Sunday, September 27, 2015

What the Hell's the Point of this Story?!

Sorry, sorry. I wish I could say I'm late because I was busy receiving a Congressional Medal of Honor, after which I slept with the cast of The Avengers*, but really, I was just lazy and not looking forward to going another round with The Heroes Who Don't Do Anything Especially If It's Remotely Heroic Because Doing Good Deeds Offends God Apparently.

After so many chapters with him seldom mentioned, let alone seen, Lionel is finally onstage again. Woo... I freely admit that I hate his character (only characters I like are in the League of Awesome), but I just like any excuse to rag on Ellanjay's shitty writing. Because losing track of a character for countless chapters at a time, has to qualify as shitty writing. Here's a hint: if you can't think of something for a character to do, if you have a hard time remembering that said character exists and in doing so, has an effect on the lives of the other characters, maybe you should either rewrite said character or remove him from the story entirely. But apparently Editing ran over their dog when they were kids or something.

Not much really happens, but then again you're used to that by now. Lionel contemplates his navel. It's notable only for the part where Ellanjay decide to clumsily address racism for reasons I am not sure. I assumed Ellanjay, like so many on the Right, their thoughts on racism go in three steps. 1) Racists go to cross-burnings. 2) I have never been to a cross-burning. 3) Therefore, I am not racist. Because the people who point out that racism didn't cease to exist when Martin Luther King delivered his "I have a dream" speech are the real racists.

Anyway, here it is.

Lionel folded the page and smiled. Charlie’s line about Jesus not being black reminded him how much he had been through since the disappearances. At first, Lionel felt uneasy being the only black teenager in the group, but with the earthquake and all the plagues and death around them, his skin color wasn’t an issue. They were all believers in Christ. Period.

It was what Lionel imagined an army went through. He had read stories about soldiers who disliked others because of their differences. But once the bullets started to fly, it didn’t matter where the people came from or how they talked or what they looked like—they were fellow soldiers.

Okay, it's not as tooth-grindingly bad as that bit in Lionel's introduction way, way back in the first book, where he talked about how his cousins accused him of not really being Black. I often kick myself for not giving that passage the proper tear-down it deserves, but cut me some slack! I was just starting out and as I recall, just reading that passage made my brains crash gears. Because it's just so much Whitesplaining that you find yourself wondering how can anyone be that lacking in self-awareness. Yeah, I was so naïve back then...


I'll even let Ellanjay off the hook, by saying they don't have to listen to the eeeevil rap music, even though it doesn't take much for anyone to say, "This song is still sadly relevant despite being nearly thirty years old." Because seriously all you have to do, is change out a few of the accessories mentioned (don't think teenagers are so into gold chains and pagers anymore) in N.W.A.'s "Fuck tha Police" and it is still a damn blistering critique of cops harassing Black people for no damn reason.

But yeah, if you did make them sit down and read Ta-Nehisi Coates's heart-wrenching book Between the World and Me, they'd probably respond in a manner akin to David Brooks, who actually got paid by the New York Times for writing a column-length #notallwhitepeople post.

:sighs: I honestly didn't expect to spend so much time on this one part. I like to think I did okay with my takedown and didn't accidentally make some of the same mistakes that suburban White girls make when they talk about race. If I did screw up and say something horribly insensitive/offensive, I apologize. But I freely admit to being one of those weirdos who believes that centuries of institutionalized racism probably wasn't ended by a few half-heartedly endorsed reforms, so what do I know. :eyeroll:

After this, there's talks about ten kings and this weird paragraph where I'm like, "WTF?!" But I suppose I still have the foolish notion that protagonists are supposed to actually do stuff and have actual arcs and be different at the end of the story than they were at the beginning, so what do I know?

Mac stretched his arms. “If Otto succeeds in New Babylon, we find out where the big shindig is gonna be before it happens, and we get in there and bug the place. We’re not going to try to stop prophesied events, of course, but it’ll be good to know exactly what’s happening.”

Okay, so why exactly are you going to go to this thing IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING?! Don't get me wrong: I know that's what Ellanjay believe--that this must all happen and therefore our heroes can't do something silly like BEHAVE LIKE HEROES AND RESCUE PEOPLE! But even so...they have a detailed layout of everything that's going to happen in the coming year. It doesn't matter if they go to Nicky's get-together or not; THEY SHOULD KNOW!

Then someone asks, "What about Carpathia's secretary?" And I wonder why the hell this is being brought up. I guess this is a throwback to the adult series, put in as a treat for those who've read it, but why do they think that this is what kids these days are into,office politics? Let me guess, next someone's going to ask about Nicky's janitor's dentist's dog.

