Saturday, November 21, 2015

Rebels without Consequences

Hello and happy Saturday!

Thought I'd give you the heads up: the bulk of this week's snark and next week's, consists of Mark being interrogated. Okay, technically that's what supposed to be happening, y'know standard trope of hero vs. villain story--the villain has the hero captured and is trying to force him to give up information--but given Ellanjay's lack of imagination...I'm fairly certain there are episodes of Saved by the Bell where Mr. Belding came down harder on Zack Morris for his schemes, than this interrogator for a worldwide dictatorship does for Mark, a child soldier trying undermine said dictatorship.

One of these days, I'll stop relating to everything through pop culture, especially when said artifact of pop culture is remembered fondly more for reasons of nostalgia than, y'know, actually being any good. Like I tell people, a large part of growing up is realizing you had terrible taste in entertainment as a kid. Though Mr. Rogers and the DC Animated Universe did a damn good job standing the test of time.

But maybe I'm being too harsh on Ellanjay. Maybe Mark really is suffering...

Though Mark’s leg wasn’t hurting, his head and stomach ached from the guard’s treatment.

Uh, if the results of said treatment can be cleared up by chewing some Tums and taking some aspirin, THEN IT DOESN'T QUALIFY AS TORTURE!

We've speculated many times on Ellanjay's absolute failure of imagination. Given that their particular subculture eats up tales of Martyrdom and tales of redemption, as Fred point out, I don't necessarily think it's because the bubble forbids them from watching or reading anything that doesn't have a Jesus-fish on the label. Because some of those tales make the suffering quite plain; in fact, they lavish the majority of their attention on it, making it clear that while Johnny Christian suffered terribly at the Islamo-Commie-Fascists, he steadfastly refused to denounce Christ.

I think the problem is more to do with their approach. We can talk about the "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" approach, talk about how toxic it is, but most of the time, while the preachers are way off base, they are preaching out of a genuine desire to save people; they don't want people to burn in hell forever.

But like I keep saying, Ellanjay are Jonah: they're doing their version of The Requirement so God will let them off the hook and they can get front row seats, watch and laugh as everyone who mocked them, burns in horrible agony forever.

Fulcire shows Mark's file and begins a quick recap. I whimper when he mentions the "subversive" newspaper the YTF distributed, but other than that, there's nothing really to snark. I just laugh about how even Nicky's top security has heard of this newspaper produced by some kids in one school in some far-off suburb of Chicago. Even though, odds are the other kids just wadded up the paper and threw it away, or threw it on the floor and let the janitors deal with it.

But it does lead into the only tense moment of the interrogation scenes. As you probably guessed, it is briefly mentioned and passed over quickly because thinking about how much pain someone, heathen or not, might have felt in their last few moments, really kills the gloating.

Fulcire raised his eyebrows. “That got your attention, eh?” He pulled a picture of Natalie Bishop out of the pile and held it up. “This face ring a bell? Would you like to see what she looked like as she pleaded for her life? As she told us everything she knew about you?” He held up a gruesome photo of Natalie just after her execution.

“You’re a monster,” Mark mumbled.

“Excuse me? I didn’t hear that last comment.”

Mark clenched his teeth and tried to keep quiet, but his anger boiled over. “You will pay for the way you’ve treated followers of God.”

“You mean followers of the false god. And I think the one who is about to pay is you.”

Given that Nicky has done what God can't, give public demonstrations of supernatural powers that don't involve killing someone horribly, again, I should have called my tag "Villain always has a point," rather than "Strawman always has a point." But I'm one of those weirdos who believes that all those verses about how you should beware of false prophets more refers to people like David Koresh who clothe their naked villainy in bits from holy writ, rather than people who have superpowers thanks to an alliance they made with a guy from Romania who once rode a giant pig.

[TANGENT] Oddly enough, I find myself trying to invent some kind of head canon for the whole Epic!Pig!Ride. Because while I know pigs can get pretty big, I never heard of them getting big enough to ride nor with nostrils the size of your fist. Plus, again, pigs are generally built for eating, not riding. So I find myself wondering how much money did Nicky pour into some GMO-type engineering so they can spend years splicing DNA and breeding pigs in hopes of getting one with all the necessary traits? How did he justify the expense to whoever is in charge of Nicky's books? That leads to me thinking that maybe the GC government would have likely been brought down by a S&L-type scandal rather than anything the Tribbles or TurboJesus does. Can you picture it, some kind of congressional hearing where Nicky's forced to account for budgeting so much money on pig-breeding? I just know whatever stuff I brought up here is probably a lot more interesting than the actual story we got. [/TANGENT]

And of course, once again, Ellanjay demonstrate that they can't grasp the simple concept that "One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist."

