Sunday, March 13, 2016

Caught in a Bad Romance

For the record, I did start on this on Saturday, but had a lot to do. Saw a documentary about songbirds and went to the symphony, so didn't get to finish the post yesterday. But I'm here now, so let's get down to this.

Those of you know I have a very passionate hatred for a particular movie, so much so that if that procedure in Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind existed, I might actually put myself through it, just so I can forget that particular movie. Maybe some day when I achieve my career goal of being an eccentric, independently wealthy recluse (right now, I've only managed two out of three, no points for guessing which), I can just be myself and not worry about alienating everyone with my constant frothing "I WILL HAVE YOUR HEAD ON A PLATTER OF GOLD, ZACK SYNDER!" rants, but until then, I can't afford to alienate too many people.

Thing is, I don't rant about every bad movie I see the way I do with that one. I freely admit that I've gone to movies I don't particularly care for, because a) somebody else was paying, and b) most movies, no matter how bad, you can at least derive some aesthetic enjoyment from them. World is so much prettier and makes a lot more sense on the silver screen than it does in real life*. Plus, most of the time when a movie is bad, it's just kind of boring in its badness, not outright unpleasant.

Snyder's not only was outright unpleasant (when you can't even enjoy the act of watching a movie, you know it's failed), it also effed with a character I cared deeply about. I gave him a pass for Watchmen because I didn't particularly care for the comic book series (it falls under "Good and I see the skill and craft involved, but the reader in me derives very little pleasure from reading it"), but I cared about Superman! That is why Snyder's movie crossed the line to, "All right, now it's personal!" and you damn well better believe I'm not going to see Batman v. Superman unless someone dredges up proof that it was directed by Zack Snyder's mirror!verse counterpart, who doesn't have a severe tripod allergy and knows that a character doesn't have to be a dripping ball of angst to be compelling!

Seriously, DC comics, get the guys involved with the DCAU to write your movies! They pulled it off, managing to create compelling stories/characters, delve into dark themes without making it so dark and gritty that it becomes unpleasant to actually watch (seriously, the Cadmus arc on Justice League Unlimited is just a masterpiece), and at the same time, they knew we love these characters because of the ridiculous awesome spectacle of it all! We want to believe a man can fly! Do you guys just hate money and all the things that money can buy?! I'm just saying compare this clip from the DCAU Superman series with any minute from that one movie I hate and see just how badly Snyder failed! Because the DCAU clip, even if you don't know the whole context, it is still damn affecting and even if, like me, you've seen it many times and you know what's coming, it still manages to be an emotional sucker punch every single time.

The rambling point I'm trying to make is that while I've gotten very passionate many times on this blog, while ranting about bad art, most of the time, I'm more "meh," after sitting through bad entertainment. Heck, sometimes I actually enjoy it. One of the few fond memories I have of high school involves a meteorology/astronomy class where we watched Twister and the whole class just had a ball, making MST3K remarks throughout. Some advice to Hollywood: Okies know how twisters work. Maybe you can fool people on the coasts, but not Okies. You don't live in the middle of Tornado Alley without learning a few things about tornadoes. That and since the teacher of the class actually was a storm chaser in his spare time, he joined in and pointed out the many errors the characters made.

But the Left Behind series, even the for kids! version, is so outright unpleasant that I cannot enjoy it. That and as Fred Clark has pointed out in many posts, a large contingent of people actually believes the toxic ideas that govern this series and wants all of the horrible stuff to actually happen. So like it or not, it impacts the culture in a way Twister's stupidity does not. Though I will say that at least the kids version doesn't have Rayford mansplaining on the wrongness of abortion. It's not much of a plus, but it is a plus.

Anyway, what we continue to get this week and what will probably get next week and until the end of the series, is one of the Right's favorite tropes, where they claim the mantle of the plucky persecuted underdog, even though they're effectively winning. It's the attitude born of the two conflicting desires the Right has, where they both want to be the plucky young Christian rebels fighting against the Evil Empire, who somehow manage to win, despite having the odds stacked against them. Yet since they subscribe to the ideology of "Might makes Right" victory for them looks much the same as it does for the evil empire, where all their enemies are either dead or so crushed and beaten down that they no longer have the will to raise their heads, never mind rebel.

