Sunday, June 21, 2015

Create Your Own Head Canon*

All right, everybody! I'm back from vacation and yesterday, I enjoyed some good storytelling in the form of the latest Pixar film, Inside Out. Seriously, people see that movie. So now, time to tear some bad storytelling a new one.

Well I've read ahead and those of you expecting my usual amount of ragedumps complete with numerous deployments of the F-bomb, hate to break it to you, but it's mostly action scenes, aka the material I always struggle to snark because since no one ever faces any actual physical or psychological damage, it all comes across as a long series of dialogue and action verbs. In order to keep this interesting, keep myself from lapsing into a boredom-induced coma, I'm going to picture the opening scene (where Howard, Vicki, and Judd run from the GC) as being scored to the Benny Hill theme. Yes, I know I've made that joke before, but the Benny Hill theme adds humor to any scene it's scored to, so let me have this!

Anyway, like I said, the opening is an action scene with Howard, Vicki, and Judd running from the GC. I'd make a Keystone Cops reference, but that feels like an insult to the Keystone Cops. Probably even they were more competent than the GC!

They do try to make it suspenseful with the GC goon firing actual bullets at them. This surprises me, because I thought that Ellanjay had established that the GC, being too femmey to use actual guns like Real Men! used laser weapons to take out their quarry. But Ellanjay seem to hate consistency almost as much as they hate showing, so I shouldn't be too surprised.

Like I said, given that nothing happens, I have no choice but to gnaw at a few nits like a starving dog on a bone. We do get this mention, which I found odd:

Judd had played enough football to know how to make himself look menacing to quarterbacks on the other side of the line. He gritted his teeth and lowered his shoulder. The older man dropped the pole, turned, and ran toward the terminal entrance, just as Judd heard a loud thump at the door behind him.

I have to say, maybe it's been mentioned before, but this is the first time they ever mentioned that Judd played football. Honestly, it's not too much of a stretch for me to picture Judd as a jock. And given what we know about football and their ugly history of covering up information regarding the effects of repeated concussions on the brain...yeah, I'm going to stop now, not only because obvious joke is obvious, but I'm worried that I'm straying into uncomfortable territory here. I'll just say that football, along with a lot of other sports, is incredibly stupid when you think about it and post a cartoon here.

Judd and Vicki and Howard go through a car chase, after which Judd calls Westin and they have a conversation about travel logistics that's so boring, it is actually painful to read. I got through it by flipping through the pages as quickly as I could, much in the way, the only way to read the infamous fanfiction "Celebrian" is to start scrolling as fast as possible and keep scrolling until you reach the end. Some friendly words of advice: if you must Google "Celebrian," make sure you do it around someone you're not ashamed to cry in front of.

Either way, the only interesting part is the end, where we have this conversation. I wish I could say I understood why the hell St. Rayford would be at all upset about anything, but I'm too lazy and bored to care. If you want to know more, get a copy of the book and look it up for yourself.

“I have to know, is this going to affect the way the Trib Force looks at me?”

Westin paused. “I told the Trib Force this was my idea.”

“But that’s not true—”

“Right. So kick me out of the choir. Steele chewed me out, said I was playing hot dog with people’s lives, and I apologized.”

“But this wasn’t your fault. I was the one—”

“Judd, I took the blame. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I did. You’re square with them, okay? See you at noon.”

Like I said, why Rayford would get his undies in a bunch over anything that's happened, I don't know and I don't care. It's probably related to the Scream-style Morality that governs this series where the actions of the heroes are always right, regardless of the outcome, because they are the heroes. Conversely, the villains' actions are always wrong, regardless of the outcome, because they are villains. Yeah, while I don't know how exactly Ellanjay go about creating their characters (probably involves putting every stereotype they can think of onto paper, interspaced with masturbation breaks), but it's amazing how all the background characters know they are background characters, second fiddles to the great and powerful Main Characters for whom the Earth revolves. Apparently whenever they come into being, they are given a copy of the script and know that while at some point, they'll have a brief moment in the spotlight where they say a few lines or play a few bars, after that, they fade back into the collective.

After the chase scene, we cut to Vicki's perspective. What do we get to calm our nerves after such high octane excitement? Exposition. So much Exposition. :whimpers: Y'know after seeing Inside Out** and its amazing storytelling, I thought plunging into back into the LB-verse would have an effect akin to starving a junkyard dog, how when you turn it loose, it just attacks anything that moves. But what gets me is that while this series is bad, well, it's not even uniquely bad in a way that's memorable or fun to talk about. If the fanfic, "Celebrian," is akin to eating a hot fudge sundae where everything is replaced with shit, this week's selection is like eating rice cakes in that even cardboard has more of a taste than that.