“She was a sweet girl. You had no right to—”

“That ‘sweet girl’ helped several prisoners escape, gave vital Global Community information to our enemies, and was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But she became quite talkative near the end.”

Like I said, Villain continues to have a point, but I doubt Ellanjay get it. Because even the most poorly written dystopian literature acknowledges that from the villain's perspective, the heroes are dangerous terrorists, trying to undermine the government. While they wouldn't agree with the villain's repugnant policies, they would probably understand why he or she would see the heroes as a threat and treat them as such. And I would say that Natalie's crimes, leaking intelligence to the enemy and aiding and abetting the escape of prisoners, would be construed a violation of the law and a threat to the state as a whole.

But Ellanjay can't be bothered to admit that Fulcire would be right to see the Tribbles as a terrorist threat, because that would be delving into shades of grey, which is something they can't handle. The idea that someone isn't either completely evil or completely good, is anathema to them. Because then they would have to admit that most of the horrific crimes throughout history weren't committed by evil people for evil reasons, but by ordinary people who believed that the ends justified the means. That was what formed the thesis for Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: we want to think of evil as this great, supernatural force, but really it is quite ordinary and boring. Or as Arendt puts it:

The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together, for it implied — as had been said at Nuremberg over and over again by the defendants and their counsels — that this new type of criminal, who is in actual fact hostis generis humani, commits his crimes under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for him to know or to feel that he is doing wrong.

Though I suppose this also related to the fact that they want to be the plucky young rebels yet at the same time, they've been raised in a culture where obedience is the most important virtue. Hence why they have to employ such weaselly logic when faced with a choice between A)Telling officers in service to an evil dictatorship what they want to know, thus leading to a whole mess of deaths, or B)lying in order to keep people safe. Again, they've never had a good retort when you bring up examples like Oskar Schindler who :gasp: lied in order to smuggle Jews to safety, and I have a feeling, they never will.

I'll admit that the more cynical part of me assumes that they're primary objection to Fulcire's actions is not that he's killing and torturing people, but that he's killing and torturing in the name of the wrong god. It's probably the same reason why they're oddly reluctant to admit their sudden love for Nicolae Ceaușescu. Because their primary objection isn't so much that Nicolae Ceaușescu was a ruthless dictator, who brutally crushed dissent and whose policies caused a massive amount of human suffering; it's that he was a communist dictator, a good lapdog to the Soviets, rather than being a good proper American toady. Persecution is only wrong when it's done in the name of the wrong ideology; if Nicky killed Natalie in defense of RTC-ianity, rather than his poorly defined beliefs, it would be okay.

:deep breath: Sorry for getting so damn verbose. I just thought of one thing and it led to many other things. As an apology and to serve as a nice breather from the diatribe, I shall provide a clip from the Marvel Cinematic Universe aka that movie-verse I am totally a massive fan of. Because Hulk smashing the shit out villains during their monologues is a trope that never gets old and anyone who claims otherwise, is definitely lying.

Fulcire gets frustrated and sends some guy to inject Mark with some drug. I have no idea what exactly said drug is or what it's supposed to do. I suppose it could be Sodium Pentothal, which makes people more suggestible and willing to talk (though not necessarily tell the truth), but the way the effects are described...yeah, again Mark's horrific torture doesn't sound that horrific. The GC roughed him up a bit, made him miss a few meals, asked him some questions, and injected him with some drug that...again, I'm not entirely sure what it is or is supposed to do. Do they want it to make him suffer horrible pain and start spilling the beans? Well, then they fail miserably because he just talks about feeling funny and light-headed. But if they're going for the make him more willing to drop his guard and start spilling, again, they fail because you never see them actually utilize or take advantage of Mark's drugged out state.

After this, we cut to Judd and Vicki. Judd thinks more about the poorly defined mission in Baghdad, the parameters of which I don't know anything about nor do I care since the Tribbles' just plan on standing around like slack-jawed yokels and not do anything, and we get an appearance from St. Rayford.

I have to admit while this series is bad, no doubt about it, I am honestly surprised by how few the appearances or mentions have been made about St. Rayford and Our Buck. I thought that they would be all over this series and the kids primary duties would be the same as the adult Tribbles: to serve as witnesses to Ray-Ray and Bucky, who spend their time serving as witnesses to human suffering and not doing a thing to alleviate it. Because St. Rayford and Our Buck are the suns around which the LB-verse revolves.