Plus again, like I've said before, they also secretly aspire to be the Evil Empire, have the power and might to crush those who stand against them. It's a rancid, incoherent, toxic mix, which leads to what we keep getting where the characters are simultaneously going "We'll be laughing our heads off while you're burning in hell!" and "I hope Jesus wins, not the bad guys" without somehow noticing the contradiction.

Those of you who don't believe me when I talk about the toxic contradiction that governs the RTC subculture, a few things. First of all, hello and welcome to my blog. Second of all, what's the rent like on that rock you've clearly been dwelling under for quite some time?

I'm just saying, read the opening to this week's chapter and tell me Lionel is secretly getting his rocks off at the thought of all those heathens dying horribly.

LIONEL sat with Sam on Petra’s perimeter and watched God’s light show. Lightning flashed through the deepening clouds, thick streaks of gold firing overhead. He remembered watching a tornado years before the Tribulation began, but that didn’t compare with this.

Lightning increased, with hundreds and thousands of bolts crashing to the desert floor every second. It was like the end to a terrific fireworks display, only this one was a million times brighter and stronger. Thunder shook the ground, and Lionel tried to cover his ears.

Another thing that gets me about this series is the fundamental dishonesty of it. Again, this is revenge porn for RTCs, where they get to fantasize about all those uppity people they hate, getting tortured and humiliated. No matter how much Ellanjay talk about how they wrote this series to reach lost souls for Christ, it's BS.

But the thing is, they can't just be honest about it, own up to the whole revenge porn idea, and go with it, resorting in a nasty distasteful mess that somehow feels even more repugnant that another piece of writing (can't in all honesty, call it literature) that exists as a form of torture porn for the Far Right. I am speaking, of course, of The Turner Diaries.

Don't get me wrong: I hate that book. There is nothing redeemable about it and it deserves to be called trash and hate lit and every insult you can think of. But at the same time, it is at least honest. It is not trying to claim that the characters do all this stuff to their enemies, because they secretly love the Blacks and Jews. It does not try to claim noble messages while marketing itself to the most repugnant a-holes on the political spectrum. It is honestly willing to make a stand for what it believes in, however horrible, and doesn't try to weasel out of the full implications of its beliefs. So in a way, it's slightly less repugnant than any book in the LB-verse.

Because while I know I should stop taking advice on life from cheesy eighties cartoons, there is something to be said for the "Better an honest enemy than a false friend" argument.

For the record, the link about the Turner Diaries takes you to Wikipedia for those wondering. I suppose I should have put in trigger warnings, but I wasn't sure how necessary they were. I apologize if anyone was shaken or upset by the link.

Anyway, Lionel and Sam watch Nicky getting on a big horse (almost said "mounting" but there are enough dirty-minded perverts reading and writing this blog). Nicky is all "Bwaah! We's gonna kill 'dem RTCS."

Lionel and Sam, of course, roll their eyes, because they know God's on their Side. I, being a dirty-minded perv, know that they're also probably getting off at the thought of all those heathens dying horribly.

I know y'all are getting tired of me making "Tribbles masturbating to the thought of appalling death and suffering" jokes, but it keeps coming up throughout all my readings, how much they earnestly long for and look forward to God killing all the people they can't stand. It makes sense that RTCs would so link sexual pleasure and violence, given that they can't seem to envision sex as an activity participants would actually enjoy and do as an expression of love.

And when I say violence, I'm not referring to the BDSM variety. I freely admit that I am not into the BDSM thing, but whatever your views on it, they would still see sex as an expression of love. They may express that love in unconventional ways but from what I've heard, the BDSM crowd believes in consent and generally does a good job of policing themselves. If someone in the scene is accused of or linked to something criminal, others in the scene make sure that word gets out and the accused becomes persona non grata and generally isn't welcomed anymore. There are probably still cases of abuse in that subculture, but that's probably true of any subculture, and the BDSM one is probably healthier than the RTC one in that they acknowledge the possibility of abuse and when abuse occurs, they address it rather than sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn't exist.