Nicky's secretary is named Krystall and there's some mention of St. Rayford befriending her. I'm going to assume that Krystall was basically a milder Hattie Durham and served much as the same purpose as Hattie: a source of temptation to cause a stirring in our manly heroes manly loins (Because St. Rayford and Our Buck are totally heterosexual, despite having more chemistry with each other than any of the women they're involved with) in a futile attempt for Ellanjay to demonstrate that "their characters are not Sues; they totally have flaws!" Either way, said manly hero eventually comes to his senses and shoves away that weak whore woman as an assertion of their virtue. Because as Fred would say, women fall into three categories in this series: Madonnas, Whores, and Ingénues.

I'm sure aunursa will correct me if I'm wrong, but once you know a few broad strokes about a character's background in this story, you can easily plot the trajectory of their story.

“Krystall?” Mac said. “If I had a vote, I’d say we convince her we know what’s going to happen to New Babylon and get her out of there.”

“To Petra?”

Mac shook his head. “Much as we might like to do that, God has set that city aside as a city of refuge for his people only. Sad as it is, she made her decision, took her stand, and accepted the mark. Getting her out of New Babylon just keeps her from dying in that mess when God finally judges the city. She’s going to die anyway, sometime between then and the Glorious Appearing, and when she does, she’s not going to like what eternal life looks like.”


Lionel has a sad about all those poor people who will be forced to spend eternity living inside a Hieronymus Bosch painting. He closes his eyes and prays. Realizing that while he is a Main Character, he is still much lower on the RTC hierarchy and therefore, should subsume his needs to the great higher-ups, he asks for aid for Our Buck, little Kenny, the rest of the Tribbles, and to a lesser extent, Chloe, aka the one member of the list who is in actual danger right now. Again, I'm exaggerating, but not by much.

After this, Ellanjay cut to Judd. I admit I fast-forward through quite a bit of his part in this chapter, because all he does is watch the news and be all "Oh Noes!" about Chloe.

Judd and Otto are creeping around Nicky's place in New Babylon and come across Krystall. Krystall is on the phone and right out of the gate, she proves that she is indeed, a hardened heathen whore, in that she actually shows compassion for other peoples' sufferings rather than just shrugging your shoulders and saying, "Oh well, whatcha going to do?" like Zod intended.

“No, it’s still painful, Mom,” Krystall said. “I guess we’re adjusting, but I can’t do anything here except answer the phone. … No, they can evidently see fine in Al Hillah and don’t have to follow his glow around anymore.”

Otto pushed the door open slightly and it creaked.

Krystall sat up, her eyes wide. “I’m sorry, Mom. I need to go. Someone’s here. Mmm-hmm. Bye.”

If you're wondering Krystall's next action isn't to immediately whip out her canister of pepper spray and start spraying in any random direction. Because even though she has accepted Nicky's Mark and she works for Nicky, for some reason, she still wants to help out Our Heroes. I'd wonder if Rayford is that amazing in the sack, but the idea of Our Manly Heterosexual Hero Sleeping with a Woman he hasn't married is unpossible?! That and I have a difficult time believing that St. Rayford isn't basically as anatomically correct as a Ken doll. Yeah, I know, I'm a horrible person for making you think about Rayford's genitals, but you just know his idea of sexy talk consists of him turning to Irene or Amanda and going, "Let us have missionary sex with the lights off, Dearest Wife, and then only for the purpose of procreation so we can have additional help harvesting come fall." I freely admit to having stolen Rayford's sexy talk line from this review. I apologize.

And you know Rayford closed his eyes the entire time, lest he let anyone think he enjoyed the carnal act of making love.

Krystall lets them listen in on a conversation between her and the chief of security for some reason. Don't ask me why. Maybe aunursa, aka the possessor of insanely encyclopedic knowledge of the adult books, knows something, but I spend this entire chapter going, "The hell?!" Part of me wonders if Ellanjay's justification for why she's so damn flaky is " because she's a woman and everyone knows that the ladies can't resist a manly man like Rayford, am I right?" Because once again, I have a feeling I'm not really exaggerating by much, like at all.

Anyway, they talk about plans for a celebration to be held in Baghdad six months from now. The only reason I'm mentioning it is because Z-Van is mentioned which made me go, "Huh?" Because I thought he had died in the Burnination Plague. But I wouldn't mind if he showed up again. Always had a certain affection for him, given how well he demonstrates just how out of touch Ellanjay are. Which is why whenever Z-Van is onscreen, I totally picture him as looking like Madonna Dahmer.

