Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cheryl Loves Big Brother

I had certain expectations regarding the Cheryl subplot. As you all know, I was totally on Team Cheryl in that while I felt her actions were drastic, I did feel she had a legitimate beef. Ryan Victor is her child and she has a right to have access to him. Plus, like I said, Vicki pretty much made all the arrangements with very little input from her.

But anyway, when I heard about this subplot, I thought it would go one of two ways. Either Ellanjay would resolve it by having Cheryl die from some random Act of God, thus wrapping everything up neatly and rendering all the proceeding drama pointless. Obviously if they went that route, you just know that the Tribbles would just be like "eh" and the plot would continue on and Cheryl would never be mentioned again.

I thought the most likely resolution to the Cheryl subplot would be that there would be a nice, long chapter where Vicki or somebody patronizingly explains what a fool Cheryl is for thinking she has a right to her child, bringing God in on air support to go for her emotional wounds to drive the point home. And I'd dig around trying to come up with the right term to use to describe said explanation. I know people have coined the term "whitesplanning" where white people patronizing tell people of color that racism totally doesn't exist because no one they know of has been to a cross-burning. But I don't think I can use that in Cheryl's case because in the LB-verse, all ethnic characters are obviously ethnic. I should be grateful they didn't try to give Lionel a name off of this list.

I suppose "mansplanning" aka where men patronizingly explain to women that sexism doesn't exist, because every now and then, there's a form of entertainment with a female character front and center, might work. Unless Vicki's doing the bulk of the explaining, in which case, back to the drawing board.

In fact, the only appropriate term for all this might be "RTC-splanning" but maybe y'all can come up with a better term.

Anyway, like I said, whatever route they chose to resolve the Cheryl subplot, I thought they'd at least try. Yeah, the inevitable RTC lecture-fest would probably make me ragedump over how patronizing it is, but still, that would be better than what they give us, which is nothing. The entire conflict was settled off-screen and they only devote the opening paragraph to it. I was seriously wondering if the eBook was missing a few pages because this is crap.

VICKI was encouraged by the change in Cheryl. Something had happened to the girl as she listened to Mark talk with Clemson. But in a heated meeting with Tom and Marshall, the group agreed Cheryl shouldn’t return with them.

Like I said, I find this more rage-inducing than a whole chapter of RTC-splanning. At least with RTC-splanning, as infuriating as that would be, I would respect them for trying to defend their position, trying to polish a turd. This is the kind of slapdash effort that qualifies as Sloth, as in the deadly sin, not the animal. This is the kind of incompetence that Thomas Aquinas would declare a sin. Granted, if I made this point to any of the writers in the LB-verse, they'd probably look at me blankly. Given that since they tend to be virulently anti-Catholic*, they probably wouldn't appreciate me bringing up Thomas Aquinas.

I know, you guys are tired of me making the same point over and over again, but I believe in driving a point home, dammit! Plus, this level of sloth bothers me, both as an artist and as a Christian. Whatever complaints you may have about Catholicism, at least they created some damn good art! They didn't just slap a Jesus fish on it and send it out!

Now that I'm done with that rant, let's speculate on just what caused the change in Cheryl. Maybe she's been taken over by an RTC Yeerk. There's the obvious Borg reference. Me, I'll go with the Obvious Stepford Wives reference. Yeah, I know it's obvious, but you just know that the RTCs missed the memo on how that movie is supposed to be a horror movie.

We do see some inkling of Cheryl trying to assert herself, in this conversation she has with Vicki as they prepare to leave. I'm going to post the entire thing, because I believe in spreading pain around.

“I don’t think going back with us is a good idea,” Vicki said. “We’ll head to Wanda’s and see if you can stay there.”
“What if I don’t want to stay with her?” st
Vicki put an arm around Cheryl. “This isn’t easy for any of us. Make the most of this time away, and down the road—”
“What happens if I can’t get back down the road? Wanda could turn out to be—”
Tom passed, holding Ryan with one hand and holding the phone to his ear with the other. Ryan smiled and waved at Cheryl. She turned to Vicki. “I’ll do anything to see my little boy again.”
“Then use this time. Let God work on you.”

I did use the "Search this Book" feature to find out if Cheryl makes any further appearances in this book or if she's gotten rid of the way they got rid of Dr. Rose**. Good news is she does make further appearances. Bad news, well I think this quote sums it up best:

He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

Seriously all you need to do is change out a few pronouns and whatnot in that paragraph and you have Cheryl's experience in a nutshell...yeah, in an attempt to soften the blow, I'm going to post how it should have gone aka that only part of V for Vendetta that I really liked. I'll even post a YouTube link for those too lazy to read. However the Wachowski Siblings may have muddled the message of V for Vendetta***, even they couldn't rob that speech of its emotional power.

After all this, they watch some news where they smirk at Leon Fortunado's speech. As you guessed, his speech gives me an opportunity to dust off my "Strawman Always Has a Point" tag.

Leon Fortunato spoke against Dr. Tsion Ben-Judah’s claims that the Bible predicted the plague. “The enemies of world peace will twist these ancient words to fit their own agenda,” he said. “His Excellency assures me that this change in weather is only temporary. And we reject reports that there is some god punishing innocent people for simply living their lives. That is not the kind of god I want to serve. I wish to serve the loving, generous god we have come to know, Nicolae Carpathia.”

Like I've said many times, Leon's really got the RTCs' number here. Because that is exactly what they believe: that if you haven't said The Prayer, you leave God with no choice but to burn the living shit out of you forever and ever. Yeah, Stepford Wives wasn't the only movie, they took the wrong moral from.

After all this, we cut to Judd. Judd listens to a message from St. Rayford, then calls and talks to Vicki, and then he and Lionel finally leave. With any luck, maybe Ellanjay will finally stop coming up with excuses to keep Judd from his Designated Love Interest, but I wouldn't be the farm on it.