So as you can probably guess, when I'm talking about violence, I am of course, referring to cold, calculated cruelty done for no real reason (as in nobody's life was in danger or something) except that the other person wanted to and was capable of doing it, the kind where one party puts someone through physical and/or psychological hell because they can.

Since sex is so intertwined with violence and hierarchy (nothing can be done between equal participants in the RTC subculture. There will always be someone higher up, interacting with someone beneath them), like I said, it's not too surprising that whenever a scandal dethrones a celeb on the Christian Right, it's almost always about sex. RTCs will forgive a lot of things, but nothing involving sex. It doesn't matter whether the offense is a "participants have consensual intercourse despite not being married or :gasp: of the opposite sex" or if it's closer to "preying on someone who liked and trusted you" scandal; they see all crimes related to sex as equivalent in seriousness. Even though most people recognize, as does our justice system, that intent and scale does matter when it comes to crime. Again, even Draco or Hammurabi or some law and order zealot would acknowledge that there's a difference between stealing a loaf of bread to feed your starving family and breaking into someone's house, stealing their valuables, and brutally beating the homeowner and leaving him for dead when he tries to stop you.

I repeat myself a lot, but it's just an idea I can't get away from: the way they can't envision sex without it being about power. It keeps coming up in this series, especially in the next section with Shelly and Conrad.

Shelly and Conrad are pretty much doing what everyone else is doing: sitting and watching the pretty fireworks produced by God converting the heathens to nuclear vapor.

Conrad turned toward the end of the Old Testament to Zephaniah and read some verses to Shelly. “ ‘That terrible day of the Lord is near. Swiftly it comes—a day when strong men will cry bitterly.

“ ‘It is a day when the Lord’s anger will be poured out. It is a day of terrible distress and anguish, a day of ruin and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, of clouds, blackness, trumpet calls, and battle cries. Down go the walled cities and strongest battlements!

“ ‘Because you have sinned against the Lord, I will make you as helpless as a blind man searching for a path. Your blood will be poured out into the dust, and your bodies will lie there rotting on the ground.’ ”

He closed the Bible, and Shelly scooted closer. Houses crackled and burned not far away. The acrid, smoky smell of the meteors filled the air.

As always, Ellanjay conveniently avoid citing chapter and verses, forcing me to resort to Google to figure out what part of Zephaniah they're quoting. It's from Zephaniah, chapter one, verses 14-18, if you're wondering. Again, given that I doubt their target audience of kids and teenagers would be willing to put forth the effort to pin down exactly what verses were being quoted, the fact that they always leave off specifics casts a whole lot of doubt on their assertion that they want people to read their bibles and take the verses to heart.

Anyway, doing a quick skim of the Book of Zephaniah (it is only three chapters so don't have go through much to get the general gist), you can see why Ellanjay would choose that prophet to quote instead of one that people might have heard of like any of the major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, if you're wondering).

While the verses they quote, do have more nuance when looked at in context (given all the mentions of stuff like Baal and Molech, aka stuff that would have very specific meanings during the time it was written, it's doubtful that whoever wrote it, meant for it to be about citizens of the middle part of the North American landmass, thousands of years into the future), Zephaniah's words are easier to twist and torture because he was more the kind of prophet they liked, the kind who was all "The people I dislike will all die horribly" rather than all those others who, like I said last week, while they did say all that stuff about God's wrath, the lion's share of their writings were devoted to Why God was Punishing His People, rather than the myriad ways He was going to punish them.

Also when they brought up the Why, it wasn't because the Israelites hadn't gone to church regularly and said The Prayer with the precise amount of sincerity and hated the Gays and Abortion with proper fervor; it was for what they had actually done or rather, what they failed to do. Turns out when God says to take care of the poor and needy, he actually means for you to do it, and from the looks of it, his definition of taking care of them, involves something more than just giving them a Jack Chick tract and sending them on their way. Sometimes I long to point them towards verses like Ezekiel 16:49-50 which proves that God's grievances with the town of Sodom went beyond, "They enjoyed intercourse that didn't allow for the possibility of reproduction." That and since I've read the passages of the Bible that talk about what happened to Lot after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah...a few questions: one, "how drunk do you have to be to sleep with your daughters twice?" and "If Lot was the most righteous man in Sodom, then what the hell was everybody else like?" I'll just post a Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic and move on.

