Trump Resembles Most?

This is the second installment in an ongoing series of articles exploring which Batman character Donald Trump resembles most. You can read the first installment here, in which I explain the impetus for this series and compare Donald Trump to Oswald “the Penguin” Cobblepot.  Or if you’re interested in reading D. F. Lovett’s fiction, you can buy his books here.

Like many of Batman’s villains, The Scarecrow first appeared in the 1940s. His backstory has gone through some variations, but there are a few universal elements: his weapon is fear, he wears a Scarecrow mask, and he is a disgraced psychiatrist who worked at both Arkahm Asylum and Gotham University before his downfall into crime.

“I am fear incarnate.” – The Scarecrow in Batman: The Animated Series

Unlike most of Batman’s famous villains, Scarecrow had not been seen on film until the Christopher Nolan trilogy. Cillian Murphy portrays Jonathan “the Scarecrow” Crane in all three films, beginning with Batman Begins, in which Scarecrow works with Liam Neeson’s R’as al Ghul to poison Gotham with a weaponized hallucinogen.

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Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow in Batman Begins.

One’s first instinct is to think that Trump and Scarecrow are an odd comparison. Trump is a brutish bully with cash, while Scarecrow is a delicate intellectual with a mask. But they have one thing in common: fear.

Both men use fear as their key instrument.

The Scarecrow finds out what you fear, and uses it against you. He does this is many ways. One is to plunge the city into darkness. Another is to use various fear toxins, frightening people to death or leading them to believe that their worst fears are becoming reality.

“He preys on the innocent and instills them with fear. When I chose to wear my costume, it was to prey upon the criminals and instill them with fear.

The irony is not lost on me…”

-Batman, describing the Scarecrow, in Jeph Loeb’s “Fears” (1993).

Trump’s entire campaign is based around fear. He tells people to fear immigrants. Fear refugees. Fear Mexicans. Fear Muslims. Fear ISIS. Fear “The Establishment.” Fear liberals. Fear women.

You either cede power to him because you are afraid, or he is what you fear. Both men have legions working for them, ready to rabidly attacked the next enemy. Scarecrow scares his opponents into not even engaging in a fight, just like Trump’s ability to scare away opponents from taking him on.

Fear is a tool for manipulation in the hands of Scarecrow, just as it is for Trump. Their power grows as they use fear to turn people against one another. Continue reading “Is the Scarecrow the Batman Villain Who Trump Resembles Most?”

Found Poetry from Google Search Console

“Make it new,” Ezra Pound famously said, a mantra which can be applied to any example of what is called found poetry. Examples of making it new can be found throughout history, both ancient and recent. Shakespeare lifted most of his narratives from existing stories; Marcel Duchamp put a urinal in an art museum; Ezra Pound himself created many examples of what could be considered found poetry; writer Hart Seely rephrased Donald Rumsfeld’s speeches into poems; and, most recently, Google Poetics surfaced across the internet. There is even the Found Poetry Review, founded in 2011 by a poet who was tired of having her found poems rejected.

Fountain 1917, replica 1964 by Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968
Fountain 1917, replica 1964 Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968 Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1999 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T07573

Recently, while researching the search queries that lead people to this site, it occurred to me that oftentimes these search terms are poetic, especially when one views many search terms at once, in a list.

And so, I put together a number of found poems, using only the search queries provided to me by Google Search Console, only the search terms that lead people to this blog (according to Google) in the last 90 days. Enjoy:

 

Haiku about the meaning of the song “Renegades”

spielbergs and kubricks
renegades lyrics meaning
spielberg’s and kubrick’s

 

Continue reading “Found Poetry from Google Search Console”

Is the Penguin the Batman Character Who Trump Resembles Most?

There is perhaps no narrative referenced more in today’s pop culture than that of Batman. It makes sense: Batman is omnipresent. He first appeared in 1939, and has subsequently been in eight live action films, two live action television shows, countless animated films and television series, and thousands of comic books. The ninth and tenth live action films to feature Batman (and, of course, Bruce Wayne) are both to be released in 2016.