Admittedly there were elements of that, especially in the earlier books, but for the most part, again Ellanjay's Canon Sues have actually garnered very few mentions or onscreen appearances. Again, doesn't make the For Kids! series good, but it does make it more bearable, much in the way, if you had to choose, you'd rather get a kick in the gut rather than a kick in the teeth.

Rayford met Judd and Vicki at the tech center and moved to one of the high places where Tsion and his elders had their meetings. Rayford had aged a few years since Judd had first seen him, and though his hair was turning a little gray, he was still in good shape.

It's the central tenet of RTC-ianity: all good RTCs recognize the inherent greatness of Rayford and Buck regardless of if they ever actually do anything. Because in all honesty, why else would Judd go out of his way to mention that though Ray-Ray's hair has turned a little grey, he's still attractive? Though it does give me an excuse to dust off my "Ho Yay" tag, partly because I'm a drooling pervert who likes to read overtones into everything (I cut my storytelling teeth with fanfiction. What does that tell you?), but also because it never stops being hilarious, how writers of Christian Fiction produce some of the best unintentional Ho Yay around.

Though I thought based on a passage, Slacktivist snarked that Rayford had already turned grey.

Unfortunately, Raymie came along during a bleak period for Rayford. He was 30 and feeling older, and he didn't enjoy having a pregnant wife. Many people thought, because of his premature but not unattractive gray hair, that he was older, and so he endured the jokes about being an old father.

Again, you know Tim LaHaye made Jenkins put in that bit about "premature but not unattractive gray hair." Because Tim LaHaye would never allow any disdainful words to be said about the appearance of his Canon Sue even though he looks like... y'know he just keeps making the Canon Sue criticism harder to deny. Because Rayford is a grey-haired manly man of action, which is what Tim LaHaye wishes he could be, instead of being a still image from a plastic surgery blooper-reel with hair he dyed using printer ink cartridges. Okay, probably someone will consider those last remarks to be a little mean. I apologize and move on.

They talk about how brave and awesome Chloe was, but St. Rayford has some bad news:

“Which makes what I’m about to say even more difficult,” Rayford said. He took a breath. “We’re not going to be using you in the Baghdad operation.”

Judd gulped and looked away. “Can I ask why?”

“It was my decision. Chang and I have handpicked the team and feel we have the right amount of people. The GC has seen Vicki’s picture, and we can assume they’ve seen yours as well. We don’t need unnecessary risks.”

“But you’re going, aren’t you?” Judd said.

“That’s right.”

“And you were on Carpathia’s staff. That has to be a lot more dangerous than—”

Poor Judd, trying in vain to assert Main Character status. Granted he has Main Character status in this series, but again, in the great RTC hierarchy, everyone is secondary to Buck and Rayford.

Vicki, sensing that Judd is dangerously close to violating the sacred tenet of RTC-ianity (Thou shalt always acknowledge the inherent greatness of Rayford and Buck, regardless of what they do), places her hand on his arm. Like I said, because I like reading pervy details, I'm assuming this little gesture is her way of silently saying, "Look, if we fall out of favor with Rayford, he might have Token Jew annul our marriage or something and I don't want to go back to dating Rosie Palm and her five sisters."

But that gesture quickly brings Judd to heel and gets him to act appropriately respectful in the presence of Rayford.

Captain Steele looked at the ground.

“I’m sorry,” Judd said. “I don’t mean to question your authority. We’ll abide by whatever decision you make. And we’d be glad to help out here any way we can.”

“I like that attitude.”

Rayford exits and we get a pretty subversive scene for a book in a Christian Fiction series. Judd and Vicki :gasp: criticize the authority of an elder, talking about how Rayford still sees them as kids and keeps leaving them out of all the good action. In another shocking scene (again, for Christian Fiction), Judd talks about how he wants to witness the Battle of Armageddon, how he wants to see it firsthand and have Vicki see it with him.

“I want to be there, right in the middle of things and see it with my own eyes. I want to help fight the GC or at least support those who are trying to defend Jerusalem.”

“And what about me?”

“I want you right there beside me.” Judd took Vicki in his arms. “It’ll be the greatest moment in the history of the world, and you and I are going to see it.”

Again, given how RTCs get the vapors because Harry Potter and his friends :gasp: :choke: frequently defy and disobey authority figures while trying to save the world from Voldemort, I'm honestly shocked that this passage made it to print. I'm going to assume it was the ghostwriter's doing. Any time there's a well-written passage or one with a slightly subversive side to it, I assume that the ghostwriter slipped Ellanjay a Mickey and banged out said part while they were passed out. Since they believe that only hacks reread and edit what they've written, the ghostwriter would have no trouble getting away with it.