He closed the Bible, and Shelly scooted closer. Houses crackled and burned not far away. The acrid, smoky smell of the meteors filled the air.

“What do you think all that means?” Shelly said.

“I guess it means your life is worthless if you fight against God,” Conrad said. “He’s going to win every time.” Suddenly the lightning and thunder stopped. The sky was pitch-black, and Conrad wondered how long God would wait. Soon Jesus would return—but would he be seen just in Jerusalem or everywhere?

Conrad put an arm around Shelly. “Enoch says he’s going to find a way to get to Israel as soon as possible. He’s even going to try and raise money for his people to go there.”

“I’d do anything to see Jesus start setting up his kingdom,” Shelly said. “Let’s go together.”

Conrad smiled, pulling her close. “We could stay with Judd and Vicki.”

I know I keep harping on the same point, but all this stuff in this passage about Conrad pulling Shelly any other passage, I'd interpret it as "Ah, young love," and not read too much into it. In fact, I might consider it a nice stroke of realism, because even at the End of the World, horny teenagers will be horny. People are naturally wired for altruism and will fall in love and try to help each other out, no matter how bad things get.

But since Ellanjay can't envision sex or anything related to it, as something done as an act of love, all this reads as pretty creepy. Especially since, like I said, I've actually read and retained memories of what's happened in previous books.

I've ranted endlessly about the Shelly-Conrad subplot and will probably rant about it a great deal more; you're just going to have to deal. Because for the most part, everything about it, as in the STUFF THE READERS NEED TO SEE AND WITNESS IN THE TEXT, was conducted off page. There was a one-line mention that Shelly and Conrad have fallen in love. Then you see and hear nothing about it for many books until there's a one-line mention about how they were in love, but now they're having problems.

The only time these problems or the nature of their relationship is at all fleshed out, is in this snark where Shelly talks to Vicki about the problems she's been having. Given that basically the problems can be summed up as "Conrad was being a creeper and not respecting Shelly's wishes," yeah, you understand why I am taking a very dim view of the quoted passage.

I suppose it's entirely possible that maybe Conrad has learned about consent and self-control (while off-screen, natch), but the more likely view is Shelly realized that Conrad is a manly man and as such, he is automatically higher up on the hierarchy than her; therefore, he is entitled to take and will take, whatever he wants from her, and that things will go better if she just silently acquiesces rather than make a fuss about it. I mean, what do you expect a manly man to do? Exhibit an ounce of self-control and respect someone's wishes, even if said someone is lower than them on the hierarchy? Besides, what did Shelly expect since she was likely advertising how blatantly female she is, given that her oversized, shapeless blouses probably didn't conceal the existence of her dirty pillows and in spite of her ankle-length skirts, Conrad may have caught occasional glimpses of her ankles?

Again, maybe y'all are thinking that I'm reading way too much into all this, reading creepiness where there is none, but I really don't have a lot of choice but to do so. Since they stubbornly refuse to Show, do something silly like write a scene where Conrad :gasp: apologizes to Shelly for being a creeper and ignoring her clear "I don't want this" signals, I really have no choice but to assume the worst.

:sighs: Funny how RTCs accuse feminists of having negative views of men. Given that feminists actually see men as intelligent beings, capable of self-control, rather than walking dicks driven only by lust, I have to wonder whose views are actually far more regressive and insulting.

There's a brief interlude with Vicki. She limps along, searching for first aid supplies for her and Judd. It actually would be dramatically compelling if they bothered to flesh it out, because being hurt, scared, and in pain is generally no fun, whether it's the End of the World or not.

I know I rant entirely too much about the whole "Show, Don't Tell" rule of writing. As a writer, I can tell you that outside the three commandments of writing (which can be summed up as Read, Write, and Rewrite), the rules of writing are, to paraphrase Captain Barbossa, aka the only character in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise who remained a badass and wasn't irritating as hell by the end, they're more like guidelines, really.