Have to admit, though, the conversation where Lionel and Judd talk about stuff they miss, isn't that shabby. Yeah, it's workmanlike in its execution, but given how rarely the characters reflect on their lives before God decided to Exterminate the Brutes! It's actually kind of refreshing.

“What do you miss most about the way things used to be?” Lionel said as they neared a city.
“I miss my parents and my little brother and sister,” Judd said. “I think a lot about what they’d be doing if they were here. Marc and Marci would be in high school. But I also miss little things like going to Wrigley Field for a Cubs game or grabbing a burger at a local restaurant. I had dreamed of owning my own car and being my own boss. Going to movies—”
“Yeah, movies,” Lionel said as they passed a destroyed theater complex. “The last time I went to a theater was with my sister.”

Now I admit it would be nice if Lionel or Judd talked about the kind of movies they used to see. Like were Judd and Lionel into comedies or action-adventure films or what? It would add a certain poignancy if it turns out that Lionel saved the worn ticket stub from that movie he saw with his sister, but like I said, I've come to accept that these moments of introspection/good writing last about as long as a drop of rain in the desert, so I'll take what I can get.

Then Lionel asks Judd how he's going to court Vicki. Because that's the kind of language teenagers would use. Teenagers from the 19th century maybe. But in fairness, courting is the kind of archaic, sexist practice that RTCs eat up with a spoon. [tangent] Yeah, I long for the day one of the Duggar kids escapes the Compound and writes one hell of a tell-all memoir as well. [/tangent]

Judd does talk about how they've been apart for so long. And by apart, I mean it wasn't until recent books that they were even on the same continent together. And how the last time they were together, he and Vicki fought with each other. But Lionel reassures him that God has totally changed him and will continue to change him and that being with Vicki will change Judd even more. I, of course, am like "How has he changed?" because I can't point to any changes in Judd's thinking whatsoever. It's like how in the third Star Wars prequel, we're supposed to be shocked by how much Anakin has changed when he's behaving like the same whiny, child-murdering asshole he was in the previous film. Here's a hint, aspiring writers: SAYING A CHARACTER HAS CHANGED IS NOT FUCKING GOOD ENOUGH! YOU HAVE TO SHOW HOW THEY'VE CHANGED BY THEIR THOUGHTS AND ACTIONS!

Anyway, we cut back to Vicki and get this passage.

Vicki’s heart nearly broke when she watched Cheryl say good-bye to Ryan. Tom let her hold the boy before they left, and Cheryl sang a song she had made up for him. Through her tears she choked out the words and kissed him on the cheek. “I’m really sorry,” she said as she handed Ryan to Tom. “Will you tell Mrs. Fogarty that—”
“You should tell her yourself,” Tom said. “Write her or call her.”
“I will. And I want you to know I’m going to get better. I’ve never been through anything like this before.”

Don't worry, Cheryl. After your stay in Room 101, you'll be right as rain.

I know, you're getting tired of all the 1984 references, but they're just so damn apt. You can't expect me to avoid such an obvious analogy; I'm not made of stone, people!

Anyway, Clemson actually shows some compassion to Cheryl, saying that he wouldn't have become an RTC had she not done what she did. Vicki and the others leave and Vicki's section ends with her thinking about how she used to go out with guys because they were hot, but now she wants to go with someone who shares her faith. Or in other words, Vicki's desperate to get laid before God takes away sex for everyone. I know I keep making that joke, but like I said, it's just so obvious that I can't help myself.

The chapter for this week ends with Judd and Lionel doing Exciting!Driving!Action. And that's all I really have to say. Fear not, though. Maybe Ellanjay finally got that solid gold humvee they always wanted, because I read ahead and Judd and Vicki actually meet up in the next chapter.

*It never fails to amuse me, this newfound alliance between RTCs and Catholics. For centuries, both sides hated and mistrusted each other, but since Roe v. Wade came along, they've forged an uneasy alliance based on their mutual hatred of women/fetishization of fetuses. Trouble is, every now and then, their lips slip and their true beliefs come shining through.

**As a big believer in Discontinuity, I insist that Dr. Rose isn't dead. He faked it, firing the gun into the ceiling or something because he knew that Judd-turd wouldn't leave him alone until he thought he was safely dead. In my head canon, Dr. Rose has run off and joined up with Joel, Taylor, and Hasina. Together they'll mount one helluva War against Heaven.

***I have to admit that the movie adaptation of V for Vendetta didn't bother me much. Mostly because for me, Alan Moore's oeuvre, in general, falls into the category of "Good but gives me very little pleasure to read." As a writer and lover of comics, I can appreciate the skill and craft needed to construct the stories, but like I said, his works give me very little pleasure from a reader's perspective.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Forest for the Trees

Okay, did some digging on YouTube looking for the perfect clip, but I'm afraid you'll have to settle for the almost perfect clip instead. Basically I've come to envision the Tribbles, both young and old, as basically being the Buddy Bears, except with less fur. The line in the song about how "if you ever disagree, it means you must be wrong," is particularly apt. But in the Buddy Bears defense, at least they have a catchy tune that makes you smile, which is more than I can say for the Tribbles. Plus, the Buddy Bears actually do help Garfield out in that clip, cleaning up his house for him. Can you imagine the Tribbles ever doing anything for anyone, especially if said character isn't an RTC? Didn't think so.

This week's selection begins with Judd's perspective. Why? I don't know, especially since nothing really happens. Maybe Ellanjay thought that if we didn't receive some reminder that Judd exists, we'd forget. Lionel does have a few lines, but I'm still wondering if Lionel isn't actually Judd's Tyler Durden or Harvey like I mentioned a few weeks ago.

Anyway, all that really happens is he and Lionel drive around, looking at all the flaming wreckage and thinking of all the sinners being burned up. Because, lest we never forget, Judd and Lionel are horrible people.