Yeah, I know, I'm really going to pay for all these complaints about how boringly bad this series is, if not, next week, then at some point in the future (because I'm seriously tempting the fates and those mothers are real bitches), but still...

Vicki is disturbed by news from Oregon. I have no problem believing that of the estimated 168746851 places she's visited in the series, that at some point, she stopped in Oregon, but given that we know nothing about said believers, not even their names, and this is the first time they've been mentioned in, like, forever, I'm going to scream at the top of my lungs the same thing I keep screaming at the top of my lungs regarding this series: WHY SHOULD I CARE?!

The Tribulation Force continued moving people and supplies around the country and the world, though the Global Community had tried to adapt. News from Oregon disturbed Vicki and the others when they found out about a new GC plan that affected believers.

“The GC moved into the lava tubes in Oregon,” Mark said a few days after Judd and Vicki returned.

“Lava tubes?” Charlie said.

“They’re natural rock formations made by volcanoes,” Mark said. “Miles of tunnels believers have been using since we were forced to go underground. Once the plague of heat hit, GC survivors decided to move into them at night because the temperature is so cool during the day. They surprised some believers, and a bunch of them were executed.”

I suppose this also could be a callback to the adult books. Ellanjay are fond of doing that, throwing in little callbacks to the adult books. I guess they consider it a treat for those who suffered through those books. If they didn't, maybe they're hoping this will convince the kiddos to pick up the adult books. But like I said before, if you have to read a bunch of supplementary material in order to understand what the hell is going on in your book series/TV series/movie, THEN YOU HAVE FAILED IN YOUR STORYTELLING! A READER SHOULD BE ABLE TO ENJOY THE SHOW AND UNDERSTAND WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON, EVEN IF THEY DON'T HAVE ENCYCLOPEDIC KNOWLEDGE OF THE CHARACTERS!

I basically tell the same thing, regarding some of the stuff related to General Grievous in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. I'm not going to doubt the fans' assertions that most of this stuff is explained in the Clone Wars shorts that came out before the movie. I admit that I haven't seen said shorts, but I'm not going to cast doubt on their assertions that they are better than the prequels (because it seems everyone is better at telling stories in the Star Wars-verse than George Lucas), I will continue to say that the fact General Grievous's scenes don't make any sense if the movie-goer hasn't seen those shorts, proves that George Lucas failed at that aspect of storytelling. I could go into a long rant of the other things that sucked about the prequels, but really that dead horse has been thoroughly flogged. Plus, this blog is a deconstruction of Left Behind: the Kids, not an endless rant about how much the Star Wars prequels sucked. Though they did suck and we must never forget it.

Anyway, my personal head canon, regarding the Oregon believers, is that when the GC stumbled onto them while taking shelter, the GC, noticing that the RTCs were well-supplied and their lands were protected from the heat, asked the RTCs for help, because they have a desperate, starving population to take care of. And because the RTCs follow the gospel of "I got mine. Get yours, Jack!" they attacked the GC, forcing the GC to defend themselves. Yeah, I know, Ellanjay would be appalled at my interpretation, but I'm appalled at their interpretation of Jesus, so we're even.

Vicki's like "Why couldn't anyone have helped them?" Mark says that the believers were too cut off for other groups to reach them, which is actually a sensible answer. With all the constant back-to-back Acts of God, communication systems as well as roadways, are probably shot to hell. Though in my personal head canon, Mark says, "Why are you sad? They got bamfed into Heaven at the minute of death. They get to spend eternity bathing in the light of Heaven, while we have to struggle to survive on canned food and bottled water. In addition, by dying as martyrs, they get even more points with God. In fact, why are we sitting here and talking about stuff when we could be seeking martyrdom as well. Let's go stand in front of the nearest GC building and preach the Gospel to every officer we see."

Because seriously, do Ellanjay ever give a reason like at all, as to why the Tribbles don't actively seek martyrdom, even though they know what all will happen and they have received what no one in the real world does: actual confirmation that God exists and that all this stuff is true. Except for the Social Gospel, but that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish we'll deal with later.

At the end of the section, we find out that apparently the Tribbles have decided to split Vicki and Judd up. The text claims it's because Vicki has become a main contact for younger believers, whereas they need Judd's manly strength to unload supplies at other locations. But we all know it's because Ellanjay can't enjoy their solid-gold Humvees or diamond-studded swimming pools if they can't have an island in the Caribbean to go with it.