Because outside the three commandments, every time someone says "Never do this in a story," someone can pull a book off a shelf and point to an example where a writer broke that rule and the story still worked. Like most say "Never start your story with your protagonist as a baby, because it's hard to root for a hero, who hasn't developed decent bladder control, let alone demonstrated personality traits the reader can relate to," yet the Harry Potter franchise begins with the titular character as an infant and it's still a damn good read.

So slavishly following any rules, outside the big three, is probably an incredibly stupid idea. In fact, sometimes the writer should just cut to the damn chase already! There are times when you should tell, rather than show. I mean, someone could write a passage where they showed everything, something along the lines of, "Jack fastened his seatbelt. He turned the key in the ignition. He stepped on the brake and shifted in reverse. He looked in his rearview and side mirrors. Then he turned around to check his blind spots. Then he stepped off the brake and started backing out, turning the wheel left because he needed to go right. But he was backing out slightly too fast, so Jack stepped on the brake to slow himself. Then he stepped off the brake and continued with his original route," but it wouldn't take long for the reader to want to reach through the screen/book, grab the writer, scream "Get to the point, already!", and slam the writer's head against a table. So in that scenario, telling would work. Just type something along the lines of "Jack drove off to go confront the evil Doctor Nefaro/his cheating girlfriend/talking pie," and get to back to the story.

So my real quibble with Ellanjay is more that when it comes to travel logistics, they are quite happy to show every detail regardless of how boring or relevant. Because they apparently believe that if they don't list every step Buck takes from Point A to Point B, the readers will be scratching their heads and going, " did Buck get to Point B?" They certainly can't do something expedient like have Buck think or say "I'm going to Point B," and when they drop back in with him later, have him be at Point B. The readers would just be at an absolute loss if they didn't know all the blocks in between or all the vehicles Buck rode in to get there, even if none of the stuff from Point A to Point B will be seen or referenced or have anything to do with anything.

But when it comes to stuff that the reader would actually need to know and would actually be interesting to witness, like a character's thoughts or feelings, Ellanjay's love of laziness wins out over their love of padding, and they just have a one-line "They had a fight but it's over now." Most writers would think it's important to mention what said characters got into a fight about and how it was resolved, but Ellanjay are far above such lesser men.

Anyway, there isn't much more I can ramble endlessly about in the Vicki section. Just that I was a little amused by a one line reference to her being in Little League. Truly Vicki's parents were hardened reprobates before their conversion, not because they drank, smoked, caroused, were stereotypical trailer-trash rednecks, or accused their daughter of lying and punished her when she said that her uncle sexually abused her, but because they :gasp: let her play a sport as a kid. And it wasn't an appropriately girly sport, but a manly one like baseball. The horrors!

But I will quibble about the closing line of Vicki's section:

She smiled, thinking they had done just that—they’d used all their energy to help people. Whatever happened next would happen without their help.

If we're talking about recent events that happened a few pages ago, then that bit about how they used all their energy to help people, is only accurate if Vicki defines people as "Me, myself, I, and Judd," because really that's all she and Judd have been doing, running around, ignoring everyone's suffering but their own. You could make a case that in a combat situation, after days of being scared, hungry, exhausted, and in pain, the characters' perspectives would shrink to a narrow view, making them barely able to think of anything outside their own suffering.

Like the beginning of Children of Men** where Clive Owen's character is so worn down, so broken by witnessing endless horrors on a daily basis that he's shut down emotionally. It's a classic case of "Hero's been treading the same path for ages and doesn't see a reason to change until a catalyst disrupts said path." In this case, the catalyst is his ex-wife showing up. When she takes him to see the first pregnant woman in decades, a teenager named Kee, his mindset that since there's not going to be a future, is irrevocably shaken. This revelation forces Owen's character to rise to the occasion and become a true hero, by doing everything he can to protect this teenager and her unborn baby.

But the problem we keep running into is that we are given no indication of any trauma. Basic common sense says that even if you've said The Prayer and reserved your seat in Heaven, even if you are a moral prig who can't be arsed to care about the sufferings of people outside you and your circle of friends, it would still be rough psychologically, to be constantly dealing with Acts of God, to always be hungry and tired and cold. But I've was more traumatized after working Black Friday*** than any of these characters have been after anything!