Judd and Vicki's section ends with this passage, which again, I totally read pervy overtones into:

“One problem. How are we going to get there?”

Judd pushed Vicki a few inches away and looked at her. “I’ll take care of that, but not a word about this to anybody. It’s going to be our secret.”

"Just like your fondness for films about gladiators which you only enjoy because it gives you a look at daily life in Ancient Rome?"

"Yes."

I know, I'm a pervert, but like I keep saying, Judd, like all male protagonists in Christian Fiction, shows considerably more chemistry with male characters than he ever did with his designated love interest.

We cut back to Mark and we get another Angelic visitation that accomplishes absolutely nothing. Yeah, I'm starting to think I need to make a tag to refer to these kinds of moments. Because with the exception of the mysterious disappearance at the end, the encouraging words could have easily been delivered by a prisoner in a neighboring cell without dragging the supernatural into it at all.

Angel helps Mark recite the 23rd Psalm then they talk.

Mark leaned back in his chair. “This stuff they gave me, will it make me talk?”

“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. God will give you the strength to resist, no matter what they put into your veins. After all, as one of your hymn writers has said, ‘The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still: His kingdom is forever.’ ”

Again, nice to know that according to Ellanjay, no one has ever confessed to crimes they didn't commit or started telling their captors whatever they wanted to hear in order to make them stop torturing them. Because torture is ineffective against RTCs; anyone who breaks down as a result of it, clearly wasn't an RTC, otherwise God would have given them the strength to resist. Yeah, I'm going to link to a particularly epic takedown of a really noxious glurge. Once you've clicked on the link, you'll know exactly why I linked to it.

Mark is like "Okay, so what should I do when they ask me questions?" Angel's response is "Be creative." Spoiler alert: Apparently Angel means, "Be all weaselly and evasive just like every other RTC character in this series."

Apparently Steve did a good job conducting The Prayer because Angel says that several souls were saved.

Mark then hears the sounds of footsteps.

“The ones who were appointed to believe have done so. You need not be concerned about the number. And now I will leave you.”

“Please don’t,” Mark said. “Can’t you stay and help me … do whatever I’m supposed to do?”

“If you truly need me, I’ll be here,” the angel said.

"But I won't actually do anything that would actually save you for reasons!"

I'd assume an editor cut that line out, but again, that would be a pretty big leap, assuming that an editor ever looked at this series.

Mark is dragged back in for interrogation. As you guessed, it is pure weaksauce with Mark being all weaselly and the GC alternating between getting all blustery and acting baffled. Because the idea of a criminal using weasel words to avoid confessing to anything is so unprecedented that they never would have encountered it before and figured out how to get him to stop being all weaselly. They certainly wouldn't do anything as gauche as torture Mark to get him to start talking.

Yeah, those of us who live in the real world and know about such unpleasant matters as the Abu Ghraib scandal and Gitmo are laughing and laughing bitterly at the idea that they would be unwilling to torture a suspected terrorist and trample over his rights. But then again, probably most of the people involved at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo identified as Christian, while Nicky's government is run by Satan...yeah, I'm going to stop now. I think I've been inflammatory enough.

“Have you ever participated in disloyal acts to the potentate?” Lockerbie said.

“No, not since I became a believer in him.”

“Have you ever stolen anything to aid in your rebel acts?”

“Well, there was that satellite truck. I’m real sorry about that. I was going to fill it up with gas and return it, but I couldn’t find you guys.”

Lockerbie and Fulcire were not laughing, but Mark was having a good time. He looked past the men and saw his friend standing in the corner, chuckling.

I suppose we are supposed to be dazzled by Mark's amazing wit and courage, but given that nothing happens to him...One of the more noxious Sue tropes is the scene where said Sue renders a character speechless through his or her dazzling wit. Even though Mark's repartee is about as witty as a third-grader saying, "I am rubber, you are glue. What you say, bounces off of me, and sticks to you."

I'll quote from the sadly short-lived television series Jeremiah. Because J. Michael Straczynski has more talent in his baby nail than Ellanjay do in their entire bodies. For the record, a large reason why it works is because the villains in this scene actually behave like villains and don't just whine ineffectually.

Interrogator: Would you like something to drink?

Markus: Yeah.

Interrogator: In return, will you give us the names of the other individuals involved in your attempt to overthrow the United States government?

Markus: There is no United States government. There hasn't been one in fifteen years.

Interrogator: This place is the government. The lawfully established seat of power...

Markus: This place is a bad memory. This place is a testament to everything that was wrong with the old world. A triumph of brute force over basic humanity.