I know, I make that joke, complete with Weird Al song, a lot, but dammit! They make it so easy! Even shooting fish in a barrel would present more of a challenge!

Next section is from Judd's perspective. Judd agonizes over whether he should ask Vicki to marry him. He loves her, but worries that if he asks her and she says no, that'll screw up their friendship. I'd say that being on different continents for much of the series, would probably have more of an effect on their relationship, than her turning down his marriage proposal. But then again I'm one of those weirdoes who cares about character development and believes that when two characters wind up together, there should be a reason, aside from the fact that they have different genitalia, so clearly I'm the wrong audience for Christian Fiction in the first place.

In a post from way, way back, I once said, back when the series was either in single-digits or the teens, that if I was writing this series, I'd have Judd and Vicki :gasp: :choke: commit the heinous sin of premarital sex in the wake of the emotional aftermath of the Rapture. After which, because they were both raised by card-carrying Assholes for Christ, they'd feel tremendous guilt and have a quickie marriage. Only to discover after said quickie marriage that there's a reasons decisions made in the heat of the moment, seldom work out well for anyone involved. After that, they'd part company. Whether they'd have any animosity towards each other afterwards or if they'll just mope, realize they work better as friends, and move on, I haven't decided.

But then again, in Christian Fiction, if you have any characters, even the bad guys, commit any sin, then you are a moral degenerate, setting a bad example for today's youth everywhere. Because people never sinned in the form of premarital sex or worse offenses, before people started writing and talking about said sins. Fun fact: rape and abortion both came into being following the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. And now that I've provided a lesson in history as seen by the RTCs, let's get back to the story.

Anyway, Judd reads and rewrites the love paragraph from I Corinthians, Chapter 13. And it really does drive me nuts, seeing such a wonderful passage used in this series. Like I said before, I, like a lot of people, have my issues with Paul. Paul is a frustrating character in that while there are passages, like I Corinthians 13, where he manages to transcend the mores and limitations of his time and really touch on the love of God, in other passages, he stubbornly remains very much 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 Paul. Also, as a former Jew, Paul would probably be shocked that the Christian faith places his letters on equal footing with the Torah. As far as he knew, Paul was just writing letters to various churches, giving them advice so that they may grow in faith; he probably had no idea that people would still be reading and talking about his letters to this day. I, myself, am a writer and I journal as well. While I know that at some point, someone, preferably after my death, will read my journals, if you took me a thousand years into the future, and a massive religion centered around my journals had arisen, complete with people debating the authenticity and context of said journals...what we'd have is a head-exploding scene to rival the one in Scanners.

So yeah, I'll cut Paul some slack. While we can debate over what he said about Jesus and what meanings Paul's writings have in our day to day life, I'd worship Paul's version of Jesus an infinite number of times before I bowed to TurboJesus. Whether you like him or not,Paul saw Jesus as a figure who'd bridge the gap between God and man, unlike Ellanjay, who treat see him as their personal concierge/strongman. Plus, Paul did legitimately suffer for his faith and by suffer, I don't mean had to endure a cashier wishing him "Happy Holidays" suffering.

I suppose I could post Judd's rewriting of the Love passage and point out how Judd consistently fails on all accounts, but what do you take me for? Someone who isn't lazy?

Judd then thinks about how Vicki fits that passage:

She was never jealous of anyone who succeeded, was never proud or boastful about her accomplishments, and seemed to always put others ahead of herself. Even when Judd was asked to go on trips for the Trib Force, she seemed genuinely excited for his opportunities.

I could go digging through old posts and come up with plenty of times where Vicki behaves like a Good Christian Bitch, but given that Ellanjay see nothing wrong with being a Good Christian Bitch, I probably wasted my time posting that clip.

I could also point out that Ellanjay's ideal woman could be described as the Angel in the House (and you know they'd get the vapors if they opened and read the contents of that link), or for those less academically inclined, a doormat. Probably the only reason they allow women in the congregation and subject themselves to the dirty act of sex, is because they know if they didn't, there would be a precipitous drop in the number of people warming the pews on Sunday.

I would make a joke about the Shakers, but I have a certain affection for them. Yeah, most people probably disagree with their views regarding sex and marriage, but they believed in the value of the craft. They believed that if you were a chair-maker, you glorified God by making a high-quality chair and charging a fair price for it. So you knew if you purchased anything made by the Shakers, you were buying a quality product, not a shoddy piece of crap that someone slapped a Jesus fish on and will fall apart the first time you use it.