So yeah, calling BS on Vicki's claim that they've been using all their energy to help people. I suppose it could be possible that Vicki isn't referring to just recent events but is looking over the seven-year period as a whole, know what, I'm still calling BS.

I'm going to rush through the rest of the chapter, because I talk too damn much as is, and because nothing really happens. Well, okay, something does happen, but, y'know how Fred said that Ellanjay apply the rule of preaching "Tell them what you're going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you've told them," to writing fiction even though fiction and sermons are different forms of writing and as such, have different rules/requirements? It's like that. Character A witnesses something, oohs and ahs over it, then because Ellanjay believe that their readers are even stupider than Forrest Gump, they feel they have to do a scene with all the characters mentioned recently, oohing and ahhing about it. Because we can't have Lionel see the miraculous occurrence (in this case, a giant laser cross appearing in the sky) be amazed by what he sees, and just assume from there that Conrad, Shelly, Judd, and Vicki also see and are amazed by the miraculous occurrence? How would the readers know unless we were as subtle as a two-by-four to the head about it?

I should be grateful that Ellanjay restrained themselves and resisted the urge to add scenes with each individual member of the MCC witnessing it. I'm just saying, we know how much they love padding and how they look for any excuse to indulge in it.

Okay, in fairness, the telling of the same event from different perspectives, is a time-honored trope in literature/storytelling. But the key word here is different. Most writers have the common courtesy to put forth the effort to make each perspective distinctive and unique, reflective of the character telling the story. Ellanjay on the other hand, are far above hacks like them and just find and replace proper nouns, rather than do something silly like that.

The chapter ends with Vicki and Judd being like "Hey, God healed our injuries!" Lionel goes through the same, magically regrowing his left arm.

And that's it for this week. Next week, and I know this comes as a real shocker to you all, more nothing happens! But the week after that, TurboJesus finally gets off his ass and comes back. Reading his dialogue, let's just say I'll be scouring YouTube looking for the one Simpsons clip that I keep thinking of, because I thought you knew by now that I am an obsessive weirdo. Oh and about the asterisked stuff, it's fleshed out below, but I apologize, given that they may be even longer and rambling than the actual snark. But I was courteous and set them aside, so that those of you who want to just read the main body of material and not deal too much with rambling lectures, can safely ignore them and go on with your lives.

*I tell people that the only form of fiction that comes close to reflecting reality is the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. Ever read those books? Then you know they are terribly written books. Important plot points come way the hell out of nowhere, there's no rhyme or reason to anything that happens, and, of course, no matter what you choose, you're always screwed in the end. Which like I said, is actually a fairly accurate representation of this reality.

I believe in the existence of multiple realities and have come to believe that of all the ones that exist, this one is the worst, because it manages to be both boring and nonsensical at the same time, and I'm not even entirely sure how that's possible. Just that fiction, even ones set in a zany, wild topsy-turvy universe, has rules/conventions it has to follow and can't just violate them willy-nilly, because then the reader/viewer will go "Oh come on!" then go find something better to read/watch. But until somebody gets off their tails and invents a device enabling us to travel to alternate realities, we're stuck. This reality can be as bad/nonsensical as it wants to be because it doesn't have any competition.

**That movie...again, it seems that if you want a good, compelling film that delves into religious themes, you turn to Eeeevil Secular Hollyweird rather than any Christian ™ directors. Because while secular directors may be people of faith and that may show up in their films, they are also people who believe that the primary task of a creative person is to tell a good story, so that your listener/reader/viewer doesn't feel that their time was wasted. You can have messages in your films, but they are in service to the story you're telling, not the other way around. When it's the other way around, it's called propaganda and there's a reason people take a dim view of it.