Judd saw a fire department’s door open, and an engine rushed out. Firefighters in full gear bounced inside as the truck rolled onto the street. But as soon as the engine hit the street, GC flags on the truck burst into flames. Firefighters flailed their arms and struggled against their seat belts. The red truck slowed, its massive tires melting and spreading onto the pavement. First the driver, then the rest abandoned ship, running toward the firehouse. Before they reached the driveway, they burst into flames. One firefighter ran to the back, managed to turn the water on, and pointed the hose toward his coworkers. Boiling water scalded his friends. They screamed and fell before catching on fire.

I'm really starting to think I shouldn't have started an "Our Sociopathic Heroes" tag. I'm afraid I'd overuse it, thus rendering it meaningless. Because need I remind you, those firefighters Judd saw die horribly with scarcely a comment, THEY WERE OUT DOING THE FUCKING JOBS! THEY WERE HELPING PEOPLE AKA THAT ACTIVITY THAT THE TRIBBLES ONLY TALK ABOUT DOING BUT NEVER ACTUALLY DO!

Judd's selection ends and the rest of the chapter is told from Mark's perspective.

Remember last week how I said there was an Obligatory Conversion Scene coming up? Well, we're here. I'll spoil it for you: Clemson comes to love Big Brother.

Anyway, Mark, seeing an opportunity to chalk another one up on his fuselage, starts asking Clemson about his family. Me, I find myself wondering if the paragraph at the beginning of the chapter isn't Ellanjay's attempt to answer the question I keep repeatedly asking: If God just wants people to believe and follow him, why doesn't he do something less fatal and less cruel like say, rearrange the stars to spell out "Jesus is Lord and Tim LaHaye was right about everything?" As you can guess, the answer Ellanjay provide is weaksauce.

Mark had learned a long time ago that a person didn’t become a believer in God simply because of information, so he had to resist the urge to spell everything out for Clemson. Instead, he asked Clemson about his family, where he had grown up, and his church background.

My objection is mostly that the conversion scene mostly follows the standard one seen in any RTC fiction, ignoring, of course, the fact that the characters of the LB-verse don't live in our world in which much of religious belief has to be taken on faith. The characters In the LB-verse have seen miracles and the kind of Acts of God that would make Richard Dawkins pause. It's more the nature of God that they'd question. Because with the exception of God swatting aside nukes aimed at Israel, pretty much all the miracles/Acts of God are so horrific as to make one of Lovecraft's Elder Gods blanch.

So Clemson tells us a little about his life. Basically he's one of those heretics who has no axe to grind against God or the Church, but just doesn't see a reason why believing in God and following the Golden Rule isn't good enough. No doubt, he's one of those types who actually reads through the second chapter of James rather than ignoring it like all good RTCs.

In an attempt to find something positive to say, Mark does briefly do something smart. Rather than leap to "Jesus love you, which is why he's tried repeatedly to kill you horribly so you can spend eternity in hellfire," Mark starts talking about how all this shit that's happened was predicted in the Bible and starts laying it out. Me, I wonder why they don't just point to the voluminous amount of RTC-published books written before all this happened that say the same thing. Because anyone can use the Bible as some sort of Ouija board, twist scripture to make it say whatever you want, but I imagine pointing out how Hal Lindsay or whoever predicted exactly what would happen decades before the Rapture might have more impact.

You kind of wonder about the LB-verse. While the basis is that pretty much everything that Hal Lindsay, Tim LaHaye, John Hagee, and numerous others have said is true, at the same time, people stumble around acting like all this is some bizarre novelty. Even though it's not like numerous films don't already exist that explore the whole idea of the the anti-Christ.

In short, I'm wondering if the LB-verse doesn't operate like The Walking Dead, where it's established that none of numerous zombie movies/lit exist in that world, which explains why all the characters act like this zombie stuff is new to them and everyone has to learn how to defeat them as opposed to just going, "Y'know this is exactly like that George Romero movie," and working from there.

Yeah, sorry about the long tangent, back to the story.

So Mark starts asking about the prayers Clemson has made and whether they've been answered. Mark then says this:

Mark drew closer and got down on one knee. “Clemson, it’s not enough just to believe that God exists. The Bible says that the demons believe that. Even Carpathia believes in God.”

That line set off all sorts of notes of recognition. I had to hit Google to be sure, but I did find confirmation of my theory: that what Mark just said is a riff on a verse from the Book of James. In fact, it's James 2:19 to be specific. I'm going to guess that that's the only verse from the second chapter of James that RTCs pay attention to. Because if you took some time and actually read the rest of that chapter, yeah, many RTC kids will start asking their parents uncomfortable questions, given that the main thesis of that chapter is "Faith without Works is Dead."

They probably ignore the beginning of the fifth chapter of James for probably the same reason: that if you really take those words to heart like you're supposed to, you'll find yourself asking a lot of uncomfortable questions that might lead to heretical ideas taking root.

Yeah, I know, you probably want me to stop going on and on about James, but I always liked that book the best out of all the New Testament books and I thought the way they use James, clearly points out the fallacy of their approach to scripture in which they grasp at a few twigs while paying little if any attention to the rest of the tree the twigs came from.

On an unrelated note, here's some music to liven up this dull lecture.

Clemson says that he thinks God has better things to do than worry about him and his troubles. I could point out that technically God is the cause of all Clemson's troubles, but I've made that point so many times. Besides, I'll admit it is a little refreshing to see someone who doesn't treat God as his personal concierge/strongman. Spoiler alert: it won't last.

Clemson talks about how he often wonders if God really cares, which gives Mark a chance to say this:

“I think the reason that all this bad stuff has happened is that God cares more than any of us can imagine. He wants people to come to know him, to ask forgiveness for their sins, even though he knows that most people will spit in his face.”

Or in other words, your only hope is to be eaten first.

I know I keep using Cthulhu comparisons but they're just so damn apt that I can't think of anything else.

Clemson's like "If you're so religious, why are you still here?" and Mark says that he believes he and the others were left behind to reach the lost and bring them to Christ. I'm reminded of an editorial that Kirk Cameron wrote way, way back in 2005, ably snarked here where Cam-Cam calls for what sounds like Christian Bodhisattvas. When even Cam-Cam pales at your notion of God, you know you've created a cruel god.