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The upcoming Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Metaphors are how we talk about things in America. We seek something we already know from history or literature or film and we apply it to what we see today. At the moment, we have a political candidate whose ego and campaign results in comparisons ranging from homegrown Americans like Andrew Jackson and George Wallace to contemporary European buffoons like Silvio Berlusconi. And, of course, Adolf Hitler.

When a narrative has become as firmly cemented in American experience as Batman, it’s no surprise that it’s a common and convenient place to turn when seeking metaphors for our current political atmosphere. Parallels have been drawn repeatedly between candidate Donald Trump and the cast of rogues and anti-heroes in Batman’s Gotham City. In August of 2015, Trump proclaimed himself Batman. A month earlier, The Economist had described Trump as resembling Heath Ledger’s the Joker in The Dark Knight, a metaphor found in various places and explored further on this blog. Recently, comparisons have bubbled up across the internet comparing Trump to The Penguin, often accompanied by the hashtag #MakeGothamGreatAgain.

Interested in reading fiction by D. F. Lovett, the author of this blog post? Check out his debut sci-fi novel here.

But who is Donald Trump? Does he resemble his fellow billionaire Bruce Wayne, or one of Batman’s malevolent foes? Is he one of the few heroes or the many villains that populate the fictional Gotham City? Is he the hero we deserve? The one we need?

Or is he our reckoning?

Let’s investigate, beginning with one of the most common comparisons I’ve seen since the beginning of Trump’s campaign: The Penguin.

“The liberation of Gotham has begun!” – The Penguin in Batman Returns (1992)

Oswald “The Penguin” Cobblepot first appeared in issue #58 of Detective Comics, in which he hid a shotgun in his umbrella and pulled off a number of heists, initially unsuspected because of his bizarre appearance. Since then, he’s been portrayed by the cackling Burgess Meredith in the campy television series and film of the 1960s, by Danny DeVito in Tim Burton’s bizarre Batman Returns, and by Robin Lord Taylor in today’s Gotham television show.

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Oswald “the Penguin” Cobblepot, as portrayed by Burgess Meredith.

Each interpretation of the Penguin is slightly different, but some key elements are universal throughout his depictions.

The Penguin and Trump are both conventionally unattractive, with their appearance being a source for easy jokes.

The unpleasant appearances of Oswald Cobblepot and Donald Trump simultaneously inspire disgust and sympathy. They are vain men with repulsive physical appearances. The Penguin has deformed hands in many depictions, a small incapable body, and a twisted, ugly face. Continue reading “Is the Penguin the Batman Character Who Trump Resembles Most?”

Chris Rock’s Top Five is the Movie You Need to Watch Before the Oscars

As of the publishing of this post, the 88th annual Academy Awards are two days away. This means that a lot of people are either a) predicting who will win what, b) talking about who should have been nominated c) watching nominated movies they hadn’t gotten around to watching yet, or d) talking about why they aren’t going to watch the Oscars.

This article is not about any of those things.

This is about one of my favorite films of 2014, Top Five, which was overlooked by both the 2015 Academy Awards and audiences worldwide. The reason its relevant is because, one year before #OscarsSoWhite became a concept, it was another black movie (black writer, black director, black producers, black music, black cast, black soundtrack) completely ignored by the “Academy,” and because it was written and director by, and starred, this year’s Oscars host: comedian, actor, writer and director Chris Rock.

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This is not going to be a long blog post. You’re almost halfway done reading it. But I urge you to watch this film. The film contains multitudes.

In honor of one of the film’s theme, these are the top five reasons you should watch it:

The cast is amazing.

This movie feels like a reward for watching quality television: Wee Bay from The Wire, JB Smoove from Curb Your Enthusiasm, Ders from Workaholics, Carter from the first few seasons of Weeds. Plus Rosaria Dawson and Tracy Morgan. Oh, and small roles by comedians Cedric the Entertainer and Kevin Hart. And cameo performances (as themselves) by Jerry Seinfeld, Whoopi Goldberg, Adam Sandler, and DMX. Continue reading “Chris Rock’s Top Five is the Movie You Need to Watch Before the Oscars”

The Real Ending of Breaking Bad: No One is Okay

With Saul Goodman once again gracing our televisions as of last week, it’s a good time to reflect on Breaking Bad. Specifically, on its final episode, the polarizing finale entitled “Felina.”