You just shake your head at the RTC subculture. They got all up in arms about Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, but anyone who has actually seen it, will tell you that it is actually a very reverent film with great respect for Jesus and what he represented. Scorsese is described in his article on Wikipedia as being a lapsed Catholic and a regular practitioner of transcendental meditation, so the RTCs probably wouldn't consider him one of them. Yet his depiction of Jesus as a passionate, sweating, striving being who :gasp: hurt and got hungry and horny and longed for a normal life like everyone else, is probably a lot closer to the one depicted in the four gospels than any of the RTC produced productions, which dress their actors in bedsheets and make some effort to recreate the look of the era, but don't really delve into the mindset of people eking out an existence under the thumb of a brutal regime. Their Jesus always seems as lively as cold gravy, just mouthing platitudes, and never really showing any sign of being human or divine. I know my readers have differing views as to who or what Jesus was, but surely we can agree that he must have been somewhat charismatic to inspire people to give up their families and livelihoods to follow him.

But back to Children of Men, like I said, keep coming back to the spiritual themes. No matter how many times, I watch or link to this scene, it never loses its emotional resonance, seeing everybody just in a state of absolute awe over the sight of the first newborn baby in over a decade, how it inspires two hardened enemies to have a temporary cease-fire so that mother and baby can get out safely.

Wikipedia doesn't tell me the director's (Alfonso Cuaron, if you're wondering) religious views, but whatever they were, the man knew what he was doing. Though you can read religious themes into so many scenes in Children of Men. Like how Kee reveals her pregnancy to the main character in a stable and the MC's response is to exclaim, "Jesus Christ!" Okay, I admit I'm reaching there, but while nativity scenes and the birth stories in the two gospels (only Matthew and Luke actually have birth stories about Jesus. Mark and John leave them out of their tellings) have cleaned up the stories, still can't escape the basic facts of the situation.

If Mary and Joseph did journey to Bethlehem, they would have been refugees, much like the characters in the film, traveling and struggling to stay alive in a land that doesn't really care much about what happens to them. The trip to Bethlehem from Nazareth is, according to Google results, about 70-80 miles or 120 km in the metric system. So yeah, imagine traveling that distance without such modern niceties as cars, well-paved/maintained roads, and hotels/motels to rest for the night or gas stations to stop to get a bite to eat, use the bathroom, and rest for a bit. Oh and while Mary is usually depicted as riding in a donkey, in all likelihood, given that she and Joseph were both people of limited means, Mary would have been walking, the same as Joseph. So yeah, in addition to everything else, Mary's going through all this while being nine months pregnant. And she winds up giving birth in a stable. Spoiler alert: even under the best of circumstances where the kid's head is in the correct position and there are no complications, childbirth is still incredibly messy, with a whole lot of bodily fluids involved. Another spoiler is that since stables were places were animals lived and living often involves eating, sleeping, peeing, pooping, and sex, yeah, it's not likely to have been the most sanitary of conditions.

tl;dr, while Mary and Joseph probably weren't dealing with shit blowing up around them as they're traveling, the conditions of Jesus's birth were a lot closer to those of Children of Men (Kee winds up giving birth in a shelled-out warzone)rather than all those nativity scenes which depict everybody clean and arrayed in holy light. Maybe nativity scenes do serve a purpose, but the danger is that we let the image hijack our brains and tell the stories for us, rather than focus on the very real facts of the situation.

***Having worked retail on Black Friday, I can safely say this webcomic isn't exaggerating, like, at all. Seriously, humans suck! Maybe in the other realities they're somewhat more tolerable--if they're assholes, at least they're written in a way where they're still interesting and make sense in spite of being assholes--but not here!


aunursa said...

I love Captain Barbosa. He's my favorite character in the Pirates movie franchise.

I particularly enjoyed his role in the fourth movie as a member of King George II's army ... since the previous year he had played the speech therapist of one of George II's descendants.

Firedrake said...

Bad movies can be enjoyable in themselves, but only when they haven't been ground down to utter boring consistency. There's one site which rates from +5 to -5: a -5 film is really impressively and enjoyably bad, while a +0 film is just sort of there, wasting your time.

Things Okies haven't learned about tornadoes: if you consistently get tornadoes, maybe you should live somewhere else. (Yeah, I know.)

The Turner Diaries is what happens when you don't put an PR person between the hateful attitude and the printing press.