Plus, once you know the backstory of the founder of the Shaker faith, Mother Ann, about how she was basically forced into a marriage that lasted only four years, during which she bore four children, all of whom died in infancy, you can kind of understand why she had a dim view of sexuality.

The last section of the chapter is told from Vicki's perspective. She and Judd are unloading stuff together. According to an email Vicki read from Wanda, Cheryl has made good progress. They don't exactly say what this good progress is, but we all know that their idea of good progress involves Cheryl closing her mouth and ceasing with her silly insistence on being involved in her son's life.

I know I've already done so many rants regarding the Cheryl Arc, but it never ceases to amaze me how RTCs continue to be baffled by the idea of consent. If you ever desire some depressing reading that touches both on how consent is a foreign concept to them and that Adoption doesn't really solve everything the way they think it does, pick up a copy of either The Child Catchers or The Girls Who Went Away. Just lock up booze and weapons afterwards, because while I managed to make it nearly to the end of The Girls,The Child Catchers was so damn depressing/enraging, I had to stop halfway. Kept having to fight the urge to scream, "WHAT PART OF MOTHEREFFING CONSENT IS SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND?!" I'm already socially awkward and unpopular enough without having to add that to my list of problems.

They talk a little about Ryan Victor. We do finally get a reason for how scarily precocious he is. No, it's not The Village of the Damned explanation. That would actually be interesting; the possibility of Ryan Victor using his scary mind powers would really liven this shit up.

But it turns out that Ryan Victor suffers from the more prosaic condition known as Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome because Vicki talks about how Ryan Victor has been such a source of joy the past two years, even though the last time he was mentioned, they were celebrating his first birthday!

Look, I know I should cut Ellanjay some slack on this issue. As a writer, I know babies and small children are inherently difficult to write; you run the danger of having them disappear for pages at a time (with no concern from anyone) only to reappear much more older and precocious, or you wind up producing a nauseatingly cute cliché that makes your audience what to become an advocate in favor of Child Abuse. Babies and small children are hard to write, because most character development comes from characters interacting with other characters, and babies and small children can't really interact on a meaningful level with anyone. Basically, they're a lump of clay or marble, or in other words, a work in progress. When their personalities are a little more developed, you can have more meaningful interaction/fun with them, but until then, they're really more of a possibility or a plot device than a character.

So I tend to be understanding and forgiving when writers screw up with babies and small children. Unless they make a really egregious screw-up (like having a newborn speaking), or unless they're Ellanjay, whose problems can be summed up as They Just Didn't Care. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that they just didn't care. Given how bad most Christian Fiction is, that seems to be the general stance of most writers in that particular niche. They know the readers of that genre will read whatever crap you put out, because they are desperate for entertainment and forbidden from reading anything else, so they don't have to even try to produce a quality product.

Anyway, while doing all this, an officer comes after them, forcing a chase scene, wherein our brave heroes are pulled over. As you guessed, the ending...yeah...I think I should just quote from the book, rather than summarize it for you. Besides, you know I believe in Misery loves Company.

Vicki opened the door and climbed out. She looked for a place to run, but the officer motioned her to the rear of the Humvee. The air felt warm, so the plague was still in effect.

“You, redhead, walk slowly toward me with your hands up,” the officer said.

Vicki did as she was told.

“What do you want with us?” Judd said.

“Shut up and come with me, punk.”

“No!” Vicki said.

“Hands on the back of the car!” the officer warned.

Vicki turned. She couldn’t believe they had been caught. They had gone through so much, too much to have it end like this.

“You,” the officer said to Judd, “on your knees.”

Judd knelt behind the car, and Vicki glanced at the officer, who slowly walked toward them. The man stopped near Judd, holstered his gun, and pulled something out of his pocket. “I believe this is yours, young man. And I think you know what to do with it.”

Vicki turned, her brow furrowed. The officer had given Judd a tiny box, and Judd smiled. The officer took off his sunglasses and pushed his hat up, showing the mark of the true believer.

“Zeke?” Vicki said.

“Pay attention to what’s happening, redhead,” Zeke said.

Vicki glanced at Judd, who was still on one knee. “Vicki, I have known you almost six years, and though we’ve had some difficult days, the last few weeks have been the happiest of my life.”

Vicki covered her mouth with a hand as Judd opened the box, revealing a sparkling ring.

“I’ve come to love you, Vicki, and I want to share the rest of my days with you, before our Lord returns.” He pulled the ring from the box and held it out. His voice broke when he said, “Will you marry me?”

Tears stung Vicki’s eyes as she slipped the ring on her finger. Vicki fell into Judd’s arms and they kissed. Her voice trembled as she whispered, “Yes.”