Of course, many people loved the finale. But, on the other hand, there were those who found no satisfaction in it. Or, more accurately, they found no satisfaction  because they found it to be too satisfying,  too easy for both Walter White and his audience.

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A moment from Walter White’s final return home.

Unrealistic, people said. Too happy and too smooth, they said. The consensus of many seemed to be that the last episode had abandoned the realism of the show in favor of a (relatively) happy ending.

In The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum called it “closure-happy” in and said it felt like  we were watching “a dying fantasy on the part of Walter White.”The Wrap called it “too perfect.” Maureen Ryan of the Huffington Post said it felt like “mopping-up exercises.”  A common argument floated around that the fourteenth episode of the final season, “Ozymandias,” should have been the end. Or that the penultimate episode, “Granite State,” with its ambiguous cliffhanger ending, should’ve been it. One redditor suggested that “Ozymandias” was the actual ending, and various bloggers argued that yes, the entire final episode was a dying fantasy, a cancer dream in the mind of Walter White.

I do agree with one aspect of this criticism: we should not view the ending as being the true ending. But I think that there is a third way to view the finale. No, it wasn’t a dying fantasy of everyone’s favorite cancer-ridden drug dealer anti-hero. But no, it wasn’t “closure-happy” or “too easy” either. Continue reading “The Real Ending of Breaking Bad: No One is Okay”

If the Candidates Were Characters in a ’90s Action Movie: A 2016 Election Cheat Sheet

Iowa is behind us. That’s the good news. We don’t have to hear about Iowa anymore.

The bad news is that this whole charade has nearly another year left, and there is still a lot to keep track of.

Lucky for you, I’ve put together another guide to the presidential candidates, similar to the previous two installments about science fiction movies and horror movies. Once again, we are looking at the picked-off-one-at-a-time candidates through the lens of a medium where characters are removed one-by-one: 1990s action movies.

The ’90s were a time of bloated casts that were gradually pared down until a handsome hero was the last man standing. This election, like those beloved VHS classics, has a robust cast and an inevitable ending: there will be only one winner.

So grab a cup of coffee, hunker down, and check out this longform listicle about the brilliant spectacle that is the 2016 Presidential Election.

The Already Eliminated

The primaries have just begun – placing us somewhere in the first act of the film – but we’ve already had a major chunk of characters eliminated. Let’s take a look at who is already out of the running.

Scott Walker is Richard Lineback in Twister (1996)

I’ve said previously that Walker was Kane in Alien, and I stand by that argument. It proved to be painfully, chestburstingly accurate.

But now that his fate seems inevitable, his departure in the rearview mirror, we can recognize Walker for what he was: the equivalent of the guy who gets sucked up into the sky by a tornado in the opening scene of Twister. He has become nothing more than the guy who was eliminated during the prologue.

Did he make it? Lineback isn’t even in the same timeline as the rest of the movie. Walked dropped out on September 21st of 2015, over five months before the first primary.

Martin O’Malley is Emilio Estevez in Mission Impossible (1996)

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Like the first mission in the first film in the Mission Impossible franchise, the Iowa caucuses gave us an action-packed evening that resulted in a purging of several characters.

O’Malley is one of several candidates to immediately fold his cards after the Iowa caucuses. This probably says more about this particular election than it does about O’Malley, just as Estevez’s quick death during the opening mission in Mission Impossible said more about the movie he was in than it did about him.

Sure, he’s a relatively well-known name with a good enough resume. But he is ultimately just another bland white guy in a narrative that doesn’t have room for another bland white guy.

Did he make it? He dropped out on February 1st, lasting about as long as Estevez’s uncredited performance. Continue reading “If the Candidates Were Characters in a ’90s Action Movie: A 2016 Election Cheat Sheet”