For those of you wondering if this chapter is going to be one giant sausage fest, Vicki, Cheryl, and Marshall comes in just as Mark is doing the obligatory "I thought I was a good person, but I wasn't" self-flagellating and gnashing of teeth. Basically Vicki talks about how she thought her parents were a bunch of religious nutcases, but they were right and she was wrong. Though, given what I recall from early snarks about Vicki's parents, I can't blame her for not respecting them. If I had them as parents, I wouldn't respect them either.

I'm going to guess the fact that they mentioned Cheryl has many of you wondering, as I did, if they're going to mention any of the issues going on with her life and provide a satisfactory resolution to them. Oh you silly naïve fools, thinking that Ellanjay would have enough dedication to the craft to wrap up a major plotline in a satisfactory way. Don't feel too bad; I felt the same way.

Anyway, here's the extent of Cheryl's participation in the chapter. Read ahead a little to next week's selection. If you guessed that Cheryl tacitly gives up her right to be with her child because the Main Character wanted her too, and that there's little if any explanation provided as to why she suddenly changed her mind, again, congratulations on being familiar with Ellanjay tropes. Sad part is despite being an English major, I can tell you more about Ellanjay tropes than Shakespearean ones. My professors would be proud.

Anyway, here's what Cheryl says:

No one spoke for a long time. Finally, Cheryl folded her arms and her chin quivered. “Just because we believe in God doesn’t mean we’ll always make the right decisions.” She looked at Vicki and frowned. “I made a big mistake. I can see that now. And there’s nothing I can do to make up for it. But I know God is in the business of forgiving people.”

I really don't need to point out all the wrong here. I picture Cheryl giving this speech wide-eyed, an enormous strained smile on her face, because she knows if she doesn't do exactly as her captors tell her, she won't ever see her son again. Yeah, someone needs to tell Ellanjay that The Stepford Wives is supposed to be a horror movie.

After Cheryl says her line and disappears back into the collective, Mark basically asks Clemson what it will take to get him to take home a brand spankin' new Jesus today. Strangely enough, instead of getting to the Obligatory Conversion Scene, Clemson holds off. Mark does a variation on the Hypothetical Bus, saying that he could die tomorrow given how shitty things have gotten. Me, I'd have whole new respect for Mark if instead he'd just thrown up his hands and said "Look we're characters in some shitty writer's shitty masturbation fantasies. No matter which way you choose, this story will end badly for you. So why don't you choose the least shitty of the two shitty options and save us a few more pages of crappily written dialogue!" But yeah, that's not going to happen.

At that moment, Ryan Victor comes in humming a crude version of "Jesus Loves Me." And I have to call bullshit here. Isn't Ryan Victor one year old? I can except that he's walking and talking, but humming a tune?! I'm calling BS. While I know there's a wide range in that area of development and I freely admit to not being an expert on child development, I'm still calling it. No child is that freaking precocious!

This of course, affords Mark the opportunity to dust off Jesus's "Let the little children come to me" bit. Clemson is like "What does that mean?" and Mark points out that Ryan Victor can't do much for himself because he's a baby, so he trusts in everyone around him. The clear moral is that God wants Clemson to trust in God the way Ryan Victor trusts in everyone else.

But clearly the Kool-Aid is starting to take affect as Clemson admits that the real reason he didn't go to church was because he did bad things that the church members knew about. Those of you waiting to hear just what bad things Clemson has done, keep waiting. It's never mentioned. And given Ellanjay's definition of bad things, which can range anywhere from "not saying The Prayer with the precise level of sincerity" or "taking the Mark to keep you and your brother from starving to death" to nuking London...I think I've made my point.

Mark, seeing an opening, does the whole "We're all sinful sinners and that's why Jesus died on the cross, because we were full of sin and evil" bit. He quotes from Romans 5, later citing Romans 10:13 aka that verse that says "Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Many have pointed out how RTCs seem so much fonder of quoting from Paul rather than the four Gospels. I've got to admit, I enjoy picking on Paul as much as any other liberal Christian does, but I still think Paul would be horrified by Ellanjay's interpretation of Jesus. Paul saw Jesus as someone who would ultimately break down barriers between God and man, not some sort of Jinn who will torture you for all eternity, unless you say the Magic Words. I admit, Paul remains a frustrating figure for me in that while you see passages where he is able to transcend the mores and values of his time and really touch on the love of God, these great passages are mixed in with other passages where he stubbornly remains a man of his time. I will say in his defense that most of the really misogynistic passages that RTCs like to cite were probably not written by him and that Paul would be shocked that people were placing his letters in the same category as other sacred writ like the Torah.

Okay done talking about Paul for now. Back to story.

To wrap this all up, Clemson finally bends the knee and says The Prayer.

And that's it for this week. I've read ahead for next week and those of you wondering "WTF is going on with Cheryl?" Like I said, it's pure weaksauce in that no explanation is provided; Cheryl has just meekly accepted that she's not a Main Character and was foolish to think otherwise. No doubt now that she's somehow seen the error of her ways, she'll disappear into the collective despite the fact that, y'know, Cheryl does have legitimate concerns that warrant being addressed and dealt with, not just shuffled off-screen. I was seriously wondering if somehow the eBook had a few pages missing between this week and last week and next week's selection, because that is crap writing. Basic rule of writing: if you want to show a character changing, going from A to Q so to speak, you have to show the parts in between. Shouting "Q!" and hoping no one notices you left out the stuff in between doesn't work. You end up coming across as an eight-grader who didn't do his homework assignment and is desperately trying to wing it.

Ah, but I've talked too much about what we have to look forward to next week. Better wrap it up before this snark turns into War and Peace or something. Take care of yourselves and each other until then.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Our Sociopathic Heroes, Ladies and Gentlemen!

So when we last left Vicki and her assorted bunch of Tribbles (I seriously have no idea which of the named characters are with her and which are elsewhere. There could be nine or nine hundred with her for all I know. That's how indistinguishable they are.), they were pursuing Cheryl, aka that Whore who has the nerve to regard herself as a Main Character, capable of making her own decisions. Yeah, should probably think of a shorter insult for her. Ah well.