Okay, another lesson learned from this series: Creating an elaborate ruse to convince your love interest that she is in life-threatening danger, in order to spice up your marriage proposal and ensure that she won't say No, isn't emotional manipulation/blackmail.

I admit that I am biased in that I've always found proposals where a girl can't veto the request without humiliating the guy in front of all his family and friends or without looking like a massive bitch, to be the opposite of romantic. Can't he just take her some place private and romantic and pop the question there? After which, if they need a cheering crowd in response, they can reenact it elsewhere. I'd probably be the worst girlfriend or wife ever, because every time I see a grand romantic gesture, either in movies or real life, I can't stop thinking about how creepy said gesture is. It's also the reason why I can't watch most romantic comedies. That and the fact that the female characters in said movies, are so lame, no matter how many times the scriptwriters assert how "strong" and "independent" they are.

Anyway, that's it for this week. Sorry for all the times I repeated myself and sorry for all the links. I like to think the links liven up my dull rants, but I understand if you feel different.

Before you go, I will make one announcement. I hope it fulfills you with the same amount of joy as it does me. The announcement is this: we have one chapter left in this book. After next week, we can finally move onto Book Twelve, aka the last volume in this insanely overly long series. Really the only justifiable response to that announcement is this. Yeah, I know the Hallelujah Chorus is so popular, it's practically become a cliché, but it is pretty awesome in spite of it. Proof that Christian Art didn't always suck harder than a room full of Kirbies armed with Electrolux cleaners.

I did consider posting a link to the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, because if you were to really twist my arm and force me to choose between Handel's Messiah and Beethoven's Ninth, I would grudgingly admit that I like Beethoven's Ninth more, even though I really love both works and not just the parts everyone's heard of; I wholeheartedly love them both.

But I'll save that for the very last snark on this series, as a palate cleanser for the brave souls who have suffered through so much bad writing with me. Plus, there is the danger that the famous chorus everyone recognizes from Beethoven's Ninth, might have a completely different meaning than what everyone thinks. That famous chorus, which is done in German, might be Beethoven singing about how much he loves screwing prostitutes of all shapes, sizes, and ages, for all I know.

Whereas Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" is in English, so I have some idea as to what they're singing about. Even though it amuses me that The Messiah has become a Christmas staple, when it doesn't take much for someone to tell that it was originally intended to be an Easter piece.

Sort of like the time I played "Meditation" from Thais by Jules Massenet on the violin for a church congregation, only to discover afterwards that the meditation was some guy trying to convince a girl to stop being a prostitute and become a nun. Yeah...luckily for me, most people have an appalling lack of knowledge when it comes to art, so I was safe.

Wow...my little announcement wound up being longer than I thought. Until next week, everyone.

*If you're wondering about the post title, it's both because a) I couldn't think of a decent title and b)I believe in encouraging my readers' creativity. No matter what head canon you come up with, it'll probably be more interesting if not better written, than anything produced by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

**Seriously, go see Inside Out.

4 comments:

aunursa said...

I suppose this also could be a callback to the adult books.

I don't recall any reference in any books of the main LB series in which the state of Oregon is mentioned. And certainly not the Lava Tubes.

I admit that I am biased in that I've always found proposals where a girl can't veto the request without humiliating the guy in front of all his family and friends or without looking like a massive bitch, to be the opposite of romantic.

I agree. Unless she's dropped strong hints that make him absolutely 100% positive that she really, desperately wants to marry him, the proposal should be in private.

What should a person do if proposed in public and the answer is "No"?

aunursa said...

AND unless he's absolutely certain that she would be comfortable with a public proposal, it should be in private.

spiritplumber said...

Wow, this is Twilight levels of gaslighting...

Dammit, now I want to write a crossover. Wonder how the plague of heat would affect sparkle-pires. Maybe they can sit inside parabolic dishes and let themselves be used as laser guns.

Mouse, did you get a chance to look at my alternate ending?

http://emlia.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Tripocalypse.ThePlan

Firedrake said...

Yeah, laser weapons are un-American. Got to throw out a Great Big Bullet or it's just not manly enough. The analysis writes itself really.

Oh, hey, I just read that Oregon has lava tubes! Better put that in the book! Authentic detail!

Ya know, the remaining believers could just set up in buildings a long way from anywhere else. Anyone coming towards them will fry before they can reach them. They don't need to take shelter underground!

"Cheryl is making good progress. She will join us soon." (Said in a Villain Voice, obviously.)

I think a public proposal would in itself be grounds for rejection, but I'm not a pathological extrovert.