The phone conversation ends with the security chief talking about a final solution to the Jewish problem, a line I suspect was thrown in there, once again, as Ellanjay frantically try to convince everyone that, "Liberals are the real anti-Semites, not us!"

The chapter ends with Judd asking Krystall for more information about Chloe. Krystall responds by saying something along the lines of, "Oh yeah, she's to be executed at 1000 hours, central time." And because I am that pedantic/pathetic, I did actually look up the time zone for Iraq (because New Babylon is located there). Apparently when it's 4:00 Sunday afternoon where I live, it's midnight at Monday in Iraq. So I find myself wondering how exactly are they going to make it so Chloe dies at 10:00 a.m. according to the Central Time Zone. What time would they hold the execution in Iraq? I'd let this piddling detail go if the series had given me something else to think about, but since they haven't...yeah, another thing Ellanjay can't grasp: the Earth is big and round and revolves around the sun. As a result, there are different times in different places as the Earth revolves around the sun. So while it's the afternoon in America, it's nighttime in Europe.

But I realize I haven't really answered the question "What time is the execution going to be held at in Iraq?" I suppose I should, but as an English major, I am absolutely shitty at math. If you care, do the math, yourself. Just know that I'd let this detail go if Ellanjay had said something along the lines of "the execution will be recorded and broadcast for the Central Time Zone at 10:00" or if they had given me something to care about.

And I thought about throwing on a second chapter, but I think I'm going to throw up my hands and say, "That's it for this week." If you're wondering, I'm going to sit somewhere and wonder, "What the Hell was the point with this whole thing with Krystall?" for a while. If you were to ask me which trope I'd classify this part with Krystall under, I'd have to say this whole thing is basically a Shaggy Dog Story. I'd actually prefer a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment because at least there's some enjoyment in pointless WTFery.

*Including Black Widow. Because I am secure enough in my sexuality to admit that ScarJo looks damn good as a redhead and pulls off the skintight catsuit nicely.


spiritplumber said...

Here's my attempt to do a Jenkins-style exposition by phone call. Sadly I can't figure out a way for Hasina and Taylor to both survive....

Anonymous said...

Back from a week's holiday with no Internet access can only mean one thing: a double helping of Mouse! Yay!

Referring to last week's post: are there any parts of the story which *don't* piss Mouse off?

And from this one:

"We’re not going to try to stop prophesied events, of course"

How does this work in RTC-land? What happens if a "prophesied event" is about to happen and you take steps to stop it? Does the world explode or something?

Firedrake said...

What's the point? I'm reminded of the apocryphal interview with Don Henley. "But Don, what does American Pie really mean?" "It means… that I don't have to work, if I don't want to."

Yeah, yeah, we solved racism, so anyone still making a fuss is just being uppity.

"Exactly what's happening"? You can get that from a "plain" reading of the Bible, here in RTCland. And there are all those PMD books telling you in detail what's going to happen. You don't need to observe it in person! It's not as though you're, I dunno, the Antichrist's personal pilot or chief of propaganda or something.

Yeah, so they can't even preach to Krystall at this point, because everyone's got the Mark. (Well, they can, but it won't do any good. Just like when you preach in the real world, kids!)

Ignoring summer time, central is UTC-6, so 10 Central is 18 UTC. Iraq currently uses Arabia Standard Time, UTC+3, so 18 UTC is 21 AST, late in the evening. (If this is happening in the American summer, central is UTC-5, so it'll be 20 AST - they don't observe summer time there.)

But actually L&J missed a trick there. What with One World Government, One World Currency and One World Religion, why not One World Time Zone? (Based on the new headquarters location of course.) "Daddy, I don't like getting up to go to school when the sun's setting!" "Too bad, son, the Potentate has decreed it."

Firedrake said...

Anonymous: no, if you try to stop a prophesied event you explode.

spiritplumber said...

> "We’re not going to try to stop prophesied events, of course"

Taylor (who is awesome) wants to try to kill Carpathia again after he got killed the one time that he was supposed to. IIRC there's an angel coming down to stop him.

In Tripocalypse, if you stop a prophesied event, the version of reality in which you succeed stops existing as soon as no unbelievers are observing it, and gets superimposed with the version of reality in which you failed. Basically God will jut retcon your efforts.

Anonymous said...

In the question of what happens if you try to stop a prophesized event, I would guess either Zod takes direct control and prevent it from happening, IIRC that's what happened in Assassins when St Rayford tried to shoot Nicky Mountain. Or your plan will inevitably be foiled by some final destination style occurrences

spiritplumber said...

That'd be interesting to write something about that.