So basically the beginning of this week's selection is an action sequence, which as said before, would be suspenseful if a) I believed the character was in actual life-threatening danger (remember bad things only happen to the nameless damned who deserve it and to Butt Monkeys) and if b) I gave a shit. Since neither of these things apply, yeah, it's mostly just pages of action verbs to skim.

Vicki decides to go for the old decoy bit. She tells Mark to go help Tom and the others, while she tries to draw the GC's attention away from them. She drives and shots are fired, but I said, I don't really care.

Then there's another sequence as Mark rushes in and rescues Ryan Victor.

Mark is running while carrying Ryan Victor, who is remarkably verbal for a child who I think is a year old. Granted I know there's a wide range in infant development and Ryan Victor isn't outside the realm of possibility, but I've got to raise an eyebrow. Besides, I love any excuse to pick on Ellanjay for their stubborn refusal to do any research.

Basically Mark runs for awhile until he notices a slightly-open manhole cover. A guy with a scraggly beard appears and is like "Come with me if you want to live," and Mark does because you should always listen to guys who look like Charles Manson, especially during the End of the World. I'm going to cling to the hope that Sewer Dude is a C.H.U.D. Yeah, I know it'll turn out that Sewer Dude is an RTC and we'll have yet another Conversion story where he lays out how he came to love Big Brother :whimpers: but let me have this.

Anyway, the GC finally forces Vicki to pull over and get out of the car. The GC's all "We got you now!" But Vicki continues to be all smug, knowing that the sun will soon come up and burninate all the heathens. She starts proclaiming about how this is the fourth bowl judgment from God and how they'll pay. Granted I freely admit I'm exaggerating for comedic effect but seriously, this is the kind of speech you hear from a two-bit villain in a crappy fantasy movie. For the sake of amusement, I'm going to picture Vicki being played by Jeremy Irons. Gotta do something to stay awake.

Anyway, the younger officer forces Vicki into the car and that's the end of that chapter.

And apparently I'm going to break the one-chapter-snark trend I had going for awhile. Because seriously nothing happened.

The next chapter begins with Mark following Charles-Manson-clone. Okay to be fair, they do finally reveal who the hell Sewer Dude is. I'd assumed he was yet another RTC and that was why he was helping them out (because the only good people are RTCs) but it turns out while the guy, whose name is Clemson Stoddard (have fun playing "Guess the Ethnicity/Background" with that one), doesn't have Nicky's Mark, he also doesn't have the Zod-Mark. Quelle horror!

Joking aside, this Clemson guy actually sounds a lot more interesting than our RTC protagonists. I know eventually he will say The Prayer and become an indistinguishable part of the RTC collective, but for now, I like him. Funny thing how new characters in this series inevitably stop being interesting the longer they're on stage. To say nothing of what happens when they accept the Zod-mark.

Anyway, Clemson went underground after the start of the big war, he says. I suppose I could devote energy to tracking down when exactly that was (because there have been how many nukings/acts of war in this series), but I'm entirely too lazy.

In spite of everything, Clemson has made a pretty comfortable shelter for himself. Here's his explanation.

“There used to be an oil-change place behind the garage. They leveled it after the disappearances, but since I owned the land, I just sealed it up without anybody knowing. Lamps are kerosene. I tapped onto an electric line for my computer and the freezer. Got enough food down here to feed you and your friends for quite a while.”

Okay, while in all honesty, I admit this sounds kind of cool, sort of like something out of the documentary Dark Days, and I do applaud Clemson for showing more initiative than the Tribbles (I can believe his underground hideout more than Bruce's), but I've got more than just a few quibbles here.

Being something of a Doomsday Preppers buff (please stop judging me), while I know the idea of tapping into the electric line is possible, basically it only works when there are electric lines to tap into. Shouldn't the infrastructure be gone thanks to the nukes? I keep waiting to hear about the solar panel array or wind turbines he's put in place to power his tech, but I have a feeling I'll be waiting in vain.

Also, while it's great he has electricity, I have to wonder how he is getting Internet? While Wi-Fi comes built into most computers, you still have to, again, have the infrastructure in place so you can use your Wi-Fi. As anyone interested in the off-the-grid lifestyle will tell you, while you can rig up your house to get water and electricity so you're not dependent on the grid, you're pretty much stuck when it comes to Internet. You pretty much have to be somewhat on the grid in order to get Internet, and you have to accept the fact that if whatever apocalyptic scenario you've predicted happens, kiss your Internet goodbye.

And of course, you do wonder where Clemson is getting his kerosene and food from. I suppose he could have rigged up a hydroponics or aquaponics somehow down in the sewers, but given Ellanjay's stubborn refusal to do any research, I'm going to guess that we'll never here any pertinent details about issues like how the heck the character is getting food/water or electricity or even what he's doing with his waste.

As deluded as some of the people on Doomsday Preppers are, they've given more thought to practical concerns than anybody in the LB-verse. Maybe I shouldn't obsess too much over these details, but like I said, since they've given me nothing else to occupy my mind, I have no choice but to nit-pick. Plus, all this off-the-grid survival information might possibly come in handy for their readers. Since y'know Ellanjay believe all this stuff will actually happen.

Okay, enough nit-picking, back to the story.

Mark, no doubt seeing a chance to make a sale, is like "So why don't you have Carpathia's mark?"

If you guessed, Clemson's response is pure weaksauce (because Ellanjay can't imagine anyone having a good reason to disagree with them), you're right. Here it is:

Clemson scowled. “He’s creepy, don’t you think? All that coming back from the dead business. Killin’ people for not puttin’ one of his tattoos on. I’m gonna ride this one out—that’s what I’m going to do.”

Uh, most people wouldn't call Nicky coming back from the dead in full view of a whole crowd of witnesses to be creepy. Wouldn't most consider that proof of his divinity while scientist-types would scramble to try to figure out how that's possible?