In the real world there's a useful law-and-order benefit to graded punishments. If you're going to be hanged for stealing a chicken to feed your starving family, then you might as well have some fun before they catch you. In RTCWorld, the only punishment is eternal conscious torture: once you've qualified for that, LBGod has nothing to offer you.

Yes, it's not just that sex is power, it's that every interaction is power.

My writing rule of thumb is like Chesterton's fence: follow the rules until you have internalised why the rules are there. Once you understand that, you can decide when to break them without ruining the work.

Remember that in the 1950s-1960s international travel was still moderately exciting and unusual. All that "jet set" stuff. I think this may be a generational thing.

RTCs are all about the accidents rather than the substance. Use the word "Jesus" or "magic" in a way they don't like, and they'll make a fuss. Present a hateful message without mentioning God, and they won't notice.

Mouse said...

Hey, as an Okie, I'm somewhat resentful at your little crack, Firedrake! Because there's probably no place on earth where you don't have to deal with some kind of freakish destructive weather. Live on the coasts? Enjoy those hurricanes! California? Hope you like Earthquakes! Anywhere out west? Enjoy raging wildfires every summer!

But seriously, I thought the fact that humans settled Australia, despite Mother Nature giving many clear hands-off scenarios in the form of gigantic insects and so many creatures that look like something created by a B-Movie Horror Director yet are more than capable of killing you horribly, is proof that there is an inherent masochistic streak coded into human DNA. Because I honestly think that it would have been safer and more sane to try to settle Antarctica rather than Australia.

Firedrake said...

The UK: sometimes it gets a little hot in the summer. Occasionally it snows.

But fair point, we probably don't have room for 300 million extra people who like lots of space.

Mouse said...

I suppose if I wasn't so lazy, I could dredge up links about freakish weather in the UK, but I am, so I won't. Besides, didn't you guys used to have an empire so massive that people said the sun never sets on it? And since said empire spanned the globe, it also included many places with freakish weather. Like India, which has a season called Monsoon. Heck, you were the guys who looked at Australia and decided, "Y'know this would be a perfect place to colonize," instead of doing the sensible thing and fleeing in the opposite direction and letting the aborigines deal with the insane species that live there. So don't pretend like you guys are completely free of the masochistic instinct inherent in humanity.

But I freely admit that most of my digs at the British and by extension, countries like Canada that are allied with them, is born mostly out of jealousy. Can't help but think after we beat you guys in the War of 1812, the Brits decided "If we cannot defeat the Americans in battle, we shall defeat them in style," and everything that came after it, including the accent that makes everything sound classy and sexy as hell, was part of your well-cultivated plan for revenge.

Between the accent and the Universal Healthcare and the fact that Canada has politicians that look like Justin Trudeau, whereas we have Donald Trump (who I can't find a single photo of him where it doesn't look like someone is kancho-ing him off camera), gotta say, well-played, you British bastards. Living well really is life's best revenge. My only consolation is that while the US is tettering on the brink of becoming a third-world hellscape and Donald Trump may wind up in the White House, we still have you Brits beaten when it comes to food. You may have us on everything else, but not food.

spiritplumber said...

Since I've already done the sidefic for the last book (although I do have something prepared for the ending), I'd like to share this instead:

LBTK from the perspective of someone sane.

Firedrake said...

Well, yeah, British people went out to rule the Empire and die in vast numbers of disease and weather and intransigent locals, then came home to retire (and do things like accidentally inventing Worcestershire Sauce, by recreating some native concoction and then letting it rot in a vat for some years).

Our modern politicians think that yours are something to emulate. Yay.

Anonymous said...

"You may have us on everything else, but not food."

You've obviously never been to Scotland and had a deep-fried pizza :-)

Blank Ron said...

'That terrible day of the Lord is near. Swiftly it comes—a day when strong men will cry bitterly. ' Worst. Pick-up line. EVER.

And Mouse? Y'all LOST the War of 1812. Know how I can tell? There's a CANADIAN flag outside the post office. >grins>

Firedrake said...

"That terrible day of the Lord is near. Swiftly it comes—a day when strong men will cry bitterly. In bed."