Interrogator: Does it make it easier for you to think of us in that way?

Markus: Easier? No. More honest? Fuck, yeah.

It probably was too much to hope for anything close to that. Because RTCs are okay with people being slaughtered in such numbers that their blood rises to the height of a horse's bridle, but heaven forbid, anyone, heroes or villains, use harsh language!

Again, all the episodes of Jeremiah are available for free on Hulu. Go now!

Mark grandstands about how they can kill his body but not his soul. Fulcire responds by pounding the table and ordering Mark hauled off to solitary.

Now if this was written by people who live in the real world, there could be potential for trauma here. Because in the real world, there's been debate as to whether solitary violates the amendment forbidding cruel and unusual punishment; that's how rough it can be on prisoners. But y'know Ellanjay are the types who respond to complaints of Police brutality or prison abuse by saying, "Have you tried not breaking the law?" Because apparently if you ever did something stupid, you forfeited your right to be treated like a human being.

Mark was surprised he had gotten away without anyone trying to torture him. Would that come later? When he made it to his room, he collapsed on his cot and fell into a deep sleep. He dreamed of streets paved with gold.

When even the characters are commenting on the surprisingly good treatment they've received at the hands of an organization run by someone who is supposed to be worse than Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, you know you've failed.

4 comments:

Firedrake said...

Here is your Sunday wake-up shock: there are probably people out there who are nostalgic for the original Left Behind books.

There are two classic ways of using a fellow prisoner in an interrogation:

① "She's told us everything, we just need to cross-check with you, let's get this done so we can all go home."

② "For every question you don't answer, we hurt her."

And for number 1 you don't even need to pretend she's still alive. Meanwhile, you shouldn't arrest terrorists because their mates say they're "sweet girls"?

I wonder whether it's a theory of mind thing: the L&J community genuinely cannot see that a fundamentalist Muslim might believe all the same important things as them (my religious leader is right, yours is wrong, we are being oppressed but are the only people who have the truth, the world is corrupt and needs to be brought to its senses, a woman's place is wherever I say it is). Either that or they're just lying. Doesn't make them look good either way.

It's clearly reassuring to think of the Nazis as uniquely and supernaturally horrible, because then you don't need to confront the idea that with the right pressure maybe you would participate in horrors yourself. Not looking at any horror-promoting presidential candidate in particular.

The GC goons are a proxy for the writers. They don't know why they're drugging Mark, but they know that drugging the captured rebel is the sort of thing villains do, and they have to keep hitting those tropes.

Tim LaHaye was a machine-gunner on a USAAF bomber in 1944. Isn't that action enough for him?

"I'm sorry, you can't go. We've already written the book with this mission in it, and we hadn't thought of you then."

My smutty reading is more about Vicki's concern for her and Judd's ability to "get there". Well, they clearly need to practice some more.

Have I not mentioned the sketch from Aftermyth of War here? I can't find it in the comments. The first quote here, anyway. That's the feeling I get from these angels.

Standard GC interrogations should include the preamble "if you answer with anything other than 'yes' or 'no' we bring in the rats right now".

Anonymous said...

1) "You monster!"---I totally read that in Gingy's voice.

2) Can somebody explain to me the Biblical significance of the giant-pig-riding incident? I've read Revelation a few times in the past, but I can't remember any mention of pig-riding being a thing that the Antichrist does. Is there supposed to be a reason why the authors put it in there?

Firedrake said...

Anonymous, here's a comment from the Man Himself, via http://www.leftbehind.com/03_authors_testimonials/viewAuthorInteractions.asp?pageid=856&channelID=79 :

What inspired you to write about Carpathia riding a pig? How did you come up with that?
It was one of those things where Carpathia is the ideal villain. You can make him do the worst things imaginable. I tried not to make him too comical because you can get silly with it. But I think Satan imitates everything Christ did. And what's the worst blasphemy in a synagogue? Jews don't even eat pork let alone ride on a pig. I just tried to think of the most blasphemous things he could do, and that was one of them. I tried to imagine myself if this were my religion. A pig is unclean. It's not worth eating. They keep it separate. Here it is in the temple; here it is on the Via Dolorosa. It was just a matter of trying to make him as despicable as possible.




...so that answers that then.

Anonymous said...

Rrrrriiiiiggghhhttt.

Just off the top of my head, I can think of a few things to do with a pig that are WAY more despicable than outfitting it with a little piggy saddle and riding on it.

What happened to the great RTC tradition of making up stories about all the lurid things that happen in "Satanic" rituals? It's not like the dude doesn't have any material to draw from.