But I suppose Ellanjay couldn't have Clemson give reasons that would actually make sense. Like point out how Nicky's words and actions don't line up. But then again, the only character who did that was Taylor Graham. For those of you who've forgotten, here's what he said:

"I know you all want to tell people about Jesus and do good stuff so God will like you and all that. I've told you before, if that rings your bell, go ahead. But I've seen what the GC does to good people. They're destroying everything I know and love. They talk peace, but they're armed to the teeth. They talk freedom, but they send people to prison. Oh, sorry. They call them reeducation camps."

Like I said, it's for that reason that I continue to insist that Taylor and Hasina aka the Power Couple of Awesomeness aren't really dead. They just knew that Judd-turd wouldn't leave them alone unless he thought they were, so they faked their deaths and escaped to a more awesome series. I will preach their awesomeness and believe in the power of Discontinuity until I die, dammit!

Mark, again spotting a potential sale, asks him about Token Jew. Clemson, though clearly believes in that Faith by Works heresy, is like, "Yeah, I've read some of his stuff. Not really into religion though. Just try to live a good life and help people."

The section ends there, but again, anyone who knows Ellanjay tropes knows how this will play out. The most likely scenario is that Clemson will drink the Kool-Aid and join the collective, but Ellanjay could possibly go with option B where Clemson dies Unsaved and Mark never gives a passing thought to what happened to them. It's hard to predict what will happen next in this series :eyeroll:

Anyway, we briefly cut back to Vicki and I'm deliberately fast-forwarding through her part. It's not because nothing happens, it's more the nature of what happens. Basically, Vicki watches everything, including the GC officers, burn up with the same dispassionate response the Right gives whenever an unarmed black kid is shot.

Her section is thankfully over pretty fast and ends with her praying.

Vicki fell to her knees in horror. She covered her face as the smoke and smell of the fire reached her. “God, help me get back to Ryan and Cheryl and the others and let them be all right.”

Again, if you weren't already convinced that these characters are pretty much sociopaths, I'm not sure whether to admire or be frightened by your naivete. Because as many will point out, Vicki only thinks about the characters who have names, the characters she knows WILL BE BAMFED INTO HEAVEN IF ANYTHING BAD HAPPENS TO THEM SO WHY THE FUCK IS SHE NOT PRAYING FOR THE UNCONVERTED?!

Anyway, we cut back to Mark. Mark asks Clemson to look after Ryan Victor, while he goes and helps his friend. I have to say, for someone who is supposed to be Unsaved and therefore, hardened evil, Clemson is being damned nice in taking in Mark and agreeing to look after the baby for him. Why it's almost as though Ellanjay's belief in Total Depravity makes no sense at all. Ellanjay's beliefs being riddled with inconsistencies? That's unpossible!

Anyway, another passage of Vicki watching everything burn and not giving a rat's ass. Back to Mark.

Mark joins up with Vicki, Marshall, Tom, and Cheryl, and they watch dispassionately (I need to get a thesaurus because I am so overusing that word) as the officers are burned up and reduced to ashes in the hands of our loving Father in Heaven. :goes outside to scream a little:

Okay, in their defense, Mark and the others do try to save the officers by urging them to take shelter with them, but y'know it's more because all that agonized screaming hurts their ears and while it's amusing the first few times you watch an Unsaved get reduced to ashes, it just gets tedious after awhile.

Vicki's like "Where's Ryan Victor?" and Mark offers to take her to him. While they walk, Vicki briefly reflects, thinking about how this is like the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and how God saved them from the fiery furnace. Thing is, maybe I read the story wrong, but as I recall weren't the people throwing them into the furnace in the first place depicted as bad guys? Plus this little circle-jerk feels wrong because as stated before, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to stand for God and face the consequences, while the Tribbles bow to Nicky and tell themselves that they secretly bow to God.

Anyway, Mark leads them to Clemson's place and they all climb in, but the chapter's not done yet. We haven't cut down that whore Cheryl for getting too big for her britches, what with demanding access to her child and acting like a Main Character!

Vicki's like "Why did you take Ryan Victor?" And Cheryl says this:

Cheryl sat in the dirt and buried her head in her hands. “I was so jealous of what Josey had with Ryan. I had done all the work and had gone through all the pain, and she was getting the reward. That little boy was part of me. I felt him growing inside me. Being that close to him was just torture.”

I've already ranted about how I'm totally on Cheryl's side in this debate, because like I said, Adoption isn't a magical cure-all. Many times it's the least-bad solution to a bad problem in that while it helps some, it doesn't completely solve the problem forever the way Ellanjay believe. But I have to admit to having some questions regarding the arrangement. I recall after birth, Wanda talking about how since formula is all but impossible to find, the baby will need its mother's milk. So I'm going to guess that Cheryl was breast-feeding Ryan Victor for some time, basically serving as wet nurse to her own infant. I'm not sure when she stopped (I'll go out on a limb and say that Ellanjay either don't know or care about the World Health Organization's recommendations on the subject), but for awhile, Cheryl was intimately involved in the care and upbringing over her child.

But at some point, things must have changed, in order to leave Cheryl so distraught. Maybe the Fogartys forced her to wean him at some point or maybe they wanted to enjoy their child without uncomfortable reminders that said child came with a history and strings attached. Again, like I said, even in situations where everything involving the adoption situation is done fairly (the birthmother is willingly giving up her child and has a say in how much future contact she has with the kid), the adoptive parents still have to accept that the kid does have another mother/father out there somewhere and that said family might someday want to make contact. So yeah, while I don't think what Cheryl did is a hundred percent on the up and up, obviously something must have gone wrong if she didn't feel she could simply sit down with the Fogartys and talk to them about how she wants more involvement in her son's life.

One of these days, I swear I'll stop doing so many lectures on how Adoption doesn't solve everything...I just don't know when.

Vicki, being the compassionate RTC, is like "We should have never let you get that close to him. If we could do it over again, we'd have sent you to another location."

Cheryl's like "I only want to be with Ryan." To which, Vicki just rolls her eyes and thinks about how Cheryl just keeps making excuses and won't apologize. Yeah, that sound you hear is me grinding my teeth. I know I should stop being shocked the sociopathy of the characters, but I just can't help it.

Vicki questions Cheryl further about her plans and Cheryl explains how she pulled off her scheme. Then there's this conversation and just tell me it isn't dripping with patronizing and sociopathic bullshit?

“Cheryl, you made a promise to Josey and Tom. You know you can’t give Ryan the kind of home—”
“I’m his mother! There’s only a little more than a year before Jesus comes back, and I can do as much for him as anybody.”
“I think you’ve ruined that now. How can we trust you when you kidnap—”
“My own son?”
“When you get so moody and won’t talk and then endanger all of us by kidnapping a member of the group?”

Like I said, I've done so many rants about how Vicki pretty much made all the arrangements with very little input from Cheryl, but I find myself wondering why didn't the Fogartys just adopt both Cheryl and Ryan Victor. As I recall, Cheryl is a teenage mother going through an incredibly rough time (which makes her so much more sympathetic than that preachy Elsie-Dinsmore wannabe aka Vicki) and despite what Ellanjay believe about how you should be tried as an adult as soon as you start getting hair around your pubes, countless studies attest to the fact that there are marked differences between a teenage brain and an adult brain. In addition to this, you'd think that a scared, pregnant teenager could probably use the stability that would come with having parents to look after her and mentor her. Plus, again there's the whole breast-feeding issue as well.

But yeah, if you guessed Vicki still shows little if any compassion/respect for what Cheryl's gone through, give yourself a No-Prize. The chapter ends with her silently praying this prayer:

Vicki watched Cheryl stare at the fires raging on the hillside. She didn’t know what to say and silently prayed, “God, please show Cheryl where’s she’s been wrong. Help her to see the truth about what she’s done and admit her mistakes. And give us wisdom with what to do with her. Amen.”

In an attempt to pry a truffle out of a pig's snout so to speak, I will commend Vicki in that at least she silently prayed this prayer instead of doing it out loud and using it to passive-aggressively needle Cheryl for her silly insistence on wanting to be a part of her son's life. Again, lesson learned from this series: the only kind of aggression acceptable for silly weak women to express, is of the passive variety.

And that's this week's snark. Wound up being longer than I thought. I don't have a set rule on length (it mostly depends on how much stuff there is to talk about in this week's selection), but I hope it wasn't too long and I hope I didn't come across as too dull and repetitive. I'd say next week will be better but I peeked ahead and we're looking at the obligatory Conversion scene. :whimpers: No point for guessing who the convert is.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Consent: Yet Another Concept RTCs Don't Understand

Hello and Happy Easter weekend everybody! Don't know what all everyone has planned for this holiday--I know I have readers of all backgrounds--but as for me, I'm going to do my annual viewing of The Last Temptation of Christ because I just love that movie so much. So much that I'm starting to wonder if I should put on a suit and go door to door promoting it like some kind of film student version of a Jehovah's Witness. Again, all the people who were up in arms about that film clearly never saw it, because it is a well-crafted and deeply reverent film. It has great respect for Jesus Christ. But then again, usually the best films about faith and God are usually made by the eeeevil secular directors like Martin Scorsese. Funny how that usually works.

Anyway, before we begin, I thought I should clarify a few of my views regarding adoption. I haven't gotten any hate comments or emails, but I always feel a need to nip those in the bud, just in case.

I am not opposed to adoption. In many circumstances, adoption is the best choice for the child in question. Like I said, my issue with the arrangement regarding Cheryl's child is one of consent. Rather than talking with her and giving her the necessary information needed to make an informed decision, Vicki basically made all the decisions for Cheryl at a moment when Cheryl was pregnant and scared and not entirely sure what to do. Vicki just up and decided of all the adults they'd met in their travels that Tom and Josey Fogarty would be the perfect people to raise the baby and she basically made said arrangements while Cheryl was still pregnant and with very little input from Cheryl. I could also point out that the last time Vicki had thought about the Fogartys, this series was in the single digits, so you have to wonder why, of all the adult couples she'd met, Vicki decided they were the ones who should raise the baby.

But anyway, like I said, my issue with this whole thing is consent. If Cheryl had been the one to decide on adoption (without any added pressure/lectures from the RTCs), if Cheryl had had a choice in who she wanted to adopt her baby and chose the Fogartys, I'd totally be on the side of the Fogartys and the others. I would think that Cheryl was wrong to take back her child. But like I said, since she never was given much of a choice and you just know the Tribbles have no issue with emotional blackmail (or in other words, going for someone's emotional vulnerabilities, though you know the Tribbles would bring in God on air support to really drive the message home), like I said, I'm totally on her side. After all, even under the best of circumstances, adoption is a painful event, even if the birthmother weighed out all her options and decided this was the best choice. No matter what, pregnancy and childbirth is a rough thing to go through, physically and emotionally, and the way the Christian Right tries to pretend like it's not, act like the birthmother can just drop off the kid and pick up where she left off with her life, is pretty damn sick.

Especially when, as many will tell you, Christian-Run adoption agencies have a pretty skeevy history of preying on other people's desperation by masking what is essentially a child-selling operation as adoption.

Like I said before, I know given Ellanjay's politics and love of hierarchy, that Cheryl will probably be made to see that Vicki is a Main Character; therefore she should obey Vicki's orders without question. After which she'll give back her child and go back to being a good, silent obedient member of the collective.

Yeah, sorry about the lecture, but felt there was stuff that needed to be said. Now let's get to it.

Vicki suggests they call Wanda aka that lady who helped deliver Cheryl's baby, but apparently Wanda :gasp: :choke: doesn't have a phone so they can't. And I thought Wanda was a good RTC. So they send an urgent email instead.

While they're bouncing along the back roads, trying to find Cheryl, Vicki starts reflecting on her life. I'm going to guess all this was thrown in as yet another attempt at an Author's Savings Throw, but like all the others they've tried, it doesn't really work. They keep trying to convince us that the Tribbles are totally suffering and on the verge of PTSD, but stubbing your toe seems more painful than the apocalypse they've presented.

For those trying to make sense of the screwed-up time scale in this series, Vicki mentions that her 19th birthday came and went and since she was 14 at the beginning of the series, that means we're five years in. The end is in sight, people!

Vicki thinks about how before all this happened, her goals for when she became an adult were mostly about someday going to college so she can escape the trailer park and settle down with a nice guy in the suburbs. Of course, she knew this wasn't likely going to happen even before the Rapture (her parents didn't have the money to send her to school and she wasn't scholarship material).

If you guessed from here, Vicki decides to indulge in a little self-flagellation by laying into herself for being an ordinary teenage girl, again, congratulations on being familiar with Ellanjay tropes.

Vicki wasn’t proud of the way she had lived before the disappearances. She had made bad choices in friends and in the way she lived. She had put partying above everything, and she knew she had to tell Judd about some of those things. Maybe he had skeletons too.

Before the vanishings, Vicki hadn’t thought of her life in the long term. If something sounded fun, she did it. If she thought something would make her happy, she’d try it. If someone suggested a tattoo or a piercing, she only thought of what people would say the next day at school.

If anyone ever doubted that Ellanjay see all women as either Madonnas or Whores, this paragraph should be enough to sway them. Before anybody says anything, I'm fully aware of all the dangers of teenage girls running wild. As many will point out, they could get pregnant, they could get an STD, or they could OD or who-knows-what. To say nothing of the many dangers associated with getting homemade tattoos/piercings (because either Vicki had one of her friends do it to her with a sewing needle or went to an extremely sketchy shop that didn't ask for parental permission). But like I said, I'm all about consent and giving kids the tools needed to make the right choice. Scare tactics work in the short-term, but eventually they're going to meet someone who did X yet didn't die and they're going to start to wonder if anything their parents told them is true. You can only browbeat and keep kids in the dark for so long. Eventually something will slip past you.

Because believe it or not, RTCs, there is a middle way. You can educate your kids on how to make tough choices regarding issues like Sex and drugs without using scare tactics. In fact, study after study shows that scare tactics end up backfiring most of the time and make your kids more likely to go down on any hobo they meet, rather than less. Okay, I admit that the hobo example is a bit of an exaggeration, but that's how they think. Somehow they think if kids know about sex, they'll immediately start doing any person they can find.

:sighs: Yeah, I know y'all are going to hate me for foisting this upon you, but I can't help but think that just about any form of education is better than the kind given by Purity Balls and the like. I'm sure RTCs everywhere would be horrified by the prospect of their daughters reading Judy Blume's Forever... but I consider its attitude of "Sex is a big decision and you should really think about it and take precautions before doing it" a helluva lot healthier than anything in RTC lit.

Vicki goes on to think about God has changed her over the years, turning her from a wild party girl who did things like :gasp: kiss boys she wasn't married to, to a Sanctimonious little Church Lady-in-training*. She then thinks of a quote that inspires her. Surprisingly enough, it isn't a verse from the Bible, but that just makes it more difficult to figure out who originally said it and under what context, because I believe context matters. I tried Google, but that just got me one result: the book I'm currently reading. So I'm going to let my readers take a shot at this and see if they have better luck. Here's the quote:

“The world has not yet seen what God can do with one person who is totally committed to him.”

Anyway, Vicki finally stops alternating between patting herself on the back and self-flagellation and we finally get back to the business at hand. They're getting closer to Wanda's house but they still haven't heard from her. Ellanjay try to inject some suspense by having them notice a GC squad car following them, but it is quickly dissipated as the squad car passes them without even seeing them.

Mark is like "Why would Cheryl do this?" and Marshall says something along the lines of "She's having an emotional breakdown and not thinking clearly." Mark then asks whether that means Cheryl is no longer a Believer. I suppose I should be irritated by Mark's question, but I find Vicki's response to be far more rage-inducing.

Finally, Vicki broke the silence. “God hasn’t abandoned her. Cheryl’s turned her back on what she knows is true and good. I think she’ll come around—”

I suppose it's charitable that Vicki hasn't leapt to "Cheryl is a tool of Satan" but that "turned her back" line...yeah, I think a more accurate way of putting it would be that "Cheryl has arbitrarily decided that she's a Main Character capable of making her own decisions, rather than blindly swallowing the dogma we've carefully prepared for her."

Tom is all "What if they give my child the Mark?" and Vicki thinks about Chang Wong (who received it against his will) and prays that Zod will forgive a child for having one, before saying, "We'll find her." Yeah, I could point out that Cheryl hasn't expressed any signs of having forsaken RTCianity in favor of Nicky--she just wants her child back--but given their politics, Ellanjay probably feel that disobeying the dictates of a Main Character is equal to pledging allegiance to Satan.

After a lot of driving, Marshall and Tom get out and decide to search on foot. And the chapter ends with this:

A child cried out, and Vicki recognized Ryan. The officers had Cheryl against the front of the van, her hands cuffed behind her. A little farther up the street two officers laughed and pointed at something on the ground. Vicki crawled five feet to her left and gasped. Marshall and Tom lay facedown in the street, their hands behind them.

But for those of you wondering what horrific punishment awaits that terrible whore, Cheryl, I'm afraid you'll have to wait a few weeks. Sorry for all the lectures, but I felt stuff needed to be said. I promise to try to be funnier next time.

*Sometimes I find myself wondering if RTCs realize that the Church Lady from Saturday Night Live is supposed to be a joke, not a role model. Given that they seem to be incapable of noticing irony (just look at how Phyllis Schlafly has made a career out of saying women shouldn't have careers)or that outsiders might see a father going out on a date with his daughter, giving her a ring, and saying that any man who wants to marry her has to go through him first, to be incredibly creepy, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.